Monday, December 20, 2010

Tory Majority: the Ottawa Spin Machine

The Ottawa scribes are at it again.  Jane Taber is getting spun round the block by a "senior Tory MP" in her latest missive, titled Tories target 190 ridngs. Let us examine just this one quote:
Some of their target ridings are obvious – the three seats in Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, that were held prior to the last election and not just the Avalon seat they lost as a direct result of Danny Williams’s Anybody-But-Conservatives campaign. Now that the popular premier has stepped down, the Conservatives think they can win them back. 
They think they can win "them" back.  One of the three is St. John's East.  Here is the result from the last election.

Parl Date Candidate Occupation Votes Votes (%) Party Elected
40 2008/10/14 HARRIS, Jack lawyer  30,881 74.55% N.D.P. 

NOEL, Walter economist  5,211 12.58% Lib 

WESTCOTT, Craig journalist - self-employed  3,836 9.26%

TOBIN, Shannon John student - entrepreneur  578 1.40% PC Party 

STORY, Howard businessman  570 1.38% G.P. 

COULTAS, Les retail manager  347 0.84% NLFP 

Jack Harris, the successful NDP candidate, was a longtime provincial member and former party leader who, it is clear from these numbers, is overwhelmingly popular in his riding.  Danny Williams or not, this one won't change.  This is but one example of the Tory spin that went unexamined critically by the Globe.

More broadly, the problem for the Conservatives is the same as before.  In 2008 with nearly a 12 point lead and a very weak Liberal leader, they could not win a majority.  They need about 62% of the seats outside Quebec, a little more than the Mulroney 1988 overall majority or Trudeau's in 1968.  Possible perhaps, but highly unlikely.  TC has discussed this issue before in greater detail here. The underlying math hasn't changed. Blogger Éric Grenier of writing recently in the Globe, makes essentially the same argument.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why growing inequality matters

I have long believed that the growing inequality in global, North American and Canadian society is immensely destructive both socially and economically.  The Globe published an article on the growing economic/geographical divide in Toronto. It captures a part of the problem:
Toronto is becoming a city of stark economic extremes as its middle class is hollowed out and replaced by a bipolar city of the rich and poor – one whose lines are drawn neighbourhood by neighbourhood.
The issue in Toronto is not one of urban form or policy.  It is more fundamental, a fact that David Hulchanski, the author of the study highlighted in the Globe, summarized during an online chat on the Globe website:
Comment From Robert: what is the reason for increase in disparity?
David Hulchanski: The reason: From 1945 to 1985 all types of evidence indicate we were becoming a slightly more equal society. After 1985 the top ten percent have taken an ever greater share of income. Public policies and changing labour markets left people with either very high paid jobs or very low paid jobs.
Addressing this issue is urgent. Income disparities are not just a cause of urban malaise. As this post from Kevin Drum makes clear, inequality is at the root of the current economic crisis and stagnation.
"Inequality, Leverage and Crises," an IMF paper written by Michael Kumhof and Romain Rancière, is full of long equations populated by many Greek letters. I won't even pretend that I can evaluate it. However, their introduction is pretty easy to understand: they've constructed a simple model for financial crises that essentially proposes the following narrative: (a) growing inequality produces less money for the middle class and more money for the rich, (b) the rich loan much of this money back to the middle class so they can continue to improve their living standards even with stagnant incomes, (c) the financial sector balloons to mediate all this, and (d) the system eventually collapses since, after all, this kind of thing can't last forever.
It certainly cannot. It is an issue that ought to be addressed by all those on the centre and left.  Achieving greater equality would be complex, and is not so much about taxes as it is about paying those who earn less, more, and paying less to those who earn more.  It is in the interest of all of us including the well-off.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Some inconvenient truth (for Mr. Ford) about Toronto governance

Sometimes the truth about something clashes with ironically with conventional wisdom.  Kudos to John Lorinc for this about Toronto city hall:
When council convenes this week to debate the new regime’s signature moves, I’m guessing Mayor Rob Ford won’t be rising to offer praise to former budget chief Shelley Carroll, former TTC chair Adam Giambrone and the senior bureaucrats who were allegedly complicit in the fiscal boondoggle that was the Miller era. He should, of course, because this crowd -- contrary to much of what we heard during the election -- has made it possible for Toronto’s Waste Collector in Chief to deliver a property tax freeze for which he has no electoral mandate.
 Read the rest here.