Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Families in politics

During the federal election I decided to go online and read the platforms of the various parties to figure out who to vote for.  Going in I had a pretty strong idea that the Conservatives were completely unpalatable and their platform absolutely backed that up - I voted Liberal based on their platform which looked to be by far the most responsible and realistic one.  My candidate won (as always, I live in a riding that always goes Liberal) but the Conservatives won overall anyway despite the massive power of my vote.

Now we have provincial elections coming up and I figured I would use the same tactic.  I don't think it is a perfect system but I think going by what a party commits to doing in writing and in public is a decent way to decide.  I read the Liberal plan and it seemed good but decidedly short on hard plans to get our deficit down or eliminated.  They commit to a 2017 timeframe but the plans to get there aren't well spelled out.  There is lots of extra spending but at least I do approve of the spending - medical care, education and green energy are their big talking points and I think those are things that are worth paying extra taxes to have.  They specifically say they want to keep taxes the same by and large which at least is something resembling a plan to fix the deficit.

Next I went to the Conservative website and found it really interesting.  First off as soon as I started looking at their details a chat window popped up and Joseph indicated that he was happy to discuss the Conservative plan with me.  Unsurprisingly he wasn't actually much help as he mostly just copy-pasted Conservative bullet points into the chat window but it is an interesting technique to use for sure.  After reading their fiscal policies I came to the conclusion that the Conservatives intend to spend more money, lower taxes and get rid of the deficit.  This doesn't add up somehow!  They also claim to be planning on zero deficit by 2017 but their plan to get there involves axing a few small government programs and a magical 2% reduction in spending every year with no loss of services.  The trick is that you can't lower revenues, increase expenses and magically have more money, even if you invoke the mighty magic of Efficiency.

Efficiency, by the way, is politician code for "I don't have any idea how to make the numbers work so I will just wave my magic wand and tada, free money!"  Any time any politician's budget includes the idea of gaining money from nowhere under the guise of Efficiency you need to immediately discount everything they say about money or finance.  Maybe they are clueless, maybe they are lying, no way to know.

The other fascinating thing I noticed is how hard all parties evoke the Family justification.  The Liberals talk about policies benefiting Families but the Conservatives beat that drum so hard it hurts my ears.  Everything is talk about how hardworking Families are hurt by high taxes and how Families shouldn't have to pay public servants and how hard Liberal policies have been on Families.  Funny they never mention hardships for single people.

Why exactly are they focused on convincing people that they are pro Family?  Some kind of 'breeders are good' agenda that seems to come from the Catholic Church and their 'MOAR Catholic babies' policies?  Maybe just trying to tap into people's positive emotions towards anyone related to them?  I figure that everybody is just using it in the same way that beer companies use the word Cold.  It makes no damn sense logically but the marketing people are sure that it works.  I might dismiss my religious conspiracy theories on this one if it wasn't so obvious that the Conservatives were so much more hardcore into pro Family policy than the other parties.

I left the NDP to last.  They were about the same as the Liberals in terms of Family usage but they actually had something the other parties lacked:  A real budget listing the exact costs of their promises and the extra revenues they intended to create with new taxes.  Unsurprisingly they intend to get lots of extra money by increasing corporate taxation and capping public sector pay for the top earners.  I support both of those things, especially because Ontario currently has much lower corporate taxes than the rest of North America anyway.  Some of the NDP promises are a little sketchy though, like protectionist rules governing placement of mining processing.  I don't like protectionist tariffs and rules since they make everyone poorer.

At the moment I don't know which way I will go, NDP or Liberal.  The Conservative 'tough on crime' stuff as well as their fiscal dreamland has put me off them for certain.  I don't particularly love the plans for either the NDP or the Liberals but some combination of the two of them would be good.  Maybe somebody else who reads here can give me a good reason to go one way or the other.


  1. Well, your vote is likely to be mighty indeed this election. It looks like the Liberals have about a 20 point lead over their closest competitor.

    I'm voting Liberal if I vote, but I am actually voting for the candidate more than the party. Of course, there is no chance of me affecting the outcome either.

  2. I asked a question at a local debate last night regarding the combining of our two parallel publicly funded education systems. My premise is that we could easily do away with a system that publicly funds only one religion; a system that systematically discriminates against gay kids.

    The answer: No party is willing to touch this issue except the Greens (who want to leave the decision up to the local areas). Saving boatloads of money and religious fairness are not powerful enough motivations to temp parties to risk the Catholic vote.

    It won't happen this time round but for the next four years I think we need to start setting the groundwork for the next election. Tell everyone you know about how important it is to stop wasting taxpayers money on a redundant system. Tell everyone you know how important it is to have religious fairness. Tell everyone you know how Catholic schools are getting away with discrimination, all the while being publicly funded.

    See the links below for more.





  3. By the time it gets to the actual vote you have lost virtually all relevance to the process.

    To actually make a difference, get involved at the nomination level of the least odious party which has a chance of winning. Nominating a candidate often comes down to a few dozen votes, which a single individual can easily swing with a little glad-handing and a few rational arguments.

    Or heck, run for the seat on your particular platform, then endorse another candidate who agrees with/carries your mandate.

    But voting? meh

  4. So I made a little computer model today of Sky's riding. Here is the method:

    Use current poll numbers for the riding.
    Ignore all parties but the top two.
    Expected voter turnout is equal to the last federal election, minus the percentage of people who are voting for a different party.
    Each person voted randomly, with a chance to vote for a party equal to the polling numbers for that party.

    So what are the chance Sky's vote matters? It turns out they are zero. Well, not literally zero, just so small that a 128-bit value can't distinguish it from zero. The chance that the party who has the lead wins by only around 1000 votes is where things become measurable.

    But of course, Sky's is a bit of a blowout riding. Looking at just the top two parties, they are polling 62-48. What if it was 51-49? Then the chance your vote will matter in a riding that size is one near 1,668,000.

    Of course there are errors in the polling samples. I'm going to make another model to figure out how likely it your vote is to count looking at it from that angle, but unfortunately my lunch hour is ending. (This model took way longer to build than I thought, mostly because I had to work around overflows)

  5. Again, with the 62-48 split, and a "within 4.05% 19 times out of 20" poll (because we aren't looking at 100% of the population, 3% of the full population is 4.05% of the subset), the odds that the party with the lower value is actually ahead are less than 1 in 10,000,000. The odds that your vote counts are staggeringly small.

  6. The effect of a vote is not only in the immediate outcome.

    It also affects the parties financially (for now), I believe each vote is $2, although now that I think about it I don't know if. That is only federally.

    Furthermore it affects statistics that influence others (basically the more votes a party gets the more likely others will see it as a legitimate option in the future).

    The idea of not voting because "it doesn't matter", astounds and saddens me.


  7. While voting for a fringe party like the greens might help with their legitimacy I don't see how voting for a mainstream party would have the same effect. If you vote for the Conservatives in my riding you are doing absolutely nothing - the Liberals will win and nobody will be affected by the Conservatives getting one more vote here.

    That said, I did go and vote, but I don't think for a moment that it matters.

  8. That thinking trivially snowballs to thinking that any "safe" riding will always be safe. Consider what occurred in good old KW with Telegdi... Braid came out of nowhere, and won by seventeen votes. Votes for the Conservatives in that riding, in that election, ended up being very meaningful (as did votes for the greens and NDP, but in a different way).

    Sure, sometimes the difference will be thousands, but sometimes it'll be seventeen; vote like it matters, because sometimes it does.


  9. Thing is, me changing my voting habits based on 'safe' ridings and such doesn't impact other people. I agree that if we all decided these things together then ridings would never be 'safe' but since basically nobody in my riding is changing their vote based on what I do there is no chance of it mattering - particularly since even if my candidate wins or loses on my vote there is no reason to think that changes how the government acts. 1 seat + or - rarely matters, it might not even matter at all in Ontario even though the Liberals missed a majority by 1 seat.

  10. The thing is that the "safe" riding thinking is not unique to you. This is one of those odd situations where your mindset is not so far off the norm.

    Ontario is a great example. The dynamics of the present government would be different if they had one more seat, and that means that in some riding (wherever the margin of loss for the Liberals was the smallest) votes had a particular significance.

    The government will likely act further "leftist" than it would have with one more seat and that will affect things. Each government will only affect you in small ways, but it builds up.

    Incidentally, I don't disagree with CP's point, the best way to have the greatest effect is to run, or get involved at a local level, but that doesn't change that although their relevance is less - votes still matter. (I take particular joy making that point as someone who did run for political office)