Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A job destruction plan

I am very grumpy about the upcoming election in Ontario.  The government was defeated largely because the NDP decided that it was strategically useful to have an election right now even though the budget that they voted down was one that was extremely favourable to them.  Much of what the NDP stands for I would normally be very happy to vote for but I am bitter at them for causing an unnecessary election so they will not get my vote.  In particular I am displeased because the legislation that was going to make ranked ballots legal in Ontario cities died when the government was defeated and this was one of the few things the government was doing that had no downside whatsoever.  The Liberals have stepped up and declared that they will push through that same legislation if they are reelected so they are getting my vote this time around.

The Conservatives are of course a party that exists but their philosophy of handing money to rich business owners and gutting services isn't one I support.  This time around though they aren't even doing a decent job pretending to be about economic growth.  Their Million Jobs Plan that will put on Ontario back to work has a slight flaw in it; it claimed to create 600,000 jobs while eliminating 100,000 public sector jobs.  Of course the party botched its own numbers because their own economists claimed that the changes would create 600,000 job YEARS, not permanent jobs.  So by economist math the Conservative plan would eliminate 100,000 jobs, slash services, and create 75,000 jobs.  I can hardly believe that a major political party would put forward a jobs plan that by their own numbers will increase the unemployment rate but they have done it.

So for all the good voting will do I will vote for the Liberals.  They aren't perfect, they aren't great... hell, I would hesitate to call them good.  But they are definitely the best option for governing at this point, sad as that is.  Voting is highly unlikely to matter of course - an individual ballot has almost no chance of changing anything and even then the person casting the ballot would have to be sure that the party they vote for is actually going to do better things than the alternatives.  In many cases the voter has no good reason to think that, so even if you accept that the vote might matter numerically it seems very unlikely to matter in actual results.  That said, I think discussing why one will vote a particular way and trying to get the issues aired is a useful thing.  Talking about what we care about and why we make political decisions in a thoughtful way can trickle out into helping the system work just a tiny bit better.


  1. I guess I'm giving the NDP a pass on the whole voting against the budget thing. I mean, it was a ridiculous budget, so even if in theory it was stuff they would support, I can understand why they'd vote it down for policy reasons, even though I know that's not why they did it in reality.

    Ultimately I'm so annoyed at the Liberals for giving subsidies for horse tracks that I don't think I can stick up for them this time. I thought I liked Kathleen Wynne but I don't actually like how she's run the party - especially not the size of Cabinet which is truly absurd. Tim Hudak says he'll be ending corporate subsidies but the PC platform boasts that they are the only party with the plan for the long term health of the horse racing industry, so apparently they are not giving up on subsidies.

    I also did some analysis of past election results and found that it is probably worth the time it takes to vote - assuming, as you say, you actually have a preference for one over another. Basically past election results don't predict future ones very well at all.

  2. I cannot fathom how it is a campaign platform to support the horse racing industry. If that industry dies an inglorious death who the hell cares? Why is the government responsible for taking care of horse racing? I don't even know what to say about that.

  3. Well, you see, horse racing is both gambling (an obvious social good) and an industry entirely run by people who can afford to breed and raise horses (a clearly socially disadvantaged group). So public investment in horse racing is an obvious win-win.

  4. I rarely comment online, let alone on politics as there is little upside. Every issue has two sides, with both sides passionately convinced they are correct. I agree with Sky that when deciding which candidate/party to vote for, one feels like they cannot win. When it comes to the horse racing issue, however, maybe people do care. There are 60,000 jobs (real jobs, not Hudak "job years") at stake in the industry, working at the 17 racetracks in Ontario or in the breeding, training, etc fields. They are not receiving a "subsidy". Many years ago the philosophy of how racetracks would survive, changed (I disagree with what happened but it's water under the bridge); they would pay for race purses not just from their cut of pari-mutual wagering (taking ~15-20% of the money wagered on races), but since this was declining, they would offer slot machines at their racetracks, and those profits would help subsidize the racing industry. Two years ago the gov't changed their mind and decreed the OLG/govt would get all the profits. Not a surprise, the racing industry was up in arms and the agreement struck was that a "subsidy" paid by the gov't during the "transition" period. To make up for $375 million in lost slot machine profits, the gov't would pay $400mm (I believe increased to $500mm?) but after that, no more, and the slot machine profits will not be there.

    Obviously, only a tiny tiny fraction of the 60,000 that will be out of work are the millionaire breeders/owners doing it as a hobby, like the Frank Stronachs of the world. Sthenno, there are many reasons to be annoyed at the Liberals...but I think you have barked up the wrong tree and chosen an issue with which you are not entirely familiar.

  5. I am not allowed to set up slot machines and keep a portion of the profits for myself, racetracks were. You can say, "Not a subsidy" all you want, but it was an extremely preferential treatment from the government. If horse racing is a profitable enterprise then let it continue to make profits, if it is not then I don't understand why gambling would be the target of government subsidies - I'm against prohibition because that doesn't work, but let's not kid ourselves that a large part of any gambling profits are derived from the suffering of their clientel. If you can't make money playing as a house, it's time to pack it up.

    The industry got fat on slot machine profits and now the government has to wean them off with large cash payments in the hopes they can continue working with a state-enforced monopoly on just *one* kind of gambling.

    Tim Hudak is simultaneously promising to end corporate subsidies and to make sure the horse racing industry is viable. You either pick winners and losers in the economy or you don't. The entire slots-at-race-tracks to no-slots-at-race-tracks thing is an example of the government trying to pick a winner, and the argument from the horse racing industry that it somehow deserves $400M of public money because it is not longer being given the favouritism to which it has become accustomed is ridiculous.

  6. Oh, not to mention that the government is going to continue to have slots at race tracks and to pay leases to the racetracks for using the space to hold the slot machines. Go into a local bar and ask if they would be willing to lease a corner of their establishment to the government for a couple of slot machines. Ask them if they would feel like they were being cheated out of the revenue from those machine or if they would just be over the moon that they were getting free money *and* a draw for customers.

    The government is going to continue to subsidize the horse racing industry in this way indefinitely,. And yes, it's a subsidy.

  7. Why is the horse racing industry special? Why do those unprofitable jobs deserve to keep existing while other unprofitable jobs fade away? If they can't stand on their own they should fail.

    And then the government should do a better job of taking care of those innocent people who make up the large large fraction of the 60,000.