Does May have a chance in Saanich — Gulf Islands?

Green PartyShort answer:  Absolutely, yes.  She has a very good chance.

Long answer:  Still probably yes.  However, if she runs her campaign the way she ran her candidacy “announcement”, then she could be in serious trouble.

Elizabeth May seems to have definitively chosen British Columbia’s Saanich—Gulf Islands riding as her choice in which to run in the next federal election.  I have to admit that I am intrigued by May’s decision to run there.  The circumstances around this move have been less than ideal for May and the Greens, however I don’t think it’s a bad move (though the data clearly shows it probably wasn’t the best move if you take “best” to mean “highest chances of success”).  This move possibly could very well end up paying off for the Greens (more on that later), however the manner in which May has done this has been amateur hour at the comedy club.

First the downside for May and the Greens, then I’ll end on an upbeat note.

In speaking to media earlier this month, May stated that there was still a variety of issues not yet resolved within the party regarding her candidacy in Saanich—Gulf Islands.  However, in the same breath, she said that Saanich—Gulf Islands was her choice for where to run.

I guarantee you May’s political operatives cringed when she gave that quotation.  This raises several questions all of which reflect poorly on May:

  • If she comes out and states that this riding is her choice, then why is the Green Party senior organization still “considering” it?
  • Has a rift broken out between Elizabeth May and the Green Party senior organization?
  • Why is Elizabeth May announcing this while a process to decide which riding to select is still ongoing?  Wouldn’t this announcement render such a process moot?

Furthermore, the Greens already have an announced candidate in the riding who hails from the left flank of the party and does not appear willing to step down.  May’s party is one of the most ideologically diverse in the country, and in such situations, it is generally important to keep all wings of the party happy.  May’s hasty move now risks stoking the ire of the left wing of the Green Party which, when combined with the criticism May’s been receiving from the right flank of her party, makes finding that winning dynamic that more difficult (though not impossible).

May needs to learn that there’s a reason why serious politicians don’t give a solid answer to a question when the decision is not yet firm and all of the ramifications have not been fully itemized.  This is a pretty remedial lesson in political circles and it usually comes around the same time that political operatives learn that decisions don’t get made in committees and that you never ask a question in front of a microphone to which you do not already know the answer.

Moving on to the good news for May and the Greens:

Despite all of this, the data still show that May has at least a decent chance of snatching this riding from the clutches of the Tories.

Greg Morrow over at Democratic Space has a post analysing whether Elizabeth May can beat Gary Lunn in Saanich—Gulf Islands.  Greg concludes that May doesn’t have a chance against Lunn and that even the best possible outcomes have her loosing by several thousand votes.

I think Greg is a fantastic political analyst and I have a great deal of respect for him.  However I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with his conclusion in this matter.

So far May has run in two elections (London North Centre in a 2006 by-election and Central Nova in 2008).

In the 2006 general election in London North Centre, the election results were as follows:

London North Centre 2006

When May ran in the by-election in London North Centre, the results were as follows:

London North Centre 2006 Elizabeth May by-election

As you can see, May improved the Greens’ showing by 20.3%.

As for Central Nova, in the 2006 general election, the results were:

2006 Central Nova

When May ran in 2008, the results were:

2008 Central Nova with Elizabeth May

As you can see, May improved the Greens’ showing this time by 30.5%.

From this data, we can extrapolate a few things.  When Elizabeth May runs in a riding, on average the following happens:

  • The Greens go up by 25.4%
  • The Conservatives go down by 1.3%
  • The Liberals go down by 5.3%
  • The New Democrats go down by 12.8%

However, the overall Green vote increased in Atlantic Canada by just shy of 4% between 2006 and 2008.  So roughly 4% of Elizabeth May’s increase wasn’t due to her presence but rather was due to an overall rise in Green Party fortunes in that region.  Because of this, we need to reduce her number (25.4%) by roughly 4% to fully take into account just the amount that Elizabeth May’s presence increases the Green vote in a riding isolated from other factors.  Doing this, we end up with the following data:

  • The Greens go up by 21.4%
  • The Conservatives go down by 1.3%
  • The Liberals go down by 5.3%
  • The New Democrats go down by 12.8%

Now, we need to apply these numbers to last election’s results in Saanich—Gulf Islands.

But before we do, there is one problem.  Last election in Saanich—Gulf Islands, the NDP candidate had to drop out after his skinny dipping incident came to light.  We know that whenever an NDP candidate drops out, it has an effect not just on the NDP’s total numbers but also on the other progressive parties’ numbers as the disaffected New Democrats “park” their vote elsewhere.  Thus, assuming that next time the NDP candidate in this riding is unlikely to become disgraced again, I will be using the 2008 election results for the Conservatives and the 2006 numbers for the Liberals, NDP and Greens.  (Note that, if anything, this will provide a slight bias in favour of the Conservatives as their vote total was slightly higher in 2008 than in 2006).

So we have this as our base:

Saanich Gulf Islands base 2006-2008 numbers

Applying the “Elizabeth May change numbers” to this base projection, we get:

Saanich Gulf Islands Elizabeth May Projection #1

Now that’s still a win for the Conservatives (and a safe one at that).


Remember that we earlier stripped the change in the Green Party’s vote between 2006 and 2008 out of Elizabeth’s May’s numbers.  So now we have to reintroduce the change in the Green Party’s (and the other parties’) polling numbers but this time we have to do so looking at the region of British Columbia rather than Atlantic Canada.

It turns out that the Greens have an overall more favourable climate in BC than they do in Atlantic Canada and this is important.

Beginning from the “raw vote projection” just calculated above, we now will apply the changes to each party in order to obtain our final projections.

Saanich Gulf Islands Elizabeth May Projection #2

Now, I do not vouch for the exact vote totals appearing in these final two columns.  However, as a rough predictor of how probable an Elizabeth May victory is, I think this is a strong indicator that it is entirely possible.


Greg Morrow below noted that I forgot to take into account the fact of the change in each party’s support between the polling data and the actual vote results.  I thank Greg for pointing this out because this is an important revelation considering that the Conservatives tend to do better in elections than in polls whereas the Greens tend to do much worse.

vote change

So, applying these changes to the above above projections, we get the following “final final” projections (as best as we can given the sparse data available):

New Arithmetic

New Geometric

So we have a much tighter race in the Arithmetic projections here.  Furthermore, the race could definitely slide back into Gary Lunn’s hands if the Conservatives can retain their 2008 vote/poll discrepancy rather than what they witnessed in 2006.  The race could also slide back into Gary Lunn’s hands if the Greens get closer to their 2008 vote/poll discrepancy rather than what they witnessed in 2006.  However, my theory is that the vote/poll discrepancy for the progressive parties witnessed in 2008 was partly exaccerbated by the fact that the vote was held so early in the academic school year which meant that all young 1st year university students studying in a different town might not have yet received the two pieces of mail necessary to vote which thus put the hammer to the most important progressive demographic.  This year, it’s looking like the vote will be in late October at the earliest (rather than early-to-mid October) which might help out the youth vote and make the discrepancy closer to that witnessed in 2006.  I could, of course, be totally wrong about this, but that is my feeling talking with staffers on Parliament Hill from multiple parties.

I certainly wouldn’t want to wager a great sum of money on it, but I would argue that this analysis still nevertheless establishes that Elizabeth May does have at least a fighting chance of securing the riding.


Harper has just ordered his government to try and destroy the opposition parties’ funding yet again.

stephen_harper_victoryVery few things Stephen Harper has done while in power have genuinely scared me.

Sure he’s done plenty of stupid things (denying gays the right to donate organs even if they’ve been tested, and opposing the UN conference to end racial discrimination to name two examples).   Sure, he’s done some mean-spirited things (creating a more regressive tax structure so that poorer Canadians must carry a heavier load of the federal budget, for example).  Sure he’s continued some of the most horrendously right-wing policies the Liberals implemented in their time in office (Employment Insurance comes to mind).

But in terms of 3rd world banana republic dictator-esque supervillany, this in my mind takes the cake.  In 2008, after having almost lost his government trying to emaciate and eviscerate his opposition like a would-be dictator and after having stretched the bounds of constitutionality by putting undue power into the hands of the unelected Governor General, Harper is now at it again.


U.S.-backed Chilean dictator Pinochet saluting his military guards

Harper just ordered Stephen Fletcher — the same guy who proudly boasted about how “The Japs” were “bastards” and then refused to apologize about it — to try once again to destroy and permanently cripple the opposition parties thus ensuring him a virtually untrammelled reign of terror for the foreseeable future.

This move by Harper isn’t just stupid; it isn’t just mean-spirited; and it isn’t just Conservative/Liberal politics as usual.  It’s scary and both anti-democratic and irreversible if implemented.  And that is a horrible combination.

Crimes against the rich vs. crimes against the rest of us

“You simply cannot hang a millionaire
in America.”

-William Bourke Cockran

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich
as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg
in the streets, and to steal bread.”

-Anatole France

Contrary to the myth that Western capitalist society obeys the rule of law, it has long been understood that the wealthy live under a different set of laws than the rest of us.  The crimes against property and against the wealthy are not weighted on the same scale as crimes against the weak and the destitute.

The average OSHA penalty for a wilful violation of the workplace safety laws causing death is $27,000 (USD).

On the other hand… The average penalty for uttering profanity (which would naturally cut into advertising revenue) on radio or television in the United States is $500,000.

The penalty for downloading 24 songs online (and thus depriving capitalists of that potential revenue) is $1,920,000 (source, source).

On the other hand…  Child abduction will cost you only $25,000.  Committing burglary against your non-wealthy neighbour is worth only a $375,000.  Arson is worth roughly the same as burglary.  Stalking is worth a pittance of just $175,000.  (source)

Vandalizing a something that isn’t even a primary dwelling or domus nets you $260,000 in France.

On the other hand… in British Columbia, Canada, the police (RCMP) can actually vandalize the primary residence of homeless people with impunity. (source)

A while back, TVO had a great speech by Darryl Davies which dealt precisely with the crippling inequality in the way we approach what is “criminal” and what is not.  For your viewing pleasure, I have included this lecture below.

We must start thinking of our modern capitalist society as not that far removed from feudalism in terms of the legal basis reinforcing the privilege of the wealthy.  I think this lecture goes a long way toward accomplishing precisely this.

Darryl Davies on crime (opens in new window)

Darryl Davies on crime (opens in new window)


‡ Nader, Raph.  The Good Fight.  Regan Books: New York, 2004.  154

Rumours of the Conservatives’ death in Québec have been greatly exaggerated

No left-wing activist wishes more than I that the media hype over the Conservatives’ putative death knell in Québec was reflective of reality.

Unfortunately, any progressive who wishes to buy in to that comforting and pacifying story is being sold a bill of goods.  Real organizing and the real fight to sweep the Tories from Canada’s most progressive province depends on being able to accurately estimate Conservative Party support.  The data now suggests that in the last four months the Conservatives have recovered as much as — if not more than — 50% of their lost ground in La Belle Province.

To be sure, the Conservatives are still down by 5-6 points from their 2008 election showing and are in risk of loosing at least one or two seats.  However even the most pessimistic numbers (from the Conservatives’ perspective) do not have the Tories loosing even half of their seats in Quebec.

Election planners with Canada’s two largest progressive parties — the NDP and the Bloc Québécois (the Liberals are not, under any definition of the term, progressive) — would be foolish to adopt a strategy that counts the Tories out or that does not consider them a continuing threat in the province.

Quebec Rolling-5 Poll Results:

2009-08-20 (QC)

Naomi Klein is no pseudo-socialist, pseudo-progressive. She’s the real deal. [w/ video]

The Take

Before I had seen Naomi Klein and her husband Avi Lewis‘s 2004 documentary The Take, I was somewhat ashamed that I had not taken the time to sit down and watch it.

After viewing the documentary recently, I can say with certainty that I now deeply regret not watching it as soon as it came out.  I feel like I should have been shouting this film’s praises from rooftops for several years now.  This amazing, soaring, soul-wrenching, powerful, simple and yet also profound film is without a doubt the best documentary I have seen in the last 5 years (and possibly ever).

After watching The Corporationanother documentary in which Naomi Klein is featured extensively — with an old Marxist philosophy professor of mine, I was somewhat surprised to hear him so thoroughly bash its content.

“There’s nothing revolutionary in it.  There is nothing Marxist in it.  It’s nothing but the same old reformism,”  he told me.

Upon reflection, I suppose my former professor was entirely right about The Corporation.  However, The Take should put to rest once and for all any denigration of Naomi Klein personally as a non-revolutionary even if The Corporation may not have met expectations.  If there are any Marxists, anarchists or other revolutionary comrades out there who doubt Naomi Klein’s progressive and revolutionary bona fides, I challenge them to watch The Take and still hold that opinion.

Naomi Klein is no pseudo-socialist, she’s the real deal.  This is the film that puts her over the top in my estimation into Noam Chomsky-esque territory (and coming from me, that is possibly the highest compliment I can give).

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, I now present to you The Take by Naomi Klein.  If you enjoy it, I strongly urge you to go to the film’s website and consider purchasing a copy of it.  This calibre of film making deserves our support.

“We would become much more sane, much healthier, as a society if we could bring ourselves to acknowledge that misogyny is a serious and pervasive problem”

Normally I don’t bother to give mainstream capitalist editorials a great deal of my attention.  However, yesterday there was an OP/ED in the New York Times that was a succinct and near-perfect exposé of the poisonous cocktail that is the mixture of guns, gender inequality and institutionalized misogyny in a culture.

It is well worth the read and I highly recommend it (despite the brief lapse into puritanism in paragraph 8).


Women at Risk

“I actually look good. I dress good, am clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne — yet 30 million women rejected me,” wrote George Sodini in a blog that he kept while preparing for this week’s shooting in a Pennsylvania gym in which he killed three women, wounded nine others and then killed himself.

We’ve seen this tragic ritual so often that it has the feel of a formula. A guy is filled with a seething rage toward women and has easy access to guns. The result: mass slaughter.

Back in the fall of 2006, a fiend invaded an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania, separated the girls from the boys, and then shot 10 of the girls, killing five.

I wrote, at the time, that there would have been thunderous outrage if someone had separated potential victims by race or religion and then shot, say, only the blacks, or only the whites, or only the Jews. But if you shoot only the girls or only the women — not so much of an uproar.

According to police accounts, Sodini walked into a dance-aerobics class of about 30 women who were being led by a pregnant instructor. He turned out the lights and opened fire. The instructor was among the wounded.

We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected.

We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment.

The mainstream culture is filled with the most gruesome forms of misogyny, and pornography is now a multibillion-dollar industry — much of it controlled by mainstream U.S. corporations.

One of the striking things about mass killings in the U.S. is how consistently we find that the killers were riddled with shame and sexual humiliation, which they inevitably blamed on women and girls. The answer to their feelings of inadequacy was to get their hands on a gun (or guns) and begin blowing people away.

What was unusual about Sodini was how explicit he was in his blog about his personal shame and his hatred of women. “Why do this?” he asked. “To young girls? Just read below.” In his gruesome, monthslong rant, he managed to say, among other things: “It seems many teenage girls have sex frequently. One 16 year old does it usually three times a day with her boyfriend. So, err, after a month of that, this little [expletive] has had more sex than ME in my LIFE, and I am 48. One more reason.”

I was reminded of the Virginia Tech gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people in a rampage at the university in 2007. While Cho shot males as well as females, he was reported to have previously stalked female classmates and to have leaned under tables to take inappropriate photos of women. A former roommate said Cho once claimed to have seen “promiscuity” when he looked into the eyes of a woman on campus.

Soon after the Virginia Tech slayings, I interviewed Dr. James Gilligan, who spent many years studying violence as a prison psychiatrist in Massachusetts and as a professor at Harvard and N.Y.U. “What I’ve concluded from decades of working with murderers and rapists and every kind of violent criminal,” he said, “is that an underlying factor that is virtually always present to one degree or another is a feeling that one has to prove one’s manhood, and that the way to do that, to gain the respect that has been lost, is to commit a violent act.”

Life in the United States is mind-bogglingly violent. But we should take particular notice of the staggering amounts of violence brought down on the nation’s women and girls each and every day for no other reason than who they are. They are attacked because they are female.

A girl or woman somewhere in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes or so. The number of seriously battered wives and girlfriends is far beyond the ability of any agency to count.

There were so many sexual attacks against women in the armed forces that the Defense Department had to revise its entire approach to the problem.

We would become much more sane, much healthier, as a society if we could bring ourselves to acknowledge that misogyny is a serious and pervasive problem, and that the twisted way so many men feel about women, combined with the absurdly easy availability of guns, is a toxic mix of the most tragic proportions.

In case you missed it: Harper just gave more than $4 million of your money to Christian fundamentalist “school”

And, yes kids you too can get a  multi-million dollar renovation of your religious “school” from Stephen Harper just so long as you happen to own a religious school and happen to be of the same religion of the Prime Minister (and, presumably, happen to also hate “the gays”).

Harper christian fundamentalist school Alberta


A very religous friend of mine pointed out to me elsewhere that this school is not technically “fundamentalist” since they do not necessarily subscribe to a belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.  Rather, this school represents a non-fundamentalist type of über-conservative religious schools.  While this obviously does not change the thrust of the issue at hand, I apologize for the error.

Even intelligent media elites generally don’t understand the appeal of “the blogs”

3597001560_86894d8b7bDon Newman, the former host of CBC Newsworld’s marquee programme Politics, gave an interview in a recent edition of The Hill Times wherein he touched on the subject of blogs and blog readers.  His comments on the phenomenon of blogs are elucidating in part because he is by no means an ignorant man nor does he normally demonstrate any obvious partisan bias toward one of the five big mainstream parties or the other.  He is, in short, a living embodiment of the well-meaning yet nevertheless reactionary nature of the mainstream media which, I would argue, makes his opinions highly indicative of the media elite’s overall opinion of blogs.

Newman has generally positive things to say about his own profession in this same interview, but he makes it explicitly clear that he views blogs as either a negative development or at the very least not as a positive development.

What are the reasons, you ask, why he believes this?  Newman explains:

“They’re just people’s opinions and some of them are obviously used by political parties or people with political points of view to push.… There are a lot of people who can’t tell the difference between reading The Globe and Mail blog, or and reading a political blog that someone is writing either to entertain themselves or promote a political cause.”

In short, blogs are a negative development because they represent just an ‘ordinary’ person’s opinions as opposed to a paid political operative or professional journalist’s opinions.  Furthermore, people can’t differentiate between the real journalists’ opinions (which Newman believes should be listened to) and the opinions of these ‘ordinary’ people.

Now this formulation, as it stands there, isn’t technically an argument since it doesn’t have even the most basic structure of a syllogism.  Thus most people who subscribe to this belief, when they put it in the form of an argument, tend to posit that bloggers, unlike real journalists, are generally more ignorant and therefore that the rise of blogs is a negative development.

This, however, is a red herring.

I, for one, am a blogger and I have more education than many if not most journalists.  Ignoring my years of ground school and two pilot’s licenses, I graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in political science from one of the top three political science post-secondary institutions in the country and then I went on to obtain a Master’s degree also in political science and also from the same institution.  However, the vast majority of readers of this blog probably didn’t know that about me and they (hopefully) don’t care about it either.  Blog readers understand that arguments stand or fall on their own merits irrespective of the personal pedigree (or the perceived or actual ignorance) of the author.

And herein lies the crux of why media elites do not get the phenomenon of “the blogs”.  Media elites still operate in a profoundly conservative and Burkean worldview that places a high premium on the importance of listening to the ‘right people’.  This is obviously so, since the ‘right people’ to listen to according to the media elites — the so-called experts — are themselves.

New format for Paulitics Multimedia Resource

The Paulitics Multimedia Resource continues to grow and add new documentaries and other new audio and video.  While I will be adding a new documentary and a couple of new speeches later on next week, feel free to check out the new format of the Multimedia Resource.






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