Thursday, May 5, 2011

LRT, polling, and false majorities

Early this morning I fired off another letter to The Record editor. It was in response to this brief letter, which claimed that the Record's opinion poll's 38% in support of LRT was a clear majority decision against it.

Given recent events, my irony meter peaked, and I wrote the following:

When I saw the letter titled "A Majority Said No", I thought it would be about our recent election. Instead, it was a claim that the Record's poll on Rapid Transit should be interpreted as a rejection of LRT, because only 38% picked that option. And yet, more respondents picked the LRT option than any other single alternative.

It is very ironic that we have chosen a government with virtually the same level of support. Supporters of the Conservatives say this is a clear mandate, while opponents claim a majority rejected them.

In either case, the truth is somewhere in between. When presented with multiple options, people's opinions are divided. And when interpreting the results, people tend to see what they want to see.

I think we can draw one conclusion from this poll: the results are mixed enough to give our regional councilors the freedom to exercise their best judgement. It is, after all, what we elected them for: to make difficult decisions on complex issues in the best interest of our community, where a referendum would simply reveal a broad spectrum of opinion and disagreement.

I got a confirmation call from the Record, so it will be up soon-- and a rare bit of extra feedback that they think I make good points. But since I've received a few requests already, I've posted the original letter contents here. It's always interesting to see the editing, and summary title, the published version receives.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Election Hangover

Only two things about last night's election make me happy: Elizabeth May's victory, and the dismantling of the Bloc Quebecois. But the former is largely irrelevant, and the latter was mainly schadenfreude of an event that could end up backfiring anyway.

While I was pleased to see the Orange Surge (even at the expense of the Liberals), it was a means to an end. I am not an NDP supporter, despite a personal admiration for Jack Layton. But I was happy about the prospect of a Conservative minority with an NDP opposition because of the following reasons:

1. It would show that a negative, closed-mouth campaign could be rejected by Canada in preference for a largely positive message.
2. It would also deny Harper his prize, instead of rewarding his party's distinctly undemocratic abuses in their search for power.
3. The outside chance of an NDP-led coalition was a price I would cheerfully pay to get the conditions we'd need for some electoral reform away from First Past the Post.
4. The Liberal party, who I have traditionally (check that, exclusively-- but never religiously) voted for would be pushed into the broad reboot they desparately needed.

And, presumably, the increased voter turnout I thought we'd get would demonstrate to all parties that they need to curtail their cynicism and think about a politically engaged youth.

Well, the NDP did better than anyone expected, but in doing so the Liberal support divided down the middle and it bought Harper his big reward. But the NDP shouldn't celebrate because they'll form a toothless opposition and be spectators to the implementation of, dare I say it, a Reform party Canada.

So where does that leave me? I voted strategically for Liberal Telegdi, but I would have likely voted for him anyway. I'm a social progressive first, a fiscal conservative second (and sometimes the two come to blows, which makes it a little more complicated.) This combination made me comfortable enough with a centre-of-the-spectrum Liberal party (even with its succession of uninspiring leaders), which I watched dissolve last night to the right and the left.

I'm afraid of an unchecked Harper Government(tm), mainly because of the ideological baggage that the Reform core brings with it, and because of the way Harper has demonstrated that he can work, and change, our system. And then on top of that, I haven't even been too keen on the deficit position and income-splitting tax reform plans the Conservatives have brought about. There's nothing for me here.

And you can bet that this government, which owes its existence to FPTP, will do nothing to reform that.

If I were to search really hard for a silver lining, it's that at least the Cons won't have a reason to cancel our Rapid Transit funding in a fit of pique at any riding in this region drifting away from the fold.