Harold Jansen's blog

Constitutional refresher course: the people do not choose the government

By Harold Jansen on Nov 30, 2008

In the showdown between the Conservatives and an erstwhile Liberal-NDP coalition, one point gets obscured. In the Canadian political system, the voters do not vote for a government. When we vote, we vote for a local Member of Parliament. The formation of government is a byproduct of that, not the direct choice of Canadians. So, who does choose who forms a government. Very simply, it's the Governor General. Most of the Governor General's power's are heavily constrained by convention, in that the GG has to follow the advice of the Prime Minister and cabinet.

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Towards a citizen-based system of party finance?

By Harold Jansen on Nov 27, 2008

I always enjoy reading or listening to Andrew Coyne, even when I think he's wrong. Today's blog post praising the proposed elimination of the per vote subsidy is an interesting defence of the Conservatives' announcement. In the post, he argues that this moves towards a citizen-based finance system for political parties, arguing that party support should be a private matter between citizens and parties. If that's what we want, the problem is that the per vote subsidy isn't the biggest culprit in this respect. Remember that there are three sources of public money to parties:

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The end of $1.75 per year per vote?

By Harold Jansen on Nov 26, 2008

According to the Ottawa Citizen, the Conservatives are going to propose the end of the $1.75 per vote per year subsidy that came in 2004 as part of the reforms to party finance. The Conservatives are justifying this by saying that the country can't afford this in times of economic downturn. That explanation doesn't really make a lot of sense, considering that the $28 million that this cost taxpayers in 2007 is a tiny part of the multi-billion dollar federal budget. What seems more likely is that the Conservatives have wanted to do this since they can easily live without the subsidy. Only about a third of Conservative revenue comes from the state subsidy.

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How do you pay off a $200,000 leadership debt? $1,100 at a time

By Harold Jansen on Oct 21, 2008

So, Stephane Dion has announced he's quitting ... eventually. There's lots of speculation as to why he's staying, but one popular theory is that he's sticking around until the party crowns a new leader in order to pay off his lingering leadership campaign debt, estimated to be over $200,000. I thought it might be useful to quickly review the law over leadership finance to understand how daunting Dion's task is. When the Liberals changed the party finance laws in 2004, they put in a $5,000 cap for a number of kinds of donations, including to leadership contests.

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If the Liberals thing replacing Dion will solve all of their problems, they're delusional. Or stupid. Or both.

By Harold Jansen on Oct 18, 2008

For most of the parties on election night, there was some good news. The Conservatives and NDP both have larger caucuses, the BQ was revived againm and the Greens increased in votes and dollars from the annual state subsidy. For the Liberals, however, you had to look hard for good news. The party earned its lowest share of the popular vote in its history, had one of its lowest seat totals ever, and was down in almost every region of Canada. The bright spots? Well, Quebec was bit kinder to the Liberals than most people expected. Also, despite a pretty ineffective campaign, the party still has a significant degree of support. The Liberals may have reached bottom and the only way to go is up.

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Considering the 2008 Election Results: Canada’s Electoral System Needs to be Replaced

By Harold Jansen on Oct 17, 2008

I’ve been thinking over the election results since Tuesday night and I keep coming back to one thing: Canada’s electoral system needs to be replaced. I need to point out first of all that I’m not an electoral system ideologue. I don’t think there’s one abstract, theoretically derived system that works best in all countries and at all times. Canada currently has a single member plurality electoral system (often misleadingly labelled the “first past the post” system).

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Quick Thoughts on the 2008 Election

By Harold Jansen on Oct 14, 2008

We'll be talking about the results for a few days to come, I'm sure, but here are a few quick election night thoughts.

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Things to watch on election night

By Harold Jansen on Oct 14, 2008

Election night is always interesting. There are lots of things to watch and it's easy to get lost in the flurry of numbers that will fly at you while watching the results come in. Here are a few things to watch for.

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Best and worst campaigns: and the winners are...

By Harold Jansen on Oct 12, 2008

As we're in the dying days of the election, it's time to look back and see who had the best and worst campaigns in this election. It was an odd election, with events overtaking the best laid plans of political strategists and consultants. Just to be clear, this doesn't have anything to do with how these parties will do on election day. This evaluation looks at how well the party did, based on the resources they had and the goals they needed to accomplish.

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Mea Culpa: The Economy and the Election

By Harold Jansen on Oct 11, 2008

It's the last weekend of the election and it's time to look back at the campaign. I've also looked back at the blogging we've been doing. I went back to the post where I argued that the election wouldn't make much difference in the campaign. Obviously, I was wrong. The election has come to dominate the campaign in a way no one could have foreseen. In that post, I argued that the economy wouldn't make much difference because there's a lag between economic changes and voters' perceptions of the economy. As a general statement, I think that holds true. But my argument that voters in Canada wouldn't yet perceive the economic downturn turned out to be incorrect. In my defence, what we've seen in the markets is almost unprecedented. But obviously panic has set in and people have become very concerned with the economy.

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Interesting American perspective on Canadian debates

By Harold Jansen on Oct 7, 2008

One of my favorite TV critics, Aaron Barnhart of the Kansas City Star, was vacationing in Canada during the Canadian debates. He talks about our media situation and our debates in a short podcast that you can find on his website. Canadians often compare their politics with those in the United States, especially when we're both in the midst of elections. It's unusual and refreshing to hear an American perspective on the same comparison.

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What happened to the social conservative issues?

By Harold Jansen on Oct 7, 2008

I was going through various interest group web sites, looking to see what they had to say about the election when I came to the website of the Canadian Family Action Coalition, a group of Christian social conservatives. They don't endorse any particular political party, but they identify five key issues for the election: abortion, euthanasia, same sex marriage, human cloning and stem cell research. What struck me about this list is how absent these issues have been from the campaign.

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A proposal to fix an outdated provision in election law

By Harold Jansen on Oct 6, 2008

With just a week or so to go to the election, we're about to run into a part of Canada's election law that always irks me. Section 329 of the Elections Act prohibits the publication on election results while the polls are still open locally. As someone who grew up in Alberta, I understand the reason for this. We're better served by not knowing what is happening out east. In 1980, I remember turning on the TV at 8:00 PM (poll closing time back then) and being informed that there would be a Liberal majority government. At that point, they had not counted a single vote from Alberta yet. It's a nice reminderof why your vote doesn't matter. It's hard enough to get people out to vote now; more disincentives are not useful.

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Will the NDP wake up and respond to the threat the Greens pose?

By Harold Jansen on Oct 3, 2008

It's been interesting listening to the post-debate analyses. One theme keeps coming up and that is that Elizabeth May impressed a lot of people. As Andrew Coyne pointed out in the CBC's post-debate "At Issue" panel, the debate cemented the Greens' place on the national stage. Talking to people around here, I'm surprised to hear the chord that the Greens seem to be striking with a lot of people. Some of this is a "none of the above" vote; the Greens have never been in power anywhere and are fresh and new, so people see this as a way of registering dissatisfaction. Other people find their policies refreshing: it's pro-environmental and socially progressive without without the baggage of the traditional NDP.

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English debate: Harper gets pounded, but nothing that essentially changes the campaign

By Harold Jansen on Oct 3, 2008

The Engish debate was actually pretty entertaining. I took a few peeks at the replay of the US Vice-Presidential debate and I actually thought the Canadian debate was more interesting. I actually thought all five party leaders were reasonably effective and the debate clarified a few things in the election. I'm not going to talk about Gilles Duceppe: he's a good debater, but basically irrelevant for the English debate.

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