Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

This is an addendum to the last post I made on “Transcend and Include”.  I was inspired by a recent podcast on Jeff Salzman’s Daily Evolver podcast about How To Vote Integral.

When you consider it, how a person trying to make an Integral decision would decide how to vote really addresses the the whole issue about valuing and recognizing the positives in each level.  There are few Integral, Second Tier politicians out there, and it’s not certain how much success they might have if elected at this point in time.  (Take Obama for example, who was pretty close to having an Integral outlook, but who became hogtied by his reality.)  It is also true, as I tried to outline in the previous article, that each level has something valuable to contribute to society and government and, as Jeff points out in his podcast, success often depends on using input from multiple levels.

So, choosing your vote requires filtering the positives and negatives of each level.  It is not only the ideology that is right or wrong, but also the way it is discerned.  I really like that word as it is a word like judge or discriminate, but has no connotations.  Discern.  How do you do that.

Jeff’s podcast gives several ideas, at one point saying that perhaps you should chose wisdom over ideology.  I agree with that, but I don’t find it very helpful guidance.  One thing that I was surprised that he didn’t say was that perhaps Horizontal development and integrity are just as important as Vertical development.  Vertical development is the hierarchy of Traditional vs. Modern vs. Post-Modern, or the Red / Amber / Orange /Green continuum that Integral and Spiral Dynamics uses to describe social evolution.  But we’ve seen that there are negative traits in each of these, so that’s not enough when making a political decision.  Horizontal development is growth within a particular stage.  It is often seen as “integrity”.

That Horizontal development can be addressed using many facets and factors.  It can be that all Lines of development, such as intellectual, emotional, physical, social, etc., have undergone equal Vertical evolution.  Someone can be post-modern at a cognitive line, but traditional or even pre-traditional at an emotional and social stage.  (In many cases that would be called a sociopath.)  Someone with even development and balance across different kinds of “intelligence” is more likely to have the wisdom that Jeff is talking about.

Another aspect of Integral theory is respect of internal realities vs external ones vs social ones.  These are the four quadrants.  Certainly, a person who regards and takes into account factors from each of these quadrants is more likely to be a successful politician.  And one has to remember that it doesn’t matter what vertical level a person may be at, they can still access each one of these levels and utilize them.  A person with a traditional world view can access their own personal inner reality and values, can appreciate the objectivity of the external world and reality, and can consider social and systemic consequences.  A traditional person who relates to the world more in this way is going to be a more successful and wise politician than one who does not.  In fact they might be a better politician than someone at a “higher” stage who does not have this balance.

Another important aspect of Horizontal development is Shadow Work.  Shadows are the denied and submerged parts of our own mind that can act to sabotage our daily activities.  No matter how enlightened and wise we may think ourselves, if Shadows are not confronted they can ruin everything.  Sometimes entire cultures have Shadows in that there are deep ethnic or cultural injuries that have just never been confronted and absorbed into the main stream.  They then fester as cultural hang-ups.  Certainly a leader or politician who has dealt with their personal hang-ups or Shadows is likely to be more in touch with the positives than someone who has demons or skeletons, no matter what stage they are at.

Personally, I think that Horizontal development is essential to successful Vertical development, and should be a major part of any Integral mentoring or coaching program.  The ones I’ve witnessed recognize this and use it.  Insufficient Horizontal development leads to fixations, i.e. getting stuck in certain aspects of development which then can lead to integrity problems.  Politicians seem to have a lot of those.

There are many simplistic definitions of a CULT that provide a very broad and general meaning.  I’ve researched the material and come up with a more narrow and specific definition, which I think points to more dangerous cults more effectively than a broad definition.

It rests on 7 essential principles:

  1. It has a very strong leader, based on personal, emotional identification and an extreme feeling of allegiance and compliance.
  2. There are demands, pressures and pledges of allegiance to that extreme leadership figure or group of people.
  3. There is a central religious or ideological foundation that is rigidly adhered to.
  4. Some form of impending doom is involved, whether it be apocalyptic or some other sort of catastrophe.
  5. That impending doom is used as a vehicle to mobilize fear as a strong motivator.
  6. There is a routine suspension of reason and a dismissal of facts, with severe rationalization being obvious.
  7. There are paranoid tendencies dismissing all sources outside of the cult as conspiracies opposed to their one right way of seeing things.
  8. There is a strong pressure and often serious consequences forcing members to not leave the cult.


[postscript]   There’s one other characteristic of most cults that I want to add after watching some of the televangelists this Easter Sunday morning.  (I’m normally not in the habit of doing that, but GPS was a rerun, so I ended up flipping through channels.) Cults present arguments in calculated increments that are designed to convince people with weak reasoning skills to go deeper and deeper into ideological or religious beliefs.  They’re half reasonable (if appealing to a more semi-rational group) or deal in gradations of emotional ecstacy with the less rational and more emotional group.  They believe that if you repeat something, however ridiculous, often enough eventually many people will believe it.  The facts around it aren’t important, but you still have to pull the con job in gradual increments so that cognitive dissonance can take hold. Whichever strategy is present (and sometimes all are), it is calculated and deliberately designed to inch the potential cult member towards the desired goals.  It is different from “education” per se in two ways.  First of all the strategies are diabolical and designed to minimize personal awareness rather than maximize it.  Second, it is done in the context of the eight characteristics mentioned above.


Do with that what you will.  Personally I have no trouble seeing Donald Trump’s supporters as falling in line with most of these to a rather extreme degree.  Granted, you could make a case for any political movement being a cult, however by comparison I honestly don’t see Sanders supporters in the same fanatical light.  There are some pretty easily identified differences between charisma and fanaticism.  There are some pretty easily identified differences between speaking purely emotionally and putting forth rational arguments.  Easy, at least, for those that are not embraced by the cult.

More and more, as I’ve watched Trump surrogates on news talk shows, I see blank eyes and totally uncritical minds.  I’ve talked to many individuals who have come from bonifide cults, and Trump surrogates most certainly have “the look”.  It has gotten to the point where some of their advisories on these panels seem like they want to physically go over and shake sense into them, and I can’t blame them.  Recently several panel discussions actually cut the mike of Trump supporters because they just couldn’t stand the nonsense that they were spewing.  I think that marginalizing reason and suspending critical thinking are a slippery slope for some people, aided by incremental brainwashing and the calculated use of logical fallacies.  Once you start doing it, cognitive dissonance takes over and you end up going all the way down the rabbit hole.


Fortunately, a cult leader who is an outright narcissist is likely to consume himself and the cult in time.  Also, unless there is some kind of societal psychosis, the cult should have a ceiling, reinforced by the aversion to that narcissism.  That’s starting to happen now.  But watching these people embarrass themselves as they are drawn into this hypnotic state is almost too weird to believe.  I am hoping that it will be a socially transformative experience when it is all over, …and in a positive way.

When listening to gun advocates talk about their opposition to gun control many of them are occasionally candid enough to expose the real reason they want their guns. Behind the points about more guns reducing gun violence and whining about the Second Amendment (both of which have feeble or non-existent rational basis) there lies the real shadow driving their beliefs. Every once in a while the expose the fact that their real reason that they want their guns is to repel what they feel is an imminent attack coming to change their way of life. Sometimes it is Russian infiltration, sometimes the U.N., and currently it is Sharia Law, but more often than not it is their own Federal Government that they fear. Take, for example, the recent ridiculous fears about Jade Helm. The right to bear arms originated and still has a firm root in the fear that tyranny will creep into their lives.

Why do these people have a fear that there are those in government that are conspiring to oppress them? Why do they fear that the government will come and take away their guns and try to tell them what to do? I believe that it stems from two related sources.

The first is that on some level they truly understand that what they are doing is seen by the rest of the world as ridiculous, and as a result their beliefs are a defensive stance.

But secondly, and more importantly, the idea of oppression and telling other people how to live their lives seems to be a characteristic that this brand of right wing thinking seems to be very comfortable with. These are the same people who want to tell other people how to live their lives, who are intolerant of other cultures, who have an unjustified sense of exceptionalism and who are prepared to break laws in order satisfy what they believe are the dictates of their own personal values. They truly exhibit all of the worst characteristics that they are claiming to want to protect themselves from with their guns.

This is classic Shadow behaviour, and in this case seems to be operating on a cultural level. They are projecting their own negative characteristics onto whatever “bogeyman” is handy. Right now a lot of the projection is against the Federal Government, which, I think, has a lot to do with the victory of a black president for not one but two terms. The very things they seem to be afraid of are the very things that they prolifically exhibit themselves.

This, then, poses a problem as it reveals that this passion for guns (what some have cleverly labelled ammophilia) is actually a type of personality disorder. I’m not saying that just to provide a handy label for it, or to pigeon hole it, but to emphasize how difficult it is going to be to change. Changing these people’s attitudes towards gun control is going to be hampered by three problems:

  1. You’re not going to get meaningful change until you address and resolve the underlying Shadow elements. This happens very slowly as a result of social evolution.
  2. Any attempt to resolve the problem unilaterally will only result in the underlying Shadow becoming stronger and more determined.
  3. Any kind of rational discourse is going to have no effect. Looking at studies about gun control vs violence is of no value, as the root cause is an emotional and psychological one.

Understand that I am not making the case here that this analysis applies to all gun owners.  I am looking at those who have an emotional and irrational opposition to any kind of reasonable gun control.

I’m not sure where that leaves us as a society. I do think that in the Canadian political landscape you can see a bit of the same thing happening, though not nearly as extreme as you see in the U.S. One thing that we can learn from this way of looking at the problem is to be very vigilant that we, in Canadian society, don’t allow the development of these cultural Shadows to ferment, and that we take whatever steps are necessary to nip in the bud anything that might foster or bolster those Shadows.

Once they are in place, they’re very difficult to shake loose.

The Canadian federal election is just around the corner and the polls seem to be characterized by each of the three main parties having about one third of the popular vote. The balance shifts a few percentage points each week, and the seat tally shifts depending on how the vote is distributed, but in the final analysis it seems that Canadian voters are pretty well evenly strewn among the three parties. A minority government is almost certainly going to be the result and old questions about coalition governments are rearing once again.

The interesting thing about Canadian political parties is that the left is split between the Liberals and the NDP, while the right is in the hands of the Conservatives. That’s a little deceptive as examining recent history will show you that the current Conservatives are the result of a merger between the old Progressive Conservative party and the western based Heritage party. The current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, actually came from that Heritage party. (It is interesting that they solved the name issue by dropping the word “progressive”.) The Conservative party, which embodies the politics more right of centre, is therefore already a coalition that has simply been formalized with an actual merger. The Liberals and the NDP, who embody the politics more left of centre, are still maintaining their individual identities, even though they have far more in common with each other than either has with the Conservatives. Clearly, if the Liberals and the NDP were to merge (and maybe even include the Green Party), and create a two party system in Canada similar to what they have in the U.S., the Conservative Party, at least as it exists now, would never win another election. Two thirds of the voters are currently supporting parties that sit left of centre. (That’s not to say that the Conservative Party wouldn’t change its nature if the political landscape changed drastically.)

Admittedly we have a lot of independent voters that see themselves as centrist in their political views. They often bounce back and forth between the Liberals and the Conservatives. They have a dilemma to deal with in the current election seeing as the Liberals and the NDP have sort of swapped places, with the NDP trying to take the more central role and the Liberals being forced more to the left. It makes the centre and left territory a little more fuzzy.

So, it is no wonder that the Conservatives are strongly opposed to the idea of a coalition government and the other two parties are more open to it (in spite of the overt Liberal policy). Each party has its own interpretation of the Westminster system of Parliament, on which our elections are based. The Conservatives insist that our electoral system says that the party with the most seats should form the government. The other parties have a differing view.

The reality is that the Westminster system gives the incumbent party first shot at forming a government. It seems to me that this, itself, is a vindication of the idea of coalition governments. If a sitting government were to lose an election, only by forming a coalition would they be able to retain power. I’ve only heard of one situation where this was even considered in Canadian federal politics, but it is not that unusual in European countries. The second shot usually does go to the party with the most seats, but there is a harsh reality there. If that is a minority government, it could last as long as the first vote of confidence. If they were to lose that important vote, it could potentially trigger another election immediately. So, it is the case that if a coalition of parties approaches the Governor General after the results of an election are in, they could be given the right to form a coalition in Parliament, even though the parties separately haven’t gotten the most votes. The idea of a confidence vote in our system creates a situation where it is the elected Parliament which determines the Prime Minister and the ruling party. Whether you feel that is right or not, that, in fact, is the way our system works. Protests from the Conservative party that coalitions are “unfair” are not based in fact.

Our “first past the post” system of elections has come under a lot of scrutiny lately, with many vying for alternative electoral systems. In my opinion this seems like a good idea and worth examining. A system where 10% of the people can vote for the Green Party, only resulting in 1 seat, or where 40% of the voters cast their ballots for the Conservative Party and they end up with a majority government, is just not representative government. In a country where between 60% and 70% of the voters are making a statement that they want change, re-electing a Conservative government, even if it is a minority, seems unfair. Those wanting to change the electoral system are looking at some more whole scale changes to the system, which I’m not going into here, but a coalition government formed to provide a clearly desired change does not seem to be a bad idea at all, -except for the party that can’t manage to retain power even though they don’t represent anywhere near a majority of Canadians.

Canada is not like the United States, where there are only two parties. If you look at world governments where there are more than two major political parties, coalition governments are not uncommon. In fact, if the Green Party were to build support and garner more seats, coalition governments might become an absolute necessity.

The Ontario election results are undeniably decisive. (There is an issue about seats vs popular vote representation but that’s a discussion for another day.) I think that the Liberal majority win can be attributed to two separate things.

The first is a clear statement from over 60% of Ontarians that they reject the extreme right, Tea Party like stance that the PCs tried to use in this election. Even within the PC party there were several comments questioning the form if not the substance of the message. It was as if the PCs were trying to say that real medicine might have to taste bad, but ended up communicating that something which tastes bad must be good medicine. The way that the 100 000 job cuts were announced at the beginning of the campaign was almost mean spirited in tone. The whole campaign just didn’t make sense, and it is no surprise that Hudak chose to fall on his sword in his concession speech. The problem is that, according to one candid statement by a PC insider, the cupboard is bare when it comes to potential leaders. It will be interesting to see what might come out of the woodwork. Clearly, the PC party needs to find a new leader and a new policy position that is a more moderate form of conservatism. Had the party not played such an extreme card in this election, and kept the “Progressive” in PC, they might very well have won it.

Andrea Horwath would be well advised to consider the same fate for the good of her party. Although she did not gain or lose seats, from the confusing triggering of the election in the first place, to the strange position she assumed, arguably to the right of the Liberals, the result has been an identity crisis within her party. Hitting the reset button seems advisable.

The second reason for the Liberal win is more interesting. Throughout this campaign I have heard on numerous occasions that Kathleen Wynne has the potential to be a great Premiere in the tradition of a Bill Davis. It seems that voters were willing to accept that if Ontario needed a change, she was the change that would work even if she was part of the same party. Since the beginning of the election I have had the same feeling and I think that Wynne is trying to change the direction of the Ontario Liberals and clean up some of their messes. She seems able to inspire confidence in her leadership, popular even with voters who would not vote Liberal.

But now she has the daunting job of fulfilling that potential and keeping her campaign promises. Being less vulnerable in a majority situation, she needs to be more transparent about some of the Liberal mistakes of the past and specific about the changes she will implement. She needs to openly communicate with the public where the province stands with regards to its overall debt and how it got there during the past six years, then explain what will be necessary in order to reverse its direction. During the election, issues were, perhaps necessarily, over simplified and reduced to talking points. Now, with the new security and stability of a majority government, the issues can be explored more realistically and transparently. There needs to be a clear, observable effort to be honest, transparent and responsible.

Like anyone’s wish list of things that they’d like to do in the next year, Wynne and the Liberals will likely be unable to or simply not get to some of the things that she’s promised. That’s just a political reality. I honestly wish they had put aside the budget tailored for NDP support and started fresh during the campaign. They could have retained the parts they really wanted. Now they are unnecessarily saddled with that budget, even though parts of it may have been compromises to try to secure the minority government.

But Wynne has an opportunity to push politics in Ontario into a more open, honest and transparent place. The voters of Ontario have shown that they deserve this. Having rejected knee-jerk politics against the odds, they have shown that they are willing to listen to reason. And there definitely is a basket of dirty laundry that needs attention. Premiere Wynne, don’t disappoint us.

The Ontario Hydro power situation in this province is a huge complicated mess. There is no doubt that the Liberals have mismanaged some elements of it, but I’m not sure that any party would have been able to do things much differently. Like most things, it is a not a straight forward analysis.

Over thirty years ago the environmental group I belonged to clearly stated that twenty to thirty years down the line the Ontario public would be paying far higher prices for their power. There were two primary reasons. The first was that much of our petro-chemical consumption was subsidized by the government through tax breaks, hidden costs rolled into taxes, and even direct subsidization. On the Federal level we see it more clearly with the Oil Sands, but it happens at the provincial level as well. Cheap energy was an illusion. When the nuclear power plants entered the picture this became even more the case. This is the second reason, and to properly understand it requires a little history and perspective.

Canada admittedly has one of the best nuclear programs in the world. Our CANDU reactors are heads above others in safety. Even so, the drawbacks of nuclear power are legion, and some of the principle ones are economic. Power plants have a phenomenal construction price tag attached to them, not to mention regular maintenance. The original cost forecast for Darlington plant, for example, was $3.9 billion, and it finished at $14.4 billion. That’s just the construction. It doesn’t include any of the other costs that are associated with the lesser known cradle to grave life of a nuclear power plant. The government costs associated with uranium mining were huge, not to mention the environmental catastrophe that is now being swept under the rug as a retirement community in Elliot Lake. The processing of uranium into fuel grade material was primarily done at Port Hope, and is associated with huge costs related to having to move radioactive, contaminated soil. According to reports, it is still being cleaned up and still being paid for with tax dollars. Storage of spent fuel bundles, highly radioactive and toxic, is still an ongoing question. Promised storage facilities in Northern Ontario have not materialized (although it is not certain that they would be desirable anyway). Currently this highly dangerous waste material is being stored in swimming pool like enclosures near the shore of L. Ontario. And finally, nobody wants to talk about the decommissioning of the nuclear power plant. What do you do with a radioactive mausoleum after it is no longer usable? Does it just sit there for the next 2 000 years?

Like so many other things, many of the costs associated with nuclear power are hidden, and this doesn’t even consider the billions of dollars that were spent on research and development. It was a long, expensive and rocky road which is very much related to current energy costs and the situation at Ontario Hydro. And regardless of the relative quality of CANDU reactors, the plant, and especially the peripheral elements of the industry, are far from safe. As we have seen in Fukushema, we can never be prepared for all possible situations, and when you’re talking about nuclear energy, the stakes are high.

When the anti-nuclear protesters were active 30 – 40 years ago, Climate Change was not a well know issue and factor in the environmental equation. In light of the carbon emitting alternatives, a lot of modern environmentalists claim that nuclear is inevitable, and they may be correct in the short term. However given climate change and the danger of nuclear power, it is only reasonable that alternative energy sources and the real power of energy efficiency/conservation be examined seriously.

Our federal Conservatives, through PM Harper’s recent statements about Global Warming, asserting that no country can realistically be expected to take step regarding Climate Change if it will interfere with jobs or economic growth, have made it very clear where they stand. They are willing to kill their grandchildren in order to allow themselves and their children to prosper. They are giving the middle finger to the future, more concerned about current economic growth than the well being of future generations or addressing probable future environmental catastrophes. This should not be a surprise. It is very much a Conservative ethic of taking care of current business interests and the power elite.

The Ontario Liberals took a chance on the future, encouraging and supporting a fledgling wind a solar industry. There may have been some errors, but compared to the investment and the travesties of the nuclear industry, it’s nothing. After the $14.9 billion Darlington plant came on line, it was exporting surplus energy at a loss to the U.S. for years. It’s nothing new. It is part of the growing pains of a new industry. And it is a support of growing pains that requires government intervention. Standing in the shadow of nuclear and petro chemical, alternative energy doesn’t have a fair chance. Competing with two other established sources of energy, each with their own serious drawbacks, alternative energy doesn’t have a fair chance. Like nuclear, when it first was introduced, it requires government funding at both the research and the implementation level to get a foothold. In the case of nuclear, that was very much shared by the federal government. Today, that’s highly unlikely considering that the federal Conservatives are so totally in bed with the oil industry. When Harper says that no country will take action on climate change if it threatens jobs and economic growth, read that as “if it threatens the oil industry”. If the federal government cared more about the future or the environment than they did their big business friends, there would be a national funding of alternative energy research and implementation. Other countries have done this, but they are, suspiciously, not countries that have large oil interests.

But most importantly, here is a quote from an article titled “Clean Energy Myths in Ontario”.

A comprehensive analysis comparing a green power portfolio to building new nuclear plants found that renewable power would be significantly less expensive than new nuclear, $13.5/MWh for green vs. $20/MWh for nuclear. Rates paid for wind and hydro power under the feed-in tariff system are lower than the cost of new or retrofitted nuclear power – 13.5 cents/kWh for wind vs. 19-37 cents/kWh for nuclear. Ontario is still paying for past nuclear cost overruns. The province has collectively made $19.6 billion in payments on the old Ontario Hydro’s “stranded debt” and still owe another $14.8 billion. Every nuclear project in Ontario’s history has gone over budget and over schedule. On average, final costs have been two-and-half-times the initial estimated cost. The vast majority of current hydro bill cost increases have nothing to do with green energy contracts, but are mostly the result of overdue transmission system upgrades, – See more at:


I’m sure that mistakes are being made in the alternative energy sphere. It would be interesting to see what kind of mistakes or dead ends are being stacked up by the Oil Sands and to what degree those mistakes are being bankrolled by tax dollars or tax breaks. I’m sure that Oil companies can just write them off. Having researched it carefully decades ago, I can tell you with confidence that the dead ends and waste in the nuclear industry would boggle your mind.

It is not fair to spotlight the troubles encountered by alternative energy without understanding that both oil and nuclear did and do have similar issues, hidden by time and the convoluted accounting of Goliath corporations. Alternative energy becomes a scapegoat. Wind provides only 3.5% of all of the generating capacity for Ontario. As you’ve seen above, nuclear is a proportional behemoth. How can anyone take seriously that alternative energy initiatives in Ontario are responsible for huge increases in power bills. Costs sited for alternative energy development often include billions for building new hydro transmission towers and lines, as if those wouldn’t have to be built or replaced anyway. New hydro lines compared to new or retro-fitted nuclear plants? Which do you think costs more? The pattern is always to compare the existing problem to another situation where the problems are hidden. Publications like the Financial Post betray their bias in articles about energy when they claim that companies like Magna and Caterpillar had to close their doors because of high taxes, knowing full well that Ontario has one of the lowest corporate tax rates around.

Once again this is not to say that parts of Ontario Hydro aren’t broken. Their billing system is completely out of control. I know several households that have not received hydro bills for over a year. (They’re in for a surprise when Hydro catches up!) General administration seems to have been in chaos for the past 8 years or so, and needs to be cleaned up. Other problems exist as well. But a very large part of it is having to finally pay the piper, just as was predicted decades ago.

However, when talking about energy costs, the elephant in the room tends to be ignored.

What’s the real, nonpartisan story about the supposed $1.1 billion gas plant relocations? The first thing you have to consider is the fact that over $400 million of the “waste” has been calculated from the cost that will have to be reimbursed to the builders in the future because the plants were relocated farther away from their market. This will require building additional power transmission wires and will need longer pipelines in order to transport the fuel, natural gas, to the plant. I’m not sure it is reasonable to include these costs in the “waste”.

That $400 million was one of the principal reasons for the decision which located the plants in their original spots (-or at least I presume it was, as I haven’t been able to find mention of this-). Shaving that additional cost off the price of servicing the plants was a fiscally prudent move. However, it was an unpopular location because of its proximity to urban areas. Perhaps that was the first real mistake here, -that it was located in a place that was financially efficient but that ultimately would be unacceptable to the NIMBY crowd. But the important thing to consider here is that, had the plants originally been placed in the more distant location, the $400+ million would have simply been bundled into the plant costs and would have been regarded as “the cost of doing business”.

However, the plants became unpopular for what may very well have been somewhat valid reasons (at least from the point of view of its future neighbours) and there was pressure on the government to move the plants, supported by all three parties. At the time, there was very little discussion by any party about the fiscal consequences of making that move, totally aside from the wasteful costs of closing a construction site. Nobody wanted to acknowledge the fact this was NIMBY was trumping economic efficiency, whether justly or unjustly. These costs should, therefore, not be regarded as “waste”.

There is the totally valid matter of the other $500+ million and many questions surrounding some of the decisions. It is clear that the timing of the decision was for political gain, hoping to tip two swing seats. It seems that such timing resulted in unnecessary penalty costs which could have been avoided. Make no mistake, that is totally wrong and just plain incompetent. (I’m not sure if stupidity qualifies as corruption, though.) Also if e-mails were illegally deleted in order to facilitate a cover-up, then those responsible should be held fully accountable, even it reaches to higher ranking government officials (or past officials).

Even so, the exaggeration of the $1.1 billion and the lack of proper analysis of this situation are unbecoming of both the media and the campaigns. It was a similar situation with the recent MaRS scandal, which definitely had mistakes attached to it, but nothing like what the opposition parties were dancing around about. Proper analysis of that situation would show that the mistake was a much smaller one than was being suggested, and was likely both unavoidable and in the end fiscally expedient. Notice that there hasn’t been much more information about it beyond the original cry of “foul!” I find it interesting to note that the term “fact checking” has become popular in the media. It speaks to the fact that lying or distortion of the truth (which is essentially the same thing) has become so commonplace in political rhetoric that it is necessary to “fact check” routinely.

It is interesting that I’m not totally confident that I have my story correct with what I’ve written above. Oh, I’ve researched it and done my best analysis to try to be objective. (Certainly, if any part of my analysis or information is mistaken, I’d love to hear about it.  That’s one of the reasons that I post here; I hope to stimulate some kind of debate.)  However, in doing that research, I’ve noticed that there is a notable lack of information and analysis by the media. When I can look into an important matter and still have some significant, unanswered questions afterwards, it is a poor reflection of our media’s ability to do investigative journalism.

If we had a federal election and (hypothetically) the NDP garnered 40% of the vote with the Liberals and Conservatives each getting 30%, it would be quite possible for the NDP to form a majority government in this country’s electoral system. If fact, theoretically, it is possible for any party to get a 40% vote in every riding and end up controlling 100% of the Parliamentary seats. It is not likely to happen only because of quirky regional differences that has politically like minded people grouped in certain pockets of the country. It seems to me to be a rather weak democracy where proper proportional representation of the public is dependent on random demographics. Representation in Parliament seems to be more a matter of dumb luck than genuine representation.

The American system of government was inspired by the Iroquois Confederacy, which Ben Franklin studied in some detail. It was a system based on consensus. Each tribe constituted one house in their system and each house had to approve a decision independently before it could proceed. It was a long, drawn out process, but it always resulted in decisions that took into account the vast majority of people without ever ignoring the opinions of any one particular group.

Obviously, the idea of government by consensus was too unwieldy for the American people, but we see in its current system the elements that Franklin wanted to keep in order to insure balance. It’s not a perfect system, and when, like now, its members are uncompromising, it has its problems. However as far as direct representation of the people goes, it’s not bad. (The fact that the elected representatives often don’t follow through on the mandates for which they were elected is another matter.)  The Canadian parliamentary system is completely different, leading to certain complications.

Let’s get back to our hypothetical NDP government. It would have 40% of the popular vote, but could hold a majority of seats in government, which means that it could effectively pass any legislation it wanted to. The opposition could protest and the Senate could stall, but in the end they would be able to enact any legislation that didn’t offend the Supreme Court. And they would. They would be in a position to fundamentally change the nature of governance in Canada. They could institute new social programs; they could make changes to pension plans; they could alter trade agreement to suit their ideology. All with 40% support and a majority of Canadians disapproving (perhaps strongly) of the direction of their actions. They would be acting as if they had the support of a majority of Canadians, which would be a lie.

What I have described is exactly what the Canadian Parliament is facing now, except it is not the NDP, but rather a Conservative government which gathered 39% of the popular vote in the 2011 election.

I do not dispute the fact that the government that wins has to govern. I dispute the fact that a government that represents less than half of the population, even with a majority of seats, should govern with disdain for the opposing views and with impunity. There has to be an element of humbleness in governing, along with a respect for the wishes of the country. Such governments that see their conditional win as an unconditional opportunity to rule rather than govern are completely missing the spirit of democracy.

That’s what is happening with the current Conservative government under Stephen Harper. The latest article by Andrew Coyne points out only some of the more recent decisions by the federal Conservatives that seem to be more rule by decree than good governance. Harper has a long history of being intolerant of the kind of transparency that comes from the media. He has been known to just get rid of the people that don’t agree with him, or ease them out of the picture any way he can, like the CBC. Or if the offending matter might be data, he shuts down or defunds the source. He shows disrespect for the other branches of government, like the Supreme Court.

Generally speaking, these are not the actions of a man who currently only has about 34% support of the Canadian voters, and is, indeed, in second place behind the Liberals. These are not the actions of a government that respects the fact that, even at their highest support, almost 60% of the population do not think they are doing a good job. This is not authentic governance, but rather governance by opportunity. These are not the actions of a government that understands that but for the fact that the Left is split into two factions, and even more so because of the drain on Liberal support in Quebec by the PQ, they’d probably never win another election. The last fact should be particularly obvious because, had it not been for their wise move to merge the PC and Reform Parties, had these still been two factions of the Right, then too would their victory be extremely elusive.  (It’s why the Tea Party doesn’t dare separate into a third party south of the border.)

A government, any government, needs to govern not rule. It needs to make decisions that represent its platform, but with the recognition that, not representing all of the constituents, it needs to temper its actions. This is the issue with the current election in Ontario, with the PC agenda being almost Tea Party Right, and yet they expect to enact it even with only 35% support from the public. Fortunately a coalition of the Centre and Left would probably derail that.

Coalition governments are condemned by political parties. No, wait. They are condemned by conservative political parties. Because they are the only ones who can be bumped by them. During the time that the Liberals held a minority government, they essentially had to foster a coalition style government with the NDP. There had to be a consensus of agreement or a willingness to compromise in order to pass legislation. In my view, this was a great setup. It produced a government that was attempting to satisfy at least 60% of the voters, rather than the 30%-35% that normally seems to be the case (and which is always the case if the PCs win.)

Let’s face it, if the NDP and Green Parties didn’t exist and split off votes from the Liberals, the PC party would likely never win an election. Yes, some centrist Liberals might bounce back and forth between the two parties (as they probably do now), but the Left side of the political spectrum in Ontario (and indeed Canada) can lay claim to between 55%-65% of the field.

In this particular election, that’s very important. The PC party is hell bent on a platform that is radical and extreme in its nature, is not taken seriously by economists and is contrary to the wishes of the majority of the voters of the province. If, as the polls suggest, the PCs were to get 35% or even 40% of the popular vote, even if that translated into a majority government (which is possible), it would mean that a party that represents significantly less than 50% of the public is going to make highly significant changes to the province (the way the Federal Conservatives are impacting the nation). That doesn’t seem very democratic.

If the PC party wins a minority government (which seems the best they’re likely to do), their opposition would probably represent 65% of the population. And “opposition” is the right word, because those who do not vote PC in this election are probably strongly opposed to the policies that they want to initiate. The responsible thing to do would be for the opposition parties to form a coalition. It’s not cheating the PCs; it’s not defying democracy. It is the only way that the will of the majority will actually be considered. You can bet that the PCs won’t temper their plans out of respect for the majority. They will seize the opportunity to make whatever changes they think are ideologically correct.
At the very least, legislation is not going to get passed. Even if they don’t form a formal coalition government, I don’t see the Liberals and NDP voting for many of the PC programs and propping up a minority government for long. A coalition government, may, in fact, be the only alternative to another election in the near future.

In Ontario, where the PCs represent the Right, the Liberals represent the Centre and Moderate Left and the NDP represent the far Left, that is the way the game has to be played. (There is a bit of confusion around some of those distinctions in this election, but I think it will return to normal rather quickly.)

Yes, I’m speculating big time, but watching Wynne have to respond to questions about the $1.1 billion and the gas plants with only the same manicured line of apology, you could see the pain that she buried in not being able to speak freely.

Why not speak freely? It would have been political suicide to make any other comment than what she did. (Many will say that it was anyway, but that’s beside the point.)

There is no question that something was rotten in the Liberal party around the time of the last election. For McGuinty to up and resign after winning an election indicates that. There must have been some serious unrest and disagreement in the party. I’m going to bet that at least part of that revolved around the gas plant decision.

Hudak and Horvath kept asking, “Why did you sign the paper and not stand up for the people of Ontario?” It’s not hard to understand why. If there was a battle about it and the power struggle resulted in the closures, to dissent publicly at the time would be political suicide and would insure the election loss. That’s a pretty heavy consequence, although many would say that it would be the right thing to do. To say now that she opposed the decision, but was overruled, during this election, would be equally devastating to her party’s chances and would make her leadership look weak, when in fact she may very well be the force that pushed out McGuinty and is trying to clean up the mess.  I personally think that when this all has receded sufficiently into the past, there are going to be some interesting memoirs here.

Furthermore, at the time the decision was made about moving the plants, the full implication was probably less obvious. A lot of that $1.1 billion is that creative accounting that politicians like to do when they need to emphasize a point. Almost half of it relates to the additional costs they will have to pay to the companies involved in order to offset increased transportation costs for the power (both in building new hydro wires and in transporting the gas to the plant). These are costs that exist, not because the plant was cancelled, but because of the new location, -a location that the other two parties say they would have chosen in the first place-, and so those costs would just have been bundled into the construction costs from the very beginning, rendering them invisible. Pegging those costs on the Liberal “mistakes” is a little hypocritical.

I am not saying here that the Liberals didn’t make a mistake. Their biggest one was the timing of the decision, pushing it through in a way that resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties that could have been avoided, in order help secure two seats. It was a dumb move, and obviously had its consequences within the party. But it was a move that any of the other parties would likely have done, and any of the party leaders placed in that kind of difficult decision of supporting something they don’t necessarily agree with, would have done the same thing. Let’s not fool ourselves and attribute any kind of false integrity to either of the other leaders or parties. Both Horvath and Hudak have demonstrated without any ambiguity their own ability to compromise integrity. And we see many examples in the actions of the Federal Conservatives as well.

Instead, though, the other leaders polish up their plastic halos and pretend to be morally superior. Furthermore they opportunistically rake through the garbage of the incumbent party looking for any dirt they can find, and if what they find isn’t damning enough, then twisting it a little to put it in a more negative light is easy to do. Take the MaRS real estate “scandal” where that creative accounting that I spoke of earlier is actually trying to bundle in $440 million in amortization costs for the next 40 years. Really? Why not also include the demolition cost? There was likely a mistake here (-although whether it was a Liberal or PC mistake is uncertain, as the MaRS deal was initiated under the Harris government-) but the exaggeration of the mistake to get political mileage out of it is unconscionable. The opposition parties know that few people are going to look at the situation with enough analysis to see their exaggerations, and, especially in light of the gas plant fiasco, will just take the accusations at face value. They just have to keep repeating the same partial truths, occasionally straightening their plastic halos.

Kathleen Wynne is probably trying to fix some real problems within her party. This is a supposition on my part, but that seems obvious from some of the actions she’s taken. However it is more opportunistic for her opponents to brand her as guilty by association with Dalton McGuinty and vilifying her. It put her in an impossible situation during the debate, and I’m sure she knew it going in. She knew she’d have to endure the accusations, paying for past mistakes like a child paying for the mistakes of the parent. Her only chance was to look convincingly contrite and pushing through it.

A Liberal party that is trying to mend its mistakes does not instill that much confidence. However, compared the campaign promises of the PCs and Hudak, it is clearly a desirable alternative. (To think that the NDP would be able to win the election is not realistic.) The argument for voting PC rests squarely on a rejection of the Liberal party. Their campaign promises are so weak that Hudak has to resort to a hollow guarantee, that he will resign if he doesn’t live up to them, in order to achieve any credibility. His economic math is so anemic that it would be the laughing stock of real economists, were the potential consequences of his winning not so dire. We find ourselves in a position where, more so than at most times, we are not faced with the best choices for this election.

Given that, I think I would rather go with the Liberals, who seem to be trying to improve themselves, than with the PCs, who seem to be in some kind of Tea Party death spiral.  When I look at “potential moving forward”, which is one of the only bright spots in this election, the choice is more clear.

One of the points in the new Liberal platform is to encourage more physical activity among students to increase health. I’m all for increased physical activity, but when I was a teacher the DPA (Daily Physical Activity) that was instituted by the Board of Education was a bit of a joke. It involved trying to do physical activity somewhere inside, usually in the crowded classroom or in the hall. The program was changed from DVPA to DPA after the extremely unfortunate occurrence of a student having a heart attack while exercising. The student reportedly had a congenital heart problem, but the end result was to take the “V” out of DVPA. The “V” stood for “Vigorous”. So running stairs was curtailed in favour of doing the Macarena in classrooms, in spite of the fact that evidence shows that sudden cardiac death does not occur more often during exercise.

Other drawbacks that I found with the DPA program was that given its informal structure, the kids that needed it the most were inevitably the ones who put in the least effort. That was true in my class and it is true in classes I’ve observed since, even when the teacher has every serious intention of engaging everyone. Kids were exercising in their regular clothing in the middle of the day, getting hot and sweaty. Seeing as it was an informal activity, finding time to do the program almost always meant stealing time from another subject, such as Math, Science or Art. I’m not saying that exercise is any less important, but a teacher should not have to squeeze a 40 minute lesson into 20 minutes due to questionably effective exercise. In most cases the exercise time is not scheduled.

This was clearly introduced as a band aid approach to a very real problem. Such problems are usually only effectively solved by more sweeping and systemic changes.

So what can be done to increase student physical activity? Here are a few ideas:

1. Where possible, have students walk to school. I am amazed at the fact that most students outside of urban areas (and many within them) are bussed. When I was a kid (-insert ironic laugh here-), my Public School was three blocks away from my home and I walked it every day, four times. By the time I went to a Middle School (grades 7 & 8) it was two kilometres that I biked every day, even in the winter. Ironically, this is a suggestion put forth by the Drummond Report.

2. Emphasize two 20 minute outdoor recess periods every day, only cancelled for the most inclement weather. The students weren’t that keen on coming in, once outside.  Students being provided extra help, or serving a detention should always be guaranteed at least one of these two periods for physical activity. Investment can be made in outdoor games equipment and training to help encourage actual physical activity rather than texting.

3. Physical Education classes should be scheduled at least three times a week. One school I was in had a problem with too many classes to accommodate in the Gym, so they set up a room for physical activity, with appropriate resources. If there is a scheduling problem, one of the three classes could be in such a room.  during physical activity classes participation should be highly encouraged.  When I see classes in the gym, often there are a hand full of students on the sidelines or stage not participating.  Sometimes it is for medical reasons; sometimes it is because they are not prepared with proper gym clothing.  Ironically, those sitting out the activities are often those that need it the most.

4. One wise old teacher that I encountered early in my career said something to me that stuck. “If you want to add something, you have to subtract something else.” You can’t just impose a new program and not expect it to impact on the existing ones. If you add 20 minutes of exercise each day in the classroom, you’re going to lose 20 minutes of something else. As a teacher, with all of the other interruptions to my days (-that’s a story for another time-) it was hard enough to cram what I needed to do into the time given. It often meant abandoning a high interest, more novel approaches in order to just communicate the basics. Quality is sacrificed. There were many hurdles to my effectiveness as a creative teacher. It’s why I retired. Perhaps, if you want to add 20 minutes of program to each day, then the school day needs to be extended.

However should schools be primarily responsible for physical exercise and activity? When I was kid (-laughter again-) I was often outside in the neighborhood until dark. The old complaint that parents had about being home before the street lights came on is no longer a concern. Kids don’t go outside like they used to. This is what Richard Louv calls “Nature Deficit Disorder”. Videos and computer games can result in a child locking themselves in their room for hours after school, rather than being outside. Even when children are enrolled in team or organized sports, the few hours of activity each week are no replacement for regular daily activity. I admire the kids who go out and skateboard or who build ramps for their bikes.

It has to do with lifestyle and general attitude more than it has to do with what schools can provide. Until those issues are changed, no matter what the school does, the impact will be limited.

For a summary of Trickle Down Economics and why it doesn’t work, see the previous post. Or just look it up on Google. The critical articles outnumber the pro articles by about ten to one.

Nobody ever talks about “Trickle Up Economics” (except for Rush Limbaugh, who naturally demonizes it and defines it basically as government handouts to the poor). In fact I may have made the term up. Well … no I don’t think so.  Googling it produces a handful of results, the critical of which tend to follow the “Nothing can be consumed until it is produced” line of thought, -which to me is just counter intuitive.  One might also call Trickle Up “Demand Side Economics”, because it begins with the consumer, -the grass roots, if you will-, and works upward from there.  (Again, the critics say that, no, it begins with the government, -but no more so than the Trickle Down model.  Government initiates action in both cases.)

In order for corporations to expand, they need to respond to an increased demand. No matter how many incentives you give businesses, if the demand is not there, it won’t work. In fact, if the demand is not there the incentives tend to be pocketed as increased profits. In Trickle Down, the idea is usually that incentives to corporations will produce more jobs, which will give the mass of consumers more spending power, which will in turn grow the economy. Except that the premise, that incentives turn into jobs, is very highly disputed.

Might the opposite approach hold more promise? Instead of giving wealthy corporations more incentives, give the incentives to he consumer. A tax incentive that encourages consumers to upgrade energy efficient appliances or make other purchases, directly stimulates the market and can unavoidably lead to more purchasing from corporations. You don’t need a PhD in Economics to see that this will immediately lead to increased production and probably jobs. And there you have it, economic growth.

While the original stimulus may not continue indefinitely, the increased employment rate will stimulate the economy by itself and be longer lasting. As a strategy, it seems to have fewer steps and be far more direct. Both strategies involve the government offering tax dollars to stimulate the economy, but in Trickle Up that money goes to consumers who are likely to utilize it rather than corporations that seem content with squirreling it away.

Plus you have the added bonus of giving consumers an incentive to aim their purchases towards worthy social goals and perhaps even lowering their debt load. The reason that green incentives to corporations don’t work very well is that there is often not the demand necessary to make start ups successful.

One other important form of Trickle Up Economics comes from the field of education. I strongly feel that education is the most important investment that our society can make. Not only is it an investment in the skills and innovation that future generations will have, but is also a positive social influence in things like crime rates. Personally, I think that school funding should be doubled. It is worth every penny. (Of course it needs to be done efficiently and effectively.) You need the best teachers and the best resources. The businesses and corporations will ultimately benefit from a more prepared work force, which will boost their productivity and profits. They should contribute more to education. In Europe they do.

Nothing could be more “Trickle Up” than Education. Investment at the grass roots, consumer level to insure the best possible education will trickle up to benefit the country economically, socially, not to mention personally. One can see the devastating implications of failure to do this just by looking around the world at places that have dropped the ball on this one. The places that are the most dictatorial and underdeveloped are also the places where education is suppressed or struggling.

Paying attention to the people who are on the “Demand” side of the Economics equation doesn’t put more money into the profits of big corporations. It doesn’t widen the wage/wealth disparity that seems to be growing. It doesn’t promote cutting away essential services at schools and other places. But it does seem to be a simple, direct way of growing the economy (rather than the corporate sphere).

There don’t seem to be any graphics or comics for “Trickle Up”.


Posted: May 20, 2014 in Election, Personal Whining, politics

While voting is one of the primary and essential rights in a working democracy, in the overall scheme it is one of the least influential. It is kind of like oiling a machine. Oiling is not high profile, but if you don’t do it regularly, the machine breaks down. It will even run for a while with insufficient oil, but in the end you pay the price and along the way the machine’s efficiency is compromised.

So while voting is essential, it often doesn’t feel like it is, leading to voter apathy. In the past 15 years voter turnout has dropped roughly 15%. Up until about 2000 it stood (federally) at around 70% – 75%, dropping occasionally into the high 60s.   For the past few elections it has hovered around 60%, occasionally dipping into the high 50s.

In a world where technology has promoted instant gratification on so many levels, where you can tweet your vote and comments in to TV shows, where you can play on screen games at movie theatres, where your opinion can be registered and often responded to instantly on blogs and social media, voting fails to keep up.

In my area the political party that has won the area by a large margin for decades is not the one I would vote for. I know that my vote will be futile and, once the election is over, inconsequential. I know that I can have little effect on the outcome with just my vote. But I vote anyways, partly to demonstrate that there is an opposition, partly because to exercise one’s right is, in my opinion, very important. To become complacent is dangerous.

Furthermore, one often feels that the policies of those in power, even the parties you’d like to support, are beyond your grasp, controlled by forces like corporations, unions and lobby groups. This can add to the feeling of futility. In the current Ontario election many people feel that none of the parties are worth voting for.

But voting is not the only property of freedom and democracy. While my single vote may only be a drop in the proverbial bucket, I have other options. I can support my choice of candidate by working for their campaign. I can express my opinions in a variety of ways and try to persuade other people. I can lobby for a particular issue. They are the other facets of democracy, and they are the ones that can have the most impact on the process. Voting is not the be-all-and-end-all of democracy. It’s the easy part. Because it’s easy it can be taken for granted and neglected.

And if you feel that participating in democracy is not worthwhile for you, or is too much trouble, then don’t be surprised if the power is controlled by those people who do feel it is worth the trouble.