Thursday, September 10, 2015

Trudeau the Sociopath?

In Canada we are facing a federal election in October. The election campaign is in full swing. Leaders for each of the three main federal parties (Conservative, Liberal, and New Democratic) are traversing the country, holding daily news conferences in which they dribble out promises of millions of dollars spending on various special interests. In addition, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, is campaigning. But, with no chance of forming government, her campaign has less of a smarmy feel to it. Her comments are much more true to the party's beliefs, rather than aimed at trying to swing some group of voters as the other leaders appear to do.

I am not impressed with the political leaders in Canada. I find that the whole federal political process is becoming more and more polarized. I dream of a political scene where parties can offer opposing positions on issues, but can make their position clear. And in which parties feel no need to constantly muddle their opponents' points of view. I wish they would just boldly state their point of view and let the voters decide if they agree. The whole process is becoming decidedly sociopathic.

I watched Peter Mansbridge's interview with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau the other day. I generally avoid TV and any form of video coverage of the election campaign. I'd rather read about it. However, I decided to watch this interview since Trudeau's party could potentially form government (albeit a minority one), and because I have heard enough of both the Conservative leader Stephen Harper and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair to have a pretty decent idea of what I think of them. Trudeau, though, I am more or less ignorant of. I know he is wildly popular among some Canadians. As a relatively young, relatively new face on the federal political scene, he also comes from a family with deep connections to the Canadian political scene, his father having been probably Canada's most famous, and certainly its most intellectual, prime minister for about 14 years between 1968 and 1984. I have heard all of the arguments against Trudeau - that he is too young and inexperienced, that he is just a pretty face, that he feels he is entitled to the job of prime minister, that he doesn't really stand for anything, etc. I had generally dismissed those as more attack ad style comments that don't really mean anything. So, I was surprised by my feelings as I sat watching Justin Trudeau being interviewed by Peter Mansbridge. To me he came across as smug, unable to really answer a question (even more so than a normal politician), unable to really articulate his party's position on what they would do in power, and, as the interview progressed, I felt that I had no other term than sociopath to best describe his communication. If a sociopath is someone who can communicate in a charming way, convince people they are normal but are actually all in it for themselves, tell people what they think they want to hear rather than speaking plainly and honestly, constantly sell people an image or product that doesn't actually have any substance to it, then in my opinion Trudeau fit the bill perfectly.

His conversation with Mansbridge was the exact opposite of my desire to see political leaders take a bold position and let voters decide. All of his answers were nebulous. It is clear that he knows Canadians are divided on many issues, so he spoke in a sort of code, hoping not to upset those that disagree with him more than he was hoping to win the support of those who might vote for him. I didn't need to see the whole interview to know that I can't vote for him and would be sorely disappointed if the Trudeau led Liberal Party won the election (unlikely as that looks at the moment). And this is coming from someone who, though I have never voted for the Liberal Party, I have supported their views and actions on many things.

Another sociopath in politics. Who would have thought?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Who Should I Vote For in 2015?

I must be the worst blogger in the history of the internet. I realize this is my first post in eight months. However, since no one is really reading my blog, I suppose it doesn't matter. Vicious cycle.

Canada faces a federal election this October (or sooner). Through a recent change in the election process, there is a fixed date for federal elections. In the past, of course, the election was called by the sitting government at a date more or less of their choosing, and it had to fall within the mandate period following the previous election. With the new system, the federal government can still call an early election if they think it is to their advantage (or technically they would be forced to if there was a vote of non-confidence in the House of Commons - though that is virtually impossible in a majority government situation). So, this year's federal election will be held on October 15th.

The Conservative Party of Canada earned their first majority government in 2011. This happened despite their earning only 39.6% of the votes. This 39% earned them 166 seats out of a total of 308, giving them the necessary 155 or greater to form a majority government. I am biased - I am not a conservative voter, despite my conservative fiscal leanings - but I think it is fair to say that a majority of Canadians are not represented by the current government. Roughly 60% of voters did not vote for the party that won, and of course there are many citizens who also did not vote. Many of them (minors, for example) are unable to vote. Such is the nature of parliamentary democracy. Once a party has majority rule, they can pretty much do whatever they want. Issues still need to be debated and voted on in the House of Commons, but since a bill passes with a majority vote, so long as the ruling party whips the vote they can ensure the passage of whatever bill or budget they want. For the term of their mandate, it is in many ways a dictatorship.

Any party that wins might govern this way, and in the 1990s the Liberal Party governed much the same way. They formed government with less than 50% of the votes, and with their majority in the House of Commons they pretty much did as they pleased.

The big difference with the current government is that the majority of voters (about 60%) all vote for parties that have much in common. The Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), and the Green Party, moving more and more left of centre respectively, have much in common when compared to the Conservatives. Therefore the 60% who did not vote Conservative are probably more likely to be consistently disappointed with the government's decisions than if one of the other parties were in power.

To illustrate this point, I recently took a poll of how I should vote in the coming election. I found a webpage which allows you to fill in a number of responses to issues, and to attach a significance level to each question:

The poll then provides you with a breakdown of how you should vote, and how strongly your views align with each major party. The first time I did the poll, I was told that I was 98% in line with the Liberal Party. The next time I did it (answering much the same as far as I could remember), I was  98% lined up with the Greens:

What is interesting about the results, though, is that the Greens, Liberals, and NDP all line up 95% and above with how I feel about various important issues. The Conservatives line up only 21% with my views. There is a major outlier among the major political parties in Canada, and it is the governing party. According to this poll, I should be relatively content to vote Green, Liberal, or NDP. (Indeed I would say that I have yet to decide which of those parties I will vote for, if I decide to vote). The only way the Conservatives will win another majority government is if the 60% of voters who don't vote for them end up splitting their votes between the other parties. If everyone would hold their noses and vote for the Green, Liberal, or NDP candidate most likely to win in the particular riding, then the Conservatives would be reduced to an also-ran. Yes, this might mean that for many Canadians we would not see our first choice of party in power, but it might also mean that the party in power would side with us on 95% of the issues, rather than only 20% of the issues.

There is a movement afoot in Canada called ABC - Anything But Conservative. I can see their logic.