Category: Federal Election 2015

Ask The Globe: Which parties favour proportional representation?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Our third selected question comes from reader @stefanie__92 If elected, (which candidates would)fight for a proportional representation system in our elections? #AskTheGlobe #elxn42

Globe reporter Campbell Clark has the answer:  

There are two parties that favour proportional representation, and possibly a third, depending on how you count them. But there are some differences in the devilish details.

Both the Thomas Mulcair’s NDP and Elizabeth May’s Green Party say they will fight for proportional representation. Both say that if they won power, they’d change the voting system.

The Liberals also favour reform, but they are more vague on what kind. They promise to eliminate the current first-past-the-post voting system, but not necessarily to replace it with proportional representation. They’d have a parliamentary committee study it.

There are other differences between the parties on this issue. That’s partly because there are different kinds of reform, and different kind of PR. The Conservatives want to keep the current system, where the candidate with the most votes wins the seat. Most others propose change.

The NDP favours a kind of “mixed-member proportional representation” system.” As NDP democratic reform critic Craig Scott has described it, voters would get two ballots. The first would be to elect a riding MP, like the current system. The second would be to vote for candidates in a region, and the seats would be apportioned so each party’s tally would eflect the proportion of votes cast.

The Green Party also says they’d change the system to proportional representation, and would establish a multi-party Democratic Voting Commission to decide the details..

The Liberals have said they’ll get rid of the current first-past-the-post system, and set up an all-party parliamentary committee to look at various potential reforms. Mr. Trudeau has on many occasions said he’s not certain about PR, and expressed more interest in ranked ballots. That’s where voters rank their first and second choice, possibly more; if no one wins 50 per cent in a riding, then bottom candidates are dropped, and the second choices are used in a kind of instant run-off.

Nigel Wright, Mike Duffy arrive for trial

Today is Nigel Wright’s first day on the witness stand at the Mike Duffy trial. Here’s the latest.

Ask The Globe: Have carbon emissions gone down in Canada?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Our second selected question comes from reader @PatrykSzu have carbon emissions gone down in Canada? #AskTheGlobe #elxn42

Globe reporter Shawn McCarthy has the answer:  

In the debate last week, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said his government was “the first in history to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also growing our economy.” He credited the government’s “sector by sector” regulatory approach.

It is true that as of 2013 – the last year for which figures are available – Canada’s total of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions was 3 per cent lower than it was in 2005, the year before the Conservatives took office. Emissions dropped from 749 megatonnes (MT) in 2005, to 726 MT in 2013. It is also true the economy grew by 13 per cent between 2005 and 2013.

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But the drop in emissions came over two years – 2008 and 2009 – when the economy suffered the worst recession since the great depression, according to Environment Canada’s April 2015 submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Emissions bottomed out in 2009 at 699 megatonnes, and rose every year between 2009 and 2013, up 4 per cent in that time. Environment Canada forecast they would continue to climb without aggressive new measures. Mr. Harper’s claim to have reduced GHGs may be already out-of-date, given the likelihood of increased emissions in 2014 and this year.

His suggestion that his government’s regulatory approach has resulted in lower emissions is highly suspect. In concert with the Americans, Ottawa tightened automobile mileage standards, but the big payoff from that effort will only felt in future years, as the standards are increased over time. As well, the Conservative government passed ground-breaking regulations to force power sector to phase out traditional, coal-fire plants. But again, the coal regs won’t bite until the end of this decade, with the major impacts not seen until well after 2020. Mr. Harper has refused to regulate GHG emissions from the oil sands, the fastest growing source of GHGs in Canada.  The biggest decline between 2005 and 2013 came from the electricity generators. There are no federal climate regs that impact current emissions in the sector, but demand fell due to recession and Ontario phased out of coal-fired power.

The most contested turf in 2015 will be these purple ridings

Click on a riding to see the results in the 2011 federal election and 2014 provincial election.

Legend

  • Blue = riding voted Conservative in both elections.
  • Red = riding voted Liberal in both elections.
  • Orange = riding voted NDP in both elections.
  • Purple = riding voted Conservative federally and Liberal provincially.
  • Magenta = riding voted Conservative federally and NDP provincially.
  • Yellow = riding voted NDP federally and Liberal provincially.

The Conservatives have traditionally blue seats in rural Ontario, and the Liberals have held on to a few red strongholds in Toronto. But the biggest focus of action in this year’s election is likely to be in a swath of ridings across the sprawling Greater Toronto Area that have recently voted both blue and red.  The most contested turf in 2015 will be these purple ridings.

These are the electoral districts that voted for Mr. Harper’s federal Conservatives in 2011, but picked Kathleen Wynne’s provincial Liberals in last year’s Ontario election. There were 38 Ontario ridings that did that blue-red switch. Most of them are in an east-west strip from Belleville to Brantford that skirts around Toronto’s core.

Now it’s a three-way federal race, and this turf is likely to be telling.

These ridings were the path to Mr. Harper’s majority government in the 2011 election, and he probably can’t win another majority without taking most of these seats. In the last weeks of the 2011 campaign, he travelled Highway 401 warning Liberal voters against a surging NDP – swaying enough to his side.

For the NDP’s orange wave, they are a critical test. The New Democrats have rarely been competitive in these ridings, where races have usually been run between the Conservatives and Liberals. But they can’t expect to break out of opposition unless they can appeal to voters here, and gain substantial ground.

For Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, they are vital: they remain the largest group of ridings where his party are in relatively close races to gain seats. They represent his best bet to lead his party out of third-party status, and must-win territory if they hope to take power.

Most are in bedroom communities, often places that have boomed rapidly from small town to suburban sprawl. They tend to be ethnically diverse, and many are reasonably affluent. And there will be even more of them in 2015: Ontario will gain 15 new federal seats under electoral redistribution, many in this strip.

Ask The Globe: “Who is the middle class?”

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Our first selected question comes from reader Andrea Jarman:  Who is the middle class? #AskTheGlobe #elxn42

Globe business reporter Tavia Grant has the answer:  

There is no single definition! This seems to be the defining trait of the middle class, partly because it’s so subjective. It also depends on where you live – the concept, and trends, are very different in the United States (where the middle class has been under more pressure) compared with Canada, or in Vancouver (where the cost of living is vastly higher) compared with Charlottetown.

But here are some of the views.

An easy definition is looking at where the middle falls in terms of incomes. The median after-tax income in Canada is $50,700 for all family units, according to Statistics Canada’s most recent data. This means half of the population has incomes below that point, and half are above. That $50,700 number compares with $50,400 in 2007 and $48,000 back in 1976, in constant dollars. (You can have a look at the trends yourself in this table).

One recent paper, by Philip Cross and Munir Sheikh, which we wrote about here, puts forward several definitions of the middle class (one of the ranges it cites for families are incomes of between $40,000 and $70,000). It finds, broadly speaking, that middle-class income growth hasn’t kept pace with higher-earning income growth over the past 30 years, and that there has been a “slight shrinkage” of the size of the middle class.

The idea also depends on which kind of family you live in. Another range in this IRPP post on families with kids under 18, by Jennifer Robson, shows a range, with median earned income of $31,000 for a lone-parent family with one child, up to $99,000 among dual-earner couple with two kids.

She stresses that it’s important, when thinking about policy, to look beyond just incomes. “Even if you want to stick to quantifiable economic resources as measures of ‘middle class,’ I think assets and debt really matter too,” she notes.

That broader measure is to look at wealth – which includes assets like houses and pensions, minus debt. By net worth, the middle fifth of families had wealth of $453,300 in 2012, a Statistics Canada paper showed. (Its same study puts the middle quintile of family income at an average of $57,200, before tax).

Then there are subjective ways of looking at the middle class – such as lifestyle, aspirations and hope – whether one’s quality of life will match the previous generation. There is also self-identification – the vast majority of people see themselves as being middle class do, regardless of income levels.

We took a look at this question a few years ago as part of the Globe’s income inequality series. 

So what’s up with the oft-repeating phrase “middle class angst”? It may stem from the run-up in household debt or expensive housing, a changing jobs market, or it may come in thinking Canadian trends are identical to U.S. ones, which they aren’t. 

If you’re curious about middle-class trends in the U.S., a thorough examination was released by the St. Louis Fed. Unlike most Canadian analysis, it includes details on race. 

For more, check out this video.

Harper says he won’t tax Netflix, other parties agree

Breaking Bad yes, Netflix tax no.

That was Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s message in a 54-second video posted to Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, in which he alleged that the NDP and Liberals have “left the door wide open” for taxes on digital streaming services. “I’m 100 per cent against a Netflix tax. Always have been, always will be,” Mr. Harper says.

“We have no plan on bringing in such a tax,” NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said at a press conference.

“Any suggestion that the Liberal Party supports a Netflix tax is nonsense,” Liberal spokesman Cameron Ahmad told CTV News.

Digital law expert Michael Geist argued on his blog that the Ontario and Quebec governments have been working on wider regulations of new media, and though the Liberals and NDP have not proposed a Netflix tax per se, they have sought measures that he called a “soft form” of new-media regulation. Moreover, the prospect of taxes making Canadians’ access to Netflix costlier has come up before — in the Conservatives’ 2014 budget, The Globe’s James Bradshaw reported in January. The budget document contained a few short paragraphs inviting input on “ensuring the effective collection of sales tax on e-commerce sales to Canadians by foreign-based vendors,” and whether to enforce mandatory collection. Such tax rules would ostensibly level the playing field for e-commerce vendors that complain foreign giants such as Netflix and Amazon.com have an unfair edge when selling digital products.

The claim, and Mr. Harper’s chosen hashtag – #NoNetflixTax – was met with some incredulity on social media.

Some started a punning contest with the hashtag #HarperANetflixShow:

Attack ad reality check: Do these Conservative and NDP claims stand up?

The New Democrats and the Conservatives are waging an internet battle for economic credibility with the release of new online ads that take vicious swipes at the other party’s ability to foster Canadian prosperity.

As the hours tick down to Thursday night and the first leadership debate of this extended campaign, let’s look at what the parties are saying about each other.

The Tory ad, which was posted online on Monday, features a male voice ominously reminding Canadians that the October 19 election is about “our economy, your job, your family, your retirement … the wrong leader will do real harm.” (‘That’s a lovely family you’ve got there, it would be a shame if anything were to happen to it.’)

It begins with some mudslinging at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Referring to Mr. Trudeau as Justin – a Tory strategy for diminishing him in the eyes of voters – the ad says he “thinks budgets balance themselves.” That’s a reference to an interview that the Liberal Leader did with CPAC in February in which he said: “The commitment needs to be a commitment to grow the economy and the budget will balance itself.”

It goes on to say that NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is a career politician who “would wreck our economy.” Flashing over a video of Mr. Mulcair are the words “economic chaos” and “out of control spending.”

It is a simple message – one that demonizes the Conservatives’ foes and reinforces the message that any leader but Mr. Harper’s party real risks to a voter’s economic security. (Here be dragons!) It’s also one that is difficult for the opposition to counter because it is based on perceptions rather than something that can be easily refuted.

An NDP ad posted Wednesday relies more heavily on numbers than characterization – but numbers can be manipulated for political advantage.

In the NDP spot, a woman’s voice is heard (over music that could have been used in Star Wars to portend the arrival of the Death Star) telling viewers that Mr. Harper has failed in his promise to create jobs and strengthen the economy.

The ad accuses Mr. Harper of having the “worst jobs record since the Second World War.” For this statistic, the party looks at average annual growth in total employment under each prime minister dating back to William Lyon Mackenzie King. And yes, Mr. Harper sits at the bottom of that list.

But, if a viewer was left with the impression that Mr. Harper had the worst record for unemployment over that period of time, he or she would be wrong. The unemployment rate in the early ‘80s and again in the early ‘90s was much higher than it has been under the Conservatives, even during the worst of the 2008 recession. And Canada has had some of the strongest job growth of all the G7countries over the past seven years.

The ad goes on to say Mr. Harper has presided over “the lowest economic growth since the Great Depression.”  It is true that average annual economic growth under Mr. Harper has been the lowest of any Prime Minister since the 1930. On the other hand, it has been a tough few years and Canada has performed well on an annual basis compared to other G7 countries, sometimes outperforming all of them.

“Household debt is skyrocketing” says the ad. That is true – mostly as a result of a growth in residential mortgages.

“Incomes flatlining,” says the ad. The NDP uses Statistics Canada numbers to show that median market income fell from $51,300 in 1976 to $47,700 in 2011. But the disposable income of Canadians has been on a strong upward trend since 2010 and the median income of people in this country has surpassed the median income in the United States.

“Eight straight deficits and $150-billion more in debt,” says the ad. For the Conservatives, there’s no getting around that one. Mr. Harper says the budget will be balanced this year. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is dubious.

Canadians will be bombarded with election ads over the next 11 weeks, some with simple messages, some more complex. And, like much of what will come out of the leaders’ mouths during the debate on Thursday, it will take some careful analysis to discern truth from political fudgery.

This story corrects an earlier version that incorrectly stated the date of the election

Who are the most-Googled party leaders in every riding in Canada?

With the election underway, we’re all looking for data that suggest which parties Canadians are most interested in. Polls, including the Nanos Party Index, are one source of data. Another is search traffic. Below is a riding-by-riding breakdown, courtesy of Google, of who the most-searched party leader is in each riding. It’s an interesting measure of which leader is sparking curiosity in each riding, though it shouldn’t be taken to necessarily translate into votes: for instance, the Conservatives look unlikely at present to win in downtown Toronto, and the Bloc Québécois probably isn’t winning seats any time soon in the British Columbia Interior.

And on the national picture, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have been neck-and-neck as the most-searched leaders. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May spiked in May, likely due to a speech at the annual Parliamentary Press Gallery Dinner.

Of course, all these numbers only serve to show how searched leaders are in relation to each other. How much do Canadians search for information about politicians, compared to non-politics queries? Here’s a clue: Canadians were still 10 times more likely to Google Minions than Stephen Harper.