Thursday, March 5, 2015

No Parole for 35 Years and Bill C51 - Solutions to Problems we do not have

I think the prime minister is doing a great job of creating some serious wedge issues in the run up to the October federal election.    Bill C51 and the new extension of time till some convicted of life imprisonment can apply for parole are both changes that will no measurable impact on crime and policing in Canada but will resonate on a populist level with a large part of the population.  

A lot of time will be spent talk about these issues that are marginally relevant to Canada which means much more important issues will be pushed off of the stage.  It will take time away from

The simple reality with terrorism and Canada is that there has been very little of it over the last 25 years, a lot less than from 1966 to 1989.   This is the case not only in Canada but in western Europe as well.   The early 90s IRA bombing campaign in London was intense and ongoing for three years.   The 1970s in Germany and Italy there were the Red Brigades and Baader-Meinhof.  Nothing in the last 15 years compares to these acts.  C51 exists for political purposes only.  It is intended to appeal to a populist irrational fear of Islamic terrorists to get support for the current government.   It is also intended to make the NDP and Liberals look like they like terrorists.   Thankfully the NDP has come out against C51, but the Liberals intend to vote for it and amend it if they form government.  

The issue is an utter non-issue in Canada and could not do anything to stop the most common quasi political acts of violence, those by crazy lone gunmen like the two last October.  C51 is egregious enough that I suspect the majority of Canadians will see it as unfair.  This should benefit the NDP over the Liberals.  Even if a majority thinks it is wrong, enough people have an irrational fear of terrorism that it will help the Conservatives

The other wedge issue is increasing the length of time before someone convicted of first degree murder could apply for parole and the option to allow for consecutive sentences.   Once again, this is not something that there is any need for in Canada and it is only being done for political purposes.  Making these changes could actually end up with more murders getting earlier parole.  

An unintended consequence which could happen is that fewer first degree murder charges may be laid because of the change and there is Canadian data to back this up..   From 1965 to 1971, when Canada still had the death penalty on the books but was not using it, only 6% of people where charged with first degree, 28% second and 65% manslaughter.    From 1977 to 1988 the stats are 38% first, 52% second and only 9% manslaughter.   Assuming the population was acting dramatically different, some of the people charged with manslaughter from 1965 to 1971 had committed crimes that should have warranted first degree charges.

The changes will be popular among many people.  It will push the NDP and Liberals to either agree with the government or look like they are pandering to the worst criminal element of Canada.   It is a lose/lose situation for both parties.  It is the sort of issue that could get the Conservative base more motivated to get out and vote.   The positions taken by the NDP and Liberals will be used as fundraising appeals by the Conservatives.

Canada does not have a problem with terrorism in Canada.  Canada does not have a problem with people convicted of life sentences being released on parole too early.   Canada only has a government playing politics with issues in hopes that the public will be diverted from the much more important bigger issues.
My Experience with Terrorism

I lived in London for three years in the early 1990s.    I worked in office off of Oxford Street not far from Tottenham Court Road during a three year long IRA bombing campaign.

I was impacted by a terrorist bombing about once every two weeks.   The main impact was that the Underground was shut down for several hours after most attacks.   When this happened I could not go home because there was no space at all on the buses.  Central London pubs benefited from extra drinking because of commuters were stranded by the IRA.

The bombings were also at times very real.  I did see the police tape for about half a dozen bombings and heard a number more.   The April 10th 1992 bombing of the Baltic Exchange was loud enough that three and half kilometers away we heard it very clearly.   Some hours later that night the A406 Flyover at Staples Corner was bombed.  That bomb was large enough that even 6 kilometers away the window in our bedroom rattled seriously enough to wake us up.

For three years the IRA managed a terrorist act in London almost weekly and the UK government was helpless to stop it.

I raise my experience because the UK has very draconian anti-terrorism laws that did nothing to stop the IRA from this ongoing and serious bombing campaign lasting several years.   You learned to live with bombings unless you were a Catholic from Northern Ireland.    The authorities used the act to specifically target Northern Irish Catholics for harrasment.   I worked with some Catholics and because I was a Canadian after several years they started to tell me the stories of what had happened to their friends and relatives.    All of the stories were of people being arrested and held without access to counsel for days at a time.  They were also not allowed to sleep or eat.   None of them were ever charged for anything.

What the UK showed very well was that restricting freedom not only foes do nothing to combat terrorism, it made the oppressed group more sympathetic towards the terrorists.

There is no need for Bill C51

There is no reason for Bill C51 now when terrorism is dramatically down from the past.  The threat today is much lower than the era of 1966 to the end of the Cold War.

From 1966 to 1989 we had the following (not including crazy one off killings by lone gunmen):

  • FLQ - various bombings, two kidnappings of which one ends in a death
  • Yugoslavian embassy and one consulate were bombed in 1967
  • Anti-Castro terrorists - 10 bombings over 14 years resulting in one death
  • Anti-Turkish terrorists - three incidents 1982-1985 with two deaths and one man paralyzed 
  • Squamish Five  - three bombings in the early 80s by Bader-Meinhof wannabes.  
  • Babbar Khalsa - the Air India bombings in 1985, an attempted assassination in 1986 and and attempted assassination of Tara Singh Hayer in 1988 

Since end of the cold war including the "War on Terror"

  • Anti-abortion terrorists - four attempted murders of doctors between 1994 and 2000.  Two clinic fire bombed
  • 1998 Tara Singh Hayer is assassinated 
  • Islamist terrorists - A 2004 bombing of a Jewish school in Monrtreal, One serious plot in Ontario in 2006.   August 2010 - Misbahuddin Ahmed of Ottawa was arrested of knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity
  • Anti-natural gas terrorism - a number of bombings of Encana pipelines in 2008 and 2009
  • Quebec Nationalist terrorists bombings in 2000 and 2001 

Lone "gunmen"

  • 1984 Denis Lortie tries to kill Rene Levesque but fails though kills three others
  • 1984 Three people are killed and 30 wounded when American bombed Montreal's central bus station to protest the pope coming to Canada
  • 1989 Charles Yacoub hiujakcs a bus to protest the Syrian invasion of Lebanon
  • 1995 attempt to bomb PEI legislature
  • 2001 someone sends a hoax anthrax letter to Gordon Campbell
  • 2012 Richard Bain tried to assassinate Pauline Marois but failed though killed someone else
  • July 1 2013 Canada Day attempt to bomb the BC Legislature
  • October 20th 2014 ramming attack against two soldiers by Martin Couture-Rouleau leading to one death
  • October 22nd 2014 Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed soldier Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa 

I separate the lone gunmen because there is they are not part of an organized group and therefore not terrorists.  They also tend to act without any warning.

1966-1989 332 deaths
1990-2015 1 death
Lone Gunmen 9 deaths

The case has not been made for any need for a new law to deal with terrorism since terrorism is declining in Canada.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Prime Ministers Song

A quick and humorous political history lesson

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Federal Government spent money on this

I am rather horrified to find this badly done videos on a Youtube channel for the Prime Minister, but this one is one that really crosses the line.   Laureen Harper is not elected to anything so why is anyone in the government make a pointless pap video like this about her?  

There is nothing about this that makes life better for anyone in Canada

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Regional results from latest EKOS poll

I find this chart from the latest EKOS poll interesting

Overall the regional results have been reasonably consistent over the four polls EKOS has conducted since the new year.   

Clearly Alberta and Saskatchewan will remain strong Conservative and Atlantic Canada Liberal.   Ontario is a serious battle ground.   Though what I find interesting is the four way tie in Quebec and the Liberal lead in BC.

I had not expected to see the four parties tied in Quebec.   The Liberals and Conservatives are at roughly the same levels of support they saw in 2008, the Bloc is in the range of their 2011 results.  The NDP are down from 2011, so what will this mean in Quebec?

Here in BC EKOS keeps having the Liberals in the lead but organizationally on the ground the party is not nearly as evident as their polling numbers would indicate.   I wonder if the Liberal support in BC is weak or are people parking their vote?  One reason I wonder if parking the vote is the case is because 5% of people in BC answered some other party.  Another reason I wonder is because I am not hearing an enthusiastic endorsement of Trudeau in BC.

In BC the support for the Green has been very stable at between 15% and 17% over the four polls.   this is higher than the Liberals achieved in 2011 and only marginally behind their 2008 vote.

 The sample size is in BC is between 400 to 450 so it is large enough to tell us something, I just do not know what it is telling us.

Why did Alberta not have a game plan for low oil prices? Why did they spend $56 billion more than they needed to over the last seven years?

Alberta has had a serious windfall in oil revenues for the last decade or so and somehow they did not set themselves up to look after the province for the long term.   When the oil boom started about ten years ago government program spending per capita in Alberta rose much faster than other provinces.   The windfall was sucked up into an expanding government and not saving for the future.

It has only taken one drop in the price of oil for the budget of Alberta to go from a surplus to a huge deficit.   Yes, the drop has been dramatic but based on long term commodity price trends, not unexpected.

There was a famous bet between Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich made in 1980 about commodity prices in ten years time.   Julian Simon bet there would be no rise while Paul Ehrlich bet there would be.   Simon won the bet in 1990.  Commodity prices have been up and down over the decades but it is actually interesting to see how little the commodity prices have not been ahead of inflation.
Price of a barrel of WTI oil in Canadian dollars from Jan 1986 to Feb 2015
Since 1986 Canadian inflation has been 86%,  The price of oil at the start of 1986 was $35 per barrel, which would be $65 per barrel now and the roughly the current price.  From 1986 to today the price of oil has been significantly ahead of inflation in only nine out of the last 28 years.   In eight of the years oil has significantly fallen in price.

I know some people will say this is a temporary blip downwards, that peak oil is here and the price is going to skyrocket again shortly but I disagree.  Oil is a product that is very sensitive to supply and demand.  As soon as there is a shortage of supply the price rises but businesses find ways to use less oil while at the same time a lot more oil can be extracted because it is financially viable.   New technology has made various oil sources much cheaper to extract.   So as the price rises again, there is a lot of new oil that come onto the market.   In the long term oil will be cheaper than people expect.

Alberta ignored basic economics when it did not use something like $40 to $50 per barrel as the long term stable price of oil.  The bonus revenues should have been set aside in the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund but that has not been done.   In 2014 the fund had about $17.3 billion, not something more like the $50 billion to $120 billion that it should have had.   Alberta used the oil revenues for short term political favour and not long term planning.   In ten years from 1998/99 to 2008/09 Alberta doubled their per capita program spending.   BC, Ontario and Quebec did not have anywhere close to the same rise in program spending.

If the money had been set aside as should have been Alberta would have able to have a secure and consistent source to borrow money from for public infrastructure at rates the province could set.   What we see instead is a province in panic as the provincial spending will have to be dramatically cut.

As it stands, the government of Alberta costs a lot more to operate than the other three large provinces in Canada.   Alberta spends $2000 per person more than BC and $3000 more per person that Quebec.   Alberta has been spending about $7 to $10 billion per year than they should be for the last at least seven years..   One would think the NDP was in power in Alberta.   The only two provinces that spend significantly more per capita are Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan - both right wing governments.

Spending an average extra $8 billion per year for seven years is $56 billion.   $56 billion that did not need to be spent.   What does Alberta have to show for this $56 billion?

The only think Alberta does well on is direct provincial debt, it has none, the only province to be in that situation, but this will change suddenly.  During the last extended period of stable but low oil prices Alberta went from a large surplus to having more debt than BC had under Mike Harcourt at the same time.   Given the lack of any fiscal discipline in Alberta over the last 30 years, there is no reason to expect the province to change now.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

In 2015 it might be time to pay some attention to the Libertarian party

It is eight months till the 2015 federal election and the Libertarian Party already has 45 candidates nominated(1).   In the last 11 elections they have at best managed to nominate 88 candidates in 1988.   45 is already more candidates than what they have run in the six elections.   There could be a chance they will  run a full slate(2) and that would be an important change to the 2015 election and possibly harm the Conservatives.

It will be interesting to see what the impact of a full slate by the Libertarians might have on the election.   The one group of Conservatives, above all others, that Stephen Harper has disappointed are libertarians.   People had hoped for a secret libertarian agenda once the government had a majority but quickly found out this was not going to happen.

My expectation for the 2015 election is that most libertarians would have decided to stay home or reluctantly voted for the Conservatives.  With a full slate from the Libertarian Party of Canada there is a place for people to protest the status quo and have it reflect their values.

Tim Moen, leader of the Libertarian party
I do not expect with a full slate for the Libertarians to do well enough to place ahead of any of the parties that currently hold seats, but winning between 2% and 4% of the vote nationally is very realistic.   Their impact will be enough that Conservatives will start to worry about vote splitting hurting them.   Their best candidates could get as many as 3,000 votes and that is clearly more than the margin of Conservative victory in many seats in 2011.

Managing to run a full slate is not easy.  Since the 1965 election the Liberals, NDP and Conservatives(3)  have always run a full slate.  In the last 15 election the only new parties to run full slates were the Canadian Alliance in  2000 and the Greens in the last four elections.   If the Libertarians were to manage a full slate, they would be only the third new party to do so in 50 years.

The Green party came onto the national scene in 2004 because of the tireless work of the new leader at the time, Jim Harris.   He managed to organize the Greens well enough for the 2004 election that the party did run a full slate.  If this had not happened the Green Party of Canada would not be what it is today.

Not only have few parties managed to run a full slate, there are only five other parties that have even managed to run more than 100 candidates in the last 50 years.   The Libertarians are already at 45 candidates, I have no doubt they will easily break 100 candidates, but can leader Tim Moen get them close to 338?

If Tim Moen does manage to get the party to a full slate they will become a factor in the election.   As much as I am a vote splitting skeptic(4), the Libertarians could be enough of a factor in close races that they could cost the Harper Conservatives a few seats.

It will be very interesting to see how the Libertarian party plays out in this election.
Some Data
Here is the list of fringe parties that managed to run more than 100 candidates but not a full slate in the last 15 elections

  •                         Candidates
  • Party         Election Number Percent. % of vote
  • Green            2000    111   36.9%     0.81%
  • Natural Law      1997    136   45.2%     0.29%
  • Natural Law      1993    231   78.3%     0.63% 
  • National Party   1993    170   57.6%     1.38% 
  • Rhino            1980    121   42.9%     1.01%
  • Marxist-Leninist 1980    177   62.7%     0.13%
  • Marxist-Leninist 1979    144   51.1%     0.12%
  • Marxist-Leninist 1974    104   39.2%     0.17%

Major Parties since 1965 that did not run full slates(5)

  • Party     Election   # of Cand.  MPs
  • Bloc              2011    75      4
  • Bloc              2008    75     49
  • Bloc              2006    75     51
  • Bloc              2004    75     54
  • Bloc              2000    75     38
  • Reform            1997   227     60
  • Bloc              1997    75     44
  • Bloc              1993    75     54
  • Reform            1993   207     52
  • Reform            1988    72      0
  • Social Credit     1980    81      0
  • Social Credit     1979   103      6
  • Social Credit     1974   152     15
  • Social Credit     1972   164     15
  • Rall. créd+Socred 1968   104     14+0
  • Rall. créd+Socred 1965   163      9+5
(1) With 45 candidates nominated, this places the Libertarians ahead of the Greens who have 44 candidates nominated as of today
(2) By full slate I do not mean 100% of the seats, but relatively close, within 10 or so seats of running in all of the seats
(3) By Conservatives I mean the PCs till 2000 and the CPC since 2004 
(4)I think the impact of vote splitting is very much over rated.   In most cases it is not going on and very few seats are won or lost based on it.

(5)  Major meaning they won seats in the election, were holding them or won them in the next one.