Friday, December 24, 2010
Gabor Maté: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts
One of my favourite books of 2010 is Dr. Gabor Maté's In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.
The following is a series of interviews with Maté, a Vancouver doctor who treats drug addicts in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood of Vancouver. The interviews are conducted by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now:
Friday, December 10, 2010
The NDP vote in BC
The following chart from Will McMartin's most recent Tyee article offers some interesting insights into BC politics:
The first thing one notices is that the NDP's support has remained relatively constant over the last 40 years, aside from the 2001 debacle. In 9 of 10 elections, the NDP share of the popular vote has remained within a 7% range, from 39% to 46%. And in 7 of 10 elections, that range has been less than 3.5%. In other words, NDP supporters are a fairly consistent and committed group of voters.
What's also interesting is that the NDP's three electoral victories (1975, 1991 and 1996) were based on some of its smallest popular votes shares. Conversely, the best three elections in terms of vote share still resulted in electoral defeats to Bill Bennett's Social Credit Party.
What does this mean for the NDP? First, the best strategy for the NDP is to pray for the corruption of the right wing vote. In all three NDP victories, credible conservative alternatives helped cleave away crucial votes from the dominant right wing party (1975 and 1996), or there was simply no credible right wing party at all (1991). Another strategy, and something I've discussed before, is to address topics that are usually not associated with the NDP. Like the Liberals in 2009 - who successfully claimed new ground with the environment - the NDP needs to take economic policy seriously. This doesn't mean surrendering to the business sector and its destructive tax-cut monomania, but it does mean offering progressive ideas that will improve prosperity and productivity.
The chart also implies one other point, and one that McMartin's article effectively argues: the NDP is not likely to fall apart because of the departure of Carole James. The numbers above suggest a consistency that stands apart from any leader.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Another Fraser Institute Joke
I'm pleased to see that Craig McInnes of the Vancouver Sun doesn't take the Fraser Institute’s latest salvo against Canada's surgical wait lists too seriously. A 16% return rate on a voluntary survey makes a mockery of any official conclusions. Little wonder that the report's authors fail to mention the response rate in their section on methodology, though one can locate the number in the corner of a chart on p. 40.
It reminds me of the Institute’s refusal to include apprenticeship data in its high school report, data which favours public schools over private schools.
In both cases, a barely-disguised ideological agenda overrides any concern for credibility.
Monday, December 06, 2010
A Carole James Requiem
It was another eventful day in B.C. politics. Carole James mercifully stepped down as the leader of the BC NDP party, and soon the spin was thick and saucy, with a hint of bovine dung.
James, of course, cast the 13 dissident MLA's as "bullies" and unity-wreckers, and herself as the innocent, hard-working victim who was - shades of Mike Harcourt - taking one for the team. She portrayed herself as an "excuse" for the dissidents to stop working for the party. And she repeatedly implied that unity was a virtue in itself, rather than the result of a proper democratic process.
The possibility that she was the problem never came up in her speech. The possibility that a two-time electoral loser should step aside was never mentioned. As I discussed in my April 29, 2009 entry, her refusal to make jobs and the economy her absolute priority has been a huge anchor for the NDP; this refusal was, of course, also ignored.
It certainly didn't help that, according to
NDP stalwart, Corky Evans, James forced the dissidents out
in the open and into a corner. According to Evans, the 13 dissident
MLA's sent a confidential letter to James, asking her to resign. But
instead of keeping it in-house, James and her supporters decided to make
the rift public and expose her detractors to the media. At a November 20
party meeting, yellow scarves were used to identify those who were team
players and those who were not. Evans explained it this way to the Georgia
"As we walked into the hotel the morning of the Provincial Council meeting, staff members stood in the hallway outside the meeting room and gave yellow scarves to everyone EXCEPT the folks they knew had signed or delivered the letter, and a few of the rest of us they figured might support the 13 signatories," Evans maintains. "The result was surreal."
He claims it was "the most divisive thing I have ever witnessed" in the NDP.
If this is true - and no one from the James' camp has denied or minimized the very public result - then James clearly has to shoulder much of the blame for the current fiasco. "Outing" dissenters in the hope of quashing their opposition is a very dangerous gambit. You often turn those who were quietly dissenting into betrayed and vocal critics. This certainly seems to be the case for Jenny Kwan, who really hadn't said much publicly until the "scarf meeting".
Another interesting point that arises from
James' resignation is the power of the caucus. Even though the party
membership or party leaders might select a party leader, in the
end it is the parliamentary caucus that holds power. If the caucus - in
whole or in part - can no longer support the leader, the leader is
finished. It's just another example of how party leadership is removed
from the electorate, and how parliamentary power is a matter of
confidence for both a party as a whole and a leader in particular. This
is the most potent example of a "check and balance" in the parliamentary