City politics and what I’m looking for

I’m going to be honest. I’ve become more and more disaffected with the whole democratic process in the last decade or so. Mostly because I’ve focused my attention on federal and provincial politics, which for the most part, is party politics, a game that here in Canada, does not lead to great decision making, given that for most part, parties here do NOT seem to have any interest in collaborating and looking for compromise. On top of this, the electorate seems to be content with this arrangement, which leads to majority governments that govern ‘their way or the highway’.

I never really paid much attention to the municipal elections since moving into Edmonton proper. I didn’t think that the city government really mattered much. Now that I’ve bought a home, had kids, I am realizing how wrong I was.

Municipal elections are probably the most important and the one time that people can actually do the most for their day-to-day lives. This year, I’m engaging and dedicating a fair amount of time to finding out which candidates to vote for. In doing so, I’ve also had to think about what’s important to me and the city as a whole.

The first thing that is actually a little concerning for me is the fact that at least half of city council will be new councilors. This isn’t a bad thing, new ideas, new blood and all that is good, but that also means there’s a bunch of people that don’t really know how to get things done (or how to govern). So, to me, this means we need strong leadership from the Mayor, but in an overbearing ‘my way or the highway’ way.

As a city, I feel that the LRT expansion NEEDS to be a priority. Connecting the outskirts of the city with mass transit in my mind is CRUCIAL changing people’s attitudes about driving and living in the city’s interior. Having more LRT lines will not only reduce the road congestion, it will also help make living in established neighbourhoods more attractive and will help to make downtown more accessible as a whole.

I’m still thinking about other things that I feel are really major issues, but those are the two that are really sticking out in my head right now.

Politics and sub-optimal decision making

Yesterday, I was thinking about the upcoming municipal election and some of the issues that I personally feel are important for the City of Edmonton.

Of those issues, there are several that I deem to be long-term projects – much longer than the four years that an elected official is in office. Urban sprawl, for instance – that’s not a quick fix. Getting people to move into older neighbourhoods and higher density housing is about changing opinions, views, and lifestyles – that will take time.

Anyway, I was thinking about these different issues and the people that make these decisions. In a way, politicians are given incentives much like the management of a public company. In a public company, it is always a balancing act for the Board of Directors to properly design compensation of the management to ensure the longevity of the corporation WHILE meeting the short-term demands of the investors (stock market). Often, these compensation structures are done poorly (with an emphasis on the short-term), which leads to sub-optimal decision making by management to ensure they meet the short-term goals to maintain a healthy compensation.

Now, consider the politician. They have to make decisions for the city (or province, etc) that will not only help the short-term needs but the long-term direction of the city as well. Unfortunately, unlike the management of the a company, the electorate has no means of ensuring that these individuals make the best decisions for the long-term of the city. Sure, we have the ability to vote them out of office, but unfortunately, once some events are set in motion, its difficult to reverse the detrimental effects. So, we have to trust that these people are making the choices that will go beyond their (confirmed) time on council. Unfortunately, I don’t have much faith in this happening for MOST. Most politicians (like company management) will make the decisions that will benefit them, by pandering to the electorate on an issue that has possibly damaging long-term effects on the city.

Now, I don’t know how to change this particular problem with democracy, but I just thought it was an interesting parallel that I felt like writing about.

Unforseen?

There’s tons of blogs that have solid, good, decent, etc coverage of the Alberta Election.  If you’re wanting something sourced/analyzed/etc, this isn’t it.  It’s just some thoughts.

When I first saw the preliminary results and the PCs were winning nearly 60 seats, the first thing I tweeted (related to the results) was:

So, I hope you strategic voters are happy. #abvote

And, a few days after the fact, I think that gut reaction is still how I feel.  There’s no way to confirm (or deny) this is what happened, but, I think it definitely was a factor in many races.

Polls can be (very) wrong.  There were signs of eroding support for the WRP, but nobody really expected the results that occurred.

I blame strategic voting.  I believe in people’s right to cast their ballot however they want, but ultimately, strategic voters are voting for their second worst alternative.  I think that’s a terrible way to vote.  In the end, the PCs have already begun talking about how they have a mandate from the people – how many of those people don’t believe in the PC party?

How different would the results been if there hadn’t been any strategic voting?

We will never know.  But, I’d like to think we’d have wider representation in the legislature from all belief systems, rather than what we got.

Lesser of evils

When I was younger, I was adamant that if you didn’t vote, you lost your right to complain about the government.  I was pretty hardline on this.

If you know anything about my voting habits now, you’ll know that I’ve softened on this.

By all means, do go out and investigate the options for your vote.  Make an informed decision.  But, if after taking all the details in, there isn’t a candidate/party combination that meets whatever criteria you have to make a ballot box choice, not showing up is acceptable.

Is drawing a penis on your ballot a better way to protest?  I guess.  In the end, your protest vote still falls on the ears of the politicians that were able to gain the confidence of 35% of the total of the 60% that voted and claim that they have a “CLEAR MANDATE FROM THE ELECTORATE.”

Guess what?  You certainly don’t have a mandate.  You’ve got less than HALF the votes in the country.  You (and your asshat fellow leaders) gamed the system such that you were able to alienate 40% of the population, and since you only need to be one vote better than the next asshole, you found a way to win.  This is NOT a mandate.

Wait, but if we had ballot boxes full of penises, then maybe we’d see real change, you say.

I doubt it.

A (generally) declining voter turnout should spurn action, but it doesn’t.  Why does such a large portion of the population need to show up to draw a penis for action to start happening?  I think it has something to do with the fact that our democracy isn’t that mature, I’ll grant that.  But, with the rash of minority governments, it was looking like Canada was going to start moving towards a more collaborative Legislature, where parties would have to work together (in the interest of the electorate, shocking, I know) in order to get things done.

Will the government be a little more unstable?  Yes, especially in the early years of the transition as the parties figure out how to work in the framework of the new-normal.  The way Canada (and Alberta) needs to evolve.  One-party dominance over the legislature is not what is best for all.

But, you say – how does this all relate to your premise that not voting is the same as a penis ballot?  I don’t know.  Maybe I’ve changed my mind halfway though this post.  I know that I feel that not voting is a valid response to the system.  That’s part of freedom – the freedom to not exercise the right to vote.

But, I’ll tell you this: voting for someone that you feel is the ‘lesser’ of two evils is still voting for evil and you SHOULD NOT SETTLE.

Not this politics bullshit again..

Alright.  Anyone that reads this blog is PROBABLY aware of the whole Conscience Rights debate between KikkiPlanet and the Wildrose Party.  If you’re not, maybe give that a read: Pruned Bush: Confessions of a Wilted Rose.

Since well, I can’t think of anything else to blog about today, I’m going to give some opinions on the matter.

Conscience Rights is basically permitting service providers the right to deny service based on whatever coked-up reason they might have for denying a service.

I’m normally all over this sort of thing.  I don’t think it’s right that a minister perform a religious marriage ceremony to a couple that they do not agree with due to a conflict with the faith.  But, the church is a private entity and should have this right.

The government is public.  In Canada, healthcare services are public (and really, are roughly an extension of the government).  And guess what?  There’s a little document called the CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS that protects the citizens of Canada from the government.  What does this mean to me?  This means that NO civil servant (including doctors) should deny services based on any of the protected grounds.

If you don’t like it, don’t take a job that you can’t perform the duties of.

FSW Blogosphere Challenge 2: Where are your priorities?

Duncan at Four Strong Winds posed the question: If you were to suddenly become Prime Minister, and you had the potential to enact any policies you wanted (regardless of how “politically viable” they may or may not be), what would your top 3 priorities be, and how would you approach them?”

Here’s my response.  Its unrefined, but whatever.

The first thing I’d do would be repeal the Constitution and replace it with something a bit more usable. As it stands, there are several major problems with the Constitution that I’d need to change immediately. First, remove all references to God. Secondly, I’d ensure that the Constitution can actually be amended (as it stands right now, it isn’t because really, can you ever seeing Alberta and Quebec agreeing on anything other than agreeing that the Feds are screwing them somehow?), to ensure we have a living document that can change as our country and the world changes.

The content in the Constitution would be your standard freedom-loving freedoms. Freedom of speech, press, religion, association, sexual orientation, etc. Give the right to vote to everybody, right to bear arms, etc.

I’d also slash the government. I’d really have to think on what I would consider ‘essential’ services, but Police and the Army would be one of the few remaining government agencies. I’d lower taxes to reflect the lower need of the government stealing your money. Obviously, some taxes would required to fund the remaining government programs.

While this is what I’d like to do, I realize that this sort of government would probably not work ‘overnight’, especially since Canadians feel entitled to many of the government programs that I’d eliminate. I just think that private development of these sorts of things would perform a better service.

An Election…

There’s an electing coming in Canada.  I can’t bring myself to care.

I’ve been a long time advocate of participating in our democratic system, but in the past few federal elections, I’m finding it incredibly difficult to really place faith in the system.  This change could be from my changing ideas about how a government should operate, but think for the most part, I’m finding that the party system in Canada really prevents me from voting the way I want to vote – for the person most qualified to represent my constituency.

I find that I have to vote for the party that fits within my ideals the most, which bothers me.  There is no one party that adquately represents the desires I have in my elected official.  In most cases, there are no candidates willing go against the party’s policy, so what am I to do?

While I was at the UofA, it was my opinion that you should ‘show up’ and not mark anyone down on the ballot you recieved if you didn’t wish to vote for anyone.  Now, I’m not sure that really is effective and worth an individual’s time.

For those that say, ‘you need to vote’, I’m finding myself beleiving more and more that the lesser of two evils is still evil.  If an individual (or as I’ve already determined, Party) doesn’t meet my minimum criteria for support, how can I justify voting for them just because they meet more of the criteria than another?  I can’t.

So, I’m stuck.  For the first time in my voting career, I’m considering not voting in the Federal Election.

Taxing the online world, part deux

Gamespot reported today that eBay will be delisting most virtual items posted for sale. This announcement comes after the disclosure of sweatshops opening in Asia dedicated to ‘gold-farming’. The gold earned in the online is then sold to eager buyers who do not have the time to put into the game.

Last month, I posted this, a discussion on the possibility of taxation of online earnings/gains. At the time of that post, I felt it would be very difficult not to see governments move that direction. Of course, with the internet’s largest auction site no longer allowing the sale of such items, its looking that people aren’t going to be able to find this ‘tax haven’ for much longer.

The one interesting point about the change in eBay’s policy is that Second Life items are not affected. Why? Because in eBay’s mind, it is hard to call Second Life a game. (As an aside, Get a First Life) So, if SL isn’t a game – clearly, it is a real life, and real life sucks because you have to pay taxes.