Saturday, October 24, 2015

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- I'll start in on my own review of the NDP's election campaign over the next few days, focusing on what I see as being the crucial decisions as the campaign played out. But for those looking for some of what's been written already, I'll point out recaps and analysis from Charlie Demers, Tim Ellis, Hassan Arif, Evan Dyer, Jenn Jefferys, Christopher Majka, Gerald Caplan, Jim Quail, Elizabeth McSheffrey and Paul Dechene - while noting that I'll be challenging and/or expanding on some of their analysis in my future posts.

- Scott Leon, Kwame McKenzie and Steve Barnes comment on how the Trans-Pacific Partnership stands to put our health at risk in the name of corporate control. And Janyce McGregor notes that it will open the door to dairy products from cows receiving growth hormones which are currently banned in Canada.

- Dr. Dawg challenges any attempt to treat the Harper Cons' abuses as anything but a natural - if extreme - outgrowth of a conservative ideology.

- Finally, Andrew MacLeod reports on the B.C Libs' deliberate practice of destroying information or ensuring that it was never recorded in the first place. Gary Mason notes that the revelations confirm that any claim to open and accountable government was a sham - though the Clark government doesn't seem to have any shame about having been caught. And Vaughn Palmer sees the Libs' response as being nothing but empty words.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Musical interlude

Secondcity - I Wanna Feel

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Martin Lukacs writes that while a change in government offers some possibility of change, the Trudeau campaign wasn't anything more than a ruse. And Seth Klein and Shannon Daub remind us that we'll need to be the ones to advance progressive policies in the face of a government which tends to do as little as it can get away with, while Dru Oja Jay writes that we can't settle for letting Justin Trudeau decide what's worth doing:
The second response sees Trudeau’s charm offensive as a window of opportunity for an agenda that has objective measures. Measures like “are we addressing climate change adequately to stop ecological collapse?” or “is our society become more equal and democratic or less?” The underlying assumption is that achieving those things is a matter of a battle between competing social forces — roughly oil companies and banks vs. people who want a just and sustainable future. Or the ruling class vs. the working class. We can call this response “eyes on the prize”.

Three objective measures provide clear yardsticks for evaluating progressive changes in Canada. One is “are the tar sands (and other extreme extraction like fracking) expanding, staying the same, or reducing their rate of extraction?” A second: “is corporate wealth and power –and the resulting level of inequality–expanding, staying the same, or reducing relative to the power of the people?” And perhaps most importantly: “do Indigenous nations have more or less ability to determine what happens on their territories?”

To justify itself, “give him a chance” needs to argue the unlikely: that Trudeau is different and through sheer force of personality, will defy every recent historical precedent of governments elected using progressive rhetoric.
To people who have their eyes on the prize, every movement win short of complete victory is going to feel like cooptation. The key is to maintain momentum and set new goals, rather than criticizing the people who celebrate the current win or complaining that it falls short.

What’s even better is setting long term goals while pursuing short-term demands. The Quebec student movement, for example, did an excellent job in 2012 of demanding the reversal of an immediate set of cuts while making it clear that the long-term goal was free post-secondary education for all.
If we accept that there are absolute measures to what we need to accomplish overall (starting with not rendering the earth uninhabitable), then we also accept that there are absolute measures to what we need to accomplish right now.

Trudeau’s charm offensive should never be allowed to accomplish its goal: to lull most of us into complacency before the real policies are implemented. Actively making demands and agitating for them is a great way to make sure that the Liberal advisors and corporate lobbyists have to wait a little longer to take the reins.

But no matter who steps in front of the parade, we can’t forget where we truly need it to go.
- Meanwhile, David Macdonald, PressProgress and Damien Gillis offer worthwhile to-do lists for a new government. And Tavia Grant points out that it's not too late to restore a long-form census for 2016 as long as the Libs act quickly.

- Michal Rozworski points out that inequality didn't receive anywhere near the attention it deserved in Canada's federal election campaign.

- Finally, Roderick Benns talks to Jonathan Brun and Luc Gosselin about the importance of a basic income. And Florence Jaumotte and Carolina Osorio Buitron look at the connection between unions, lessened inequality and economic development.

On value judgments

Apparently the Conservative exercise in spin isn't about to end anytime soon just because Stephen Harper has lost power. Here's Ken Boessenkool as a representative spokesflack on the Cons' time in office:
The Conservative party has a remarkable opportunity to prepare to regain power in the wake of our equally remarkable nine-year run in government. Together we have moved Canada in a conservative direction on a broad range of policy fronts. And we owe it to our record, to our movement and to our party to continue to do so.

Key to regaining power is selecting the right leader.

Politics today is more leader-driven than ever before. This campaign, if anything, reinforced this. The public did not turn away from the broad policy agenda of Conservatives, instead they turned toward “change” as embodied in Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
In response, let's set the record straight: Harper has done nothing at all to persuade Canadians to accept a more small-c conservative worldview. In fact, public opinion has moved in the opposite direction on his watch.

And that reality is reflected the Cons' election strategies and results.

In 2006, they won power primarily demanding accountability and reassuring voters they wouldn't be in a position to change Canada much at all. In 2008 and 2011, they focused mostly on nebulous concepts like "not a leader" and "just visiting" for lack of any belief that their value system would resonate beyond a 28% base. And in 2015, forced to abandon leadership politics due to Stephen Harper's unpopularity, they lost their place in power pushing a right-wing worldview as their final campaign message.

Which isn't to say the Cons haven't tried to sway public opinion and turn Canada into a meaner society. But while they've misused their power to temporarily silence anybody they could control, there's no evidence they've ultimately managed to win Canadians over.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

New column day

Here (via PressReader), on how the prisoner's dilemma I wrote about back here wound up playing out in Canada's federal election.

For further reading, particularly on the difference in how the NDP and the Libs treated each other...

- Tonda MacCharles' look behind the scenes of the Cons' strategy includes this tidbit:
Senior Conservative organizer Ken Boessenkool even called New Democrats, advising them to turn their guns on the Liberals or both the Conservatives and the NDP would lose.
- But Anne McGrath noted that the NDP had a specific reason to go easy on Trudeau:

- Which makes for a rather direct contrast against the Libs' explicit strategy:
All of which might help to put a few of the parties' other decisions in context - and particularly the Cons' earlier focus on attacking Trudeau more than Mulcair even when the latter was ahead. 

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Eduardo Porter highlights the continued growth in research showing that social benefits do nothing to stop people from pursuing work, but instead serve to mitigate the risks of precarious survival for the people who need it most.

- And Michael Marmot discusses the devastating effects of health inequality, while pointing out there's plenty we can do to close the gap.

- John Jacobs points out that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is at best a dead end for Canadian jobs, while the Center for Economic Progress writes that any supposed economic gains for the U.S. (other than the corporations whose interests become the basis for lawmaking around the Pacific rim) are similarly illusory.

- Finally, Drew Nelles makes the case that Monday's election result was no victory for progressive Canadians. And Ian Welsh discusses what's been lost (at least for now) due to the Libs' election win:
One NDP government which puts thru electoral reform changes the entire nature of Canadian politics. It makes another Harper impossible for a generation or two.  It means that most governments will be coalition governments, with the natural coalition being Liberal-NDP, and with Conservative coalitions being much milder because they must rule with a more left wing party on their flank.

Canada’s population is center left.  Sixty percent of the voting population would never vote Conservative.   Electoral change makes Canada’s governments reflect that, rather than being about the committed plurality: leaving us with 8 to 10 years of Conservative rule every 25 years or so.
This is what was at stake in the last election.  It was a big deal.

The worry now is that we’re back to status quo.  The Liberals and Conservatives swap being government, the Liberals run to the left and govern to the center and Canada continues a nasty rightward trend (which the Liberal governments of the 90s and 00s were part of) with some jogs leftward, primarily on social issues (which are important, but don’t trump the damage of neoliberal economics.)

This election mattered, and it should have been about much more than “get Harper out”.  Conservatives were not destroyed by this election, they did fine, they just took a normal loss.  The party which was devastated was the NDP.

The price of that is likely to be severe, and this is true even if Justin Trudeau keeps the majority of his promises.

On rush jobs

Yes, one of the Libs' first orders of business in government should be to rein in the worst excesses of C-51. But they instead seem to be limiting their plans to something else entirely:
A key feature of the replacement legislation is expected to be the creation of a multi-party, joint House of Commons-Senate committee, sworn to secrecy and reporting to the prime minister and through him to Parliament. It would have a full-time staff, access to the necessary secret information and be tasked with strategic oversight of every government department and agency with national security responsibilities, according to a source familiar with the content.
The Liberals say a three-year automatic review, or sunset clause, of the entire Anti-terrorism Act of 2015 act would be added.

As well, they want to narrow some of the “overly broad” definitions of what constitutes a threat to national security, including defining “terrorist propaganda” more clearly.
In other words, there's no indication the Libs plan to do anything about the parts of C-51 which actually affect the most Canadians directly, including both the wholesale collection and sharing of information based on the flimsiest of security pretexts, and CSIS' secret powers of disruption.

Instead, their main plan is to let a few more people in on the secret. Which means most Canadians still have no idea what rights are being trampled - and the few MPs and staffers who do will be powerless to do anything about it.

Needless to say, an added layer of bureaucracy over the same program doesn't represent any real change from the Cons' desire to pour more resources and power into a security state. And it's well worth pointing out if the Libs are trying to get away with doing as little as possible on this among so many other key issues.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On historical context

Twice before, the federal NDP has been in roughly the same position it holds now, emerging from an election with a relatively high historical seat count that was nonetheless disappointing due to the expectation that a seasoned and respected leader could have done better.

After the 1988 election, Ed Broadbent stepped aside as leader. And under a new leader in 1993, the NDP lost official party status - while watching the Liberals form a majority government and Reform take control of Canada's policy agenda.

After the 2008 election, Jack Layton stayed on as leader. And the result was the 2011 Orange Wave, which finally fulfilled (and indeed exceeded) Layton's hopes from the previous election.

Needless to say, it's not hard to see which of those precedents the NDP should be hoping to follow in the lead up to 2019.

And a similar pattern can be seen at the provincial level in the case of experienced leaders who have had to decide whether to stay on after disappointing results.

Allan Blakeney remained the Saskatchewan NDP's leader after being annihilated in 1982, won the popular vote in 1986 and positioned the party to form government in the ensuing election. (In contrast, Lorne Calvert's quick departure after his defeat in 2007 led to disaster in 2011.) 

While Dave Barrett may not have returned to power after losing it in 1975, he was able to improve his party's position in 1979 and mostly hold those gains in 1983 - unlike Bob Skelly in the subsequent election.

Meanwhile, the only readily-apparent example of NDP meaningfully improving its position an election cycle after shedding a high-profile leader comes from Manitoba in 1981, when Howard Pawley was able to do better than Ed Schreyer had done four years earlier. But even in that case, Schreyer had stayed on as leader until being offered the position of Governor General. 

Finally, the best-case scenario with a new leader might be that of Darrell Dexter - who didn't build much on Robert Chisholm's vote share in 2003, but eventually managed to build up support and win power in 2009.

To be clear, the above isn't to say that there's never a time to move on from a leader. But it's well worth keeping in mind that there can be a real cost to letting a single election's result dictate a party's future - and numerous precedents in which an experienced leader has had plenty more to offer after one disappointment.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Luke Savage warns that the Libs' election win may ring hollow for Canadian progressives:
Throughout its democratic history, Canadian politics have basically oscillated between two parties that do not seriously threaten the status quo or the injustices it perpetuates. Occasionally goaded by organized populist movements, they have both been compelled, particularly during minority parliaments, to make concessions while preserving the basic contours of the political order.

Against this, a third current has always insisted that fundamental change is necessary to build a truly just society. This ethos gave us medicare — an institution built by from the ashes of war and depression on principles of universalism and social solidarity.

Neither sweeping platitudes nor bureaucratic conservatism will ever deliver social progress of this kind, eradicate poverty, or save the planet from the economic structures that degrade it every day.
From where many of us stand, what happened last night cannot be read as anything other than a setback, and a major one, for these efforts. It's time we stopped marginalizing social justice or patronizingly relegating it to the fringes.

Democracy isn't a spectator sport. Elections aren't meant to be experienced as affirmative infotainment.

Achieving social progress requires more than just a perpetual return to the traditional, professionalized politics that leaves one in seven of us in poverty, tolerates people having to sleep on the streets, and allows thousands of children to wake up hungry and badly housed every single day in one of the richest societies in the world.

We have to demand better. And plenty of us believe and hope that, one day, we will.
- David Bush and Doug Nesbitt point out just a few of the areas where Canadians will need to hold the Trudeau Libs' feet to the fire. Rick Smith offers his suggestions as to the progressive change we should expect from a new federal government, while Maude Barlow maps out the road ahead. And Scott Reid writes the the first step needs to be an immediate break from Stephen Harper's paranoia and the destructive politics that went with it.

- Laura Stymiest and Elizabeth Lee-Ford Jones discuss the need to fight poverty in order to improve individual health. And Ryan Meili and Danielle Martin highlight the need to push back against user fees and other barriers to health care access - including the ones being introduced in Quebec in recent months.

- Finally, Patricia Cohen examines what tax increases on the richest few can accomplish - particularly in light of the growth of extreme top-end incomes. The Economist comments on the continuing problem of corporate and top-end tax evasion. And the Institute for Research on Public Policy has released a few noteworthy chapters on inequality in Canada - featuring confirmation both that high incomes have more to do with specific industries than individual contributions, and that education is far from a magic bullet in equalizing either outcomes or opportunities.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cat and mouse.

On defining themes

I've pointed out previously that the Libs' advantage during the federal election came from the fact that the primary message against them was one which could be disproven. And it's worth also noting the converse of that: the Libs' own theme of "real change" was difficult for anybody to disprove during a campaign in the absence of any power to demonstrate what that meant.

But now that the Libs have a majority, they can be evaluated directly against their their own standard with no room for excuses. And it's worth laying the groundwork now to test whether they have the inclination and ability to deliver the "real change" people are expecting - or whether the promise was fake all along.

On clean slates

Needless to say, last night's election results represented something close to the NDP's worst-case scenario on a lot of fronts: both in terms of seat counts, and losing the seats held by some of the most impressive MPs and candidates in Canadian politics. And I'll comment in future posts on the areas where the NDP will want to take lessons away for future campaigns.

But there's still some opportunity to be found in the identity (or lack thereof) of the new majority government - and it's for the best that Tom Mulcair is planning to make the most of it.

When I wrote earlier about Mulcair's options following the election, the starting point was that we'd likely be in a minority Parliament. But while there's no longer a need to bargain for votes in the House of Commons, there's ample room now to define the issues which will be dealt with - particularly given the Libs' lack of direction and the Cons' impending leadership race.

Remember that the last time the Liberals swept to power, the NDP lost official party status while Reform became the most prominent national opposition voice. And it could hardly be a surprise that a governing party with no defining values of its own pushed austerian policies - and indeed took on the mindset for itself - when the most obvious imminent threat came from the right.

In contrast, the Cons will now have to go through a leadership contest to figure out what precisely they stand for without Stephen Harper dictating their every word - meaning that they'll be in little position to drive a particular policy agenda.

As a result, even from third place in the party standings the NDP should be able to challenge the Libs to follow through on their "progressive" messaging - both through Parliament, and by engaging with the citizens and groups who voted for change. And there's some significant upside in either foreseeable result of a concerted push to set the agenda: the NDP will be able to claim significant policy victories which will keep voters focused on what's possible as a country, and/or it will move toward the next election having eliminated any doubts as to which party actually stands for a compassionate Canada at a point when the details of progressive visions are likely to matter most.

Meanwhile, there's also still room for the public's positive impressions of Mulcair to play a substantial role in the next election campaign. And that goes doubly if Trudeau proves to be less effective in government than as a campaign showpiece while a new Con leader fails to gain traction.

In contrast, any immediate move to change leaders would expose the NDP to the same glaring problems facing the Cons: the lack of a coherent current message, and the risk associated with starting from scratch under an undefined leader.

Given those options, the best plan for now is for Mulcair to lead the way in defining the direction of the next Parliament, and to make sure that the theme of stopping Harper doesn't merely lead to inertia for both the NDP and Canada as a whole.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Monday, October 19, 2015

#elxn42 - Election Day Resources

For all the time spent on Canada's federal election, it's now time for voters to have their say. And anybody looking for basic information on where and how to vote should start with Elections Canada or a trusted local campaign.

For anybody wanting to read up on the factors which may help determine how to vote...
- As always, I'll strongly recommend that people vote for what they want, not merely against what they don't. To see which party best matches your vision for Canada, you can find the major parties' platforms at the following links: Conservative - NDP - Liberal - Green. I've reviewed the first three here, here and here respectively. And for a look at how third parties have assessed the platforms, see again my compilation here.
- Meanwhile, those inclined to vote strategically (in the face of the usual warnings) can see among other sources Pacific Gazette, Rabble, Strategic Voting or Vote Together - or look to the projections and predictions from Too Close to Call, Three Hundred Eight, the Globe and Mail's Election Forecast and David Akin's Predictionator with appropriate adjustments for what's happening in your community.  
- And if you want to see everything I've written and linked to about the campaign, feel free to peruse this tag

But most importantly, be sure to get out and vote, and encourage those around you to do the same. And hopefully Canada will be on a course for change for the better by this time tomorrow.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your election day reading.

- Ed Finn discusses how neoliberalism is damaging Canada, and what we need to do to reverse its influence:
Corporate influence on federal politics, the country’s flawed electoral system, and the staunch pursuit of a political and economic ideology since the 1980s that has threatened some of Canada’s greatest political achievements, like universal health care, while exacerbating inequality and eroding the state of Canada’s democracy, he said, are all topics that should be on the table at leaders’ debates and in public discourse if Canada is to begin moving toward a brighter future.
Finn said while much of the current focus among Canadian voters is on Stephen Harper, it’s important to note that “Harper’s offence is not that he initiated the regressive policies that set Canada on a downward course 30 years ago, but that during his decade in power he greatly expanded and intensified them.”

If things are to change, it’s not simply a matter of voting Harper out of office, but assessing the big picture and voting for politicians and parties that offer socially and economically progressive alternatives, he said. 
- And Scott Vrooman likewise observes that we should see ourselves as citizens whose role goes far beyond voting alone, rather than as mere consumers of party brands.

- Jon Herriot and Naheed Dosani offer a few suggestions as to issues which voters should keep in mind in deciding who has earned their support. And Dr. Daniel Boudreau points out how important a national pharmacare program can be for everybody's health.

- Paul Dechene reminds us why ethics should be a thoroughly toxic issue for the Harper Cons. And Roger Annis writes that the Libs' goal is to take Canadian politics back to a past we should be looking to leave behind us.

- Finally, Ian Welsh offers a concise take on the campaign that we've seen so far. And John Oliver captures both the absurd and the embarrassing within the campaign:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

#elxn42 Campaign Closer: Liberals

Finally, let's look at the Libs' campaign as tomorrow's election day approaches.

In case there was any doubt, the Libs' main challenge was to try to cast Justin Trudeau as being "ready" in response to the Cons' saturation ad campaigns. And while Trudeau likely benefited from the lowered expectations created by that very campaign, he at least met the standard of seeming to belong on stage with his fellow federal leaders.

But the most important factor for the Libs is that they really haven't had to answer much more than that single challenge. As a result, they've been free to snipe away at the other parties - and particular to spend most of the campaign trying to chip away at the NDP.

That hasn't done much to damage most people's underlying views of the NDP or its leader. But did just enough to push the Libs ahead by a nose at a time when that shift made for an appealing narrative for the media. And unlike in the past few election cycles, the Libs have been able to make arguments around strategic voting and campaign momentum work for them as the campaign has worn on.

Nor have the Libs' criticisms been particularly plausible - focusing as they have on messages which are readily disproven with the slightest look at what outside parties are saying. And indeed, a campaign which has mostly only had to make its leader look halfway competent has been able to skate by without developing much at all by way of policy.

Which brings us to the ultimate irony. The once-overwrought Con talking point which sought and failed to define Justin Trudeau would actually represent a meaningful progressive critique of the Libs' platform: their plans for most major issues are better classified as "not ready", rather than being fit for a potential government.

But while that point is worth keeping in mind for anybody still deciding between opposition options, it only figures to reach so far without any other party having spread the message systematically. And the result is that the Libs have the opportunity to form government and make significant gains at the expense of every other party - only to have to figure out after the election what it is that they actually intend to accomplish in the process.

#elxn42 Campaign Closer: NDP

I've previously pointed out that others were far too quick to write off the NDP in Canada's federal election. But it's safe to say by now that it will be a surprise for the NDP to reach the heights it achieved earlier - even if that leaves plenty of room for both upside and downside when the results come in tomorrow. 
 The missing piece for an NDP majority or strong minority was always to be found in Ontario, where the polls have taken a distinct turn for the worse. And the path to get there looked to involve assembling overwhelming leads in votes and seats in B.C. and Quebec, then seeking to win over undecided voters looking for change in whatever form it might present itself.

As I've noted before, the NDP's "Change That's Ready" theme always relied on two factors: a desire for change from the Harper Cons, and a perception that Justin Trudeau would fall short of being seen as ready. But the NDP seems to have spent relatively few resources building its own case on the latter point to supplement the Cons' messaging - and for reasons I'll expand on in my later analysis of the Libs, that looks to have been a crucial mistake.

With the NDP sitting at third place across Canada, and despite the fact that Mulcair and the NDP's policies remain well-regarded by Canadians, the strategic argument isn't going to get far except in narrow pockets of Ontario. And so the main question for the NDP will involve its ability to firm up the foundation which made that argument a possibility in the first place.

Both Quebec and B.C. still look like areas of significant strength, with some help from a tailor-made set of last-minute issues including the TPP and the Libs' lobbying scandal. And it shouldn't come as a surprise to see the NDP end up at or close to triple digits in seats as a result of the seemingly favourable vote splits noted by Alice Funke.

But particularly given the unprecedented nature of the 2011 Orange Wave, it's hard to know in advance where those vote splits start to turn from narrow wins across a large number of seats, to close losses across that same group of seemingly-safe seats. And while B.C. has been fairly well polled to determine which ridings are up for grabs, Quebec looks to be a massive guessing game in which subtle shifts in support could make the difference in dozens of constituencies.

That's certainly not the result the NDP reasonably hoped for. But it still leaves ample motivation to close the campaign on a high note and work for every available vote - and anything short of the worst-case scenario should still leave the NDP in a strong position both within the next Parliament and in contending for power.

#elxn42 Campaign Closer: Conservatives

With Canada's election day looming tomorrow, I'll take a quick look back at the campaign from the standpoint of each of the major parties.

Let's start with the Cons - who haven't exactly found an answer for the key problem they've faced from the start, but have managed to stay far closer in the race than they deserve by sidestepping it.

The Cons were never able to use their preferred plan to grind a primary opponent's leader to dust due to the reality that they've had to account for two parties and leaders with more immediate appeal than they could offer.

This time out, Stephen Harper has effectively never been seen more positively than either Thomas Mulcair or Justin Trudeau since they won the leadership title for their respective parties. But it wasn't until the middle of the campaign - when it became clear that both opposition leaders were going to remain broadly popular, and that no appeal to the lizard brain could boost Stephen Harper's personal appeal - that the Cons finally gave up on trying to win another leadership contest.

Now, they're reversed course toward a strategy which could hardly have been better coordinated with the Globe and Mail's much-mocked corporate endorsement. Rather than accepting a ballot question which involves Harper at all, their goal now is to turn the election into a question of Generic Conservatives vs. The Other Guys - leading to a focus on grossly oversimplified issue messaging, as well as a willingness to associate with anybody who can possibly appeal to even the smallest pool of hard-core conservative voters.

And that line of attack seems to have worked better than might have been expected.

While some of the more leader-driven portions of the campaign saw the Cons sink into the mid-20s in the polls, more recent numbers have them around or above the 30 per cent mark again. And there's probably still a combination of modest vote switching, trickery and vote efficiency which could position the Cons to have a real chance at maintaining power.

But the big question now is whether the Cons' past secret weapons (most notably the apparent election-day bump compared to previous poll results) will still apply after the shift in strategy. And it could be that the Cons have solidified their ideological base in advance of the election at the expense of the plan to build on that number when it counts most.

The fundamental issue

Naomi Klein and Maude Barlow weigh in on the need not to let sideshows distract us from what should be the most important issue of the federal election campaign. And as referred to here, the Pembina Institute reminds us where the major parties stand in advance of the Paris summit which may determine whether we're ever able to establish an international commitment to rein in catastrophic climate change - and why we can't afford to wait any longer:
Canada’s [greenhouse gas emission target] has been deemed inadequate by international experts: it is not consistent with Canada’s equitable contribution to a two-degree warming limit. No federal government attending the Paris negotiations with this INDC can say its actions align with the United Nations’ negotiating text, in terms of both ambition and timeliness.

On the issue of improved targets, it’s unclear how the Liberals could update Canada’s inadequate INDC without releasing new emissions reduction numbers in advance of the Paris summit. Both the NDP and the Greens, however, would be well-positioned to update Canada’s INDC to align with their emissions targets.
For all voters who recognize climate change as the most important collective action issue of our time, the Libs' regression should be a decisive factor as to which major party can possibly offer an alternative to the Cons in time for the next round of international climate negotiations. Simply put, an NDP government will come to the table with something constructive to offer; a Liberal government will not.

Without a target to meet or a plan to meet it, Canada will be in a position to do nothing more than make excuses for inaction. But Justin Trudeau's election promise on climate change is actually to avoid having either when the meetings take place beginning next month - as even the Cons' insufficient targets get thrown out the window in favour of kicking the can down the road. And the perception that Canada remains a fossil as it has been under the Harper Cons will only provide an excuse for other countries to drag their heels.

Nor is there any reason to put up with Trudeau's main excuse about waiting to set a target until the provinces are all onside.

If Brad Wall is a veto point for federal action on climate change, that fact alone will prevent any target from ever being set. And we should expect a national leader to ensure that Canada as a whole makes and keeps commitments by applying federal authority where necessary - not to take the position that national standards and commitments are limited to what the worst of our premiers will accept.

Simply put, there are two unequivocally wrong answers among Canada's three main parties when it comes to climate change. And if voters don't realize that fact, then we may once again bear the shame of being a major obstacle in our most important global policy fight.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Robyn Benson rightly argues that it's long past time for the Harper Cons to be booted from office. Stuart Trew sets out just five of the worst ways in which the Cons have changed Canada, while Murray Dobbin offers his take on what we'll need to do to repair the damage in tomorrow's election and beyond. And Judy Rebick reminds us to vote with our focus on the longer term:
I've never been a fan of strategic voting. It breeds cynicism and it rarely works. With all the organization and money going into strategic voting this time, it might just work but I doubt even its strongest proponents were going for a majority Liberal government. No majority government will ever change the voting system as they benefit from first past the post. Almost everyone who is supporting strategic voting hopes this will be the last time they will have to.

So here is a last minute appeal to stop and think about it if you are voting strategically...

(I)f you support the NDP and are thinking of voting Liberal for strategic reasons -- even where the NDP has a good chance like in downtown Toronto among other places -- I'd ask you to think again.
Some of our best governments have been minority governments. I'm reminded of the Liberal-NDP accord in Ontario in 1985, which brought us pay equity and an end to doctor's extra billing. There doesn't need to be a coalition, it can just be an accord or an agreement that the NDP will support the Liberals if they do a number of things, like for example, repeal C-51, take action on the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, bring in proportional representation, a $15 minimum wage and a national childcare program.

As to the possibility that the Conservatives form a minority, whether or not Harper resigns, we need the biggest demonstration ever organized in Ottawa to demand that the popular majority through an agreement or a coalition form a government to get the bastards out. I imagine everyone who supports the Liberals, the NDP or strategic voting will be able to join together to make that happen as quickly as possible after the election.
- Matthew Paterson discusses why emissions targets are an absolute must for us to make any progress to combat climate change. And Ethan Cox writes that the Libs' close ties to oil lobbyists signal that we can't count on a mere change to another tarsands-driven government resulting in any improvement.

- Leilani Farha and Joe Gunn ask why we tolerate poverty in a country more than capable of eradicating it. And Dr. Vanessa Brcic makes the case to vote for health. (Which makes for another opportunity to point out which party is at the head of the class on those issues among so many others.)

- Jeremy Nuttall writes that we can and should look for stronger enforcement of our election laws so parties don't have an incentive to cheat and stonewall if it means holding power in the meantime. But Sean Fine reports that the Cons are more interested in instead exposing everybody involved in public life to constant harassment after they've left.

- Finally, Chantal Hebert writes that the last week of the campaign has given voters ample reason for concern about both the Cons and the Libs. Chris Selley offers the definitive take on Stephen Harper's desperate attempt to lean on Rob and Doug Ford for support. Evan Solomon reminds us that the Cons' culture war could have been avoided, while Paul Barber writes that Harper's anti-niqab crusade has backfired. And Naheed Nenshi points out what we lose when we're governed by people eager to single out minorities for political gain.