Monday, March 31, 2008

Why Bob Rae's Entry into Parliament Secures Dion's Leadership

There's been some to and froing here and there about whether Rae's entry into Parliament makes Dion's (apparent) leadership woes better or worse. I think the case is pretty clear that things have become better for Dion.

Let's assume five things:

i) Bob Rae would like to be leader as soon as possible.
ii) Michael Ignatieff would like to be leader as soon as possible.
iii) If Dion loses the next election he will be forced out by multiple players.
iv) If Dion is to be forced out before the next election, it will require a much stronger effort then that mounted by one party vice-president, one student council type, and one obscure MP.
v) Such an effort would clearly point to an actively organizing candidate, on the scale of Mulroney contra Clark in 1983, Martin contra Chretien post 2000, or Chretien contra Turner in 1986. A candidate would pay a cost for this.

If you take these as reaonable assumptions, then I think you can back out logically why Dion is now more secure. First, suppose that Ignatieff really puts a push on Dion (which he has not been doing thus far, by my lights). He could perhaps force Dion out, but he too would pay a price for the coup, and this would likely facilitate Rae's rise. Similarly, Rae is now closer to the leadership than he's ever been. But were he to force out Dion, then he would only enable Ignatieff's rise, as he would carry the blame.

Both Rae and Ignatieff, then, would rather wait until after an election (presuming Dion loses) and try their odds in another head-to-head. To make any other move would be to ensure the other's rise.

There is something to this Team of Rivals stuff.

Elections in Zimbabwe

If the logic of political survival sometimes beats one about the head, it also sometimes allows events like this. Zimbabwe is on the cusp of closing a chapter in its history, unquestionably a dark one. If you're inclined, say a prayer that corruption will not win out. If you're not inclined, then just hope. And get ready to share in the joy of Zimbabweans who may be soon rid of Mugabe, that great lost hope.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Choose a Day to Spread the Net

Over at Cairo to the Cape we are selling days of our trip. The idea is simple. If you donate $150 to Spread the Net then we'll designate one day of our trip to you. After the trip is done we'll write up a report of the day for you, include some pictures, and perhaps our maps from that day, or some other momento.

For what it's worth, the day when we ride the pictured road is still available. It's in Northern Kenya. It's going to be so great!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Leo the Lion

One can only imagine this occurred immediately after the cat realized how redundant is its name.

Byelections and Turnout

A point to begin with: we basically know very little about byelections in Canada. If you'd like to see how confused is our common wisdom about what byelections tell us you should read this post at Megapundit. We do not know definitively whether the government is systematically punished in byelections. We don't know when turnout in byelections will be higher or lower than average. And we don't know if byelection winners do better or worse than equivalent candidates in the subsequent elections. It is one of many empirical blind spots in Canadian politics. Fred Bastien and I are trying to shed some light on it in a paper in progress, but I still have no idea about the answer to these questions.

All of that said, I am rather confident that new voter ID laws have absolutely nothing to do with the apparently no turnout in Monday's four federal byelections. First, it is completely unlikely that large numbers of voters knew about these new restrictions and thus abstained from voting. Knowledge sufficient to understand the restrictions would also be sufficient to understand what forms of ID could be used in their place. So it's difficult to believe that new restrictions were anything but a post hoc explanation for some people who stayed home. Second, while there are some stories of people being turned away at the polls, there was clearly not enough of this to drive the decline. If, say, 10% of voters in a riding where refused the right to vote you can be sure you'd have news stories with more definitive sentences than "He's (Charlie Angus) also heard of at least one student being turned away in Vancouver Quadra because of the residency identification rules."

Turnout was quite low in Saskatchewan. In fact, in the 41 byelections since 1990, only five had lower turnout. Then again, turnout in the same riding was six points below the national average in 2006, despite the race being extremely close. The likely culprit of this low turnout is rather obvious, I think: first, byelections never have high turnout because of a lack of attention and interest. Second, turnout is declining everywhere, so we should expect to see it declining in byelections as well. Combined, we should expect lower turnout in byelections going forward.

The bottom line: we certainly don't know that low turnout was the result of new voter identification rules. Making hay with Elections Canada over it is probably a little off the mark.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Thank you for smoking....

I just watched Thank You For Smoking (dissertation be damned) and then read this article on Barrack Obama's dirty habit. It's rather funny. And the movie is just great.

Thank you for smoking....

I just watched Thank You For Smoking (dissertation be damned) and then read this article on Barrack Obama's dirty habit. It's rather funny. And the movie is just great.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Rename Metro Lionel-Groulx Metro Oscar-Peterson

Agreed. And while we're at it perhaps we could rename my building at the UdeM which is also named after the anti-semite priest himself.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

More Voter Turnout

There's a short CBC piece on my radio bit here, as well as audio here (for those of you wishing to hear the definition of stammering). I'll post the Herald editorial when it comes across the wire.

UPDATE: Here is the Herald piece. The piece references an experiment I conducted with Henry Milner and Bruce Hicks published first as a working paper by the IRPP and then as a research note in the CJPS.

Voter Turnout and the Alberta Election

I am doing a few short interviews on the CBC morning shows in Calgary and Edmonton tomorrow. The topic, as I understand it, is the record low turnout in the Alberta election last Monday. And, if I have my way, about why this really doesn't matter all that much for the legitimacy of the government. Tune in if you get the chance.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

After the long drive – Olympic Symphonium at Casa de Popolo

The boys from The Olympic Symphonium rolled into MontrĂ©al on Thursday night to play at Casa de Popolo. Road-weary and pensive, they put on a great set between Tyler Messick’s loud and layered pop and the whimsical and eclectic Share.

The Olympic Symphonium is a trio of prolific maritime players: Kyle Cunjak and Nick Cobham (both of whom also play in Share), and Graeme Walker (of Grand Theft Bus). More a project than a band, each member writes their own tunes and then arranges them with the other players. The visual effect is a game of musical chairs with players trading off instruments and lead vocal between each song, and the remaining two members offering up a mix of whistles, harmonies and backing parts. The sonic result is some cross between Bonnie Prince Billy, Calexico, and doo-wop, all at a whisper.

The OS played a mix of songs off their first album, songs off their upcoming album, and a great cover of “No More Workhorse Blues.” There can be little criticism of this trio’s musicianship. They play sparingly and thoughtfully, and the sound is a sum a little greater than its parts. They do not excite but they do calm and impress. I can’t say that the crowd was totally taken by the act. Their set instead seemed like something of a quiet interlude or respite. A break on the side of the road during a long frantic drive. But maybe that’s what they needed and we wanted.

(The great photo above is by Sarah Brideau. Check out her site for some great work.)