Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is It OK When an Attack Is Funny?:: BC NDP Viral Ad

This BC NDP ad has been making the rounds. Those unfamiliar should note that the BC Liberals are quite dissimilar from the federal Liberals. Ex-BC NDP MLA, Bob Simpson has a different take. {Simpson was kicked out of caucus last fall by Carole James and is now an independent}. He thought the ad was funny, but contemplated the meaning of the negative ad. He came to this conclusion::
"It feels like the Christy Crunch ad is setting a new benchmark: personal attack ads are OK if they’re bright and funny. If this is true, I fear political debate will deteriorate even further as political parties try to tickle our funny bones to make attack ads more entertaining and, therefore, more acceptable."
The ad, by New Communications of Vancouver, is a rare execution. Ask Jon Stewart, as I'm sure he can attest to the fact that good, biting political satire requires a perfect storm of cultural referent, facts, and public opinion. In this case, it's Captain Crunch, the recent legacy of the BC Libs {HST, health care wait times, & BCRail}, and the fact that these issues are contentious and divisive. It ties Premier Christy Clark to her unpopular predecessor, Gordon Campbell.

That said, I think negative campaigning can only get you so far. This CTV Power Play video speaks to the issue of negative ads, in light of last year's Conservative Party of Canada's ads against Michael Ignatieff::

From what I've seen in this clip, I have to agree with Allan Bonner. Do negative ads work? Bonner says the evidence is equivocal and my take on the issue from a advertising psychology point of view is that it is highly context and execution dependent. As I stated above, a good execution is often a combination of factors and it's unlikely that all scenarios can generate effective ads. Nik Nanos believes the ads should be part of an integrated approach, but the problem is if the issues you're strong on are low priority items with the electorate, you have limited degrees of freedom. For example, last year and now, the Conservative strong suit is defense and jobs in that sector, but that wasn't a priority with the electorate then or now. In terms of effectiveness, the Conservative attack ads running this year since January really haven't resulted in any substantial shifts in the polls, particularly in light of no Liberal ads.

This BC NDP ad isn't that bad, as negative ads go. Does humour matter with respect to making it more palatable and effective? Absolutely. The challenge of persuasion is to engage the viewer and to a certain extent get them to forget there's a pitch going on. Does this somehow do violence to political discourse? I think that's a stretch, but I will say that the state of political discourse has everything to do with "low information" voting.

Twitterversion:: [video+blog] Funniest political ad I've seen in a long time. It helps if you know a bit about British Columbia politics @Prof_K

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Canada's Jack Layton & NDP on Healthcare

Tommy Douglas, architect of Saskatchewan's Medicare and first leader of the federal NDP.
Saskatchewan's Medicare was the precursor of the federal system in place today
A recent poll found that for Canadians healthcare is the top priority issue {at 18%}, as the election season gets out of the stating gate. Jack Layton's NDP goes after Conservatives' health policy with this ad::

The ad focuses on three issues:
  1. Inadequate emergent care capacity
  2. A shortage of physicians
  3. Woefully inadequate responses by the Harper government
In the Globe & Mail article the ad refers to, the BC NDP pointed to how the longterm impact of cuts affect provincial healthcare in the trenches. Sue Hammell, a BC NDP MLA responded to the issue::
“I think it is outrageous. What are we coming to when we are serving up our health care in a fast food restaurant?...The problems do not show up overnight...The problems of delay and cutbacks have shown up a number of years later.”
The upwards of 5M Canadians without a doctor and the physician shortage are problems that are likely to get worse without near-term action.

As an aside, the spectre of foreign physicians as a short-term solution to taking up the slack regarding the physician shortage is likely to be a future hot topic of discussion. In response to Saskatchewan's implementation of Medicare in 1962 {the Saskatchewan programme was the precursor for today's federal Medicare}, physicians organized a  doctors strike with public protests and one of the targets were foreign doctors deemed a certain peril and instrumental for Medicare's success::

click to see deep link at 5m36s of "Saskatchewan Doctor's Strike 1962 Part 1"
in a new window
It would be interesting to see how today's Conservative Party of Canada plays the issue of the possibility of an influx of foreign physicians to address shortages, given how they're trying to appeal to new Canadians in the GTA and older constituents with anti-immigration sentiments.

While Harper may be pleased to announce his $9M rural health initiative aimed at enticing 110 new doctors to leave the city, a drop in the bucket given systemic physician shortages, what happened to his 2005 promise to reduce wait times? His 2007 "Taming of the Queue" resulted in a patchwork of provincial initiatives that threw $612M at the problem with spotty results and now the money's gone. How's that for sound fiscal management? Meanwhile, although Harper's been careful to be in support of Medicare, he has gone on record as being in favour of market-based reforms and his policies reflect a self-fufilling prophesy. Conservative policy, like the "Taming of the Queue", is bad policy—exhibiting poor health planning, with expected results. One can only wonder if by not improving things, it paves the way for the market-based reforms he wants. Like I said in this blog on taxation, if there are problems with the efficiencies of government, well, fix the damn government.

Let's get back to the NDP's platform. The crux of the matter is access and affordability of health care for all Canadians. It's worth revisiting Tommy Douglas' take on Medicare in a CBC interview that aired a day before the Saskatchewan doctors' strike ended::

CBC Close-Up Interview of Tommy Douglas, NDP Leader, 22 July 1962,
click on image to play in a new window
Douglas' approach is to treat healthcare as a social infrastructure that's available regardless of one's ability to pay and provide access to healthcare to those who might be excluded because they aren't profitable patients.

Finally, it's worth addressing where Canada stands with respect to other nations. According to the OECD's 2009 "Health at a Glance" report::
  1. Canada’s spending on health per person is also higher than the OECD average, with spending of 3895 USD in 2007 (adjusted for purchasing power parity), compared with an OECD average of 2984 USD. Per capita health spending over 1997-2007 grew in real terms by 3.8% in Canada, slightly less than the OECD average of 4.1%.
  2. The public sector continues to be the main source of health funding in all OECD countries, except Mexico and the United States. In Canada, 70% of health spending was funded by public sources in 2007, less than the average of 73% for OECD countries.
Regarding the first issue, Canada is on par with a expenditure/GDP trendline with other OECD nations, from a 2009 report using 2007 data [pdf]::

A breakdown of the costs show complex and systematic problems, notably out-patient and pharmaceutical costs::

The costs per capita and the rise in costs speak to the NDP's concerns about the state of healthcare in Canada, given issues of access.

The second point from the OECD report is another issue that is in alignment with NDP policy. Canada's public expenditure on healthcare was 74.5% in 1990, but dipped to 70.2% in 2008. One implication of this is a rising per capita out-of-pocket cost for Canadians [xls-OECD 2010 data]::

It will be interesting to see how the Liberals address the health folder and I would surmise that the Conservatives will be laying low on this one. The NDP platform addressing improving front-line health services and their focus on making life affordable is a smart move in this political and economic climate. It defines a defensible positioning space on a key issue that the other parties have to respond to, combining the tactic of being first-mover with a relatively strong position. Moreover, I feel that this is a message that can resonate in Ontario, Atlantic Canada, and BC.

Twitterversion:: [blog] post using @jacklayton's #NDP ad on Harper's 'Tim Horton's healthcare' to elaborate on stakes for Canadian health @Prof_K

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

1997 Stephen Harper on Coalitions:: Advocating Working Together

While Stephen Harper on TVO states that he wants to unite the right, he doesn'tt stop there. He goes on to talk about the eventual decline of Liberal seats and the 5 parties in Parliament::
"...and so I think that parties that want to form government are going to have to eventually learn to work together."
Here's what Parliament looked like in 1997::

First off, he sounds like he's getting ready for a love-in, although reading between the lines there's a bloodlust for power. Now, Harper is trying to spin his 2007 words as him meaning a coalition of just the right and that he never attempted to take power without winning an election. He's right, in that it's not his style to take power through democratic means, he just takes it. I digress. Tom Flanagan, a former Tory campaign manager, divulged that in 2004, Harper sought consideration for "co-opposition". A letter signed by the opposition leaders to Adrienne Clarkson read::
“We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation...We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise, this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority.”
This sure sounds like Harper trying to "work together" with the Bloc and the NDP, just like he advocated in 1997. Harper thinks he has clean hands since he didn't follow through on any coalition efforts, but the ruse is pretty transparent now. It's clear that Harper saw nothing wrong with exploring coalition formation and he's done nothing to say, "Whoa! Yeah, I looked into it and it was wrong, undemocratic, and the fruits of the devil." Instead, he weasels around his past actions in his constant effort to spin. I think the danger here is that he loses credibility. I understand he wants to push for a majority by scaring the electorate into believing that an unelected coalition will come to power {read:: undemocratic} and will include the separatist Bloc {read:: damn Québec}. I think it's time for him to move far away from this one.

Twitterversion:: [video] 1997 Stephen Harper discusses parties working together & in 2004 wanted co-opposition options. Time for plan B? #cdnpoli @Prof_K

A Taxing Problem:: The Issue of Political Rhetoric & News Headlines

Globe & Mail front page, 4 April 2009, ©Patrick Tam, via Flickr
John Ibbitson's article, "Parties agree: Tax breaks trump social programs," uses a technique I call "headline persuasion". Just like the shock and awe of the above decree that Obama turns left, which there was no evidence of from day one, Ibbitson tries to convince us that there is a political consensus on tax cuts—they're better than social programmes.

The problem is that his analysis doesn't go beyond a headline quip. He uses the NDP's GST heating oil exemption proposal as proof positive that even the Dippers support tax breaks::
"And what is the NDP proposal to cancel the GST on home heating fuels? A tax break, pure and simple.
There are good reasons to do things this way. Experience shows that government-run programs are prone to waste and red tape. Direct payment is more efficient and less personally intrusive."
What? He mistakenly treats all tax breaks as the same, under the mantra that government-run programmes are wasteful by definition.

On the other side of the Globe {and Mail}, Stephen Gordon offers a more level-headed take:: "The truth behind tax cuts: You might not be better off".

One problem is one of scalability or what he calls the fallacy of composition. While the effect of tax cuts on the individual raises disposable income, the link dissipates in aggregate. What I found the most illuminating was his quoting of Columbia University economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin::
“The size of the government does not appear to matter much. What is important is the ‘quality of government’ (governments that produce hyperinflations, distortions in foreign exchange markets, extreme deficits, inefficient bureaucracies, etc., are governments that are detrimental to an economy).” [pdf]
Moreover, Gordon links to his blog post that states all tax breaks are not created equal, bringing us full circle to Ibbitson's treating of all tax breaks as good—or at least not being critical about what the parameters are with tax policy. Let's face it, when one is painting with such broad brushstrokes saying government is wasteful as a res ipsa loquitur, there's no reason to expect nuance.

Ibbitson fails to make the distinction that the NDP is interested in addressing an income issue with respect to pricing of a necessity within a political reality. Here's an interesting discussion of the economics and politics of the GST heating oil issue on Gordon's blog from last October. 

I'll address the issue of the hows of taxation in a later blog, but those interested might be interested in this blog post on the Nordic experience of paying for the welfare state, which is a whole different Oprah. I feel that the demonizing of government spending and programmes as justification for tax cuts is woefully short-sighted. A role of the government is to provide where there are market failures and a good example of this is infrastructure. If there's a problem with the efficiencies of government—fix the damn government, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. The private sector has no monopoly on good management, lest we forget the subprime crisis and the financial meltdown in the US and countless other examples.

At the end of the day, I feel the larger problem is one of political rhetoric and agency over sound economic policy, where by agency I mean that one's self-interest informs decision-making and setting up win-lose scenarios. Ibbitson is parroting a simplistic conservative mantra, although his bread and butter is being hard to peg. I get that. Nevertheless, he's communicating a party line that speaks to an individualist doctrine that I feel is gaining traction. Society doesn't want to pay taxes and rhetoric like this gives it an economic justification that lacks an empirical basis. Moreover, the taxes we do pay, we want to cherrypick where it goes. This is one of my quibbles with Stephen Harper—he has failed to stick to his own ideological Libertarian roots and talks from both sides of his mouth. He says he doesn't like taxes, but has no problems with spending on what he wants to spend on.

Twitterversion:: [blog] 2 sides of the Globe{&Mail} on taxes. Ibbitson blows smoke that parties agree on tax breaks. Gordon offers nuance. @Prof_K

Music & Politics:: "Sweet Home Alberta" {for Stephen Harper}

Sara Marlowe's cover of Skynrd as ode to Stephen Harper.

Twitterversion:: [video] #MusicAndPolitics Sara Marlowe's 2009 ode to Stephen Harper:: "sweet Home Alberta" @Prof_K

Monday, March 28, 2011

newmusicmonday #86:: Christine Fellows


Genrecontemporary folk
Labelsix shooter
BaseWinnipeg, MB, Canada
Tour dates

04.23.11 - LONDON ON - The Aeolian w/ Shotgun Jimmie
04.24.11 - BAYFIELD ON - The Black Dog w/ Shotgun Jimmie
04.26.11 - TORONTO ON - The Music Gallery w/ Shotgun Jimmie
04.27.11 - HAMILTON ON - Pearl Company Theatre w/ Shotgun Jimmie
04.29.11 - WAKEFIELD QC - The Black Sheep Inn w/ Shotgun Jimmie
04.30.11 - MONTREAL QC - Divan Orange w/ Shotgun Jimmie
05.03.11 - GRAND MANAN NB - Island Arts Cafe w/ Shotgun Jimmie
05.04.11 - SAINT JOHN NB - Bourbon Quarter w/ Shotgun Jimmie
05.05.11 - FREDERICTON NB - The Wilser's Room w/ Shotgun Jimmie
05.06.11 - SACKVILLE NB - Presented by Sappyfest - Mount Allison Chapel w/ Shotgun Jimmie
05.07.11 - HALIFAX NS - The Company House w/ Shotgun Jimmie
05.08.11 - RIVERPORT NS - Confidence Lodge w/ Shotgun Jimmie & Jon McKeil
08.18.11 - WOODY POINT NFLD - Writers at Woody Point w/ Shary Boyle

I think it's fitting that I stumbled on Christine Fellows after attending SYNTHESIS, a fundraiser for the Queen West Art Crawl, that showcased collaborations between 10 visual and 10 performing artists. Christine collaborates with other artists to create experiences, rich with characters brought to life through music and visuals. She just released 'Femmes de chez nous' {cd} and Reliquary/Reliquaire {dvd}, crafted creations of bilingual multidisciplinary works. This video gives some background to the project::

This video for "Mlle Sténo" from 2009 shows off Christine's talent for crafting engaging stories::

Her label's website describes the Reliquary/Reliquaire DVD::
"Songs such as Mlle. Sténo are vividly animated by the overhead projections of Shary Boyle, magically infused with historic parade footage, and carried aloft by chorus of female voices. In Flood, 1861, the Grey Nuns row their canoe fearlessly toward the unknown, and Fellows' buoyant twist on traditional French Canadian ballad Un canadien errant is accompanied by stunning footage of a vibrant community at its height."
Speaking of  "Flood, 1861", here it is::

Femmes de Chez Nous
Not surprisingly, she's worked with the likes of filmmakers and choreographers and fits in quite well with other Six Shooter stablemates like Valery Gore {newmusiconday #22} and Jenn Grant.

You can listen to a handful of the full tracks from 'Femmes de chez nous' [track listing + stream samples] on the CBCr3 and contemplate spending the $20C to get the CD with the DVD. The CD features the artwork of longtime collaborator, Toronto artist Shary Boyle.

Christine's work lends itself to music in this era of infinite reproduction. She's offering up experiences that drive purchases and performances; the music is literally just part of the picture.

I'll leave you with one of my favourite tracks, a live version of "Double Take" from here in Toronto at Lee's Palace in September of 2006::

Twitterversion:: [blog+videos] #newmusicmonday featuring contemporary folk multimedia collaborator Christine Fellows from Winnipeg. @Prof_K

Friday, March 25, 2011

Canadian Elections:: Seat Projections by WLU &

2011 Seat Projections Based on March 2011 data, LISPOP-WLU
Update:: 13 April 2011, new blog listing seat projection sites.

Seat projections in a parliamentary system is tricky business, when based on opinion polling data at the regional or provincial level. I've been going through the WLU LISPOP site, based on Barry Kay's statements on the latest projections. The projections are based on polls taken in early March, before the scandals started to rock the Conservative's boat. The most recent Ipsos poll has the Conservatives with a substantial 20 point lead, although the Ipsos "house effects" favour the Tories. I agree with Kay that it's Harper's election to lose and that wherever the Conservatives are when the writ is dropped is likely to be a high water mark. I found the LISPOP methodology interesting [pdf], trying to increase predictive power by improving the so-called "cube law".

The LISPOP projections::

are consistent with those of, 2011 seat projections
Éric at threehundredeight has posted popular vote projections by riding in a table, which is useful, as is his thorough detailing of his methodology, which is based on a proportional swing model.

I think one of the limitations of such modeling is that it's hard to integrate riding effects, as evident in Éric's work. One of my interests is characterizing ridings in order to better target campaigning efforts, both across and within ridings. While punditry likes to talk of "swing ridings", so much of it is armchair handwaving, such as this phoned-in version by the National Post. I've been working on some indices that may be useful in characterizing party strength in a riding, using historical data and cluster analysis. I'll post this when I get around to crunching those numbers.

As for these predictions, I think it's early days. I've blogged about the fragmentation of Canadian politics and I've heard rumblings that support for Harper within Conservative circles is strained. It will be interesting to see how the polls shift over the next few weeks and how that affects the seat projections. I sense the election may be a bit like beach volleyball. Momentum at critical points can dramatically affect the outcome.

Ontario Urban Ridings, 2011 Seat Projections Based on March 2011 data, LISPOP-WLU

Twitterversion:: [blog] Canadian parliament seat projections by LISPOP/WLU & based on early March polling data.  @Prof_K

Thursday, March 24, 2011

AT&T & T-Mo Merger:: It's the Bandwidth, Stupid!

This is an interesting interview by Ray Suarez, featuring Jeffrey Silva, a financial analyst, and Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge, a DC public interest group. There's the expected talk of competition and pricing, since much of the focus on on the impact on the consumer. T-Mobile has the distinction of being a lower cost mobile carrier, which exerts downward pressure on prices, but at the 7:40 mark, Sohn also reminds us that T-Mobile is cheap on data plans and has embraced openness. On the other hand, AT&T caps data usage and has not embraced openness in their networks. This WSJ blog notes what I suspected all along. AT&T doesn't expect this deal to go through FCC & DOJ unscathed and is willing to leave T-Mobile subscribers on the table. I don't think this is a market share sweepstakes, but the game AT&T wants to play is one where AT&T leapfrogs to #1 with subscribers, but close to #2 Verizon, while taking over T-Mobile's bandwidth for mobile data. Period.

Twitterversion:: [video+blog]"AT&T & T-Mo merger: It's the Bandwidth, Stupid!" ATT will do a song & dance to get spectrum for mobile data @Prof_K

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Examining EKOS Canadian Federal Voter Intent 10 March Data:: Should the Conservatives Be Worried?

EKOS Federal Voting Intent, January—March 2011
14 March 2011
Notes:: I've been sitting on this post for over a week, due to recent political developments and the tabling of the budget. It's a bit long, but I decided to post it anyway. A new EKOS poll is due tomorrow, so I may update the analyses in a new blog post, if there are major shifts. On 8 April 2011, I revised some of the methodology on second choices. On 28 April 2011, I similarly updated the section on loyalty to revise the methodology. See notes below.

The last Ekos poll results is full of interesting bits of information and it will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few weeks as the Conservatives and the opposition parties dance around a spring election. The Conservatives have plenty to be concerned about, given Oda, Kenney, the "in-and-out" scandal, and the fact that the high-profile Cummins, Strahl, and Day aren't seeking reelection. While the Conservatives might have a plan {or a chess-like trap regarding the optics of a spring election}, I feel these EKOS numbers should give them more sleepless nights.

First, the overall numbers are fairly stable for the Conservatives, Liberals, and the NDP {see above chart}. The overall numbers are close to the last EKOS poll before the 2008 election, with the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP at 34.8%, 26.4%, and 19.4%, respectively. What should concern the Conservatives are the highly volatile numbers in Atlantic Canada and seat-rich Ontario. The 2008 election cycle saw high opinion poll volatility in Atlantic Canada and Ontario, along with a general decline in the CPC numbers between early September and mid-October {-3.2% nationwide, -5.2% in Ontario, and -8.3% in Atlantic Canada}. The loss of high profile CPC incumbents in BC {albeit in safe ridings}, where the HST has angered local voters, is likely to make CPC efforts in that province more difficult. While 2011 isn't 2008, I'm not sure the Conservative marketing machinery is up to snuff. I've seen plenty of CPC ads since January, but if I were in their war room, I'd be disappointed in the numbers. Stephen Harper is a leader with popularity problems, but nevertheless the leader of a relatively popular party. The Conservatives really needed to pad the margin, given the high-stakes game they're playing. They haven't done that.

I've revised the analyses in order to make them clearer. There are key differences from my original post that looked at the percentages shifting from 2008 to 2011, without accounting for relative support, i.e., the voting intent percentage for the EKOS survey reported on 10 March 2011. I also used degree centrality to examine loyalty shifts.

Second, there's the issue of voter loyalty patterns over time. This addresses the issue of how the composition of Parliament might change in 2011. Canadians tend to be more promiscuous with their party loyalty, particularly when compared to their US counterparts. Looking at the "diagonal" on the above table, shows how well the parties are retaining voters from 2008. The Conservatives and the Bloc appear to be doing well, given that 77.3% and 73.8% of those who voted for them in 2008 intend to vote the same way now, respectively. The Liberals and NDP aren't doing as good a job, with 63.8% and 61.6%, respectively. The Greens are far behind with 51.8% of their 2008 voters intending on voting Green now.

Moreover, it appears as if the Conservatives are doing a good job of attracting those who voted for the other parties in 2008. They are attracting sizeable percentages from each of the parties. In terms of loyalty, I wanted to see patterns of which parties are sharing voters between 2008 and 2011. Care should be taken with the use of the following statistical analyses {but not the diagrams}, as there are some methodological caveats, but the statistics are fine if viewed as descriptive.

This graphic {from Netdraw 2.104} shows the pattern of 2008 voting and 2011 intent::

2008 Voting & 2011 Intent from EKOS 10 March 2011 Poll
Nodes represent federal parties. Inbound links (figures closest to each node) represent percent of voters who voted for another party who now support that party. The size of the nodes represents the percent of those who voted for that party in 2008 who intend on voting the same in 2011.
The above diagram depicts a core-periphery based upon 2008-2011 loyalties and is a graphical representation of preference structures. The Liberals share promiscuous voters with the other major federal parties with more defections than converts. The Liberals have lost 9.5% of the support of the electorate to the other parties. On the other end of the spectrum, the Bloc shares very few voters with other parties and are retaining 6.5% of the total, which shows defection from their 9.97% 2008 result. The Conservatives are siphoning off 2008 voters from other parties, while relatively few who voted for them in 2008 are defecting {27.2% of the sample}.

Generally speaking, I think this is good news for the Conservatives. The pattern with the Liberals, NDP, and Greens represent a fragmentation of the centre and the left. The danger for the Conservatives? So, if a whiff of impropriety starts to taint the Conservatives, they may see their support evaporate, as voters go back to their 2008 choices. This is a non-trivial 8.1% of the sample. They will be able to count on the hardcore Conservatives, but if they start to lose support in volatile areas like Ontario and Atlantic Canada, they could find themselves coming up short in many ridings.

Shifts from 2008
I plugged the above table into a social network analysis programme, UCInet v. 6.328, and looked at degree centrality.  Degree centrality assesses the pattern of loyalty, in terms of converts and defectors. Here's the output from the EKOS loyalty numbers::

Degree centrality for EKOS data released 10 March,
OutDegree are defections and InDegree are converts from respondents' 2008 vote.
Both are percentages of the entire sample.  Example: LPC InDegree means 9.171% of the sample who voted for another party were converted to vote Liberal in late February/early March 2011
Comparing InDegree to OutDegree shows that the Liberals, Greens, and Bloc have more converts than have defectors, while the NDP and Conservatives have more defectors.

Second Choices
Note {8 April 2011}:: I've updated this blog to note some refinement of my methodology. Specifically, the multiplicative coreness statistics takes into account the relative support of the parties, which are 35.2% CPC, 27.8% LPC, 14.9% NDP, 10.1 GPC, 8.8% BQ, and 3.1% Other. I've used percentages and considered "no second choice" percentages to be second choices for a given party. This captures a loyalty effect.

Finally, analyzing second choices can further shed light on how voters might shift their preferences during a campaign. The last time I looked at EKOS second choices was a year ago and the pattern is similar. About one in five of Liberals and Conservatives have the other party as a second choice. About 23% of Greens and NDP supporters have the other party as a second choice. About one in three Liberals and NDP supporters have the other party as a second choice. Conservative and Bloc supporters are the most likely not to have a second choice, approaching the 50% mark. I decided to look at multiplicative coreness to see the pattern for party preferences for first and second choices. Multiplicative coreness is a measure of the extent to which a party shares voter intent with other parties, which may not be readily evident in the tables. One uses this to determine core-periphery. In this instance, I was interested in seeing if there was a core political preference patterns {using percentages of all voters}. Using percentages as opposed to raw numbers provides more diagnostic value, since absolute magnitude would drive the solution and the nuances of a multi-party system would be lost. Percentages of all voters allows a quick gauge of how a party is faring, given the entire electorate. For example, it's one thing to say that 5% of those intending on voting Liberal have the NDP as a second choice versus 5% of the entire sample who intend on voting Liberal have the NDP as a second choice. The latter makes comparisons easier. The statistical output is fairly straightforward, showing how a party is close to or correlated with a core preference pattern. The closer to 1 means a party is increasingly correlated with a core preference pattern. The closer to 0 means a party is on the periphery. {A conservative test is the core is greater than the average corenness statistic plus the standard deviation, while the  periphery is less than that calculation}.

The Conservatives represent a core with their numbers of supporters. The NDP and Liberals have the most connection to other parties, representing an amalgam of opposition parties. This speaks how they are sharing ideological space. This is also evident in a Netdraw graph::

Second choice patterns from EKOS 10 March 2011 Poll
Nodes represent federal parties. Inbound links (figures closest to each node) represent percent support of voters who support another party for first choice who support the focal party. The size of the nodes represents the percent of federal vote intent. The thickness of the lines represents the second choice relationships between the parties.

Several things stand out. The NDP and Greens are sharing ideological space, as are the Liberals and the NDP and the Liberals and the Conservatives. Also, the strength of the NDP in Québec as a Bloc supporter's second choice is interesting, but more analysis is required to see if it can translate into seats. This 2010 blog post on BluntObjects does a good job of going into what might come of the rise of the NDP in the polls. Additionally, here's an abacusdata blog post shedding light on NDP election transfers.

The fragmented centre-left vote is nothing new, as is the fact that the Liberals and Conservatives are sharing ideological space. The Liberals know they need something dramatic to get voters back. The real issue is can the Conservatives hold onto the inroads they made into other parties' supporters in light of controversy and scandal? Given that almost 21% of Conservative supporters see the Liberals as a second choice, that there's volatility in Atlantic Canada and Ontario, and 3 high profile Conservative candidates in BC aren't seeking reelection should be a cause for worry. While it's too early to predict what the campaign issues are, it makes sense that the opposition parties will focus on fairness and Conservative improprieties and relentlessly hammer those points home.

Strategically, I feel the Conservatives are sending mixed messages. On the one hand, they're trying to increase support by new Canadians, yet launched a new campaign [français] with a tough on illegal immigration stance. The problem with this rhetoric is that it can serve as a reminder to those going through the realities of the legal immigration process. The tough on immigration stance appeals to their base of older white males, but they ostensibly already have these votes locked up. {Note:: A CARP survey points to possible Conservative weakness with respect to older voters consistent with the CARP demographics}.

Conservatives looking at this could see an opportunity for divide and conquer in ridings where the Liberals, NDP, and Greens are splitting the vote. Their ads aren't doing much to foster this agenda, since they're attacking the Liberals, Bloc, and NDP. The Conservatives and Liberals will be battling it out in a tug-of-war over voters who can go either way in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. Places like Egmont, West Nova, Kitchener-Waterloo, Kitchener Centre, London West, Mississauga—Erindale, Oak Ridges—Markham, not to mention Durham {Bev Oda} and Simcoe—Grey {Helena Guergis}. 

The implications for the NDP and the Liberals battling it out isn't clear cut and I feel much of how this plays out in an election may have to do with how the Conservatives fare during the election campaign. The NDP's numbers are soft and it looks like they might be vulnerable in Ontario, where they did well in 2008. If the Conservatives start to falter in the polls, the NDP will gain due to some voters feeling more comfortable about voting NDP over a Liberal strategic vote. Again, about a third of both Liberal and NDP intended voters consider the other party as a second choice, which demonstrates sharing significant ideological space. I think a huge X-factor for both the Liberals and the NDP is voter turnout, but the biggest factor will be how the Conservatives weather the next few weeks. In this climate, I think there's a tipping point for the entire election. Albeit not earth-shattering news, I think that 30% Conservative voting intent in Ontario will signal impending disaster for the Conservatives.

Twitterversion:: [blog] In-depth analysis of EKOS 11 March poll data. Should the Conservatives be worried or are they in the catbird seat? @Prof_K

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Russian "How I Met Your Mother"

I just saw this on Twitter & had to check it out::

Twitterversion:: [video] Russian version of 'How I Met Your Mother' {via @ } @Prof_K

Can You Budget Better Than Jim Flaherty?

My budget Simulation from, 
click on image for larger view in a new window
I found this simulation on to be interesting, but I'm also aware of the black box aspect of how the results are calculated in simulations. I've done project-level budgeting, so I understand the interrelationship of tasks, cashflows, and timelines. The policies here, which I've named "Investing in the Future," [opens in new window] are meant to be fiscally responsible, but with an eye on increasing the future economic capacity of Canada and lowering unemployment. My budget is informed by economic sociology and an economy of embeddedness and social relations of firms and people, as opposed to following a logic of individualistic atomized agents operating under rational expectations. One might argue that my policies would inhibit growth by increasing taxes. I would beg to differ, which I'll explain below. I would suggest that all of these policies be reevaluated over time, as they are tied to a specific economic context of recovery in a curious state of "Depression era" economics. While the simulation has my budget performing better than the Conservative government's, with lower unemployment and a lower deficit,  I won't make any claims that my budget is superior to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget that's being released today, as the simulation doesn't state what the Conservative accomplishments would be. I also don't believe that the simulation factors in the details of today's budget, although Flaherty's resoling of his shoes supposedly signals his frugality. The themes of my budget are:

  1. Unemployment rate under 7%
  2. A coherent climate change policy {ideally tied to an innovation policy}
  3. Increases in investment in infrastructure, human capital, communities, and productivity
  4. Reducing poverty and stimulating demand
While this looks like a left or centre-left budget, I'm actually factoring in context and economic trajectories. I would definitely suggest different policies under different circumstances.

Increasing childcare and decreasing education costs are policies designed to increase the productivity of the Canadian workforce and creating incentives for higher education, increasing human capital and talents.

Community healthcare, pharmaceutical benefits, housing, and broadband all increase the infrastructure of socioeconomic life. A broadband policy that increases access in the North also works in favour of Canadian Arctic sovereignty. Reducing poverty of children and elderly is also meant to stimulate the economy on the demand side, as well as preventing individuals from being disenfranchised socially and economically.

The investment in First Nations schooling and drinking water is meant to invest in the sustainability of Canadian aboriginal communities by increasing human capital and infrastructure. In the North, the Inuit population is booming with a young population facing a fragile socioeconomic situation. Investment in schools and infrastructure like water and broadband is meant to decrease costs in the long run by increasing knowledge and socioeconomic capacity, while reducing dependence on government funding.

The environmental policies are aggressive, in order to move Canada towards compliance with Kyoto. Moreover, home "ecoenergy" and carbon taxation create incentives for increased energy efficiency and innovations in reduction of power consumption. California's 1990 zero emissions vehicle mandate, although repealed, arguably served to spur and speed the development of new fuel efficient technologies.

Taxation in Canada is fairly close to US fiscal policy, according to 2005 OECD data. Canada is a smaller economy that is tied to the fortunes of the US economy and is more natural resource driven. The fear of increases in taxation will inhibit growth is empirically unfounded. While businesses and global investors do gauge after tax cash flows, reduction of business decision making to just tax policy is shortsighted. In fact, one could argue that a low tax policy can distort markets by allowing uncompetitive enterprises and industries to remain in operation through an indirect subsidy. My take is the "problem" with taxes is that there is a growing sentiment of "conventional wisdom" that states that taxes fund wasteful government. In my opinion, this is an organizational problem, not one of macrostructures. I think the recent financial crisis has shown that the market and the private sector have no silver bullets when it comes to acting in their own best interests—in fact, I would argue that those in control of power and resources game the system for individual gain, i.e., the problem of agency.

The quality of life, human capital base, and social and economic infrastructure and institutional framework are what makes Canada attractive to business and global capital. Rather than rely upon a generous tax policy for sustainable economic growth, government should work on facilitating entrepreneurship of all kinds and reducing bureaucratic hurdles. It should be noted that this isn't a call for deregulation in general, let alone in the financial sector. Jim Flaherty had to reverse his policies that were creating a mortgage debt bubble, which is one bit of a body of evidence that shows the Conservative Party of Canada is not fiscally responsible. Moreover, Stephen Harper has not been true to his Libertarian roots, so one is left to ponder that what drives policy is power over true ideology.

Canada typically has higher unemployment than the US, but has healthcare. I feel this is important, as it serves to reduce "entrepreneurship lock"i.e., staying in a current position for the sake of health benefits. Increasing taxation while reducing military and foreign aid may seem isolationist, but tough decisions need to be made and at the end of the day, Canada role as a global citizen may need to be kept in check for a while. Finally, the tax policies offer relief for those at the bottom through low income carbon tax refunds and EI for the unemployed are meant to keep individuals and families afloat through economic recovery.

It will be interesting what Flaherty's budget looks like and whether the NDP supports it. It looks like some concessions were made to the Dippers. Nevertheless, with the controversies brewing surrounding the Conservatives, I think a spring election is inevitable.

Twitterversion:: [blog] Can You Budget Better Than Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty using @CCPA's interactive tool? Probably.  @Prof_K

Monday, March 21, 2011

newmusicmonday #85:: Hands & Teeth

image:: MySpace

Genrefolksy pop
BaseToronto, ON, Canada
Upcoming Tour Dates12 April:: Horseshoe Toronto, ON 21h/9PM [link]

This week's newmusicmonday features Hands & Teeth, a Toronto/Parkdale band fusing indie pop and folk. Noiseography gives some background on the band and their current status as local scene darlings. You can listen for yourself on the MySpace and CBCr3 links above, as well as on Bandcamp ['Enjoy Yourself' Oct 2010 EP]. Here's a free download of "Shine On" [link] from December of 2010. This is a band to watch this year.

Here are acoustic versions of "Missing" and "Help Me" from southernsouls::

HANDS & TEETH - Help Me from Mitch Fillion ( on Vimeo.

HANDS & TEETH - Missing from Mitch Fillion ( on Vimeo.

Hands & Teeth, by Christoph Benfy
Twitterversion:: [blog+videos] #newmusicmonday featuring @handsandteeth from #Toronto. Upcoming Horseshoe show on 12 April. @Prof_K