Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Ground Continues to Shrink Under the Council of Canadians

It just keeps looking worse and worse for the Council of Canadians.

Frank Graves is a name that is extremely familiar to followers of Canadian politics. In 2010, Graves gave advice to then-Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff that he invoke a "culture war" between the Liberal Party and the governing Conservative Party. It did not end well for the Liberal Party. It was serious enough that Graves lamely tried to explain the entire thing away -- although he never really has.

So it should come as no surprise that Graves -- President of the EKOS polling firm -- is also instrumental in the Council of Canadians' bid to overturn the 2011 election results in seven ridings all won by Conservative candidates.

Apparently, Graves conducted a poll that concluded that, despite the absence of tens of thousands of such complaints, tens of thousands of Canadians -- opposition supporters in all -- were targeted by a highly-organized voter suppression effort.

As it turns out, however, Graves' poll has some very serious flaws in it. Reported, by all people, by Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor.

Ruth Corbin, the CEO of Toronto-based CorbinPartners, has found some very serious problems with Graves' poll. Central to Corbin's analysis is the use of an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system which actually does nothing to confirm who is taking the survey. The survey could have been answered by absolutely anyone, including minors. IVR's tend to suffer from receiving very low response rates, posing serious problems for the scientific sampling of respondents, and making the survey very susceptible to a self-selection bias among respondents.

Some of Corbin's criticisms can be accounted for and explained away pretty easily. But this critique of IVR technology isn't. This becomes clear once you realize that Graves, EKOS, and Council of Canadians, for their own part, actually have no good answer this critique. Apparently the best they could do was enlist University of Toronto Political Science Neil Nevitte tp lamely complain that Corbin's critique was "not generous."

Wow. Is that it?

Look deeper than Nevitte's lame complaint. Maher and McGregor clearly didn't. Nevitte himself overlooks the presence of the self-selection bias in the Graves survey. He notes that “If the calls regarding the change in location of polling stations were random, then there should be no differences in the frequency with which people with different partisan inclinations would report that they were contacted.”

That would make sense. But having used an IVR system, what evidence does Graves have to show that his sampling was truly random? And what evidence does Graves have that months of media bluster about "misleading robocalls" leading up to his survey didn't taint the results? What guarantee does Nevitte have? After carefully considering both Corbin's argument, and Nevitte's counter-argument, the answer becomes immediately apparent: given their use of IVR, the answer is "absolutely none." While a poli sci prof may be able to overlook something like that, an industry professional like Corbin would not.

The more you dig into this Council of Canadians case, the less and less solid the evidence becomes. Remember that they have to show that not only were there misdeeds in the 2011 election, but that it likely affected the result.

The evidence they have is far from rock-solid. No wonder they've been trying to bend the rules while looking for more.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just What is "High Noon", and What Does it Mean For Bad Company?

Those following Bad Company through my Twitter account may have noticed me promoting a few links to another blog I've set up, entitled High Noon.

Some of you may be asking: does this mean Bad Company is going to become defunct? Isn't it just a few months old? And defunct so soon, after your last blog ran up more than a thousand posts? I want answers, damn it! Now!

Well, here's the thing. Answers don't give you everlasting satisfaction. Sometimes you need to brace yourself for disappointment. Now think about it. Imagine your favorite TV show. You've been through it all. The ups, the downs, the crazy coincidences, and then: Bang! They tell you what it's all about. Would you be happy? Does it make sense? How come it all ended in a church?

Actually, I ripped most of that last little bit off in its entirety. If you're hip like I am, you'll know from where. Also, it's kind of BS.

Where was I again? Oh, yes. That's right. Answers.

Well, simply put, Bad Company will not be shutting down in any way, shape, or form. High Noon is what I consider to be Canada's answer to Twtitchy. It's a blog about Twitter, as if anyone actually needed it.

It doesn't mean that Twitter shall never again be mentioned on these not-so-humble pages. From time to time, Twitter shall probably merit some kind of mention. But for the most part, expect all the Twitter talk to be relegated to High Noon, while Bad Company shall focus largely on the issues and ideas themselves.

...And don't worry. I will think of something better to use as a background there. All in good time, dear readers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dissecting the Tracey Kent Komplaint

It actually took me quite a while to decide whether or not I was going to write this blogpost or not.

It actually stems from a personal interaction I had with one Tracey Kent, a former Conservative Party riding association executive in Vaughan. That's the riding currently represented by Conservative MP Julian Fantino.

The reason it took me a while to decide whether or not I really wanted to write this post is that Ms Kent is currently involved with a complaint that is before Elections Canada. Normally, I would prefer to simply let that matter work itself out quietly there. However, Ms Kent has been quite obnoxiously-public about the entire affair, so at some point it seems that perhaps this is the kind of thing that should to come to light, for the Canadian public -- or at least the #CdnPoli public -- to judge for themselves.

The matter actually has a lot to do with a recent Elections Canada complaint that turned out to have no comparative merit. The evidence was extremely poor, and really just a waste of Elections Canada time and resources. Ms Kent and her friends didn't like that the complaint was rejected -- they seemed to think it should have been granted some sort of artificial credulity based, ostensibly, on partisan considerations.

The interactions eventually led to this:

Let's look at this a bit closer. Does Tracey Kent's famed affidavit to Elections Canada contain anything like this?
"Having been on the Fantino campaign personally I can attest that the riding association President is a member of the same religious organization as the Americans who travelled up to work on the campaign."
Personally, I consider this to be a strange thing to even bring up. What does the religion of Fantino's riding association President have to do with anything? At all?

The answer is, of course, nothing. But it immediately brings to mind so much vapid left-wing boilerplate -- the kind that, lacking any other issue to broach, brings up the spectre of religious extremism. (I call it the Marci McDonald school of political thought.) It was bizarre enough to convince me to look a little deeper into Ms Kent's beef with the Vaughan riding association, and I have to admit that I was a little unsurprised -- indeed, thoroughly unshocked -- at what I found.

First off, Kent's complaint to Elections Canada deals specifically with allegations that the riding association maintained that the riding association had a secret bank account from which they helped fund campaigns in nine other ridings. They also allege that the riding association had two sets of books to back it up. Fantino spokesman Chris McCluskey categorically denies the allegations of any unlawful conduct. Remarkably, it's actually fully lawful for the Fantino campaign to financially help other campaigns, if it's done in the legally-mandated manner.

One of the complainants, one Richard Lorello -- is the former Conservative candidate supplanted by Fantino. Suddenly, everything starts to make a lot more sense.

Acrimony tends to accompany the replacement of any political candidate. Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Tim Uppal could tell you all about that. But once one starts digging a little deeper, suddenly a few novel facts do begin to pop up.

Beyond the allegations of a second bank account, Kent and Lorello seem to have initially quit the Vaughn riding association over a $10 million grant to a group attempting to bring a hospital to Vaughn. (The riding, incredibly, doesn't have one. They have a population of 300,000 and no hospital.) The people involved in that group fundraised for Fantino, leading Kent and Lorello to conclude that the grant was improper. But this begs an even more crucial question:

Seriously, what the fuck gives?

Regardless of who they fundraised or campaigned for, it would seem that anyone trying to bring a hospital to a community of 300,000 people are doing some very good work. In fact, it seems entirely reasonable to conclude that the fine folk at Vaughan Health Campus of Care likely fundraised for Fantino because they were confident that he could get elected and help deliver the hospital -- something that Fantino's Liberal predecessor obviously couldn't do.

Even the Liberal candidate Fantino defeated applauded the grant to VHCC.

So seriously: what the fuck gives?

Precisely what is going on in the heads of people who think that a $10 million grant to a group trying to bring a hospital to their community is suddenly a bad thing? Just how hostile are these people to the needs and aspirations of their neighbours? And in the case of Lorello specifically, the people who once could have been his constituents?

It makes it pretty clear just as to how Mr Lorello didn't get elected in 2008.

Well, the departure of Tracey Kent and Richard Lorello from the Vaughn riding association were said to be "acrimonious."

So how's this for acrimony?

In the good-time barroom parlance for something entirely uncalled for: "What? Whoa! Whoah!"

It seems that Tracey Kent can quite quickly and easily be moved into the realm of the vile personal attack. And as for Richard Lorello? He has some other problems of his own. (I wonder what Saskboy thinks of that? Maybe someone should be a dear and go ask him.)

There's clearly far more to Tracey Kent's crusade against Julian Fantino than she seems willing to admit. Canada's far-left (hi, Saskboy!) have clutched Ms Kent tight to their bosom, and declared any questioning of her to be outrageous.

In reality, the kinds of questions I'm asking is the kind of questions they should be asking... provided, of course, that they're interested in getting to the bottom of this particular issue at all. Considering how far out of their way they're going to make sure that no one can, it's clear that they just don't.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Barbara Falby's Excellent Adventure? Or Is It a Bogus Journey?

A fun letter to the editor of the Toronto Star has been making the rounds today. It goes a little something like this:
Many opinions have been expressed about the shooting of 24 people in a Toronto community housing project, and the shooting of 82 in a Colorado movie theatre. Admirably, the CBC is explored the role of extremely high temperatures as a trigger for violent behaviour. I know that living in a small, hot, airless room would motivate me to strike out at people.
Other organizations are exploring the “pistolization” of North American society; i.e., gun availability and the media’s role in legitimizing their use. The time has come to recognize Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s part in both of these scenarios.
Extremely hot weather has been allowed to escalate, because Mr. Harper pretends there is no such thing as climate change, having cut funding for many scientific studies, and having denied climate scientists access to media, without PMO approval, despite increasing evidence of species extinction (bats, frogs, bees, etc.), extreme heat (severe drought causing massive crop losses) and freakish weather (disastrous flooding and increase in tornadoes). Mr. Harper can take credit for blocking serious efforts by scientists who wanted the Canadian government to deal with this impending disaster.
The pistolization of Canadian society has increased because Mr. Harper has consistently argued for Canadians’ right to own long guns. Media talk seldom distinguishes between handguns and long guns, although some U.S. press reports emphasize that the Colorado shooter was able to wreak severe damage with both.

Many leaders, including American presidents, have been assassinated with long guns, so Mr. Harper’s naivete on the subject astounds. Most importantly, because many media reports simply repeat Harper’s words without comment, a clear debate about the idiocy of abandoning the long gun registry is lost on many.
Canada’s disaffected youth only hear the message that everyone should have the right to own a gun. By destroying an important piece of Canadian legislation, such as the Long Gun Registry Act, Mr. Harper and his government can now be regarded as accessories after the fact, aiding and abetting the increase in gun violence we are now seeing.
Because the Harper government, in these two areas, has played a large part in the rise of gun violence, it should do the decent thing and step down. Previously, gun violence in Canada has been held in check by government programs and regulations. This leader and his henchmen, however, have managed to abolish well-meaning legislation intended to protect the Canadian public.

How can a government, whose members’ ridings have shown widespread evidence of voter suppression techniques, such as robocalls, and outright fraud, accomplish such an outright abuse of power?
Furthermore, Mr. Harper’s singular lack of imagination in policies regarding the environment, and social policies, etc. show that he does not deserve his position of power. I pray that the justice system will quickly step in to remove illegitimate ministers, senators, and MPs by any logistical means possible, as quickly as possible. Injunctions, forbidding them from entering Parliament could be one such effective measure. 
Did you get all that? If you're anything like me, you probably didn't. I couldn't get through the first two paragraphs before writing this Barbara Falby off as a complete lunatic. So I decided to conduct a two-step experiment to find out if Babs Falby is really this crazy, or if this is some kind of aberration.

It goes a little something like this:

Step one - Google "Barbara Falby"
Step two - chortle chortle chortle

The results came up a little something like this:

"Whitewashing the Tarsands:"
 Unfortunately, there are probably many silent victims of the tar sands – the families afflicted with cancer because they drank downstream water. Not only they, but their families are those suffering – how does one explain to an infant that the mother’s death was justified because the oil that caused it was “ethical oil”? There is a rising mortality rate in several small communities that is magnified because those communities are very small and very isolated. Substitute stones for oil, and the harm is just as great. In fact, the damage done to the boreal forest and to the wildlife population is unconscionable. We are all affected when our oxygen supplies are threatened and our rivers poisoned.
Apparently, Babs didn't get the memo when Alberta Health Services looked into the Fort Chipeywan cancer scare and found that the "elevated" cancer rate at Fort Chipeywan was within the standard deviation... and was accompanied by various lifestyle markers, including elevated rates of hypertension.

The Royal Society of Canada didn't find the claims convincing, either. They've been holding out for more evidence. The punchline is that Babs wrote this a year ago in August 2011... well after AHS and the Royal Society reported.

"VOW Resolution: the Delegitimization of War:"
Whereas: military wars have directly or indirectly caused unconscionable suffering and/or death for millions of men, women, and other species; and
Whereas: military emissions form an unnecessary part of the world’s CO2 count, by adding to its rise, which threatens to eliminate one sixth of its human population, and up to three quarters of its ecosystems,
Be It Resolved that: The Canadian Voice of Women for Peace renews its call for the immediate delegitimization of all violent conflict and international war, by urging the federal government of Canada to support the goals of the UN Charter by embedding this policy in all of its practices, and furthermore, to urge all nation states to adopt these same policies and practices as soon as possible.
Moved by: Barbara Falby                              Seconded by: Elizabeth Raymer
Yes, Babs. War is awful. We get it. We even agree. However, sometimes war is also necessary. Think World War Two. The Korean War. The Star Wars Trilogy.

It sucks, but sometimes wars have to happen. So to delegitimize war is a nice thought, but an impossible idea.

"Development of the Oilsands - The Elephant in the Room:"
I believe that more attention could be focused on demand, rather than supply. I urge all governments immediately, to abandon the policy of providing free flights for elected representatives and staff. All governments would thereby cancel a direct subsidy, and be forced to look at alternative, less emitting forms of travel.
News media could participate by refusing to follow politicians unless they refuse to fly.
 But I imagine that celebrities who fly all over the world to sound the alarm over "human-induced climate change" are all hunky dory. But I think it's worth asking: how did Alana Mitchell get from Dana Point, California to the University of Toronto's Trinity College to receive an honourary doctorate? That was Falby's idea.

Oh, she's also against the construction of new housing units, apparently:
Why are we continuing to allow the huge emissions that are produced by such projects? The greenest building is the one that is already built. With extreme weather events like floods and droughts, affecting millions of people in far off countries, we are at the tipping point of runaway climate change, with the CO2 count now at 391 ppm, and ocean plankton and coral reefs unable to survive counts above 360 ppm. Ocean plankton, by the way, provide us with one half of the world's oxygen. For the first time, the Everglades in Florida have produced more CO2 than oxygen. The Toronto City Council and the OMB should be ashamed of themselves for allowing such monstrously wasteful and destructive projects.
Good gawd. It's not all about plankton and coral reefs. People need places to live, too! Sheesh.

There's probably more. But with responses to Falby's ridiculous Toronto Star letter clogging up the Google canal, it would take a lot of digging to find it all. Maybe that would be an alright project for some enterprising smartass who isn't myself.

Screw $250K... Make it a Million

Those among the left who were previously salivating over the Council of Canadians' court case to have the election 2011 results of seven ridings -- "coincidentally" all of them won by Conservative candidates -- must ever so slowly be coming to the realization that the meal they've been anticipating probably isn't coming.

Perhaps some of them are still fooling themselves. For one thing, they're pretending to be shocked that lawyers representing the Conservative Party are asking for a $250,000 deposit on any costs they may incur while defending against this case. CoC chair Maude Barlow, unshockingly, thinks it's awful. Just awful.

"While these relentless obstructions by the Conservative Party continue to drive up legal costs, they will not dampen our resolve to defend democracy and restore voters' rights," Barlow insisted.

But in reality, the $250,000 isn't enough. Moving forward, the court should reject the Tories' bid to impose a $250,000 deposit on the Council of Canadians... in favour of a million dollar deposit. I think of it as the court's very subtle way of saying "fuck off" to a case that shouldn't be heard at this juncture in the first place.

Barlow can pretend this case is about "restoring voters' rights" as much as she wants. But the fact is that the Council of Canadians has made this case a complete and utter farce from the very beginning.

To start with, Canadians should have expected CoC to have collected enough evidence to pursue this case before filing the case. However, CoC recently petitioned Elections Canada to provide them with the evidence Elections Canada is using in their own investigation of the so-called "robocalls" scandal, including those that allegedly took place within these seven ridings. Bad news for Council of Canadians. It turns out that this effort to find additional evidence -- not to submit evidence they already have, but to dig up more evidence -- comes after the June deadline to submit evidence.

There's simply no getting around it: this move is an admission by the Council of Canadians that they do not have, and have never had, sufficient evidence to win this case and overturn these election results.

And it just got worse.

The call centre at the centre of CoC's case -- the call centre wherein misdirecting calls were allegedly made -- has submitted an affidavit to the court stating that they have records that show some of the principle evidence around which the CoC case is based -- more specifically, an affidavit from a cell centre worker -- may not be accurate.

No wonder the Council of Canadians is out digging for more evidence.

So what does all of this have to do with requiring a $1 million deposit from the Council of Canadians? That's very simple.

Elections Canada is still investigating the allegations in these seven ridings. The Council of Canadians case is really nothing more than an end-run around that investigation -- hoping to get a court to rule that the evidence in this matter is more convincing than Elections Canada may find it to be.

If any group, of any political affiliation, wants to attempt end-runs around Elections Canada, it should be very expensive to do. In fact, prohibitively expensive. If Elections Canada concludes its investigation, and CoC is unconvinced, that's one thing. But what the Council of Canadians is at risk of doing is usurping Elections Canada's role as Canada's elections watchdog.

This cannot be allowed to do so. And in order to deter groups like Council of Canadians from trying such things in the future, the court should ask them to pony up a million bucks, or fuck right off.