Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/9/2016 (271 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Electoral reform has pitfalls
Proponents of proportional representation avoid dealing with the dark side.
Proportional representation defies democracy. We elect a representative in our electoral district (riding) to our legislature or parliament. The person elected has a duty to represent the residents of the constituency, not just electors (people who voted) or the members of a political party.
Arbitrary assignment of seats in accordance with the proportion to the popular vote each party receives makes electoral district representation difficult. Proportional representation should be done in accordance with the votes in the province where the vote was cast, not with nationwide accumulations. The best example is Quebec, where the Bloc Québecois runs candidates. BQ votes must not be allowed to affect outcomes in the other provinces.
There are 338 seats in the House of Commons. One seat equals 2.96 per cent of the total. In order to qualify for a seat, a party will have to obtain at least 2.96 per cent of the popular vote. Only five out of 24 parties running in the 2015 election met this threshold. All of them are represented in the current Parliament. Proportional representation will not help the rest.
Weird outcomes would abound. Under a proportional representation scheme, the Conservatives would have seven seats in Atlantic Canada (three in New Brunswick, two in Nova Scotia and one each in Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island) instead of zero, as is presently the case.
Independent candidates could no longer qualify for a seat because making the 2.96 per cent threshold of the federal or provincial vote would be impossible in any single riding.
Finally, many people vote for a particular political party because of its principles. After the 2008 federal election, the BQ, Liberals and NDP plotted to overthrow the Conservative minority and take over governance with a coalition. Coalitions subvert principles because each party wants some benefits for supporting the group, and those benefits are often in conflict with the principles of other partners. People who voted based on principle find themselves compromised by coalition deals they would not ordinarily support.
Proportional representation has as many problems as, if not more than, the current system.
Groundwork laid for real agenda
Re: Advantage, Pallister (Sept. 24)
The first move of any new government is to demonize the previous one. First, that allows them to lower expectations for what they might be able to achieve. Second, it sets up a convenient target to point to whenever anything they do goes wrong. Third, it puts up a smokescreen around what the real intentions of the new government may be.
Yes, the NDP government made a ton of mistakes, and it’s fair to point them out. The Manitoba electorate agreed with this assessment and voted accordingly in the last election. But just because the NDP made mistakes doesn’t mean we should excuse any new ones by the Pallister government, and it certainly doesn’t suggest, as this column correctly points out, the province is in a crisis.
That leads us back to my final point, which is: what is actually happening is they are trying to set us up for their real agenda, which is to move toward cutting public services, selling public assets and privatizing as much as they can.
Growth fees deserve consideration
To date, published responses to Mayor Brian Bowman’s proposal the City of Winnipeg apply fees on new development to finance the accompanying infrastructure costs have been splashy and overwhelmingly negative.
However, while the timing and the proposed consultation on these fees suffer from shortcomings, the concept itself has merit and is worth more balanced consideration. Though new to Winnipeg, it is an approach used by a number of other major municipalities.
The objections to date have largely been from those with either an ideological bent against such an approach or from those who stand to lose a perk. An ideological orientation around "no new taxes," which Winnipeggers will recall was long held by Winnipeg’s former mayor, is a major reason Winnipeg’s roads and other infrastructure are in such bad repair today. And it is human nature that those who have benefited from the current infrastructure funding approach — however unfair it might be to other Winnipeggers — will be reluctant to see the situation change so that they are made to pay the full cost of the city infrastructure their developments entail.
However, there is a solid rationale for proceeding with such a fee proposal, as other cities have done, and it needs to be better communicated. New ideas initially tend to receive knee-jerk reactions, accompanied by a strong desire to maintain the status quo. With some further analysis, it is clear the proposal has considerable merit, while needing consultation and refinement. It is not a question of paying or not paying for such costs, it is a question of who should pay. Those proposing new developments should be willing to pay the full costs of doing so, without a subsidy by the collective whole.
Memories of mosque
Re: First mosque in Manitoba celebrates 40th anniversary, changes name (Sept. 25)
I was delighted to read about the 40th anniversary of the first mosque in the province to open its doors. As a former Winnipegger, I have fond memories of fundraising for and growing up in the mosque.
My father, Mr. Irshad Ahmad Faruqui, designed the mosque for the Manitoba Islamic Association. Sadly, he is now over 83 years old and ailing, and therefore unable to share in the joy of this significant anniversary. He was a longtime trustee of the association and devoted much of his life and energy to its service.
I’m a member of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and just returned from its annual gala in Toronto, where I met Dr. Tammy Gaber, professor of architecture at Laurentian University, who has undertaken a study of mosques across Canada. She has done extensive research into the spaces allocated to women in mosques since the days of the first mosque, the Masjid al Nabi in Medina. Tellingly, over the centuries these sacred spaces, which initially had no barriers either physical or metaphysical between the genders, became less and less inclusive.
Our mosque had no barriers and no restrictions on women or girls during those early halcyon days. When I asked my father a few years ago in preparation for an essay on the state of Canadian Islam, he told me during the design stage, no one stipulated the incorporation of separate entrances, barriers or closed-off spaces for women, and he was as surprised and saddened as many of us were to arrive at our beloved mosque to find a barrier one day.
That bygone era, with its warmth, welcome and respect for women and girls as well as men and boys is now a historical footnote in the narrative of Canadian Islam.
Dr. Ferrukh Faruqui
Halt in construction needed
Mr. Pallister, please suspend construction of Keeyask and Bipole III.
These projects are not "too far along" to suspend. The Limestone Generating Station construction began in 1976 with a cofferdam completed in 1978. Construction was resumed seven years later (after it had been suspended for a "slowing of demand.")
Sound familiar? The U.S. economic meltdown of 2009 and the prevalence of natural gas fracking, wind and solar power have rendered our power all but unwanted in the U.S. Thus, the Wuskwatim station, opened in 2012, operates at a loss, selling power to the U.S. at less than what Manitobans pay.
So why build the Keeyask Generating station? The PUB has already ordered construction on the Conawapa station to cease and desist because there is no use for the power it would generate. But the NDP forged ahead with Keeyask for political and ideological reasons.
Bipole III, ostensibly designed to carry all that extra power (that we don’t need, for non-existent export markets) is now claimed to provide Manitobans with energy security. A noble idea, but if that was the case, I’m surprised Hydro didn’t opt for the line to be installed on the bottom of Lake Winnipeg, as proposed by John Ryan in the Free Press. Surely that would have provided ultimate protection for the line. Instead, Hydro was ordered by the NDP to construct a line down the west side of the province instead of the east side. This decision was based solely to improve chances of being granted World Heritage Site status for the east-side boreal forest. This decision will result in the loss of obscene amounts of power through line loss and cost twice as much to build.
Most of the money spent on these projects has been for consultation, securing rights of way, design, surveying and engineering. If the future work is postponed, the already completed work will become useful if and when these projects are ever viable.
Until then, Mr. Pallister, you could become as revered for stopping construction as former Progressive Conservative premier Duff Roblin was for constructing.
Income gap real, and growing
Re: Gap between rich and poor stable (Sept. 26)
With the stroke of a pen, Christopher Sarlo of the Fraser Institute has stabilized the growing income gap between the rich and the poor.
He argues that consumption, rather than income, is the best indicator of living standards. Therefore, we should measure wealth or poverty by the rate of consumption, not income. By his logic, when people consume substantially more than their income, by borrowing, or receiving gifts, that puts them on the same level as their wealthier neighbors.
But loans must be repaid, with interest; hence any increased standard of living enjoyed due to borrowing is ephemeral. Some, as he says, may receive gifts. Many will not. So, if people cannot live on their income in the first place, then how are they to repay their loans?
Thus, far from improving their economic well-being, they are simply digging themselves into a financial hole.
There have been many well-researched studies that show there is indeed a widening gap between rich and poor, but Mr. Sarlo dismisses them out of hand, not because he can prove they are flawed, but because they were conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, or the Broadbent Institute, or the Conference Board, none of which are right-wing. While he alludes to studies that support his own views, he does not cite a single one.
There is some validity to his claim that some studies fail to adjust for household size, since the average household is smaller than it used to be, and more income is now shared by fewer people. However, even that argument ignores certain important facts. The price of a house, or interest on a mortgage, is the same, regardless of the number of occupants, as are the taxes, the insurance, the utilities, and the general upkeep. The cost of owning a vehicle is the same, regardless of the number of passengers. So the savings from fewer people in a house are much smaller than they might appear at first glance.
Mr. Sarlo is an economist. As such, it is strange that he can ignore so many relevant facts, and draw conclusions seemingly out of thin air.