Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2018/ Provincial Election Eve

Provincial Election Eve

I hope I keep this short.

How to Spend Your Vote

Usually I post this last, but why not get it out of the way now?

If you hate all the political parties/candidates and want to send them all a message of your disgust, go to the polling station and decline your ballot. Make sure you get registered to vote, and then when you are given your voting card, hand it back and tell them you are declining your ballot. This is much better than spoiling your ballot or not showing up at all.

If you are indifferent as to who wins but want to support a party then vote for that party's candidate. In Ontario the vote subsidy still exists, so although your vote will be wasted in the sense it won't help anybody get elected, it might funnel some of your tax dollars to your party. There is a threshold of money required to get this subsidy: the party needs 2% of the vote overall in the province, or 5% of the vote in (all? one?) of the ridings where the party ran a candidate.

If you want a candidate/party to win and that candidate/party is in real contention for the seat, then I guess you should vote for that candidate/party.

If you want to get rid of Kathleen Wynne you probably don't need to do much.

If you want to prevent Doug Ford from winning your best bet is probably the NDP, but who knows?


The Agenda has been gushing over an AI-powered pollster named "Polly", developed by Advanced Symbolics. Apparently this pollster gets 100k people's opinions (I am guessing via social media feeds) and then makes granular predictions about who is going to win and lose.

Polly made me realize that our surveillance dystopia is being built by political parties first and foremost.

The Agenda's coverage of Polly makes me mad. Everybody talks about this program as if it is ground truth, because it supposedly predicted the Brexit vote and Trump's victory correctly. Fair enough. Maybe in this age of cellphones scraping social media feeds (and correcting for the biases how? Don't think about that too hard, because it gets real creepy real fast) is the best way to do polling. Maybe the machine learning in Polly's model really is as good as the inventors (who run a private company!) are claiming. Maybe the company is even (somehow) gathering all the input data for Polly ethically. Who knows?

The coverage still makes me mad, because The Agenda anthromorphizes Polly. First, the CEO of the company has given Polly a gender ("she") and openly talks about what "Polly thinks" and "Polly feels". Polly does not think or feel. Polly (whom I will misgender as "it") is a computer program. This computer program contains a model and is fed training data, then makes predictions. It does not "think" anything and it does not "feel" anything. Why are we allowed to use such terms for a computer program when we are prohibited from ascribing similar characteristics to elephants, who are a whole lot more like us than Polly is?

Doug Ford is Bad News

It feels as if every time a conservative politician threatens to get elected I run around like Chicken Little. I warned you against Jay Aissa and Stephen Harper. Now my panties are in a bunch about Doug Ford, and it is not just because I am a latte-sipping downtown Toronto elite. There is more going on here.

For a moment, let's disregard just how ridiculous the Tory platform is, and my irrational antipathy towards conservatives. Let's focus on Doug Ford himself. Independent of political party and affiliation, I claim that Doug Ford is a bad choice for premier of Ontario.

Doug Ford has moderately more political experience than Jay Aissa, but not by much. Ford has one term as a city councillor, presiding over a term that ended in turmoil. He has never been an MPP. He has not even sat in legislature, even as an observer. Any rookie MPP has more provincial political experience than Doug Ford. Yet Ford wants to be premier of one of the largest, most complex provinces in Canada. Federally, the Conservatives said that Justin Trudeau was "just not ready," but Trudeau had been a member of parliament for seven years.

These days Doug Ford likes to take credit for saving a lot of money in the City of Toronto, but when his brother was mayor he said that Rob ran the show. So which was it? Why should we believe that being a city councillor is sufficient experience to run the province of Ontario?

If Ford's performance at debates is any indication, he is completely unprepared. He can repeat his slogans and talking points. He is skilled at avoiding questions and accusing his questioners ("Well, have you ever run a multi-million dollar company?"). But he does not know much about the complexities of governing a province, and it really shows.

My second (and more serious) criticism has to do with Doug Ford's character. He is untrustworthy, and has demonstrated this untrustworthiness multiple times over the past few months. Item: when he was in competition with Christine Elliott for the OPC leadership, Ford repeatedly made disparaging remarks about his "personal friend". He then apologised and promptly repeated the accusations.

Then social conservative leadership candidate Tanya Granic Allen threw her support behind Doug Ford in the leadership race, supposedly in exchange for a nomination seat. Her reward? She won a local nomination and was then kicked her out a few days later when video surfaced of her -- shock! surprise! -- saying nasty things about homosexuality. Did Doug Ford not suspect that Granic Allen was on the record saying ridiculous things? Why did he allow her to pursue a nomination? He is untrustworthy.

All politicians lie. Very few politicians are worthy of our trust. But Ford is on a whole other level, and this matters. Premier Ford is going to need to negotiate with other provincial leaders, the federal government, and leaders abroad. If others cannot trust Premier Ford to keep his word, then they cannot trust Ontario, and Ontario suffers.

My third criticism has to do with scandal. Boy howdy have there been scandals. When Steve Paikin interviewed Ford (in the article linked above), Doug Ford claimed that the turmoil during his stint as city councillor was all to defend his brother. He tried to convey that his long reign as premier would be free of such turmoil. That did not turn out to be. The man has not even been elected as premier yet, and red flag after red flag is coming up: accusations (and recorded audio!) of Ford purchasing memberships for candidate Kinga Surma; Ford breaking fundraising rules; and of course, this infamous civil lawsuit instigated by Rob Ford's widow Renata. I thought there was a lot of dirt on Doug Ford, and now it is finally coming up. I suspect these scandals are irrelevant to Ford supporters, but they matter a lot when they put parliament into turmoil, or they poison Ontario's relationship with other jurisdictions.

Here is a fourth criticism, which is much more speculative: I think Ford is capable of shenanigans. I think he is capable of cheating and lying to get his way. I do not feel he instigated the overthrow of Patrck Brown, but the circumstances under which he won the leadership over Christine Elliott (losing the popular vote but winning enough regional support to put him ahead) is highly suspect. The OPC candidate for Brampton East, Simmer Sandhu, resigned soon after the 407 highway administration announced there had been a data breach. Now third-party advertiser Ontario Proud (which is supposed to be distinct from the OPCs, but shills hard for them) has been calling private numbers for the purposes of voter identification. Given the so-called "robocall" scandal of 2011, this seems dangerous. I could easily believe that somebody who wants the OPC party to win this election could meddle with the results, and I could believe that Ford would be involved somehow. I hope I am wrong.

Sad About the Liberals

I feel that history will be kinder to Kathleen Wynne than our voters will be. Let's not forget that Wynne was put on a glass cliff; nobody expected her to win an election after Dalton McGuinty left, and if Tim Hudak had not shot himself in the foot she would have been decimated during her first election.

I am glad that the Liberals preserved the greenbelt, and I will be sorry to see it go. I am glad that they pressured the federal government into improving the pension plan. I am especially grateful that fast foods now have calorie labels, and I will be sad when Doug Ford reverses that initiative.

I am not happy about basic income (which is a post that I have been meaning to write for a while) but I am mostly glad that Ontario is willing to try a basic income pilot so we can get some actual data about what the program is good at and not. (Yes, I am aware of the Mincome experiment from Manitoba. I have not looked deeply into the matter, but on the surface I see quite a few problems with that "experiment".)

I do not know whether I care that much about cap-and-trade vs a carbon tax, but I am glad that the Liberals actually implemented something real. If Doug Ford is elected he has promised to scrap the cap-and-trade system, which seems stupid and inefficient to me. Does Ford really think the federal Liberals will let him get away with that?

People are saying that the Liberals could be wiped out. In some sense, this would be good news, because it would mean that left-wing voters coalesced around the NDP and maybe prevented Ford Nation from splitting the vote. But I expect the Liberals will get more votes than the Greens, and they might not win any seats either. That's first-past-the-post for you.

Of course, if the Liberals are wiped out they will try to rebuild. Expect a lot of nonsense about how they suddenly support proportional representation and electoral reform again. Don't believe them for one second.

Mad About the Liberals

Man, Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals did themselves no favours.

I am furious about the so-called "Fair Hydro Act". I understand that a lot of people are really angry about their hydro rates going up, and I understand that people hate windmills and the Green Energy Act. But the Liberals spent money to improve our electricity infrastructure, and those improvements cost money, and that money should be paid by taxpayers. Instead, the Liberals borrowed billions of dollars to artificially lower people's hydro rates. That's all well and good, except (a) we have to pay that money back sometime, and (b) the suppression is temporary. It is a cynical vote-buying scheme. If the Liberals felt compelled to borrow that kind of money, why didn't they put it into improving transmission lines between Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec so that we could tap into the hydroelectric power that was built by flooding indigenous people off their homelands? Borrowing billions of dollars to fund a temporary rate cut is not a long term investment; it is incredibly stupid -- and both the NDP and PCs want to continue this.

While we are at it, I am also angry that the Liberals mismanaged the gas plants at such expense. Sure: this happened under McGuinty's watch, but we are still paying for those mistakes today.

I am disappointed that Kathleen Wynne revealed herself to be another slimy politician. When she was first elected I thought she was honest and articulate. I thought she would mediate conversations between different stakeholders to arrive at good conclusions. But she picked a lot of fights (hello Rob Ford) and she demonstrated just how slimy Liberal politics can be with the Sudbury byelection fiasco. She is still an articulate and thoughtful speaker, but she has lost my trust.

I hate the LHINs. Why are they still around? Somebody tell Doug Ford that he can find a bunch of efficiencies by getting rid of them. The LHINs are a good idea, but the implementation has been terrible and the end result has been a completely unhelpful layer of siloed bureaucracy on top of all the other bureaucracies in health care. Health care is in trouble. It is ridiculously expensive. But to fix it somebody is going to have to smash through the turfholders (hello College of Physicians and Surgeons) so that people give up some of their power, learn from each other, and cooperate. That takes lots of political capital, however, so it will not happen, and health care costs will continue to spiral out of control.

I continue to be irritated that the Liberals tried to bribe Cisco and other big dumb companies into Ontario by giving them money and huge tax breaks for "creating jobs". I am biased because I live in "Silicon Valley North", but there was no call to pick winners and bribe big companies in the hopes that they would throw us a few jobs.

Stories About Voting

No matter the outcome, pundits are going to make up stories about what the voters were thinking when they decided to elect such and such a party or such and such a leader. This is stupid. Firstly, these narratives are frequently incorrect. Secondly, "the voters" have many different and often opposing motivations for casting their ballots. They do not vote as large uniform blocks.

These days, I am irritated at the implication that young people only voted in the 2015 federal election because Justin Trudeau promised to legalize pot. Does no one remember Stephen Harper?

I am tired of people telling me what I was or was not thinking when I cast my ballot. So let me tell you outright, well before I know what the outcome will be:

Unhappy with the NDP

Man, talk about strategic voting:

So I am casting a vote for a party where I am not enthusiastic about the leader, the local candidate, the political platform or the ideology. I am holding my nose and parking my vote because I want somebody else (namely Doug Ford) to lose.

Fiscal Irresponsibility

Holy cow. Does anybody in this campaign understand that social programs cost money? The Liberals raided their contingency funds to make their books look balanced while providing things like pharmacare for kids. The NDP decided that the Liberals were not spending enough money, so pledged to spend more. Meanwhile the Greens want a guaranteed basic income for everybody, which is both stupid and very very expensive.

But the PCs take the cake. They want to slash taxes, which sounds well and good except that they want to increase services too. That's a neat trick. They claim they can find 4% savings in Ontario's budget, but don't have a single concrete idea for how to go about it. That 4% cut really does not matter, though, because the Tories have pledged about as much money ($5 billion? 6 billion?) on new subways. And they have pledged to cut electricity rates an additional 12%, which means they are going to go further into debt to pay off voters. (Maybe they will tear up green energy contracts as well, which is going to make the class action lawsuits entertaining, in addition to rendering me homeless.)

I am not a fiscal conservative. I believe that governments can pool money and spend it effectively. In fact, I want governments to take tax money and spend it as effectively as they can. There are so many market failures in the province, and some effectively-spent provincial money could make a big difference. But nobody in Ontario seems to care about that.

For the most part, I do not feel that huge debt service payments are an effective use of tax money, especially when that debt was run up to artificially suppress hydro prices temporarily. Oy vey.

It is a good thing I am not a fiscal conservative, because if I was I would have nobody to vote for in this election. (I guess there is a Libertarian party, which is gross in a different way.)