Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Canada: 40% liberal, 30% conservative

One thing I've found difficult to find for Canada is polling on the underlying ideological beliefs of Canadians, as opposed to party preference.  Our pollsters just don't seem to ask the question very often, perhaps because it's probably viewed as a confusing mess to voters where our traditional two big-tent parties are named after the very ideologies they're supposed to represent.  I don't have empirical data to back it, but based on the confusion over the subject I see online every day, I don't think many people have a clear understanding of the distinction between ideology and party preference.  In Canada-ese we say "small l liberal" and "small c conservative" when we're talking about the ideology, but even that really only makes the distinction clear to people who are clear about the disctinction.

Hell, even highly politically active people have very deep differences of understanding over the meaning of the term "ideology" - just go back to the silly claims of many of the strongest Obama supporters shortly after his election about Obama lacking an ideology and instead being about "what works" as if pragmatism isn't itself a question of ideology. 

Still, any oasis in the polling desert so I'm glad to see pollster Ekos ran a poll on the subject of Canadian ideology not so long ago.  Top line results are that 40% of Canadians self-identify as liberal, 30% as conservative, 26% as neither and 5% as don't know or refused.  Ekos calls this "starkly divided" but I'd call it a clear lead for liberalism.  I'm really glad they resisted providing "moderate" as an option too, though I think I would have preferred to ask on a 7 point scale to reflect on strength of belief. 

Further, if you look at page 6 of the PDF, this is a high for liberalism as far back as the graph goes, to 1997, and the gains clearly come from the "neither" group which has declined to third place for its first time. 

The chart on page 11 with some demographic break downs is also fascinating:
  • Saskatchwan/Manitoba (combined probably for sample size reasons) are more conservative at 54% than Alberta at 41%
  • Men are barely more liberal than conservative (within MOE) but women are almost 2:1 (42% to 23%) more liberal
  • The only age group that is more conservative than liberal are over 65's and it's fairly modest (and within that subsample's margin of error)
  • the effect of university appears profound with 53% of university educated identifying as liberal
  • Liberal party supporters are more liberal than NDP party supporters 72% vs 61% (more on this below)
  • Green supporters are barely more liberal than conservative and the only party to have their leading group be the "neithers" at 38%
  • 11% of Conservative party supporters identify as liberal, which really has to be an appealing target for NDP and Liberal strategists:  These should be highly persuadable voters.
liberal Liberals versus liberal New Democrats

On the higher number of liberals supporting the Liberals than the NDP, there's lots of ways to interpret that.  One possibility is that NDP supporters dislike the term "liberal" for its association with the party of that name, even if they are left-of-centre ideologically and hold views most would identify as being mainline liberal/progressive as usually understood in Canada and the US.  Or they may be people who feel they are left of liberalism itself, bona fide socialists or even communists.  Another aspect is the NDP's roots in the praries as the predecessor party, the CCF and its relatively greater strength in places like Northern Ontario where voters may support the NDP but somehow not consider themselves liberal or even left-wing.  It's unfortunate that the poll's regional breakdown combined Manitoba and Saskatchewan because I can buy a right shift in Saskatchewan, but Manitiba's provincial NDP government has been going strong for a very long time.  I realize the provincial NDP in Manitoba are closer to the Liberals federally, but hard to believe they would appeal much to conservatives even then. 

On the Liberal party supporters specifically, the very low number of "neithers" and conservatives tells me that fears of a Liberal collapse entailing half the party's remaining supporters going to Harper are unlikely to come to fruition.  Basically the blue Liberals have mostly left already and what's left are people who are genuinely left-of-centre and just have issues supporting the NDP or abandoning the party of Laurier, Trudeau and Pearson. 


The Green numbers really back my suspicion that the Green party is a protest vote for a lot of disaffected voters of other parties.  Having "neithers" as their top group seems likely to be akin to the situation in the US where self-identified moderates and "independents" tend to be the least politically aware/informed and most prone to decide "they're all crooks!" and so a party like the Greens becomes an attractive place to park your vote.  I'm somewhat surprised at the high number of conservatives supporting the Greens.  I know the NDP line on the Greens I often hear is that they're a "crypto" conservative party.  There's some truth to that in their policies and platform, but I don't think that matters a whit to most voters, for whom the Green party is literally about the association to environmentalism.  It may be that this is where conservatives who accept the reality of climate change go, since they just can't stand the NDP or Liberals and yet want to register their support for some kind of market friendly action to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

It also tells me it's probably not worth the NDP or Liberals' time trying to woo Green voters.  Numerically there's just not that many liberals there and they're probably pretty dedicated environmentalists who have real issues with the Liberals and NDP.  I'm doubtful the neithers supporting the Greens are easy to reach either.  If the left-of-centre vote does solidify on the NDP, and some of the existing liberal support for the Conservatives can be pulled back, the NDP can forge a winning coalition.  Chretien managed to find majority coalitions (over 40% support in '93 and 2000) even with the NDP and BQ taking substantial numbers of votes in the 90s and early 2000s.  Even after the right wing parties merged, a badly scandal wounded Martin did eke out a minority in 2004 all the same. 

Canada may just be liberal enough to put a left-of-centre party into government even with four of them vying for that pool of votes.  In fact, if the NDP dominance of the BQ in Quebec continues, we're back down to three effective parties, which isn't much different from the Chretien/Martin days.

It's Time to Update the Ontario Condominium Act

Don't know what chances it has, but I'm for this, from Trinity-Spadina Ontario NDP MPP Rosario Marchese:
Dear Friends,

Did you know the law that governs your condo hasn’t been changed in 14 years?

On May 10, I will be introducing legislation to improve Ontario’s Condominium Act.  If my bill is passed, Ontario’s laws will finally reflect the interests of condo owners. My proposals include the following:  
  • The creation of a Condo Review Board to settle disputes between condo owners, boards, property managers and developers. (Currently, disputes must be settled through the courts at great financial cost.)
  • Establishes better building and soundproofing standards.
  • Prevents developers from asking owners to move into unfinished buildings.
  • Extends developer responsibility for condo fees from one to three years.  
  • Improves Tarion warranty protections on new condos and provides warranty coverage for conversion condos such as lofts.
  • Requires developers to use good faith language in contracts and to disclose any business names they have used in the past.
  • Requires property managers to be licensed by the Province.
I will be speaking at information sessions about my condo bill on the following dates:

CityPlace Residents’ Association Town Hall Meeting
Date: Sunday, May 6.
Time: 3-5 PM.
Location: Renaissance Hotel (next to the Rogers Centre).

King West Community Meeting
Date: Wednesday, May 9.
Time: 7-9 PM.
Location: Thomson Hotel, Wellington Room (550 Wellington Street West, south of King and Bathurst).
My wife and I both bought new condos off plans in the early 2000s before we met.  Mine went okay as far as these things go, but hers was a debacle with a developer who clearly was not playing in good faith, and took advantage of every loophole and a few that aren't even loopholes but that they know they can get away with.  Almost every item on that list would have been a tremendous help to her, and Tarion proved to be toothless or captured by the developers based on how it handled her complaints.  There was a litany of ridiculous things the developer did, but the most egregious was how they rushed to get the occupancy permit, then cancelled it at the last minute (after she had already booked movers) and even when she did get legal occupancy, she only had power to one item in the whole unit, a light by the entrance, clearly done to fool the inspector that the unit had power (no stove, fridge, lights anywhere else, etc).  That had to be illegal.

As a first time homebuyer you really only have the option to sue over stuff like this, and the reality is that isn't likely to happen over a collection of small stuff, your instinct is always to just get through it.

I know this is mostly an upper-middle class problem and all, but still no reason to let these scumbag fly-by-night developers bilk people.  This is all part of the decline of the middle class as you get fleeced at every opportunity and the law is always on the side of the powerful.  The bit about forcing disclosure of other names the developer has operated under is a pretty good idea.  Some of the bigger developers with established reputations to protect are generally pretty good for that reason, but currently that's really the only worthwhile consumer protection there is when it comes to new condo purchases, and you definitely pay a premium for the big name builders.  Even that is no surety, as established brands have been known to decide to cash in on their residual good will at times and churn out some junk for a quick profit.

There's no social advantage I can see to letting shoddy developers put up crap buildings that their owners hate and take a loss selling off.  Condo buildings are going to be there for decades, they should be built well and if a few shoddy developers stop doing business, in an overheated real estate market I can't see how that's a negative.  Ontario has a minority government right now so it's a chance for the age-old formula of the NDP pulling the Liberals left to work again.  My wife and I are unlikely to ever buy a new condo again, but no reason anyone else should go through what she did.

I wrote the Premier and Margarett Best, the Minister of Consumer Services.  Private Members bills rarely make it to law, but this is a good idea and I hope this one does.