One Wednesday in October #OttawaShootings

I was born in Ottawa. I grew up in Ottawa. I studied in Ottawa. I work in Ottawa. Ottawa is in my DNA, as over a million other people in this northern capital.

A random Wednesday in October, a group of armed men have decided to go with an attack like in Mumbai, India, in 2008, in my town, a few hundred metres from my workplace. This is unheard of in Ottawa and it is indeed an event that is going round the world in this usually quiet G7 Capital.

Whatever the motives of these people, what drove these people to kill a reservist guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is an act of extreme cowardice. It’s a wimpy move. Whatever their motive, only small-minded people could do something like that.

Yet it is precisely in events like these, in great adversity that we see who are our real champions. Our real champions are the people who living, working or who are visiting the nation’s capital during these events on a Wednesday in October. They kept their cool, some were able to help those in need and the police, firefighters and paramedics were able to be professional while keeping their calm and following their game plan – all this in a position where there is a lot of unknowns.

It is not terror and fear following these events that will stop people regardless of language, origin or creed in Ottawa to continue living their everyday lives in our diverse community. Rather, it’s in events like that that people in Ottawa will become stronger, more united and more fraternal to each other.

Why Labour mansion tax is not progressive at all, while being anti-London

One policy that the Labour Party made clear for the 2015 election manifesto during their last conference before the 2015 general election is that a mansion tax will be added for housing in the UK which is worth more than 2 million pounds.

The reason is even more strange. The purpose of this tax is not even to fund the funding to build new cities, or to make existent council housing better, as it is it to supposedly fund the NHS.

It’s a bad policy for many reasons. Considering the high value of housing in London and how even modest properties had taken an exponential amount of value in recent years, the vast majority of people targeted with this tax will be in London. And yet, for a London pensioner who had bought his house decades ago, it’s not extraordinary to think that the housing value had went so up in recent decades that someone could have a house worth 2 million pounds today which was bought at only a fraction of the cost.

This tax also bring another problem. Let’s say you are a senior on a fixed income who own a property bought decades ago in Central London, and this same house is your main source of collateral, how will you pay the tax? Unlike a very rich person, you don’t have in this case a playing room for disposable income, so the only option would be to sell your home even if you were a smart investor while you bought this home and lived in it when it took a lot of value with time.

This is why this policy is not progressive at all. It will rather have the opposite effect, it will create hermetic classes of housing and throw away people who were old residents .

In a place like London, this could well means that the only people who would have enough disposable income to pay this same tax would be very rich people from the UK or aboard who use their London housing as a sort of investment and/or as a sort of pied à terre.

The irony is that policy which is supposedly ‘progressive » is that it will create two classes of housing. And there is little doubt that this tax is a sort of magic formula is order to pay for numerous things. As fairy tales don’t always finish in a good way, this  »mansion » tax could be one of them, a tax with high hopes and expectations to fill miscellaneous expenses, but which turned out to be a disaster especially for those it was supposed to help at the first place. Like the SNP and UKIP, Labour also seems to play London versus rest of the UK by their choice of tax.

Perhaps this is a sign that the  »One Nation » Labour brand is dead and buried once for all? And it seems like it.

Back to the future: #UKIP edition

UKIP had finally won their first by-election in Clacton. Bob Spink was the first sitting UKIP MP, but Douglas Carswell was the first MP elected in the UK banner. On the same day, UKIP was also close in the old Labour stronghold of Heywood and Middleton where a few hundreds vote would have  »sealed » the deal for UKIP in beating Labour in this shock result.

In the land of British Politics, we are entering a Terra incognita. Like when Columbus went into the open sea in 1492, nobody know how this support will translate itself in term of seats in the next general election in May 2015.

But however, those similar events are awfully similar to what had happened in Canada during the 1990’s. Yes, Canada, the land of Tim Hortons and of where ice hockey is so popular that there is play by play in Punjabi.

In the 1980’s, the Progressive Conservatives in Canada under Brian Mulroney had a transformation like the Conservative Party since David Cameron became leader of the party in 2005. The party ditched some hard line policies (such as reinstating the death penalty) and became supportive of higher immigration quotas and the Liberals multicultural policy. It also was very keen on building in base among French Canadians who traditionally voted Liberal, and this strategy paid out very well in 1984 and 1988.

The Mulroney government also had some very unpopular policies, especially in their second mandate, like the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, along with two failed initiatives for constitutional reform.

Then came the Reform Party of Canada, which was broadly like UKIP in term of policies and even in term of political timespace. Even if the party was founded in 1987 and was in the wilderness for a few years having a lacklustre performance in the 1988 general election, it became close to the official opposition in the 1993 general election a few years after winning a by-election in March 1989. In fact, on paper, this 1993 election had changed so many things that the official opposition was the Bloc Québécois with the Tories reduced to only two seats. This is exactly like if the SNP was the official opposition in the British House of Commons.

The Reform Party was a populist party and it was initially very reluctant to be associated with conservatism. It was based originally in Western Canada but it had sizable support almost everywhere in the country except in Quebec.

Like UKIP, the Canadian Reform Party attracted many people not usually into politics in the sense that it was an house for those sick of  »old » parties. It was critical of state multiculturalism and was for lower immigration quotas.

The Reform Party of Canada was able to do much better with working class Canadians than the Progressive Conservatives, and especially in Western Canada, the party had found a niche among new Canadians. Some MP of the party were of South Asian or East Asian origin. The first federal MP of Muslim faith in Canada was elected in 1997 from the Reform Party.

But what is interesting is that even if the Reform Party was founded by some ex-Tories, the party did very well in constituencies which were traditionally voting for socialist parties – especially outside of metropolitan areas, exactly like UKIP is doing right now in some Labour seats in Northern England. In many ways, they were seeing the mainstream left as equal to the aspirations of people of metropolitan areas as opposed to their aspirations, just like the British Labour Party is seen right now.

So how this division went out between the Canadian right? Well, for a decade in Canadian politics, there was a massive civil war among two parties who were considered on the right of the centrist Liberals. The Liberals won by default, even if they took some Reform Party policies when they reduced the size of the federal government during the mid-1990’s.

The first past the post electoral system also made it possible in some regions that a party wins 98% of seats with only half of the popular vote, as the right was divided between two parties of equal footing in term of popular vote.

This civil war ended in 2003, when the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance (the Reform Party new brand) merged together. Stephen Harper, who was a former Reform Party MP, became leader of this party.

Three years after, the Conservatives were in power in a minority government, and there are still in power in 2014. Unity – rather than division, seems to have been the key for electoral success when it counts.

It’s understandable that British and Canadian politics have some differences, but there are too many similarities to consider this historical case something more meaningful than a simple anecdote.

Indeed, perhaps the most important rule to remember, is that under a FPTP system (unlike AV or STV) not having a efficient voting base in marginal constituencies could hurt you a lot and let your opponent win by default – all this with a paltry overall popular vote.

But there is no doubt, that next May, Britain could wake up a Friday morning of May by having the same situation as in the February 1974 general election. The swigometer could go in any way all this with very unpredictable swings all over the UK with regionalism in full swing – exactly like in Canadian politics.

I am disabled and I agree with Lord #Freud. Why you should too.

Some people were offended by Lord Freud comments saying that disabled people should perhaps in some cases work for less than the minimum wage. Perhaps this seems offensive at first glance, but in the context in which Lord Freud was talking about, he raises an important point, which is how benefits are still too unflexible. They make part time work look unattractive for people who have disabilities, even if it gives them some dignity. The universal credit is interesting because it could probably make informal part-time work attractive rather than working in the black market and being paid  »under the table » with all the stress and anxiety involved. Many disabled people can work a few hours a week but they are scared to declare it because they fear losing their benefits.

As someone who have a life-long handicap and who is in the labour market, Freud is right about one important point, the benefits system still have difficulty to be flexible enough to value part time work, or work in an informal setting. For some people who have an handicap, they could only work for a few hours a week. Sometimes in some jobs, their salary in principally composed of tips, but they are reluctant to take out these jobs because the system is done in a way which they are scared to lose their benefits.

This is why than rather to bash Lord Freud for what he said, there should be a debate on how the benefit system for handicaped people should be reformed to help people and make it attractive for people with disabilities to have  »mini-jobs » and to have benefits at the same time. Rather than to have these jobs working against the benefit system, they should be valued. This is what Freud was saying that  »mini-jobs » should not be something to be afraid for, but rather something which should be valued.

Rather than bashing the messenger, should people rather look at ways on how to make the life of disabled people better? Should we have a real debate on benefits and not just a Punch and Judy blame game?

In praise of @JeremyBrowneMP

It’s such a shame that Jeremy Browne is stepping down as an MP.

Why? Because he is a true Liberal, one who believe in peace, tolerance, prosperity and sound money.

One who is the not afraid of the Liberal heritage as being of the party of William Gladstone and Richard Cobden when the party was one of the many and not of the few.

We need more people like him, but sadly, in the Lib Dems of today there is less and less like him.

Blueprint for the Ontario PC

Not everything is lost with the Ontario PC for 2018.

  • The party is the official opposition. In 1990, the party was third and five years later they want in power with a strong majority.
  • The party have a strong base in rural Ontario. Even stronger than in the early 1990’s.
  • The party have strong people who can be the government in waiting. All main leadership contenders have their qualities.
  • The party is more diverse than ever, and if trends continue, it will be more representative of people in Ontario. It’s not a old WASPY party anymore. There is a strong possibility that the next leader will be a woman.

But the party have many problems.

  • The party is doing badly in the 905. Very difficult for non-incumbent to keep their seats. It’s not normal to lose seats like Durham and Burlington.
  • The party had done better in 2014 than in 2011 in some Toronto seats. But the party has no seats near Toronto except for Thornhill.
  • The party is squeezed by the NDP in some areas (Niagara Falls, London) where the Liberals are toxic. The fact that the NDP had a  »bread and butter » platform helped them.
  • The party still is unable to do gains in cities.

Here some ideas to help the party.

  • The party needs to find ways to find policies which new Canadians in the 416/905 could relate to. These people will vote PC, as they are not scared by the party if outreach is well done. You cannot ignore this demographic change. The federal Conservatives did a lot of ground game in this regard. They won big. The provincial PC need their Jason Kenney.
  • A positive message needs to be repeated. Look at the hockey analogy. Liberals=weak leadership and weak team. PC=strong leadership and strong team to make Ontario winning again.
  • The grassroots must be listened to. They have a local experience and a knowledge which very few other people have on the field.
  • You can have principles and values. But scaring people is not the way to go. Not in Ontario. But with a popular leader, you could play the  »leadership » card. You need a charismatic leader with our political where the leader takes a lot of space.
  • Party needs to have a better outreach among francophones. Even if the percentage seems small, they do the difference in some close ridings. Many francophones who vote Conservative federally still have this idea that the PC is anti-francophone.
  • The problem are not ideas because the PC had done some interesting white papers on many subjects. Problem is how some ideas are presented, it’s how you could market em. Tim Hudak did this mistake. Instead of saying that he will do better than the Liberals (and it’s not very difficult), he talked about things to scare people. Then even with their uninspiring ideas and their incompetence the Liberals played on that.
  • The party could do well in Northern Ontario mainly because the PC should be the party of decentralization.
  • It’s frustrating to have no seats in Toronto but the electors of Toronto are not your enemy. In fact, Olivia Chow is third in Toronto. Instead you must go to them and say that is why they should vote for you. Must electors in Toronto are pragmatic, they will vote for you if you make sense.

Four years is not a lot of time. But the PC should be in campaign mode from now to 2018, while being considered as the government in waiting by being the best official opposition possible.

Greens for austerity

Many have seen the images of this People’s Climate March that happened on a Sunday afternoon.

What is strange with some people at these events is how their compass of ideas seems broken. They talk that capitalism is evil, while forgetting that planned economies were big polluters. They talk about reducing poverty, but they want to live in a quasi-zero-carbon world. They also think that « small is beautiful » while wanting a very interventionist state. They want to have a progressive society, while preaching materalistic austerity.

The other thing is that some groups in this march are against Wall Street and bankers, while in fact, these Wall Street fund a lot of these  »green » projects.

As seen on an interview on Channel 4, it’s agreable that someone with Naomi Klein is at least honest about the intentions of some greens. The environnement is only an excuse to combat affuenza. In pure Malthusian framework (and Klein had probably more to do with Malthus than Marx), it’s not about making the masses richer, it’s about making everybody poorer, all this with a dose of old school High Toryism and religious moralism. What is seen with Klein’s latest book is that unlike Marx, Klein says that capitalism is bad because it ruins the Earth, while someone like Marx knew that mass production and technical progress was perhaps the way to lift the masses up to a better tomorrow.

The religious mantra also seemed to become more and more associated with greens, as judging that according to the message of some greens, we should be ashamed of who we are. This is not unlike some religious leaders who are saying the same thing.

The other thing is how the celebrities who are the « godfathers » of this movement are massive hypocrites. If we all had the same lifestyle as someone like Al Gore or Leonardo DiCaprio would we have higher or lower carbon emissions? Why are these people so greedy by wanting poor people living a life of black bread and low carbon emissions, when they live the high life which frankly is really carbon-intensive?

The power of the green band is that it is a brand where having good intentions is what really counts, whatever you are coming to the People’s Climate March in a big yacht, or tweeting against the horrors of capitalism on your cool, hip, capitalist made iPhone.

As young people say these days, YOLO (for You Live Only Once). If celebrities like Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio are living like that by using private jets, yachts and by having big mansions, why you should be guilty of not getting the best life that you can within your means? Stop doing what these people are telling you, do what they are doing and follow the high road, not austerity.