Looking at US politics and the crucial 2022 midterm elections from we the north

Posted: June 14th, 2022 | No Comments »

NORTH AMERICAN NOTEBOOK. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, 14 JUNE 2022. Last week I had lunch on the leafy sunshine back patio of a long-established local bar with an old colleague and friend seriously down on the USA.

(And today this is only slightly remarkable in someone born and raised in a neighbouring state of the Union, who has now lived most of his adult life in the northern confederation of 1867.)

In some ways I agree with my friend about the present state of the land of his birth. But I also have personal reasons for wanting to see at least some strategic regions of the USA today with a future for the people who live there. And I have lately been warmed by the advertising slogan, “The Los Angeles Times … The state of what’s next.”

California for example (with a population slightly larger than all of Canada) has its problems. And its government could stand some reform. But who and what else hasn’t and couldn’t and so forth. In this as in other places there are still large parts of America’s too-little-celebrated remarkable diverse geography where civilization prevails. (And, to be broad-minded, I suppose I should say on either of two broad definitions, one of which I certainly do not accept myself.)

US midterm elections : historical background

It is in this spirit in any case that I have recently started thinking more or less seriously about US politics, with special reference to the legendary midterm elections — to be held this coming November 8, 2022 — less than five months away.

(And I note with special reference to some of my fellow counterweights editors that the interested North American audience is also now avidly contemplating the continuing TV presentation from the congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol in Washington, DC — with some attackers waving banners that proudly proclaimed “TRUMP”!)

The historical experience since 1862 has been that the president’s party (in 2022 Democrats of course) has lost seats in the House of Representatives in every midterm election except 1902, 1934, 1998, and 2002.

The results in the Senate have been somewhat more favourable to the president’s party. It lost no Senate seats (and often gained) in 1862, 1866, 1882, 1886, 1890, 1898, 1902, 1906, 1914, 1934, 1962, 1970, 1982, 1998, 2002, and 2018. (Though note here as well that US Senators were not popularly elected by US citizens until the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution took effect in 1913. Before this “senators were elected by state legislatures.”)

The 2022 midterms : some idiot introductions

To start with on the 2022 midterms the FiveThirtyEight website (“UPDATED JUN. 10, 2022, AT 10:47 AM”) suggests that Republicans are indeed currently ahead of Democrats, in “Do Voters Want Democrats Or Republicans In Congress? … An updating estimate of the generic congressional ballot, based on polls that ask people which party they would support in an election.” But the lead is far from vast (Republicans 45.0%, Democrats 42.6%) — and it was slightly greater a month ago than it is today.

In the real world of course the November 8 midterm elections are considerably more complicated than a simple “generic congressional ballot” might suggest. Taking a leaf from J. Stefan Dupré’s long-ago American Government course at the University of Toronto, I am starting with a potentially helpful “British subject’s idiot introduction.” In this case it is “Everything you want to know about the 2022 US midterm elections … When are they? What are they? Why are they!?” by Emily Tamkin, “senior editor, US” at the venerable UK publication New Statesman.

Emily Tamkin & friend.

Ms. Tamkin begins with : “The United States will hold its midterm elections on 8 November 2022. They will shape the second half of Joe Biden’s term as president and, ultimately, the country … Members of the House of Representatives run for re-election every two years, so all 435 House seats are up for election. Thirty-five Senate seats are, too (senators hold their positions for six years). There are also numerous gubernatorial elections and local elections … At the moment, the Democrats control the House: they hold 221 seats to the Republicans’ 208. (Six seats are vacant.) The Senate is equally split, with 50 members from each party. Kamala Harris, the vice-president, has a tiebreaker vote so the Democrats are nominally in control.”

Ms. Tamkin says a number of other interesting things. But for a modern Canadian citizen’s advanced idiot introduction I finally turned to four intriguing items from the CNN website : “There’s a lot at stake with midterms this year. Find out when your state is voting” ; “A roadmap to the 2022 midterm elections” ; “20 state and local elections to watch this year” ; and “The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022.”

Two tentative conclusions

Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball 2022 Senate ratings, Updated March 1, 2022. University of Virginia Center for Politics.

My first tentative conclusion from my initial quick look at the 2022 US midterm elections — from north of the lakes in the middle of the mid-June 2022 TV presentation from the congressional committee on the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol — has to do with the impact of the at least well-done presentation itself.

FiveThirtyEight presents its generic congressional ballot calculations for the past year. Democrats were actually ahead of Republicans until the middle of this past November. And if there is any serious strategic political point to the January 6 committee TV presentation, it lies in its potential impact on the fortunes of Democrats in what many seem to agree are unusually crucial 2022 midterm elections.

(I agree that something closer to the truth about the depths of what happened on January 6, 2021 is important to get into the official historical record of government documents. And to me it has long been clear that, whatever the exact lawyerly technicalities may be, former President Trump played some serious role in what did happen. But I still can’t quite see how Democracy in America can finally put someone who won 74 million votes in jail, even if his rival won 81 million. As one modestly positive sign on the impact of the January 6 TV so far, on the other hand, I am now finding Scott Jennings’s CNN TV contributions slightly less offensive.)

My second conclusion comes from reviewing the CNN website material noted above in all its vast complexity. This finally brings home the adage that this complexity itself may be the USA today’s most effective shield against any ultimate authoritarian political system. In any case CNN’s list of “20 state and local elections to watch this year” is bound to seem somewhat exotic to Canadians accustomed to the different and duller institutions of “Westminster” or British-style parliamentary democracy.

“The best thing America has done in my lifetime is elect Barack Obama president — and not just once but twice” (despite a disastrous first midterm election for Democrats in 2010).

Different states of the USA do different things to start with (and there are 50 states!). And, eg, what would be cabinet ministers reporting to a premier in a Canadian province can be elected as partisan cabinet ministers in their own right in US states (as opposed to ordinary MLAs, MNAs, or MPPs) — as in elections for Michigan secretary of state, Colorado secretary of state, Kansas attorney general, Iowa attorney general. And then in Democracy in America some states even elect judges — as in Harris County, Texas, county judge ; and North Carolina Supreme Court!

Of course, as fascinating as it may be, none of this directly affects what may or may not happen to Democrats in the federal House of Representatives and Senate this coming November 8. Like many others in many parts of the world (and especially just next door in We the North), I remain concerned. And my concern is not diminished by the just-received latest Gallup report on the issue : “Usual Midterm Indicators Very Unfavorable for Democrats”!! (I am personally praying 2022 finally proves a very unusual year, in this as other ways.)

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH VI: Ford Conservatives win majority government .. with record low voter turnout

Posted: June 3rd, 2022 | No Comments »
“Seniors’ Day at Value Village” by Michael Seward, May 2022.

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH 2022, CW EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. JUNE 3, 2022, 2:15 AM EDT. The results as of this moment in a 124-seat Legislative Assembly with a bare majority of 63 seats are : Conservatives 83 seats with 40.8% of the province-wide popular vote ; New Democrats 31 seats with 23.7% of the vote ; Liberals 8 seats with 23.8% of the vote ; Greens 1 seat with 6.0 %, and 1 Independent with 0.5%.

The election was altogether a disaster for the Ontario Liberals (even if they do end with very slightly more of the popular vote than the New Democrats). Leader Steven Del Duca lost his own seat in Vaughan-Woodbridge. And at the end of a rather classy speech to his campaign workers and supporters (and the wider TV audience), he announced his resignation as party leader.

Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats managed to retain a somewhat chimerical status as “Official Opposition” (with 52 seats less than the governing Conservatives). The NDP has done better in Toronto than it apparently feared it might. But it has (by the counting at this point) nine fewer seats than it won in 2018. And in a rather showy speech to her supporters, Ms Horwath also announced her resignation as party leader.

Mike Schreiner’s Green Party increased its share of the province-wide popular vote — from 4.6% in 2018 to 6.0% in 2022. It came close enough but did not win in Parry Sound-Muskoka (18,102 votes to 20,216 for the winning Conservative). It finished fourth in University-Rosedale in Toronto. And in the end it still has only Mike Schreiner’s seat in Guelph (which he did win convincingly with 54.5% of the riding/electoral district vote). At the end of Mr. Schreiner’s characteristically genial speech to supporters, he urged the second Ford “Progressive Conservative” majority government to steal Green Party policies!

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Now the Toronto Star is saying “Those who want to ditch Canada’s monarchy will have to do better to make their case”

Posted: June 2nd, 2022 | No Comments »

ONTARIO TONITE. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, 2 JUNE 2022. [UPDATED 6 JUNE]. This is the first day of the official celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th or platinum anniversary of what no less than the Toronto Star has called “her journey as the longest-serving monarch in British and Canadian history.”

(One might quibble about the “Canadian history” here. Serious monarchists in Canada today include the French monarchs to 1763 as part of this history, and Louis XIV was the Sun King of France for 72 years, from 1643 to 1715!)

Yesterday the Toronto Star joined the Globe and Mail — which on May 26 published its commemorative editorial entitled “Canada’s monarchy is here to stay. Embrace it” — in editorializing on the virtues of the British monarchy in Canada.

The Star, as Toronto’s alleged progressive or at least liberal newspaper, was not quite as aggressive in its support for what the late Toronto city councillor Tony O’Donohue liked to call (with a smile) “the offshore monarchy” in Canada. (A smile that would be warmly shared by the late Toronto civil rights lawyer Charles Roach.)

According to the Star editorial : “Those who want to ditch Canada’s monarchy will have to do better to make their case … ‘If those who oppose the Canadian monarchy can show how that can be done better with an all-Canadian model, then fine. But the burden of proof is on them.’”

The Star goes on : “There’s the obvious point that it would take a constitutional amendment to ditch the Canadian monarchy, which is baked into our constitutional arrangements through the role of the Crown as an institution (not the role of any individual … as monarch).”

Key to our system is parliamentary government not monarchy

But if you look at how our system actually works it is not the “role of the Crown as an institution” that is “baked into our constitutional arrangements.” It is the role of British-style or so-called “Westminster” parliamentary government.

And such other former self-governing British dominions and present-day parliamentary democracies as India and Ireland have shown that independent democratic ceremonial heads of state can serve Westminster parliamentary governments even better than the monarch who lives in Buckingham Palace in London, England.

The Toronto Star editorial also urges : “Anyone proposing that Canada overhaul its basic constitutional order will have to show what problem that is meant to solve.”

The first problem with the Star’s editorialists here is that, as just noted in the cases of Ireland and India, ending the role of the monarchy does not at all mean any “overhaul” of the “basic constitutional order” in a Westminster parliamentary government — in Canada any more than in Australia or any other of the dwindling number of remaining “Commonwealth realms” today. (And the new Labor government in Australia, eg, has just appointed an Assistant Minister for the Republic, Matt Thistlethwaite.)

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ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH V : Almost all sources seem to agree it’s in the bag for Doug Ford .. even if that’s not what 62% of Ontario people want !!

Posted: May 31st, 2022 | No Comments »
“Caught with Your Pants Down” by Toronto artist Michael Seward, May 2022.

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH 2022, CW EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MAY 30, 2022, 11:50 PM EDT. [UPDATED MAY 31, 3 PM EDT] : As we finally approach election day on June 2 there is some slight slippage of Ford Conservative support in all of the latest CBC Ontario Votes 2022 Poll Tracker, 338Canada Ontario, and the Toronto Star’s “2022 Ontario Election forecast tool,” The Signal.

By a similarly slight margin the Liberals have been gaining a little more than the NDP. With the actual election just two days away, however, none of the recent changes seem at all large enough to cast serious doubt on the projection by all three main poll aggregators of a Ford Conservative majority government.

It does seem possible or even likely enough that the Ford Conservatives will win a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on June 2 with a percentage of the province-wide popular vote even lower than the 37.6% won by the Bob Rae New Democrat majority government in 1990. (If not quite as low as the just under 34% won by what finally became E.C. Drury’s Farmer-Labour coalition government of 1919-1923.)

338Canada Ontario still has the Conservatives at 38% of the popular vote. But the May 30 CBC Poll Tracker puts them at 36.6%, and The Signal on May 29 is even lower at 35.8%. Whatever the exact result proves to be, it will no doubt be true enough that Doug Ford’s party will form a second majority government (if they do, as widely predicted), even though this is clearly NOT what more than 60% of the Ontario people want!

“Censored or ( 🤬 )” by Michael Seward, May 2022.

Part of this is just the result of the current “Three Plus” Ontario party system. The “First Past the Post” electoral machinery Ontario has works best from the standpoint of winning majorities of the popular vote when there are only two main parties. It is also true that the last time any Ontario government won a majority of the popular vote was 1937 — before the election of 1943, as it were, introduced the modern “Three Plus” party system!

Whatever else again, it is a plain if apparently impotent truth that Doug Ford’s Conservatives remain unpopular with a majority of the electorate, and there remains a very slight chance that the anger still felt by many against him finally will express itself more aggressively on election day, and stick the self-styled “Ontario PCs” with an unworkable minority government. But if we were betting men and women we wouldn’t put any money on this prospect. What will be will be. And the time for post-mortems is after the actual deaths!

UPDATE MAY 31, 2022 , 3:00 PM EDT : Thanks to the latest poll from Mainstreet, putting the Ford Conservatives as high as 39%, the CBC Poll Tracker “Last Updated: May 31, 2022 9:44 a.m.” has Doug Ford’s Party increasing its share of the vote somewhat, while all the other parties have lost share slightly.

Meanwhile yesterday Josh Rubin, Business Reporter at the Toronto Star, was continuing to explain : “Steven Del Duca at risk of losing his own riding, while Doug Ford headed for a second majority, polls show.” It would of course be so nice if the June 2 results wound up rather differently, just to confirm that it wasn’t really a “rigged election” folks. But again we betting women and men would not put our money where that particular mouth is right now!

The Globe and Mail seems to be saying that Canada must just accept some obsolete colonial constitution forever (and make the country today an Authoritarian State?)

Posted: May 28th, 2022 | No Comments »
“Lemongrass Sutra for Allen Ginsberg” by Michael Seward, May 2022.

SPECIAL FROM THE DEMOCRATIC DESKTOP OF CITIZEN X, ON THE EDGE OF THE CANADIAN SHIELD IN BUCKHORN, ON. K0L 0C1. 28 MAY 2022. There was a time when I thought of the Globe and Mail as Canada’s newspaper of record..

Then a retired engineer I knew who had worked on the Avro Arrow cancelled his longstanding subscription to the Globe. He said it had become too right wing politically for a real newspaper of record. Living in the GTA (aka Big Smoke), he subscribed to the Toronto Star instead.

My grandparents’ Toronto house where I lived until age 11 (long before I moved up here to the Kawartha exurbs) preferred the old Telegram (and before 1936, I was told, the old Mail and Empire). My grandfather apparently felt that the Toronto Daily Star of his day was a “red” newspaper. Yet in his last few decades my father, who was still taking the Telegram when we moved to a new house of our own in the suburbs, also finally subscribed to the Toronto Star.

When the old Globe, founded by George Brown in 1844, became today’s Globe and Mail in 1936.

I was still reading the Globe and Mail more or less as a newspaper of record back when my own kids were younger. I can remember them reporting on the subject to their grandparents. But like the retired engineer, by the time my kids were in their late teens or early 20s, I was also growing estranged from what was then I think still calling itself “Canada’s National Newspaper.”

I should acknowledge that I have all due respect for the hard fact that, according to one “List of the top 10 Canadian newspapers by circulation … Updated July 2021,” The Globe and Mail — “In print for 170 years” — is currently at the top, in the Number 1 spot, etc.

I should confess as well that I am an I-think-inadvertent part of the problem old newspapers seem to be confronting virtually everywhere, in the face of the new information technology.

I used to live in a house that sometimes seemed engulfed by newspapers (and magazines). I live in a much more at least orderly looking house now, with a much smaller overall consumption of paper products.

I no longer lean on even the pay-walled websites of the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail online. I rely on the still free reporting available on the CBC News and CTV News sites (to present them in alphabetical order). Then again, there is a vast assortment of tailor-to-taste online reportage and opinion in such places as Twitter …

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ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH IV : Starting to look like Ford cakewalk .. only small chance of minority government??

Posted: May 24th, 2022 | No Comments »
“51.4%” by (half Albertan) Toronto artist Michael Seward, May 2022.

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH 2022, CW EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MAY 24, 2022 : Just to start with, here’s a sunny lakeside toast to the real 24th of May, in the Old Ontario that only sees a 2022 future for itself under the newly “evolved” conservative grass-roots political guru from Old Etobicoke, in the Old Toronto northwestern suburbs.

(To say nothing of the shrewd gentlemen and remarkable women said to be running the premier’s current controversial but apparently successful enough election campaign.)

Old Ontario mood in the air

This Old Ontario mood isn’t the only element in the Ford Conservative political base of great consequence in the 2022 election.

But it is important, and you can still see it on the ground as you travel around especially Southern Ontario. It works hard to survive and it still has many roots in the old 19th century family-farm democracy, aka nowadays colonial settler society.

From here take the regional breakdown in the “Last Updated: May 24, 2022 11:03 a.m.” version
of éric Grenier’s “Ontario Votes 2022 Poll Tracker” on the CBC News site as one case in point.

Untitled by Michael Seward, May 2022.

The Liberals’ problem is that they are only in first place in one of the six regions — the new amalgamated City of Toronto (which now includes Premier Ford’s family home in old Etobicoke, and has 25 seats in the current Legislative Assembly).

The New Democrats’ similar problem is that they too are in first place in only one region — Northern Ontario (13 seats).

Meanwhile, the Ford Conservatives are ahead in four of the six regions : Southwest Ontario (24 seats), Greater Toronto Area (34 seats), Eastern Ontario (19 seats), and Hamilton-Niagara (9 seats — but note the New Democrats are very close behind the Ford “PCs” in this Andrea Horwath homeland.)

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ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH III : Ford not exactly on cruise control to certain victory with majority government, but …

Posted: May 18th, 2022 | No Comments »
“Untitled” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, May 2022.

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH 2022, CW EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MAY 18, 2022 : With a mere two weeks before election day on June 2, we’d point to the headlines for two recent opinion columns by noted analysts to summarize our own sense of where the 2022 Ontario provincial election is right now.

To start with we don’t quite agree with the memorable slogan for a May 17 Don Martin piece on the CTV News site : “Ford on cruise control to victory in Ontario …. .” We think the Ford Conservative polling numbers are not quite good enough for quite this buoyant an assessment.

It is certainly true that the two leading poll aggregators, éric Grenier and Philippe J. Fournier, are both projecting Ford majority governments as we write. But a poll just released today from Mario Canseco’s Research Co. reports that “34% of decided voters say they will support the Ontario PC candidate in their riding in next month’s provincial ballot.”

And it seems clear enough from the available records which begin in 1914 that no party has won a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario with as little as 34% of the popular vote — with the possible inexact exception of E.C. Drury’s unique United Farmer-Labour coalition government just after the First World War (and the so-called Spanish Flu pandemic).

How big a popular vote do you need for a majority government?

In 1990 Bob Rae’s Ontario New Democrats won a majority government with 37.6% of the province-wide popular vote.

Drury’s Farmer-Labour coalition governed from the election of 1919 to the election of 1923 with a slim majority of 56 to 58 seats in a 111-seat house (depending on just how supporters are calculated in a less strictly regimented earlier 20th century party system).

The combined popular vote of the two parties was just under 34%.

Since then, if our eyes haven’t completely glazed over looking at the numbers, no party has won a majority government with less than the 37.6% won by Bob Rae’s New Democrats in 1990. (Though Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals came close in 2014 with only 38.7% .)

All other such “majority government” victories in Ontario political history since the First World War have been accompanied by province-wide popular votes of at least 40% — and usually a bit more. The Ford PC s in 2018 had 40.5 %. The average vote of the eight successive Progressive Conservative majority governments from George Drew in 1945 to Bill Davis in 1971 was 45.6%.

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ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH II : Is this just the calm before the storm or the calm before the disengaged electorate?

Posted: May 14th, 2022 | No Comments »
Untitled by Michael Seward, May 2022.

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH 2022, CW EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MAY 14, 2022 : Among many other things, Greg Barns’s excellent recent report on the May 21, 2022 Australian federal election may suggest something of a parallel fresh but relevant perspective on the June 2, 2022 provincial election in Canada’s most populous province.

To quickly review the current Ontario numbers, the two best-known opinion poll aggregating projects — éric Grenier’s “Ontario Votes 2022 Poll Tracker” on the CBC News site, and Philippe J. Fournier’s “338Canada Ontario” associated with Maclean’s — are still predicting Ford Nation Ontario PC majority governments, with not too much less than 40% of the province-wide popular vote.

A bare majority in the current 124-member Legislative Assembly of Ontario is 63 seats. Grenier (“Last Updated: May 13, 2022 9:25 a.m.”) is projecting 72 seats for the PCs (or Ford Conservatives is almost certainly more apt) with 37.1% of the popular vote. Fournier (“Latest update: May 12, 2022”) gives the Ford Conservatives as many as 80 seats with 38% of the vote.

Both Grenier and Fournier are analyzing the same public polls using only mildly different assumptions. And it can be both reassuring and not surprising that they come to the broadly same average conclusions. Ever since the unofficial Ontario election campaign began sometime last fall, however, the recurrent Ford majority government average poll calculations have included a few individual polls suggesting a somewhat different story.

The best recent example is a Nanos survey for CTV News and cp24 taken May 7-8. It reported : “As of May 8th, 2022 the Progressive Conservatives have 35.4 per cent support, followed by the Liberals at 30.4 per cent, the NDP at 23.7 per cent, the Greens at 4.2 per cent, the New Blue Party at 3.6 per cent and the Ontario Party at 1.4 per cent.”

Nanos does not do more complex seat projections along with its individual polls. But a province-wide popular vote of only 35.4% is at the very least straying perilously close to a minority rather than majority government result. And the Ford Conservatives have recurrently strayed into this territory in individual polls — and even in some multiple poll averages — again since last fall.

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A primer on May 21 Australian election for (non) voters in fellow Commonwealth Realm of Canada (&/or next door in USA!)

Posted: May 11th, 2022 | No Comments »

SPECIAL FROM GREG BARNS. HOBART, AUSTRALIA, 11 MAY 2022. On May 21 Australians go to the polls in a general election. After what will be a dull contest, light on big ideas and competing visions, the choice will be between another term for the conservative Liberal National Party coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison or the election, for the first time since 2013, of the centre left Australian Labor Party (ALP) headed by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. The policy differences between these parties are, much to the disappointment of many, few and far between. The level of voter disengagement is high. The real interest in this election is the rise of independent candidates who are threatening incumbent Liberals by presenting themselves as genuinely liberal.

The Coalition has been in office since 2013 and in that time has cycled through three leaders —Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Morrison who has been Prime Minister since 2018. Morrison is a tenacious fighter, having won the previous election in 2019 against the odds. But this time it looks a step too far for a man who is described by some in his own party as dishonest, “a horrible person,” “a complete psycho”, and by French President Emmanuel Macron, a liar. The latter’s jibe came after Morrison announced Australia was joining the US and UK in the AUKUS grouping and cancelling an order for French made submarines.

Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese and Liberal PM Scott Morrison (right) find something amusing during the first 2022 leaders’ debate.

Morrison’s opponent Albanese is a child of the ALP. He has been in the federal parliament since 1996 and was a minister in the last Labor government of 2007-2013. Leader since 2019 Albanese has struggled to cut through with voters, albeit Covid has been a factor in that regard. He has maintained a “head down” approach to policy, with his party gun shy after it lost the 2019 election partly on the back of a scare campaign over much needed tax reform it proposed. Both the ALP and the Coalition have played the populist card with promises of big spending, despite the fact whomever wins will have to deal with a long term inflation threat, rising interest rates and a gaping budget deficit.

If the polls are right, Morrison’s government is too far behind to win this time. Opinion polls since last year, and they have not shifted despite Albanese being somewhat gaffe prone during the election campaign, have shown the ALP ahead of the Coalition by a margin of 53-54% to 46-47%. Currently the Coalition holds 77 seats, ALP 68, and minor parties and independents 6 seats in the House of Representatives. There is also a Senate election but, as is nearly always the case these days, it will be cross benchers who hold the balance of power in that chamber.

“Support for independent candidates includes a wave of ‘teal’ ahead of the federal election” in Australia in 2022.

What is intriguing about this election is the rise of the so called ‘teal’ Independents – a reference to the colour used in their marketing. These are independent candidates bankrolled in part by Simon Holmes A’Court, a member of one of Australia’s wealthiest families who is campaigning for greater action on climate change. They are running in seats held by the Liberal Party where there is a preponderance of affluent, well educated voters many of whom have traditionally voted Liberal but who see the party as now deeply conservative and captured by vested interests.

In my 2003 book What’s Wrong with the Liberal Party? (Cambridge UP) I argued that there was a gap in the Australian political ideas marketplace. On the one hand the Liberals had shifted to the right ; the ALP was influenced by the union movement and its right wing faction kept it socially cautious ; and the Greens had emerged on the left. There was no progressive liberal force representing the views of voters who are concerned about issues such as climate change, Indigenous Australia, and economic reform. The ‘teal independents’ are filling that void and look like they have a fighting chance of being successful in removing from office senior Liberal MPs.

The power of the teal independents is demonstrated by the hard fight the current Treasurer (in Canada, Finance Minister) Josh Frydenberg is having against Monique Ryan. Frydenberg represents Kooyong, a seat in Melbourne’s inner eastern suburbs which has been the one of the safest Liberal seats in the nation and which was formerly held by Sir Robert Menzies, Prime Minister from 1949-1966 and founder of the Liberals. Ms Ryan is leading in some of the opinion polls and is garnering support from voters who are particularly concerned about the failure of the Morrison government to take seriously climate change and to establish an anti-corruption commission. Similarly in the wealthy south east of Melbourne Tim Wilson, a Liberal assistant minister, is behind Zoe Daniel, a former journalist.

Former Liberal ministers and leaders such as Fred Chaney, whose family has been a feature of the Liberal Party in Western Australia since the 1950s, is backing his niece Kate who is running as a teal independent in Perth. Chaney recently penned an opinion piece in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald lamenting the takeover of the Liberal Party by the right and the factional warfare that has been tearing the party apart around Australia.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese and partner Jodie Haydon at Australian premiere of blockbuster musical Hamilton in Sydney, March 2021.

If the ALP is elected what might it do about some of Australia’s important unfinished business, such as constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, the move to a republic and a national human rights charter? It is certain that the Indigenous voice will be heard with Mr Albanese promising a referendum if he is elected. On the issue of an Australian head of state Mr Albanese and his party are committed to a republic and the imminent end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth will ensure the republic debate is back on the front burner. Australia’s appalling lack of human rights protection might also be a priority for the man likely to be Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus. There have been three attempts since the mid-1970s to follow Canada on human rights protections and each has been stymied by right-wing media and political campaigning.

What would the election of Mr Albanese mean for the Trudeau government, given both are committed to containment of China and in particular to ensuring China’s Asia-Pacific influence is checked? The short answer is that there is unlikely to be any substantive policy change from that pursued by the Morrison government. However the megaphone diplomacy and sabre rattling by current Defence Minister Peter Dutton will likely be replaced by more nuanced advocacy. On climate change an Albanese government will be keen to shed the image of Australia as a laggard, but moving away from a reliance on coal both as a power source and a valuable export commodity will be politically difficult given influence of mining unions and key electorates in states such as Queensland.

One possible outcome for this election is a hung parliament, with teal independents and current minor party and independent MPs holding the balance of power. This has been considered a real prospect but appears less likely given the present state of the polls. If this scenario became reality it would be much more likely that the ALP would form an alliance and therefore a government with the predominantly liberal independent and minor party MPs.

What many Australians hope for is an end to this election campaign where the most talked about feature has been the tendency of some in the media to catch out Mr Albanese with “gotcha” questions.

Greg Barns is a former political adviser in Australia, the author of four books in Australian politics, and a weekly columnist for the Hobart Mercury.

Pausing in Ontario election campaign to consider prospect that PM Stephen Harper and PM Justin Trudeau may (in some ways) be similar federal leaders?

Posted: May 10th, 2022 | No Comments »
Untitled by noted Toronto artist Michael Seward, May 2022.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS. GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MAY 10, 2022. Just as the Ontario provincial election campaign finally starts showing some (half?) life (maybe?), we’ve at long last just received the last narrative chapter in Randall White’s work in progress, Children of the Global Village : Democracy in Canada Since 1497.

It is called “‘An object lesson to the whole world … If Canada could exist, what couldn’t?’, 2006–2021.” And this title apparently refers to a quotation with which the book began (see “Prologue : too much geography”), from the British American economist and philosopher Kenneth Boulding (1910–1993) : Canada is an “absurd country … whose very existence is an object lesson to the whole world … I’ve always thought, ‘If Canada could exist, what couldn’t?’”

This last narrative chapter brings the particular modern democratic story that (for the sake of argument) began not too long after Giovanni Cabotto’s 1497 journey to some place on the northern North American Atlantic coast (probably present-day Newfoundland) down to the present moment — the Age of PM Stephen Harper followed by the Age of PM Justin Trudeau.

How does Mr. White himself explain that more than a year has elapsed since the posting in this format of his second-last narrative chapter, “The Return of the Natural Governing Party, 1992—2006”? He notes that all four now complete draft chapters in “PART IV : The Long Journey to a Canadian Republic, 1963–20??” have taken some time.

[READERS WITH LESS TIME MAY WANT TO OMIT THIS : The first — “Canadian flag to Parti Québécois government, 1963–1976” — was posted Dec 23rd, 2018. The next — “New northern directions (and two lights that failed), 1976–1992” — first appeared Dec 31st, 2019 (just over a year later). But the third chapter — The Return of the Natural Governing Party, 1992–2006 — was posted about a year and two and a half months after that, on Mar 18th, 2021. Now the fourth and final chapter in Part IV — “An object lesson to the whole world … … ‘If Canada could exist, what couldn’t?’, 2006–2021” — has appeared on May 7th, 2022, not quite a year and two and a half months after the third chapter.]

Untitled by noted Toronto artist Michael Seward, May 2022.

Mr. White reports as well that he might still be searching for an end to the fourth chapter, were it not for the March 22, 2022 Delivering for Canadians Now, A Supply and Confidence Agreement — masterminded by Liberal (minority) PM Justin Trudeau and New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh. This (a much overused word these days) iconic (and optimistic) bow to the concept of co-operation between centre-left and more radical left democratic political forces, White has speculated, at last provided a convenient end point for the story he wants to tell. (eg CLICK HERE.)

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