Given the current gridlock in the United States Congress, one might reasonably ask why it makes any difference who wins the Nov. 4 mid-term elections.
The American political system was created under the principle of “checks and balances” and “separation of powers,” which assumes a modicum of accommodation among the various branches of government for it to work efficiently. Alas, compromise has little resonance among contemporary political leaders in the U.S.
Only during the first two years of his presidency has Barack Obama been able to deal with a co-operative Congress. Reports suggest that immediately after his election in 2008, Republican congressional leaders vowed to frustrate his agenda at every turn
A casual observer of the Toronto municipal election scene might be misled into thinking that the mayoral contest would itself determine the city’s future policy decisions.
Certainly, media coverage of the race has focused almost exclusively upon the position of mayor, largely ignoring the other 44 council members. This absence of coverage forgets the fact that the city has a “weak mayor” system, with limited power of independent policy action for that position beyond appointing an executive committee.
On matters ranging from the revision of Rob Ford’s budget proposal, the rejection of his transit plan, his policy on plastic bags and then ultimately the removal of most of his powers when scandal broke, the council was in no way under the mayor’s thumb.
In a world that has become increasingly safe for tyrannical aggression to go unchallenged, as evidenced by the Russians in Ukraine, the Crimea and Georgia, and the Chinese in the islands of the South China Sea, the recent expansive activities of the militant group the Islamic State might all seem to be cut from the same cloth.
Most nations, including our own, have appeared to prefer to utter some pious denunciation, then keep our heads down and turn the page. If the United States wants to get involved, so be it, but we have been quick to judge if things go awry, as frequently happens. All this, so long as we are disengaged.
Whatever outcome results from the on-again off-again conflict in Gaza, Hamas is obliged to declare victory as it did in 2009 and 2012, if only to save face from the debacle they have put their population through.
Whether that “victory” is purely symbolic, as in “Hamas is still standing,” or has some substantive gain, remains to be seen. The rush by some academics to challenge battlefield accounts and definitively declare the conflict as an Israeli defeat depends upon definitions. The perception of any encounter can be revised so that any victory or defeat can be redefined upward or downward to mean anything.
Despite their obvious limitations and vulnerabilities, the one power the Palestinians have over the Israelis is the ability to embarrass them.
The wildly disproportionate civilian casualty rates have become the new media metric for evaluating military conflicts, except that here the public relations winner is the side with the greater losses. Just as we have seen with media election campaign coverage being overtaken by public opinion polls, the ability to put a number on the action seems to transcend any other analytical approach to covering the confrontation, such as underlying motivations, tactics and strategies.
The lopsided fatality figures coming out of the Israeli-Hamas confrontation in Gaza should be no surprise to anyone who can recall the data from previous conflicts in 2009 and 2012. The inescapable supposition is that Hamas undertook their rocketing campaign in full anticipation of enormous civilian casualties on their own side.
There has been substantial commentary about the implications of late June’s federal byelections on the next general election scheduled for Oct. 19, 2015.
One of the story lines raised by the media was which opposition party is most likely to challenge Stephen Harper’s Conservatives for the most parliamentary seats, and hence the ability to form a government. However, a fairly consistent pattern in public opinion polls has emerged over the past year putting the Liberals in first place since Justin Trudeau ascended to the party leadership.
Despite the New Democrats’ role as official Opposition, and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s dominant role in question period, it appears as if more Canadians see the Liberals returning to their historic role as the natural alternative to the Conservative party.
The particular set of constituencies contested in the recent byelections is in no way representative of the nation at large. Three of the four are safe party sinecures. While Alberta might be changing somewhat from the solid Conservative fortress it has been, that is most likely occurring in urban areas, not rural seats such as Macleod or boom towns such as Fort McMurray.
There perhaps has been no more fitting a metaphor over the years for the Palestinian resistance movement in general, and Hamas in particular, than the shahid, the suicide bomber.
While the tactics of suicide belts and bombing buses have been stymied by Israeli intelligence, and particularly the barrier separating West Bank Arabs from Israelis, the Hamas strategy has deviated little. Motivated by people who think the path to eternal paradise is dying in the pursuit of killing Israelis, they continue to follow the increasingly futile approach of placing Palestinians at risk in order to accomplish jihadist goals. Unable to achieve their goals by killing Israelis, they are now threatening to kill themselves.
Westerners who have difficulty fathoming this thinking are rightly appalled by the absurdly disproportionate casualties in Gaza and Israel from the seemingly endless barrage of rockets and missiles launched by the two sides. However, this is a part of the world where xenophobia and an obsession with lost honour prevail, and where compromise is derided.
Probably the only positive implication of the rapid expansion of Sunni Jihadist territorial gains in western Iraq is that it provides an opportunity for everyone to be correct in casting responsibility for the mess on somebody else.
In truth, everyone is to blame, from the English and French governments that drafted the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916; to the tyrannical Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein; to the George W. Bush administration that overthrew him; to the Barack Obama administration that removed U.S. troops; to the current government of Nouri al-Maliki that has cut out non-Shia involvement; to the Iranians, Saudis and Qataris who have poured in resources to support their co-religionists at the expense of others; to the Europeans who happily ignored the problem and blamed others.
Just as there is nobody free of blame, there is no correct policy to pursue. Whatever strategy is followed is fraught with peril, will likely be unsuccessful, and will undoubtedly further antagonize various of the combatants.
Given the praise ringing out about the supposedly wonderful campaign run by the Liberals that resulted in last week’s Ontario election results, it might surprise some to note that the improvement in the popular vote for the victorious Liberals was no greater than for the also-ran New Democrats.
Both gained a bare one per cent compared to their 2011 performance. On the other hand, Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives declined by four per cent. These seemingly modest changes in support levels account for the seat shifts that cost the Conservatives nine members, and transformed the legislature into a majority for Kathleen Wynne.
It is natural for winning parties to make various self-serving claims in interpreting their triumph about how it was a mandate for this or that. However, there shouldn’t be any misunderstanding that this election was more Hudak’s loss than a victory for Wynne.
Dr. Barry Kay meets with Global News on the Morning Show to discuss the results from the 2014 Ontario Election. The Liberal majority came as a surprise to most but Dr. Kay was prepared for a surprise as the polls were so scattered. The full video can be found here.
Dr. Barry Kay is mentioned in an article on Global News discussing the results from the 2014 Ontario Election which saw Kathleen Wynne come out on top with a majority Liberal government. Full article available here.
LISPOP associate Barry Kay was interviewed in an article discussing how the Progressive Conservative party had a great chance to win the 2014 general election but did not capitalize. Full article available here.
Dr. Barry Kay dicusses how the Kitchener Centre riding and its its predecessor riding (Kitchener) have supported the winning party province-wide in every federal and provincial election for the last 30 years. Full article can be found here.
Dr. Barry Kay was mentioned in a Hill Times article which discusses how the federal Tories and Liberals are trying to knock NDP off their ethical ‘high horse’ over free partisan mailings. Full article can be round here.
As we enter the final days of the Ontario campaign, there is an unanswered question that might be central following the June 12 election. If no party is able to form a majority of 54 seats in the 107 seat legislature, who will become premier and how will the government be formed? Conservative leader Tim Hudak has already declared that he will not participate in a coalition, but there is plenty of wiggle room in his statement, and he can claim that circumstances have changed, particularly if he falls just short of 54 seats.
Perhaps a more pertinent factor in sorting out the future of a minority government is the huge policy cleavage between Hudak’s austerity plan to cut government positions in his quest to create a million jobs, and Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horwath’s positions. It is difficult to imagine the NDP or Liberal caucuses supporting Hudak unless he jettisoned his key platform planks.
The protocol of the process suggests that following the election, the premier will make a recommendation to the Lieutenant-Governor as to who should form the government. If the Liberals win at least a plurality of seats, she will recommend herself. However, if Wynne falls a few seats short of the Conservatives, the situation becomes more delicate, and negotiations with the New Democrats will be critical.