Growing Interest in Municipal Politics

There appears to be increased interest in municipal politics. This is possibly due to a combination of Rob Ford’s antics as well as the coming Ontario-wide municipal elections. But it may also be due to some recognition that a lot of politics is now taking place at the municipal level.

Opinion-Policy Nexus has posted blog entries that cover various topics related to municipal politics. Here is a summary of the most recent:

  • Dr. Zachary Spicer, a post-doc at the University of Toronto, sheds light on homeowners as a particular segment of the electorate that is more likely to vote in local elections, and thus, more likely to weigh heavy on decisions made at the municipal level.
  • Dr. Robert Williams, Professor Emeritus at University of Waterloo, provides some commentary on electoral reform at the municipal level.
  • Dr. Christopher Alcantara, an associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and a member of LISPOP, was interviewed by CBC Radio on the role of municipal-level political parties and the specific (and contentious) topic of Light Rail Transit for Waterloo Region.

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Interest may abate after the municipal elections, but there are reasons to believe otherwise. Over several decades, municipalities have acquired more and more responsibilities. Naturally, more and more researchers, students and commentators, not to mention voters, follow with greater awareness of the impact municipalities have on people’s lives. Also, municipalities are now more closely tied concrete issues that have typically animated “higher level” politics, such as employment and taxes. All of this suggests local politics will play a larger part in our general political discourse.

LISPOP Seat Projection Appears in Maclean’s Magazine

Published April 29, 2013, in Maclean’s Magazine. 

In an article titled Trudeau’s other opponent, LISPOP’s federal seat projection was referenced in relation to Justin Trudeau and his opponent Thomas Mulcair.

You can find the article here.


LISPOP Associate discusses federal Liberal candidates

Published Feb. 3, 2013, on CTV News.

LISPOP Associate Barry Kay discusses the second federal Liberal leadership debate. He discusses the challenges facing current Liberal candidates and how the format of the debate did not allow for meaningful selection between candidates. One of the biggest problems the liberal party is facing is that there are too many candidates saying the same thing without any genuinely new ideas.

Watch Here

LISPOP Associate discusses biggest challenge facing the federal Liberals?

Published Jan. 20, 2013, on CTV News.

LISPOP Associate Chris Cochrane discusses the first of five Liberal leadership debates. He discusses the challenges for the Liberal candidates and the party. One of the biggest questions to ask is how the less dominant Liberal party will position themselves against the Conservatives in the future.

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LISPOP Associate discusses property rights for First Nations

Published Jan. 11, 2013, on CBC Radio.

LISPOP Associate Christopher Alcantara discusses proposed law that would extend individual property rights to first nations living on reserves. Supporters say it’s a tool for economic prosperity. Critics say it’s an attack on sovereignty.

– Listen Here –

LISPOP Associate to speak at Conferation Club

The Confederation Club hosts Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, for its monthly luncheon Dec. 13, noon to 1:30 p.m., at the Kitchener Delta Hotel.

Bricker’s talk is called The Big Shift: The seismic change in Canadian politics, business and culture.

The center of gravity in Canada is shifting westward. As you move from east to west unemployment is lower and economic and population growth is higher.

–Link to Article–

LISPOP Associate Barry Kay dissects U.S. Election results

Published Nov. 8, 2012, in The Waterloo Record.

How did this happen, in a country where the pre-election debate seemed to be dominated by extreme right-wing candidates?

Part of the answer, says Barry Kay, Wilfrid Laurier University professor of political science, and an expert in dissecting American and Canadian elections, lies in demographic changes. The loopy right-wing rhetoric we heard in the headlines was out of touch with the belief of today’s Americans.

“There’s an inevitability to this,” he said. “America’s changing. Younger people’s values on these issues (such as gay marriage) are so different” from that of older people.

–Continue Reading–

Barry Kay comments on impact of U.S. election on Canada

Published Nov. 5, 2012, in the Waterloo Region Record.

Canadians across the country will be glued to the U.S. presidential election Tuesday, but one political observer is skeptical that it makes much difference to Canada who wins.

While the U.S. has both cultural and economic ties to Canada, Barry Kay, political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, doesn’t think the election of Democrat incumbent Barack Obama or his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, will change relations between the two countries.

Kay also wonders whether either candidate can bring much change.

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LISPOP Associate comments on Dalton McGuinty’s resignation

LISPOP Associate Barry Kay interviewed on Oct. 16, 2012 on CTV News.

“I predicted that Dalton McGuinty would not be on the next ballot, when on the last provincial election he failed to get a majority. There have been opportunities since too, as he had a shot in the by-election in Kitchener-Waterloo.”

Watch Full Interview

Momentum is shifting to Mitt Romney

Published Oct. 9, 2012, in Waterloo Region Record and Guelph Mercury.

In every political race, there are two key elements: expectations and momentum. Both are at play in the United States in the wake of last week’s surprising debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

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Prior to the debate, two-thirds of Americans (according to pollsters) expected President Obama to make mincemeat of his Republican challenger. It didn’t happen. Obama not only lost the debate by any objective measure, more importantly he fell far short of the public’s expectations. Meanwhile, Romney, who had been widely regarded pre-debate as a rich but naïve klutz, vastly exceeded low expectations.

As a result, momentum shifted. Obama, who had been gaining strength until last week (ahead by four to six points in several polls), lost his momentum. Polls taken within 24 hours of the debate showed Romney had narrowed the gap to about two points. By yesterday, other polls were showing the two candidates in a dead heat.

There’s a new perception that the United States is in for an extremely close election, perhaps a cliff-hanger on Nov. 6. Real Clear Politics, a poll aggregator, puts Obama in the lead nationally, but by just one percentage point. Gallup tracking calls it a tie –47 per cent apiece – while Rasmussen Reports has Romney two points ahead, 49-47.

In the U.S. system, the winner is determined by Electoral College votes, awarded state-by-state, rather by than by national popular vote – hence the importance of the dozen or so “battleground” states. It is entirely possible to win the election while losing the popular vote.

There are 538 Electoral College votes. As of Saturday, an appropriately named poll aggregator called “270 to Win” was projecting 265 Electoral College votes for Obama to 191 for Romney, but 82 votes were deemed a “toss –up.”

Real Clear Politics, in a new projection yesterday, made it Obama: 251; Romney: 181; toss-up: 106.

Jeffrey Jones of the Gallup organization calculates that the debate caused a five percentage point shift in voting intention, from Obama to Romney. A movement of five points is rare in an American election; for it to be driven by a single campaign event – the debate – is remarkable.

Very little of this movement can be attributed to the content, such as it was, of the debate itself. Neither candidate impressed me or others who shared their impressions. I’d be surprised if very many viewers can remember anything significant that was said by either candidate (other, perhaps, than Romney’s bizarre invoking of “Big Bird”). There were no knockout punches, no killer lines, no takedowns of the sort that Brian Mulroney registered against John Turner over patronage (“You had an option, Sir”) in the 1984 Canadian federal election.

In fact, the Obama-Romney debate was so flat that it didn’t produce a single respectable sound bite for political commercials. One U.S. humour columnist reported that millions of Americans had fallen asleep from boredom just minutes into the debate.

What now? The election is Obama’s to lose – and if he performs as poorly as he did last week, he may manage to do that. The next debate is a town-hall format, where the audience questions the candidate. It’s a format that should suit Obama’s style better than last week’s sterile format where a moderator posed all the questions.

Obama needs to go on the attack, something he conspicuously failed to do last week. He’s already started, with a series of commercials attacking Romney’s fiscal plan and the damage the Democrats claim it would do to middle-class families.

Where will the American public set the bar for the rest of the campaign? Will voters’ expectations be as high for Obama and as low for Romney as they were for the first debate? Or will Obama benefit from reduced expectations? Will Romney have to struggle to meet higher expectations than he has encountered to date?

The answers will determine momentum, and the election will go the candidate who can generate it in the final weeks.

Free speech must not be held hostage

Author: Barry Kay.
Published on September 27, 2012 on The Waterloo Record.

“Part of the problem of cultural insensitivity results from the widespread existence of authoritarian one-party dictatorships in many Islamic societies, where media access is restricted by the governing structure. Those living in Islamic countries where the government controls all speech available to the public might be susceptible to the canard that the American government is responsible for everything on the internet. However, there is no question that religious extremists committed to an industry of outrage are consciously exploiting this anger for political advantage.”

Assessing Devolution in the Canadian North: A Case Study of the Yukon Territory

Authors: Christopher Alcantara, Kirk Cameron, Steven Kennedy.
Published in September, 2012, in the journal Arctic.

Abstract: Despite a rich literature on the political and constitutional development of the Canadian territorial North, few scholars have examined the post-devolution environment in Yukon. This lacuna is surprising since devolution is frequently cited as being crucial to the well-being of Northerners, leading both the Government of Nunavut and the Government of the Northwest Territories to lobby the federal government to devolve lands and resources to them. This paper provides an updated historical account of devolution in Yukon and assesses its impact on the territory since 2003. Relying mainly on written sources and 16 interviews with Aboriginal, government, and industry officials in the territory, it highlights some broad effects of devolution and specifically analyzes the processes of obtaining permits for land use and mining. Our findings suggest that devolution has generally had a positive effect on the territory, and in particular has led to more efficient and responsive land use and mining permit processes.