Tuesday, 1 September 2015

About the 42nd Cdn Election

My previous post here involved a timeline of events leading up to this October's 2015 Canadian Election. At the end of it, I predicted a Conservative minority government. Here, I'll explain my reasoning.

Let me make a few things clear right off the bat:
1) I do not like Harper. (He killed the long form census, and I teach statistics.) But that doesn't mean all conservatives. I have good friends who are conservatives who might be reading this, so keep it classy in the comments. Also, don’t comment until after you’ve read the whole post.
2) I am not a political expert. As a general rule, I don’t like wading into politics, but I fear that someone has to. (Read this article about “getting ones head around politics” for some reasons why. Yes, I am aware that’s an American source.)
3) I am a teacher, I am in a union. If you now think I’m hopelessly biased, fine - personally I think we all are to some degree - but remember, I teach statistics, so it’s also possible that I know a few things you don’t. Also, these views are personal, not professional.

The reason I’m predicting the conservative minority is threefold:
1) The Backfire Effect
2) Status Quo is God
3) People Don’t Care Enough


The effect is easy to state: When your beliefs are challenged by contradictory evidence, those beliefs get stronger. As I said in my post “Ask a Scientist”: Something Aunt Wendy asserted when drunk will need to be disproved by a panel of experts before you change your mind. Because she was FIRST, and you have emotional TIES to her, and it makes SENSE in your world view.

Ergo (to pick a topic at random), if you believe Harper didn't know about Duffy, no news article spewing testimony is going to alter that opinion. Similarly, if you believe Harper did know, same argument. And if supposed facts won’t alter your beliefs, they sure as hell won’t change because someone with a different political belief system says so! I venture that the only thing that might change your belief is personal experience.

One of the more well known adages in writing is “show, don’t tell”. (That’s a TV tropes link, be careful.) And there’s a very good reason for it’s existence, as humans have a tendency to be skeptical of things we’re merely told about. (Bella Swan’s all that and a bag of crisps, eh? Okay then.) One can pair the saying off with “seeing is believing”, except it’s worse: in this digital age, we tend to “see” more of what already conforms to our world view. (I see you liked those TV Tropes links - would you also enjoy these Top 5 Hated Character Tropes?)

This digital masking cuts both ways, by the way. I saw a message on social media the other day saying “If you are going to vote for Stephen Harper please unfriend me”. That’s horrifying. At best, this person is building a little echo chamber (if they didn’t already have one) and at worst, they’re turning more people off politics. Not conservative people, I’m talking about the majority of undecided people who now WILL NOT vote (or will spoil ballots), because screw this noise.

In other words, for every “10 reasons to Vote for Anyone but Harper” post you’ve also got “100 Reasons to Vote for Harper Conservatives”. You’re not convincing anybody with facts, not if they have already formed an opinion.

Granted, I’m not sure if there’s a case to be made if enough people who ALSO share your belief start to have doubts. I’m no expert - feel free to read this on The Backfire Effect if you want to explore more on your own. (By my own logic, anything I say won’t change your mind!) My point is, the more you attack the beliefs of ANY party, the more entrenched those views become... which pretty much assures the Conservatives of, say, at least 20% of the vote. Moving on.


“People can be very frightened of change.” (Kirk, Star Trek VI) I believe this is partly to blame for TWO DEAD MEN GETTING ELECTED in the US, after one Democrat and one Republican died during their 2012 election campaign. And you have only to look at the Canadian Government’s targeted advertising to see the Conservatives believe this too, with their insistence that “Being Prime Minister isn’t an entry level job”.

Wait, sorry, that’s actually an NDP quote from 2014. (See? You're learning.) Still, the Conservatives are also claiming this isn’t the time for change. (Don’t interpret those attacks as me voting Liberal, Trudeau is simply getting attacked more.)

This dislike of the “unknown” means two things: First, even people who disagree with Harper’s politics might still vote Conservative (or Liberal, Bloc, etc) in their riding. Because that’s the local guy, and while things may be going to hell federally, at least where WE are, things are okay, right? (Granted there are 30 additional seats this election, and some key ministers aren’t running, but party lines are party lines.)

Second, people who did not vote in the last election aren’t going to vote in this one either. Why? Well, they don't know the process from back then, plus maybe they’ve heard it’s even more difficult this time, and what’s the big deal about politics anyway? Related, there has been a Declining Voter Turnout noted in the younger electors. Which brings me to my last point.


If you read my last post about the last 10+ years of elections, you’ll know that we elected a Conservative Majority Government after they were found to be in Contempt of Parliament (in 2011). Basically, all the other parties got together and told Harper “You need to be held accountable” and Canadian voters turned around and said “Nah”. (Yes that link is intended to be “Ironic”.)

Seriously, if that wasn’t the nail in the coffin, I don’t know what else could be bigger.

Now, I’m not saying EVERYONE doesn’t care enough. (In fact, some people seem to care too much, see my earlier remark about echo chambers.) But not enough people do - even the Americans have noticed how little we’re talking about things: see “The Closing of the Canadian Mind” (NY Times). We are uninformed. You are uninformed.

Yes, I’m calling you uninformed. That’s the only weapon left, really - not to attack your political beliefs, which cannot be shaken, but to say you are making an uninformed decision. You are blind to the other side (or blind to the idea that voting matters). And with the media mostly going after things you already have set beliefs on (the Duffy Trial, the Economy...), perhaps we need to look elsewhere for inspiration.

For instance, were you aware of the following 10 points?

1-The longer election campaign will cost more to taxpayers.
2-The City of Ottawa (and other groups) have asked the federal government to move their “Victims of Communism Memorial” (and they won’t).
3-The claim “2.5 million protected lakes and rivers is down to 159” is NOT true in an environmental sense, only a navigational one.
4-It’s been over 2 years since Harper last appointed a senator; this has led to him being sued by a BC lawyer. Ten of Harper’s 59 appointed senators have left the upper chamber (some of natural causes).
5-Data on Canada is drying up since the nation scrapped the mandatory long form census. And even if we get a new government, there won’t be time to fix this by 2016.
6-Proposed changes to the “Tax Free Savings Account” were said to be a problem for people in 2080. (Implication: not our problem)
7-The union for federal scientists broke their traditional neutrality in 2014, saying they will campaign against Harper. Seemingly more for his war on unions than his muzzling of scientists.
8-The federal government has retroactively rewritten laws (at least that one about guns) to suit itself. Omnibus bills!
9-The United Nations Human Rights Committee said the recent “Anti Terror Bill” (C-51, passed in June) may not contain enough legal safeguards. The Liberals supported this bill.
10-Less than 5% of Conservative candidates agree to interviews (unless they get the questions in advance).

If I’m incorrect on those, then I’M uninformed. Correct me. I don't know if that even makes a difference to you; maybe the Backfire Effect is still in full force, as it is with the media.


One final word for people who decide to point to “polls” - ooh, look the NDP is ahead! And they did well in Alberta! Well, the prediction in the United Kingdom for the May 2015 election was for a close race. The Conservatives took an easy majority there. There has been a bunch of later analysis. Rick Mercer’s had something to say about Canadian polls (in 2012) too.
"Obligatory" Mercer reference accomplished again.

If you’re still on “Backfire Effect” for your poll beliefs, here’s one predicting Conservatives as the favourites, and here’s a whole article about How Harper Will Win. (TL;DR: The Conservative plan is working if at any point you’ve thought “Trudeau is too inexperienced”.) Oh, but you've got a viral “HarperMan” song? Yeah, there was a song in 2011 too. And there was a website back then. And we still got a majority government, "in contempt of Parliament".

So yeah, I call conservative minority. A cynic might add: Followed by a prorogation, and as soon as oil prices go back up, another election. The nail went into this coffin back in 2011.

I believe the only one who can change that outcome now (assuming there is any interest in doing so) is you. Get informed, and vote.

1 comment:

  1. Quick follow-up: So yes, today Trudeau, the Liberal leader, became the Prime Minster of a majority government. I still thought it might be a conservative minority up to voting day, though wasn't quite as confident as I was when I wrote this post (six weeks earlier!). I think mainly because point #3, the motivation, seemed to be coming into play... there were a lot of people at advanced polls, for instance.

    Anyway, here's more information on what's in store for Canada now: