Photos from the 2011 Federal Election

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What's wrong with full-day Kindergarten?

I've written and posted on this blog before about our overpriced, and over-managed education system that limits the options of parents in Markham and throughout Ontario with regard to their children's education.
A recent discussion in the Markham Economist & Sun about the Liberal government's plan to expand kindergarten has given me the opportunity to publicize my views in that newspaper's "Letters section." 
If you read the link you will see that there is disagreement around the appropriateness of full-day kindergarten for some students. It doesn't work for everyone and some studies show that it really isn't cost effective. For example: the clipping below right is from a study by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy that deals with evidence-based effects of class size reductions and full-day kindergarten on test-score outcomes of students. For full-day kindergarten it shows that there is an effect on scores compared to half-day kindergarten, but the effect all but disappears by the end of Grade One and is gone by Grade Five.
In a follow-up letter to the Markham Economist & Sun article, one of the YRDSB trustees (see below) pointed out that kindergarten is optional. Well, that sent me to my computer and I recycled older files to produce the following letter: 

Re: Children don’t have to attend kindergarten May 14th, 2011

To the Editor,

I’m certain we all feel reassured by the letter from YRDSB Trustee Joel Hertz.

Mr. Hertz assures parents that they can opt out of sending their children to full-day kindergarten. It is great to have that choice. It would be even better if parents could opt out, or at least redirect their school-based taxes to schools of their own choice.
Mr. Hertz also highlights the report by Charles Pascal indicating, “Full-day kindergarten can result in greater academic achievement and social success.”

Pascal’s report called for kindergarten classes of 26 students supervised by a teacher and an early childhood educator (ECE). Daycare would also be offered and supervised by ECE people at a reasonable fee at the same location from 7 am to 6 pm outside of the regular school day. This day care could be extended to 6 to 12 year olds if there is sufficient demand. The recession has delayed full implementation, but it is being phased in, and that will be completed by Sept. 2015, with initial costs of $500 million in the first two years and likely beyond the recently revised estimate of $1.5 billion.

Superficially it may appear that this program identifies children’s problems earlier so they can be dealt with earlier, and it benefits all other children, but the evidence for that is scant. Even if there was good evidence, is it really cost effective or desirable?

I should add that there is plenty of evidence that shows that the benefits accrued to children in the full-day program seems to disappear by the time the children leave the primary division (before Grade 5).

What else is wrong with full-day kindergarten?

It increases the government’s monopoly on education, while increasing the size of the public sector at the expense of private sector day and childcare, and reduces choice. It replaces market incentivized childcare workers with less accountable, less competitive, unionized teachers and ECE employees at greater cost. It further increases the dependence of citizens on government-sponsored programs. And it creates a new government-union partnership that invites province-wide daycare strikes in the future when the partners disagree.
As long as educators have no incentive to make substantive improvements, most will continue to behave as before and Ontario schools will strive to reach mediocrity at a high price.

By the way, you may be interested in this article about the limits of the welfare state from the Swedish perspective. Is Canada moving in that direction?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Election Day Autopsy Final Thoughts

Last weeks election has altered the political landscape of Canada (see left, the top chart are 2011results, bottom are 2008 results) , but only reflects what people have already been thinking. Elections summarize past thinking and events rather than project the future. There should be a line on each ballot that says: "past performance does not guarantee future results," like all the mutual fund companies are required to do.
This past week the mainstream Canadian media have focussed on the demise of the Liberal Party, the surge of the NDP and their rookie caucus, but very little on the most important result, namely what a Conservative majority might mean for the future.
Stephen Harper and his gang now have free rein, there are so many in the media and the general public that openly hated the Harperites, that I'm surprised that angry demonstrations have not materialized, though that may yet happen.
What will the Conservatives do with their majority? On May 6th I discussed the National Post's priority list. If Harper wants to keep his fiscally responsible supporters he is going to have to stop kowtowing to the other parties for their support, Gerry Nicholls says precisely that here. Of course Harper has no need to kowtow anymore, but he really needs to show that things will be different. One way he could do this was suggested by a Quebec writer a couple of days ago, and I like it. Appoint Maxime Bernier, a fallen cabinet star, to President of the Treasury Board, Stockwell Day's old job. I think that is a great idea, I have always viewed Mr. Bernier as "libertarian-lite" and this would be a perfect place for his talents as outlined in the article.
There are those that say Harper should not govern with an ideological bent because he will be accused of pulling out his "hidden agenda." When the Liberals or NDP suggest a new policy program for every little thing that ails us, they were never accused of being ideological, but of course they were. Its time we had some fiscally prudent ideology from the Conservatives, I hope it happens, but like some I'm not holding my breath.
In that article, Terence Corcoran suggests that the Conservatives acted like centrist Liberals in this election. This may be why the Liberals had such a poor showing, they had no where to go but to stray into "progressive socialist" territory, a realm already occupied by Jack Layton and the NDP, and since Layton was far more popular than Ignatieff, people chose Layton and the Liberals became redundant. In Ignatieff's election night concession speech he suggested he would stay as leader until he was no longer needed, 10 hours later was gone, and a day or so after that he was back to being a teacher, this time at the University of Toronto.
One of the best things that happened in this election was the collapse of the "fake-federalist-party" Bloc Quebecois, from 49 seats to 4, well deserved. Of course the poor Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe, is left only with a paltry $141,000 annual pension. Who got suckered there? 
I haven't mentioned Elizabeth May's impressive victory in British Columbia. She worked hard and moved there to find just the right group of deluded individuals from the wet (yes I mean wet) coast, land of Suzuki and all things environmental. I'm sure she will do an outstanding job of representing those people, she has proven she can play with the big boys in the 2008 leaders debate. Her party however, the Greens, is a dying force in Canada. Percentage  draw this time was 3.9%, down from 6.8% in 2008 (then approaching the peak of climate change hysteria at COP 15), down from 4.5% 2006, and even down from 4.3% in 2004. In the light of NDP cap and trade policy, the Greens are redundant as much as the Liberals. Lawrence Solomon has an interesting link that compares political support of global warming activism in today's Post.
Now on to the Ontario election, less than 5 months away, thankfully a date that was known well in advance.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Election Day Autopsy Part 3 - A hidden agenda suggestion

There in the chart you see the preliminary results of Monday's election (click to enlarge). The Libertarian Party had candidates in only 23 of 308 ridings across the country. If the Libertarian vote count in the chart were projected for the all 308 ridings, it would amount to about 0.5% of voters, about the same as I achieved in Markham-Unionville. Among so-called minor parties we did well, especially compared to the Marxist-Leninist/Communist Parties with a total of 93 candidates but only twice our vote count.
Most of the polls in this election got the party order of finish correct (first to fourth) but they really missed on the important outcome. Gerry Nicholls, who calls himself one of the top five political minds in Canada, actually made some fairly accurate predictions, including the timing, the Harper majority, and the Liberal Party's demise (he thinks they are done for good).
Advance polls in this election were busy, giving the Statist media (CBC etc.) hope that a major change like a Harper defeat was imminent. No such luck, polls are run by fairly inexperienced temporary employees so it doesn't take much incompetence to create a long lineup and the illusion of a crowd. The actual voter turnout (61.4% of eligible voters) is not significantly different from 2008 (59.1%), and my theory that BIG government causes small turnouts still holds.
Of course the most important thing that happened in this election was the Harper majority. It has been a while since a majority government  (Chretien 2003)  ran the country, one that does not have to pander to the other parties. Mr. Harper has a Master's degree in Economics, he is not a fan of J. M. Keynes, at least that was the conclusion in his 1991 Master's thesis:
So we can hope that Mr. Harper, now unleashed with a majority, will actually encourage free markets in Canada. We can hope. 
The National Post in their editorial May 4th outlined what should be on Harper's agenda, I think it represents a good start for a freer Canada. Here it is in italics with my added commentary:

1. Balance the books within three years. Good, but don't stop at that, phase out entire government departments and portfolios as well.

2. Enact income splitting. Yes, it cuts taxes for families but also revenue for government, so see #1.

3. Offer all Canadians full freedom of choice in health care. Starting immediately, the government should suspend the application of the Canada Health Act for the duration of its mandate, to allow provinces freedom to experiment with alternate financing and delivery models, including private insurance and hospitals. Excellent, and allow universities to open up medical schools to more students, and encourage competing medical licensing organizations like the OMA or CMA.  

4. Pass new crime legislation - but strike a better balance between punishment and the protection of society. Certain provisions, such as those prohibiting prisoner contact with visitors, for example, serve no discernible purpose and come across as merely mean-spirited; they should be scrapped. Likewise, mandatory minimum sentences for Canadians who own a few marijuana plants (a substance that should be legal anyway) make no sense. Moreover, the law should be reformed to ensure that Canadians engaged in legitimate acts of self-defence are not treated like criminals by our justice system. Rather than just this, move to decriminalize marijuana altogether, and look for ways to provide restitution for victims of crime possibly instead of incarceration for non-violent criminals.

5. Abolish the gun registry (finally). Good start in first mandate.

6. Increase funding to the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans. If Canada is to play a serious role on the international stage, assert our sovereignty in the Arctic, and take care of our veterans after they have served their country. I disagree, maintain or reduce funding and remove our troops from their role on the international stage, period. But take care of the veterans that have suffered in those ill-advised international adventures.

7. Stop distorting internal markets through corporate welfare, regional handouts and protectionism. In this category, we would also put the Canadian Wheat Board, which should be put out of its misery at the earliest possible opportunity. Good start for the first mandate.

8. Reform the Senate to make it equal, elected and effective - and subject to term limits. A worthy goal.

9. Scrap political-party welfare, otherwise known as the public per-vote subsidy. While Quebec voters have mercifully defunded the Bloc Québécois on their own, by slashing their support and the dollars that accompany it, the government should now make good on its pledge to cut the cord for all parties. Absolutely.

10. Reinstate a culture of openness, transparency and accountability on Parliament Hill. Now that the Conservatives have a majority, there is no excuse (not that there ever was) for the paranoia, secrecy, rule-bending, shirking of due process and committee bullying that rightly has become the subject of opposition ire in recent years. I would also like to see constraints put on lobbying, but done in a such a way that political benefits cannot be given to companies (see # 7 above) and regions of the country (like Quebec) with the goal to eliminate government influence from economic issues eventually.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Election Day Autopsy Part 2 - What I learned.

Every experience is a learning experience. This was the first election (out of two) that I had election signs. What I learned three weeks ago is that sign stakes need to be pounded deeply into the ground or you will be chasing and repairing signs for the whole campaign. Yesterday, with my wife helping, I learned that pulling out those stakes is back breaking work. Fortunately we have had a very cool wet spring, the ground was soft, so I managed to get most of the stakes out and I lost about 40% of the signs for a variety of reasons. I think I had mentioned that electioneering is hard work.
I also learned that neither effort, ability nor experience will necessarily get one elected. You might think otherwise.
See the picture over there? These young people are all part of the "orange crush," the surge of NDP candidates elected in Quebec, approved and led by the guy in the middle of that montage, Jack Layton. Layton seems to be looking at Ruth Ellen Brosseau, previously an assistant manager at Oliver’s Pub on the Carleton University campus in Ottawa. Ms. Brosseau, who speaks French poorly, was elected in a largely Francophone riding 300 km away from where she lives. She spent part of the election campaign vacationing in Las Vegas, and now there are irregularity questions around her nomination papers, particularly the 100 signatures required to be nominated.
In the top right hand corner of the montage picture is Pierre-Luc Dusseault, just completed one year of university, almost 20 years old, and now the youngest person elected to Parliament in Canadian history.
Then there is Mathieu Ravignat not in the montage, but he previously ran (1997) as a candidate for the Communist Party in Quebec, illustrating for all what the NDP really stands for.
Now I'm sure these people are passionate about NDP beliefs, but what were Quebec voters thinking when they cast their ballots for them? These young people will be receiving a $157,000+ annual salary, plus other perks and will represent voters for the next four years at least. They will be running the country in some small way. What kind of understanding do they have about...well, anything? I would not even have voted for myself when I was 20 years old. I had no sense of community, or family, or a real work ethic (outside of school), or much of anything. Sure I had ideas, values, morals, but little practice. These young people have skipped the apprentice stage, and have gone straight to prime time. Their victories underline the stupidity of large parts of the electorate. Most politicians say they yield to the wisdom of the electorate, what wisdom was displayed here?
I will have more to say.   

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Election Day Autopsy Part 1

Some of you out there in cyberspace might be wondering why I have yet to post my election results.
Wonder no longer, I've had a busy day deeply involved in the attempting to procure a service that only the government will provide here in Ontario.
My elderly Mother (92 yrs) has macular degeneration, and receives treatment in the form of an injection into the eyeball of the affected eye. Lately, injections happen once a month. Ugh! I know, but that can happen when you live long. This 10 minute procedure took 6 hours to deliver to my mother by the expert doctor whom we waited on. I take her to these treatments because she is virtually blind now, and I can "speed" her through the rigamarole. Some speed eh?
The rational behind a six hour wait in Ontario, is that government bean counters have calculated, that if the government reduces the number of doctors in the health care system they can control billing, and thus cost. Of course this results in long wait times for many procedures, any savvy adult living here knows this, and this article might help explain it to those who don't think it is true.
So that was my excuse, I spent an unproductive 6 hours in a waiting room, and I do this regularly. Who would stand for this? Well, Canadians of course, because "health-care" is "free." (see linked article to explain "free")
My 2011 results are up in the leftmost picture, the 2008 results are on the right. I believe I have identified about 230 hard core Libertarian voters, I wish I knew who they were. I will have more analysis and comments in a day or so. Stay tuned.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Election Day - Last Gasp and Predictions

The two pictures show my final campaign day (May 1) at the local shopping mall and my attempt to 'use-up' leftover lawn signs on a major roadway so they would be visible on election day. Electioneering is just plain hard work, with a very uncertain payback. Why anyone would be  attracted to being a politician as a job, is way beyond me. It's not a fun job at all. As I suggested on my radio interview a couple of weeks back, the job of MP should be part time, certainly the legislative part of it. In several American States that is exactly the way it is. During the many lengthy breaks that our MP's take throughout the year, not to mention election campaigns, the country seems to function just fine thank you very much. The government bureaucracy can handle itself quite well, and a smaller bureaucracy, as I would suggest, would function autonomously for lengthy periods of time without legislators mucking up the works. I can dream, can't I?

The unexpected news last night about Osama Bin Laden's demise, might affect the outcome of this election - or not. Reminders of 9/11 and discussion about terrorism throughout the day might favour Harper's gang, we will see. If the Harper-ites squeak out a majority, that could be the cause. At dissolution the House of Commons seat distribution was: Conservatives 143, NDP 36, Liberals 77, BQ 47, Green 0. 
Gerry Nicholls predicts: Conservatives 157, NDP 85, Liberals 56, BQ 10, Green 0, I think he has a soft-spot for the Harper-ites. 
My go-to-blog poll,, predicts Conservatives 143, NDP 78, Liberals 60, BQ 27, Green 0. 
Another poll has it: Conservatives 146, NDP 65, Liberals 63, BQ 33, Independent 1, Green 0.

My prediction for the country (which is just a guess): Conservatives 149, NDP 72, Liberals 57, BQ 30, Green 0.

My prediction for Markham-Unionville: Turnout will be fairly light, 50 to 55% of eligible voters will actually vote here.

The Liberal will win without a problem getting about 50% of the total, Conservative: ~30%, NDP: ~16%, Green less than 2%, and me the Libertarian, around 1%. A victory for me would be beating the Green candidate, its possible, but 1% would still double my showing from 2008 and I would be happy with that. With that base we could make some noise in the Provincial election this Fall. Even with less, there will be noise!    

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Election Day minus 1 - CHOICE

Trading places
Day 37: MAYDAY, MAYDAY! - Tomorrow is election day, and in just 23 ridings in two provinces across this great country, there is a real choice.

Choose the big Blue Statist governing party - Maybe they will keep your taxes at the same level, but their historical record shows they tend to be big spenders, and to grow the size of government, so expect more deficit and debt. They tend to be repressive in their social views and feel that somehow government should control individual choice with regard to one's body vis-a-vis drugs, sex, and abortion etc. They also believe that somehow Canadians should forgo their liberty in favour of a government big brother that knows what is best for each of us, so they will build more prisons to house the perpetrators of victimless crimes. They believe Canada should be involved in foolish international military campaigns that will "protect" us from terrorists or whatever happens to be in vogue at any particular moment (see Libya).
Choose the big Red Statist party - See above, except this bunch is possibly less repressive socially, and strangely has a recent record (Chretien-Martin) of being more fiscally responsible by shrinking the size of government. Otherwise they differ from the above only by their colour. This party also may fade from the scene at some point because they may be viewed as redundant.
Choose the big Orange Statist party - This bunch is possibly less socially repressive than the other statist parties, but they are the most fiscally irresponsible. They believe in sharing wealth at the point of a gun, like the other statist parties, but they really mean it. Like the others, they have a government program for EVERYTHING that supposedly ails us. In fact this party is the philosophical driver that underpins all the statist parties, and has done for the last 50 years in Canada. All of the other statist parties have stolen ideas from this bunch. They appear to the general media as the counter to the blue bunch above, but realistically only by degrees of difference.  
Choose the big Green Statist party - Also see above. Greens began as a party concerned with the environment, but that idea was stolen by the other statist parties. So the purpose of this bunch is vague at best, and I would expect them to fade from the scene at some point, because even they don't believe they are different from the orange mob.
Choose the Libertarian Party, the party of choice. Unfortunately this group has a very hard sell. Libertarians offer liberty and limits to the size of government. They would remove entire government departments, forcing those employees to find real productive work, but reducing the government salary burden and thus lowering the tax burden. They would remove a variety of "entitlements" that government now offers, reducing government spending and thus lowering the tax burden. They would remake the Canadian Military as a defensive organization, remove troops and equipment from various theatres of war and eliminate government spending for those efforts. In general Libertarians would give people their own money back, and let them choose how, when, and where to spend it. Government revenue collectors would be effectively disarmed, choice would be returned to government services with user fees and just plain less intrusiveness. If you read this blog, you may already know that, but it's still a hard sell, but it is the moral alternative to what we have now. CHOOSE LIBERTARIAN if you can, or select an alternative way to indicate your displeasure on the ballot with the choices in your particular riding, but, go vote. Uses your ballot as a weapon!

Just as an aside, I did an internet poll this morning where I was asked some very leading questions on my political views. I love screwing up the pollsters, and here is an example of one of the questions that I could not answer in all honesty (like a ballot with no Libertarian option OR none of the above options), but I had to, in order to complete the poll.

Some choice!

And now for something completely different: