Election Polls:In My Opinion

As the clock keeps ticking, I am rapidly approaching the exalted state of old bugger.  In other words, I’ve been around for a while, and I’ve done a few things.  I’ve seen a number of elections come and go — some good, some bad, some indifferent.  However, I’ve never been asked or harassed into giving my opinion to an election poll.  The telephone has never cut across dinner, somewhere between the string beans and the ice cream; the deadpan voice of Nanos, Ekos or Ipsos Reid has never asked me for my opinion.  This doesn’t bother me much because, honestly, if I was bored that night, I’d probably lie.  But I do wonder why.

First of all, in times of non-election, the phone rings all the time.  I have any number of people concerned about me.  They want to know every detail about my personal hygiene, how I get to work, or how many adult beverages I drink per day, on average. (One?   Two to five? More than five?  More than five!)  I even get calls from Tammy, the robot who insists I’ve won a free vacation in Fort Lauderdale and some guy who wants to solve my credit card debt, among other things.  The only thing I’ve ever done to deserve this kind of attention is subscribe to a couple of magazines and park my posterior in a target demographic.  Yet, when my country wants to renew its commitment to democracy, nobody gives a damn what I think.

Secondly, I’m the guy they want.  I always vote.  I’m aware of the issues, such as they are.  I’ve always been in everybody’s target demographic – Undecided.  I usually make up my mind around half-time in the election cycle, and despite my obvious conservative leanings, I’ve voted Liberal enough times to qualify for a red scarf.  You’d think that every pollster and most political parties would definitely want to know what I thought about Health Care or F-35 jetfighters, not to mention which way I plan to scratch my ballot.  Nope, not a bit of it, and this isn’t the first time — it’s every time – since Trudeau swept me off my feet when I was a child.  What’s the probability of that, with a margin of error plus or minus 3.6 percent?  I’m beginning to think these polls might not be the be-all, end-all political weathervane they claim to be.  In fact, I’m beginning to seriously question their methodology.

I understand that polling is not an exact science.  Political parties and the media use polls to follow broad trends, not to predict elections.  But it strikes me that daily polls are taking polling beyond the point of absurdity.  Personally, I think pollsters hire a bunch of unemployed telemarketers and turn them loose.   They track the answers of the relatively few people who don’t hang up on them and present the raw data to the number crunchers.   The number crunchers (Nobody has ever seen them, by the way) apply some kind of voodoo mathematical formula to the whole mess, and voila.  The polls pronounce the Liberals are falling out of the race in B.C. or the NDP are gaining ground in Quebec — or vice versa.  These folks talked to approximately 2,400 people, chosen at random, and they’ve got the cojones to make statements like that?  It beggars the imagination.  There are 308 political ridings in this country; divide that into the number of people they talked to, and you get fewer than 8 people per riding.  In some places in this country, you can talk to eight people and never step outside the family.  Our country is so big it makes the poll numbers useless.  For example, according to one poll, the NDP have 20% of the vote and the Bloc Quebecois have 7.8%.  But in the end, the NDP are only going to win about thirty-five seats, whereas the Bloc will take over fifty.   In Canada, it doesn’t matter who likes you, or how much: it matters where they like you.  The polls don’t reflect that.

Then there’s also this idiot plus or minus margin of error, which can be as high as 6 percent.  Three questions?  How do they know what the margin of error is?  If they do know it, why don’t they fix it?  And finally, how come it keeps changing?  Has anybody ever gone back 20 years, looked at the polls and then compared them to the actual results of the election?  That would certainly give an accurate measure of the margin of error.  Then, there’s that whole “correct 19 times out of 20” business; I don’t think anybody knows what that means.

Polls are a strange exercise in diagnosing political thought.  In reality, at least in Canada, they’re practically useless; at best, they’re only ever close.  I can’t say for certain, but sometimes I think pollsters get a little beyond their per day, on average consumption of adult beverages.  They say, “Screw the phones!” and go into the back room and start throwing darts or rolling dice.  That’s the only explanation I can come up with to explain the mystery of why two polls from the same time and place can be so different.

Of course, it doesn’t matter what I think: nobody’s asked me for my opinion, anyway.

Canadian Election: A Family Affair

Last week, the State Legislature of Maine passed a law that made it legal for one-armed people (amputees etc.) to possess and use switchblade knives.  I suspect this is a good law, given the situation, but why under the sun and moon would anybody think about it in the first place?  I’m not even going to go there because it just turns into mean-spirited comedy.  You’ll have to fill in the blanks yourself — in your own head.  However, remember that somebody had to believe the state of Maine needed a law for these special circumstances.  They had to actively convince somebody in the Legislature this was a good deal, and that person, in turn had to convince everybody else.  I don’t know the final vote count, for and against, but obviously the majority of lawmakers in the state of Maine thought the people would be best served by a law governing switchblade knives.

It’s important to note that it takes a lot of time and effort to get a bill passed into law.  It’s not something you do one day after lunch.  The paperwork alone would make an environmentalist weep.  It’s a serious business.

This is where the whole law-making apparatus falls apart.  Those who govern us do not take their occupations seriously.  If they did, it would have been generally agreed, long since, that amputees in Maine — who needed to — could carry switchblades, and everybody would just shut up about it.  Honestly, how many times does it come up, anyway?  This isolated incident demonstrates that there’s a general theatre of the absurd attached to every government in North America.  The politicians we elect do the most ridiculous things — without a murmur of apology.  And then they try their damndest to make us believe it’s all so extremely important.

Just look at this current crop in Canada, trying to convince us that individually one of them is more vote-worthy than the other one.  Please!  Despite what the diehards say, Stephen Harper does not eat babies, Michael Ignatieff isn’t an American buffoon and Jack Layton doesn’t want to give all our money to homeless drug dealers.  They’re just not that evil!  Our politicos aren’t roaring radicals, bent on changing the world, and throughout our history, they never have been.  They’re uniformly bland.  In fact, Canada has actually suffered because our political leaders have always been cut from the same cloth.  As a nation, we don’t go in for revolutionary big ideas.  In the last 150 some odd years, Trudeaumania was the best we could do, and look where that got us.  Canadians like the status quo.  We’re like a Mom and Pop grocery store; nobody goes there for caviar or clutted cream but when you’re in a hurry, and you need a loaf of bread or a litre of milk… well, that’s a different story.

Think of it this way.  Our wannabe leaders are all from the same family.  They’re the children of the Mom and Pop store – kinda like a really, really cold Brady Bunch.  They have every one of the traits and idiosyncrasies that drives us crazy in our own families but we keep in touch — simply because they are family.  If you look at them this way, this unnecessary election makes a whole lot more sense.  Stephen is the oldest brother.  He thinks he’s been slaving away for years, without any recognition.  He’s arrogant and bossy and thinks he knows it all.  He’s been trying to run the show his way for so long he doesn’t think anybody else in the family knows what they’re doing.   Michael is the middle brother who got this cool job out of town.  He hasn’t been around for all the family problems over the years.  He didn’t have to drive Dad to the chiropractor, for example, or go to the funerals, or deal with all the other various problems.  Now, he’s come back home with some high-brow ideas, and he thinks he should have a say in the family business.  Jack is the youngest brother, and nobody takes him seriously.  He’s always been a little bit off the wall.  He gets to do the jerk jobs that don’t matter — like cutting the grass — but when it comes time to make the big decisions, nobody listens to him.  Elizabeth May is everybody’s little sister.  They pat her on the head and say things like “Good idea!” but she’s generally ignored.  At family gatherings, if there’s room, she gets to sit at the adult’s table, but if there isn’t, she has to go sit with the kids.  And Gilles is that somewhere-in-middle brother who wants to change everything around and open up a cafe inside the grocery store.  He doesn’t want to pay any rent — because he’s part of the family — but he wants to keep the profits of his little enterprise all to himself.  The rest of the family wants to keep him happy, but they think his idea is stupid.

Here on Day whatever the hell it is, that’s what this election is all about — one little family arguing with each other — after lunch on Boxing Day or Easter (or whenever.)  Nobody’s really serious, nobody’s going to get hurt and the family business will keep chugging along.

You can decide for yourself: how much of this is silly and how much of it is true?

There’s a War Going on

Okay, boys and girls: put away the chocolate and pour out that old, dead champagne.  Christmas is over and we’ve rung in the New Year.  Now, it’s time to get serious again, and, as my old buddy Eldridge used to say, “You’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution.”

As anybody who hasn’t been in a Jack Daniels coma for the last 20 years knows, there’s a war going on in Canada.  It’s a nasty little bush war.  There are no front lines and the combatants don’t wear uniforms, but the casualties are real and there are snipers everywhere.  The Government forces control the cities, the institutions and the media, but the countryside and the internet are alive with insurgents.  A virtual Civil War is being fought ruthlessly in Cyberspace and beyond, all across the country.  Canada’s Ancien Regime, established 40 years ago by Pierre Trudeau, is under attack by a loose coalition of brave rebels whose only weapons are words and ideas.  The Government and their collaborators want to maintain the status quo and the power that goes with it.  The rebels want the freedom they were promised.  They want to enjoy the harvest of their hard work.  They don’t want 80% of the resources given to 20% of the people.  They want to restore common sense and put an end to the unholy fear that Politically Correct generates.  They want a voice that isn’t manipulated by lazy journalists or shouted down by special interest groups.  And they want the future.  They want it to reflect the unique Canadian experience that produced this country.  They don’t want it squandered by short-sighted, flavour-of-the-week activists or the petty politicians who pander to them.

2010 was just one year in this long and arduous fight.   Here’s how some of it went:

We’re winning the War on Christmas.  “Merry Christmas” signs are back in a few shop windows.  Don’t get complacent, though: Happy Holidays guerrillas are still lurking out there.  Intimidation still stalks the land.  Store clerks still laugh nervously and look over their shoulders at the mere mention of the “C” word.  We can’t claim victory until that fear is washed from their tiny little part-time faces.

Unfortunately, our strongest street fighter, Humour, is still on Life Support.  As you recall, Humour was ambushed by the Loud and Proud crowd a couple of years ago and has been in Intensive Care ever since.  Jokes are strictly monitored, and observational humour is restricted to sex, kids and Sarah Palin.  Maybe, if each one of us could be just a little more irreverent in the new year, it would go a long way to help Humour recover. 

Our universities are still under the heel of the Army of the Politically Correct.  These bastions of intolerance are heavily fortified, and it may take as long as a generation for new ideas to breach their walls.  Just a reminder: free speech is strictly forbidden at Canadian universities, so don’t go there alone.  Campus security cannot guarantee your safety.   Canadian author Christine Blatchford and American nutbar Ann Coulter were both howled down by academic mobs this last year.

The Winter Olympics in Vancouver were a great success, and, for 17 days in February, we were all citizens of our country, not just clients of the government.  It showed, beyond all argument, that Canadians don’t need legislation to be Canadian – just ice and snow.

The dark shadow of the Canadian Inquisition still hangs heavy over our land, the tribunals are busy and the show trials continue.  The Inquisitors are bold and brutal, despite being soundly defeated a couple of times recently.  This shows just how much naked power they wield.  Their hunt for heretics is relentless, so don’t give them an excuse.  Manipulate language to your advantage, not theirs; they are easily fooled.  And remember, informers are everywhere.

The national NDP have been lying low all year, hoping to cash in on the Liberals’ imminent implosion.  Jack Layton’s has been saying little and looking wise.  He’s fooling some of the people some of the time, so remain vigilant — he has to open his mouth eventually.  Thank God the BC New Democrats showed their true colours when 13 malcontents brought out the knives and went Julius Caesar on Carole James.  Obviously their “new” democracy doesn’t actually include the concept of a simple majority — one of the foundations of the old democracy we’ve been living with for the last 800 years.

Naheed Nenshi turned politics on its ear in Calgary.  Without traditional support or media coverage, he took his campaign directly to the people.  He was supposed to be blown out of the water by the established candidates.  However, he showed what hard work and word of mouth can do and how contagious optimism can be.  He surprised everybody — except his supporters – when he was elected mayor.  It was a great victory.

Meanwhile, in T.O. the people had to either elect Rob Ford or call in Dr. Kevorkian.  We can only hope this is a bridgehead into Fortress Toronto.

But best of all, it’s 2011 now, and those old-fashioned ideas from 1969 are another year older, a little more tired and the bullies from the Baby Boom are one step closer to losing their chokehold on our society.

Good Night and Good Luck