The News Rundown
- If you've listened to our show before, you've probably heard about the ongoing BC mail-in referendum on electoral reform. Your ballots should have arrived in the mail by now (even through the rotating Canada Post strikes), as the deadline for Elections BC to receive ballots is November 30th. As of the 7th, only 1.4% of people have sent in their ballots, and as there is no minimum voter threshold for the referendum to pass, that's a worrying number.
- For those wondering about the different electoral systems, I outlined them in detail 2 weeks ago on episode 91, but to keep a long explanation short, BC voters are deciding whether to keep our current First Past the Post voting system, or to switch to any of 3 particular Proportional Representation systems, 2 of which have not been used anywhere in the world yet.
- For voters looking for more information on the new proposed systems, they had a chance to tune into a 30 minute debate on Thursday evening between our NDP Premier John Horgan and BC Liberal Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson to try and clear up muddy waters. The debate was moderated by Global News' Lynda Steele and CBC's Stephen Quinn.
- Wilkinson originally challenged Horgan to the debate on changing the electoral system, and Horgan agreed, calling it "an opportunity for British Columbians to see the arguments I put forward on behalf of change and the arguments the leader of the opposition wants to make in favour of the status quo".
- And arguments there were. For such a short debate, concerned voters probably left more confused than they had started.
- Wilkinson took a serious tone, accusing his opponent of leaving voters in the dark about what voting would look like if the referendum favoured a new system.
- He repeatedly demanded answers from Horgan on many issues, even asking him how many votes each person would cast in an election, and Horgan often dodged the questions or said that specifics would be determined after the referendum.
- "This is not a card game where you write the rules. This is important. People just want to know before they fill in that ballot: How many MLAs will I have? How many votes will I have? Under the current system it's very clear."
- Wilkinson repeatedly hammered Horgan on not being able to explain the proposed systems. “I think the key point, John, is that you’re the one who wants to change the system and it’s important for you to tell people how this is going to work. Twenty-three different features that you haven’t revealed to people. You’re in control of this process. We want to know and the people at home want to know how many MLAs they’re going to have, how many votes are they going to have, and how are these votes going to be transferred all over the province after they’ve cast their vote to get the proportionality you want to have in place?”
- And that's a problem with the proposed systems, that people won't know how exactly they will work until after the referendum is over. The NDP's own education minister Melanie Mark was asked about certain specifics of the systems by a reporter. While Mark said Proportional Representation would be a positive change for British Columbians, she was unable to explain in detail the mechanics of how any of the three proposed systems would work if implemented. She said “With all due respect I’m not an expert in this field. I do have a degree in political science, but I’m not an expert in electoral representation”
- However, Wilkinson's tone in the debate left much to be desired. His monotone grating voice often interrupted or talked over Horgan's responses, and his tactic of sowing fear and discord into the populace left many with a bad taste in their mouth. While it's probably true that many people are confused about the system, telling people that the systems are too hard to understand just comes across as him and his party thinking that voters are simpletons.
- And then on the other side there was Horgan. When asked by Wilkinson how votes would be distributed, what ridings would look like, how many MLAs would have, and other specifics on the proposed systems, Horgan dodged. As soon as we started arriving at a real answer, the moderators would jump in and say that "this segment is over", where they would move onto another question and the whole process would repeat.
- Horgan contrasted Wilkinson's more serious approach by trying to appear hip, cool and laid back. He used a few zingers during the debate "If I'm just going to listen to one guy yell over top of the other guy, I'm just going to watch Wheel of Fortune." and repeated referred to Wilkinson as "bud" or "man", as in "I think I still have 45 seconds, man".
- At one point, Horgan attempted to use youth slang to try to paint Wilkinson as being old and out of touch. He mentioned that youth liked the "idea of working together" and that if we keep the current system it will lead to more "old white men" as he pointed to Wilkinson and himself. Then, Horgan came out with one of the cringiest things that I've ever heard a politician to say (and with 2 years of Trump and 3 years of Trudeau that's saying something).
- Horgan literally said "If you were woke you would know that pro rep is lit." For those who are over the age of 30, woke is a term that means being enlightened, and lit is a term that means either fun, exciting, or intoxicated. The fact that Horgan, a 59 year old man used the term means that the NDP are worried that the youth vote, who favour PR more than older voters, won't turn up, and he used it as a way to get them on board. It's a direct piece of cringey pandering that I can't believe let fly.
- It's not the first time the phrase has been adopted in this campaign. Vote PR BC, the official group campaigning for proportional representation, has been using "Pro Rep is Lit" since mid-October as the centrepiece of a campaign to target youth voters. The students' union at the University of British Columbia Okanagan also embraced the same slogan as part of an outreach campaign in October. But it pulled down its ads after facing criticism from some student groups that it was biased.
- But here we are. Post debate we have no more information on each of the systems, and now we have pro-rep lit and woke memes circulating the internet. Because this is 2018 and this is the world we live in now.
- Ward 9 councillor Tim Cartmell, civil engineer by trade, wants the city to build effective transportation systems.
- Cartmell is calling for a halt on the west LRT
- In a passionate Facebook post Cartmell talks about his love for building things and his experience with mass transit in larger cities.
- Cartmell is first and foremost concerned that the $1b grant offered by the province may not materialize if and when the United Conservatives form government in the spring.
- The United Conservatives say that if they form government all existing approvals will be maintained for infrastructure.
- Cartmell makes the argument that if the funding were to disappear, the money spent by the city would make the west LRT the only project able to be built for years.
- Swapping back to his civil engineering background Cartmell highlights some legitimate concerns.
- First: The West LRT route was chosen to encourage new development around the stations. The city has not had much luck with the LRT encouraging development around existing lines. Cartmell wants to see what happens with the south east leg of the valley line first.
- Second: Should the transportation network encourage private sector development or be aimed at moving people. The West LRT will “constrict vehicle capacity” says Cartmell. Anyone going downtown from Riverbend, Terwillegar, or Windermere will have no mass transit options and need to move through the LRT corridor with their cars. The city has no mitigation plan for these commuters.
- If you live in an outside community, you’re effectively being penalized.
- Third: The city is still learning from the south LRT traffic concerns and the metro line is still having signalling issues.
- The west valley line LRT will be low floor LRT, mixed with traffic. It won’t be rapid such as the existing capital line running north to south, but instead will be streetcar like. Cartmell wants to see how it turns out in the south east before committing to a westward expansion.
- Western Context, technology, Cartmell points out that many cities are looking to in-road sensors and driverless electric buses for the future as a way to obsolete the rail system with rapid transit lanes.
- Ultimately Cartmell wants to defer the decision until after the spring election and preferably until the south east LRT is up and running.
- City hall and ideology.
- Ideology vs. cars
- Ideology for growth with rapid transit. Vancouver, New York, London.
- This week, I learned something that was news to me, the federal government has its own surplus store! That's right, if the government has overspent your tax dollars on new office equipment, furniture, electronics, or even vehicles, you can attempt to help the government recoup its losses by giving them even more money to purchase used goods.
- It seems that government waste is something that occurs even for flash in the pan meetings like last June's G7 meeting in Charlevoix Quebec.
- The federal government spent $23 million buying more than 600 brand-new cars for use at the G7 summit — and is now struggling to sell them off second-hand.
- According to figures the Royal Canadian Mounted Police provided to the National Post, 431 vehicles were to purchased to be used for “motorcade” purposes, and another 200 for “administrative” purposes at the summit, where the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan and Italy met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Only 51 are being repurposed for use within the government.
- According to the RCMP, buying the automobiles outright was considered the most affordable choice. “The RCMP conducted an analysis prior to acquiring the vehicles and concluded it would be more cost-effective to purchase rather than lease,” said Sgt. Marie Damian. “The analysis compared the cost to lease a vehicle over a one-year period versus the depreciation amount of a vehicle over a one-year period.”
- Purchasing also made it easier to transport, register and outfit the vehicles with “the appropriate equipment” months in advance of the conference, she said. The RCMP did not address a question about why vehicles from its existing fleet, or borrowed from other police forces, could not be used.
- For “motorcade” purposes the government bought 154 Chevrolet Suburbans, 140 Touring-model Chrysler 300s, 109 Toyota Siennas and 28 Dodge Chargers. It acquired 88 Ford Escapes, 43 Mitsubishi Outlanders, 32 Nissan Rogues, 30 Dodge Journeys and seven Ford Explorers for “administrative” reasons. From August through October, the feds recouped about $6.3 million from selling 167 vehicles via a government surplus website, mostly out of Quebec City and Montreal.
- Aaron Wudrick, executive director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, calls the purchase a straight up waste of millions of dollars for hundreds of new cars that we don't need. “It’s good that they’re trying to recoup something from this but the fact that they’re keeping less than 10% of the cars they bought suggests they bought way too many cars in the first place."
- Based on analysis of 135 transactions on GCSurplus between the beginning of August and the end of October, the vehicles sold so far have had an average of just 1,726 km on them. Some have total mileage as low as 41 km. The lowest-mileage vehicles are the 2018 Chrysler 300s, which have a suggested market retail price of between $40,895 and $49,195 new, according to Driving.ca. Based on 29 sales over the past few months — almost half of which were for vehicles that had less than 100 km in mileage — bidders were paying an average of $27,780 per car.
- The total budget for this year’s G7 meeting was more than $600 million. 4% of that was for cars we don't need.
- This is something we want to do more of here on the podcast, take a concept, explain it, explain why it’s important, and what the media gets wrong.
- Today: Polls
- Polls are always reported in the media as a snapshot in time of what may happen. Some even do projections.
- Polls aren’t always right: Alberta 2012, United States Presidential 2016, Calgary Mayoral 2017, Quebec 2018
- Polling methodology: IVR (interactive voice response), direct interview, or online primarily.
- Polling sample sizes: by way of statistical calculations the margin of error on a sample can be calculated. If you have a province of roughly 4 million and you were to survey 1600 people, you would have a margin of error of 2.45%, 95% of the time or 19 times out of 20.
- In a poll taken at the end of October and released this week, for example, 800 Albertans were polled aged 18 and up, and that survey had a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20, or 95% of the time.
- The poll said that 48% of voters would choose the UCP, 33% the NDP, 8% the Alberta Liberals, and 8% the Alberta Party.
- With this survey the UCP could range anywhere from 45% to 51% support. The NDP 30% to 36%.
- The catch: the poll was taken on Oct 24 - 27 and is likely to have become invalid since.
- Polls look at a specific window in time.
- Polls also look at a specific population and rely on the assumption, that they can be extrapolated to others in the same demographic.
- Polls also have to be weighted to represent the population correctly. A poll that surveys Edmontonians only (this Abacus Data poll did weight the population well) can’t be applied to Calgarians or those living outside of the major cities.
- Polls also have to take factor in demographics and likely voters in their weighting too. This was the problem in the 2016 US Presidential race that assumed turnout for the Democrats and Hillary Clinton would mirror that of Barack Obama’s turnout, it didn’t. Side note: We’re still waiting to see full data as to why the polls were wrong in the recent US midterm elections where a “blue wave” was predicted but it never materialized.
- Why the poll was embargoed until November 9, 2018, no one knows but releasing a poll from almost two weeks prior seems questionable.
- Polling aggregators: websites such as the former ThreeHundredEight.com and FiveThirtyEight.com in the United States rely on internal averages and statistical models.
- Eric Grenier who now works for the CBC and previously ran ThreeHundredEight.com used his own methodology for weighting pollsters and polls. Some of his metrics include freshness of the poll and accuracy of the pollster in elections.
- Ask any statistician who looks at a data set and they’ll provide you their own set of what makes an aggregation valid. It’s different for everyone.
- When it comes to projections, the question becomes a bit more difficult to answer.
- As you delve into a smaller region, the sample size becomes less valuable. If you survey Canada you may see a 2% margin of error, moving to Alberta 3–4%, but if you move down to the city level, the margin of error can be as high as 6–8% in terms of extrapolating the data.
- For example, a projection to determine how well a certain candidate would do in Edmonton Riverview in a provincial election would look like: taking a poll result for the City of Edmonton (since it’s highly unlikely Edmonton Riverview would be individually polled) and dividing it by the actual average vote result for the City of Edmonton in the last provincial election. Then finally multiplying this by the results from the last election to be held in Edmonton Riverview for that party.
- With this methodology in the 2015 Alberta Election I was able to project that the NDP candidate would get 59.9% of the vote, she actually got 62.8% of the vote. This is within the margin of error for the city. I projected the PC candidate at 21.9%, he got 19.4%. I projected the Wildrose candidate at 9.6%, he got 7%. And the Alberta Liberal candidate was projected in at 5.9% but got 7.3%. So factoring in polls, the projection itself was fine for Edmonton Riverview and the projection was fine because this polling data itself was valid.
- When are polls wrong:
- When the electorate suddenly shifts. Alberta 2012. The election was early in the week. The last poll was a Friday. Polls didn’t capture the shift away from Wildrose.
- When samples aren’t weighted properly: US 2016 Presidential
- When polls aren’t modelling the population correctly: Quebec 2018. CAQ: 37.4, LIB: 24.8%, PQ: 17%, QS: 16%. Polls said, CAQ: 33%, LIB: 28%, PQ: 20%, QS: 17%. No poll had the CAQ above 34%.
Word of the Week
Regression - a return to a former or less developed state.
Also, in statistics, a measure of the relation between the mean value of one variable (e.g., output) and corresponding values of other variables (e.g., time and cost).
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Regressive Transportation
Teaser: The BC electoral reform debate shows that Horgan wants people to be woke and lit, an Edmonton councillor recommends halting LRT plans, the federal government wastes millions on cars for the G7 summit, and we exercise caution on the validity of polls.
Recorded Date: November 10, 2018
Release Date: November 11, 2018
Edit Notes: WotW cut out
Podcast Summary Notes