31 December 2010

Of Decades Past and Future

As 2010 comes to a close, my hope for the coming decade is for an overhauled Canadian Parliament and similar changes to the BC Legislative Assembly. I doubt anything substantive will change in terms of policy or direction - for this country, this province or its communities - if these changes do not happen.

I hope for the people's representatives to be elected through a new inclusive electoral system; that the powers of back-benchers be returned; that the power in the office of the heads of governments be vastly reduced; and that Question Period, a farce today, be returned to a venue for vital rigourous debate on issues important to Canadians.

I hope for a reversal of the power and responsibilities of Canada’s three tiers of government. Local governments must have more power, greater areas of responsibility and additional means for acquiring their own, direct, revenue. Many Canadians appear, rightly, to have had enough of the paternalism of the federal and provincial governments toward municipalities; the governments closest to the people are those that should have the greatest political power to effect change.

Of the years 2001 through 2010, they constituted the most miserable and worst decade for me personally. The misery was lessened, however, through new friends and learning that this community truly was a ‘community’ in the old-fashioned sense. My rapidly-acquired and subsequently persisting straitened circumstances also came with a silver lining. They forced a reassessment of my values and shoved the activist in me out of the closet. Had my personal circumstances not been so bad I may never have opened my eyes to the distress around me or become such a strong proponent and activist for democratic (and housing) reform.

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29 December 2010

Simplistic Interpretation of Female Support Shift

I take exception to Keith Baldrey's simplistic interpretation of why female voters will play a key role in the next BC election - not that they will, but why their support may be shifting from the NDP to the Liberals.

According to Baldrey (chief political reporter for Global BC - oh dear!), one of the pillars pushing women's support away from the NDP is "the brutal take-down of a female leader" by members of that party.

I submit the reason instead to be the problems with the NDP leadership, provincial council and other internal machinery.

Baldrey's second pillar is squeezing that former NDP female support toward the Liberals.

were [Liberal leadership candidate Christy Clark] to become premier it is likely the Liberals would stand a good chance of corralling a huge chunk of the electorate denied them in the past. I suspect Clark appeals to a lot of young and middle-aged women voters...

Why? Because she's a woman?

Women have been voting for men for decades.

We also don't vote as a block. Women don't vote on the basis of gender but on a candidate's ability to represent the values and concerns that each female voter deems important. Just because a candidate wears a skirt doesn't mean she shares another woman's concerns.

As for female support leaving the NDP, Baldrey has more to say:

The NDP has long prided itself as a champion of the interests of women, and it even implemented an affirmative action policy to ensure more female candidates in the last election. But it is now seen as the party that undemocratically turfed a female leader, and it will undoubtedly elect a man to succeed Carole James.

In fact, it will be interesting to see if any women even run for the NDP leadership... If none do, it will be a stunning commentary about the party's true commitment to the interests of women.

Traditionally, the NDP has drawn more female voters than have the Liberals. According to Baldrey's logic, that must mean the NDP has always had female leaders.

As for that "stunning commentary about the party's true commitment to the interests of women" should no female candidate for leader come forward... again there haven't always been female leaders or female candidates for leader.

Should we construe from this that the party has never previously had a commitment to the interests of women? And does it have such an animal now - specifically to women, rather than to people, men or women, who share similar concerns?

Putting Baldrey's simplistic interpretation of the situation aside, women are more likely leaving the NDP because they see, as many men have seen, that trouble is a-brewing. A party that can't manage itself shouldn't be given a mandate to manage a government.

As for Clark's alleged appeal to an alleged mysterious block of women because she's a woman, I suggest instead that the appeal is her (again, alleged) outsider status to the Campbell government. That appeal has drawn interest from both men and women and as more becomes known of Clark's background and (absent) policy, that interest will again likely shift.

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Our Hearts Bleed

An interesting comment appeared on economicus ridiculous to my post about anti-HST sentiment plummeting.

Actually, the HST screwed my mother-in-laws [sic] best friend out of 15 thousand dollars when she sold her last home. She was looking to move into a retirement home and already had to sell her house at a reduced rate because of the poor shape of the economy. She got double dinged by the HST. It's a shame.

Yes, such a shame.

Let's look at the math, shall we? From my response:

There is no HST applied in BC to the prices of resale homes. It is only applied to real estate fees, which were already subject to the 5% GST.

In other words, your mother-in-law's friend would have paid an additional 7% on the real estate fee only. If she paid $15,000 more than she'd have paid otherwise, then we can calculate that the real estate fee alone was $214,285.71.

Real estate fees are usually set at 6%. Assuming that's correct in this case, the house sold for $3,571,428.50.

Had the real estate fee been less than 6%, the situation would be even worse in terms of this woman making a case that she was hard done by. At a 5% rather than 6% real estate fee, the sale price of her "last home" (how many did she turn over for investment purposes?) would be $4,285,714.20.

It behooves me also to point out that someone with a multi-million dollar house likely engages in activities or uses services that the rest of us plebes do not; at the least, she makes use of them far more often. For example:

A multi-million house consumes more energy than the poor abodes which house the rest of us. The drop in tax on residential electricity and heating from 5.4% to 5% would save someone owning such a house a bundle.

For people who travel in BC, the 13% hotel room tax has been reduced to 12%.

For rental vehicles, one no longer pays the $1.50 per day Passenger Vehicle Rental Tax.

For people you enjoy wine, beer or other alcoholic beverages on the many occasions they dine out, the 10% PST charged previously has been reduced to 7%.

For people who purchase vehicles priced over $55,000, the higher PST rate of 10% is gone. Now it's 7%.

If that shiny new vehicle runs on propane, the motor fuel tax no longer applies.

If one's family income derives from owning a business, one likely has saved from the conversion to the HST from the combined PST+GST. It's well known that the HST saved most businesses money.

Do Daphne and I bleed for the poor woman who had to pay $15,000 more in tax for the sale of her $3.57 MILLION investment home? NO. (The annual income of each of our households is two-thirds that amount: $10,000.)

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24 December 2010

What does it take to become a columnist?

More to the point...

What does it take to become blacklisted from future employment as a columnist by Canada's traditional media?

The Globe and Mail has removed the unsupported-by-evidence column by Norman Spector regarding PM Harper's marital state. But let us not forget this opinion also expressed by the same man and unapologeticly repeated by him.

Most media outlets seem keen to rewrite history. They have removed articles referring to that too. They forget Google. I've linked to the cache version of one of those articles.

So what does it take?

If there comes a vacancy, I wouldn't mind the job, to be truthful.

ETA: In case that cache version is removed too, this is what Norman Spector said of then MP Belinda Stronach on CKNW's Bill Good Show, October 30, 2006:

"I think she's a bitch... I mean it's as simple as that, and I think that 90 per cent of men would probably say she's a bitch for the way she's broken up Tie Domi's home and the way she dumped [Foreign Affairs Minister] Peter MacKay. She is a bitch."

What infuriated me at the time: Spector placed no blame on TIE DOMI for breaking up his own home (or on Peter MacKay for any role he may have played in his own breakup with Stronach). Spector's comment was not just inappropriately personal but more to the point for me, it was flagrantly sexist. All the blame rested on the woman, none on the men, as though the men were helpless to stop themselves.

ETA 2: I don't give a damn about the love affairs or marital accord or discord of politicians or other public figures. Doubtless, most of the public doesn't either. If only traditional media would get that message.

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23 December 2010

Anti-HST Support Plummets

From approximately 85 percent at the height of the period during which signatures calling for the HST referendum were collected, to the latest figure of 54 percent, anti-HST sentiment is plummeting.

British Columbians are thinking twice. Some have privately told me of regret for having signed the petition calling for the referendum, or for having too hastily judged the value of the tax.

British Columbians are signalling it was the process, not the tax, that so stoked their anger.

I am glad to see the change in these numbers. I support a taxation policy that favours taxing consumption rather than putting a price on enterprising activity, i.e., taxing earnings.

Provided voters get enough credible information about the HST prior to the referendum for them to make an informed choice, I suspect the referendum will fail.

The changing numbers regarding the HST could play a role in the BC leadership race. Kevin Falcon says he will reduce the tax from 12 percent, to 11, then ten percent. Mike de Jong wants to keep the tax at the current rate and favours the type of taxation policy that I do. George Abbott says he supports the tax and has not signalled anything with respect to reducing it; same also with Dr. Moira Stilwell.

Christy Clark... Well, who knows what her position is on the HST? She says she supports it and would like MLAs to vote on it. Would that be in its present form, or changed? Conveniently, not being a MLA herself, Clark would avoid the vote.

[Cross-posted at economicus ridiculous]

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20 December 2010

Response to James Bow's "The Forgotten Bloc"

Fellow non-partisan James Bow writes an important article on The Forgotten Bloc - the 40 percent of the electorate who are non-voters in this country. I wrote the following response in the comments section:

James Bow’s comments are bang on, including the one to Robert McClelland.

[To Bow's question "Why is no party leader or policy maker going out and talking to the 9.5 million Canadians to ask them why they don’t vote?," McClelland responded: "Because non voters are generally imbeciles that are impossible to placate. So it’s simply not worth the effort."]

After voting at municipal, provincial and federal elections throughout my eligible years, the last straw for me federally was the election of Oct 2008 and provincially, the May 2009 election and failed referendum for electoral reform in BC.

I declared myself [at 58 years of age] henceforth to be a non-voter until substantive democratic reform took place. Having done so, I was surprised and sadly gratified to discover others coming out of the woodwork.

Let’s face it, if you’re a non-voter, the arrogance, derision and hostility of many members of the still voting public do nothing to encourage non-voters to self-identify. Attempts to explain why we don’t vote are brushed off as irrelevant because “if you don’t vote, you have no right to be heard or complain.”

We are labelled ‘apathetic’ when, for the majority of us, apathy is the antithesis of what we feel in terms of the state of politics in this country or the options provided at ballot box.

Many non-voters, including those among youth, are more, not less, involved in their communities and globally, working to effect change, than are most voters. This participation and engagement is discounted, yet is more meaningful given the state of our politics than a 15-minute act every four years. For some voters, that act may be the only participation in civil life they engage in. Yet it is non-voters who, as a bloc, are labelled ‘lazy’.

With all this and media types perpetuating the myths, no wonder this huge minority - which threatens to become the majority - remains largely silent.

[Cross-posted at NADER]

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17 December 2010

BC's Political Scene: Voting age hypocrisy

For decades I have supported lowering the voting age to 16 for election of officials to all levels of government. I might even support lowering it to 14.

This week BC Liberal leadership hopeful Mike de Jong was first out of the gate with the proposal to lower the voting age in this province to 16. None of the arguments against the change have borne up, not even under the most halfhearted scrutiny.

The No side's primary objections: that 16-year-olds are immature, lack the skills to think critically and cannot form opinions independent of the influence of others (isn't the latter what political campaigns and mid-term communications strategies are about? - peddling influence?).

I recently suggested that those 18plus-year-olds who are slagging 16-year-olds observe their own chatter in terms of maturity, critical thinking, independent opinion... In other words, pot meet kettle.

I leave it to another to flesh out why lowering the voting age makes sense and to rebut the nonsense arguments of the naysayers. For me the bottom line is this:

The BC NDP allows members as young as 12 years old to vote for the party's leader. The BC Liberal Party permits 14-year-old members to vote for leader. Therefore, anyone against lowering the voting age to 16 who also runs as a candidate on behalf of the NDP or Liberals - for party leader or for a MLA spot - is a hypocrite.

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BC's Political Scene: The 'I am proud' waffle

I loathe the formulaic pseudo-answers politicos give to avoid answering specific questions asked by members of the voting public. One of those responses includes the 'I am proud' waffle.

As I tweeted to BC Liberal candidates yesterday: Voters don't give damn if you are "proud" of policy x or the track record of y. We want to know what YOU and your government would do now and in the future.

Politicians' habit to fill airtime with fluff like 'I am proud...' only raises my cynicism metre.

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14 December 2010

BC's Political Scene: The 'family values' theme

A few recurring themes have come up in the Twitter stream regarding the BC Liberal leadership race.

First is the nauseating use by leadership contenders of the 'families first' or 'focus on family' theme.

It is meaningless fluff intended to make people feel good.

Somewhere, sometime, someone (likely Frank Luntz) did a 'focus group' and determined that family could be a key into manipulating public opinion. That the family mantra leaves so many Canadians cold appears to have been overlooked by our politicos.

A more appropriate theme than family values (whatever the hell those are) would be community, specifically returning power and autonomy to local governments.

Communities are, after all, where families live. If communities were not so strapped for funding, or limited in terms of areas of responsibility and means to raise funding, then fewer families would be struggling.

The biggest problem facing communities is that of autonomy or the reluctance of upper tier governments to return power to them, the result of which has been communities with their hearts wrung out. Senior governments dictate one-size-fits-all policies for problems which they, and not locals, identify. Then they dribble money attached to those policies to a few lucky municipalities.

This typifies the funding problem. Money is attached to top-tier policy while the needs of communities, all unique, rise up from the bottom where families live.

So I say to Liberal (and future NDP) leadership candidates: Enough with 'families first' or 'focus on family' talk. Let's talk communities.

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06 December 2010

Responsibility and Leadership - UPDATE

Here is the audio video version of today's resignation speech and scrum by BC NDP leader Carole James.

James: "I'll be stepping down..." from Sean Holman on Vimeo.

Nowhere does James take responsibility or ownership of problems faced by her party. Indeed, she may only have furthered the divisions by blaming the 13 MLAs - to whom she refers as "bullies" - who were calling for a OMOV leadership convention.

The message in James' scrum is that these "bullies" wouldn't toe the line that she dangled.

Around 13:35, someone asks (I think Sean Holman): "Do you think you bear any responsibility?"

James' answer: "No."

Another reporter follows up: "Do you think you could have done anything better?"

James' response is again denial.

I am surprised and disappointed she didn't take at least some ownership of her party's difficulties. That she took none is only further evidence that James should never have been leader of a political party.

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Carole James Resigns - UPDATE

Took bloody long enough.

Let the speculation begin!

Maybe now British Columbians will have viable options, including substantive policy, for which to vote at the polls.

Maybe now the Liberals will be challenged by public opinion regarding their leadership choice.

Maybe now public opinion, not just the opinions of party members, will sway the choices for both parties. Which is only right, given that the leader of the governing party will become the Premier of this province.

ETA: It's unhelpful that the labelling continues right in the midst of Carole James' resignation speech. Seemingly her resignation was "a win for the bullies."

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BC's Political Scene: Chaos

For political junkies, the political brouhaha in British Columbia surrounding our (currently) top two parties provides a high ride. Its end may not come before Spring 2013.

First, we have the NDP imploding with dissidents and loyalists fighting over leadership, democratic process and control. The labelling largely thrown by the 'loyalists' at the 'dissidents' is loathsome. The media of course has perpetuated it and so, therefore, has everyone else. Loyalist, dissident: it's all about perspective, people!

Second, we have the Liberals at the start of a leadership race, with Gordon Campbell having resigned the post he still, ahem, occupies.

Four candidates have officially declared: Former Cabinet Minister Dr. Moira Stilwell; Former Cabinet Minister George Abbott, who claims the support of 11 MLAs; Former Cabinet Minister Kevin Falcon, who also claims the support of 11 MLAs; and former Cabinet Minister Mike de Jung. You may detect a pattern.

Expected to announce her leadership bid this week is also Christy Clark, who once was a Cabinet Minister but resigned for 'family' reasons mid-term through the Liberals' second mandate and has been out of government for six years. Clark has huge name recognition, largely I suspect not because of her role in government but because of her role as a radio show host.

Clark consistently leads strongly over the declared candidates in public opinion polls. However, it isn't the public Clark needs to convince in a Liberal leadership race, but members of the party. Given Clark's comments on her radio show, some members of the current administration, including fellow leadership candidates, could bear a grudge. That said, if the party has learned anything, it will listen to what the public is saying, especially given that listening heads the campaign theme of the four declared candidates.

So now we have the leadership status of both the NDP and Liberals up in the air, not to mention the continued existence as we know it of one of those parties.

In terms of the Liberal race, we have Clark without a seat in the Legislature and thus looking for a safe one to occupy. She may get help on that score from one Gordon Campbell, who spoke yesterday of the awkwardness of current leaders having former leaders hanging around. While Campbell said he would wait to decide on resigning as a MLA, he did put the issue out there. Further, should his seat become empty, it wouldn't be hard to suppose it to be a safe seat for any future Liberal leader. Vancouver-Point Grey constituents are, after all, used to having a Premier as their MLA.

Now consider the Liberal race within the context of the NDP implosion.

If Had Carole James hangs hung on, then given the public damage that has been done to her leadership, together with other public exposures of NDP processes and powers, then even a new leader of the Liberal party with strong ties to the current administration would be likely to win in 2013. In other words, it is was doubtful a James-led NDP could win against the Liberals, regardless of who headed the latter.

Given current polls, if the Liberals were headed by Clark, there would be no doubt of a Liberal win against James. Further, should Clark be the new Liberal leader and she occupied the Vancouver-Point Grey seat vacated by Campbell, it is likely she would call a by-election or a snap election. In either case, it would be for the purpose of obtaining a clear mandate, given Clark had been out of government for six years.

If Carole James resigns and a new leader of the party emerges, however, then the NDP might stand a chance in 2013 if the new Liberal leader has strong ties to the current administration. But again, against Clark, the odds of a NDP success fall, especially if there's a snap election.

In any event, if James were replaced by a new NDP leader, the latter would have to, and be seen to, have done serious restructuring within the party - and quickly - and be charismatic, open and forthright with the people.

ETA: Carole James is to talk to the media at 11:00 a.m. Oh, the suspense! ...CKNW's Penny Daflos reports James is expected to resign.

ETA 11:00am: Carole James has resigned.

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03 December 2010

UPDATE: Alberta, look behind your back

Alberta, your buddy Steve has done another number on you. He's done it to British Columbia and Ontario too, this time with plenty of company:

In April, the Conservatives announced with great fanfare Bill C-12, which would add 30 seats to the House of Commons, taking it to 338 from 308, to address severe underrepresentation among Canada's fastest-growing provinces.

Sounds good, although this was only a start to correcting that "severe underrepresentation." But what sounded reasonable, equitable and fair, rang alarm bells among certain folks who have benefited from that unfairness, most notably MPs who represent their parties constituents in the Maritimes and Quebec.

One can only suppose that Albertans, British Columbians and Ontarians don't matter as much to the leaders of Canada's political parties as do the voters in other parts of the country.

What other reason could there be for the leaders of all parties having "agreed to quietly sink" the legislation?

There is nowhere for (certain) Canadians to turn. Every one of Canada's rotten political parties have allowed the travesty of unequal representation to continue for decades. Now, in refusing to begin to correct it, they have tacitly agreed that all Canadians votes should NOT be treated equally.

Why am I surprised? Whenever parties have been in or near power they have resisted electoral reform; once relegated to the political wasteland, they have been in favour of it.

It's Shamocracy 2.0.

ETA: Desperate denials are now shooting forth from the PMO.

Tweeted from Althia Raj of Sun Media: "PMO sends out info alert denying Globe story on C-12 saying govt no intention to kill. But is silent on how they'll push it forward."

A few minutes later, Raj writes: Reality check on #C-12. There have been precisely 0 speeches on this bill. http://bit.ly/eZ4tLm

That aligns with Rosie Barton's sardonic comment of the bill appearing to be "at a molasses like pace."

In my view, if no action is taken on a Bill, it's as good as dead.

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Post Revival 2.0: We are Separatists

This is starting to become an annual event!

What is it about this time of year that makes Canada's federal parties suppose they can write off citizens' rights, in the service of their own self-interests? Perhaps they think we won't notice.

The prompt for this reprise of a reprise of an original post written two years ago is another collective, self-interested act by all parties, done in full knowledge of its result being further erosion of the democratic rights of a large swath of the electorate.

January 2009

For a long time, I've pondered the benefit of my community, now Vancouver Island, being part of the political entity that is the Dominion of Canada. Not because of any dislike for Canada's land, waters or people - that aspect of being Canadian makes me go all mushy inside - but because I can't see how a nation so large, structured as Canada is politically, can fairly represent and administer and distribute justice to all of its people.

As long as Canada maintains the power structure that it has now, then I would prefer that British Columbia be a nation unto itself - i.e., separate from Canada. Even better, that Vancouver Island go it alone.

Our top-tier government has only grown more powerful over the decades, not less. It has been steadily sucking political power from the nation's provinces, territories, regions and municipalities. Thus the federal government, together with its puppet masters, has steadily been eroding the ability of citizens in their communities to directly influence change.

More and more, citizens are taken as irrelevant by our politicians. The support of the federal government by large corporations powers the agenda of Canada's politicos. Their concern for the people functions only as an electoral device to "win" a mandate to govern, one that is rigged by our outdated voting system. And then the winning party governs for the CEOs. For "ordinary" Canadians (to which our political parties so fondly refer), to think otherwise is to be delusional.

Recently, I emailed these reflections to Daphne, and asked: Have you ever thought about things like this?

We don't always agree and I wasn't expecting agreement here.

"Yes," replied Daphne, "have pondered this and have talked to others over the years... At one time, I printed T-shirts which depicted Vancouver Island as forming the Vancouver Island Liberation Organization, hence breaking away from the rest of Canada."

Vancouver Island Liberation Organization t-shirt

Vancouver Island Liberation Organization T-shirts, anyone?

We are not alone in wanting to detach ourselves from the rest of Canada, friend Daphne explained. An emerging notion is that of Cascadia. The boundaries of Cascadia vary but in most proposals, all or part of British Columbia, Oregon and Washington state are included.

While some notion of Cascadia might be workable in the future, Daphne and I prefer thinking only in terms of BC or Vancouver Island separating from Canada.

Seriously, we're fed up with successive governments which are supposed to be OF, FOR and BY the people being instead OF, FOR, and BY Canada's CEOs. And a heckuva job those CEOs have been doing lately!

Consider one example which exemplifies the joined-at-the-hip relation between Canada's government and big business.

Successive governments have been selling off our1 resources under the guise of the Security and Prosperity Partnership "agreement" endorsed by the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the USA. (Don't be fooled. The name keeps changing, but the agenda remains the same.)2

Instrumental to the SPP is our very own Grand Ayatollah, one Tom d'Aquino, president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. Mr. d'Aquino is one busy guy! Read the article. You'll understand why we two, having trashed our rose-coloured glasses long ago, prefer to divorce ourselves from Canada Inc.

1 A sizeable chunk of "our" natural resources are on and in traditional native land and water.
2 Excellent Canadian sites for information on the SPP include Global Research and the Council of Canadians.

[This post was co-written by Daphne Moldowin and Chrystal Ocean.]

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02 December 2010

In Defence of Jenny Kwan

Jenny Kwan, the BC NDP MLA who spoke out yesterday on behalf of true democratic process in her party... she, who thus ultimately spoke out on behalf of the people of British Columbia... That Jenny Kwan was lambasted today by the majority of guest commenters on the popular Bill Good Show.

One commenter accused Kwan of having been silent throughout her tenure as one of only two NDP MLAs sitting as Official Opposition from 2001 to 2005. The man's observation didn't mesh with mine. It was Kwan's feistiness during that period that first drew my attention to her.

Another commenter remarked that Kwan had done nothing useful over her 14 years as an MLA and that she had been a constant annoyance to the party. Worse, accused the man, he couldn't count the number of times Kwan had cried in public.


How positively sinful!

How so much more appropriate that politicians endlessly express (manufactured) outrage - OUTRAGE, mind you -, that they bluster, shout, wave their arms about. I mean, really, that's so much more... what's the word I'm looking for... manly.

That Kwan has indeed been an MLA for 14 years; that 12 other MLAs in the party refused to don the famous yellow scarves two weeks ago (40 percent of the NDP caucus, in all); that MLAs, their constituency associations and their canvassers are more directly in touch with voters and their intentions... all these are irrelevant.

Why? Because the three governing institutions of the NDP have decreed it so. The party, they say, determines the leader. MLAs have nothing to say in the matter.

That suggests a major and fundamental flaw in either the party's constitution or its application.

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