Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Attawapiskat is Economically Unviable

There is no economic reason for Attawapiskat to exist. In this sense it is like many abandoned Newfoundland outposts. However, unlike those abandoned outposts the modern incarnation of Attawapiskat, which dates back to the 1960s, has never been tied to the world economy. It has never had an economic reason to exist. Outside of contracting and user fees, which amount to next to nothing, the band has no internally driven soure of revenue. Thus, the welfare of its inhabits depends on two things. 1) Federal and Provincial government funding. 2) The effective distribution of those funds. The NDP and Liberals have focused on the first of these, the Conservatives on the second.


Both miss the point. Namely, the community is economically unviable and people living there do not have the means to leave nor the incentive to leave. The two work in tandem. The less assets, work experience and education a person has the more attractive the prospect of obtaining housing, however squalid, becomes. This is doubly so if one already owns a home there. A bird in the hand is better than two in bush as it were; a dilapidated house in the hand is better than the dim prospects of a better house elsewhere.


Now, the prospects for Attawapiskat are dim no matter how you slice it. However, one thing that needs to be done with Attawapiskat and reserves around the country is this. 1) All reserve lands and homes need to be privatized with home owners given the right to sell their homes on the open market. 2) The financial burden of maintaining and upgrading housing must switch from the band to the individual home owners. 3) Band councils must gain the ability to impose property taxes.


Attawapiskat must be allowed to sink or swim and above all else people living there must be given additional economic incentives to leave. Either property taxes and the cost of upkeep will drive people away in the absense of a job, or prospect of using the capital from the sale one's house and land will. The later is obviously preferable. It means that the prospect future economic activity has given these homes, the land on which they built anyway, some value.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Vancouver Mayor and 4 former Vancouver Mayors call for the Legalization of Pot: Liberals should do the Same

Sam Sullivan, Mayor of Vancouver, 2005-2008

Larry Campbell, Mayor of Vancouver, 2002-2005

Philip Owen, Mayor of Vancouver, 1993-2002

Mike Harcourt, Mayor of Vancouver, 1980-1986

Have called for marijuana to be legalized.

http://stoptheviolencebc.org/2011/11/22/letter-from-former-mayors/

Current mayor Gregor Robertson calls for the same.

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Politics/2011/11/25/19020711.html



The Liberals should follow suit.

Legalizing marijuana would be good policy and for that reason alone the Liberals should consider it. However, beyond that legalizing marijuana would be good politics. The reason it is good politics has no more to do with the untapped stoner vote then same sex marriage had to do with the untapped gay and lesbian vote. I can assure you there is not there is no drug vote to grab. The reason it is good politics is there is significant ground swell of public support for the issue. Since 2004 polls put support between 50 to 55%. More importantly, opponent's arguments are a house of cards. See below. Just as with gay marriage the Liberals would benefit from having the Conservatives trout out stupid arguments for extended period of time. Just as with SSM the Conservatives are on the wrong side of history on this one. Let history steamroll them.


Potent Pot

Potent pot is more myth than reality.

However, even if one assumes that potent pot is a reality it is certainly nothing to be concerned about. Indeed, saying that potent pot is reason for keeping marijuana illegal is akin to saying that alcohol should be banned because gin has higher alcohol content than beer. It makes no sense. The pharmacological affects of consuming 1 "chemically supercharged" joint, as various US attorneys like to say, versus x number of "dad's joints" would be no different if the amount of THC consumed is the same. As for consumption, just as people do not drink the same volume of gin as beer, the higher the THC level in pot the less people consume. Hence, ironically more potent pot may be a welcome development. After all, one of the most prominent health effect related to marijuana, if not the most, is that it is usually smoked. The more potent the pot, the less people have to smoke to achieve the same high. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School concurs, so does Mitch Earleywine of the University of Southern California and so does UCLA's Mark Kleiman.

That said, if potency is the concern, then it should be legalized. After all, the only way to regulate the potency of pot is to legalize it. Moreover, so long as the drug is illegal, producers will seek to increase potency. The higher the potency the smaller the package the smaller the package the less likely they will get caught.

Finally, the attempt to scare parents that have grown up on marijuana by distinguishing between potent pot and “your dad's marijuana” is too clever by half. After all, it begs the following question. If today's marijuana is truly different in kind from "dads marijuana", would it be ok to legalize "dad's marijuana", i.e., low potency pot?


The US will Never Let it happen

Proposition 19 failed, but the issue will likely be revisited in 2012 and this time it stands a very good chance of passing. Voter turn for mid term elections is always significantly less than when the presidency is up for grabs. For proposition 19 to have stood any chance of winning Democrats, and the young needed to be energized. They were not and stayed away in droves. Even with everything stacked against them, though, the yes campaign still garnered 46% of vote.

Legal production of marijuana in California will make the legislation of marijuana elsewhere in the US all but inevitable and extension in Canada as well. Obama is not going to go to war with California in order to maintain a federal prohibition. Indeed, it was Obama that set the wheels of legalization in motion by declaring that he would not crack down on medical marijuana. For you see, unlike in Canada, in California, for example, one does not have to be afflicted with a particular aliment to be eligible for medical marijuana. A doctor can proscribe marijuana for whatever they see fit. Needless to say, such a system is ripe for abuse and the Bush administration was right to see medical marijuana program as a potential Trojan horse. But Obama let wooden horse to be wheeled into California and other States anyway. In so doing, Obama has allowed the medical marijuana industry in California and elsewhere to grow to the point there is no saving prohibition from Odysseus. There are more medical marijuana dispensaries in LA than Starbucks.

The Black Market will live on

It is one thing to illegally sell a legally produced product and make a profit, e.g., black market cigarettes. It is quite another thing to illegally produce and sell a product (e.g., moonshine) in market where there is legal competitors. The reason is simple. People want to know that what they buying and consuming. So when given the choice of buying an illegally produced product versus a legally produced product they are going to go with the later. (There is one notable exception and that is when an illegally produced product is successfully passed off as a legal one, e.g., fake brand name goods). That is why no matter how much Canadians drank during the time of American prohibition, I am sure that it never crossed the RCMP’s mind that American moonshine might become a competitor of Molson’s.

The gangs can not walk and chew gum at the same time

One of the arguments that I have repeatedly come across recently is that should marijuana be legalized then the gangs will move onto other things. I prefer to call this the gangs can not walk and chew gum at the same time argument.

The problem with this argument is that the gangs are already into other things and it is profits from marijuana that are helping them do that. In the context of Canada, marijuana profits and sometimes even marijuana itself are providing the seed capital the gangs need to expand operations into the States, for example, and to diversify operations (e.g., cocaine, heroin, human trafficking and guns). This is one of the main reasons why we need to nip this in the bud.


Gateway Drug

Researchers have rightly noted that people who have try marijuana are statistically more likely try other illicit drugs. This gave raise to the theory that there was something about marijuana that encouraged drug experimentation. Marijuana, it was alleged, is a gateway drug. This, in turn, was given as one more reason to keep the drug illegal.However, the gateway drug theory has until recently fallen on hard times for lack of an intelligible mechanism. The problem was that there was no coherent explanation for why marijuana would lead people to experiment with other drugs. Without this explanation doubt was cast relationship being more than mere correlation. That said, in recent years researchers have breathed new life into the theory, albeit with a sociological twist. According to the new version, it is not marijuana's pharmacological properties that serve as a gateway, but rather marijuana's illegal status. Specifically in the process of illegally procuring marijuana, users are introduced to the criminal elements with access to other illicit drugs and hence it is the forged blackmarket relationship between dealer and buyer that serves as gateway. Ironically the gateway drug theory has been turned on its head and used as reason for legalizing the drug. The Canadian Senate employed the new and improved version of the gateway argument as a reason for legalizing the drug.

In this context it should be noted that when the Dutch partially legalized the sale of marijuana, heroin and cocaine use went down despite an initial increase in marijuana use. Dutch use of hard drugs remains well below the European average.


Schizophrenia Marijuana

Epidemiological studies have consistently failed to show a positive correlation between marijuana use and schizophrenia and there is no causation without correlation. Specifically, should there be a causal link between marijuana and schizophrenia, there should be a positive correlation between marijuana consumption and schizophrenia, but such a correlation is conspicuous by its absence. Despite a massive increase in the number of Australians consuming the drug since the 1960s, Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland found no increase in the number of cases of schizophrenia in Australia. Mitch Earleywine of the University of Southern California similarly found the same with regard to the US population and Oxford's Leslie Iversen found the same regard to the population in the UK. According to Dr. Alan Brown, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University,


"If anything, the studies seem to show a possible decline in schizophrenia from the '40s and the ‘ 50,"


Much of the evidence linking marijuana to schizophrenia suggests not that it causes schizophrenia but rather that it may cause the earlier onset of symptoms in people who would sooner or later develop schizophrenia. Much to Gordan Brown's dismay, this was the opinion of Dr Iddon.



Dr Iddon, the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on drugs misuse [Britain], said the study did not convince him it was time to return cannabis to class B. "I don't think the causal link has been proved. I think cannabis might - possibly for genetic reasons - trigger psychosis at an earlier age." The MP, who is also a member of the science and technology select committee, said there was a danger of criminalising "hundreds of thousands of young people" if the status of the drug was changed. "If Gordon Brown changes the class of the drug, it won't be evidence-based but for political reasons," he said.

The Failure of Current Liberal Policy

A promise to legalize marijuana would be a welcome respite from the Liberals shamelessly taking inherently contradictory policies in hopes of capitalizing on both sides of this issue.

Indeed, on the one hand the Liberals have long maintained that Canadians should not be saddled with a criminal record for consuming something that is, after all, less harmful than alcohol. It is this light that Chr├ętien famously joked about having a joint in one hand and the money to pay for the fine of having it in the other. “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand.” On the other hand, just as they long downplayed the affects of smoking marijuana they have long stressed the importance of stiff penalties for trafficking. Both positions are popular with the public, but run the two positions together and it is as if Chr├ętien said this instead. “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand. Having paid my fine I would hope the cops find the person who sold it to me in put him in jail for a very long time.” If the act of consumption is not deemed overly ruinous then the whole punitive rationale for trafficking comes crashing down. Add to mix an acknowledgment on behalf of the Liberal party that marijuana can serve a medical purpose and you have a conceptual train wreck as a policy.

Far from helping the Liberals such an approach probably harmed them. It angered ardent supporters of both sides of the political divide at the same time and prevented the Liberals from saying anything intelligent about the issue. Moreover, as far the general public is concerned, the Liberals have gained nothing by trying to emulate the Conservative's tough on crime stance. The reason is simple. As Tom Flanagan crowed after the 2006 election that there are certain issues that just favour the Conservatives. The example he gave was the economy. No matter how successful the Liberals were in balancing the books and creating jobs, Conservative research suggested that when it came to economics people trusted the Conservatives more than they did the Liberals. It does not much of leap to suggest the same is true for crime. After all, to presume that the public has a working knowledge of each party's justice policies is giving the public way too much credit; the public trades in stereotypes and they are always going to believe that Conservatives are tougher on crime. This is especially so now. The Conservatives are in power and for this reason alone what they say with regard to crime garners headlines. By contrast, past Liberal support for some those Conservative tough on crime measures has drawn almost no attention at all. Of course, even if the Liberals were able to convince Canadians did support this or that Conservative measure, the Conservatives have a fail safe. They have claimed and will continue to claim that the Liberals had ability to introduce such policies when they were in power and failed to do so. No one likes a Johnny come lately.

So long as the debate is centered around sentencing, the Conservatives win. The Liberals need to shift the focus from punishment to the legitmacy of various laws. This is the only way of Liberals will be able to strave the Conservatives' populist tough on crime agenda of oxegen.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Liberals are waiting for Godot

The biggest hurdle facing the Liberals is relevance. They finished with less than 20% in two thirds of the seats. Outside of a few urban and suburban seats in Winnipeg and Vancouver and Goodale's seat the Liberals were neck and neck with the Green's west of Ontario. Outside of Montreal, the situation is even worse in Quebec.


The Liberals are not going to be able to build from the grassroots up for the simple reason that in great swaths of the country there is no grassroots from which foster a rebirth.


If the Liberals are going to make a comeback, it will have to be orchestrated from the top not from the bottom. Furthermore, such a rebirth is only possible within the next couple of years. The Canadian population feels no loyalty to the "natural governing party" whatsoever. The Liberals have for so long stood for nothing that no body stands with them now. If the Liberals do not reinvent themselves and quick, they will loose what urban seats they have left to the NDP and what suburban seats they have to the Conservatives.


So, what can be done? The Liberals need to take advantage of the only thing they have going for them, viz., a residual interest in them from the nation's media. They must pursue policies that draw headlines and fuel editorials. That means support for legalizing marijuana and euthanasia. That means supporting mandatory voting. That means abandoning support for equity, asymmetrical federalism and collective rights. That means calls to abolish the senate, the monarchy and a call for much more representative House. The Liberals can not longer afford be the party that defends the status quo. They have to be the one challenging it.


Of course, such a strategy will can only work if the Liberals abandon the notion that they can use the media to reach Canadians. The bulk of the silly, insubstantive, unoffensive, small ball talking points that Liberals trotted out in opposition interested no one least of all the media. Very few ever reached your average Canadian accept maybe as the objects of ridicule in various editorial columns. As the third party, things will be even worse. No, the Liberals have to develop coherent positions and arguments and serve as the liberal columnists and opinion makers that Canada simply does not have. Their goal should be to dominate the national discussion for long as possible.

Marijuana legalization has more potential politically than legalizing Euthanasia

Euthanasia has more support, but legalizing marijuana has far more potential politically for three reasons.

1) Other countries already have euthanasia policies in place. This is not the case for marijuana. No one has legalized pot. If Canada were to legalize pot, the amount of international attention would be enormous. The Conservative tough on crime agenda would be starved for oxygen.

2) Not only does this have the support of huge numbers of people internationally, the issue is pregnant in ways that euthanasia is not. The huge cost of the war on drugs is straining budgets. Marijuana prohibition is quickly loosing legitimacy in the Western world, is quickly being rendered untenable by emergence of loose medical marijuana laws (e.g., California) and is feeding corruption and drug related violence elsewhere, most notably Mexico.

3) Euthanasia like a abortion rises extremely complicated philosophical issues in ways that marijuana legalization does not. Deeply complex issues relating to personhood and viability abound. Marijuana is much more like SSM in that opposition arguments are so bad that that it mocked as a form of madness, reefer madness. This matters a lot. The Liberals will benefit from having the Conservatives trout out the same dumb arguments months on end.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An elected Senate is inconsistent with notion of Rep by pop and is an all around terrible Idea

Constitutionally senators have all kinds of power and every once in a blue moon the Senate has stalled major pieces of legislation (e.g., free trade and the GST). However the aforementioned instances of stalling are so rare they are the exceptions that prove just how "ineffective" the senate truly is. Moreover, no senate I can think of has pursued a legislative agenda of its own accord; opposing legislation is one thing; purposing legislation is quite another. The reason the senate is not an "effective" body is that senators are not elected and as such lack legitimacy. Furthermore, senators are members of legitimate federal political parties and the parties that they belong to are loath to have their unelected members exercise real authority least their actions undermine the party. Finally, the fact that it is the ruling federal party and not, say, provincial governments that appoint senators defines a clear pecking order, with the Senate answerable to the House.

Harper, of course, wants to reform the Senate. Being unable to reform the Senate in one fell swoop, Harper has proposed electing Senators piece meal. Under the Conservative plan, new senators would be elected and would be limited to serving out a 8 year term. The elephant in the living room is that if the senate's lack of effective powers flows from the senate's lack of legitimacy, then electing senators might provide the senate with a degree of legitimacy it currently does not hold. One problem with proceeding thusly is that current senators are free to serve until the age of 75. As a result, Harper's actions could either transform an unelected political body with no real power into a largely unelected political body with real political power or commit Canadians to the farcical and expensive act of electing people to office who hold no real power. Always content to play the Tin Man and Lion to Conservatives scarecrow, the Liberals remain largely mum on the subject.

Setting aside problems associated with implementation, is the cause of democracy even served by reforming the Senate? Well, the Reformers always held that the regions needed more say and an “equal” “effective” and “elected” senate is the best way of achieving a balance between population centers in Eastern Canada and the rest of us. Of course, Reformers also lamented that "the West's" growing population was not translating into more political clout. Such was movement's internal inconstancy and intellectual shallowness. The Reform party aside, such a conception, and for that matter an "effective" version of the current senate, does not stand up to scrutiny. The problem is fivefold.

First such an argument rests on a false contrast; seats in the House of Commons are supposed to be assigned on basis of population, but in actuality that is not the case. Consider the 905. There are currently 4 plus million living in the 905 and there are currently 32 seats for an average of just over 127,000 people per riding. There are 6 ridings with over a 140,000 people in the 905, Bramalea - Gore - Malton (152,698) Brampton West (170,422) Halton (151,943), Mississauga - Erindale (143,361) Oak Ridges - Markham (169,642) and Vaughan (154,206). By contrast there are 4.5 million people in Sask, Man, NWT, Nuv, Yuk, PEI, NS, NFLD, and NB and there are 62 seats for an average of 72,000 people per riding. Moreover, there is but one riding in the 9, Selkirk Interlake (90,807), with over 90,000 people. Given current growth trends, the 2011 census might show there to be more people in the 905 than the aforementioned provinces and territories. Given population growth, Harper would have to give Ontario alone another 70 seats to make things half way equal. Of course, the problems do not stop there. Not only are the smaller provinces grossely overrepresented so too are rural areas in most provinces. For example, the riding of has Labrador has 26,364 and the riding of St John's East 88,002, Kenora 64,291 and Oak Ridges - Markham 169,642, Miramichi 53,844
Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe 89,334, Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing 77,961 and Vanughn 154,206.

Second, simply by virtue of having provincial jurisdiction and provincial representation people living in Canada’s less populated provinces already have a means of leveraging far more attention and support from the Federal government than their numbers warrant. Danny Williams had the government's attention in ways that the mayors of Surrey, Red Deer, Brant, Fredericton and Churchill did not even though we are talking about equal number of seats in both cases. There is more. There is also the asinine Canadian tradition of handing out cabinet posts based not on talent but region.

The third reason is that while one person one vote is bedrock principle of any democracy, one province one senate vote is something else entirely. People, not provinces, deserve equal representation. A province is no more or less than the people that make up that province. Giving the 135,851 in PEI the power to determine everything under provincial jurisdiction, provincial representation and 4 MPs well all the while giving the 170, 422 residents of Brampton West one MP is bad enough as it is. Piling on and giving the 135,851 people in PEI the same number of “effective” senators, as per the American Triple E Senate model, as 12,160,282 Ontarians is beyond stupid and grossly undemocratic. Equally silly is having one "effective" Senator for every 72,997 New Brunswick residents (10 senators in total) versus one Senator for every 685, 581 BC residents (6 senators in total). And that is what the current configuration gives us.

Four, as Benjamin Franklin put it, having two equally matched houses makes as much sense as tying two equally matched horses to either end of a buggy and having them both pull. Having two houses is not only a lobbyist's dream, it is a recipe for political gridlock and pork barrel politics. The only thing that would be worse is if one needed 60% of the votes in the senate to overcome a filibuster.

Five, leaving aside the fact that no province has a second chamber, most having abolished them long ago, and that there are numerous examples of unicameral nation states (e.g., New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Sweden, Iceland, Liechtenstein, South Korea and Portugal), we already have a de facto unicameral state as it is -- just ask the supporters of a Triple E senate. After all, one can not argue on the one hand that the current senate is undemocratic and so contributes to the "democratic deficit" and on the other hand argue that the senate is “ineffective”. A body that adds nothing to the genuinely "effective" process can not take away anything either.

ECB Needs to start Printing.

The printing press is the only way Europe can stave off an Italian default and a catastrophic credit crisis.

All available evidence suggests that even a major intervention by ECB would not lead to stampeding inflation. As Krugman noted with regard to Japan, "printing money is only inflationary if people spend it, and if that spending exceeds the economy's capacity to produce." http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/nikkei.html The reason Europeans are not likely to go on a extended spending spree is that no one fears that the Eurozone countries are going to use the ECB to monetize their debt. Given this belief, personal debt levels in countries where there were real estate bubbles, Europe's shrinking and rapidly aging population, and the massive excess capacity in Europe and indeed the whole Western world, spending is likely going to be quite subdued and certainly nothing that would strain current productive capacity.

Finally, if there is any inflation at all it will be Europe's core economies, principally Germany, and far from being a bad thing, inflation there is precisely the kind of relief the periphery needs right now. The higher the rate of inflation in Europe's core the less Europe's periphery will need to rely on deflation to become competitive.

liquidity trap readings

http://brontecapital.blogspot.com/2011/11/buy-ben-bernanke-marijuana-pipe-and.html

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/15/macro-policy-in-a-liquidity-trap-wonkish/

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Germany is going to Bankrupt the Eurozone

The German Foreign minister is wrong on almost every point.

http://www.ft.com/cms/275bc334-3063-11dc-9a81-0000779fd2ac.html?segid=70000

"the decade-long accumulation of public debt"

For most of the last decade, Italy, Spain and Ireland have run surpluses and have seen their yields skyrocket. Germany, meanwhile, has run deficits the entire time and has seen its yields drop significantly.

"we need a clear-cut strategy for competitiveness and growth."

Start putting holes in condoms and sub in sugar pills for birth control pills. The reason Europe's growth prospects look so dim is that Europe is aging rapidly. Indeed, the European population is about to shrink at a rate not seen since the Black Death. Couple that with the ten of millions of Europeans retiring on reduced pensions and you have the makings of Japan style liquidity trap. Of course, the economic downturn is likely to make the situation even worse. People tend to have less kids in economic hard times. Europe is a highly competitive rapidly shrinking market, with high labour costs and last but not least frigid credit markets. All that being said, if you are a maker of adult diapers, then Europe is where you want to be.

"Putting the European Central Bank’s printing presses to work might at best bring some short-term relief. But it would have dire consequences, both raising inflation and dissipating vitally important incentives for reform."

The UK and US have been doing what Japan has done for years and there is no evidence, notwithstanding the UK's increase in the VAT, that such measures have led a high rate of inflation. Indeed, with regard to interest rates, Bernanke has looked further and further out in order to stimulate moderate inflation and still the specter of deflation hangs over the US economy. The US economy's long term growth prospects are much better than Europe's. The US adds more and more people every year. Europe looses more and more people every year.

The printing press is the only way Europe can stave off an Italian default and a catastrophic credit crisis. Moreover, all available evidence suggests that even a major intervention by ECB would not lead to stampeding inflation. As Krugman noted with regard to Japan, "printing money is only inflationary if people spend it, and if that spending exceeds the economy's capacity to produce." http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/nikkei.html Given personal debt levels in countries where there were real estate bubbles, Europe's aforementioned shrinking and rapidly aging population, and the massive excess capacity in Europe and indeed the whole Western world, spending is likely going to be quite subdued and certainly nothing that would strain current productive capacity.

Finally, if there is any inflation it will be Europe's core economies, principally Germany, and far from being a bad thing, inflation there is precisely the kind of relief the periphery needs right now. The higher the rate of inflation in Europe's core the less Europe's periphery will need to rely on deflation to become competitive.

"depreciated currency"

Is the foreign minister of one of the most successful export lead economies in the Western world seriously bemoaning the prospect of a drop in his country's currency? Just checking.

"Greece's government must without further delay adopt and implement the necessary reforms."

Forcing a country, that is in immediate danger of default, to enact policies that lead to skyrocketing unemployment and downward pressure on wages is not going to forestall Greece from defaulting. No, it makes it all but certain that Greece will default and leave the Euro. Deflationary austerity might make Greece more competitive in the long term, but the debt crisis is now. Deflation considerably increases Greece's debt burden.


"states and banks need protection from contagion."

I agree. Signal that the ECB will keep Italian and Spanish yields below 6 and have them stop sterilizing those bond purchases.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Liberal redistribution plan is a political loser

The Liberal plan is marginally better than the Conservative plan, but it is still nowhere near good enough. A hybrid of both the Conservative and Liberal plans would be best. The largest provinces should gain seats from the smallest provinces and because of the limitations placed on us by the constitution, they should should gain more on top of that

That said, politically the Liberal plan is stupid. If the Liberals believe that the public is going to get behind their plan in order to save a paltry 15 million dollars they are delusional. There is no political upside to the Liberal plan and potentially a lot of downside. Not only will it not ingratiate themselves to those provinces who would loose seats under such a plan, such a position could easily be construed as self serving --- which it no doubt is. The Liberals do not want to see the number of seats increase because they feel it will make it that more difficult for them to win government. The we can not afford it fig leaf does not obscure this fact.

Anyway, given the Conservatives have a majority and will proceed with this no matter what the Liberals say, the Liberals need to do four things.

1) In order to make political hay, the Liberals have to develop a coherent approach to the issue of representation. That means hammering at the inequities of the system. Cities are underrepresented and hinterlands grossly over represented. The largest provinces are grossly underrepresented and the provinces with the smallest populations overrepresented. An empowered senate is incompatible with the notion of representation by population.

2) They need to diminish the political value of giving that many extra seats to Ontario, BC and Alberta by saying that the government did not go far enough and that Conservative government's push for an "effective" senate would make any such gains mute. Making the House more representative means nothing if the Conservatives plan to empower a second House that is not representative at all.

3) Forget about Quebec's wining; the Conservatives won a majority without Quebec this last time and with 27 seats being added outside Quebec its value will be even less next time around. "Western" Canada is little more than firm opposition to special treatment of Quebec by those living west of Manitoba. It is pretty much the sole thread that unites west coast hippies with Calgary oil men. If the Liberals have not recognized this after 40 years they deserve to collapse as political identity. Never ever ever mention Quebec's "special situation".

4) As Canada's third party, the Liberals do not need to be bounded by what is politically possible. In this case the Liberals should be calling for even more to be done to make the HOC more representative and the senate abolished to pay for it.