The Sizzling Loonie

I didn’t think I’d see the day so soon that the Canadian dollar is worth more than the American dollar. Indeed, the loonie closed on Friday well above $1.01 U.S., even going above the $1.02 mark at one point during trading on Friday. The exchange rate on my VISA for my last Web hosting bill was in the $1.02 range, whereas it’s been as high as $1.60 a few years ago.

Some analysts are predicting that the tanking of the greenback internationally may lead to the loonie reaching levels it has never seen. I think it was back in the early ’70s when the Canadian dollar peaked around $1.04 U.S. Now some are saying it could go as high as $1.10.

I understand that’s bad news for Canadian exporters, but for all other ordinary Canadians, it’s fantastic news. Even if the loonie stabilizes at only $1.03, with the fees imposed for currency exchange, purchasing goods and services from the U.S. would be exactly at par. Add to that the fact many goods and services are still cheaper in the U.S. — books and cars are the best examples — and you can expect a lot more shoppers crossing the border.

Of course, you’d know that I know that:
— $1 CAD is $11.06 MXN
— $1 USD is $10.86 MXN
So, in December, I’ll keep it easy and just move the decimal over by one (e.g., 20 pesos = 2 dollars).

Ontario’s MMP Referendum

In addition to electing a new government, Ontarians will be asked to vote for or against electoral reform on October 10. Indeed, they will be deciding whether or not to move to a “Mixed Member Proportional” (MMP) system similar to New Zealand’s and many other European countries.

Many political analysts are predicting that this referendum will fail. Some point to the McGuity Liberal government’s failure to come clearly in favour of the reform as a reason why it will fail, while others suggest that the government has not done enough to educate citizens on how the system would work. The threshold for this referendum, like in previous referendums held in British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, has also been set very high: 60 percent of the popular vote province-wide and a majority in at least 60 percent of the ridings. While the PEI referendum was a spectacular flop — and then this year’s general election under the old FPTP system yielded, as usual, yet another lopsided majority government — the BC referendum garnered 57 percent of the popular vote — not enough to effect electoral reform in that province but enough not to bury the notion entirely. Interestingly, the alternate system being considered in BC is the “Single Tranferable Vote” (STV) system (similar to Australia’s, I believe), which even someone like myself who is well-versed in electoral reform finds difficult to grasp compared to MMP, yet it came that close to passing.

To me, the high threshold being imposed on these referenda is both problematic and ironic. I’m to first to recognize that a 50-percent-plus-one victory in a referendum — be it for this matter or the secession of a province from the rest of the country — is not sufficient because it would give the winning side a very weak mandate. However, a double supermajority rule is not only extreme, but it is also a highly cynical move by politicians wishing to keep the defective status quo in that it imposes conditions that the current system never achieves and that the new system would never attempt to achieve. In short, reform opponents are quite happy with a system that can give huge majorities on the weight of 38 percent of the vote but don’t want to use that same system to effect a change to the way citizens vote.

That really annoys me, just as the misinformation opponents present annoys me. Like:

What are the most important reasons for voting for/against electoral reform?
MMP is the wrong reform for Ontario. It creates problems far more serious than the proportional problem it wants to solve. [Ed. note: Like what? You’re screaming doomsday but not substantiating that claim.]

Why is this particular reform important/not the right one?
MMP is fundamentally anti-community. It shifts political power from the voters in local ridings across the province to party headquarters at Queen’s Park. [Ed. note: First of all, except for independents, each candidate in each riding is already being selected by the party they represent, sometimes through an election of party members in the riding but sometimes by acclamation or by appointment. And secondly, brandishing the term “anti-community” is very deceptive because it implies the current system is pro-community, which it is not because many citizens are now being forced to vote “strategically” by voting for a party that they deem “less bad” for their community.]

What one thing in particular would you like people to know about MMP?
MMP would introduce 39 “list” members of the legislature. One-third of the legislature would be made up of politicians accountable only to political parties. These list members would not run in local elections, would not have to look after a single constituent’s problem and would not have to face the local electorate in the next election. [Ed. note: List candidates would be known to voters. These candidates would then be accountable to constituents of the whole province, although thoughtful parties would ensure that the ordering of the list would provide local representation of the party where it’s less likely to earn one of the FPTP seats. For instance, if the Conservatives are unlikely to win an FPTP seat in northern Ontario, they could list someone who’s from northern Ontario first so that they can at least have some kind of representation in that part of the province when that elected candidate goes home.]

Do you feel MMP would lead to more or less stability in the electoral system?
The existing system produces both majority governments and minority governments. MMP is deliberately designed so that majority government would be extremely rare… [Ed. note: Rest of bullshit answer not reproduced here. For reason MMP yields mostly minority governments! A majority government should mean a government that the majority has voted for! And minority governments in jurisdictions that have a form of MMP have not been unstable. Spare me from the “I” countries argument — Italy and Israel; they don’t have a rule like is being proposed in Ontario for the reasonable minimum threshold of the popular vote a party must achieve to be assigned regional seats. What’s more, wild swings from one party’s majority to another party’s majority are much more destablizing in terms of policies.]

Are there misconceptions about MMP? If so, what are they?
That it is fair. [Ed. note: That’s all you can say? That’s pretty weak! And you’re implying that the current system is fair? It’s anything but! If your beef is that MMP is NOT fair, then let’s agree on another term: fairer. Or what about less imperfect?]

It’s worth your while to read the whole Q&A.

I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised on Wednesday if the political pundits are proven wrong and MMP does pass in Ontario. If it does, then expect other Canadian jurisdictions to consider it more seriously than they have so far. But I’m afraid that the voter apathy FPTP has bred will lead Ontarians to believe the NO-side scaremongers.