Loonie Politics

Who takes responsibility for your actions?

Are voters free-acting agents, responsible for their own choices?  Or are they mere sheep, blindly following whatever advertising gimmick has been put before them?

To me, this is the most fascinating and largely ignored question that has arisen from the Russian hacker and Facebook algorithm meltdown over the last year.  If it weren’t for all the fake news, Donald Trump wouldn’t be president they say.  If fewer memes circulated on Facebook, there’d be no Brexit.

The idea that things would have turned out differently is a tantalizing theory as those in the centre and on the left still try to grasp exactly why the two votes ended in their eventual outcomes.  Unable to fathom any other explanation, people must have voted the way they did because of conniving hackers hell-bent on disrupting democracy.  Had voters had a clear mind and enough restraint, everyone would be singing kumbaya right now instead of snickering at the thought of Stormy Daniels spanking the president with a TRUMP Magazine.

There’s no denying that Russian meddling did occur, and that the vast reach of Facebook’s tentacles did affect voters.  The question is rather how much influence it really had and is it any different from the other types of meddling – also called marketing in any other contexts – that takes place on a daily basis.  When examining the facts, it all seems overblown.

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Loonie Politics

Philippe Couillard has fixed Quebec. So why is he headed for defeat?

Quebec premier Philippe Couillard was elected to a majority government in 2014 on a platform that promised to put Quebec’s fiscal house in order.  By all measures, his government has achieved it.  He initially appointed three reputable economists to serve in his cabinet.  Finance Minister Carlos Leitao, formerly of the Laurentian Bank, has delivered budget surpluses for four straight years – including in a budget tabled last Tuesday.  Taxes are lower, though only marginally; unemployment has hit record low levels to the point that there’s a labour shortage; and business is booming.  Optimism amongst small business owners is higher in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada.  Quebec, once the economic basket case of mainland Canada, is now a driver of prosperity.

For most governments, this would be a golden ticket to reelection.  Few governments are toppled when unemployment is low and consumer confidence is high.  A governing party under these conditions should make a promise to keep it going, throw some tax cuts in their platform, and sit back to watch the vote tally in their favour.

And yet, the Quebec Liberals have managed to fall far back in all recent polls at the expense of the unexperienced Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), a party peddling populist nationalism.  Ten Liberal MNAs have announced they won’t run in the October 1 election, knowing quite well what outcome likely lays ahead for them.

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