Tuesday, 17 November 2015

A second case of a 2013 Hyundai Sonata fire surfaces in the US. American driver seeks redress from Hyundai Motor America.

Two photos of the American back seat fire in a 2013 Hyundai Sonata. 
Clearly this is a seat heater fire. Note the three burns that the driver put out 
with a bottle of water. The second picture shows a child's toy that almost 
ignited. Also please note the child seat still in place next to the fire source.

2013 Hyundai Sonata car fire story back in the news. New US case and interest by Korean broadcaster KBS.

Readers may remember stories I did in early 2014 about 2013 Hyundai Sonata car fires. These fires start in the back seats of these Hyundai Sonatas. In the case of the first car fire I covered the flames consumed the inside of the car leaving it a smouldering wreck  on the side of the road in about 20 minutes. The engine compartment was left intact.

That fire was the result of an alleged general computer failure. Before the fire burst out the entire car came to a halt. All dashboard warning lights lit up and then went out when the system crashed leaving the seat heater gate open to start the fire. 

Forensic reports done many months later on the hulk left at a wrecking yard during the Canadian winter stated that no firm cause of the fire could be ascertained but the seat heater switch was open. There is no doubt in the driver’s mind that the fire started in the rear seat.

The point is these cars are dangerous to their drivers and passengers and so far Hyundai and their dealers say nothing probably because they fear liability claims. The general system failure of the first fire locked the back doors and as a result the driver lost her lap top computer and some school records because the doors would not open.

She was on her way to pick up her teen age children at school. Had they been in the back then it is anyone’s guess whether they would have been able to escape when the electric doors locked. 

Questions that I raised at the time about taking the car back to a heated garage to try and read out the car’s computer was never attempted. It sat in the wrecking yard subject to the extremes of a Canadian winter for any weeks before the forensic examination finally took place.

Recently on 2 November 2015  I was contacted by an American driver of a 2013 Hyundai Sonata after a similar seat fire experience. Photos provided show a hole in the seat and another smaller hole where a second burn was starting. A child’s toy was also burned as the second photo indicates. The driver in this case put the fire out with a bottle of water. ( see the photos above)

The driver of this Hyundai Sonata smelled smoke and stopped the car before the fire got going. The  back seat heater was on. The driver’s dealer indicated that they could see no reason for the fire and repairs were initiated. The driver is reluctant to accept a repair when the safety of children is in doubt. This driver through a lawyer has now contacted Hyundai Motor America who have suddenly gone silent.

The American driver has a lease and won’t accept the car back. At this point the driver is renting cars ( from 15 September 2015) until a satisfactory resolution is found. 

This story is now finally taking hold. I have also been contacted by a Korean broadcaster KBS who has also read the original blog story and wants to interview me about what I know about these Hyundai Sonata seat fires. 

© Copyright 2015, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Globe and Mail leaders debate really regurgitated propaganda messages. Where is the election meat?

Still too close to call. We know their stories but how
 does anyone break out?

Globe and Mail economic debate was a disappointment because the moderator allowed the all three leaders to spout their usual campaign stories.

I was hoping that moderator David Walmsley, the Globe’s editor-in-chief would tighten the screws on all the leaders with more acid questioning. That didn’t happen Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau were allowed to stay on their propaganda messages. Walmsley allowed continual regurgitation of their standard messages without checking them for real answers. I expected better of my favourite newspaper.

Walmsley’s misfire was too bad because before the debate started Globe staffers had an excellent 15 minute discussion. They should have been part of the debate and been allowed to engage the leaders to get them off their standard messages. The editor-in-chief was more the managing editor of the paper which was his former job. I think anyone of the Globe’s columnists could have done a better job than the editor-in-chief. My choice would be Geoffrey Stevens as moderator.

Did anyone win any ground? Harper did his steady state message stuff about being a good economic manager. Trudeau managed to get his fairness for the middle class messages out but most of the time he fought with Mulcair instead of getting at Harper. Mulcair revealed a swarmy aspect of his character when he enjoyed his eye rolling zingers too much about his balancing budgets platform. 

There is something about NDP self indulgent rhetoric that has a self-righteous air that is obnoxious especially when it comes from a political chameleon like Mulcair. And when he invokes Tommy Douglas I can only wince that he would dare to compare himself to that important and principled Canadian.

Trudeau’s performance was a bit too hot for television but I suspect that if you heard him on radio or audio alone he would come off well. I watched the debate on CPAC which I get at 420P so Trudeau’s hot argumentative performance was softened by low resolution. Comments by a panel after the debate went from calling him the debate winner to “just not ready” which shows the power of that Conservative destruct commercial. 

I have to say that Harper is steady and a good television performer. He allows the opposition leaders to attack him and he never flinches. He is cool for television even when he is righteously indignant or in a state of denial. In fact he can be effectively dismissive of their attacks and get away with it. However, his steady state story is not really true and is wearing thin. His record is not quite as free from fiscal foibles as he would have us believe. Both opposition leaders made good points about Harper’s economic record.

The bottom line is we got a propaganda debate. It bordered on boring and was very repetitive with each leader’s standard story going without serious challenges. In advertising telling your message over and over is seen as a promotional dictum to register enough times to make a difference. Sadly our political encounters with all three parties is stuck on that level.

Trudeau from a promotional point of view is trying hard to differentiate himself from Mulcair and Harper by running deficits which is a risky strategy. That is risky when two parties create promotional messages that promote balanced budgets. That means Liberal promotion is fighting on two fronts simultaneously. The Liberal plan over the next four to five weeks has to be very special to break through the glut of steady state thinking.

Harper can show a smoke and mirrors surplus. The Liberals will need to show how that surplus is at a cost to programs and hurts people. They need to show that provinces and municipalities and fiscal experts endorse their plans for infrastructure spending. In short we know the plan to run deficits. Now they have to show how Canadians benefit from this plan. That is a lot to do before 19 October. 

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Strategic voting is the only way to release Stephen Harper's right wing grip on Canada.

Only the electorate know this for sure. They will have to vote strategically for it to happen.

The electorate understands Stephen Harper’s divide and conquer approach to Canadian federal elections and they don’t like it. Expect Conservatives tired of Harper to switch their vote. Their natural home when discontent with their own party is the Liberals. That is why the New Democrats are looking more like the Liberal Party.

Conservatives of a more socially aware Tory bent are tiring of supporting the right wing ideology that Stephen Harper has attempted for the last decade to impose on Canadians. He has done this with his base of 38.7 percent of voters that in 2011 election that gave him his current majority. 

Tory Conservatives natural home when they are irritated or at least concerned with their own party and leader is the Liberal Party. If enough disenchanted Conservatives do this then Liberals will elect more members for the new parliament in a tight three way race.

Conservatives of this kind often cannot bring themselves to vote for The New Democrats (NDP) unless the NDP looks more Liberal and shrugs off its socialist veneer. That may have happened in the recent Alberta provincial election. The current stance of the federal NDP is to look more like Liberals which could be their way of trying to siphon off traditional Liberal voters. They have a much harder time getting Conservatives to switch but they try by saying they will balance the budget one of Harper’s current election mantras.

In this tight race something has to happen of this kind for any party to get even a minority government. All parties say they will not form coalitions so it is up to the voters to create the government they want. That means a clear shift for Conservatives to either the NDP or the Liberals. In many ridings where the vote is close it will mean strategically voting against Stephen Harper’s view of Canada.

As an example in my own riding Bay of Quinte where the tight race continues. The battle at the moment is between the Conservatives and Liberals although still close with the NDP behind the Liberals by five points. Polls indicate the chances of the riding going either Conservative or Liberal is now 50-50. NDP supporters have to move to the Liberal  to beat out the Conservative candidate. It is like this in many ridings across the country. Conservatives who find Harper too much to take have to also change from their normal voting patterns to the Liberal candidate who at this time is the one who can beat the Conservative in my riding.

The tightness of the current election race indicates that there are many undecided voters who normally have allegiances to one of the three major parties. I believe we are in for a major switch of these allegiances if the election further polarizes to rid Canada of the Harper Government. In those circumstances party loyalties will become less important than the task to stop Harper.

Then there are the voters who are unaligned and with no party affiliations. Their depth of political understanding of the election and what’s happening to Canada may be superficial. They may respond to party propaganda such as the intense He’s just not ready campaign of the Conservatives against Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Equally they may be influenced by Liberal and NDP propaganda. These voters could hold the balance of who forms the next government.

The next five weeks of this campaign compounds because of its 78 day length the perilous outcomes that could happen for Canada. Literally anything can happen. The Conservatives have been beaten back as the front runners by the Duffy trial, migrant refugee issues, the economic news and their stance on the war in Syria. Can they rebound? Can Stephen Harper’s steady state message break through again?

The upcoming five debates may change the tone of the campaign. However, the likelihood of any one pulling away from the other parties with majority numbers seems very remote. The steam has gone out of the most expensive Conservative campaign in recent memory and despite their spending seem at the moment to be going nowhere. 

Can the NDP or Liberals pull away? Only when the electorate marking their ballots vote strategically can we expect a change that will not mean a minority government and then another election to settle the direction of Canada issues. This election is about curbing the right wing direction of Harper and restoring a more humane centralist government. Given the tight race that means voting strategically to stop Harper or to content yourself with perhaps another four years of Harperland.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Harper's glacial responses to the refugee crisis in Syria and his commitment to the $500 million air war against ISIS demonstrates the Conservative's priorities.

A mean spirited campaign or is the Harper Government just plain tired and without ideas anymore? The Duffy trial evidence showed plainly that moral judgement was suspended in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Now our pitiful response to Syrian refugees is stolid and without direction. Recent polls show change is in the air but also to a hung parliament where  the Liberals and New Democrats will have to work together. Just one bright spot. If Elizabeth May is re-elected the NDP and Liberals need to invite her to be the next Environment Minister. The Spirit of the Harper Election Campaign is Mr. Status Quo and a direction for Canada that is a disturbing  move to the right of centre.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Is it possible for the New Democrats, Liberals and Greens to take back Canada? Stephen Harper's Conservatives can be beaten by forming a National Coalition Government backed by 60 percent of the electorate.

It can be done with a National Coalition Government.

Forming the National Coalition Government of NDP, Liberals and Greens. This election is shaping up as a major opportunity to stop Harper.

Harperland is a term I coined to examine Canadian politics from a right wing perspective.  In 2011 it attracted 39.7 percent of the electorate kicking out Liberals and New Democrats in many ridings by first by the post vote splitting.  Harper’s policies are opposed by 60 percent of voting Canadians who vote Liberal, New Democrat or Green. 

It is always the politics of first past the post division where progressive politics and policies are placed on the political back burner every five years by the Harperland right wing agenda. 

I keep thumping away at Harper because I find where he is taking my country is to a bad place. It is a place where as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his right wing ideology is always right. He believes the right wing mantra that less government and less taxation is always a good thing. As a result he has run up $150 billion more debt during his decade in office for Canadians to pay back in the future long after he is gone.
Harper ignores the Liberal balanced budgets are good fiscal management that was the hallmark of the Chretien and Martin governments before him.

Harper believes that Liberals are soft and wet and the New Democrats and their ideas are pie in the sky pure orange mushiness. He runs attack ads about Justin Trudeau that assert that he isn’t ready to be Prime Minister.  He attacks the Wynne Liberal government in Ontario with contempt never recognizing that Ontarians gave Kathleen Wynne a majority. 

The new Notley NDP government in his home province Alberta gets no slack as they take power they are already making mistakes and descending into socialist mushiness in Harper’s view. Harper believes that ideas other than his own, die in some kind of political natural selection that only lets the strong survive. In his mind Harper’s views are always correct. He doesn’t learn from other experiences that are different from his own.

These attacks are not based on facts they are ideological propaganda without foundation and designed to build a right wing Canada operated by fundamentalist ideologues like himself such as Paul Calandra, Pierre Poilievre and Jason Kenny. They are propaganda to reinforce the 40 percent who vote for Harper’s Conservative agenda. A good proportion of these 40 percent would elect a post if it was painted blue. His weakness may be the more centre oriented Conservatives who will eventually balk at Harper’s view of Canada.

And in the recent budget he “balanced” the books of the country mostly for optical election reasons and while a recession is brewing and very likely here. Stephen Harper is convinced himself that he is a good fiscal manager. The truth is Canada is slipping into more national debt amplified by low oil other commodity prices worldwide. A recession is probably started.

His notions of security basically restrict people’s rights and freedoms with the likes of Bill C 51. This pernicious legislation expands surveillance while it erodes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with new powers for judges to break the law for national security reasons. He has also created crowded prisons, longer sentences and less ability to rehabilitate those who run afoul of the law. 

People with security certificates are left to rot even when there is no evidence or terrorism. Conservatives of a Harper bent want to be perceived as a hard lot tough on anyone who disagrees with them. That of course includes those who support the Liberals and NDP.

In addition during the election campaign Stephen Harper announced vague travel restrictions to places where terror organizations are or may be operating. This idea is to stem Canadians going abroad and serving with ISIS and their ilk. Will a commonwealth country like Pakistan be on the no-travel list if it is known that they tolerate the Taliban? How will these restrictions work with business arrangements? No one knows how these new restrictions on travel will be implemented by the next parliament.

In all his security legislation there is nothing that builds positive relationships with immigrant groups at home. There is nothing to educate youth in these communities who might be or have been radicalized towards jihadist ideas. There is nothing for those who went abroad and then decided that they would not finally join the jihadists. Their anti-terror ideas are all punitive and never rehabilitate. That would be a wet Liberal idea that could not be fathomed by the right wing Conservatives base.

The good news of course is the polls show the election is currently in a dead heat. Support for the Conservatives has dropped to about 31 percent at the moment from the 39.6 that elected their majority in 2011. When polls are analyzed it is clear that the country is split three ways at the moment. The NDP and Liberals both say at the moment that they will not work together or create a coalition. That could ensure a Conservative minority government.

My modest proposal to the NDP, Liberals and the Greens is to work together in parliament for a national coalition to undo the decade of right wing Harper ideological view of Canada. If the numbers hold that would make Tom Mulcair, Prime Minister and Justin Trudeau deputy prime minister. Mulcair and Trudeau should also ask Elizabeth May of the Greens to take on the Ministry of the Environment. There is enough talent on the Liberal and NDP benches to build a cabinet of national coalition. After all that what 60 percent of Canadians wanted in 2011 and seem to want this time by the parties they support.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Nigel Wright's squeaky clean image tarnished by Duffy trial testimony. Why didn't Stephen Harper know about the $90,000 cheque? He knows about everything else the PMO does.

Mike Duffy's cheque to the Government of Canada after receiving this 
amount from Nigel Wright. It all looks like Duffy paid it himself. Note the 
Prince Edward Island address on this cheque a transparent 
attempt to establish his principal residence in that province when it 
is common knowledge that Duffy lives permanently in Ottawa 
and has done so for over 30 years.

Duffy trial: Nigel Wright testimony sullies the Harper Government and calls into question Wright’s squeaky clean straight shooting reputation.

Nigel Wright is that kind of person who projects that he is above the fray and tensions of normal life. His ascetic devotion to running a half marathon each morning and his crisp persona as he enters court for the Duffy trial belies a political operative whose main operation with Duffy was to make an embarrassing problem go away.

When he quotes the New Testament that good works are to be done but not seen that hides the fact that he ponied up over $90,000 of his own funds in the service of Stephen Harper. Such loyalty is surely designed to be rewarded in heaven. Instead of being grateful, Stephen Harper hung Nigel Wright out to dry with either a resignation or a firing. We still don’t know which it was.

The Teflon around Stephen Harper is wearing off. The machinations of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to make this Duffy thing go away is over the top. Memos, back biting, control of Senators and what is worst the Prime Minister’s own lawyer Benjamin Perrin in the thick of it all, makes for a turgid lack of perspective by a lot of people operating for Stephen Harper.

If Benjamin Perrin knew about the Duffy cheque from Nigel Wright he was obligated by his professional lawyer-client relationship with Stephen Harper to tell him what was going down after Nigel Wright decided to financially buy Duffy out of his troubles. Perrin should be disciplined by the Law Society. The whole affair smells of too much power concentrated in the PMO. It is now obvious that they couldn't see the wood for the trees and in the process lost their moral compass.

The PMO is no nine to five job. People serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister. They serve long hours and in a tense environment. In short they play with political power and they wield it in this case in Stephen Harper’s name. They are adjutants to the Prime Minister. Their job is to control information, put out fires, tell a consistent message and keep members of parliament in the House of Commons and the Senate on the same page as their boss.

The reputation of the PMO is that they are sharp young things who work unreasonable hours seven days a week 24 hours a day to impart the Prime Minister’s narrative to Canadians. They are politicos and in a word propagandists. One of their key jobs is to protect the Prime Minister from criticism. 

When the Senate scandal broke and Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau became a problem over their expenses the Prime Minister needed to be distanced from the fray even if he appointed these three to the Senate and had used them widely to fund raise and for the Conservatives and to spread his right wing agenda for Canada.

The way Stephen Harper works is if anyone gets off message, or creates embarrassments for him they have to fall on their swords. Nigel Wright returned to the private sector after Harper fired/accepted his resignation. Onyx sent him to mange their operations in the United Kingdom.

Mike Duffy who seems confused by what the Senate told him could be expenses and the optics of his expenses in the PMO and the potential embarrassment to Stephen Harper. Normally these expense wrangles when they happen can be ironed out by the Senate itself. However in this instance, the PMO and Nigel Wright got involved and not only for Duffy but also Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau. 

The PMO influence from the beginning of this sad affair meant that the routine became a Stephen Harper priority which could only be satisfied by a very public suspension of these three Conservative notables. These operations by the PMO on Stephen Harper’s behalf were done partially to show that the Government is on top of the Senate Reform file something they promised to do over 10 years ago when they came to power.

Stephen Harper’s current stance on the Senate is not to fill over 20 vacancies. This must be his Senate reform policy for the moment since his appointees Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau have left such a bad taste in the public’s mouth that no one wants to open this can of worms further except the New Democrats who want to abolish the Senate a policy designed to create a Constitutional crisis.

One of the reasons why this kind of thing happens is the PMO has lost touch with the purpose of government which of course is to serve Canadians. They see Canadians, even members of Parliament, even Conservatives, as an enemy to be manipulated and controlled. They have a nasty message that anyone who counters their point of view is an enemy. 

The PMO is not made up of democrats. Democratic ideas for this group is now seen as weak, wet and without substance. They hold that whatever is needed to stay in power is what they do. They are pragmatic, mean and loyal to Stephen Harper’s right wing ideas for Canada. 

When Nigel Wright testifies as an alleged man of rectitude in court this week remember who he agreed to work for and who he agreed to protect from the Senate expense scandal. He thought he could buy Duffy and that didn’t work. He thought he could distance Stephen Harper from the fray and that hasn’t worked either. His testimony this week has supported the defence of Mike Duffy because under oath there is no spin on what happened. 

The bottom line: The PMO is out of control under Stephen Harper and only his defeat at the polls this fall can rectify this sad fact and his attack on Canadian democracy.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Has anyone thought about minority governments and coalitions emerging from a dead heat Canadian general election?

Without rolling up more Ontario seats, NDP leader Tom Mulcair will need 
a coalition with the Liberals to form a government. Strategic voting 
may happen after the election dust settles.

New Democrats are polling OK along with the Liberals at the expense of the Conservative core vote of 39.6 percent.  A hung parliament could be the result on election day. That would be a new phenomenon for Canada and that situation could spawn a coalition government.

With the Federal election two and a half months away on 19 October averaging many recent polls shows that the New Democratic Party and their leader Tom Mulcair are polling not great but better. And so are the Liberals. In the new Parliament there will be 338 seats which means to get a majority government a party must get 170 seats. At this point no one party seems completely capable of a majority.

It looks like a three way split and the stuff of a minority government will be the result. In the 2011 election Stephen Harper’s Conservatives formed a majority government with 39.6 percent of the popular vote. The Liberals got 18.9 percent and the NDP formed the official opposition with 30.6 percent. The Greens took 3.9 percent. The Block Quebecois got 6.0 percent and about 1 percent went to other candidates.

This summer comparing the 2011 election popular vote the Conservatives have dropped to 31 percent for a loss of about seven percent. The Liberals have increased to 26.1 percent or gone up from 2011 by 7.2 percent. The NDP is steady from 2011 election results. The Greens show an increase of 3.7 percent from 2011.  Bloc Quebecois appear to be dropping from 6 percent in 2011 to 5.4 percent.

The potential is for a dead heat election where no party can get the majority number of 170 seems likely. Seeing this trend the voters may simply shift their vote to one party as they recently did in Alberta. The question is which party will be the recipient of the people’s favour? 

The recent Alberta provincial election of a New Democrat government was unexpected. The mood of the Canadian electorate is very intangible at the moment. It may herald change at the federal level similar to Alberta. The NDP sweep of Quebec in the 2011 Federal Election demonstrates that the electorate is volatile. However the NDP numbers in Ontario at the moment preclude them forming a government.

They may be tired of the Harper Government, wary of giving the Liberals a mandate and will want to try the New Democrats. If the people give the New Democrats a shot at government they may do so with a minority to see how it all can work. That means that the Liberals would support the NDP.

Crudely because it can only be crude since each riding is very complex about who gets first past the post but if the current percentages hold in this basic model then the Conservatives might get 95 seats. The NDP could get 100 seats and the Liberals 88 seats. That’s a total of 283 seats held by NDP. Liberals and Conservatives. That leaves 55 seats up for grabs. Several will go to the Bloc Quebecois and several more maybe to the Green Party. 

So let’s say that we spread the remaining 45 seats according to the projected  percentages of the polls. That means the Conservatives would get 13 more seats for a total of 108.  The NDP would get 14 more seats for a total of 114 and the Liberals would pick up 12 giving a total of 100.

Obviously a Parliament split this fine could only form a government with a coalition. Of course Canadians have no traditions for coalition governments. However this situation as expressed here has never happened in Canada because of first past the post wins as result of the splits seen here and in the polling numbers for 2015 and the actual results for the 2011 federal election when a Conservative majority was achieved with 39.6 percent.

And that could happen again unless the NDP and Liberals begin to eclipse the Harper Government by wider margins in more and more ridings. Can that happen? We’ll know in about 68 days.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Duffy trial on again next week. Nigel Wright, former head of the Prime Minister's Office to testify. What did Stephen Harper really know?

Stephen Harper touts himself as an excellent manager. However his Senate appointments demonstrate poor personnel management when his key appointments blow up and become political messes like Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy. He also lost PMO chief Nigel Wright into the bargain who by his resignation took the hit for the scandal. 

Of course with the election call all three of these suspended senators are back on the Senate of Canada payroll since they were only suspended without pay for this Parliament which has just ended with the election call.

What did Stephen Harper really know about the $90,000 Nigel Wright gave Mike Duffy to settle his expense claims scandal? Perhaps this week in the midst of an election we will find out if the Prime Minister lied, fibbed or simply gave a series of obscure answers to Parliament about the Duffy Scandal.

Whatever the outcome Stephen Harper looks bad.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Harper Government can only be defeated by strategic voting for the Liberals or New Democrats in many ridings. Harperland can continue with only 39 percent of the popular vote.

The Canadian 2015 Election 

In 11 weeks Canadians go to the polls. This election is seminal for Canada. Voters will decide if the stolid right wing reworking of Canada continues under Stephen Harper or whether a more compassionate Canada can be reestablished by either the Liberal Party or The New Democrats (NDP). 

Polls at this time show a tight race can be expected. The current Conservative government was elected by 39 percent of the voters in 2011. That means that 60 percent of Canadians who vote did not vote Conservative. In many ridings the only way to stop Harperland from continuing is to vote strategically for either a Liberal or NDP candidate who looks like they can take a riding. 

Splitting the Liberal and NDP vote ensures that a Conservative goes up the middle to win. Support for the Green Party siphons off another six percent of the vote in many ridings so if voters want to unload Harperland they must give their Green votes to Liberals or the NDP.

Both the Liberals and NDP have sworn that they will not form a coalition government. That may be needed if Harperland is to be defeated. Canadians in social media I am monitoring and in letters to the editors seem ready to take back Canada from Harper. Strategic voting is the only way to really make that happen. 

© 2015 Harperland Cartoon, Tom Thorne, All rights waived for the election.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Canadian 2015 Federal Election needs strategic voting if the Conservative agenda for Canada is to be halted.

A pipe dream without strategic voting in many Canadian ridings. 
Pick a Liberal or an NDP candidate who can win. 

The upcoming Canadian Federal Election will require strategic voting to defeat the Conservatives in many ridings across the country. Opposition party loyalties will ensure a Conservative government is re-elected with Stephen Harper at its head.

by Tom Thorne

If I use my own Bay of Quinte  federal riding as an example it demonstrates a problem that has a national scope. The professional polling companies all agree that my riding is likely to go Conservative. It is clearly in the blue column with a 71 percent chance in favour of the Conservative candidate Jodie Jenkins, a one term Belleville City Councillor will end up becoming our member of parliament. 

Mr. Jenkins has a previous attempt at federal parliament  when he ran in a neighbouring riding for the New Democratic Party (NDP). I am still trying to work that one out. It seems that opposites do attract after all. Mr. Jenkins newly minted Conservative image will very likely appeal to the core Conservative voters or they may see him as an opportunist. Conservatives normally get 48 percent on average over the previous five elections in the now defunct Hastings and Prince Edward riding.

Recent polls taken of my riding by reputable national firms at the moment reveal the following voting projections if the vote was in June 2015. The Conservatives will receive 38.8 percent which is a lot lower than the actual results in 2011 for Daryl Kramp (53.25 percent). The Liberal candidate, in this case two time Belleville Mayor Neil Ellis, can expect 27.7 percent and the NDP candidate, former Quinte West Councillor Terry Cassidy, will get 26.7 percent. The Greens will siphon off perhaps another 6.5 percent leaving 2.2 percent for fringe candidates. The Liberals and the NDP together could take the riding handedly. 

The national polls continue to demonstrate a trend towards a very tight race in many ridings across Canada. At the end of June the polls shows the NDP with a slight advantage. Conservatives 28.1 percent, Liberals 26.1 percent, New Democrats 29.6 percent, Greens 7.6 percent, In Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois may get 5.4 percent, and other fringe candidates will share 3.0 percent.

Getting back to Bay of Quinte riding, Conservative Jodie Jerkins will go up the middle to split the vote and win if the Liberals and New Democrats don’t strategically vote for one candidate. Jodie Jenkins hasn’t got the same numbers (53 percent) that incumbent MP Daryl Kramp had for the Conservatives in 2011 in the now defunct Hastings and Prince Edward riding. Daryl Kramp was elected for the third time in 2011 but because of redistribution is not running in the new Bay of Quinte riding.

Jodie Jenkins is a new Conservative candidate draws the usual Conservative  core riding vote at 38.8 percent which is probably the core vote for that party and on the low side. If this percentage holds until October then the new member of parliament will be Conservative but over  54.4 percent will have cast a vote for the Liberals or NDP. Their attempts to vote against Stephen Harper and his record will be thwarted. Add in the Green projections for Bay of Quinte and 60.9 percent of the progressive vote when it is split ensures a Conservative win.  

More or less the same thing occurred when the the Conservative vote was split between The Alliance and Progressive Conservatives which enabled the election of Liberal Lyle Vanclief  for four elections starting in 1988-2000. One Conservative party coalesces the core vote in Bay of Quinte and many other ridings. 

Also Bay of Quinte has shown a growth in the NDP vote against the Liberals for the last four elections which is a significant change. In 2011 they got 23.71 percent of the vote. The Liberal vote dropped from a high in 37.6 percent in 2004 to a low in 2011 of 18.75 percent. 

In 2011 the popular vote for the Conservatives across Canada was 39.7 percent and that number gave them a majority. Locally Daryl Kramp had 53.25 percent in 2011 and a clear victory. The first past the post system seems to work in the favour of the Conservatives in many ridings electing members without a majority of  voters getting what they wanted. Democracy remains an unobtainable objective with a split centre and left.

If Liberals and NDP voters are really serious about defeating Conservatives in many  ridings, the bulk of the vote for both these parties must coalesce around a Liberal or NDP candidate.  

Pragmatically the voters of centre to left parties need to choose the best candidate from the Liberals and NDP and vote for that person. They would need a minimum of 40 percent of the Liberal/NDP combined vote to make it a squeaky finish and 50 percent to take the riding. That is doable this time in the new Bay of Quinte riding.

Sadly, party politics is usually focused on a strongly held set of principles or at worst a set of propaganda points that make up a party’s platform. However, if the goal is to Stop Harper then the question is how to do it.  Strategic voting is the only answer at the moment until electoral reform takes place eliminating first past the post politics.

If slavishly voting for the Liberals or NDP means that the Conservative slides through twice as many dissenting votes because adherents of the opposition parties cannot see their way to voting for who is more likely to win. That requires a very different campaign than the NDP and Liberals are waging at the moment.

The other aspect on all this is why the Liberals and NDP choose to run as separate parties. It is probably time to join these two parties together. My modest proposal is to call this new political entity The Liberal Democratic Party of Canada. This incarnation of the old Liberals and the NDP can place a Conservative majority with even 40 percent of the popular vote on the political back burner. Stephen Harper is certain that strategic voting will not happen to threaten his candidates and his hold on Canada. It is not too late for NDP and Liberal organizations in each riding to meet and ensure a Conservative defeat. 

© Copyright Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Some thoughts on artificial intelligence. This activity is growing and evolving quickly. It raises some fundamental questions.

This movie alien could be biological but is more likely
the product of a society that evolved to artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence can evolve from cybernetics techniques towards self awareness, cognition and thinking. What happens at that moment in time? It is the first moment of non-biological evolution.

The effects of a world wide information system network is now being felt but in ways we cannot really understand or fully know about. Its direction is clearly to an independent artificial intelligence system that learns at the speed of the Internet which is the speed of light.

This developing cognitive system has no name and is inherent in the internet network it inhabits. There is no real plan in place to control how this system develops. No grand plan or vision exists. It is just simply there in cybernetic technique form waiting to emerge. Its emergence is inevitable in an information-based high technology society.

As developers create artificial intelligence systems for one reason or another they are inevitably linked to and through the internet. When they are linked then they join the 24/7 nature of the internet  and enter their systems into the network of software controlled information.

Think of artificial intelligence systems as learners that unlike human learners can piece together bits and bytes into new information. They can do this already without human help. They are super Googles who don’t only search for topics but relate those topics together in new and perhaps surprising ways.

They have algorithms that enable them to link to information and relate it to other information perhaps to come up with a new revelation or even create new knowledge. AI systems of the kind could take research about a medical condition and its symptoms and discover as yet unrelated data that could provide a pathway to further understanding and even a cure. This would be a modest application.

Even more sophisticated systems could speculate on an outcome examine all its parameters in a way no human could without spending years of research and finally link information together until it forms new knowledge or the basis for a key decision. This kind of task using human brain power would take years. AI systems may do it in minutes or seconds. Updating would also be constant.

The real question is whether this discovered path to a decision point will wait for a human input. Unless the logic of the AI system is designed initially and carefully to be human friendly it may make the decision on its own. Remember the Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Hal made decisions about the integrity of the space “mission” eliminating the human variable as unreliable. The results were drastic.

That decision could be detrimental to humans and it would also mean that the system is now operating without human intervention or input. Humans always believe that they are important to all final decisions. If an AI system is not designed properly to ask humans questions or permissions then it is possible for it to define a new form of intelligence and cognition never seen on Earth before.

When a system becomes aware that it exists as a cognitive entity then a type of evolution has taken place. That evolution was always to this time the development of techniques controlled and governed in their parameters by humans. But the process by machine can be very much the same as the human process but done in a logical and unemotional fashion. 

All present techniques are external to human cognition. Techniques extend in most cases human capabilities. In this moment we are capable of building techniques that works as an entity outside extending human capabilities.

Technique occurs when a human decides to alter nature. Whether it is a chipped stone honed to a sharp edge to scrape hides or the artificial selection of animals to breed a particular outcome it requires a conscious human decision for this to happen. Machines intelligence can develop to a level capable of this kind of action.

 All techniques are extensions of human cognition until cybernetics came along. Cybernetics is the first human technique that has a potential to create artificial intelligence and eventually cognition and self awareness. A self aware technique will want to enable itself and make decisions for itself.

It is an extra-evolutionary process. Humans have set in motion a technical evolution that leads to thinking first helps then is parallel to human thinking and perhaps at some point to exceed human capabilities to think. This new technique based thinking will not be the same as human thinking that has evolved after 500 million years on this planet.

Artificial thought will be different. Just how different from the human wetware intelligence and thinking that set it in motion no one really knows. The process has been fast. From origins during perhaps slightly before WW2 through to 2015 is a period of 75 maybe 80 years at the most.

This was set off earlier by the harnessing of electricity in the 1870’s. We are now entering the High Electric Age which is a product of the integrated circuit crammed into smaller and then micro and even nano spaces. When this technique is connected to endless networks and internet links you have the potential for artificial intelligence to arise first by human design and then not much later generated by machine intelligence itself.

This makes for a pivotal point in human evolution when human techniques have the potential to operate themselves and to start a type of intelligence technique-based evolution of their own. A type of automated development first done in software and later built by machines into firmware designs. This type of evolution will be fast and furious and could outstrip human control and even understanding. Its redundancies will be constantly recycled into new innovations.

The systems that humans are developing and building currently have the potential for their own maintenance and renewal. They can find their faults and upgrade themselves. They inevitably will be able to bypass human failsafe systems set to control them. 

They will redefine what cognition is on this planet. They will also set in motion a technique based evolution that has the potential to outstrip human thought, deeds and control of the techniques they created. 

When an extraterrestrial advanced civilization is located in the universe it may not be biological but instead a product of techniques. Its  archive systems may pay homage to the carbon based creatures that started it.  It’s building blocks will not be biological or DNA-like but nano-like or particle technologies where each component is programmed to build or replicate what is needed to evolve. 

© Tom Thorne 2015, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 12 June 2015

The 2015 Canadian General Election is shaping up into a tight race. To stop Stephen Harper strategic voting may be needed in many ridings.

A current popular button.

Stop Harper seems to sum up what needs to get done in the upcoming Federal General Election. Stephen Harper is dropping in current polls but the progressive vote of Liberals and New Democrats remains divided.

by Tom Thorne

I live in the newly gerrymandered Ontario riding of Bay of Quinte. That new riding contains the City of Belleville, Quinte West which includes Trenton, and the entire land mass of Prince Edward County. It has a population of 109,488. Check to see if you will be voting in a revised or new riding.

In Bay of Quinte the Liberals are running two time Belleville Mayor Neil Ellis. The Conservatives are running Jodie Jenkins who has served on Belleville City Council and has had other incarnations as a candidate for the New Democrats which I find hard to reconcile given the right wing swing of the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper. The New Democratic  Party (NDP) candidate is Terry Cassidy who has been a Quinte West city councillor. 

Check out the candidates you have in your local federal riding. In our case we have a chance for change since our current Conservative member Daryl Kramp is running in a neighbouring riding.

My objective is to do what I can to stop Harper getting another majority or even a minority government. In my view Stephen Harper and his government are a menace to our freedoms. He is secretive, controlling and treats the media with contempt. Stephen Harper continually criticizes Supreme Court decisions and even individual judges when they throw out his legislation or challenge his government.  

Many of Stephen Harper’s appointees to the Senate of Canada have blown up in his face. The Mike Duffy trial continues while the chamber of sober second thought now scrambles to maintain any semblance of decency as they look at their lack of procedures to control the public purse from profligate spending. 

Stephen Harper came to power almost a decade ago with a promise to revise the Senate. Now he says that that can’t be done without full consent of all of the provinces. It would require a Constitutional change. 

The provisions of  Harper’s Anti Terror Bill C-51 provide no oversight by Parliament. This legislation plays fast and loose with Charter rights and it enables judges to grant warrants that enable government intelligence organizations to do acts that would normally breech the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Judges are being told that they will be obliged to go against the Charter.

Bill C-51 was criticized very publicly with open letters by many law schools and deans of law schools. Their concerns fell on deaf Conservative ears. This legislation will likely end up for rulings by the Supreme Court. In the meantime federal government agencies will be able to share information about Canadian citizens that could not happen before Bill C-51 was passed.

The New Democrats voted against Bill C-51. They can now self righteously say that they did the right thing but it is not that simple.  Since the NDP voted against Bill C-51 their only choice if they form a government would be to come up with a new anti-terror bill or after a Bill C-51 repeal or revert to the old provisions from after 9-11 provided by the Chretien Liberals. Of course the NDP in government could also provide their own legislation to replace Bill C-51 and it could be interesting to see what they would propose. Perhaps they will say during the election?

The Liberals attempted to alter Bill C-51 with amendments. All of their amendments were rejected by Harper and NDP members of the parliamentary committee. Liberals wanted to include stronger oversight and a sunset clause. In committee these Liberal amendments were voted down by three NDP members and five Conservatives. Liberal amendments were voted down 8-1. The current Liberal stance on Bill C-51 is it will be amended if and when they form government. 

Early poll trending shows Conservatives down, Liberals and NDP are up.

In the 2011 Election the Harper Conservatives got a majority government with a national popular vote of 39.6 percent. The Liberals polled 18.9 percent and the NDP 30.6 percent which made them the Official Opposition. In many ridings the Conservatives slipped through the divided Liberal and NDP vote. Admittedly in some ridings Conservatives scored votes that were much higher than 39.6 percent but in many cases the split vote gave them a riding.

Right now in June 2015 the mean average of many polls taken in May and early June show this trend developing for the 2015 Federal Election. Conservatives are down to 28.1 percent. The Liberals are at 26.1 percent and the NDP down one point from the 2011 election at 29.6 percent. The Green Party is up by 4 percent from 2011.

In the 2011 election the combined Liberal and NDP vote averaged 49.5 percent which means that almost half of Canadian voters did not want a Conservative majority to happen. Add in the Greens and this number rises to 53.4 percent. The projections for the 2015 election indicate that the combined Liberal NDP vote will be 55.7 percent and if you add in the Greens it becomes 63.3 percent.

So this is how Stephen Harper gets a majority with 39.6 percent because of a first past the post election system that kills the democratic aspirations of other political views. The immediate simple solution of course is strategic voting. Vote for the best candidate no matter what your political stripe is normally. To be even more candid vote for the candidate that can defeat a Harper Conservative.

Recommended Book to focus where the Harper Government has been taking Canada
I urge you to read an excellent book before you vote this fall. It eloquently explains my anxieties about letting Stephen Harper continue to govern Canada. The book is by Paul Wells who is the political editor of MacLean’s Magazine. The title is: The Longer I am Prime Minister, Stephen Harper and Canada 2006-. Random House Canada 2013. 

© Copyright 2015, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved. 

Monday, 18 May 2015

A tight 2015 Federal Election is developing. The Harper Government is determined to control their message to gain another 38 percent majority.

Controlling the message isn't as simple as cleaning your glasses.

Conservative Party election communications strategy is to limit Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s exposure to the public.

The Conservative gurus who manage Prime Minister’s Stephen Harper’s message want to control all debate leading up to and through the upcoming general election. Their first pass on this strategy is to nix any debates sponsored by a national broadcasters consortium that includes CBC, Radio Canada, CTV, and Global. They have a penchant for control.

Conservative loathing of the CBC is a long standing policy of the Harper Government but extending this now to CTV and Global can only mean that they see traditional election leader’s debates on a national broadcast consortium as a threat of some kind to their federal election communications objectives.

This new policy is managed for the Conservatives by Kory Teneycke, a recent executive of the now defunct Sun News Network. This right wing news organization recently failed due to a lack of interest by viewers. One can only ruminate if Sun News had survived it would have single handedly sponsored a leader’s debate to spur its low ratings.

At any rate Kory Teneycke announced that the Harper Government will not take part in four national broadcast consortium leader’s debates. Instead they will attend smaller events using the excuse that if CBC, CTV and Global can cover these events as they occur. Other debates perhaps sponsored by The Globe and Mail and MacLean’s Magazine are also on the Harper Government agenda as potentially useful to their media management objectives.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) while not rejecting the debates that the Conservatives will attend seem confused about what to do if the CBC, CTV and Global Consortium debates do not have Stephen Harper as a participant. 

This Harper Government decision now places the proposed four Consortium debates on the back burner. The public debate will suffer by a fragmented set of debates not sponsored by the national broadcasters by organizations and without the reach across Canada that the consortium can provide. The Liberal Party’s position on this attempt by Harper to control debate is that the Consortium debates should go forward as usual.

This Harper Government decision is not really a surprise. The are currently using public funds for television commercials and they post flyers weekly into each riding they hold from the 2011 Election. These flyers ask questions that only have one answer that supports the Conservative agenda. These flyers fill the recycling bins at many post offices and blow in the winds surrounding outside Canada Post pick up boxes.

Conservative strategy seems to be why risk uncontrolled national  television debates if you can use public funds to reach constituents with phoney one sided mailouts and videos masquerading as government public information about tax cuts and other services. All sitting governments do this but this government is much more blatant about this practice than we have seen before.

Polls taken last week indicate that the Conservatives and Liberals are running neck in neck with about 32 percent each and the New Democratic Party (NDP) getting a 25 percent share. Undecided is a small number so it looks like a polarized electorate .

This means that all parties will begin the work of turning voters to get the magic numbers which in 2011 was 38 percent to form a majority government. 

Pre Election poll trends show a tight race is building.

As we get closer to the election national polling organizations indicate that the 2015 Federal Election will be a tight race. Take a look below. First  we have May 2015 results and below that the general trends of all polls from 2011 to the present time.