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Francis Pouliot

5 arguments against strategic voting

The beginning of the electoral campaign is an opportunity for most Quebecers to discover the ideological foundations of the province’s political parties, their different visions of the current state of Quebec, and the public policies they suggest to resolve the province's problems. If you haven’t already done so, you can quickly make your first impression of the political landscape thanks to the Vote Compass, available on the CBC’s website. Several Quebecers were surprised to discover that their "vote compass" pointed to an emerging political party such as Option Nationale, Québec Solidaire, the Conservative party of Quebec or the Green Party of Quebec. This is perfectly normal: as political parties approach power, they are more likely to compromise on their principles in order to reach the elusive median voter. The centrist positions of the PLQ-PQ-CAQ trio are more often the result of political calculations than of profoundly held convictions - positions that are certainly not shared by all of their core supporters. At the same time, many Quebecers are pressured to sacrifice their principles in the name of strategic voting. Thus, calls to "avoid vote-splitting" or "do everything so that party X doesn’t get a majority" will be multiplied in the coming weeks. Here are five reasons why Quebecers should refrain from voting strategically as opposed to voting according to their convictions. 5) A strategic vote has no bearing on the outcome of the election A strategic vote is based on the premise that a vote has a realistic chance to affect the outcome of the election. However, although this may be a surprise for many, several statistical analyses have shown that the odds that a vote has any impact on the result are absolutely minimal. Economists Casey Mulligan and Charles Hunter have also demonstrated this concept with an empirical study… Read More

A historical perspective on the “victories” of the labour movement

Traditionally, the minimum wage increases in Quebec occur on May 1st, and with an increase from 9.90$ to 10.15$ which came in effect last week, this year is no different. Coincidentally, May 1st was also the day on which powerful unions all across the world converge and reminded governments and taxpayers of their capacity to mobilize their members and to unite the numerous and various groups lobbying for stricter labour laws. The public still largely finds difficult to accept criticism of the minimum wage, the labour movement’s “sacred cow” and still widely believes unions to be responsible for the 40 hour work week. A historical perspective on both may bring interesting elements to a modern issue.The capitalist origin of the weekendIt was on May 1st in 1926 that Henry Ford proposes the 5 day 40 hour work week to his factory workers as a measure to promote employee retention: the employee turnover rate at the Ford Motor Company was high and it was losing money trying to constantly replace the skilled factory workers. It also had the benefit of popularising the concept of “week-end” and increasing America’s middle class, in the process promoting the recreational use of motor vehicles. Twelve years earlier, Ford had also doubled the salary of his employees to 5$, much more than the average factory worker at the time, without pressure from government or unions. The strategy worked: Ford’s profits doubled from 1914 to 1916, which incited many other American corporations to follow suit. One of the most considerable increases in working standards was thus the result of the profit seeking stroke of genius of one of the most infamous capitalists in North American history.Sharing the gloryRegardless of one’s opinion of minimum wage, it is frustrating to see union leaders claiming monopoly over the improvement of working… Read More

Keystone easy to oppose for all the wrong reasons

What should have been a major but nonetheless routine transnational infrastructure project has become the subject of intense opposition from environmental groups and the focus of continuous and disproportionate media attention. After a series of events ranging from the U.S. Presidential elections to the recent and unrelated spill of Exxon’s Canadian crude oil in Arkansas, the controversy has become great enough to jeopardize the viability of the Keystone XL project, whose name many of our readers will recognize, a fact astounding in itself.Faith in human rationality dictates that the enormous efforts by environmentalists, politicians and prominent personalities to oppose the project are justifiable by some sort of gain in the satisfaction of an over-arching goal, which we would presume to be the protection of the environment and the reduction of global green-house gas emissions. The discourse used by these groups, from which we can distill two major arguments, is, however, far from rational.First, they claim that the Keystone XL pipeline will increase the demand for Albertan petroleum products, whose process of extraction and refining they accurately describe as emitting more gas emissions than other petroleum sources. They thus believe it consequential that opposing the pipeline will reduce that demand, and that global gas emissions will recede as a result. Second, it is claimed that the catastrophic and irreversible consequences of a spill on the environment, which could directly affect the Average Joe’s backyard, outweigh any potential benefits.  Unchallenged, these arguments have conveniently framed the debate as a choice between the economy and the environment. This false representation of reality makes for the easy identification of who is virtuous and who is despicable, creates an easily digestible and simplistic narrative and limits the opportunity for a rational debate.Using economic theory, it is predictable that the inherent value of Alberta’s bitumen will… Read More