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Robert Sroka

Who voted for Brexit, and why

  The recent British referendum on independence was very much a division of socioeconomic status, age, and race. For an insight into the demographic to whom the government’s forthcoming negotiations will need to appeal, the following numbers may help paint a picture. In 92 percent of areas where more than half of residents held a university degree, the vote was to remain. Similarly, high numbers in favour of remain were seen in areas with prominent migrant populations. In contrast, 94 percent of the areas with a populous derived from working class backgrounds, and 95 percent of the areas with the largest share of citizens over 65 years of age voted to leave. A vast number of Englishmen and women who are unhappy with the current state of Britain, crying out as victims of globalisation, saw this as their chance to have their say, and this time be heard. They argue that the open border policy afforded to members of the EU, encouraged by Angela Merkel’s decision to accept up to 1-million displaced immigrants last year is detrimental to the British lifestyle and economy. According to them, it allows too many migrants to settle within the UK. Appealing to this rhetoric was the driving force behind the “Leave” campaign, leading up to the landmark referendum result. This was a chance for those on the lower rungs of the ladder to finally turn their thoughts, feelings, and concerns into action in a way that could not be ignored. While some migrants may work illegally in the UK, and while some Brits may be forced to find alternative employment as a result, the influx of labour migration provides is a welcome, and somewhat needed stimulus to the British economy in the form of a bulk supply of inexpensive workers providing net benefits. These… Read More

Marijuana legalization isn’t worth border risks

Void of substantive policy, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has reopened the marijuana debate this summer with a blazing intensity. Despite this, between the “Cheech and Chong” left and the Harper Tories reverting to their worst “Leave it to Beaver” tendencies, the patio-season conversation has mostly underplayed a crucial aspect – the cross-border trade implications. Marijuana, when consumed by consenting adults in private, is a relatively harmless substance that in a perfect world should be regulated in a similar way to alcohol, a much more dangerous drug. However we in Canada do not live in a perfect world. We live beside the United States, our strongest ally, our overwhelming cultural influence and most importantly, our largest trading partner. While marijuana is varying degrees of legal in several states, it is still illegal federally and its prohibition is often harshly enforced. For this reason alone, it is too risky for Canada to move any faster than the (US) feds on reform. Although the sitting President was known to enjoy more than the odd blunt in the days before Barry became Barack, marijuana policy is far down the priority list for an administration currently preoccupied with drafting its Syria policy of the week.  As for Congress, its 535 logrolling, nearsighted and constantly campaigning members aren’t exactly in a hurry to be labelled as “pro drugs.” If Canada ever got on board the legalization train however, there is a strong possibility Congress could awaken in one of its favourite pursuits – protectionism, veiled in this case by tough-on drugs/crime rhetoric and border security political peer pressure. American elections are inherently local affairs, where jobs often matter most, and those jobs aren’t Canadian ones. When given the opportunity and adequate political cover, there are many in both parties who could be persuaded that their electoral… Read More

BC teachers, don’t let your union use your students

Collective bargaining season has arrived for the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF). And like summer follows spring and riots follow Game 7 Stanley Cup losses in Vancouver, the BCTF is once again on a war footing. Recently, the union has splashed its reserves on a well-produced ad campaign being saturated on television screens across the province.The crux of the BCTF’s argument seems to be that class sizes are too large and students are suffering as a result, a problem to which there are two apparently inseparable parts of the solution. The first part is to hire more teachers to reduce class sizes. By most standards this is a reasonable response, and it is surely aimed at being just that. But it is also meant to be the friendly front that lets the BCTF slip in their long-con over the doormat otherwise known as the province’s taxpayers. You see, the other “essential” part of the BCTF’s solution to classroom overcrowding is (drum roll please…)to pay teachers 15% more over three years.Needless to say, the 15% isn’t mentioned anywhere in the ads, probably because this is where the BCTF’s noble crusade for students falls off a cliff. Simply put, if the government has “x” number of dollars in its budget, any dollar that is spent on increasing the salaries of existing teachers is by definition a dollar that cannot be spent on hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes. If the BCTF’s priority was really to act for the benefit of students by reducing class sizes then they could negotiate for the new hires as their sole demand. Heck, they could even selflessly agree to a salary reduction with the stipulation that the savings be put towards hiring more teachers. Dreaming in Technicolor™ on both counts, I know.But consider the inverse for… Read More

How to save British Columbia from an NDP takeover

I wrote in this paper last September that centre-right voters in BC should give Christy Clark a fair chance to put the BC Liberal train back on track. Instead of regaining control of the situation however, the premier has seen her party’s derailment only accelerate, culminating in a pair of humiliating by-election losses two weeks ago.The ultimate insult was a convincing defeat in one of the province’s most conservative ridings, a constituency that had never previously been won by a left of centre party. This is a loss that cannot be blamed on low turnout (in fact, turnout was relatively high for a by-election). Rather, the problem lies with a combination of vote-splitting, the unpopularity of the government, the fecklessness of the premier, and the obvious toxicity of the “Liberal” brand in most of BC. To overcome the many challenges faced by her party, Clark needed to be a leader in the realm of good to great. Instead her range has consistently meandered between disappointing and dreadful.For their part, John Cummins’ BC Conservatives have nothing going for them besides being able to dovetail on a strong federal brand. As a pair of third place by-election results demonstrated, the Tories have no money, no organization and a mediocre leader with no profile. The Conservatives had plenty of time to prepare to run limited campaigns where all of their efforts could be concentrated in order to achieve a result more telling than a phone poll where unprimed (in the political science sense) respondents will be inclined to support a brand they already back in federal elections. Instead the Tories failed miserably. Any right-wing party worth its salt should be able to win in Chilliwack. Cummins came in third.With a divided centre-right, the NDP will emerge victorious for a fourth time in BC’s… Read More

The best candidate didn’t win

Despite recently winning the endorsement of South Carolina’s most circulated paper, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman decided this Sunday to call it quits in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and to throw his support behind frontrunner Mitt Romney.In all honesty with even Stephen Colbert outpolling Huntsman in South Carolina, the writing was on the wall after it became apparent that Huntsman’s late New Hampshire momentum was nowhere to be found in the Palmetto state.  In the end, it didn’t matter that Huntsman’s record and platform were refreshingly principled, prudent and conservative or that he possessed the best resume.  Nor did it matter that he was the most electable. No, Huntsman’s doom came from being pegged as “John McCain minus the maverick.” Huntsman was seen as boring, rational, realistic and unwilling to truly play the pandering game. This is a sadly predictable consequence of a GOP primary season where the main qualifications appear to be limited to equal measures of anger, not being Mitt Romney, and subservience to some idealized ghost of Ronald Reagan.While one after another of his opponents surged in support on the notion that they were the white knight riding the red elephant that would save the GOP from Mitt “the inevitable”, Jon Huntsman never did. Instead, Huntsman appealed to the third or so of Republicans that were already disposed to going Romney’s way.The problem for the former Utah governor was that he was competing for the same votes as a man who has been running for president for the past six years. Worse, this opponent possesses by far both the best (and the best-funded!) political machine in the GOP field. When unlike Romney, Huntsman declined to tap his personal fortune, his exit became only a question of when and if the press conference would include… Read More
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