Ontario State Poll Resembles America’s 2016 Election

Toronto Canada
Skyline of Toronto, Canada (Unsplash/Juan Rojas)

Every election now gets compared to America’s 2016 presidential contest, but the analogy fits really well in today’s election in Ontario, Canada’s largest province.

Patrick Brown, who was supposed to be the center-right Conservative candidate, dropped out less than three months before the election under allegations of sexual misconduct involving a minor. This triggered a contest for the Progressive Conservative leadership featuring:

  • Doug Ford, a right-wing populist and the brother of former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who passed away in 2016;
  • Christine Elliott, a center-right candidate, formerly married to a finance minister; and
  • Carolyn Mulroney, another center-right candidate and the daughter of a former prime minister.

Ford narrowly beat Elliott, despite losing the popular vote. He went on to face the incumbent state premier, Kathleen Wynne, of the ruling Liberal Party, and Andrea Horwath of the progressive New Democratic Party.

Wynne was so unpopular that, with only a week to go before the election, she conceded. Polls now show a tight race between Ford and Horwath. Read more “Ontario State Poll Resembles America’s 2016 Election”

Technology Could Help Mend Italy’s North-South Divide

Castelfalfi Italy
View of the Tuscany countryside from Castelfalfi, Italy (Moira e Raffaella)

The results of the 2018 election in Italy reflected two main economic realities: the economic struggles in Italy relative to northern Europe and the economic struggles in southern Italy relative to northern Italy. The former helped anti-establishment parties to gain a large share of the country’s vote. The latter resulted in Lega Nord and center-right parties performing well throughout much of the north of Italy and the Five Star Movement performing well in the south of Italy.

In geopolitics — the school of thought that argues that geography is the most significant or fundamental element in politics — these two economic realities have the same obvious source: mountains. Italy and southern Europe are much more mountainous than northern Europe and southern Italy is much more mountainous than northern Italy.

Mountainous regions tend to be much poorer than non-mountainous regions. Italy is no exception. Read more “Technology Could Help Mend Italy’s North-South Divide”

Democratic Ideals and Reality: An Enduring Tension

A century ago, a British member of Parliament and geographer, Halford Mackinder, wrote one of the famous books of geopolitics, Democratic Ideals and Reality. The book discussed the tension between what nations want (“democratic ideals”) and what they often get (geographic “reality”).

That tension seems especially topical this week. Read more “Democratic Ideals and Reality: An Enduring Tension”

North Korea in the Next Five Years

The Korean War, fought from 1950-53, was a result of two earlier wars in the 1940s: the American-Japanese War, which ended with the destruction and occupation of Japan in 1945, and the Chinese Civil War, which ended in a Communist victory (and Nationalist retreat to Taiwan) in 1950.

With the Communists and Americans as the only powers in East Asia following these wars, the Korean Peninsula was split in two, each side taking a piece for itself.

When the United States triumphed over the Soviet Union around 1990, many expected the North Koreans to fix their broken ties with South Korea. That this did not occur was partly the result of inertia, partly the result of Kim Il-sung’s living until 1994 and partly the result of the 1997 East Asian financial crisis, which kept the South Koreans too poor to want to bear the cost of investing in North Korean infrastructure or labor.

It was also partly the result of a miscalculation on behalf of North Korea in 1987, 24 months before the Berlin Wall came down. Seeking to ruin the South’s first-ever Olympics in 1988, the North blew up a commercial airplane. It was by far the deadliest attack on the South since the armistice began in 1953. South Korea’s anger and mistrust of North Korea as a result of this deed persisted during the 90s. Read more “North Korea in the Next Five Years”

Can Canada Resist Trump’s Offensive on NAFTA?

NAFTA stands for the North American Free Trade Act, but President Donald Trump does not.

After campaigning on a promise to repeal the act, then adapting his position to that of merely supporting the act’s renegotiation, Trump recently announced that he would no longer tolerate the status quo arrangement for American imports of dairy and forestry products originating from Canada.

Proposing, on April 24, to add a 24-percent tariff on American imports of Canadian softwood lumber, Trump kept up the pressure on Canada the following day, tweeting, “Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!”

Watch! indeed: the value of the loonie fell sharply the week of the tweet, as investors worried how Canada will fare when it comes to the broader renegotiation of NAFTA Trump continues to promise.

Trump’s targeting of Canada in this way is not likely to have been random. Nor was it entirely economic in its intention. Rather, Trump brought up the issue in order to prove his anti-NAFTA bona fides to his political base, however, in a way that manages to avoid the hairier subjects associated with NAFTA’s other signatory, Mexico, such as those of immigration, racism and The Wall.

Trump has admittedly been careful to direct attention to goods of lesser importance, like dairy products and softwood lumber, rather than to Canada’s key exports of oil (from Alberta) and auto parts (from Ontario).

Still, he has been far tougher on Canada — at least in his rhetoric — than has any other recent president. To use a Trumpian phrase: Canada has now been put on notice. Read more “Can Canada Resist Trump’s Offensive on NAFTA?”

Trump and the Turks

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Donald Trump
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16 (Presidency of the Republic of Turkey)

As Donald Trump returns from his first international tour as American president, one thing that stands out is, as usual, the difference between his and Barack Obama’s approach to diplomacy. Whereas Obama’s first Mideast destinations were Turkey and Iraq, Trump’s were Saudi Arabia and Israel, a country Obama did not even visit until his second term in office.

Trump’s trip also included stops in Brussels, Sicily and the Vatican in Rome. Along with Saudi Arabia and Israel, these represent four of the five most significant allies of the United States within the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean region: Italy, Israel, the Saudis and the EU.

The fifth ally, which appears to have been snubbed, is Turkey. The Turks were not honored with a stop during Trump’s first trip to the region, as they were during Obama’s.

Turkey failing to make it onto Trump’s travel itinerary might seem to be of little significance, if it were not for the flurry of unpleasant events involving the Turks and Americans that have occured this same month. Read more “Trump and the Turks”

Why Ontario Plays Such a Central Role in Canadian Politics

Toronto Canada
Skyline of Toronto, Canada (Unsplash/Maarten van den Heuvel)

Canada is often considered to be a haven from geopolitics, a nation relatively free from economic want or political cant. But if by geopolitics we refer simply to the influence of geography upon politics, Canada may in fact be a prime place to study it, if only because the country posseses so much of the former when in comparison to the latter.

The basic fact of Canadian geopolitics is this: more Canadians live in the city of Toronto than live in the 2,500-kilometer expanse of land separating Toronto from Alberta.

(Or, to put it in the most Canadian possible of ways, there are a heckuva lot more people who would like to see Auston Matthews take the Calder than Patrick Laine.)

Canada is in this way divided in two: between Alberta and British Columbia on the one hand, in which around 25 percent of Canadians live and 30 percent of Canada’s GDP is generated, and Ontario and Quebec on the other, which account for roughly 60 percent of Canada’s population and GDP.

These two halves are, in turn, each divided in two. Alberta is separated from British Columbia by the Rockies; Ontario from Quebec by the Anglo-French divide. (The debate is still open as to which of these two barriers is the more venerable.)

However, while the British Columbia-Alberta split is pretty well balanced — Alberta’s GDP is a bit larger than British Columbia’s, but British Columbia’s population is a bit larger than Alberta’s — the Ontario-Quebec divide is tilted strongly in support of Ontario. By itself, Ontario accounts for an estimated 38.6 percent of Canada’s population and 38.4 percent of Canada’s GDP. Read more “Why Ontario Plays Such a Central Role in Canadian Politics”

Electoral College Blues

New York State Capitol Albany
Electors gather in the New York State Capitol in Albany, December 19 (New York City Mayor’s Office/Edwin J. Torres)

In the recent presidential election, Donald Trump received the support of 45 percent of voters who have college diplomas, 37 percent of voters who have graduate degrees and just 35 percent of college-age voters. But, of course, Trump won the presidency in spite of these numbers, because he is set to receive 57 percent of the votes in the Electoral College.

Democratic voters are not at all happy about this. Many are now calling for the abolition of the Electoral College (or at least wishing that it was not so incredibly difficult to abolish). They are unhappy that both Donald Trump and George W. Bush were able to reach the White House even after losing the popular vote.

I am sympathetic to this view and if it were up to me I would agree to replace the Electoral College with another type of voting system — though what system exactly would be best I am not certain about.

That said, I would like to point out a few things to the Democratic supporters who have been discussing this issue of late, if only because I have yet to hear anyone mention them: Read more “Electoral College Blues”

A Look Back at Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy

Xi Jinping Barack Obama
Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Barack Obama of the United States speak at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, June 8, 2013 (White House/Pete Souza)

Barack Obama was elected at a time when political anxiety in America was relatively high, particularly among Democratic voters who disliked George W. Bush’s seeming lack of sophistication.

The feeling was that the United States had wasted trillions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan and thus helped to ruin America’s economy and divert attention away from more serious adversaries like Russia and especially China.

The economic failure was seen as being confirmed by the financial crisis that began with the collapse of Lehman Brothers a month or so before the election.

The foreign policy failure was seen as being confirmed by, among other things, Russia’s invasion of Georgia three months before the election, followed one day later by the extravagant opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. Read more “A Look Back at Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy”

Overlooked Regional Divisions Helped Trump Defeat Clinton

Hillary Clinton could not just have been the first female president of the United States; had she defeated Donald Trump, she would also have been the first Democratic Party president in recent history from a Northern state.

The past four Democrats who won the presidential election (five if you include Al Gore) were not from the North.

This counts Barack Obama as a sort-of Southern Democrat. Hawaii, where he was born, is the southernmost state, after all. Obama was raised by his Kansas-born mother and grandparents and African American society in Illinois — where he grew up — is rooted in the South.

You have to go back to John F. Kennedy to find a Democratic president not from the Southern United States. Read more “Overlooked Regional Divisions Helped Trump Defeat Clinton”