Sep 8, 2014

Olivia Chow loses when the race is about Rob Ford

On paper, the Toronto Mayoral race should be a cakewalk for the NDP's Olivia Chow. Consider, it is down to two conservatives who will split votes on the right and a single progressive on the left, from a city who has previously had the political makeup to elect NDP candidates like David Miller. Indeed, part of the failure of the left in the 2010 race was because of vote splitting on the left that not only won't hurt the left, it now hurts the right. 

But of course, it isn't any two conservatives, it is a generic fill-in-the-blank conservative in John Tory and, well, the indescribable Rob Ford. While for most people in most cities, municipal politics is a low key and somewhat mundane affair, in Toronto everyone knows about Rob Ford. Everyone has an opinion of Rob Ford. Everyone either really likes, or really hates Rob Ford. Rightly or wrongly (and I very much think it is wrongly) this election is going to be about Rob Ford and this central fact tilts everything.

It is a chicken and egg problem. If the number one goal is to get rid of Rob Ford, you go with the person who appears most likely to win. And the person who will be most likely to win is the one that is getting all the support. Right now that is John Tory.

This isn't about left or right, it isn't about this or that transit plan, it isn't about Chinese immigrant vs quintessential white male politician, it isn't about the NDP or the the PCs, it isn't about contrasting visions for Toronto, it is about who is most likely to beat Rob Ford. That's it. 

I like Olivia Chow because I believe that her values and policies are in the right place, not because she is particularly adept at portraying the impression that she alone is most likely to win an election. A race about whether you can beat Rob Ford isn't the kind of race she will excel at. 

While Rob Ford's long circus of nonsense is as unacceptable and ridiculous as one can imagine, what has always been most dangerous about Rob Ford is that he might be able to enact some of his far right Tea Party agenda. Thankfully, council blocked him for the most part, particularly after his first year and it has been a long time since he was setting policy.

The problem is that when one thinks of reasons not to vote for Rob Ford, one can easily come up with a laundry list of crack and alcohol and lies and whatever else. But what probably isn't at the top - what may not even make it on the list - is a failed vision for Toronto.It is that failed far right vision for Toronto that is most disastrous and that is the part that I believe Olivia Chow best represents an antidote to.

When the conversation is about the vision for Toronto, I think that Olivia Chow is an able candidate who can win the election. That is her strength. She can win hearts and minds over this vision. But as long as the conversation is focused on Rob Ford - for him, against him, around him - this simply won't get airtime. In the Rob Ford-centric conversation we are having, John Tory looks to be the next mayor of Toronto. 

Olivia Chow is going to have to fight hard in the next couple weeks to put the conversation back on her terms. 
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Tech on the Side: Amazon vs Apple

While Apple is a wildly profitable money printing machine that hoards its cash and returns billions to shareholders, Amazon makes no official profit. As Benedict Evans points out, this is just a sleight of hand for Amazon has numerous profitable businesses, it is just that it reinvests every penny back into the business (or, more correctly, all its various new subbusinesses) and has skyrocketing capital expenditures to go with its skyrocketing revenues. 

Which is right? Ought Apple to be reinvesting its phenomenal wealth? Ought Amazon to be returning money to shareholders? I argue that, broadly speaking, both are taking the optimal strategy and the difference is a function of different key products. 


Both companies are premised on an idea which after it was implemented is obviously and vastly superior to what came before it. The smartphone/tablet market is enormous, and everyone recognizes the value that smartphones create over the previous era of cell phones and how integral they are to so many of ours lives these days. For Amazon, the ability to have enormous selection with low prices, all done from the comfort of your home (or smartphone!) is vastly superior for tonnes of things than going through a brick and mortor store. They are both fabulous ideas, and as the big first movers to drive the innovation of these two great ideas, Apple and Amazon get richly rewarded for it. 


When you are clever and lucky enough to be the first mover on those once in a decade big ideas, the goal is to capitalize as much as possible. Apple clearly has done this is spades. It has completely dominated taking most of the profits (with Samsung, nobody else makes anything meaningful) from this industry and while it still probably has room to go has saturated the developed world probably something close to as much as it reasonably can with its business model. And it has done this all charging very high margins and being able to print billions and billions of profits. 


For Amazon, however, the market is rather different. If you consider online retail, it undoubtedly crushes everyone. If you consider retail generally, however, Amazon takes maybe 1% (after ignoring gas, food, building supplies, etc). Apple can't realistically expect a 20x revenue growth, unless there are many iPhone level innovations out there none of us can think of that only Apple can. But is it so unreasonable to imagine a not too distant future where people rarely shop in physical stores and, say, 20% of US retail is through Amazon? 


Amazon has so much more room for potential growth than Apple does that they are justified in doing everything they can to grow. This means pouring all of that money from the profitable portions of Amazon into the new and growing portions of Amazon to try and get that growth. There simply isn't a need to waste long term potential by pushing for on paper profits right now. 


On a related note, one of the sillier criticisms of Apple is that it is somehow lacking in innovation because it hasn't come up with a new ipod/iphone/ipad category creating device that completely transforms the entire industry or creates a new one from thin air. Possibly the iWatch will be added to the list, time will tell. The problem is that such massive, industry changing innovations are incredibly rare and one can't just will them into existence, regardless of how much of an innovative genius you are. The 2007 iPhone was certainly a remarkable piece of innovation and now the smartphone market is measured in the billions and all the phones are something like that original iPhone. But how many markets that sized are actually sitting there ripe to be innovated given current technological capabilities? I can't think of any, and I doubt any that criticizes Apple for lack of innovation can do so either. 
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Jul 27, 2014

The Minimum Wage from first principles

The minimum wage, like most government policies, is first and foremost a form of wealth distribution. There are winners and losers from the distribution. The biggest group of winners is the obvious one: low wage workers who now get paid more. Raising the wage floor also raises wages somewhat for workers above the bottom as employers needs to differentiate on wages to attract higher valued workers.

The losers depend on how companies react to a minimum wage.  If they fire low wage employees to compensate, then those fired or not hired suffer and the unemployment rate will rise. If they raise prices of their goods and services to customers, the public quite broadly will suffer. In particular, you would have a lot of middle class customer subsidizing low wage workers in retail and other service industries through paying higher prices. And if companies take a reduced profit then the relatively wealthy will be the main losers.

The exact breakdown of these three main reactions is an empirical problem that requires data, but for now let us just dispense with one oft quoted claim: that companies will never take lower profits, but will always adjust to hurt either employees or customers. This may happen occasionally, but economy wide it would be incredibly unlikely.

Consider, if a company could get by with less employees, or remain competitive with higher prices, they could just do that now and increase their profit. Instead, reducing employees is likely to lower the companies ability to earn money, this is why they hired the employees in the first place. The marginal benefit of firing an employee and or raising a price needs to be recalculated given any change in market conditions and after the distortion that the minimum wage applies, it would only be occasionally true that everything balances such that one can raise prices and fire employees exactly in proportion to the lost profit due to wage increases. In general, it won't be 0% the reduced profit factor and thus there will be a net wealth transfer from the ownership class to the low wage worker class.

Let us accept some form of normative goal where we aim to help out the disadvantaged in society and reduce the level of inequality that persists. Seeing the problem just at this level of wealth distribution, the reason to support it is due to the increased wages of low wage workers and the reason to oppose it is due to potential for increased unemployment among people competing for low wage jobs. Both are good or bad relative to this goal. There is certainly a likely undercurrent, particularly among the political right, that opposes minimum wage for that other group of losers - business owners - in effect rejecting the normative goal, although since it is hard to feel sorry for the Waltons, their arguments usually are about the potential for increased unemployment.

The Macroeconomic view:
Thus far we have been doing microeconomics; that is, we have looked at the options a specific company could take and who that helps or hurts. However, if we look at this from a macroeconomic level we know that different market distortions have different, often difficult to predict, macroeconomic consequence. For instance, wealth distribution in a vacuum gives dollars to certain people and takes it away from other people. However, the macroeconomic effect is typically to grow or contract the economy based on different wealth redistributions. So opposed to just listing winners and losers, ought we expect this distortion to result in favorable macroeconomic consequences?

It is well known that when the government spends money, there is a multiplicative effect in net economic growth. As in, most of the time that the government spends a dollar, the economy grows by some amount that is either more or less than a dollar, and only coincidentally would work out to precisely a dollar in growth, at least in the shorter term. Things like unemployment benefits and infrastructure spending have a multiplicative factor greater than 1, and things like tax cuts for the rich and military spending have a multiplicative factor less than 1. The basic reason this exists for policies like unemployment benefits is that this money immediately goes back into the local economy because unemployed people really need to spend it on the basics, thus increasing aggregate demand and growing the economy. Contrast this with money to the rich which often has a low velocity, staying in bank accounts, or finding its way offshore, which has a lower increase in domestic demand. . 

Low wage earners are in this category where their extra money quickly finds its way back into the local economy, thus driving up demand. Money taken from high wage earners also is taken out of the economy and reduces demand, but the multiplicative effect of this is lower, which is the key. Net aggregate demand creation percolates through and helps everyone (although unequally) by creating more jobs and more profits.

This is the basic reason why we get the following statistical quirk: studies don't tend to show a big jump in unemployment following minimum wage increases. One of the three ways companies can adjust is by firing people, and they surely do some of thus, but it seems to be more or less made up for by increased demand in the economy resulting in increased jobs. What is left is largely the redistribution from the wealthier owner class to the low wage earning class, with associated GDP boosts.

Why does this have to be done by the government?
The nature of the boosted demand by a minimum wage law is that is broadens the economy generally, but isn't focused specifically on the companies likely to use minimum wage employees. Companies like McDonalds might suffer a lower bottom line if they can't fire employees or raise prices without losing business, but Apple might benefit as more low wage employees can purchase their fancy devices and have a lower dependence on low wage workers. Because the benefits are delocalized no individual company reaps the benefits of increased demand if they act unilaterally. Most of the result of giving extra money to your employees is that they spend it somewhere else. But if lots of companies do this, the benefits spread out widely. It is a classic tragedy of the commons scenario where the benefit is only realized if the government mandates it - at the largest jurisdiction possible - otherwise companies are always incentivized not to engage unilaterally.
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Jun 27, 2014

Peter MacKay's wife doesn't help his - or our - cause

The latest flap over sexist comments from Justice Minister Peter Mackay came about when a Mother's Day and Father's Day emails from Peter Mackay to his staff were leaked to the media. The comparison isn't pretty: put side by side it makes it seems like mothers should be applauded for doing housework like changing diapers and making dinners while fathers are praised for moulding, guiding and influencing their children. Sigh.

That the comparison is clearly sexist shouldn't exactly be controversial to most readers of this blog, but the blame game is a little less straight forward. Let's get a few things out of the way first before I get into why I am not impressed with Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay's - Peter Mackay's wife - spirited defence of him.

I don't actually blame Peter Mackay that much for approving these messages, and I don't blame the apparently female staffer who originally wrote them. If someone showed either of them to me in isolation - or together but a month apart - I might not have noticed either. In isolation, the Mother's day message is a perfectly fine applause line for managing the tricky work-life balance that being a parent can demand. Maybe Peter Mackay is a huge sexist, I don't know, but not noticing it in these emails hardly proves it.

What they do demonstrate quite poignantly, however, is just how pervasive our societal views of gender roles, particularly with respect to parenting, really are. The association between mothers changing diapers and making dinners - and fathers with building character and positive influences - is very strong. There is both a descriptive asymmetry - women do indeed do a higher share of the housework on average - and a normative one - society tacitly promotes these gendered roles.

The fact that I feel I - a self styled progressive feminist male - could have easily written these letters is a problem. One sits down to think of some laudable traits of mothers and because it is so latent within society, it is natural to immediately jump to changing diapers and making dinners. When it is pointed out it is easy to see the problem, but because the problem is so embedded in our societal views, it doesn't stand out. I once read a study on academic reference letters that showed how when giving references for male students, professors would speak to their academic qualities like intelligence and work ethic, but for female students would speak instead more towards their social qualities such as being a friendly person. Nobody is actively trying to be a sexist, but these prevailing societal attitudes filter into our actions. I don't for a moment think you or I - and certainly not Peter Mackay - are immune to this.

Where I am going to bring criticism on Peter Mackay - and his wife in her open letter - is not in the action, but in the response. Or, more correctly, in the failure to seize the opportunity and say something positive and instead pushing the issue - for it is, truly, an issue - under the rug as part of an overblown media controversy. While I think the prevalence of these attitudes is so strong in society that people can be forgiven for repeating societal memes without thinking, when we are called to think on them because of such a controversy, the opportunity should be taken to identify, condemn, and attempt to rectify these same societal attitudes.

Nazanin's main point is that Peter Mackay isn't a sexist, and is actually a stand up guy and that the criticisms of him are either made up or overblown. She starts to lose me a bit with the "anti-Conservative media" big, but by and large it is a well written defence of her main point. However, what it doesn't bother to do - as Peter Mackay himself didn't do - is take this opportunity which is sticking out like a sore thumb to speak to our perceptions of gender roles, of how they pervade society and find themselves trickling into, say, Mother's and Father's day emails. Neither lays out the case for why the emails are indeed problematic, and the underlying problems in society that they symbolize.

Had either of them done that, then we wouldn't be having a debate over whether Peter Mackay is or is not a sexist. We would be applauding him for tackling a difficult and important subject.
Read more » "Peter MacKay's wife doesn't help his - or our - cause"
Jun 20, 2014

Canada and the US moving in opposite directions in online spying

The juxtaposition of these two stories on top of each other in my news feed yesterday was priceless:

It is kind of amazing that it is the US whose democratic process is working towards curbing the status quo in online spying while in Canada the Conservatives are pushing forward despite the public outrage. 

Ever since the Snowden NSA links, light has been shed on the previous opaque status of what our governments are doing with our digital data. The leaks have sparked a genuine and sorely needed conversation about the appropriate role of the government in using our private information from the internet, ostensibly for crime and terrorism reduction. For most people, the conclusion is that both governments have been significantly overstepping reasonable bounds.

To be fair, the sheer size and scope of the US programs dwarf that of Canada's. However, if nothing else, at least in the US the elected representatives - Democrat and Republican alike - are coming together in a major bipartisan supermajority to restrict some of the more egregious aspects of these programs. That is how democracy is supposed to work. When new revelations come to light of things that the people broadly abhor, the representatives of those people work to change the status quo. 

Unfortunately, in Canada, despite repeated and considerable public opposition, the Conservatives are doing everything they can to further entrench these online spying policies. Amazingly, we are moving in the wrong direction while the US is moving in the right one. 

Canadian's do have one saving grace: the Supreme Court. Like much of the Harper agenda that has been thwarted by the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court has recently ruled against telecom companies handing over private data to the government without a warrant, precisely the kind of thing included in Bill C-13. 



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Jun 13, 2014

I can't blame the NDP for the election call

Despite being a nonpartisan lefty, during the campaign I wasn't particularly kind to the NDP. I derided the choice to call an election as a gamble that risked either a fairly horrible outcome (Hudak forming government), or a relatively small loss (slightly less influence within a majority Liberal government) for a relatively small gain (slightly more influence within a minority Liberal government). I wasn't impressed with their "small" platform. And I wasn't impressed with their strategy.

However, despite this negativity from me, at the end of the day I can't really blame the NDP for calling an election, even if I would have substantially changed their strategy. To see this, let's first ask why the NDP actually called an election.

There is almost no reason to take at face value Andrew Horwath's claim that the election was a "referendum on corruption" given that if the gas plants cancellation boondoggle was really an election worthy revelation, what changed over the last three years while the NDP supported them despite knowing about the gas plants? The older expensive boondoggles like Ornge and eHealth that get tosses around under the corruption banner were before that. This was part of the strategy and messaging, but not their actual reasons for calling an election.

I believe the animus around the election was that the NDP, in some ways legitimately, felt that the Liberals were ignoring them and governing as if they really had the extra couple seats to make it a majority. The limited compromises they got into the previous budget were not living up to the promise, and they wanted more influence than this.

NDP polling was distinctly third party and steadily so. There can have been no illusions that the NDP had a real shot to win, or that this particular moment they chose was particularly conducive to giving them a shot to win. Instead, the hope, I suspect, was that the Liberals would be reelected, but with fewer seats and with the NDP getting more of the balance of power. Maybe they could even become official opposition somehow. With that, they would be respected and heeded more, allowing their voice to make its way into government policy.

I don't necessarily think this is even bad. The NDP was going to have to face a new election soon enough when the Liberal mandate ran out regardless. There wasn't any real reason to suspect that their opportunities would get better in the future, and while it is far from the smoking gun they might wish it to be, the police investigation into the deleted emails gives a time sensitive tarnish to the Liberals. Yes, I stand behind my post that the election call was an awful risk, but the next election was going to have substantial downside risk and little upside potential for the NDP no matter when it was called.

Besides, parties are designed and built and sustained around running elections, it is in their DNA. So parties call elections even if the stars aren't perfectly aligned, it is just what they do.

What I object to is the strategy they undertook. The choices they made in establishing their platform and the choices they made in how to run their campaign, were both bad. They managed the dual effect of minimizing the potential upshot of the election, while maximizing the risk in the election. But I can't blame them for trying.
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Jun 9, 2014

The effect on strategic voting of Wynne ruling out a coalition

Unfortunately, for those of us who think that some form of Liberal-NDP election deal or coalition would be vastly superior to the PCs forming a government with the largest minority, Kathleen Wynne has said that she won't form a coalition with the NDP. Unsurprisingly, as this move changes the possible outcomes, it also has an effect on strategic voting.

For most ridings, this has little effect. Either the riding is "safe"  with the outcome largely determined. In this situation one can vote for any number of different reasons but doing it explicitly to strategically prevent the PCs from winning need not be among that list. Or, in the closer races between the PCs and the OLP, there is still pressure to vote OLP strategically to prevent the PCs.

The main effect this has is on ridings that are close between the NDP and the Liberals. If a coalition was possible, flipping a seat from OLP to NDP wouldn't matter too much. If the PCs got a majority, it wouldn't change things one way or the other. Even if that was the key seat that meant the PCs moved to the largest minority because of it, if the OLP and NDP were going to work together in minority situations anyways it wouldn't make much of a difference. If it was one of the key seats (such as it was in 2011) that just prevented the OLP from making a majority, the relative similarities between the current OLP and NDP plans would mean this wasn't too significant.

By ruling out the coalitions, however, there is a much greater chance that this will be relevant. Flipping a seat from OLP to NDP now reduces by one the number of seats Hudak has to win. If it were the key vote that took the PCs up to the largest minority, that loss of an OLP seat would meant Hudak would win government.

Personally, I am not willing to take that risk. Hudak's plan is far to far to the right to risk him winning out of hopes that the small benefits of the NDP plan over the OLP plan (such as the 1% corporate tax cut or tuition freeze) get increased influence by having one extra NDP member elected. I actually would probably prefer it if the OLP only won a minority and had to work with the NDP. But it is simply too risky, as was this entire election for the NDP.

Why does Wynne does this?
Ruling out coalitions is an appeal to centre-right voters. Many voters still have the false view that the NDP are crazed far left socialists, opposed to the much more modern, pragmatist centre-left moderates they now are. These voters could conceivably vote for the Liberals, but would abhor the possibility of a dreaded Liberal-NDP coalition, much how there was backlash when this happened at the federal level.

It is a huge gamble for Wynne, however. The hope is that you can pick up a few percentage point of people because of this. Maybe she can. But she does it at the risk that the dreaded situation of the PCs getting the largest minority actually happens. Then the promise - uttered for small electoral gain - translates into flipping from a much more desirable Liberal-NDP government to the PCs. 

Parkdale-Highpark riding:
My riding - Parkdale-Highpark - is a very left wing riding. It has flipped, both provincially and federally, between the NDP and the Liberals over the last decade and currently has NDP incumbents at both levels. The races between the NDP and the Liberals are often close and the Conservative/PC choices don't have any real shot.

That is, it is exactly the type of riding where this has an effect for strategic voting.  I definitely support my local MPP - Cheri DiNovo - who is on the left flank of the NDP and has done great work with things like Toby's law and advocacy for electric trains, and the like. She is a great person to have in parliament. I voted for her in 2011. However, I can't vote for her this time round. The risk of the PCs is just too big. 
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Jun 7, 2014

The NDP email on "strategic voting" is largely nonsense

The NDP has sent several emails to supporters before and during the campaign premised on the idea that the best way to stop the Conservatives is to vote for the NDP. Here is the latest:
"This election, there is one simple trick you can use to stop a Conservative majority: vote strategically. 
We’ve heard about strategic voting before – casting your ballot to stop a conservative government. 
This election, strategic voting is important. Stopping Tim Hudak’s plan to kill 100,000 middle class jobs is critical. 
Here in Brampton-Springdale, there’s no doubt: the strategic vote is NDP.
In ridings all over Ontario – from Brampton to Kenora, Toronto to Kitchener – voting NDP is the best thing we can all do to stop a Tory majority."
In my previous post, I endorsed the idea of having the strategic goal to stop the Conservatives, at least in close ridings in this close election (otherwise, there are many other reasonable strategic goals to have). However the idea that voting the NDP is the best way to do that doesn't hold water.

Consider this riding specific seat projection from www.threehundredeight.com. In it there are only eight ridings in Ontario where the Liberals are in third place, four with the NDP first and four with the PCs first. Most are not particularly close elections. In particular, the Brampton-Springdale riding mentioned in the email is not one of those close elections. The Liberals are projected leading with 44% of the vote to the NDPs 15%.

With the exception of a couple very specific ridings that have the quirk of both being somewhat close and the Liberals relegated to third party status, voting for the NDP makes it strategically easier for the PCs to win that seat.

This shouldn't be surprising. Since the Liberals are, almost by definition, in the middle of the NDP and the PCs, most close races are either the Liberals and the PCs, or the Liberals and the NDP, occasionally all three. The NDP can reasonably hope to win Liberal leaning seats. But they can't reasonably hope to win PCs leaning seats, except on rare occasions.

If you want to hold the Liberals to a minority by you can do this by voting NDP in the NDP vs Liberal ridings, but it will make it easier for the Conservatives to win the largest minority (even if it doesn't change majority computations). I can even see many argument for voting NDP in a Liberal vs PC that don't have to do with "stopping the Conservatives". But if the goal is to stop the Conservatives - as the NDP claims their goal is - then voting NDP in these ridings doesn't make a lick of sense.
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Riding by riding strategic voting in the 2014 Ontario Election

I've always advocated for strategic voting on this blog where we vote based on promoting certain goals given the constraints of both our local riding and the broader election. This can take many forms; for instance, in "safe" ridings where the outcome is all but determined I often advocate voting for third parties that help to push the relative importance of particular issues. In contrast,  in closer, contested ridings, I am often going to stick closer to making sure the better of the two likely winners has the better shot. Or perhaps we have a particularly powerful local candidate who would be a good advocate for particular issues, or have broader multi-election goals, and so on. 

We thus have three main things to consider when deciding how to vote:
1) How is our specific riding likely to vote?
2) What is the larger jurisdiction wide picture; in this case, what are the likely outcomes of the vote Ontario wide?
3) What are our goals given these constraints?

Riding specific constraints: 
The poll aggregation blog www.threehundredeight.com/ gives a riding specific breakdown of probabilities in specific ridings here. For a quick check to see if your riding is one of the most contested swing ridings, click here. For past election results click here. Take some caution, however, as riding projections are quite a bit more variable than the already rather uncertain provincial wide picture due to limited data. 

Ontario wide constraints: 
This point is the same for all of us: In this election it is a pretty close race - certainly within uncertainty - between the Liberals and the Conservatives, with the NDP a distant third. A majority for either isn't out of the question, based on polling, but a minority situation seems like the most likely.

It is also worth briefly comparing the respective platforms. The Liberals and the NDP are very close, in relative terms, while the PCs budget is vastly further to the right. I've written here before how the Liberals took a step to the left with their budget while the NDP has made small tweaks and used a lot of more centrist or right leaning rhetoric. It isn't that there isn't any difference, but it is worth noting that we would have a much smaller shift if the Liberals were replace with some form of Liberal/NDP deal or coalition or even the unlikely NDP win, than if the Liberals were replaced by the PCs. If, perhaps, you have a different view than this paragraph presents it may change your subsequent election goals, but the importance of understanding the Ontario wide constraints remains. 

Election Goals: 
This is the trickiest of the three because what our goals are dependent on the riding specific and Ontario wide constraints. For instance, if there is a 0% chance of the Greens being elected and a rather small chance of the NDP being elected, it is pointless to have our goal be "I want the Greens/NDP to be elected". We could instead, however, have goals such as "I want to increase the prominence of the Greens/NDP so that the elected party will push policy closer to the NDP's" or "I want to build NDP support long term by electing strong members despite not winning a plurality".  

Our goals are also very sensitive to the riding specific information. In a safe riding - a riding where the outcome is all but determined - I still claim that voting is very important. It allows us to signal our preferences and the relative prominence of particular parties influences the kind of policies that end up being implemented - the green vote in Ontario from 2007-2011 was an excellent case in point of this. We are in a sense freed to vote for third parties, for issue specific reasons, for long term party building reasons, and so on. 

In this election, there is a very real risk of a very bad PC government forming. Voting strategically for a party you don't particularly love (such as the Liberals) for the strategic goal of preventing an even worse party (such as the PCs) isn't always palpable for people. The logic, however, applies most when it is both a close election Ontario wide and a close election in your specific riding between (usually) the Liberals and the PCs. If you don't live in a close riding, or if the election wasn't close, I think there are many laudable reasons to vote for the NDP or the Greens. But if you do live in such a riding in our close election, you should vote Liberal. 
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