Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Olympic Villiage Low-Income Housing

Today in the Vancouver Sun, there was an article about a new plan of Campbell's to take 320 rooms from Olympic Villiage and turn them into low-income housing for BC residents. The announcement sounded good, but it lacked context about how many rooms are really needed, how many homeless it will help, and how many homeless exist. Basically, what I was left wondering was, what percentage of the problem does this announcement fix?

The article

According to the BC Housing page homes are currently provided for 83,900 households. This is quite huge in comparison to the 320 rooms being made available by this announcement. The new homes are insignificant in this context.

This page from Policy Alternatives reports that Athens created 2300 low-income units after its Olympic games. London in 2012 is planning to make 4500. These numbers are a lot larger than what Campbell seems to be planning here. BC is doing poorly in this regard so far.

They also note that five low-income hotels were closed in Vancouver recently, resulting in a loss of about 180 units.

I have seen predictions on numerous progressive websites that there will be an increase in the number of homeless people after the olympics, but I have not seen these numbers quantified anywhere. The best numbers I see is 180 housing units closed in Vancouver, and 320 being opened. Today's announcement basically nullifies the recent negative impact of the incoming Olympics on the poor. It is basically preventing the problem from getting worse this year. It does nothing for the continuing negative impacts that I would expect to occor next year and the year after, but maybe there will be more announcements then too.

This announcement does virtually nothing to solve the much larger issue of homelessness in general. A much higher level of housing would need to be built to even make a dent in that problem. But it does help a lot on the more limited olympic issue, which is probably all it was meant to do.

I wish the newspaper article had listed these numbers for me so I could have understood the significance of Campbell's announcement. Without this context, I had no way to tell if the 300 units were signficant or not.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Eco-Political Compass

I am a fan of the political compass, but I don't think the dimensions they have picked are the most relevant to Canadians in our election. I made a modified compass today, keeping the left-right dimension intact, but substituting the "authoritarian" dimension for a "green" one. The economy and the environment are the two big issues in this election, so it makes more sense to me to see them plotted together.

I got the environmental scores from the Sierra Club's report card http://www.sierraclub.ca/national/vote-canada/2008/voters-guide-climate-crisis-election.pdf

I took those letter grades, and converted them into percentages. For A- I put 80%. A B is 73%. For F+ I picked 40%, since that was the point in my highschool where you could fail a course, but qualify for a shorter summer school session than someone with 39%. After I had those numbers, I wanted to shift the scores so that 50% would represent the middle of the graph. To do that, I subtracted 50 from each score, then multiplied by 2 and divided by 10 to make it fit into the political compass. This resulted in the Conservatives having a score of (-2), the Greens having +6, the liberals having +5.4, and the NDP and Bloc tied at +4.6.

Plotting them all on, I was shocked by just how far the Conservatives are from the rest of the parties. The progressive parties are all bunched together in the same little area near the top, while the Conservatives are way down in "Oil Friendly" territory and on the far right.

It is also pretty apparent on this graph that the claims about the Bloc being a shadow of the NDP, and the Greens being a shadow of the Liberals have a lot of truth to them. Their positions here are nearly identical. I still think that the Greens are a distinct party though. The Liberals' environmental score under Paul Martin was much lower, closer to the centre, and has been moving up toward the Green Party over the last couple of years. Meanwhile the Greens have slid down slightly. Their close proximity is temporary and somewhat coincidental. To say that they are the same party would be like claiming that two cars passing each other on the highway are the same car. They may be very close together, but they are definitely distinct.

The Greens have been spending a lot of time lately saying that the NDP and Liberal's environmental platforms are incredibly weak, and arguing that a strategic vote is a horrible idea because one would have to vote for a party they dislike. But all those arguments fall flat when I look at just how close these parties are to each other. Voting NDP instead of Green means supporting a party that has a score just 1.2 points below that of the Greens. Compare that to going from Green to Conservative, which would be an 8 point drop. A dip to the Liberals or NDP would not be very significant. If the difference was larger, I could understand the argument, but with these parties so close together, I see no harm in a strategic vote.

The NDP and Liberals are nearly tied environmentally, but there is significant difference between them on economics. For someone with left-wing views to do a strategic vote for the Liberals would not make sense, as they would actually be supporting a moderately right-wing party. If you don't care about economics though, and are only concerned about the environment, then a strategic vote might make sense. It depends on what you are basing your vote on, and the dynamics of your particular riding.