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Butterfly effect and the future of Canada

Posted by padams under Election 2008, Election 2008 Campaign strategy, Election 2008 Media commentary

Paul Adams

The term “butterfly effect” refers to a feature of chaos theory in mathematics in which a small event — like a butterfly flapping its wings and creating a miniscule change in the atmosphere — might reverberate through an entire system —  changing the direction of some great storm, for example.

It is easy to think of everyday human examples: If I hadn’t been late for the bus that day, I never would have met my spouse, and we wouldn’t have had twelve kids, and I wouldn’t have lost my job when she hit my boss with the butt-end of the shotgun her father gave her, and we wouldn’t be living in this trailer park. (Part of this story is made up, by the way.)

Anyway, my colleague at EKOS, Frank Graves had this intriguing blog in the Globe and Mail on the weekend, in which he points out that with a single vote change at the Liberals’ last leadership convention, the dynamics on subsequent ballots could have changed, resulting in a leader other than Stephan Dion, with a possibly superior result for the Liberals in this election, and potentially tectonic implications on the long-term prospects of the Liberal Party and of the Canadian party system.

So the whole future history of Canada may come down to one delegate who spent too much time in the hospitality suites. If you could track the guy down, it would make an interesting interview.

Paul Adams is a former political reporter with the CBC and the Globe and Mail, and is now a member of Carleton’s journalism faculty, and executive director of EKOS Research Associates.