Thursday, August 30, 2007

Eglinton-Lawrence and Timiskaming-Cochrane

Two more ridings for your consideration:

Eglinton-Lawrence: Mike Colle does not deserve re-election. I say that as a Liberal. That does not mean Mike Colle won't get re-elected. Colle was the minister responsible for all that questionable spending in the immigration department. However, Colle has been in politics in the area for a very long time, first being elected to York city council in 1982. He knows how to campaign and he knows the territory.

The Tories are putting their hopes in Bernie Tanz. Tanz, a business guy, knows the territory as well as he ran to unseat Joe Volpe in the 2004 federal election. John Tory's religious schools promise will play with some parts of the riding's large Jewish population. However, many of the Jewish people here send their kids to local public schools or non-denominational private schools like UCC and BSS. The reality is that this riding is very Liberal and has taken in parts of equally Liberal St. Paul's in the redistribution.

The NDP will be a non-factor here but for the sake of disclosure their candidate is Karin Wiens.

Eglinton-Lawrence is infamous for representatives that drive the rest us nuts. Joe Volpe represents federally and half of the riding municipally is represented by the disgraced Howard Moscoe. The lone bright light is the well regarded Councillor Karen Stintz. Colle should be able to hold on, not on his own merits but because the riding is Liberal and doesn't seem to mind a little corruption in their politicians.

Prediction: Leans Liberal

Timiskaming-Cochrane: The North will present challenges for McGuinty. The North always presents challenges for the Tories. However, Timiskaming-Cochrane should be an easy Liberal hold. David Ramsay, the minister responsible for the North, was first elected here as an NDPer in 1985. He soon switched parties after he became revolted by NDP support for a strike of a union that included what he deemed to be essential personnel. Ramsay is well liked in the riding. He won last time with nearly three times as many votes as his nearest opponent.

The Tories have gone law and order and named retired police officer Doug Shearer as their candidate. NDP candidate John Vanthof helped kill the Toronto garbage deal in the local Adams mine. He certainly has credibility but I can't believe he has enough to defeat the long term incumbent.

Prediction: Safe Liberal

Reforms that Actually Will Increase Diversity

The pro-MMP side claims that their system will improve the representation in the provincial legislature. As I have already argued, this is only true if parties choose to use undemocratic methods of candidate selection. However, there are things we can do to improve diversity. The biggest challenge facing any candidate seeking election is how do I sustain myself and maybe my family while I run for office? This is particularly true for traditionally disadvantaged groups like single mothers and new immigrants. So here are two reforms that would help alleviate the financial burden of running for office.

  1. Provide Job Security: One of the problems people of all walks of life face when seeking elected office is that they will have to either get a significant leave from or give up their present job. This problem affects all candidates not working in politics but is particularly burdensome to those who do not have sufficient savings to simply not work for months during and after an election. How often have you heard losing candidates, when asked about their next step in life, answer, "I have to find a job"? We can solve this problem by forcing private and public employers by law to provide unpaid leave to their employee for the term of the election and guarantee the employee the same position upon the completion of the election if they lose. Now, if there is significant concern about people abusing this policy to get a vacation (the cost of registering as a candidate should deter this), we could say that corporations are liberated from their commitments should the candidate fail to get a certain number of votes.
  2. Pay People to Run For Office: Why should people have to spend their life savings to run for office? It would make sense to pay all serious candidates (you could use the threshold for campaign financing) a small amount to cover basic costs of living. Something in the order of $100 per day. Let's say we set the threshold at 5%(lower, I know then the finance threshold of 10%). There are 107 ridings in Ontario. Realistically only around four candidates per riding get above 5%. That would mean 428 candidates would qualify (this is a very high end estimate). In a typical thirty day campaign that would mean a cost to the government of $1,284,000. A drop in the bucket relative to total government expenditures. This is even small compared to the cost of running an election. The benefit would be huge.
These reforms would do a lot more to get the best people in Queen's Park than any electoral system.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Parry-Sound Muskoka and Niagara West-Glanbrook

Lest I be accused of ignoring Conservative strength, here are two PC strongholds:

Parry Sound-Muskoka: The heart of Ontario's cottage country is also one of the hearts of PC support in the province. Don't let Tony Clement's slim margin here federally fool you. Norm Miller (son of former Premier Frank Miller) is far more popular here than the parachuted Mr. Clement. Mr. Miller, who was first elected in a 2001 by-election to replace the retiring (briefly) Ernie Eves shouldn't face too many problems here. John Tory will play well here.

The Liberals have nominated Brenda Rhodes who used to be an assistant to Andy Mitchell federally. The local riding association went through the ringer when the riding lost its Northern Ontario designation which angered a lot of locals. Expect Rhodes to be walking a tight-rope on that issue. The NDP have nominated Sara Hall who used to head up the local riding association. About the only thing I can find on her is that she is a strong proponent of MMP. This is not exactly the NDP heartland. The Greens have nominated a school teacher named Matt Richter. None of them should pose a threat to Miller.

Prediction: Safe Progressive Conservative

Niagara West-Glanbrook: This is one of many ridings that went through the redistricting ringer since the last time around. Tim Hudak is the incumbent for a large part of the new riding and will feel quite comfortable with his new boundaries. Mr. Hudak is from the right wing of the party (he backed Flaherty in the leadership) but it won't hurt him here. Tory and Hudak are getting along fine in spite of their difference of views (Mr. Tory attended Mr. Hudak's nomination meeting) In fact, the contrast between Hudak and Tory will probably only serve to consolidate Hudak's base here.

Mike Lostracco a former principal at a local catholic board in the province will carry the banner for the Liberals. This is simply not a Liberal-friendly riding at the provincial level. The NDP are also going with a principle, Bonnie Bryan. If you type Ms. Bryan's name into google the first hit you get is an obituary of someone of the same name. That pretty much describes Ms. Bryan's chances. I can't find the Green candidate, not that it matters.

Prediction: Safe Progressive Conservative

Monday, August 27, 2007

Kingston and the Islands

So we journey on through our tour of the province into...

Kingston and the Islands: Kingston is a bit of anomaly. Eastern Ontario trends PC in a big way but not Kingston. A large part of this should be attributed to Queen's University and to a lesser extent St. Lawrence College. Kingston has three major industries: the aforementioned schools, the Royal Military College and the seven prisons within its city limits. This strange mish-mash seems to suit Liberals just fine. It helps the party to have strong local MPP's and Jon Gerretsen fits the bill nicely. The minister for municpalities has been serving the riding since 1995 and it would take more than a weak Tory breeze for him to be unseated. I am not saying it is impossible, but it is not likely.

There is a strong presence in the riding for both the NDP and the Tories. The PC's have nominated John Rapin who is the most likely candidate to pull off the upset. Rapin is a MD and a former head of the OMA. Doctors aren't thrilled with having to negotiate with Liberal pit bull George Smitherman and Rapin will no doubt explain exactly why. That said, Tories don't usually win a lot of votes on health care and it probably isn't the Liberals weakest area. The NDP have also managed to find a decent candidate in city councillor Rick Downes. A former military man, Downes has been elected four times in the city and also made a failed run for mayor. The NDP did win this riding under Rae, so it is not beyond the pale to see them make a run for this seat.

This is certainly no walk for the Liberals but I expect Gerretsen to hold on. I might change this prediction as we get closer to the election.

Prediction: Leans Liberal

Seven down, 100 to go!


Ah, the last Monday of the summer... Okay, on with some thoughts from the last few days:
  • The Globe's editorial this morning is an inconvenient truth. We have to fight climate change. We also have to give up on meeting our Kyoto targets.
  • Dion now faces a challenge akin to the one Chretien faced on free trade. Move the party away from an economically disastrous if internally popular position.
  • CNN reports that the perjurer in chief is no more. I'm not sure this makes it any easier to get him for all that nonsense surrounding the federal prosecutors but I don't think it makes it harder.
  • I like the idea of the Canada-Russia 35th anniversary superseries. However, I got a chance to watch a few minutes before coming in to work this morning and, well, let's just say you can tell it's August. It is hard to get excited for something when the play is so sloppy.
  • The population growth in Toronto's suburbs is frightening. There should be one priority above all others for GTA politicians: density.
  • For Iraq to succeed it must have complete and unfettered control of who leads its country. For Ms. Clinton to comment on the job performance of the Prime Minister of Iraq is both inappropriate and dangerous. Ms. Clinton may claim to be from about 5 different states but she is not Iraqi. Therefore, who the Iraqis decide to elect is none of her business. I certainly wouldn't want an American leader commenting on elections in this country.
  • The Americans have a serious constitutional crisis on their hands. The ability of a modern president to go to war without Congressional approval makes it very difficult for Congress to stop or end a war. This is a check and balance that needs to be reinforced.
  • I don't see a major difference between pre-election spending and campaign promises. If a party that is in government hasn't taken any steps to do what they now promise to do if re-elected, we would be highly suspicious. Sorbrara has the money and is going to spend it. If you want to criticize how it's being spent, fine.
  • This article on MMP is mostly pointless. There are already prohibitions on parties campaigning for or against MMP. I do agree that the most important thing in this whole process is to have a well-informed public. Referenda with an ignorant populous are rubber stamps in democratic clothing.
  • Contrary to what Christiane Amanpour may think, the diaspora support for Israel is much more a case of nationalistic sympathy than religious fervour. It is much more about memories of the Holocaust than memories of Judaea. Furthermore, the majority of Israelis are highly secular. They are certainly not at war with modern secular society. To paint the Arab-Israeli conflict as purely religious is to miss most of the point.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ms. Wente Has Gone To Pot

There was once a columnist for The Globe and Mail who wrote columns on important issues. She worked to hold governments accountable and point out the flaws of society. Then she started writing articles on marijuana. Now her life seems consumed by pot. Please, someone, help her before it's too late!

In all seriousness, Ms. Wente's new obsession with the dangers of marijuana use is a little absurd. Is weed good for you? Hell no. Is it worse than legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco? No. There are plenty of sob strories about people who wasted their life because of alcoholism and died an early death due to tobacco but those drugs remain legal. The possibility for abuse is not justification for banning something. Harder drugs like cocaine and heroine are far more addictive and do far more damage to the human body. Marijuana is not benevolent, it's just not evil enough to ban.

Either This is Very Wrong or Very Stupid

The Tories are being accused of shuffling money between local candidates and the national party in order to avoid breaking campaign spending rules. The Tories of course claim that this is all on the up and up and that in fact the national and regional ads run with the money from local candidates were run for the specific candidates. If so, the Conservatives spent nearly $50,000 to run ads in Trinity-Spadina where they got 5,625 votes. That means they spent nearly $10/vote to finish a distant third in Trin-Spa. As I said, this is either a case of shady accounting or extreme stupidity. A shiny penny if you can find the Conservative ad that mentions or shows Sam Goldstein!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

St. Paul's and Toronto Centre

I am going to try to start with ridings that are easy to call and these two foot the bill:

St. Paul's: This is one of those seats that makes people call this city Fortress Toronto. This is dyed in the wool Liberal territory. The seat is of course held by Attorney General Michael Bryant. The Tories are all excited about their candidate here: Lilyann Goldstein. Forgive me for not believing the hype. I remember 18 months ago when the Tories were all excited about a candidate in St. Paul's. That was Peter Kent and he got slaughtered by Carolyn Bennett. Bryant is every bit as popular in the riding as Bennett and I would expect the same results. There might be a lot of lawn signs out for Goldstein and people might start thinking that this will be close. However, when push comes to shove the working class parts of the ridings (all those apartments on Davisville and Baliol, for instance) will give Bryant a landslide win. The NDP has renominated Julien Heller their candidate from 2003 to take it on the chin in this one.

Prediction: Safe Liberal

Toronto Centre: Okay, so all those people who think Rosedale is going to kick George Smitherman out of office have never actually been around Toronto-Centre. The Minister of Health will waltz to victory on the strength of his popularity in high density areas like St. James' Town and Regent Park. I don't even need to mention his natural appeal at Church and Wellesley. Pamela Taylor will attract the Rosedale vote for the Tories. Those mad about the placement of the new power plant in the riding can protest by voting for the NDP's Sandra Gonzales or the Green Party's Mike McLean. I know Smitherman's first victory here was close, but that was a long time ago. The man is now a household name and high profile minister.

Prediction: Safe Liberal

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Kenora-Rainy River and Ottawa South

Quick looks at the ridings of Howard Hampton and Dalton McGuinty.

Kenora-Rainy River: Howard Hampton has held the riding for a dog's age. The NDP leader can expect to continue holding this riding for as long as he likes. A good indication of that is the fact that neither the PC's nor the Grits have nominated a candidate to date. The Liberals have been hurt badly in the area by their perceived slow/inaction on the collapsing forestry industry. The Tories are traditionally weak in this part of the province. This is a walkover. The only real question is how long Hampton will stay in this job. His wife, Shelley Martel, has announced her retirement and with most people believing this to be Hampton's last election as leader, one wonders if Hampton might call it quits soon after the election.

Prediction: Safe NDP

Ottawa South: Once upon a time the Tories thought they could unseat Dalton in this riding. However, a lot has changed and the Premier is unlikely to face a major challenge at home. The McGuinty boys are popular here as elder brother David represents the riding federally. There may be a few people who take the Premier to task over his broken promises, but it shouldn't affect the outcome. Much like in Hampton's riding, the opposition is slow to nominate a placeholder. Without a big name to try to take down McGuinty, there's no way he loses. The Liberal ship will not be sunk by Ottawa South.

Predicition: Safe Liberal

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ontario Election Preview: Toronto-Danforth and Don Valley West

Okay, this will be a long running series. I am going to try to get through all 107 ridings. I will also try to do so only after I know something about the race. So, to start off with, my home riding of...

Toronto Danforth: This is perhaps the safest NDP seat in the province. They have held it for as long as they have been a registered party. Incumbent Peter Tabuns won election in a by-election in 2006 after former NDP MPP Marilyn Churley decided to try to run federally. Tabuns won relatively easily over what was considered a tough opponent in former local news anchor Ben Chin. When McGuinty asked Chin to be in his war room, the local Grits were left searching. They've found Joyce Rowlands, a former nurse and daughter of former Toronto Mayor June Rowlands. The former mayor may have had a shot against the ex-city councillor Tabuns but her daughter is a political neophyte being served up for the slaughter. The issue here will be the environment, as all parties wil need to show how green they really are if they are to succeed.

The Conservatives have not yet bothered to nominate a candidate which in this case shows how slim their chances are on the Danforth. Georgina Blanas was their candidate in the 2006 by-election. Whoever they nominate will compete with Green Party nominee Patrick Kraemer, who lost horribly to NDPer Paula Fletcher in the last municipal election, for third in this riding. Either would be lucky to get 10%.

The riding may be demographically trending away from the NDP (it's getting richer), but Tabuns probably won't notice.

Prediction: Safe NDP

Don Valley West: Moving on to perhaps the most interesting race in the province. This race has two huge names going head to head. The incumbent is the Liberal Minister of Education, Kathleen Wynne. The challenger is leader of the official opposition and the PC's, John Tory. Tory made a bold move in choosing to run at home in Don Valley West. The former Mayoral candidate and Rogers exec. has decided to make this his Waterloo. If the PC's are to win the election they need to win at least a couple of seats in Toronto and Tory has taken it on himself to win one of them. McGuinty responded by promoting the rookie Wynne to one of the top jobs in the province. However, Wynne is far from unqualified having served two terms on the Toronto District School Board. School wards in Toronto mimic the provincial and federal riding boundaries so the people of Don Valley West know Wynne well. Wynne defeated Conservative incumbent David Turnbull in 2003 and the riding is well described as a bellweather riding. Turnbull won the riding in 1999 with a majority and Wynne defeated Turnbull in 2003 with a majority.

This is going to be an all-out ground war as both parties are desperate to see their candidate elected. Tory will have to find a fine balance between campaigning provincially and trying to get himself back into the legislature. If Tory is defeated here or wins here and loses the election, there will be a lot of Tories grumbling about his decision to run in Don Valley West.

The NDP has not yet found a candidate to sacrifice here. The Greens are putting up Adrian Walker.

Prediction: Toss-up between the Grits and Tories

Monday Musings

Thoughts on the weekend's events:
  • The announcement by Frank de Jong that he wants a referendum on the Catholic School question is interesting. I agree with de Jong that we should scrap the board, I disagree about having a referendum. We elect MPP's to make the tough decisions we don't have time or want to make. Referenda are little but false populism. I'm not even going to get into how ugly that campaign would be.
  • By the way, I was looking at the constitutional issues surrounding the school board, and its really not a hurdle. Constitutional matters which impact on only one province can be ammended by a simple majority of that province's legislature. Quebec has already passed an ammendment exempting them from the relevant section (93). Ontario could do the exact same thing.
  • Good announcement from McGuinty on uploading social service costs from the cities. This is the kind of help he should and can give to get Toronto out of its budget crunch.
  • The polls out this morning on the Ontario election border on relevant as we are less than a month away from the writ. The polls out of Northern Ontario are the most frightening in my mind. We're behind the Conservatives? Please tell me they did most of their polling in North Bay.
  • I join with all Canadians in mourning the loss of yet another soldier in Afghanistan. Pte. Simon Longtin died tragically yesterday in Kandahar. My thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family.
  • It will be interesting to see how Quebeckers react to draped coffins coming back from Afghanistan.
  • I know what's going to top Colbert's threatdown... My guess: he immediately regretted that decision. Seriously, this is a tragedy not a laughing matter.
  • Much like Free Trade, a closer security partnership with the US is not going to be the end of the world. In fact, if it's good for business, it strengthens Canada.
  • The Utah mine story has gone from tragic to Brechtian.
  • Am I the only one who gets a little sick every time CNN announces the "good news" that hurricanes are "just" going to hit Mexico? Apparently, only Americans get hurt and killed by hurricanes. Ugly Americanism at its worst.
  • Minnesota can't get a break these days. First a bridge collapses in the Twin Cities and now the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin wreaks havoc. The Land of a Thousand Lakes is not so peaceful.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Musings

Okay, it's friday and I'm lazy here's a bunch of quick thoughts:
  • To those who want my proposal for our electoral system, it's on the citizen's assembly website here.
  • Did anyone else catch Gov. Mike Huckabee comparing gun owners to monkeys on the Colbert Report last night? That tape is not going to play well at a NRA convention. I don't care if he is one of the most pro-gun candidates out there.
  • I have changed my opinion on Bill Richardson after his moronic comments about homosexuality being a choice. Jet lag? Give me a break. I officially like none of the Democratic contenders.
  • Sticking with presidential polititcs, the Iowa Straw Poll has got to be one of the stupidest things in existence. Ron Paul got like 9% of the vote? What the?!?!?!?!?!
  • Okay, I don't need a Nobel Prize in economics to know that giving millions of dollars to people who shouldn't qualify for a mortgage is stupid. Why didn't the markets figure this out BEFORE everyone defaulted?
  • However, as silly as the reason for the crisis is, the crisis itself is still pretty scary. When central banks are taking steps to prevent a bank run, there's a bit of a problem.
  • Cabinet shuffles are a waste of time. Although, it was nice to see Diane Ablonczy finally get her chance.
  • I understand why the Grits keep comparing Harper to Bush. I just wish we'd spend more time attacking the Tories on substance.
  • I'm not sure I agree with Jean Charest about the whole Charlebois thing. After all, if Marois can't win a seat the PQ won a few months ago under Boisclair, how much legitimacy does she really have? It may be tradition, but it seems to me like a pretty foolish one that stems from the days when leaders ran in ridings that they were going to get super-majorities in anyway. If the ADQ actually feels they can win the election, especially with how close the National Assembly is, why shouldn't they be allowed to try?
  • I said the political class supports this not that they chose it. I know what the Citizens' Assembly is. I also know why it came to be: pressure from well-connected (and well- funded) interest groups like Fair Vote Canada. The political class is larger than the membership of the PC's and Liberals. The other two parties are almost wholly in favour of MMP along with a slew of academics and bloggers. There were big names against Charlottetown too. You ever heard of a guy named Pierre Trudeau? I think the poll which was conducted over at Progressive Bloggers shows a good indication of where the chattering classes are on this. I don't think that most Ontarians will agree.
  • Oh yeah, as long as Scott's mentioning it, the Young Liberals did overwhelmingly vote down MMP in a straw poll in North Bay last week. Unlike the straw poll in Ames, we didn't even bus anyone in!
  • The 60/60 requirement for passing MMP may seem extreme but it is in keeping with Canadian tradition. It mirrors the requirements for passing a major constitutional ammendment. Electoral change is too important to be decided by a simple majority.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A good idea is a good idea

As a student who just completed an exchange in Europe, all I can say is this is a great idea. My university talks about engaging the world and creating global leaders. Unfortunately, it does little more than talk. However, getting Ontario into Erasmus would be a great way of ensuring that Ontario is successful in the new global economy. Get this on the agenda!

MMP and Charlottetown

I am increasingly seeing similarities between MMP and the failed Charlottetown accord. In both cases, honest people set out to solve a problem facing them. In both cases, they arrived at a solution that much of the political class appproved of. However, much like Charlottetown, MMP should be defeated. It is not the idea of electoral reform that I find repulsive just as it was not the idea of ammending the constitution to bring Quebec on board. In both cases, it is not the intention but the execution which make them fail. Small clauses are important. It is not good enough to say, as some in the yes camp do, that our current system is broken and therefore we need change. We must realize fully the consequences of that change both positive and negative. Until we find a solution which does not create more problems than it solves, MMP must go the way of Charlottetown and be voted down.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

K-Hitch Gets One Right

I don't usually agree with the head of my esteemed university. However, Karen Hitchcock the President of Queen's University finally got one right in denouncing the proposed boycott of Israeli academics by British universities. Opposition to her decision comes from Prof. Pappano. I can't say I am surprised. I had Prof. Pappano for 1st year lit. She tried to bring a feminist perspective to The Iliad among other strange decisions. Basically, all she seemed to understand well was medieval feminist literature. She should stick to that.

Israeli academics should not pay the price for their country's sins. The idea that somehow an academic boycott would rattle the Israeli government in any way shape or form is ludicrous. If we are going to start boycotting countries why don't the academics start with China for their human rights abuses? However, academics are best served when there is the widest possible range of ideas. Unless you can prove that a professor or university is teaching hatred, there is no reason to boycott. Disagreeing with the country's politics is certainly not grounds for a boycott.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

10 MP's We Should Target in the Next Election

It's summer. Harper's changing his cabinet. I couldn't care less about the Tory deck chairs. I care a lot more about getting less chairs on the Tory deck. Therefore, for your silly season consideration, here are the All Politics is Local ten MP's that deserve the boot in the next election:

10. Nina Grewal: Why should you defeat Nina Grewal? Well, if anyone can give me a reason to keep Nina Grewal (and I don't want to hear that she's a female minority) I might reconsider. Grewal has been a very expensive seat warmer since her entry into the house in 2004. A couple of law and order bills aside, Grewal has been an invisible visible minority in the Conservative caucus. Come on Fleetwood-Port Kells, you can do better.

9. Pierre Poilievre: Ah, the Anglo that pretends he's a Francophone. The young member from Nepean-Carelton has had lots of fun playing MP (Look for the Mercer Report thing on him) and slandering the Liberal party. However, I think its time for this reportedly hardworking MP to work elsewhere. I usually like good constituent guys, but not this one. From flipping people off in the house to claiming the Liberals support Hezbollah, Poilievre has been a standout for his immaturity. That's not an easy task in parliament! For making Peter Milliken even more of a kindergarten teacher, M. Poilivre has got to go.

8. Wajid Khan: I respect a politician's right to cross the floor. However, Khan's reasons seem to boil down to an all-expenses paid luxury trip to the Middle East. I will say this for the former (and hopefully future) used car salsesman: that's a heck of a deal. Now, if only the people could hear is no doubt insightful thoughts on Middle Eastern politics. Damn, I can't hear anything over the crickets.

7. Rob Anders: The man who once called Nelson Mandela a "communist" and a "terrorist" is probably safe. However, that doesn't mean we can't at least try to pry him out of the house. The MP for Calgary West is just an embarassment. He voted with the Bloc on a bill that would have allowed the Quebecois nation the right to withdraw from any federal inititiative. Yikes!

6. Joe Volpe: What you thought I wouldn't put a Grit on the list? I'm a partisan but I wouldn't shed a lot of tears if Volpe got the heave-ho. For raising the dead and making them vote Liberal, Volpe deserves the Lieberman treatment. On rare occasions, fratricide is justified. The MP for Eglinton-Lawrence represents all that is wrong with the Liberal Party. Don't call it a coup, call it a purge.

5. Olivia Chow: Chow is drawn to cameras like a moth to a flame. If there is a cause celebre for the MP from Trinity-Spadina to attatch her name to, she'll do it. I really don't have the words to describe my aversion to Ms. Chow.

4. Peter McKay: McKay has had a remarkable political career. He is the last leader of the party of John A. Macdonald. He agreed to merge his party with the Canadian Alliance after promising David Orchard the opposite in order to win his nomination. He has since been a fairly invisible (outside of his reported affair with Condi) Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Liberals are letting Green leader Elizabeth May have a run at him in the next election. I don't understand why we don't try to take him down ourselves.

3. Jim Flaherty: The man who wanted to lock up the homeless in Ontario is now widely considered one of Harper's best cabinet ministers. This doesn't change Flaherty's extreme right wing politics and insufferable arrogance. Jim gets the boot.

2. Jack Layton: Jack likes to make deals. He's willing to work with anyone: Paul Martin, Stephen Harper, the Taliban. It doesn't really matter to Jack. All that matters to my MP from Toronto-Danforth is that he can look like he's doing something. My distaste for Layton however stems from the fact that he plays up his local roots while not living in the riding. The day Jack Layton votes for Jack Layton, I'll reconsider my position on him.

1. David Emerson: Who else? Okay, as I said earlier I don't actually object to floor crossing if it's principled. However, Emerson's morning after bed switch was a little much. Any thought that Emerson just wanted to keep fighting for Canada were dispelled when he accepted a softwood deal that failed to get Canadian businesses their money back. No one expects Emerson to get re-elected in Vancouver and let us all hope they are right.

A Little Strange

So I'm compiling a list of nominated candidates and I'm looking through the NDP website. I get to Kenora-Rainy River and lo and behold there is no nominated candidate. I don't know if Mr. Hampton is just saving his nomination meeting to get him some press or what but it is a little strange for a leader to not have secured his party's nomination two months before a pre-set eleciton. After all, it is not like the rest of the caucus hasn't been nominated.

Monday, August 13, 2007

McGuinty's Ready for Battle

Well, I have finally recovered my voice from this weekend's Summer Fling up in North Bay. Hurray for not sounding like I'm 13! For the most part, what happens in North Bay, stays in North Bay but I do want to comment on the appearance by Dalton McGuinty. I first saw McGuinty speak in person at a barbecue in St. James' Town about six years ago. Back then, I walked away from his speech unimpressed. He was a strange mix of robotic and awkward. Well, that was then, and this is now. The Premier looked and sounded relaxed and engaging. He was at times funny at times, moving. He looked like a man ready to win a second term. He's proud of his record and proud of the province. He wants to move forward and he has a plan to do it. In other words, I walked away a lot more confident in our chances in the fall than I had been going in.

If you scan through the back pages of this blog, you'll know that I very rarely give myself over to partisan cheerleading (I find criticism a lot more fun). However, McGuinty doesn't look like the man who many people wrote off after the 1999 election disaster. He looks like a man who deserves four more years.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Obama's Gaffe and Free Trade

So Barack Obama called Prime Minister Harper the "President of Canada" in a recent debate. The interesting thing to me is not Obama's ignorance of our parliamentary system but what he was saying when he made the gaffe. He was talking about renegotiating NAFTA to provide more protections for American workers. The Dems apparently can't get away from their isolationist trade policies (same goes for the NDP here). NAFTA, contrary to popular belief, has had very little impact on Canada. The pre-existing FTA has had a dramatic impact and I would argue it has been for the better. While the Canadian economy hit the skids with the rest of the world in the early 1990's, Canada has had unrivaled prosperity since the mid-1990's. The FTA has allowed Albertans to sell their oil and Ontarians to build cars and parts (yes, the cars were part of the auto pact a couple years earlier, but you get the point) to a larger degree than existed in a tariff bound system. Free trade is not the enemy of the poor. Free trade is merely a means of levelling the global playing field. Some, like Mr. Obama may argue for so-called "fair" trade but to me that is an attempt by the global north to have it both ways. The economies of the Western world are reliant on cheap manufactured goods. The resulting manufacturing boom has created jobs for millions of people in the global south.

The world will never achieve any sort of competitive balance if we jam it with tariff walls. A good example of this is Africa. Opponents of free trade often cite poverty-stricken sub-Saharan Africa as a region which has had no benefit from free trade. This is not an accurate statement. The economies of sub-Saharan Africa are largely dependent on agriculture something that is not freely traded. African products do not have a chance when forced to compete internationally and domestically with heavily subsidized Western products. The answer to alleviating global poverty is not to put up more tariff walls like the ones that hold Africa back but to tear down the remaining obstructions. Western governments are reluctant to give up any domestic industry, and when domestic industries are uncompetitive the kind of knee-jerk reaction like Barack Obama displayed during the debate are common. Governments should spend less time trying to stop the inevitable (you can't produce competitively priced clothing in the Carolinas) and more time on retraining the workforce and creating the conditions for a competitive economy: a minimum of taxes with a maximum of social services. Globalization is here to stay. We would be wise to try to exploit it not get in its way.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On Barry Bonds

So, it finally happened. Barry Bonds is the new all-time home runs leader. It is a sad day for baseball and all of professional sport. Baseball was my first love in the sports world (like most good Canadians, hockey is my preferred game these days). I grew up watching the great Toronto Blue Jays teams of the early 1990's. I remember a lanky slugger who played for the Pirates named Barry Bonds but it is hard to believe that the man who broke the record last night is even related to that amazing athlete. Bonds would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer. His achievements prior to the 1998 season when the infamous book Game of Shadows says he started taking steroids spoke for themselves. He hit fifty home runs and stole fifty bases in a single season. He was poised to be one of the best of all time. Now he is little more than an embarassment. Bonds has come to symbolize an era of unfettered corruption in baseball and in sports in general. He, along with many others, have brought great achievement into question. Even athletes who are known to be clean come under the microscope because the rest of the sporting world is so corrupted.

Bonds may not deserve to be the brunt of the blame. There are plenty of others. He is the focus for a few reasons. One, he now holds two of baseball's most prized records (not really relevant, but if Bonds fails to get into the Hall, the all-time hits and home run leaders will both be out of the hall). Two, his alleged steroid use is obvious. There is no amount of training that can make your head grow entire helmet sizes in your mid to late 30's. Three, he is a bit of a sour pickle, making it easy for the media and the public to demonize him. Finally, unlike other notorious users like Mark McGwire, Bonds is still in the spotlight. So, the sports world watches uncomfortably as a man everyone thinks is dirty gets the hero's treatment. This on the heels of a disastrous Tour de France that had French papers writing obituaries for the storied race. Sports are supposd to provide inspiration and modelling for all of us particularly children. How do you explain to your kids that hard work is nice, but steroids give you records? A dark day indeed.

Side note: There's a nice article in today's Toronto Star about our No MMP group. We are a quickly growing group. Dozens of people have sent e-mails from all over the province expressing there support and their willingness to help save Ontario's democracy. We are not, as has been reported elsewhere, a small group of malcontents but rather a growing grassroots movement who see MMP as a problem not a solution and want to fight against it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Coalitions, eh?

I keep forgetting to post this. This is straight from the horse's mouth so to speak. From comes this gem:

"The political party with the largest number of seats in the legislature, including ‘Local Members’ and ‘List Members’, is asked to form a government."

Oh dear. The problem is that coalition governments are often led (as is the case in Sweden today) by parties who did not receive the most votes. The assumption is that people voted for the coalition and not the parties. However, with this kind of language in the official explanation a King-Byng style showdown may be inevitable. If this statement is executed to the letter, you can throw the idea of stable coalitions out the window. This education campaign is getting off to a great start, don't you think?

Cherniak has our official press release on his site and our website is now up and running. Oh, and by the way, our communications director is in Toronto, not London, England as has been erroneously reported elsewhere.

Long Weekend Wrap-Up

Quick thoughts after the long weekend:
  • I think Lawrence Martin's article in yesterday's globe was great. Canada has four major economic advantages going forward. Oil, cold weather to make global warming bearable, water and a young population that is willing and able to engage the world. Martin calls the younger generation Phoenecian. I'd call them the new internationalists. At any rate, the world is Canada's for the taking.
  • I think Bush's alternative climate change meetings are a distraction. The U.S. needs to be brought into the post-Kyoto negotiations already in progress. Countries should not be excluded just because they didn't like Kyoto.
  • I think power outages are annoying. Apparently there is something wrong with the transformer or something in my area. The power was off most of yesterday afternoon and went out again some time over night and is still out as of this writing.
  • I think the UK has horrible luck with cattle. Another outbreak of foot and mouth? Yikes!
  • I think the fact that David Beckham sat on the bench to a sellout crowd in Toronto is not much of an issue. Toronto FC is selling out most of their games. Becks or no Becks. This team will be a fan hit for at least a couple of years. I want to see what happens in year four.
  • I think I'm looking forward to Summer Fling this weekend.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Random Thoughts on a Friday Before the Long Weekend

It's Friday and I don't have any coherent post ideas so here goes everything:
  • Peter McKay is right that you don't claim land by putting your flag there. However, it seems to me that Harper's whole "Arctic Sovereignty" thing is about going around on ships carrying the Canadian flag. Also, isn't that exactly what we and the Danes keep doing on Hans Island? The Russian kettle might be black, but I don't like hearing it from the pot.
  • On a related note, can someone please explain to me why we waste resources on fighting over Hans Island? It's a rock. It's not a big rock either. Also, if it isn't Danish why is it named after some guy named Hans?
  • The L.A. Galaxy are in town to face Toronto F.C. I'm more concerned about the injury-riddled home side then whether or not Becks will play. Without Marvell Wynne, Jeff Cunningham and Danny Dichio, we're toast against anyone.
  • Continuing with TFC, for all you European football fans, keep an eye out for Marvell Wynne when he comes back from this little hamstring injury. If TFC doesn't pay him a ton of money he could defend in Europe. I don't think, like Mr. Lalas, that this is true for most MLS guys but Wynne is just plain good.
  • Can someone please get Iggy and Rae to kiss and make up?
  • Harper's feud with the media is more funny than scary at this point.
  • Why don't we do civic-minded things on the civic hoilday? You'd think there would be some charitable organization that could use the day to organize massive clean-ups or something.
  • Another round of congratulations go out to George Smitherman and his husband to be. The pair will get married this weekend.
  • What happened in Minneapolis is a tragedy. My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones. That said, it was a fluke. Bridges are not about to start collapsing everyday. And CNN, quick question: how many Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since you started your 24 hour bridge coverage? I think five but I wouldn't have heard it from you.
  • Stephen Colbert missed a chance to expose intelligent design hack Michael Behe last night. Irreducible complexity was Tolstoy's favoured proof of God. It's not science.
  • By the way, The Daily Show piece (I think it was Aasif Mandvi) on Live Earth on Wednesday(?) was brilliant. If anyone thinks Stewart and co. only go after the right, watch that piece.
  • Caribana is this weekend. Apparently, it is actually supposed to make money this year. If you want to see the entirety of the Toronto Police walk through downtown the next couple of nights. I really do like Caribana but all the idiots who think it is a good time to settle old gang scores make me nervous. I know that the morons are a small fraction of the community but, unfortunately, Caribana is the only one of Toronto's summer parties that makes me hold my breath. Also, it is remarkable how the weather is always Caribbean hot for this thing.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I Called It!

This just in from Elections Ontario:

"If Mixed Member Proportional is accepted during the Ontario referendum in October, there is a possibility that there will be two ballots in future elections. Legislation would have to be passed to make the new electoral system the law. Then the Chief Electoral Officer would design the form of the new ballot(s) to be used. "

Here's my comment on the subject a few weeks ago:

"This leads me to believe that Elections Ontario may prefer to have two ballots instead of the one proposed by the Assembly. I am not sure what implications that has but surely they proposed one ballot for a reason."

Just to point out how important the one ballot idea is to the Citizens' Assembly: they've called their handout "One ballot, Two votes."

Once again, it is absurd to have voters vote when their is no proposed legislation or implementation plan.

Side note: Please notice that the explanation of MMP is three times as long as the explanation of FPTP. This is not because people are familiar with FPTP. MMP is just three times as complicated.

Edit: Great catch by Andy over at I, Ectomorph. Apparently, not even Elections Ontario knows how the system works!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ontario Election Preview Part 2: The Leaders

Continuing with my preview of the upcoming provincial election, today I focus on the leaders. The election features three leaders with experience in running provincial campaigns and one new comer. How will each leader campaign?

Dalton McGuinty: Like a fine wine, McGuinty gets better with age. Liberals are hoping he gets more votes with age too. If you had told people after Dalton's disastrous 1999 campaign that the party would be centring its campaign around Dalton McGuinty's personality, they would have laughed in your face. However, that's exactly what the Ontario Liberal Party is doing. They've launched, a straight shooting informal website that they hope will sell McGuinty as an average guy who has big ideas for this province. They hope Dalton's mea culpae on some of his previous campaign promises will help to dull the Tory and NDP attack. McGuinty is not the shrinking violet he was in 1999 and expect him to fight a good campaign.

McGuinty's political career may very well rest on this campaign. A loss and he would almost surely have to resign his leadership. Unless he decides to join his brother David in Ottawa, Dalton's career would be done. Even if he wins a minority the knives might come out for the affable leader. He's been in charge for over ten years and it may just be time for a change. I like McGuinty. I like him more every day.

John Tory: John Tory is a bit of a political anachronism. A little back to the future. The new leader of the Progressive Conservatives is much to the left of his two immediate predecessors. Tory's politics are more Bill Davis than Mike Harris. He's going to try to sell that as well. In an era when the Conservative movement in the country has lurched right, Tory is trying to win from the centre-right. This may cause the PC's problems as Tory tries to juggle the necessity of playing to his rural right wing base and trying to win election in a centrist Toronto riding. Tory cannot take Don Valley West for granted as the incumbent, minister of education Kathleen Wynne, is not going to go down without a fight. If Tory lurches to far to the right, expect Wynne to make his life miserable. On the other hand, if Tory plays too much to the centre he could alienate his base and lose the election.

Tory has a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde thing going in his career. He has a briliant record as a manager in the private sector and inspires admiration to an almost fanatical degree in his co-workers and employees. Almost everyone who's worked with him thinks he'd make a great premier. On the Hyde side, Tory has had just an awful time of it in politics. He was at the helm of the Kim Campbell campaign and did or should have been the one to approve the infamous Chretien attack ads. He also ran for the Mayor's chair in Toronto in 2003. Tory had all the money in the world behind him and lost to a single issue with less name recognition. It wasn't even that close. The Tories are praying that the third election is the charm for their leader, otherwise the knives could be out pretty quickly.

Howard Hampton: Howard Hampton is finally getting the hang of this leader of the NDP thing. That, or people have finally forgotten about the Rae administration. Either way the Ontario NDP is in better shape than its been in since that weird night in 1990. Hampton's attacks on McGuinty's salary hikes and energy record won him a pair of by-elections. He hopes to build on that in the election.

However, Hampton is old news, and not particularly interesting news at that. Nobody really dislikes Hampton, they just don't want him to be Premier. This is his last election as leader barring a 1990 sized miracle. If you want proof, his wife's retirement from the legislature should be a fairly strong clue. Shelley Martel is not going back to Northern Ontario by herself or at least not for long.

Frank de Jong: The leader of the Green Party of Ontario has the most experience of any of the leaders. He has been Green leader since 1993 which may be an indication of how coveted this job is more than anything else. Mr. de Jong has run for office a lot. He's run for Queen's Park seven times, Parliament Hill four times and just for good measure he has run for city council in Ottawa. The closest he's come to victory was his distant third finish in the 2003 provincial election. If this section is biography heavy, it is because Mr. de Jong faces a serious anonymity problem in spite of his long tenure. Unlike their federal counterparts, the provincial Greens have not been showing signs of becoming a major player in Ontario politics. If anyone else wants this job this should be Mr. de Jong's last kick at the can. Eight strikes should be enough, no?
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