Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sports Talk for a Sunday

With the TTC strike mercifully over, I feel it time to turn my attention to less politically charged topics. So, as is my wont, APL is turned over to sports talk tonight.

I know the country is in the middle of playoff fever. This Leafs fan though has turned his attention to greener pastures. Specifically, the exploits of Canada's Major League Soccer team (until MLS smartens up and expands to Montreal), Toronto FC. I've had the pleasure of attending TFC's two opening home matches against Real Salt Lake and Kansas City. The team is greatly improved and much more entertaining. The fans are as boisterous as they were last year. The Reds are the most fun team to watch in the city these days. Also, the only ones winning. Can I jump on the fire J.P. Ricciardi bandwagon?

There has been a lot of talk about how good an ownership group Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) is. Here's how I see it. MLSE wants to make money. In sports, you make money by being successful. Therefore MLSE wants to be successful. I don't buy that MLSE doesn't want a Stanley Cup. Bullshit. The problem is they want a Stanley Cup and they think that they should pick the team that wins it. The problem with the Leafs is the interference that the boardroom runs in the selection of GM's, coaches and players. The problem is that the owners are fans of the Leafs. The other properties don't suffer this problem and have shown some success under their reign. The Raptors, while unimpressive for the last couple of months, have done a good job under Brian Colangelo bringing in talent. The team may not be championship caliber right now but they have a lot of pieces and are still pretty young. Toronto FC is in its second season and should be assessed accordingly. However, there is no proof that MLSE is at fault. Much like in basketball and hockey they have shown a willingness to spend to the cap in order to compete. The manager, Mo Johnston, has drafted and traded well and now that he has brought in a real coach, his moves are paying dividends. Ownership groups should be willing to do two things: spend money and hire people who know their sport to run their teams. With the exception of the interference with the Leafs noted above, MLSE has done that.

Friday, April 25, 2008

TTC on Strike

The city of Toronto is minutes away from chaos. This after the union representing Toronto's transit workers rejected, by a 65% margin, the tentative agreement that was signed last weekend. I hold one person responsible for this: Bob Kinnear. If you are going to be the head of a major union, you better damn well know what is going to be acceptable to your membership. This is gross incompetence and the city of Toronto is paying the price. I'm glad I'm not out at a bar tonight relying on the TTC to get me home. Mr. McGuinty, first thing Monday morning, you know what to do: order these people back to work. First thing Tuesday, declare the TTC an essential service so that this union can't hold the people of Toronto hostage ever again.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Race For the Exits: Pennsylvania Edition

Another Democratic primary is in the books. Hillary Clinton has won in Pennsylvania. The margin is not entirely clear. I of course am referring to the delegate margin which is the only thing that actually matters. She has picked up somewhere between 8 to 15 delegates on Obama who entered with a lead of about 140 delegates. In other words a small dent. Clinton should be commended for running a strong campaign, but it should be painfully obvious to everyone that she cannot win. In order to win she has to have more delegates than Obama does at the end of the day. Here are the states and territories that are left and a reasonable prediction of the result:

North Carolina (115 delegates): 62 Obama, 53 Clinton (Obama +9)
Indiana (72 delegates): Clinton 37, Obama 35 (Obama +7)
West Virginia (28 delegates): Clinton 17, Obama 11 (Obama +1)
Kentucky (51 delegates): Clinton 29, Obama 22 (Clinton +6)
Oregon (52 delegates):Obama 30, Clinton 22 (Obama +2)
Puerto Rico (55 delegates):Clinton 33, Obama 22 (Clinton +9)
Guam (4 delegates): Clinton 2, Obama 2 (Clinton +9)
Montana (16 delegates): Obama 10, Clinton 6 (Clinton +5)
South Dakota (15 delegates): Obama 9, Clinton 6 (Clinton +2)

If this scenario plays out, which would be reasonable given the polls and history, Obama's lead would be still in the ballpark of 130 delegates. That would mean she would need 225 of the remaining the 305 super delegates in order to win. That is of course assuming the outstanding superdelegates would be willing to vote against the will of the people at the convention. This is pure fantasy. She is done. She is only prolonging the inevitable. The only possible way she wins is if the Florida and Michigan delegations are seated as is. Florida is a possibility but would only give her a few delegates. Michigan, where Obama wasn't on the ballot, is not going to happen. They may seat the Michigan delegation giving the 40% of undeclared delegates to Obama. Chances are both delegations will be punished for daring to defy the DNC so even if they are seated they will not have full voting rights (perhaps the 50% that the RNC is allowing). In other words, Clinton shouldn't hold her breath waiting on Florida and Michigan.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

If Not Now, When?

It is increasingly clear that the Conservative Party is not fit to govern this country. A party which has its offices raided by the RCMP, that threatens the hard work of our men and women in Afghanistan, that believes the solution to economic problems is political bickering, that threatens the environmental future of this county, that disregards basic tenants of our democratic system is not fit to govern. I understand that there is more to election timing than the mistakes of your opponents. However, the polls are looking increasingly positive and an election campaign would focus the voters attention on the mistakes of this government which they might otherwise ignore. We have eighteen months left before this government calls an election based on the fixed election date. I know we talk about how Canadians don't want an election now, but let's think this through. Is there a better time to go to the polls. There are essentially four windows for an election: before July 1, 2008; fall 2008; post-budget 2009; at the appointed time in 2009. Let's consider each option starting with the last one.

Option 1: Just Wait: This would be disastrous. One of Dion's major problems right now is his perception as being a weak leader. If he let's the Tories govern until fall 2009, he will only confirm everyone's suspicions. At that point, the Tories will be able to say, quite legitimately, if we did such a bad job, why didn't you defeat us?

Option 2: Wait for another budget: First of all, pulling the plug on a government that is six months away from its appointed death, looks desperate. Yes, Dion will have used his power but it will look petty. Second, and more importantly at this juncture, what's in the 2009 budget that isn't in this years budget. What is going to be the poison pill that the Canadian people will revolt against. Even if the economy goes down the tubes, the budget won't show the true extent of the damage (see the last pre-election budget delivered by Mr. Flaherty). One of the Tory scandals might have been blown wide open by now but honestly, I doubt it. Mr. Harper has adopted Mr. Chretien's strategy of letting it work through the justice system. The justice system doesn't work on a political clock. It could be well after fall 2009 before any of the scandals are fully resolved. We can't just pray for the election to fall into our lap.

Option 3: Fall 2008: What's the difference between now and five months from now? Is Dion going to win the country over on the barbecue circuit this summer? Are all the Tories' misdeeds going to come to a head in September? Is there some bill that's coming up in the fall that we want to fight an election on? Is the LPCQ going to turn into a well-oiled machine? I don't see anything changing dramatically in the next few months.

Option 4: Now: As I said at the beginning, we can pound Mr. Harper on a whole slate of issues. We could roll out a scandal a day if we wanted to (by the way this would be a disastrously confusing PR move). We can take our pick and just chip away. Let Mr. Dion be relentless in the debates plugging away at Harper's weaknesses. The best argument against an election now, is our disorganization (particularly in Quebec). Some of that disorganization is, quite frankly, going to exist no matter when we go. We are dead in the water in some ridings and will be eighteen months from now. However, the easiest way to get people fighting towards a common goal, is to have a clear and finite goal, like winning an election.

Thus, Mr. Dion and the rest of the Liberal caucus, I implore you, stand up for Canada. Defeat this government.

Side Note: On a personal note, I have finished my BA! Yay! I commence the job hunt in earnest tomorrow. However, I might be able to delay the search a bit if there was an election campaign to work on.

Friday, April 18, 2008

School Closures

Doing the right thing isn't always popular or easy. Just ask the Toronto District School Board. They've started a firestorm by proposing to close some schools that have pitifully low attendance. While it is never easy on a child to change schools and it is never easy for a neighbourhood to lose its school, it is sometimes necessary. The Toronto Star has good coverage here and here. Critics are comparing this to the mean old days of Mike Harris. Here's the critical difference: public consultation. While the TDSB does have a list of schools which are underpopulated, it is not about to go around closing every single one. At least, that's what I hope will come out of the public consultation. Obviously, it would make a lot of sense to close one of two underpopulated schools in an area. It would be disastrous to close both. I also hope that the TDSB takes the long view of things and realizes that certain schools may be underused today, but might not be tomorrow. It will be cheaper in the long run to keep a school going than to try to open one in the future. In the end, a few closed schools will help ease the perennial budget crisis and will help to use taxpayers money more efficiently. However, the margin for error on this is small and no matter what happens, people are going to be justifiably upset. As I said, doing the right thing isn't always easy.

Side Note: Many of the schools being closed house other schools within them. I assume that these schools will be evaluated separately and if possible moved even if there host is closed. For example, I assume Toronto will still need a school for deaf children even if Davisville PS closes. As a product of two different alternative schools(APS and Quest), they have a special place in my heart. I also know that in many cases there is not a correlation between attendance at the alternative school and its host institution. In some cases, alternative schools may underperform and be forced to close themselves. In other cases the host is weak but the alternative school is full. Once again, public consultations should make this clear to the board if they aren't aware of this already.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Andrew Lang for Toronto-Danforth

Last night, in my home riding of Toronto-Danforth, Andrew Lang was nominated as the Liberal Candidate in the next federal election. Regretfully, I am still in Kingston (last exam tomorrow) and was unable to make the nomination meeting last night. However, Andrew Lang has my full support and would have received my vote had I been able to attend last night. Please check out his website or join his Facebook group.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Because No One Can Do Business In This Tax Climate

Ford is ADDING jobs in Oakville. Is that crickets I'm hearing from Mr. Flaherty's office?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Stephen Harper Attacks Property Rights

Stephen Harper has taken a page out of the great depression and blocked the acquisition of a Canadian company by a US company. This sends a clear message to foreign companies looking to do business in Canada: get lost. Now, the Tories are trumpeting this as protecting a valuable Canadian asset. Let's get back to first principles here. In a market economy, private property is, well, private! That means that whoever owns the property can dispose of it as they wish. Harper is undermining the basic tenants of our economy. He is telling Canadians, in this case the owners of MDA, that they cannot make a profit on their hard work and investment. We are telling people who are thinking of setting up business in Canada, that their investments may not be as liquid as they think, depending on the whim of the government. The government has no right to meddle in the affairs of a private corporation unless it breaks the law.

We are not talking about selling nuclear secrets to the enemy here. We are talking about a country that is supposed to be our closest ally. We are not selling anything which affects the lives of average Canadians. We are selling a company that does its business almost exclusively with the United States, to an American firm. How can anyone call this free-spending, income trust taxing, trade blocking government conservative anymore?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Another Immigration Post

Chantal Hébert is at it again. Apparently, no matter what the issue, the Liberals are doomed to failure. Anyway, this time the issue is immigration. Hébert argues that immigration may be the issue of the next election. I agree. However, who a debate on immigration favours is another issue. She cites the Ontario election and the Québec reasonable accommodation hearings as proof that Canada is ready for a new approach to immigration. Okay, let's break this down. First, we are conflating two issues. The Tories have a piece of the budget bill on how people are admitted into this country. That's issue one. The reasonable accommodation committee and religious schools issue are issue two. On issue one, Hébert is right, the system has its problems and Canadians would like to see the process improved. However, this debate is highly technical and bureaucratic and makes for poor stump speeches. Which bureaucrat decides who gets in, is just not a sexy issue. Concerns about political meddling are sexy. A debate on proposals for reform to the immigration application process, while probably necessary, would put the country to sleep. What's more, the parties agree on most points.

On issue two, the question is how do we best integrate immigrants into our society. However, the electorate is not crying for change. Far from it, they are arguing against any changes to the status quo. John Tory's school funding proposal was rejected, not out of Islamophobia as some have claimed, but out of a desire to maintain the system of integration through education which has existed in this country for the last few decades. The reasonable accommodation debate in Québec is pretty much the same thing. The issue is not immigration as a whole or even immigrants in particular. There is an apprehension, unjustified in my opinion, that the most recent wave of immigrants is not fitting in as well as others have in the past. This apprehension is largely a case of xenophobic fear-mongering by some individuals and poor history in regards to previous waves of immigration. What is being debated in Québec and what was debated in Ontario is whether we change our processes of integration. The answer is no. This is what Hébert is missing. Canadians are not demanding change on the second issue, they are demanding a continuation of the status quo. In Ontario, they rejected separate schools. In Québec while the origins of the reasonable accommodations hearings are more sinister and negative, the hearings are still a call for the continuation of the status quo. Thus, while M. Dion may need to propose a solution to the problems regarding entry into Canada, he would be well suited to adopt Dalton McGuinty's position on the question of integration. The system works. Not perfectly, but it works and it is part of what defines us as Canadians. Any improvement to that system can not and should not divide Canadians.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Immigration Debate

I expect blogging to be light over the next couple of weeks as I complete the last remaining assignments and exams standing between me and a bachelors degree. However, I felt obliged to post something on the ongoing immigration debate. First and foremost I think we have to appreciate what a joy it is, that this is the immigration debate we are having. There are very few countries around the world that have such an enlightened on immigration. There are no credible political parties in Canada that want to shut the door to immigrants. A vast majority of Canadians support immigration. That is something we should be proud of as Canadians. I thought the cartoon from The Star at left was a cute illustration of the immigrant experience. However, that does not mean we don't have challenges surrounding immigration.

Frankly, if I were immigration minister this wouldn't be my priority. I am not saying that the waiting list isn't a problem, it is. It's just that I'd try to make the immigrant experience better in Canada first. Now, the two things may not be mutually exclusive, but the Harper government has shown little support (beyond a couple of millions of dollars in their first budget I believe) to helping immigrants integrate into Canadian life. So if you are only going to do one thing on the immigration file it should be helping immigrants who are already here. We need more support for our communities and provinces to finance more extensive ESL programs. We need money for more translation services for new immigrants that have not yet broken through the language barrier. We need to work harder with our professional associations and our universities to make sure that immigrants can find work in the fields they are already trained to work in.

Now, for the issue at hand. Canadians expect there government services to be free from corruption. The best way to prevent political corruption is to separate as much as possible the politicians from the day-to-day operations of the bureaucracy. If there is a backlog in applications, the solution is not to give the minister more power. The solution is to hire more people so that applications can be processed more quickly. Harper has shown no aversion to spending money in his time in office. This is a great way to spend money. It is good for the Canadian economy and more importantly it is good for Canada as a whole. Mr. Harper has correctly identified a problem. He has failed miserably in finding a solution.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


As the world continues to await the results of the recent presidential results in Zimbabwe, fears grow that run-off would result in violence and more vote rigging. It is time for leaders in Africa to take action. The West has very little legitimacy in Zimbabwe for obvious reasons. However, those problems do not extend to other African states. It is time for the African Union and in particular the political leadership in South Africa to call on Robert Mugabe to release the results of the election, and if the results favour the opposition (as is widely expected) for Mugabe to step down. The people of Zimbabwe deserve a chance to get their country back on track. It is time for their neighbours to give them a hand.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Stephen Harper's Slow Walk Towards Oblivion

Every Liberal in the country should be rejoicing this morning that Stephen Harper is foolish enough to open up the constitution. The last Tory leader to open up the constitution in a time of economic downturn lost all but three seats. So I say if Stephen Harper wants to pursue Brian Mulroney's grand Tory coalition, let him. He will inevitably fail and be crushed by the weight of his own expectations. Here's the basic conundrum. The reason you open up the constitution is to get Quebec to sign on (only an issue in perception). However, if you open up the constitution there are whole bunch of other Canadians that would like to see some changes. Such as...
  • Western Canadians. Western Canada has a ridiculously low proportion of senate seats and many there want a triple E senate. Open up the constitution, and real senate reform is on the table.
  • Native Canadians. Quebec is a nation? What about our First Nations? Open up the constitution and prepare for a dogfight from native groups. Native rights essentially killed Meech Lake.
  • The GLBT community. I know, I know, that's not the acronym these days but I can't remember the new one. Anyway, they want sexual orientation in the charter. This isn't as big a problem for the Tories (aren't a lot of gay Tories out there) but it will still be an issue. Could be a huge issue if a premier decides to champion the cause. Say, a premier who has a gay minister of health and a lesbian minister of education. Not saying McGuinty would, but you never know.
Not to mention the millions of Canadians who would like nothing more than to never hear another constitutional debate as long as they live.

Doesn't He Have More Important Things To Do?

This perplexes me. How does the Liberal foreign affairs critic (in a time of war, no less) and election platform guru have time to be reading every notable work of fiction produced in this country in the last year. It would make a lot of sense for Rae was on the Giller committee if he was still outside of politics, but this seems a little rich. Is this traditional or something to have a politician on the committee? I really do like Bob Rae, most of the time. Sometimes, though, I have to question just how committed to his job (this isn't like being a school trustee or something, being MP is a full time job) and the Liberal Party he really is. Either that or we're not prepared to go to the polls until after the Giller is awarded in November. I have to say, I'd prefer he be uncommitted. I suppose there is a third option. This could be a ceremonial post that doesn't involve any reading or judging. In which case, great. However, I think it unlikely.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

She Realizes How This Ends, Right?

Clinton has announced that she will fight like Rocky. I know she's in Philly and all but if you are going to make outdated pop-culture references, could you at least make apt outdated pop-culture references. On second thought, I guess it is accurate... she is about to lose, even if she goes fifteen rounds.

By the way, all the April Fool's shenanigans on the blogs this morning made me smile. I have to agree with the consensus that this one takes it.
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