Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Still struggling between John Tory and Olivia Chow in T.O.'s mayoral race

With this fairly quiet and not-hot-enough summer drawing to a close, the Toronto mayoral race is just about to switch into high gear.  Polls offer a hint of clarity as many lately have shown John Tory pulling ahead, Olivia Chow falling back and Rob Ford stagnating, including the reliable Nanos.

We'll see if that trend continues.  Without a doubt, Tory's got game and is performing well in this race, sounding reasonable, talking about things on the minds of most Torontonians like easing gridlock.  To date, his Smart Track proposal is his strongest play, despite the many attacks it's received from opponents.  There is much to debate about it, but at its core it best represents Tory's refreshing ability to think creatively about how to solve our transit crisis in this city by using existing rail lines and pushing for greater integration with the GO network.  

Much of Tory's plan depends on substantial action and funding from other levels of government, but so do all the transit plans being promoted in this race (except of course for Rob Ford's non-plan which calls for subways, subways, subways paid for by fictional efficiencies.)

I still don't like the Scarborough subway extension plan which would add three stops instead of seven, serve fewer people, take twice as long to build and cost $1 billion more than the existing Scarborough light rail plan.  Tory supports the stubway, as do Rob Ford and Karen Stintz. 

Olivia Chow's transit plan is better for Toronto, in my opinion.  She wants to build the better LRT in Scarborough, and continue with the LRT lines for Sheppard East and Finch.  She unveiled more details today, also promising to integrate electrified GO lines into her subway relief plan, while still proceeding with an actual new subway from Pape station south and west to Union Station.   It's Transit City Plus Smart Track, in many ways.  Imitation is the highest form of flattery, John Tory could say.  

We'll see if this better transit plan helps Chow re-capture some momentum.  She'll have to relentlessly promote it at every stop as transit seems to be the biggest issue in this race.  

Still, Chow's speaking style in this campaign has a lot to be desired.  She's somewhat likeable, but comes across as flat and uninspiring.  Her years as a background political organizer in the shadow of her late husband Jack Layton hasn't helped her develop her macro-retail political skills.  Her disadvantage as someone whose first language isn't English is proving a difficult barrier to overcome.  Had she the personality of Kathleen Wynne, Chow might be able to win this thing despite that.  But alas, her support seems to be dwindling to just the core left of the city.  

I'm not entirely sure how she can recapture her earlier lead.  With Tory performing so well (and that will only increase after Labour Day when he no doubt ramps it up), Chow could get pushed aside and find herself an also-ran. 

For me, yes I would like to vote for someone whose transit plans I support.  No doubt, that would make me a natural Chow supporter.   Her longstanding support for cycling also makes her quite appealing to me.   On the other hand, John Tory's expressed doubts about east-west dedicated bike lanes in the city's core have been off-putting.  Lately, he's said he has an open mind about them, which is good as they're desperately needed by cyclists like me.   I soon need to see a John Tory cycling plan for the city that makes sense.  

Tory has vacillated between sounding like a thoughtful red Tory open to smart, progressive ideas, to sounding like a right-wing pretender who uses the term "NDP" as an insult for opponents and talks about stopping bike lanes to help traffic flow faster.  He needs to clarify things and really emphasize his trump card: that he's the best candidate to unite the city, suburbs and the downtown, as a cosmopolitan conservative with a heart.   If Chow can somehow convince voters she's better to unite the city, she might have a chance to overtake Tory. 

But for me, all of the issues mentioned above are secondary; the only real issue for me is getting rid of Rob Ford.  I will vote for the candidate who has the strongest lead in all credible polls to beat Ford, hands down.  I can live with anything in John Tory's platform if he is the person to beat the goof currently occupying the mayor's chair in Toronto.

If polls show Tory way ahead in this race, with Chow continuing to flounder barely ahead or even behind Ford, I will happily vote for Tory.  Should Chow regain some momentum on Tory, leaving Ford in the dust, or even if Chow recaptures her lead in the polls, then she'll get my vote.  If it's too close to call between Chow and Tory, I'll have a tough choice to make.

But if current trends continue with Tory solidifying his new momentum, he'll get my vote, despite his support for the Scarborough subway extension. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Edward Keenan hits nail on the head of Rob Ford's "shamelessness" and "ignorance"

Very pleasant reading today courtesy of Edward Keenan in the Toronto Star.

Here's an excerpt:

"Is he shameless, or ignorant? Those seem to be the options. If he knows what he is talking about, then he is being brazenly dishonest. If instead he is attempting to be truthful, then he suffers from an ignorance so profound as to be worthy of an Adam Sandler movie treatment.

Does anyone still believe Ford's lies?  The wilfully ignorant and shameless, for sure.  And of course the bigots for whom Ford gives permission to feel "normal" and "mainstream" again.  For those who missed it, here is a clip of the reaction some LGBT people and allies received from Ford Nation mobs last week: 

But thankfully, the Ford era seems to be heading to its conclusion, according to good pollsters who continue to show Ford stuck in the 20s in terms of popular support.  He's well behind Olivia Chow and new frontrunner John Tory, I'm glad to say.

We can't afford to be complacent.  We have to continue to fight against this anti-mayor bigot until he is voted out of office.   I intend to continue to do that.   We can ignore the idiots who still make up Ford Nation.   The rest of us simply have to decide for whom to throw our support to ensure Ford's defeat: Tory or Chow.

More on that choice in the coming weeks...

Victory in Uganda as Anti-Homosexuality Act struck down in step towards ending discrimination

Wonderful news!

Uganda: Anti-Homosexuality Act struck down in step towards ending discrimination | Amnesty International

"Uganda's Constitutional Court today ruled that the Act was "null and void" as not enough representatives were in the room for the vote when it was passed by Parliament in December 2013." 

“Even though Uganda’s abominable Anti-Homosexuality Act was scrapped on the basis of a technicality, it is a significant victory for Ugandan activists who have campaigned against this law. Since it was first being floated in 2009, these activists have often put their safety on the line to ensure that Ugandan law upholds human rights principles,” said Sarah Jackson, Africa Deputy Regional Director at Amnesty International.
“We now hope that this step forward translates into real improvements in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people in Uganda, who have been trapped in a vicious circle of discrimination, threats, abuse and injustice for too long.”

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ford Nation bigots provoked by rainbows at Ford Fest; similar themes explored in great short film 'The Divide' by directer Ashley Monti

A very good friend of mine, director Ashley Monti, recently shared with me a copy of her new short dramatic film called 'The Divide.'  The short film chronicles the efforts of armed, quasi-vigilantes who patrol the U.S.-Mexico border to try to stop illegals from entering America.  Here's the trailer below:

The American Film Institute-produced film has played at several film festivals so far including the Rome Independent Film Festival, the Albuquerque Film & Media festival and the Toronto Italian Contemporary Film Festival.  It was also recently programmed into Montreal World Film Festival which runs August 23 to 27, 2014.  If you have the opportunity see it, I recommend you do. 

The most impressive thing about the short film is the intense emotional impact it packs in just 15  minutes.  Most of the characters in the film are gun-toting Caucasians cautiously guarding their country's borders from folks they deem unwelcome.  Not all of them are violent; indeed, the main character, a retired rancher, seems mostly interested in protecting his family.  Although his recruitment of his adult grandson and arming him with a gun proves quite destructive: the young man ends up shooting a young Mexican woman trying to cross over.  The two men bicker about what to do next until they are joined by more militant militia compatriots who try to seize control of the situation. 

Monti's direction is powerful, showing the tragedy of lost humanity amid hatred, ideology and stupidity.  Most of us know little about these types of people who "guard" the U.S.-Mexican border to keep foreigners out.   It's great this little gem of a film shines a light on the subject.  All around, it's a great calling card for the director, as well as writer Kate Weddle.  

The themes of lost humanity amid hatred, ideology and stupidity, as well as a major and tragic cultural divide, reminded me about what's been happening in Toronto lately.  The most recent example happened Friday evening when anti-mayor Rob Ford held his annual bbq in Scarborough's Thomson Memorial Park designed to promote himself and his family.  Thousands of Ford Nation lemmings showed up, the type for whom no behaviour from Rob Ford is too repulsive to shake their support.

But also showing up to the public event were some very brave LGBT activists with rainbow flags, signs and bullhorns ready to send a message to the Fords and their supporters that most of us outside Ford Nation hate what their bigot has done to our city.   They were met with derision, homophobic slurs and violence (both physical and destructive of property.)  

CP24 even got this shot which they described as an "alleged assault."  Not too much alleged about it, if you ask me:

It seems when you, in not so subtle ways, signal unrelentingly disrespect and hatred toward the LGBT community, as Rob Ford has done, that hatred trickles down to the lemmings who are emboldened by your arrogant bigotry. 

In response to the violence, Toronto Police mimicked their investigation into Rob Ford's other crimes by simply standing around, observing and then not laying any charges.  

In the end, it took Doug Ford to try to "calm" the waters by apologizing to the LGBT community, but then doing his typical thing and blaming the LGBT activists for the assaults.  

The divide between smart Toronto and Ford Nation remains as wide as ever. 


Yes, Toronto Police seem to have an inconsistent approach to handling crime.  If you merely encourage online for people to throw food at Rob Ford and nobody ends up doing it, you still get charged with counselling an uncommitted indictable offence.

Meanwhile, if you're at the event and put your fingers around the neck of a LGBT protester in a threatening manner like the man pictured above did, or you tear personal property like signs out of other people`s hands and destroy it, and it's all recorded on video, the Police still won`t do anything about it.

I guess Toronto Police can`t tolerate alleged crime when it`s committed against Rob Ford, but when it`s committed by Rob Ford or his supporters, it gets a pass.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Toronto Taxpayers Coalition don't give a crap about real taxpayers, only helping out Conservative politicians...

This statement below released today by Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow caught my attention: 

Reality Check: Taxpayers Coalition Misses Biggest Bill Taxpayers Face

FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2014

Oversight, cosy alignment with conservative candidates, something fishier, who knows? But the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition ignored the priciest issue in the mayoral race…in a questionnaire about taxes and fiscal responsibility.  It’s the $1 billion bill for underground rail to Scarborough.

It’s the most expensive subject of debate, despite delivering four fewer stops than the above-ground option—and shovels not starting to dig until 2019.  So it’s more than strange that the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition didn’t bring it up at all. Don’t they speak for the very taxpayers that Ford and Tory want to make pay $1 billion more than they have to?  Olivia answered earlier than the August 1 deadline and released her replies, asking why it ignored the most expensive issue being discussed.

Chow makes an excellent point.  If you read the survey questions (and Chow's answers) available here, the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition makes no mention of the misguided Scarborough subway plan which Chow opposes.

This seems at odds with the Coalition's stated mission on its website: "The Toronto Taxpayers Coalition is a non-partisan advocate for the municipal Taxpayer. We are committed to lower taxes, less waste, and holding government to account with respect to how they spend your hard earned money."

It seems not only is the Coalition quite partisan, but they are not committed to lower taxes (otherwise they'd oppose the Scarborough subway), they are not committed to less waste (otherwise they'd oppose the Scarborough subway) and holding government to account (which they aren't doing on the issue of the Scarborough subway boondoggle.)

In response to their hypocrisy, I sent the following email to the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition.   This is not a group that in any way is advocating for this Toronto taxpayer!


The Scarborough Subway plan pushed on the city by Rob Ford and other councillors looking for Scarborough votes would cost Toronto taxpayers an extra $1 billion in tax increases!   

Yet you support this over the less expensive and FAR BETTER existing plan to build an above-ground light rail train that would have 4 more stops, serve tens of thousands more people and be built four years sooner!  

You clearly don't care about taxpayers in this city.  Your only real concern is supporting conservatives, no matter how fiscally irresponsible their plans may be. 


Glad that Olivia Chow, whose position on this issue of Scarborough rapid transit expansion is the most fiscally responsible of the major mayoral candidates, properly called out your hypocrisy in this statement today:

This issue of supporting a light rail train extension into Scarborough over Rob Ford's stupid subway plan will be Chow's strongest card to play for the rest of this race, I think.  It's the main reason why I may end up voting for her.  I simply cannot support politicians who support this disastrous and fiscally irresponsible plan to build a subway extension into Scarborough with just 3 stops over the better LRT plan to build 7 stops stretching all the way to Centennial College.  It's a misguided attempt to win votes for all those politicians supporting the subway plan.  In fact, I'd say many in Scarborough support the LRT plan too for the reasons stated above.  They know a Rob Ford boondoggle when they smell it!

Monday, July 7, 2014

John Tory takes lead in new Nanos poll on Toronto's mayoral race

Well, things are getting interesting.  Just two days after I decided to ignore most public opinion polls except for Nanos Research polls, that very company has come out with a new poll in the Toronto mayoral race.

The results put John Tory ahead with 39.1% support, Olivia Chow in second with 32.7% and incumbent buffoon Rob Ford trailing badly with just 21.7% support.  None of the other candidates garner even five per cent support.   The random telephone survey of 600 Torontonians was conducted between July 2 and July 5, after Rob Ford's big return to the scene after finishing two months of cottage country rehab.

I must say I trust Nanos polls quite a bit, due to both their methodology of contacting actual people, as well as their solid track record.

So it seems that John Tory is catching on with the public, and Olivia Chow has not yet done so.  I refuse to say that Chow has somehow lost her lead in the race as the only polling company that put her in the lead was Forum Research, a polling company I do not trust.

So I guess my recent instinct judging Chow currently has the most support is wrong; instead, it seems Tory is currently in the lead. 

I have to say I quite like John Tory and have been seriously considering supporting him in this race.  I've also felt the same way about Olivia Chow.  Both have their strengths, but also weaknesses.

I agree with Chow's positions on most issues, including banning jets from the island airport, promoting cycling, and building Light Rail Transit in Scarborough instead of the ill-conceived Scarborough subway extension.  On the other hand, I question her ability to lead a large corporation the size of Toronto when she's never managed anything that size in her life, as well as unite the city between downtown and suburbs.  While electing Chow might feel good in the short term, I worry about a longer-term conservative backlash which leftie politicians like Chow and David Miller always seem to inspire.  Such backlashes historically have given birth to truly regressive, neo-conservative regimes.   Rob Ford was the beneficiary of such a conservative backlash in 2010.   I shudder to imagine what the next conservative backlash might look like after Chow.

Tory, on the other hand, has few weaknesses, except perhaps not being the strongest campaigner.  I must say I quite like his 'Smart Track' proposal which makes sense and looks like it could achieve the much needed results of a "downtown relief line."  Tory is a moderate, compassionate red Tory and a cosmopolitan who understands the downtown as well as the suburbs.   He can be a ditherer who takes a long time to make decisions, but I prefer that to the numb skull ideology of the incumbent.  I'd be quite comfortable with Tory as mayor.

Could this be the year John Tory finally graduates from perpetual loser to electoral winner?  We shall see.  I'll be waiting for the next Nanos poll to see if this lead is part of a trend, or a blip. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Public opinion polling in Canada descends into madness, so let's ignore polls and just follow our guts, please!

Something really bad has happened to the quality of public opinion polls in Canada in recent years, particularly those trying to gauge voter opinions during election campaigns. Recent polling disasters - in which the final results bore little resemblance to most final campaign polls - confirm we can no longer rely on polls to tell us much of anything. 

It's true that polls, only when grouped together by aggregate websites like, can pick up on general trends.   But even polling aggregates are being undermined by the shoddy work being done out there nowadays.

In 2011, most polls accurately predicted the surge of the NDP into second place, even though almost all of the final campaign polls underestimated Tory strength.  We thought we were looking at a close fight between the NDP and the Tories, but in the end Stephen Harper easily won his first majority government.   Polls in British Columbia in 2013 and Alberta in 2012 proved to be even worse.

The same trend occurred in the recent Ontario election where polls were all over the map.  It was embarrassing.  Some pollsters consistently underestimated NDP strength throughout the campaign, while others overestimated Tory strength in their so-called 'Likely Voters' polls.   

The worst was CTV-sponsored pollster Ipsos-Reid whose polls suggested that Tim Hudak was catching on with the public, even after his disastrous pledge to cut 100,000 public service jobs.  Those of us who were talking to actual people knew differently throughout.  The final Ipsos-Reid joke was on the eve of election day showing the three parties virtually tied.  But Ipsos-Reid's "Likely Voters" formula actually showed the PCs six points ahead of the Liberals and NDP, both allegedly tied at 30%.  

As we know, this final poll by Ipsos-Reid was total B.S.  But most disturbingly, it fit a pattern throughout the campaign for the CTV-paid pollster by overestimating Tory and NDP strength, almost as if the pollster was simply trying to play Tory-NDP cheerleader.  The fact Ipsos-Reid polls were being financed by CTV-Bell-Globemedia speaks volumes.  That private media conglomerate has showed its pro-Tory biases for years in subtle ways.  When the Globe & Mail editorial board decided to call for a Liberal minority government in Ontario, Globe owners apparently overruled their staff and ordered a bizarre Tory minority endorsement instead. 
There is hope though as this private media manipulation during the campaign seemed to have ZERO impact on the public, which still voted the way it wanted.   Based on shoddy polls, predicted a Liberal minority and a tight vote between the Grits and PCs, with the NDP way back.  Most media predicted the same.  Thus, when the Grits won handily due to a PC collapse, most described the results as "shocking."

I, too, was surprised by the Tory collapse.  None of the pollsters had predicted it.  Although my gut instinct that the Liberals would win a majority turned out to be true (although I do admit I had thought that would come about due to a NDP collapse, not a Tory one.) 

Today, Forum says that 35% want NDP Leader Andrea Horwath to step down.  My verdict: this poll is wrong and is of no relevance.  We have no idea what the public wants Horwath to do.   I would say Horwath should ignore the polls and listen to her gut, as should other New Democrats when determining what to do going forward.

It also doesn't bode well for the upcoming Toronto municipal race.  The only pollster doing public polls thus far is Forum, which has shown strange Rob Ford strength, even after being shipped off to cottage country rehab.  I don't believe those Forum polls for a second.

I'm going to start ignoring Forum completely and most other polls and resume listening to my gut about how things are going.  Because my gut has been surprisingly accurate of late.  And my gut tells me a big majority of Toronto voters are angry with Rob Ford and are not considering giving him another chance.  My gut is telling me Ford is heading for a humiliation at the polls in November.  The only question that remains is who will end up on top: Olivia Chow or John Tory.   Thus far, my gut tells me it's going to be Olivia Chow. 

The only pollster with any remaining credibility would be Nanos.  Their one Ontario poll released on May 26, over two weeks before voting day, proved to be the most accurate predicting the final outcome. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Shirtless Joe fights back against terrible Rob Ford

This Global News video of Joe Killoran, an ordinary East York resident out for a jog Tuesday, made the rounds on the internet last night, and won Killoran massive amounts of fans across Toronto.   

Killoran, now popularly known as "Shirtless Joe," couldn't contain his frustration when he saw bigot mayor Rob Ford in his hood yesterday gunning for votes at the Canada Day parade.  Ford was already retreating early from the parade after facing numerous boos and heckles from ordinary citizens when Killoran decided Ford should be asked a few questions he's thus far refused to answer. 

Shirtless Joe pummeled Ford with questions about Apollo Beauty, possibly using his influence as mayor to benefit his family's private business, as well as attack Ford for being a racist and a homophobe.   When Ford's pathetic flack tried to block Killoran and offer him Ford's business card to ask questions some other time, Killoran rightly refused the diversion. 

Apollo Beauty, a private company and client of the Fords' Deco Labels, was fined by the city in 2012 for dumping sewage into a North York river, but the Fords intervened to get the company a private meeting with top city bureaucrats so they could avoid paying it.  Now a respected national watchdog group is asking the city integrity commissioner to investigate the Ford brothers over possible conflicts of interest over the case.

Rob Ford has lied to the people of Toronto for months about his own behaviour, as well as refused to answer questions about his possible involvement or connections with organized crime and gang-related murders.  When reporters have asked tough questions of him, Ford's ignored them.  If they pushed too hard, they found themselves shut out of press conferences or worse.  

Now Ford and his thug brother act like they're above it all, not answerable to anyone.  Dougie Ford even tried to intimidate Joe yesterday by claiming he needed anger management!  It was a breath of fresh air to see this clearly spontaneous moment of an ordinary citizen calling out our vile mayor on his behaviour.  

The outrage in the public is real and it's deeply potent.  The notion those who hate Ford are somehow going to fail to make it to the polls in November is simple Ford Nation stupidity.  The city wants Ford gone now!  

A friend did some research about Killoran and discovered Joe "is a law teacher at Malvern College.  He gets high marks on "Rate My Teacher". Needless to say, several students mention his body on that site."

Great job, Shirtless Joe!  You did Toronto proud yesterday confronting our disgusting garbage can of a mayor.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Trudeau Liberals emerge as undisputed main challengers to Harper Conservatives after June 30th byelections

Happy Canada Day to all!

To celebrate, here's another look at a glorious 2008 shot of Canadian actor Shawn Ashmore showing off his national pride (and some naked hip)! 

I took a break from blogging after the recent Ontario election to focus on the rest of my life.   

The majority re-election of Kathleen Wynne was a moment of pure political joy for me and I'm still basking in the afterglow of a smart and beautiful collective decision by Ontario voters.

But the political season is still hot.

After skipping Toronto's World Pride Day, Toronto's chief bigot Rob Ford returned to work at City Hall well after 1 pm yesterday to get up to his old tricks.   He excluded members of the media from his first media statement / infomercial and refused to take any questions.   Clearly, two months in cottage country didn't do much to change him except cut his waistline.  We'll see how long it takes for Ford to be caught drunk at some street festival this summer, muttering bigotries against one of Toronto's minority communities. 

There isn't much left to say about the bigoted buffoon we don't already know.  Rob Ford deserves a punishing humiliation at the polls this October and I have a strong feeling that is what's in store for him, perhaps at the hands of either Olivia Chow or John Tory.   Until then, the best articles I read today on Ford's return were Royson James' piece here and Daniel Dale's great list of urgent questions Ford refuses to answer.

But there was some great political news yesterday too with the four federal by-elections which saw Justin Trudeau's Liberals emerge as the undisputed main challengers to the Harper Conservatives. 

Liberal candidate Arnold Chan kicked Tory ass in Scarborough-Agincourt by garnering almost 60% of the vote, a big jump over the 2011 Liberal result.  A sleazy Tory attack in the riding which misrepresented Justin Trudeau's marijuana prohibition policy proved completely ineffective.  It's clear that the majority of Canadians believe our country's marijuana laws need major reform and Tory attacks are proving quite out of touch.   

Liberal candidate Adam Vaughan swept to an easy victory in Trinity-Spadina in downtown Toronto, taking the seat away from the NDP.  This win was largely predictable due mainly to Vaughan's amazing experience and reputation.  If the aim in politics is to be competitive and win, then Justin Trudeau is proving himself to be a master of it.

Meanwhile, Tom Mulcair's NDP is showing strong signs they will be returning to third party status after the 2015 election.  They goofed up anointing largely unknown party activist Joe Cressy as their successor to Olivia Chow in a crucial by-election.  It's true that had Cressy faced a no-name Liberal opponent, progressive tradition in the riding might've handed him the seat.  Clearly, Cressy believed he only needed win approval from the NDP inner circle in order to earn a ticket to Ottawa (kind of like Conservatives do in rural Alberta, as evidenced in Macleod riding last night.)  But they didn't anticipate Vaughan's candidacy and suffered terribly for it.

By-elections don't always act as harbingers of the next federal election.  I remember the Winnipeg North by-election in 2010 when Liberal candidate Kevin Lamoureux took a seat away from the NDP months before the Liberals collapsed in the 2011 election and the NDP formed the official opposition.

But the dynamics today are much different.  We're seeing the Liberals under Trudeau get stronger and stronger, building up their organization, attracting very strong candidates who can make a difference in tough ridings, and embarking on a message tract and policy plan designed to challenge the status quo Harper narrative quite effectively.   More Liberal work is needed, but so far the trend in unmistakeable.   Justin Trudeau is on a roll and building momentum fast, while Tom Mulcair is not resonating at all outside of Quebec.  Mulcair's leadership could at least save some NDP seats in Quebec in the next election.  But if Trudeau continues to do well and emerges as the only real challenger to Harper rule in Canada, it's highly likely Quebecers may surge behind the Liberals to finally defeat the Conservatives.

Interesting times, indeed! 

Post-World Pride analysis: Ambitious Toronto organizers overwhelmed by World Pride beast...

The massive party of World Pride in Toronto is over. 

The unabashed winners from World Pride were private businesses like bars, hotels, restaurants and other establishments which got a major boost to their profits.  Most establishments properly prepared for the expected big spike in usual Pride Toronto attendance numbers and managed appropriately, I'd say. 

But not Pride Toronto and its organizers, ambitious from the start to host this allegedly prestigious event, but clearly overwhelmed by the beast they unleashed on the city.  It was like they still planned for a regular Pride event and then seemed shocked when chaos erupted at many of their events. 

The annual Green Space Starry Night event at the 519 Community Centre was overwhelmed early with many 519 contributors with VIP passes turned away (although this was largely due to the limitations of the space, although I'm sure a bit of better planning might've prevented some disappointment.) 

But the biggest fiasco was the annual Sunday parade, which Pride organizers failed miserably to properly stage.  No doubt, Pride Toronto was more than happy to accept hundreds more parade marchers and floats than ever before, all paying big fees and filling Pride coffers.  I chose to march with my union, the Canadian Media Guild, which hasn't marched in years. 

But the massive delays in staging and getting the parade rolling were embarrassing.  The 1 pm start time was more aspirational than planned.  Volunteers giving their time to march ended up standing around the staging area on Bloor Street between Church and Jarvis in the hot, muggy sun for hours.  Several volunteers with my group couldn't bear the heat and left before we even started moving at 3:45 pm.

But our group didn't even have the worst of it.  The Liberal Party contingent with out lesbian Premier Kathleen Wynne was forced to wait even longer, as one friend of mine noted to me on Facebook: "...We were near the end of the Parade behind the naked guys??? No Mayor thx jeez but the Premier of Ontario 4.5 hr wait. We finished at 6:15 most of crowd gone home!!! Loved WorldPride disappointed in parade."

Before we started moving, I took to Twitter to voice my displeasure with the chaos: "Standing in the heat waiting to march in TO ‪#‎WorldPride‬ parade for 2 hours. Worst organizing by @PrideToronto ever!"
I got some sympathy from friends in response, but World Pride Human Rights Conference organizer Doug Kerr arrogantly shot back: "Pride can't control the crowds or weather!"  I promptly gave Kerr's dismissive quip the response he deserved by deleting it from my Facebook timeline.  Note to Doug: When people are feeling pain due to your organization's mismanagement, don't rudely dismiss them!

The crowds on the street delaying the parade from running on time?  Don't think so.  As we marched down Yonge around 4:30 pm, there were times there were 4 or 5 blocks of empty road behind us.  This was Pride Toronto's big goof, so best not to blame the people who came to see the parade for the chaos, I'd say. 

The most galling part was standing in the staging area between Church and Jarvis on Bloor watching corporate float after corporate float go ahead of the community groups like ours.  In years past, corporate floats have waited while smaller community groups went first.   But that old tradition seems long gone.  Now the Premier of Ontario has to wait so Trojan's float can go first.   Perhaps the massively delayed organization of the parade will give birth to a new money-making opportunity for Pride Toronto in years to come: pay an even bigger parade fee and your corporate float can be in the first contingent of the parade!  

Many LGBT people including myself have become quite cynical about Pride in recent years as it's morphed from a grassroots community celebration about liberation into a largely corporate beast.   Most Pride events nowadays have VIP sections for the well-to-do who've paid premium ticket prices.  This is not the Pride of old.  Hence, why many like me believe that Pride has lost most of its old magic.  It didn't just happen this year; it happened long ago.   This was just the biggest example of what Pride Toronto has become.  

When asked in the months and weeks before if I was excited about World Pride, I could only shrug and respond, "Not really."   I didn't know what World Pride was supposed to mean.  And I still don't.  I'm happy for the businesses that did so well this weekend.  It was a decent Pride weekend.  I loved the time I spent with my boyfriend and my friends.  My brother and sister-in-law came in from out of town to walk with us in the parade and show their support which was fantastic (and endured the painful wait with us.) 

But we'll definitely think again before we put ourselves through another Pride parade, either as participants or viewers. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

The far-right Common Sense Revolution is now officially dead...

I'm still overjoyed with last night's historic win for Kathleen Wynne's Liberals in Ontario.  Wynne is now the first elected female premier of Ontario, and the first out LGBT person to be elected to lead a state/provincial/national government in the English speaking world!

Last night was a little bittersweet for me as I spent yesterday pulling Liberal voters to the polls in Parkdale-High Park where my good friend Nancy Leblanc came close to beating out NDP veteran Cheri DiNovo.  Nancy would've made a great addition to this Liberal government with her expertise in corporate and public sector governance.   I truly hope Nancy runs again in the near future after such a close result (with little more than a month to campaign as the official candidate.) 

But the Liberal sweep of most GTA seats - taking seats away from both the NDP and the Tories - forms the backbone of the new Liberal majority.   The Liberals did manage to take 3 downtown ridings away from the NDP, including my old stomping grounds of Davenport.  I'm glad that Michael Prue is finally gone from the legislature.  I never did forgive him for his nasty 2001 byelection campaign in which he slandered his Liberal opponent in order to secure a win. 

But the Liberal gains in Tory strongholds are the most stunning.  Virtually every possible seat in the GTA and surrounding area the Liberals might've gained from the Tories, they won.  Etobicoke-Lakeshore proved to be an easy Liberal pickup, but longtime PC strongholds like Burlington, Halton, Thornhill, Newmarket-Aurora, and even Cambridge (which hasn't elected an Ontario Liberal in over 70 years!) fell to the Liberals.  Further out, Barrie returned to the Liberal fold, as did Northumberland-Quinte West.  Even the sprawling rural riding of Durham elected new Liberal MPP Granville Anderson in a seat that's been Tory since 1995. 

The province has finally turned its back on the 1990s-style Common Sense Revolution championed by former premier Mike Harris and re-offered by Tim Hudak in 2014.  Clearly, Ontarians, in their wisdom, have decided that returning to the days of hostile austerity and ideology run amok is not for them.

The Tories polled just 31.2% of the vote yesterday, which is the lowest that party has received since losing power in 2003.   In 2003, they won 34.6%; in 2007, they won 31.6%; in 2011, they rebounded to 35.4%, only to fall back again last night.  Clearly, something major is not working for that party.  

Instead, Ontario opted for a progressive yet realistic plan under Kathleen Wynne, who was able to appeal not only to progressives in this election, but also centrists and even some red Tories.  With a majority government, Wynne will be able to implement her plan, which includes some tougher measures to balance the budget by 2017/2018. 

The big centre ground the old PCs of Bill Davis used to dominate has now moved over to the Ontario Liberals.  Much of the Liberal victory has to do with Kathleen Wynne's personality and leadership abilities.  But the Ontario PCs' refusal to give up its hard right turn of the 1990s also has much to do with it.  Ontarians simply aren't interested in tearing down government for the sake of a few tax cuts; they want quality public services and quality public infrastructure and they'll grudgingly re-elect governments who sometimes raise taxes to offer these things.  Ontarians don't hate working people or unions as much as some Tories, at their most ugly, seem to instinctively.  

After their 2003 loss, the Ontario PCs seemed to understand that Ontario had turned away from the Common Sense Revolution of Mike Harris.  So they elected a moderate in John Tory to lead them forward instead of Jim Flaherty.  In a misguided sop to his party's right-wing, Tory promised to introduce public funding for religious schools, a decision which backfired immensely and got him defeated in 2007.  After two painful years of trying to hang on, Tory finally called it a day after losing a 2009 by-election.  After that, the Mike Harris wing of the party swept Tim Hudak into the leadership, insisting that a return to the Common Sense Revolution was their ticket back to power.

Clearly, Hudak and the Mike Harris wing are wrong.  Dead wrong.  Last night's results prove it.   If the Ontario PCs are to win over Ontario voters again, they're going to have to put some water in their far right wine and moderate for good. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I really hope Kathleen Wynne makes more history for LGBT people on Thursday...

I was in the voting room at the Ontario Liberal leadership convention in January 2013 for the final ballot count which elected Kathleen Wynne.  I had been there as a scrutineer for Sandra Pupatello, the woman Wynne defeated to win the leadership.   

When Kathleen Wynne pulled it off, it was electrifying.  Wynne had easily beaten Pupatello in the ballot box I was charged with scrutineering.  Minutes later, Jack Siegel, the party's chief election official, made it official with the simple statement: "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm proud to say that our party has a new leader and that leader is Kathleen Wynne."  Two other gay men who were also Pupatello scrutineers with me could hardly keep from smiling.  "So cool! An openly gay premier!" one of them remarked. 

I had missed Kathleen Wynne's amazing convention speech earlier that morning as I had been waiting in the hallways with other Pupatello supporters to cheer my candidate's big speech entrance.  My candidate's speech, in which she promised to bring the opposition to its knees, underwhelmed many including myself.  I would only view Wynne's convention speech online hours later after she clinched a decisive victory to take the convention and then it all made perfect sense.

Wynne had achieved an incredible and historic victory: not only did she become the first female premier in Ontario's history, she also became the first out LGBT person to lead a provincial government in Canada's history.  In fact, Wynne is the first LGBT person to lead a state or provincial or national government in North America. 

Wynne has proven her ability to master a tough game and come out on top.   After being sworn in as Ontario's new premier, Wynne tackled tough issues including scandals that she inherited from her predecessor.  She also showed her ability to listen, consult and heal divisions by making peace with teachers and showing that the collective bargaining process can still achieve desired fiscal results for governments.  She has set a progressive and realistic agenda for moving the province forward, arguing the best way to grow Ontario's economy is to invest in people and in infrastructure, not embark on a race to the bottom by cutting public services and lowering wages.

The pink glass ceiling has been broken by this amazing woman through sheer determination and amazing talent. 

Regardless of what happens on Thursday, Wynne has earned her place in history.  But I'd be lying if I didn't say I'd be completely devastated if the province's first woman premier and first out LGBT premier is defeated, particularly by someone as untalented as Tim Hudak.

My initial thoughts about how this election campaign, published on May 2nd, seem to have largely come true.  As a result, I'm quite confident that voters will give Kathleen Wynne a chance to continue to govern.  Should it be a minority, she'll find ways to make it work.  Should it be a majority, Wynne will have lived up to her reputation as an amazing fighter who knows how to win big despite the tough odds.

I hope and pray that Wynne will make even more history on Thursday. 

For nostalgia sake, or for those who have never seen it, I give you the last five minutes of Wynne's amazing speech at the leadership convention which sealed the path on which we now find ourselves.  She asked, "Is Ontario ready for a gay premier?"  We'll find out on Thursday night!