Monday, September 10, 2018

Monstrous Doug Ford proves just how dangerous and hypocritical he truly is...

I was delighted this morning to hear the news that democratic rights including the right to effective representation, as well as freedom of expression, should mean something in Ontario.  Justice Belobaba's ruling was a fantastic read, laying out clearly how the Ford government overstepped its bounds and violated those Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it hastily passed Bill 5 this summer, slashing Toronto's wards from 47 to 25 mid-campaign.  The original 47-ward map would be returned for the Oct 22 election, the judge ruled.

Sadly, by this afternoon, those sacred Charter Rights seemed to vanish as Ontario Dictator Doug Ford announced he was going to trounce those basic human rights using the Charter's notwithstanding clause for the first time ever in Ontario history simply because he's an asshole and doesn't like it when anybody tries to limit his power, which clearly he assumes is absolute. 

Now it's clear: if the democratic and freedom of expression rights of all Torontonians can be swept away by a dictator like Ford, none of our rights are safe (at least while Ford and others like him are in power.)

When asked today if he'd use the notwithstanding clause to destroy other peoples' Charter rights too, Ford responded, “I won’t be shy.”

In addition to being a dangerous violator of human rights, Ford's also a hypocrite.  

In previous weeks, Doug Ford has threatened to cut funding to any post-secondary institutions that don't "respect freedom of expression".   Today, he is now promising to run roughshod over those very same freedoms and use the notwithstanding clause to do it.

If universities can be de-funded because they don't respect freedom of expression, does this mean that Doug Ford will also de-fund his own government?  That would be a worthwhile cost-saving measure!

The facts are clear: Ford's willing to go to bat for the rights of far-right radicals intent on promoting hate speech on university campuses.

But ordinary citizens who are participating in our local democracy?  Ford doesn't give a shit about them and he's willing to go to unprecedented lengths to undermine their freedom of expression, as well as the democratic rights of all Ontarians. 

Ford is a monster who must be stopped.   

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Democratic rights in Canada at stake in court fight against Ford's attack on local Toronto elections...

Dictator Ford (photographed by Justin Tang of the Cdn Press)
I'll give Doug Ford one thing: like his late brother, he is an expert on swindling the public with his oft-repeated messaging.  Like Trump in the U.S., it doesn't seem to matter if those talking points bear no resemblance to reality; as long as he keeps repeating them, his uncritical and gullible political base tends to believe them. 

Ford has been pushing one such simplistic message lately that his heavy-handed slashing of Toronto City Council seats from 47 to 25 is about shrinking government and saving "millions."

This reminds me of one of the most poisonous legacies of former PC Premier Mike Harris, who forced an amalgamation on the former six cities of Toronto, North York, York, Etobicoke, East York and Scarborough, along with their regional government, into one giant megacity in 1996.  It was ostensibly done to save money and reduce duplication.  Instead, 20 years later, the overall costs of government in Toronto have gone substantially up.  The same is true in the hundreds of other municipalities that were forced to merge in the 1990s, as a 2015 report from the conservative-minded Fraser Institute revealed.

“There were huge increases in costs — it really wasn’t well thought out,” said co-author Lydia Miljan, a University of Windsor political scientist.

“If the government of the day was truly interested in finding efficiencies at the local level, it might have been better off to pursue policies such as shared service agreements rather than municipal restructuring,” said Miljan.

Who would've thought that a simplistic plan based solely on the ideological assumption that less politicians means less spending would've actually produced the opposite?   Um, every intelligent, progressive critic at the time the conservative government chose to ignore.

And now in 2018 it's happening again.

Ford's change this year in Toronto will also prove more expensive for taxpayers as it will reduce by half the numbers of elected people scrutinizing the megacity's budget, thus freeing up bureaucrats, as well as the police and other municipal agencies from having to face tough questions from political leaders with the time and resources to keep an eye on them.  The $25 million Ford claims his cut will save over four years is already partially wasted due to the multiple millions that changing the 2018 election halfway through has cost, let alone the ongoing court battle to defend it.

If the council cut does proceed, it will also mean that citizens are even more removed from their local government and will have to struggle to get the ear of their local councillors, now representing over 100,000 people each.

To many non-Canadians, this turn of events is shocking as most can't believe that a provincial government could do such a thing to a local government.  It doesn't happen like this in other parts of the civilized world where most major cities do have some constitutional standing, not to mention due process.  However, as we know in Canada, municipalities were originally conceived as mere "creatures" of the provinces.  The provinces received full constitutional control over municipalities at the time of Confederation in 1867.

But still the desire to fight back against a hostile provincial government that seems to enjoy picking on Toronto is palpable.

When Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat launched her campaign the day after Ford's plan to cut council was announced, she tweeted the simple word, "Secession."  That defiance struck a chord with me.  She has since clarified that comment, saying she was merely trying to express the frustration many Torontonians were feeling after learning their local affairs were again going to be undermined by a numbskull conservative government that just wanted to wreak havoc to settle political scores. 

Keesmaat's instincts to stand up and forcefully defend Toronto's interests in the face of the tinpot dictator at Queen's Park has earned her my vote.  She's certainly better than incumbent John Tory in that regard, whose wishy washy platitudes are getting us nowhere.  (I'll have much more to write about that race later.)

I agree that Toronto seceding from Ontario isn't necessarily the answer we need right now.  Instead, the answer we need is much stronger powers for Toronto and other municipalities across Canada.  Those powers ought to be recognized in the Constitution so that they can't be stripped away by a reckless and thoughtless premier on a whim. 

I can't agree more with this column by Shawn Micallef that was published last week.  As he writes:

"While provincial sovereignty was paramount at Confederation...democracy has become the organizing principle of constitutional interpretation and that local democracy and municipalities have evolved to become incredibly important institutions.

"This is what makes the court challenge Toronto city council agreed to undertake...so interesting, as the Constitution is...a living document and interpretation of it evolves."

I have to hope so.

In 2018, the election race in Toronto's 47 council wards was already well underway by the time Ford announced his plans to interfere in late July.   Local candidates had spent weeks campaigning in wards that had been designed through a careful and thoughtful local process, which included massive consultations with citizens.  Those candidates had raised money, and local citizens had donated that time and money to participate in our democracy.   Now all of that has been thrown in the dustbin.

Democratic rights ought to be protected in Canadian law.  The ability of citizens to take part in that democracy should not be undermined by a reckless government rushing through changes to the rules halfway through the game and without consultation. 

If the judge rules after this Friday's hearing that Ford's actions are justified and the 25-ward election can proceed, it will mean that our democratic rights as Canadians are weak in the face of government power, that those democratic rights can be manipulated and undermined at will, without notice or consultation, simply to please the petty grudges of leaders who won a plurality of votes in a first-past-the-post provincial election.

I truly hope the judge does the right thing here and puts a much-needed check on the bullish and terrible instincts of Dictator Ford.  Otherwise, Toronto won't be the last city to have its local elections turned upside down for no good reason.  

Monday, July 2, 2018

Doug Ford appoints far-right, homeschooled, 20-year-old ideologue as "Parliamentary Assistant" to Minister of Education

Undeniably handsome but dangerous Tory Sam Oosterhoff.
Doug Ford is showing his hand, offering a little gift to the far-right zealots that make up at least 15% of his party and were instrumental in electing him leader.

As his party took office Friday in Ontario, little attention was given to the appointment of parliamentary assistants who also get cabinet ministry offices, a salary top-up and generally help out the full-time ministers with their duties.  Sometimes, that means the P.A.s will be given specific policy areas in which to do work, complementing the minister's overall agenda.

But in that Friday announcement was the fact that 20-year-old homeschooled, far-right ideologue Sam Oosterhoff is now Ontario's "Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education." 

This is someone who bypassed our public education system in his just-finished teenage years, seemingly because his parents thought something was wrong with it (you know, public schools have to let everyone in including sinners.)

This is the same young man who at age 19, despite few qualifications, managed to sign up enough of his church to steal the local PC nomination in the conservative stronghold of Niagara West in 2016, thus paving the way for his election to Queen's Park.

This is the same inexperienced ideologue who is on record cynically calling homosexuality a "sin" somehow worse than other "sins."  He also has voiced support for a literal interpretation of the bible and spoken out against Christians who “have no problem with homosexual behaviour and see it as a healthy form of human sexuality.”

He even went out of his way to endorse the horrid Tanya Granic Allen, whose anti-gay views were so bad that even Doug Ford had to fire her as a Tory candidate. 

Oosterhoff's world clearly doesn't include LGBT people.

And now he gets to stand next to Education Minister Lisa Thompson from Huron-Bruce as the Tories implement their education agenda including revisiting the public school curriculum, which finally currently acknowledges the existence of LGBT people in our society, promotes respect for all and tries to teach the importance of consent.   Far-right bigots who don't want their kids to know homosexuality exists, and seemingly don't have a problem if their kids only learn about sex on the internet, don't much like the modernized curriculum and Doug Ford and other Tories were more than happy to use that ignorance to win votes. 

This appointment of a homeschooled ideologue is a slap in the face to every parent who sends their kids to the public education system.   It's also a vicious slap in the face to every LGBT youth struggling to survive that system.  Once the Tories have their way with the curriculum, we'll probably see similar attacks on Gay-Straight Alliances in our schools. 

The last Tory government under Mike Harris was also hostile to public education as they declared war on all teachers and starved the system of needed funds while implementing tax credits for rich parents who sent their kids to private schools.   The vast majority of Ontario parents who can't afford that will soon feel similar stings, I'm sure, as Ford forces new unnecessary labour disruptions and cutbacks.

No doubt his promise not to lay off anyone will soon go the way of all Ford promises: into the waste basket.  

My condolences to parents who will suffer as folks who don't believe in public education are tasked with managing it.  And I promise to stand beside all LGBTQ youth as they face new attacks from a hostile government happy to play footsie with bigots. 

Who wants to bet we'll see our first strikes or lock-outs of teachers in 2019? 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Great news from the Supreme Court against discriminatory law school in BC

Sign on display at Amyx Hardware in Tennessee since 2015.
The notion that religious bigotries can trump basic human equality has always appalled me.

When the U.S. Supreme Court, loaded with conservative appointees who don't respect the basic human dignity of LGBT people, recently ruled that private businesses can discriminate against gay people for religious reasons, I was enraged.

State-sanctioned or court-approved bigotry has no place in a fair and just society. 

Today, with this Supreme Court ruling against  Trinity Western "University" in BC, I feel ecstatic and lucky to be living in Canada, a country where we respect basic human dignity.

The balance of rights is a careful one that our Supreme Court has always gotten right, in my opinion.  Does the school's desire to keep out all forms of homosexuality trump the basic dignity and rights of prospective LGBT law students?  Is the harm done to the latter through such a discriminatory policy unimportant when compared to the desires of Christian bigots to learn about law and ethics in a gay-free environment (or free from anything else they might deem "sinful")?

The answer is a clear no.   In fact, allowing such discrimination in a public institution would go against everything this country stands for. 

This Straight.com article sums up the issues nicely.  

The religious still have the right to discriminate and attack the basic dignity of people they needlessly hate in their own private religious institutions and homes.  But keep it there, thanks very much. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

If the Ontario NDP couldn't win this year, I'm not sure they can ever win...

Ontario political map after Thursday night.
Oh, what a gross election in Ontario.   I'm still digesting what happened Thursday but I do want to share some thoughts.

Healthy democracies consist of at least two competitive parties capable of winning and forming government.  And usually the Canadian public is wise enough to kick the bums out after eight or so years, sooner if the government has been particularly disastrous.

But when one party governs for so long due to the incompetence of its opposition, say 15 years, this causes a massive build-up of fatigue and anger over scandals and mistakes that become too numerous to count.

So when a well-meaning female leader with a great personality but perhaps not perfect political judgment (who indeed has such perfect judgment?) comes along and keeps that party in power longer after 11 years, as Wynne did in 2014, it creates the scenario we saw play out this week.

In 2014, Wynne seemed like a genuine breath of fresh air, a true progressive who had achieved a miracle by convincing the majority of Ontario Liberal delegates to elect her leader.  Her agenda was bold and inspiring, a practical progressive platform I was excited about.  Plus Tim Hudak was a dolt with a plan Ontario voters knew couldn't work.  (Sadly, 41% of Ontario voters had to know the same thing about Doug Ford's "plan" this year, but didn't care as they had less confidence in both the Liberals or the NDP.)

But then the realities of government took hold and Wynne started making a few mistakes.  In a first-term party government, those mistakes could perhaps be forgiven.  But for a government already long past its expiration date, those mistakes proved politically fatal for Wynne.

She herself has admitted to one of them: not being quick enough to understand the massive outrage over skyrocketing hydro bills.  These had indeed been caused by 10 years of solid and necessary Liberal investments in hydro infrastructure.  Like Dalton McGuinty before her, Wynne failed to convince voters about why the government had to do what it had to do.  In fact, the Liberals had brought some sanity to the hydro file which had been neglected for so long.  But the public had come to believe the opposite, thanks to years of incessant negative campaigning by the conservative media and opposition.  

When Wynne finally did react to the outrage, she lost the moral high ground by re-amortizing hydro debt over decades, pushing off those costs to future generations to pay so folks today can blast their air conditioning up with reckless abandon.  In essence, she made her government little different from previous governments that had failed on the hydro file. 

Plus Wynne's decision to sell a good portion of Hydro One to the private sector lost Wynne the progressive vote.  That was the one move she made that I heard the most grief about from people who had otherwise supported Wynne in 2014.

When this election started, I was a bit stubborn and refused to believe the anecdotal evidence as well as the handful of pollsters telling us Wynne was dead on arrival.  But once virtually all the polls started showing the same thing - Wynne's Liberal support diving to the low 20s, while Andrea Horwath's NDP surged into the 30s - it was impossible to deny it anymore.

Yes, it seems that 75% of Ontarians had decided before this campaign that they'd seen enough of Wynne's government.  Her budget was massively cynical too, promising billions in new spending even though the biggest knock against the Liberals had been their financial management (at least in conservative circles.)  The budget had zero impact on lifting Liberal fortunes and the phrase "Care, Not Cuts" rang hollow.

I'll give credit to Andrea Horwath for taking advantage of the situation to grow NDP support.  She convinced many progressives and centrists, including myself, to vote NDP to stop the PCs.  But yet again, as always with the NDP, they failed to deliver.

Every election the NDP has a "breakthrough," we're also smashed with a Conservative majority.  In 2011, Jack Layton's Orange Crush simply buried the Liberals in third place and allowed the Conservatives to coast to a majority with only about 40% of the vote.  The same thing happened in Ontario this week.

I may have been wrong about a number of things at the start of this election, but I wasn't wrong about one thing: Ontarians, when push comes to shove, simply are not inclined to put the NDP in power.  

Horwath's surge this election was efficiently stopped in its tracks by the Ford campaign when they highlighted the numerous NDP paper candidates with highly questionable past behaviours or statements.  Those revelations suddenly reminded moderate folks that the NDP is home to many far-lefty yahoos many would have a problem letting babysit their kids, let alone govern the province. In siding with the Tories throughout most of the 905, I'd say those voters simply felt they had little choice this time.   

If Horwath and her great team of strategists knew they wanted to fight the 2018 election to win, why did they not recruit stronger candidates in winnable or targeted ridings?  In the end, the NDP's strongest asset was Horwath herself, and the public thinks highly of her.  But it wasn't enough.  

Yes this is a sexist world in which an accomplished woman with little management experience outside of politics will be seen as less qualified than a man who inherited his company from his dad, allegedly mismanaged it, but still has a way with words that impresses just enough voters to win.  

2018 may have been the best year for the Ontario NDP to win another election.  They faced a government roundly despised by the public and on its way out, and a new PC leader greatly untested and despised in many corridors with not much of a plan.   Plus they had a bright and popular leader promising some pretty nice things, now a seasoned veteran in her third campaign.  I believed Horwath truly deserved to win this election, all things being fair.  

But Ontarians said no to Horwath.  It wasn't even close.  If the NDP couldn't win this year, I have to doubt these conditions will ever present themselves again.  The federal NDP's Orange Crush eventually receded.  It's highly likely the same thing will happen in Ontario as the Ontario Liberals begin to recover under a new leader.  

The Liberals got clobbered far worse than they deserved, I say.  Their massive defeat was exacerbated by the NDP sucking up strategic voters, leaving the Grits competitive only in a handful of seats.   Now with seven seats, they lose official party status unless Doug Ford decides to grant them those privileges.  If Ford does, he'll show a side that'll reassure those voters who still have misgivings about him, that he's not a tyrant like Harper who just wants to crush his opposition.  It'll be a telling test.  Denying the Liberals official party status, despite winning just under 20% of the vote, would in effect be Ford silencing those voters.  It would be his first major mistake (of many, I predict.) 

Regardless, the road back for the Ontario Liberals will be long and hard.  They won't have a Trudeau to come rescue them and return them to power earlier than they deserve.  It'll take years of tough slogging for whoever wins the leadership next to get known to the public and rebuild.  And that person will have few resources to do it, now that the party is massively in debt.  No doubt, party headquarters on St. Mary Street in Toronto will have to close, and most provincial party staff will have to be laid off.   The 7 MPPs will only have their own office budgets, again unless Ford grants the Liberals some kind of party status.

But if Ford also keeps his promise to get rid of public party subsidies (which replaced corporate and union donations), that'll eliminate a crucial source of funding for the Liberals and make rebuilding even harder.

Looking amongst the 7 Liberal MPPs, there might be a couple individuals who might make a good leader.  I'm curious about re-elected Don Valley East MPP Michael Coteau.  He'd be the first person of colour to win the leadership of a major Ontario party, plus he's only 46 years old.  Plus Ottawa South's John Fraser is a very decent and likeable guy, although at 59, he might be too old for the long road back which might take at least 8 years until the Liberals are actually competitive again.  Ultimately the Ontario Grits may need to go outside this tiny caucus to find its next leader. 

We shall see how the next few weeks and months and years go. 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

I'm voting NDP to stop Doug Ford and his cult of Ford Nation...

Honest Facebook meme making the rounds
We saw this horror movie already in the 1990s and early 2000s.  It was Mike Harris' "Common Sense" Revolution which actually resulted in the undermining of public safety and the public services Ontarians need like decent health care and education.  

Hopefully you can remember that terrible legacy of tax cuts and deregulation which resulted in dozens of closed hospitals, skyrocketing tuition rates, and skyrocketing deficits.  Indeed, the bleeding of the treasury under the PCs caused by massive tax cuts for the rich and big corporations led to a structural deficit in the multi-billions, as the government literally didn't have enough funds to support its basic core responsibilities (let alone anything else.) 

We couldn't even count on the safety of the water coming out of our taps after Harris was done with his "revolution."  Nor could we count on the basic safety of the food we buy in grocery stores as the Harris government wiped out adequate food safety inspection.

That deregulation and abdication of responsibility by the Progressive Conservatives meant that the Koebel brothers in Walkerton were the only ones charged with ensuring that town had safe drinking water; the province had downloaded that responsibility completely.  And the rest is sad history that continues to haunt us to this day.

And now that someone even less intelligent and more thoughtlessly ideological than Mike Harris is running the PCs, we run the risk of returning to those disastrous policies.

We can't let history repeat itself.  The Ontario Liberal message that we must have strong public services has resonated deeply for well over 10 years.  Ontarians seemed to understand that conservative ideology and tax cuts come with a price too high to pay.

I think that message still resonates, even though the messengers have themselves lost credibility and have now conceded this election.

We have to vote to stop Doug Ford.  Our dynamic, diverse province is far better than anything Doug Ford represents, including his cult of crack-smoking-mayor-fans in Ford Nation.  If Doug Ford wins, the bigots in that base will cheer with delight just like the white supremacists who supported Donald Trump did when he stole that election in 2016.  We can't let that happen, not in our Ontario.  

The NDP under Andrea Horwath has emerged in this election campaign as the progressive alternative we need to stop Doug Ford.  Her platform is almost identical to the Liberals and even better in many areas (including the NDP pharmacare plan as well as balancing the budget).  Horwath is a breath of fresh air and is a credible change candidate.  Clearly, she won me over this time, something I didn't think would happen.  

As such, I'll be voting NDP in Toronto Centre, one of many ridings where the NDP has a great chance of winning.  The NDP needs every seat now it can get to beat the PCs.

But I do have to disagree with many NDP partisans that the only choice is to vote NDP everywhere.  I agree in most ridings that now makes sense, but not everywhere.  Any seat that doesn't go PC makes it easier for the NDP to win this election.    

Based on my longtime studies of Ontario politics, including riding histories and local candidates, as well as current polling trends, I would say that opponents of Doug Ford should vote Liberal, not NDP, in the following ridings: 
  • Any of the 3 Markham ridings
  • Don Valley East
  • Don Valley North
  • Don Valley West (yes to Kathleen Wynne in her home riding)
  • Eglinton-Lawrence
  • Glengarry-Prescott-Russell
  • Milton
  • Mississauga-Lakeshore (in all other Mississauga ridings, you should vote NDP.)
  • Oakville
  • Orleans 
  • Ottawa South
  • Ottawa-Vanier
  • Richmond Hill
  • St. Paul's
  • Scarborough-Agincourt (in all other Scarborough ridings, you should vote NDP.) 
  • Thunder Bay-Superior North (Michael Gravelle is so loved, voting against him is foolhardy if you want to stop the Tories.) 
  • Vaughan-Woodbridge
But if you don't live in those ridings listed above, and you want to stop Doug Ford, I do recommend you support the NDP. 

Except of course in my hometown of Guelph, where Green leader Mike Schreiner is hoping to win his party's first Ontario seat.  There, you should give him your support as his stronger campaign seems to have the edge there now over the no-name NDP candidate, and he'll be no friend of the PCs in the legislature.  

It's been nice being able to enjoy safe drinking water, cleaner air and better public services these last 15 years.  To support that strong legacy and ensure our province doesn't fall backward, I'll be voting NDP. 

That moment when you're reminded Doug Ford isn't a good person...

Any decent person running for premier would've been able to say he'd support LGBT people and attend their annual parade.   But not Doug Ford, who never misses an opportunity to disappoint me (and many, many others.) 



Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Ontario NDP replaces the Liberals this year as the slayers of crappy Conservatives...

The latest CBC poll aggregation - May 30, 2018
This ongoing Ontario election campaign continues to fascinate and surprise.

The latest polls are showing Andrea Horwath's NDP either neck-and-neck with Doug Ford's Conservatives, or in a clear lead.  They also show Kathleen Wynne's Liberals languishing somewhere between the high teens and the low 20s.

If those numbers were to hold in the actual popular vote on election day, while the winner may at this point be uncertain, it would also certainly mean a defeat so devastating for the Ontario Liberals that the party might take years if not decades to recover.  

All of these developments have forced me to confront many assumptions I've held about Ontario politics for years:
  1. Ontarians are adverse to voting NDP under any circumstances.  Even when Jack Layton was at the height of his orange wave in 2011, he could only muster 26% of the Ontario vote, barely beating out Michael Ignatieff's Liberals who won 25% that year.  Apparently, given the right circumstances, that's no longer true. 
  2. Earlier this year, voters seemed to have little problem with Doug Ford following his "election" as PC leader, as all opinion polls from March to the start of the campaign showed his party well ahead of the others.  But apparently the focus of this campaign has shone a welcome light on Ford's many shortcomings as he sinks his party in the polls.   
  3. After 15 years, it did seem that outright victory for the Liberals this time was unlikely.  But if the Liberals could do well enough, it might keep a PC victory rather modest and, with a strong base intact, this would allow the Liberals to get a new leader, revitalize their movement and mount a strong campaign against the Ford Conservatives next time. But now, this is less of a concern as the Ontario NDP seems to have replaced the Grits as capable Ford slayers this year! 
The deep hatred of, or at least extreme fatigue with the Liberals now is obvious, as is the desire to kick them out no matter what.  I sympathize with this sentiment.  Any party in power this long has accumulated so many scandals and errors, and many of its stalwarts have become arrogant and a bit out of touch.  Today, we were reminded of one of the many blunders of the Liberals in office.    

The sudden emergence of Horwath's NDP in this campaign as a viable progressive alternative that can challenge the Conservatives has exacerbated the Liberals' problems, crippling their ability to recover.

In addition, Doug Ford has not run the kind of campaign he needed to re-assure Ontarians that he's ready and mature enough for the premier's office.  His empty and clearly dishonest platitudes about his greatness aren't going over so well.

As a progressive, it's been reassuring to me to see the NDP take off as they are doing.  Perhaps Ontario isn't as stodgy and conservative as we've allowed ourselves to believe.  Or perhaps times are changing.   

I've always considered myself to be a very progressive Liberal.  I'm definitely on the far left of that mostly centrist party (so much so that the tendencies of some blue Liberals to care more about tax cuts and business handouts than social justice have always annoyed me.)  I've voted NDP federally as much as I've voted for the federal Liberals.  But I haven't voted NDP provincially since 1995, when I decided to give a vote to my local NDP MPP who had supported equal rights for LGBT people despite strong opposition at the time. 

My support for the Ontario Liberals solidified when they emerged as the main challengers to Mike Harris' PCs in the late 1990s.  I even went to work for them for five years from 1999 to 2004, working for two Liberal MPPs including Thunder Bay's Michael Gravelle and even in the Liberal Caucus Service Bureau.  During that time, I did often see the nasty side of New Democrats, including the fact that they are just as pragmatic and uncommitted to their principles as any other partisan, despite what they may say.

Horwath herself has shown changing priorities over the years, although this year clearly she has hit her stride in a big way.   Her performance this election campaign has been solid, taking full advantage of the political circumstances facing the other two main parties.

Now she remains the only person standing in the way of Doug Ford becoming premier.  That alone is a big reason to vote NDP this year. 

But one bit of warning to progressives who are overjoyed at the prospect of Doug Ford's defeat this year by the hands of the NDP: if it happens, it may only be a temporary reprieve.  NDP administrations tend to provoke major conservative backlashes.  A defeat may not be the end of Ford if he fights to stay on.  And we should all remember back to how his late brother rode a wave of resentment against another New Democrat's administration to victory in 2010.

Of course, if it's a decisive NDP majority, Ford won't be able to escape the anger amongst his own party's supporters at clearly blowing yet another election.  He might get forced out.  Would I vote NDP just to see that happen?  You bet I would.

But still I'm torn.  I want to vote Liberal as I've been mostly a fan of Kathleen Wynne, and I like very much my local Liberal candidate, David Morris, in Toronto Centre.  Still, this is one of many seats that could help stop the PCs from winning the election.

I'll be watching all polls between now and next Thursday to make my final decision.  If it remains close between the NDP and the PCs, I'll be voting NDP to push them over the top.  But if they move well ahead of the PCs in all polls, I'll vote with my heart and give the Grits some much-needed help. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Abandoning the Liberals in certain regions to vote NDP may actually get you a Doug Ford PC majority

NDP tweeter Derek Leebosh turning the tables.
Some New Democrats have been having a field day on Twitter lately, getting their revenge it would seem on Liberals for previous elections when arguments were successfully made to all progressives to vote Liberal to stop Conservatives.

This time, with the NDP apparently moving into second place in the polls, the tables are turned and many NDPers are arguing that all Liberals should abandon their party and vote NDP in order to stop Doug Ford.

These sentiments are understandable as New Democrats have frequently seen the Liberals eat their lunch and collect the bulk of progressive voters in elections, only to fail to deliver on many key progressive promises in government.  

But the future of Ontario is too important for petty partisan griping or score-settling.   

Progressive voters need to think seriously about how best to stop Doug Ford, and in many constituencies swinging behind the local NDP candidate may actually defeat stronger Liberal incumbents and hand victory to Doug Ford's PCs. 

In most of the key battleground constituencies in the 905 region around Toronto, the Ontario NDP is again running paper or parachute candidates to simply fill up the NDP's line-up.   This would include Mississauga, as well as Halton Region, and most of York Region.  The same goes for most of North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke, truth be told.   In most of those ridings, Liberal incumbents are not only fending off their main PC challengers, but also upstart New Democrats stealing the progressive votes they need to win again.

In ridings like Oakville or Milton or Newmarket-Aurora or Eglinton-Lawrence or Scarborough Agincourt, there is no point voting NDP, even if they continue to climb in the polls; the Liberals with a stronger ground game and incumbents there will remain the main challengers to the Tories. 

Meanwhile, in areas like Oshawa, or Sarnia, or Windsor, or most of Hamilton or Niagara Region or London, or most parts of northern Ontario, it is the NDP that will be the main challengers to the PCs.   The Liberals aren't in the game in those constituencies (with the exception of Hamilton West, London North Centre, St. Catharines, the Thunder Bay ridings, and Sudbury.)

Of course, there are also ridings where the Tories have zero chance and it really is a choice between the Liberals and the NDP, like in Toronto Centre, Spadina Fort-York, University-Rosedale, Davenport, Parkdale-High-Park, Beaches-East York, Humber River-Black Creek, and Ottawa Centre.  Voters there can be free to choose between the NDP and Liberals, without risking an accidental PC victory.

But in other key ridings around the province, all three parties legitimately have a chance of victory and it's there where this election will be decided: in my mind, those ridings are Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, Brantford-Brant, Scarborough Centre, Scarborough Southwest, Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Kingston and the Islands, Kitchener Centre, Cambridge, Peterborough, and London North Centre.

In most of those key constituencies, strong Liberal incumbents are running again.  Voting NDP there actually risks taking away just enough votes from those Liberals to hand the seats to the Conservatives.  

Guelph is also in contention, but is actually a three-way race between Green leader Mike Schreiner, stellar Liberal candidate Sly Castaldi and the PCs hoping to slip up the middle.  The NDP is likely not really in the game in Guelph.  

My message to progressives: know your riding and vote accordingly.

At the outset of this campaign before the NDP started to move up in the polls, I was worried that key working class NDP ridings, like Oshawa, or Niagara Centre, or Hamilton East, or the Windsor or London ridings might fall to the PCs were the NDP to get squeezed out of contention.  But now that the NDP is seemingly stronger, those ridings are likely to be held by the party, which is good as it helps prevent a Ford majority.

Conversely, if strong NDP third place totals in Oakville, or Kingston, or Cambridge, or Peterborough, or Mississauga East-Cooksville, deny Liberal incumbents victory and instead elect a slew of Tories, Doug Ford will be on his way to a majority and we'll be in store for four terrible years.  

Yes, I'd love to stop Doug Ford from winning altogether.  The argument has been made from the outset that it was impossible for Kathleen Wynne to win this election to stop him.  At first, I doubted that analysis, but as the campaign has progressed, it is becoming clear that people just want the Liberals gone in spite of their respect for Wynne.  Now, perhaps the notion that only Andrea Horwath can stop Doug Ford is coming true.  

It's possible that Horwath will continue to surge and pull a Rachel Notley, with the NDP winning constituencies they need to win the election outright.  But at this juncture, I'm still seeing a PC victory.  I'm praying that it's only a minority government, which would greatly limit the damage that Doug Ford could inflict on the province.   

If both the NDP and Liberals can finish strongly in key constituencies and regions of the province, they will be able to hold off the worst case scenario of a Doug Ford majority. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Nik Nanos, please give us something more credible to help progressives stop Doug Ford

One aspect of the ongoing Ontario election campaign is unfolding as I expected: most less-than-stellar pollsters are showing the PCs in the lead with the NDP moving into second place.  

The only credible pollster out there - Nanos - last produced results on May 6th which showed the PCs ahead with 41% versus 29% for the Liberals and 24% for the NDP.  If Nanos comes out with a new poll soon that also shows the NDP moving into a clear second place, I'll believe this is truly happening. 

I will agree that it's clear the Tories are ahead for now but by how much is unclear.   It may indeed be true that the NDP is experiencing a surge here that will continue.  

We know the public has major doubts about Doug Ford, which aren't being helped by the recent revelations he attended a big Conservative party fundraiser in late April, right on the eve of the campaign, arrogantly flouting strict new fundraising laws that bar leaders from attending such events.  

His bogus explanation that he was "misinformed" about the event, and somehow didn't clue in during it he was surrounded by donors who had paid at least $250 each to hobnob next to him, speaks to his fondness for dishonesty.  He clearly thinks that rules are made for other people to follow, not him. 

Not to mention the possibility that stolen information from the 407 was used by Tory operatives  to commit mass fraud in dozens of local nomination races.  The stench of Tory corruption, combined with the fact that this is a party where members like Tanya Granic Allen and other bigots determined Doug Ford to be the best person to lead the party, may now be their party's undoing.   Clearly, this is not a gang that's ready to lead the province.  

Considering those doubts about the Tories and the enduring unpopularity of Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals, it's highly plausible that the NDP is moving into second place and has the chance to continue to climb.  Andrea Horwath has been running a strong campaign this time.  I just don't much trust the pollsters putting those numbers out there right now.   They've been too wrong too often in the past for me to just believe these new numbers.

That's why I'm so desperate to get more information from one of the few reliable pollsters out there: what say you, Nik Nanos?

I tweeted him today to find out.  He may not consider me important enough to reply to, but here's hoping he's out in the field as we speak polling Ontarians on their voting intentions.

We've been fooled before by so-called NDP "momentum", like in 2011 when Jack Layton's NDP looked like they'd pull off a miracle.  But in the end, NDP support could only climb to the low 30s, undermining Liberal support in key regions and electing dozens of Conservatives, enough to win a majority.

I cringe to think that's where we're headed again this time in Ontario.   

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Don't trust the pollsters nor the cynical pundits, Kathleen Wynne is going to do better than they think...

(Frank Gunn / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Ontario election campaign has begun in earnest.   I've got a few observations I'd like to share and some predictions.

DON'T TRUST MOST POLLSTERS

Remember the 2014 campaign when almost every pollster was predicting Kathleen Wynne's Liberals would be turfed out?  By the end of that campaign, most predicted she'd, at best, win just another minority government.   I, as some will remember, had predicted a Liberal majority that year and I was right. 

Even the night before the 2014 election, CFTO-CTV led its news coverage featuring a bogus Ipsos Reid poll that claimed the PCs had the support of 36% of likely voters across the province, while the NDP and the Liberals would tie at 30%.  The poll even showed the Grits in third place in Toronto.   If you were a progressive voter looking to vote strategically, you'd be confused by this late poll as to how to stop the PCs (which I think was completely the reason why CTV and Ipsos put that poll out.) 

Of course, the public wasn't so easily confused.  The next day, the Liberals swept 20 out of 22 Toronto ridings and took 39% of the provincial vote, versus 31% for the PCs and only 24% for the NDP.  Utter shock was expressed by most pundits and pollsters at the result as almost no one had predicted a Liberal majority.

The only pollster that accurately predicted those vote percentage results was Nanos Research.  His last poll, released almost three weeks before election day, gave the Libs 38%, the PCs 31% and the NDP 24%.

In addition, most other polls had shown a roller coaster race with parties going up and down, including an alleged bump in the polls for Tim Hudak after the leaders' debate.   But for me, it was telling that Nanos' last numbers published before the debate didn't really move at all on election day.  

Since then, I now only truly trust Nanos and disregard most of the rest.   Thus poll aggregators or averages must be also regarded with suspicion.  Today, while most pollsters are pushing the idea that the NDP is in second place, Nanos instead puts the Liberals firmly in second with 31%, with the PCs at 42% and the NDP at 21%.  

MANY PRIVATE SECTOR MEDIA TYPES HAVE IT IN FOR KATHLEEN WYNNE

The media of course want to sell papers and get you watching their newscasts.  Political reporters and editors are obsessed with the alleged "horse race", focusing more coverage on the latest bogus Forum Research or Ipsos poll rather than more intelligent coverage of ordinary voters and the policies at stake in this election.

Lately, especially amongst the private sector media, I'm seeing a few dominant themes: Ontarians overwhelmingly want "change" in this election; Doug Ford's PCs are far ahead in this race; Kathleen Wynne is dead woman walking (a City political reporter actually called her that after Monday's leaders' debate); and Andrea Horwath's NDP is showing huge growth potential and looks poised to win over progressive voters, thus relegating the Ontario Liberals to third place.   

For three years now, it has seemed to me that most media and pollsters (namely Forum Research and Mainstreet, the only two pollsters to frequently release polls between Ontario elections) have constantly pushed the notion that Wynne was overwhelmingly unpopular and headed for certain defeat.   Even if most reporters didn't fully believe it, their fondness for "political drama" has gotten the better of them.  

KATHLEEN WYNNE HAS MORE SUPPORT THAN YOU THINK

The vicious hatred directed toward Kathleen Wynne these last few years has baffled me.  There has never been an elected leader whose agenda has been so relatively popular, yet faced bad polls like this.  According to Forum Research, Wynne is less popular after selling 60% of Hydro One (a decision I have personally found it difficult to care much about, and I'm actually glad my taxes didn't need to go up in order to fund more transit infrastructure) than Mulroney was after he brought in the much-hated GST.

Has Kathleen Wynne been perfect?  Far from it, but her record is fairly solid including investments in public transit, in more accessible post-secondary education, and many other progressive policies.  And choosing to invest in the economy rather than implement austerity budgeting does seem to have benefited the province which now boasts the highest economic growth in the country and record employment.  If Doug Ford can claim Toronto's economic success as his own from his late brother's one circus of a term in office, why can't Kathleen Wynne claim the same?  

The one thing I'd say Wynne hasn't done well was consistently campaign in public on behalf of her agenda since 2014.  She was too busy governing perhaps to be constantly in front of the cameras pushing her own PR narrative.  She hasn't been careful to ensure the public was on board with her decision-making.  Thus, into that vacuum stepped her enemies including hostile media critics, conservatives and others who constantly pushed the notion that her government was vaguely "corrupt" and "incompetent" and had destroyed the finances of the province (despite running the leanest, most cost-efficient per capita government in Canada.)

Yes, Wynne, while quite likeable, can also be quite ruthless.  But is that a reason to hate her and toss her out?  We don't throw out men for being ruthless if they're also quite likeable. 

ONTARIO VOTERS KNOW THE ECONOMY IS DOING WELL AND WON'T WANT TO RISK THAT UNNECESSARILY

Ontario voters are adverse to taking big economic risks.  That's a historical political fact.  In my mind, that definitely means one thing: the NDP will not be winning this election.  So please, sorry, my Dipper friends, give it up.

Furthermore, while the desire for a change of regime is real after 15 years of one party, I don't think voters will embrace change they're unsure about just for the sake of it.  Especially as that change agent is Doug Ford, a man with simplistic slogans but clearly not much of a plan for pushing the province forward.    

Here are my predictions for what will happen over the next few weeks:
  1. Kathleen Wynne will campaign vigorously and effectively, articulating clearly her government's successes which are many and where she wants to take us forward.  That "care" not "cuts" theme will slowly resonate and lift Liberal support up.  Folks who supported her in the past will be surprised how convincing she is again this time.  The hateful narrative of the last couple of years pushed constantly by her opponents and the media will be undermined.  Of course, few pollsters will pick up on any of this. 
  2. Doug Ford will do his best to keep it together.  Thus far, he's sort of succeeded, but as scrutiny ramps up, his refusal to give little more than vague generalities when questioned for specifics, let alone articulate a coherent vision for the province, will slowly erode Tory support back into the mid-high 30s.  If by some miracle, Ford over-performs and does stick to a clear message that resonates, his support currently in the low 40s will be maintained.   But I'm not counting on it.  
  3. Andrea Horwath will continue to push her message that she's change for the better.  Although those tired of left-wing policies won't agree.  Cynics will decide it's probably better to keep the devil we know than the one we don't.  After many bogus pollsters show her about to break through with an historic result, like Jack Layton in 2011, her support in the end will fall back to the low-mid-20s (even though, again, most pollsters will completely miss this.)   
  4. On election night, most observers will be shocked how close the result will be between the PCs and the Liberals.  The majority of pundits and pollsters who declared Wynne to be "dead woman walking" will have to eat serious crow.
My current prediction: it could actually go either way between the PCs and the Liberals, with the NDP well back with 20 or so seats.  I'll give the edge for now to a narrow PC minority win. 
 
We'll see how the campaign actually goes.  And I'll be waiting to see what the next Nanos poll has to say.  While the fundamentals are in place and won't change, it's also true that campaigns do matter. 

I'm no rabid partisan.  It's true I'm mostly fond of the Liberals and feel most comfortable calling myself a centrist with progressive tendencies.  I've voted Liberal and NDP over the years, and even voted for John Tory for Toronto mayor in 2014 (but hope not to do so again this year.)

I don't vilify Doug Ford, nor do I only see bad things to come from him.  I do oppose most of what he stands for and find his ignorance of the general public, policy and governance to be appalling.  He's not a good fit for premier of Ontario.  

But after 15 years of Liberal rule, I do sympathize with those who want change.   Ten years is usually the max one party stays in power in Canada.  Had the PCs instead elected Christine Elliott as leader and not Doug, a huge PC majority would've been inevitable.

One thing is for certain: this will be a fascinating election campaign and I look forward to seeing if my gut instincts are correct.  Please return to this site as I'll try to post as often as I can on how the campaign is unfolding. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Granic Allen fired by Doug Ford after handing him the PC leadership...

Social conservative extremist Tanya Granic Allen was removed yesterday from the Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate roster by leader Doug Ford after more of her homophobic bigotry was revealed.

Yesterday, the Liberals held a press conference to reveal a 2014 video of Granic Allen speaking at a Croatian-Catholic youth conference in Ontario, in which she said:

“When I think of the suffering of the people who lived in [Croatia] and the suffering that went on during the war, the sacrifices of generations of families, was it all for nothing?  Did these people spill these blood on the frontlines… for what? For a values system and for the Catholic faith. But was that blood spilled for nothing?  What I hear about [Croatia] trying to push radical sexual education on the young or gay marriage, you know I almost vomit in disbelief.  How can this be happening? Just 20 years ago we were liberated from this communism, and now we’re embracing a lack of values and a lack of ideals that commies would have us embrace?”

Of course, this was just the latest example of extreme statements by Granic Allen.  Before yesterday though, we didn't have video, which perhaps made the difference in changing Doug Ford's mind about her.

This is all incredibly ironic considering Granic Allen's leadership candidacy earlier this year was instrumental in bringing a whack of social conservatives back into the party, garnering her 15% of the vote in the first tally.  About 80 per cent of that vote moved to Doug Ford on the second tally, which proved crucial to his eventual squeaker win over Christine Elliott.

It was clear that Ford was grateful to Granic Allen, calling her a friend and pledging that she "will play an important role in our government."

Even after some old blog posts of Granic Allen were revealed in which she compared women wearing burkas to ninjas and disparaged gay marriage, Ford still allowed her to contest and win the nomination in Mississauga Centre.

But yesterday's video proved to be the final straw.  I must say it's a wise and calculated move.  I'm sure that Ford's advisers knew their party might soon be in trouble with the vast majority of Ontario voters who are moderate and have no problem with LGBT people were more of Granic Allen's homophobic extremism revealed.  So those advisers no doubt pressed Ford hard to get rid of her and he listened. 

"We are a party comprised of people with diverse views that if expressed responsibly we would respect. However, the fact is her characterization of certain issues and people has been irresponsible,” Ford said in the statement yesterday.

This may be the first time I can remember Doug Ford has done the right thing on LGBT issues.   When he was just a city councillor and general enabler of his late brother in Toronto, he refused to attend Pride parades and generally had nothing good to say about us.  But clearly the responsibilities of provincial leadership are pressing upon him, not to mention pressure from Conservative advisers who know the public better than he does.    

I have to say I'm quite relieved by this.  I wasn't looking forward to Granic Allen possibly getting elected to Queen's Park next month.  But now that won't happen.

I must also give kudos to the Liberal war room.  This was their second successful hit against Doug Ford this week alone, the first being the release of the video of Ford telling private developers in a secret meeting he'd carve up the Greenbelt around Toronto for housing development, which led to an instant backlash and full reversal of his plan one day later.

And now Granic Allen is gone as a result of yesterday's Liberal presser.  

For those progressives wondering which of the two parties - the Liberals or the NDP - will form the biggest challenge to Doug Ford's Conservatives, I think it's pretty clear the Liberals are proving again it's them, forcefully knocking Ford off his game, forcing him to backtrack and flip flop.  I expect that will continue.

I'll write very soon about the overall state of political affairs in Ontario as the election campaign officially gets underway this week.