Thursday, May 26, 2022

If you want a new, progressive government at Queen's Park, vote for the Ontario Liberals

It's pretty simple.  After four years of government at Queen's Park that ranged from chaotic and crazy to barely adequate, I want Doug Ford's Conservatives out.  

A little bit of a bad thing can be overcome with time.  One term of Ford has done a lot of harm, but Ontario can likely bounce back.  But eight years of a bad thing?  That could do serious damage.  I want so much more for Ontario than what Doug Ford has to offer.  I am not alone in that sentiment.

I ask everyone to think back to Doug Ford's chaotic first year in office after 2018.  Because that's probably the sort of stuff he'll have in store for us all should Ford win another majority next week.  I simply don't want to give him that chance to break Ontario more than he already has.  

I dislike how Ford's true instincts had to be massively suppressed by more mature adults in order for Ontario to barely get through the worst of the ongoing COVID pandemic.  I haven't so easily forgotten the bad decisions he made as late as this past winter on that file.  I hate how Ford has no ability to control his words in public unless given a teleprompter script, which he still often fumbles, exposing his lazy mind.  I'm frightened what he'll do in a second term without the maturity of folks like Christine Elliott around him.     

It's clear that Ford doesn't care much about climate change, as evidenced by his obsession with promoting carbon-burning transportation options including throwing at least $10 billion on an unneeded highway.  He'd develop the entire Greenbelt if he could get away with it.      

So much needs to change in Ontario on so many files and Doug Ford is an impediment to all of that change.  He's the wrong person for this time. 

Steven Del Duca isn't a perfect man or leader.  But he's the person for this moment.  He's the best alternative premier in this election.  He's made good platform choices on so many issues including rent control, housing, public transit, public education and health care.  His promises to outlaw private/for-profit long term care, promote better home care, and lower transit fares to $1, are what we need in this province.  If given the choice between the thoughtful Del Duca and the thoughtless Mr. Ford, I'll take Del Duca.  

Progressives have too much choice this election.  And the progressive majority seems to be currently splintering between those choices, while Doug Ford's PCs cruise along in the mid-30s.  It would be disgusting for them to win a majority with so little support from voters.  

In certain NDP strongholds and the one Green stronghold of Guelph, it's understandable some progressive voters would feel tempted to stick with their incumbents in order to keep the Tories out.  However, there are many such ridings where the Liberals on the ballot are awesome and deserve support, including Karim Bardeesy in Parkdale-High Park, Chi Nguyen in Spadina-Fort York, Andrea Barrack in University-Rosedale, Mary Margaret-McMahon in Beaches-East York, Mary Fragedakis in Toronto-Danforth, Jennifer Tuck in Waterloo, Raechelle Devereux in Guelph, and Kate Graham in London North-Centre.  I look forward to Dr. Nathan Stall's contributions to provincial politics, should he win St. Paul's back for the Liberals, which he's expected to do.

In most other ridings in Ontario, it's clear the Ontario Liberals are the party that should get your support if you want to kick the Tories out.   I live in such a riding: Toronto Centre.  I voted this past weekend in the advanced poll for Liberal candidate David Morris, a local activist and leader who will make a great MPP for this riding if elected.  His approach to local politics is similar to my own: he's interested in working hard at the grassroots level to help the many people in this riding who need it the most.  He'll be a huge asset to local people if elected.   

NDP candidate Kristyn Wong-Tam in Toronto Centre is a well-known local councillor but is running for a party that's not going to beat the PCs anytime soon.  It's perhaps unfair to judge her based on the one big mistake she made, but Wong-Tam's strange sojourn into COVID misinformation last year with a Toronto Sun column still baffles me.  The Toronto Sun?  Really?  Yes, she has an otherwise decent record.  But I think it's time for new leadership in Toronto Centre.  I'd like instead to see what David Morris can do for voters.  

Province-wide, I had hoped that Steven Del Duca's Liberals would start to close the gap with the PCs in the polls after last week's leaders' debate.  Instead, NDP support remains at around 24% while the Greens are up to 6 or 7%.  Support for the Ontario Grits remains between 25% and 30% in public polls.  

The Grits need a boost up over 30% to really start to knock off Tories in key swing ridings where NDP candidates are not competitive.  That would be in most ridings without NDP incumbents.  I hope many progressive voters in those ridings land in the Liberal column by election day.     

Regardless of what happens next Thursday, in the long term, I see the Ontario Liberals as the party that will challenge and eventually replace the Tories.  Thus, if we really want change in this election, we've got to bring back the Liberals in a big way.  

Monday, May 16, 2022

UPDATE: Will Steven Del Duca stop Doug Ford's mediocre, regressive government from winning a second majority?

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca

On the one hand, I can understand why Doug Ford's PCs continue to have a decent lead among voters as we approach the June 2nd provincial election.

Many voters aren't yet sick to death of them, and feel ambivalent or even supportive of many of their policies.  Plus, when they look at the main alternatives - Andrea Horwath's NDP and Steven Del Duca's Liberals - voters seem to be unimpressed.   Or at least that has been the case up until now.  

I do get why voters remain unconvinced about Horwath.  She reached her peak performance in 2018 and lost badly.  In my opinion, she's done pretty much nothing to improve since.  Her platform is largely the same.  She still has mostly paper candidates running in the ridings she needs to win to stop the Tories.  She doesn't seem to be bringing much new to this year's pitch and I don't expect her to.  

For pragmatic progressives like myself who took the plunge and voted NDP in 2018 in a desperate bid to stop the Tories, there seems to be no reason to try the same option again.  It would be the definition of insanity.   

The NDP is now down in current polls about 10 points from their 2018 vote total.  And Steven Del Duca's Liberals are up about 10 points from 2018 and seem to be set for some kind of comeback.  The question is how much of a comeback.  

Del Duca was the one wild card going into this election.   The new leader, who won his party's leadership in 2020 just as the COVID pandemic was starting, didn't have much of a chance to make his case to Ontario voters before this election started.   

How's Del Duca doing now that the election campaign is upon us?  It seems their second-place support ahead of the third-place NDP is solidifying.  Liberal policy proposals are solidly progressive and easy to support.   

But are progressive voters convinced it's time to put Del Duca's Liberals back in power in order to get those policies implemented?  It doesn't seem so yet.

Hence, why the NDP's support seems to be hanging in at around 25%, while the Greens also are still grabbing about 5%.  So the Liberals seem stuck at about 28% to 30%, which is not enough to truly turn this election into a race.

Del Duca needs a big night in Monday's leadership debate to really break through and solidify the Liberals' comeback.  I'm hoping that once more voters see Del Duca in action tonight, including his obvious intelligence, political skills and unflappable, no-nonsense demeanour, more will be persuaded to vote for the one party that has a chance of actually beating Doug Ford.

It's possible if progressive voters do get inspired to coalesce behind the Liberals, the end result of this provincial election could be quite different than what most pundits are currently expecting. 


Quick hit analysis after watching last night:

Del Duca had a solid night showing force and confronting Ford well on several fronts and creating key moments which are already going viral.  Del Duca’s answers always focused on the substance of his policies even in the face of ridiculous attacks and insults. He showed admirable restraint and solid awareness of the issues and how his plans can fix many problems we face.  He didn’t do much to expel the old Liberal skeletons and apologize for the errors of the past to show contrition and growth. Had he done that he would’ve won the night.  But as an introduction to voters, Del Duca presented well and may start to pull away into a clearer second place and even challenge Doug Ford’s PCs.

Green Mike Schreiner had the best night with the most engaging answers which used emotion to shred Doug Ford’s record on health care and education.  I’m not sure this strong performance will do much more than guarantee his personal victory in Guelph on June 2 though.  Any Green poll surges typically disappear by Election Day as the party has no ability to identify and get their supporters to the polls.

Doug Ford was stronger in this debate than in 2018.  But he was clearly only speaking to his echo chamber of supporters who would buy the immense exaggeration and bullshit he was selling.  He didn’t necessarily help his cause as I don’t expect the PCs to rise in the polls after last night.  If anything I expect the gap between the Libs and PCs to get smaller.  Ford may still win the election and most cynical pundits will say that’s all it takes for Ford to be considered the debate winner.

Andrea Horwath showed us nothing about why she’s still here, spending the night talking about vague emotions, stories and plans.  The same thing didn’t work the last three campaigns so I doubt it will this time.  A lot of progressives who were sitting on the fence are probably either to vote Liberal now or possibly Green.  Those intent on challenging the dud that is Ford will probably give Del Duca a chance, especially if polls show the Liberals pulling up into the 30s and challenging the PCs. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

The great Joan Guerin: 1944 to 2022

My late aunt Joan Guerin
This year has so far been a tough year for my family.   

Just weeks after we lost Janis Murray (the youngest sister of my mother Dianne), my aunt Joan Guerin, the younger sister to my late father Fred, passed away in Peterborough, Ontario.  

Joan struggled for years with health issues, her heart finally failing on April 5th, 2022.  

Joan had one of the sharpest minds I had ever encountered and I was proud to call her my aunt.  A lawyer by training, she spent a career building a family law practise in Peterborough, Ontario.  

In recent years, she reminded me greatly of my late father, in physical mannerisms, in outlook, in humour, in intellect, and in spirit.  One of the few women in the Guerin family, she never married, but devoted her time to her extended family, including her many nephews, as well as friends, clients, and colleagues.    

Joan was also political and a bit of a NDP supporter in a family of mostly Liberals.  It made for interesting conversations over the years, and we shared many values.  While months or sometimes even years could go by between our conversations, the bond she built with me, as she did with all of her nephews, was strong.  

I was honoured when she asked me, plus another cousin, Marc Guerin, along with a longtime friend and colleague Suzanne Essex, to be the three co-executors on her will.  

"But there won't be much money left to distribute," she joked to me years ago.  "I intend to spend my money!"  

Sadly, my dear cousin Marc, who was only a couple of months older than me, lost his own battle with cancer in February 2021.  

Thus, Suzanne and myself have been working away since April 5th making plans for Joan's celebration of life and doing the work that goes with these responsibilities.  Thank you to my older brother David who's given me good advice on these important duties.  

With the help of family, I'm proud of the obituary we've written for Joan, which is posted on the website for Comstock-Kaye funeral home in Peterborough.  This Saturday April 23rd, we will follow Joan's wishes and bury her ashes at the same cemetery plot where her late parents were buried in Peterborough.  And soon thereafter, family, friends and former colleagues will gather to celebrate her life.  

I've been reflecting on losing two fabulous women in our families in so short of a time.  While we had some expectations the losses were coming, it nevertheless saddens.  I've only begun to process these events, and I expect I'll continue to do so for months and years.  But I also want to celebrate their great lives.  

These women were awesome!  Some would call them "kick-ass".  They set their own courses in life and lived them to the fullest.  They were inspirations.  They taught us how to do it.  

Thank you, Joan, for everything you did for our family!  I love you and will miss you!  

Friday, March 25, 2022

My official list of Favourite Films of 2021

Spider-Man hotties Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire
together in one multiverse

The Oscars this Sunday will provide a bit of fun and distraction amid these otherwise trying times.   

I'm happy to finally share my official list of Favourite Films of 2021.   I'll be happy if I surprise you a bit.  

1. Spider-Man: No Way Home - This may strike some people as not very high-minded of me, but I'm going with my heart.  This was the best Spider-Man movie ever.  It beautifully pays tribute to all previous Spider-Man movies with tender thoughtfulness.  The scenes with Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire were so enjoyable, the tragic twists of the plot highly moving, including the bittersweet yet appropriate ending.  I have such love for Marvel movies, this one will be played again by me over and over for years to come.  Lots of fulfilling and emotional themes here elevate the work beyond a typical super hero movie.

2. The Power of the Dog - Beautiful scenery, astonishing acting, haunting music, sensational filmmaking all around.  This sly story about a young man who goes to great lengths to protect his mother from a complicated, alpha-male anti-hero is a fascinating one, even if the characters are mostly repulsive or odd.  

3. CODA - If you're not into great super hero movies or odd character studies, chances are you'll love this movie about a teenage girl, the only hearing member of a deaf family, who is surprised to discover after joining her school’s choir that she has astonishing, natural singing talent.  This is a beautiful film.  Troy Kotsur deserves his many awards for his hilarious gem of a performance.    

4. The Lost Daughter - I luxuriated in the serene world of this film and often wished I could be on the same beach as Olivia Colman’s character, when she was alone at least.  Astonishing directorial debut here by Maggie Gyllenhaal.

5. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - Exciting, wondrous, sexy, hilarious. I’ve watched it about six or seven times since its release last summer.  Yes, I love good Marvel movies, as you can see.  

6. Belfast - Very touching and timely tale about a family struggling amid the early troubles of Northern Ireland.

7. Don't Look Up - That final scene with Meryl Streep is the stuff of comedy legend.  I’ll say no more. 

8. No Time To Die - They saved Daniel Craig’s second best Bond flick for last.

9. West Side Story - Very entertaining and accomplished re-imagining of the 60s classic.

10. Cruella - Colourful and engaging new classic!! 

11. King Richard

12. The Tragedy of Macbeth 

13. Being the Ricardos

14. Licorice Pizza

15. Dune 

16. Passing

17. The Eternals

18. Mountain Lodge

19. Tick Tick...Boom! 

20. Black Widow

21. Chaos Walking

22. Fisherman

23. Boy Meets Boy

24. Fear Street: Part One - 1994

25. Seaspiracy

26. I Carry You With Me

27. In The Heights


The Eyes of Tammy Faye 

The King's Man

Nightmare Alley


Drive My Car 



Night Raiders


Fear Street: Part Two - 1978

Fear Street: Part Three - 1666

Last Night in Soho 


Mothering Sunday

OTHER 2021 FILMS I SAW WHICH UNDERWHELMED ME, in alphabetical order:


Sequin in a Blue Room


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The fabulous Janis Murray: 1955 to 2022

Jan and me at my 40th b-day party

My aunt and dear friend Jan Murray passed away today after a long battle with cancer.  I took the time a couple of weeks ago to write a love letter to her:

Dear Jan, 

We’ve shared a lot of beautiful memories of good times together.  

My absolute favourite story you’ve ever told is the occasion in the mid-1970s when you were living in Guelph while attending university.  We also lived in Guelph, where my mom and dad met and eventually married in 1967.  In 1972, the year I was born, our family moved into a home on Eleanor Court in the city’s north end.  You must’ve started at University of Guelph probably in 1973 or 1974, although you were living elsewhere in town.  But you visited us often on Eleanor Court.  

One day, my mom Dianne, your eldest sister, had driven you back to your student apartment (I think somewhere near Water and Gordon Streets?) after one such visit to our home.  Mom brought two or three-year-old me along for the ride and I was buckled up tightly into a kid’s chair in the backseat.  If I was three, it would’ve been 1975.  

Now as we know, you and my mom could talk.  You had long, beautiful conversations your whole lives.  And that day was no different.  Mom’s car pulled up to drop you off at your student apartment, but of course there was still more to talk about.  So you both kept on talking about whatever was on your minds that afternoon.  I was no doubt unhappy about being tied to a chair and stuck in the backseat.  I’m not sure what time of year it was, so no telling if it was a warm Guelph day.  But as you can imagine, three-year-old me was getting impatient.  

I must’ve finally deduced that the delay I was experiencing getting out of this baby seat was due to the fact that Mom and you were still talking in the front seat.  And that relief would only come for me after you finally got out of the car so we could drive back home and I could be released from this bondage. 

So little three-year-old me blurted out, “Jan, get out.”

You told me you and Dianne looked back at me and then broke into uproarious laughter.  No doubt, my protestation probably brought the adult conversation that afternoon to a swift end and you took your exit to resume another week of studies.  Mom drove me home and released me from the backseat.  

Jan, you told this hilarious story again and again over the decades.  Every time I introduced you to new people in my life, or you introduced me to people in your life, you mentioned this hilarious story about the impatient toddler who told you to “Get out” of the car.  And I loved each and every time you told it.  

But you didn’t really get out of the car, did you?  You stuck around, metaphorically speaking of course, and my life and the lives of our whole family, the lives of everyone you ever met, were enriched and made more beautiful because of you.   

Jan, when I think of you, I think of: 

  • Joie de vivre

  • Passion

  • Great style

  • Hard-work

  • Studiousness

  • Perseverance

  • An open heart

  • Strength

  • Street-smarts 

  • Wisdom

You embraced the most cosmopolitan of lives in Toronto as an adult.  When I was a teenager, I always looked up to you and was inspired by the example you gave.  You often mentioned your “gay buddies” as early as the 1980s.   Your presence and your example gave me hope as a closeted teen.  It showed me a way forward in the family, that a happy life could be possible.  You were talking about gay people living happy lives whom you called “friends”.  That meant so much to me in those days.  

Over the years, you became a dear friend, a confidant, someone I knew had my back and would always listen.  I have tried to be that friend and confidant back for you.  We’ve shared so many glasses of wine or delicious meals together.  Maybe too much wine on occasion, but who cares?  We were having fun!   We’ve sat through so many amazing movies or had so many great conversations about the world we’re living in.  

You joined our family for every holiday event you could attend.  We’d often meet up in downtown Toronto or in Mississauga and you’d give me a drive to Guelph or Cambridge.  Sometimes I’d pay for the gas, sometimes I’d pay with a bottle of wine we’d enjoy at the festivities, but often you simply accepted no payment.  You were so generous and loving.  You became a staple of my life and of our family.  You made our world bigger than it was because of all you brought to the table.  

I related to your struggles in life, as I shared them.  Even though we are of different generations, we came from the same family and were facing the same challenges of modern times.  We had each other to turn to.  Thank you for all the listening and advice you’ve given me.  I hope I’ve been able to give you a modicum of what you have given me.   

There are too many memories and occasions to count that brought such joy.  Some that stand out as I write this: 

  • Your absolutely adorable crush on Chris Pratt.  The way you swooned when you first laid eyes on that hunky actor in Guardians of the Galaxy brought such a smile to my face and everyone else in the room at the time.  Yes, you have very good taste in men.   It was so much fun watching you swoon again when we watched Chris Pratt in Jurassic World in Montreal last year.  

  • I also remember the relaxing drinks we enjoyed at the open window bistro in old Montreal this past June.  

  • The time you insisted I read out loud my entire first screenplay for you. 

  • The time we went off to New York state to attend the wedding shower for a gay buddy of yours marrying an American.  We enjoyed the house party, but nothing was more entertaining than the karaoke performances we saw later that night at the bar next to our hotel.  We didn’t sing ourselves because we understand the limitations of our talents, unlike most of the folks who got behind the microphone that night.   But man, some of those folks were awesome to watch.   


There are too many memories to count.  I cherish them all. 

Every room you entered was made brighter, more fun and more full of love because you arrived. 

Yes, I am very glad that you “didn’t get out of the car” after all.   You stayed with us and changed all of our lives.  

With love,

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Far-right convoy extremists have shown us what they really are: selfish, entitled, grown children. It's time to show them who we are.

Far-right grown babies demand
'freedumbs' in Ottawa yesterday
I don't always agree with everything Althea Raj writes, but good for her today to tell this truth:

"(Un)vaccinated protesters on the hill say they are tired of restrictions. I am also tired of the restrictions. We all are. I think often of the single parents with school-age children and how they've managed, or the small-business owners who worry about their life savings sunk in a business that may be unable to recover. I can't wait for things to return to normal, to feel safe going about everyday activities, and not worry about my 82-year-old father catching COVID-19...

...The sooner everyone gets vaccinated, the sooner this can happen."

For writing these words, as a woman of colour, I’m sure her inbox will be filled with vile misogyny, racism and threats of violence for the rest of her life from anti-vaxxers and convoy-types.

I can only imagine how horrified the people of Ottawa must be with these violent, loud babies invading their town, filling their streets and shutting the place down to bitch about their so-called 'freedumbs.' Our country's capital. I heard at least one convoy organizer express hope the event would be their own "January 6th."

A wise person once said: when they show you who they are, believe them.

The Trump-supported convoy and what they represent is the worst of humanity acting like spoiled children and complaining selfishly about something decent people are also tired of but are tolerating for the common good.

Decent, considerate people have had enough. When bullies like anti-vaxxers and those forcing themselves on Ottawa in this convoy engage in their horrid behaviour, the answer is not to appease them.

You stop bullies by standing up firmly against them. By pushing them back. You certainly don't do what weaselly, gutless, lost Erin O'Toole is doing lately. We didn't defeat Hitler in WWII by trying to appease him and hoping he'd stop being aggressive. We were forced to stand up to him as the only way to stop an aggressor. It's what we have to do now with the evil Vladimir Putin in Russia as he needlessly threatens Ukraine.

It would be nice to hear from Conservatives today not selfishly shutting down streets and spouting racism to promote their "freedumbs" or not gutlessly trying to appease them and trying to convince us there are good people are both sides.  I know there are some good conservatives out there and they're as horrified as I am.  

We know the way out of this is through vaccination and pulling together.

No one has the right to force themselves across an international border only on their own terms.

When people of colour do it fleeing violence back home, these convoy types attack them and laugh as their refugee children are thrown in cages. Maybe these convoy types should be thrown in their own cages indefinitely to feel what real abuse feels like.

Of course, there can be good people on both sides.  But one side - the selfish convoy side - is choosing not to act good these days.  They're acting horribly.  Borderline criminal.  It's time for our society to tell them to shut up.  We've heard enough of your nonsense!   You've spewed your dumb message about how you want everything to return back to normal with zero effort on your part.   You've proven to us you're delusional and will be no help to the rest of us as we struggle forward to face down the many challenges our societies face. 

Go away! Or we'll find new ways to make you go away!  That's what civil societies do when confronted with irrational, violent aggression.  

Saturday, January 15, 2022

My Favourite Films of 2021? Still thinking about it... ;-)

***UPDATED March 6, 2022 **** As I watch more 2021 films, I'll move them up if I love them.  Please expect a new post on my Top Favourites before Oscar Night. *****

I've always enjoyed compiling my list of Favourite Films each year.   Before COVID, it was easy for me to check out many new films long before the end of the year by attending film festivals or heading often to movie theatres.  Nowadays, the release of some films on streaming services like Netflix partially makes up for the loss the festivals and open movie theatres during lock down. 

But I'm still far behind in my viewing of the biggest films of 2021.  Furthermore, I'm also hesitant to come out with my big list too soon because I have found that my thoughts on my favourite films evolve over time.  The test of time for me is to acknowledge which of my favourite films I actually watch over and over again because they excite me and deliver each time.  That's not something you can know from one viewing.  It takes months to acknowledge which Blu-ray I'm turning on again and again (I always buy Blu-rays of my favourites.)  

So I'm going to think long and hard about the films of 2021 before I come up with any kind of final list of favourites.   And again this year, I still have so many acclaimed movies even to see for the first time.   I imagine I will come up with a final list before this March's Oscars.  

In the mean time, I'm going to simply list the 2021 films I've seen so far which I would consider to be major contenders for my heart or my Top Ten, in alphabetical order so as not to preempt my own deliberations.  This is tentative, of course, as there are many other 2021 films I still need to see.  

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2021 I'VE SEEN SO FAR, in alphabetical order (updated March 6, 2022): 



Don't Look Up

King Richard

The Lost Daughter

No Time To Die

The Power of the Dog

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Spider Man: No Way Home

West Side Story

OTHER 2021 FILMS I'VE SEEN WHICH I ENJOYED AS WELL, in alphabetical order:

Being the Ricardos

Boy Meets Boy

Black Widow

Chaos Walking


The Eternals

Fear Street: Part One - 1994

Fisherman (extremely sexy short gay film)

I Carry You With Me

Licorice Pizza

Mountain Lodge



Tick Tick...Boom! 

The Tragedy of Macbeth

2021 FILMS I STILL WANT TO SEE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, in order of preference: 

The Eyes of Tammy Faye 


The King's Man


Nightmare Alley

Drive My Car 



Night Raiders

Fear Street: Part Two - 1978

Fear Street: Part Three - 1666

Last Night in Soho 


Mothering Sunday

OTHER 2021 FILMS I SAW WHICH UNDERWHELMED ME, in alphabetical order:


In The Heights


Sequin in a Blue Room


Monday, December 20, 2021

Lazy Doug Ford will never learn on COVID-19, so let's kick him out in 2022!

Ontario's not so great premier
As an Ontarian over the age of 18 whose second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine was now five months ago, today I'm eligible to get a booster shot to try to ward off the Omicron mutation and do my part to try to get my province and country beyond this pandemic.   

But true to Doug Ford's crappy government, I was on hold for over an hour today on their 1-833 phone line and was just told there are no available booster shot vaccine appointments anywhere in my district anytime soon.  And that I'll instead likely have to call them back later or call up individual pharmacies and beg for an appointment, in addition to being on their wait lists.  

I'm on my own.  Just like every single Ontarian living in Doug Ford's Ontario. 

There are of course more than enough booster shots available for everyone who wants one.  The province despite being almost 2 years into this seems to again have fallen asleep at the switch mid-pandemic, and again downloaded all responsibilities for fighting this virus to overworked, underfunded local authorities or pharmacies.   

Doug Ford has this down to a fine art: deny and ignore the science advice as it bubbles up for weeks, until it again turns into the major crisis he can't ignore, and then enact half-measures and PR stunts to make it seem he's doing something, hold another press conference and pretend to care.  Then go back to his privileged life and keep on enjoying the perks of power.   I'm sure Dougie has a big family gathering exceeding 10 people in the works for this Christmas weekend. Dougie's elite, don't you know?  The rules don't apply to him and his family.   Ask his anti-vaxxer daughter.   

For the rest of us, we're back to the hunger games of trying to get boosters or rapid tests.  This is last April & May all over again.   

For a province as rich as Ontario, this is shameful.  And pathetic.  We get what we vote for.  Was humiliating a woman named Kathleen Wynne really worth this gross incompetence?  

At every step managing this pandemic, Doug Ford's immutable, thoughtless instincts have let us down.  He's forced the most vulnerable to put themselves in danger and go to work throughout this pandemic.  He refused to grant sick leave to Ontarians when they needed it.  He's gone to bat for the richest big box stores and giant corporations.  

His instincts are simply the wrong ones to get us out of this.   If you don't know that by now, you're living in a conservative delusion.   

It's time for change in Ontario.  The provincial election on June 2, 2022 can't come soon enough.    

I must say that I do have confidence in Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca as a replacement.  He wasn't my choice as Liberal Leader, but he has been performing well lately.  His unflappable personality, his focus, intelligence and experience, would stand us well going forward, not only on fighting COVID-19, but on most policy issues facing Ontario.  I will be hoping that Del Duca continues to nominate decent candidates and put forth more compelling, progressive policy proposals for Ontario.    

I hope for Del Duca because I have little confidence in Andrea Horwath and the NDP of ever mounting a serious challenge to the PCs.  Sadly, the NDP will simply once again at best divide the opposition vote and give the Conservatives a fighting chance to slither back into power. Instead, I'm hoping that Del Duca can do well, and win over the lion's share of anti-Ford voters.  

I have to hope.  Because Ontario can't take four more years of Doug Ford's incompetence and laziness.  

Monday, November 29, 2021

Toronto city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam's odd foray into COVID-19 misinformation and lessons learned...

Toronto councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam
We have all been through such a tough couple of years dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

From the horrors of getting sick and dying or slowly recovering, to the shock of lockdowns and at-home isolation, to the inability to see our loved ones for months on end, to the economy grinding to a halt, it has been disastrous for all of us.   

We did this all while facing fears of this new and strange virus, desperate to get verifiable information about it and react accordingly.  Most reasonable people have somehow pushed through, with the mental scars to show for it.   

Our struggles have been made worse thanks to a minority of folks who have largely ignored safety warnings to mask up in public places and have refused vaccines when they became available.   

Some skepticism is always healthy.  But to embrace skepticism to such extremes as to ignore clear evidence made obvious over months is - let me choose my words carefully - foolhardy, reckless, naïve, and misguided.  Some might even justifiably say stupid. 

If someone I recognize as smarter than me says I've done something stupid, I might be angry and in denial about it at first.  But eventually, I'll hopefully calm down, reflect on my actions and perhaps come to accept that yes I made a mistake.  And learn from it.   

But it's true - there is a world of difference between being accused of, "doing something stupid," and just being called, "stupid.”  The former can hopefully lead to some reflection about one's actions.  "Stupid is as stupid does," after all.   But I can admit that the latter is insulting and conversation-destroying.  

We ought to avoid ever calling other people "stupid," or, "idiotic."  Even if we're tempted.  It's harmful and unproductive.  

I can understand why some people might instinctively mistrust the science around COVID-19 vaccines.  The vaccinations have been developed in an incredibly quick amount of time thanks to massive funding and prioritizing by wealthy world governments and corporations.  Their effectiveness has been documented by independent health professionals the world over through verified data and the experiences of hundreds of millions of people.  As predicted, negative reactions have been minimal, and the vast majority of us have reacted well to them.  The dropping case and hospitalization rates among the vaccinated prove the expert medical advice we received about vaccinations is true.  

To cling to doubt and misinformation about their effectiveness at this stage is simply senseless, particularly since we also know that the unvaccinated remain particularly vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 and its new, ever-more-dangerous mutations.  In turn, the unvaccinated will continue to be a health threat to the most vulnerable among us.

I did sympathize somewhat with Kristyn Wong-Tam's expressed desire to dial down the divisiveness, as she claimed she wanted to do when she initially chose to publish an opinion piece in the Toronto Sun, of all places, earlier this month.  The Toronto Sun, of course, has a history of publishing lies and anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant propaganda, so her choice of newspaper certainly surprised me.

Had she chosen to publish the same piece in the Toronto Star, it's entirely possible her Star editor would've fact-checked her false claim before publishing that "those who are vaccinated can still get COVID-19 and can still transmit it to others just as easily as those who are unvaccinated."  Clearly, no such fact-checking happens at the Sun, who are more than happy to publish misinformation as they do on most topics every day (as do most conservative propaganda companies masquerading as news outlets.)

I immediately knew when I read that line in her Sun piece that Wong-Tam had published a lie.

It was shocking because she is Vice-Chair of the Toronto Board of Health and has access to the most updated, verified information that long ago made clear that fully vaccinated people are less likely to contract the virus, and if they do, it will not be as severe (if they are otherwise healthy) and can't spread with the ease as it does from the unvaccinated.

Wong-Tam said part of her inspiration in writing the article was to defend her beloved parents, whom she claimed had refused to be vaccinated for their own personal and "legitimate" reasons.  Their sentiments were shared, she wrote, by those in the Black, Indigenous and people of colour communities, when it comes to not trusting big pharma, policing or government.

I can sympathize with those sentiments, but her article literally set back the cause of public health.  It was her job to help convince those not yet comfortable with vaccinations to get comfortable, not defend their "legitimate" reasons and mislead.

Wong-Tam has thankfully since apologized.

"I, unfortunately, made an honest mistake with information I shared from an August 2021 memo...That memo is outdated and the context in which I shared it was misleading and left the wrong impression.  I know some people were disappointed and confused about that error, so I do want to take some time today to clarify.  I believe the scientific evidence is clear: vaccinations are an essential tool in ending the pandemic. Everyone who is able should get their shot. The more vaccinated people we have, the less transmission we have. I regret that this information distracted from my main reason for writing the article."

Despite that retraction and apology, many anti-vaxxers, who never met a fact they weren't willing to ignore or reject if it didn't jibe with their long-established prejudices, are probably continuing to quote Wong-Tam's article as a reason not to get vaccinated.  True to form, the Toronto Sun has yet to alter its online version of her original November 18th piece to reflect the fact Wong-Tam has retracted her statements and apologized for them.  (I won't link to it as it is a right-wing, fake news propaganda site.)

Until her retraction, I assume Wong-Tam had clung to that lie all these months perhaps because in the back of her mind it made her feel better about her parents' decision.  Or others' decisions.  Sometimes our biases for the people we love cloud our better judgment.

Wong-Tam's actions did cause me to reflect on my own positions.  I am uncomfortable with the idea of unvaccinated people literally losing their jobs because of their decision.  I do think we all need to dial down our rhetoric on this issue, myself included.   I have let my emotions get the better of me and I do regret some arguments I've had.

Nevertheless, I am forced to support vaccine mandates including in many public workplaces as a justifiable tool to promote public health and safety.  Unless you have a rare medical condition that prevents you from getting vaccinated, you must get vaccinated.  The safety of the many - whose lives are literally at risk - outweighs the choices and discomforts of the few.  This is a pandemic, after all, not some superfluous flu that will just go away on its own, as the hero of many anti-vaxxers once lied.

I'm disappointed in Wong-Tam.  I've been a huge supporter of her for years, and I've admired her dogged determination to provide the Toronto Centre community with vital information regarding this pandemic.  But on this one, it was a huge error.  I'm glad she's decided not to seek another term as Vice-Chair of Toronto Public Health as a result.  This one is going to be impossible to forget. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca's democratic reform proposals a nice counter to Doug Ford's anti-democratic nonsense...

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca
One of the first actions taken by Premier Doug Ford after he won a majority government in 2018 with only 40% of the Ontario vote was to throw a wrench into the 2018 Toronto municipal election campaign that was already well underway.   

Local candidates had been campaigning for months in 47 local wards when Ford suddenly and unilaterally shrunk the locally-designed council to just 25 seats.  Sadly, that heavy-handed intervention was recently upheld by the Supreme Court, which narrowly sided with the province's inherent right to make stupid decisions in the municipal sphere despite the illogic of such a constitutional status quo.  Overall, Ford's move put more distance between Toronto citizens and their local government.

Furthermore, Ford has increased limits on how much individuals can donate to political parties, and has thrown extravagant fundraisers giving the wealthy a chance to buy his support.  Ford has doubled down on building the unnecessary Highway 413, which stands to profit his developer friends who own land along the proposed highway corridor.  

I write all this to emphasize that Ford is an enemy of democracy, and has been willing to take unilateral action to change our election laws to stack the decks in his party's favour.   

Under a ranked-ballot system, voters select candidates in order of preference.  Ballots are tallied by counting all the first choices.  If a candidate gets more than half the votes, they win.  But if no one has a majority, the candidate with fewest votes is eliminated and the second-choice votes on those ballots are tallied until there's an outright winner.  

I've long advocated for reforming the way we hold municipal, provincial, and federal elections.  Our current 'winner-take-all' / first past the post system has delivered too many lopsided results that distort the true intentions of the electorate.  Ford's majority win in 2018 with only 40% of the vote is testament to that. 

Advocates of proportional representation (PR) have long dominated the discussion on this important issue in Canada, insisting no other change will do.  And that's why zero progress has been made in Canada getting rid of our current system.   

Canadians have been asked repeatedly to choose between first past the post and some form of proportional representation.   In each of those referendums, PR has been defeated, usually by massive margins.  Even in Prince Edward Island in 2019, the one place in Canada where the notion of province-wide seats elected from lists might not offend local sensibilities too much, PR still lost.  Canadians clearly have major reservations about proportional representation and, given no alternative, they seem intent to keep the devil they know.  

The recent success of the odious People's Party of Canada capturing more than five per cent of the vote in several provinces in last month's federal election has weakened PR's appeal even further in my mind.  I would shudder to see a small bunch of those yahoos elected to Parliament thanks to proportional representation.  

I have come to the conclusion that PR is pretty much dead as an option in Canada.  The only realistic chance for change is something more modest, like ranked balloting.  

I agree with Del Duca that ranked balloting in provincial elections would take some of the toxicity out of politics.  It would force political parties and leaders to reach out and appeal to supporters of other parties in order to secure majority support in all ridings, not just a plurality of support as they do under the current system.

One of the ugliest trends in recent politics has been the tactic to divide-and-conquer the electorate, frequently undertaken by Conservatives but also other parties.  Parties currently micro-target their own potential voters using various tools including social media data to motivate them only in winnable, swing ridings to turn out and vote.  

For the most part, parties ignore all other voters outside of swing ridings.  If you're a Conservative in Spadina-Fort York, you'll probably never hear from the Conservatives.   If you're a Liberal in Bruce County, you'll probably never hear from the Liberals. 

Imagine a politics where parties can't just rely on turning out their own supporters in key ridings, but instead need to reach out to voters in most constituencies to ensure they win a majority of the vote in those ridings.  

Also imagine never having to "vote strategically" again.  How many times have NDP or Green supporters decided to cast their votes for the Liberals in order to possibly defeat the local Conservatives?  Under ranked balloting, you'd never have to do that again.

Under ranked balloting, parties might even make de facto or unofficial alliances before the election, perhaps come to agreement on important issues, and encourage their supporters to place their second or third preferences with other parties with which they agree.  This coalition-building - before the people vote - would be far better than any options under PR which force parties to negotiate in the backrooms to form governments long after election day.  

No longer would MPs or MPPs get elected with less than 50% support.  This is crucial as the current system is electing more and more representatives with pathetically low portions of the vote.

In the federal election last month, the NDP candidate won in Nanaimo-Ladysmith with only 29% of the vote, barely outpacing the Conservative at 27% and the Green incumbent who got 26%.  In Trois-Rivieres, the Bloc won with 30%, while the Conservatives and the Liberals both took 29% each.  There were similar ridings across the country where the winning percentage was painfully low.   That will only get worse the longer we keep first past the post.

Doug Ford's government also trashed ranked balloting as an option for municipal elections, despite it working well in London, Ontario.  This was shameful because other municipalities have expressed support for such a move.  Cambridge, Ontario municipal voters even voted for it in a plebiscite in 2018.  I'd say ranked balloting is even more important at the local level where splintered results can easily elect someone with a tiny percentage of the vote.  I recall one local councillor in Toronto winning in 2014 with only 17% of her ward's vote.   That nonsense needs to end.

I see ranked balloting as a step forward that will fix many of our problems with the current voting system.   I think it's time that reformers got real and embraced it.  The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.  We're never going to get change if we continue to push for unpopular proportional representation options.

One last point, I might've in the past resisted Del Duca's policy of unilaterally implementing ranked balloting for Ontario elections, as he is promising.  But after what Doug Ford has pulled with his surprise election law changes, I have no issue with it.  Del Duca has made his democratic pledges clear and if he wins a majority government in 2022, he'll have a mandate and the moral authority to proceed with these changes.   

Would ranked balloting only help the Liberals?  I don't think so.  It would simply force parties to focus on winning the support from the majority of voters in each riding.  It would force them to forge alliances and reach out to more voters rather than just their narrow bases of support.  What could be more democratic than that?  

Friday, October 15, 2021

My film "The Big Snore" plays at Seattle Queer Film Festival this weekend...

Still from my short film 'The Big Snore'

I am thrilled to announce here that my short film, The Big Snore, is programmed to screen at the wonderful Seattle Queer Film Festival, which started yesterday with both in person and online screenings (for those within their geo-block area of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska states) and runs until October 24th.

The Big Snore plays in the festival's Boys Shorts program which happens in person tomorrow, October 16th, at noon Seattle time. Here's the link to that shorts program.

I hadn't expected any more festival screenings for my film, so this was supremely awesome news.

I want to extend a special thank you to the festival's Boys Shorts programmers, Telved Devlet and Ryan Crawford, who selected my flick. I joined them plus a handful of other filmmakers in the program for a virtual Q&A session that is now available on YouTube (video embedded below).

Friday, October 8, 2021

My take on "Unnecessary Election 2021": Why Trudeau won, why O'Toole and Singh lost, and why Paul did so badly...

Justin Trudeau with family on election night
Sept 20 20201 - Christinne Muschi/Reuters]
I'm late to the game with this analysis of the recently completed Canadian federal election, so my apologies.  My day job responsibilities demanded that I be somewhat apolitical while the election was going on, so I was quiet here.  Since the election, I've been so busy, this is the first chance I've had to put fingers to blog keyboard. 
Justin Trudeau now sits ready to form a new cabinet after calling what turned out to be one of the most unnecessary elections I can remember. On September 20th, he barely got more seats than he won in 2019, as unimpressed Canadians stuck with the devil they know.  The message from Canadians was clear: cut out the political nonsense and get to work governing!  

Since Covid started, governments that have dared to call elections in Canada have mostly been rewarded with majority power.  That trend ended in Nova Scotia in mid-August when the provincial Liberals were turfed from office, a few days after Trudeau called the federal election.  I was scared at first that the NS result portended a similar comeuppance for the federal Liberals for their similar arrogance calling a vote in the middle of a pandemic.  And for a couple of weeks, it seemed Canadians too were considering knocking Trudeau out of power.   

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole, who had several terrible months before the election call, first seemed dead on arrival when the vote was called.  But suddenly, he performed.  He made lots of noise about being a reasonable, centrist, even somewhat progressive Conservative leader.  His policies seemed moderate and sensical.  He also seemed likeable and decent, like a friendly uncle.  Canadians sick to death of Trudeau suddenly felt they had a decent alternative.  

But then Trudeau managed to plant enough seeds of doubt about O'Toole's alleged moderation.  It wasn't difficult.  

O'Toole's mishandling of his gun control policy, which changed by the day, horrified both sides of the debate.  

O'Toole's pledge to take serious action against climate change - even promising a pale pink imitation of Justin Trudeau's carbon levy - was undermined by his own party's convention earlier this year where 54% of delegates voted against a motion that declared that "climate change is real."  

The mistrust built up over the years thanks to Stephen Harper's style and government hadn't yet receded.  O'Toole was trying to put lipstick on a pig and it didn't work.  

I have no doubt that O'Toole genuinely is a moderate.  His main problem as leader is due to the fact that he veered so far to the right to win that leadership in 2020.  After claiming he would "take Canada back!" (from whom?), and throwing lots of red meat at the party's true blue, social conservative base, O'Toole bested Peter Mackay for the win.  In his leadership victory speech, O'Toole then claimed to be a moderate who would reach out to working families, even LGBTQ Canadians.  Social conservatives must've felt used.  They were.      

It's very difficult to be both a true blue Conservative, as well as a centrist moderate progressive Conservative at the same time.  O'Toole didn't quite hit the right notes to seem credible.  Even Stephen Harper was far more masterful at sounding reasonable and consistent.  O'Toole's message seemed more confusing.  Next to the clarity of Trudeau's message and brand, he paled. 

It may be that O'Toole will eventually find a credible, clear message and brand that can carry him over the top.  He probably deserves at least one more shot as Conservative leader in an election.  

While I don't exactly respect O'Toole's cynical hard right strategy to win his party's leadership - flirting with some awful people to win power - I will admit that O'Toole is likely the sort of reasonable conservative I'd be comfortable seeing in power, if we had to have a Conservative government.  I'd rather have O'Toole as Conservative leader than the odious Pierre Poilievre, for example.   

It's hilarious that some right-wing and social conservatives are wrongly blaming O'Toole's veering to the center as the cause for their party's failure last month.  In truth, it was O'Toole's attempts to placate the party's more conservative wing with positions on vaccination mandates, gun control and abortion that undermined its momentum when it mattered in early September. 

The NDP's Jagmeet Singh entered the election with some wind at his back, enjoying support levels above 20% on average, which had it held on election day would've been one of the federal NDP's best performances.  The NDP held that support as well for most of the campaign.   

I had my doubts that much NDP support would materialize on election day.  And by and large, it didn't.  Sure, many progressives flirted with the idea of voting NDP.  But the NDP option never quite felt serious.  Singh's candidates were, for the most part, the same sort of caliber the NDP always puts up.  It was hard to see this team forming a cabinet.  Plus, the NDP platform was even more pie in the sky than usual, certainly not a real, well-charted, overly specific plan for the future of the country.  It was not surprising to me to see the NDP fall back to 18% on election day and end up with almost the same number of seats as last time.   Their results in Ontario were particularly mediocre, even losing one of their six seats and making zero gains.   

Yes, Trudeau's strong performance during the pandemic, largely meeting the needs of an economy in crisis and taking strong stands in favour of public health and vaccine mandates, reassured Canadians.  

Love him or hate him, Trudeau is an effective politician with a clear brand.  Canadians are more than aware of his flaws, and have decided again to tolerate them until a better leader and team comes along.  That wasn't O'Toole this time.   

I have not been overly impressed with Trudeau as a leader.  He says the right things.  He often accurately and sometimes passionately reflects the progressive sentiments of the country.  But he's painfully shallow and frequently blind to his own ethical short-sightedness.  On so many issues that matter to progressives, his efforts in government have proven unsatisfying.   

Yet Trudeau and the Liberals remain the only credible progressive governing option at the federal level.  The NDP has a long way to go in terms of building support in every region of the country to adequately challenge them.  The Greens are again non-starters.  So it's true - under our first-past-the-post electoral system - progressives or centrists will continue to gravitate toward Liberals, especially in Ontario.   

Regardless of those systemic strengths for the Liberal Party, the fairly mediocre result last month - 32.6% support and another minority government with almost the same number of seats - should raise alarm bells.  Leaders and governments that hang around too long inevitably get long in the tooth and sloppy.   Heck, this government has been sloppy on many files since its first term.  Eventually, voters just get enough of you.   That time may come for Trudeau in a couple years.  It might be better for him instead to take a walk in the snow a couple years from now and retire before the next election.   But we'll see.  He's certainly bought himself another 2-4 years in power.   

The saddest story in this election is probably what happened to the Green Party's Annamie Paul.   

This Star article lays bare the various conflicts between Paul and party officials since she made history winning the party's leadership in 2020.

I related greatly to Paul during this campaign as she seemed to be a decent person with great experience and the right positions on the issues of our time.  She was undermined, however, by party brass unwilling to play seriously in the big leagues, and more interested in protecting their own tiny turf rather than work with Paul. Why do so many progressive or union activists play so nasty and fight to the death over crumbs?  

I was shocked the party gave Paul such a hard time.  I will also agree that Paul herself seemed quite ineffectual managing these conflicts.  Could she not meet with these folks and establish a truce, for the sake of the environment?  Apparently not.  Officials, including the tiny Green caucus, claimed Paul made few overtures to establish decent relations with them in the months after she won a narrow victory to become leader.  Paul also erred greatly by not clearly disassociating herself from her former advisor Noah Zatzman after his outrageous attack threatening elected Green MPs earlier this year.  Her answers to these questions always seemed too lawyerly and tone deaf.  

In the end, her ability to handle crises seemed weak.  The chaos that happens under your watch is your responsibility as leader.   Canadians wanted to hear Paul take accountability for what was going on in her party, but she never did.  She instead made excuses, pointed blame at nameless officials and complained about racism and sexism.  It impressed few.  I found it hard to believe the Green Party was a cesspool of anti-semitism, sexism and racism.  I found it more credible to believe that Paul simply didn't have or had yet to develop the people skills to manage the leadership she had chosen to take on.  

Her support collapsed in her Toronto Centre riding from 33% in the 2020 byelection to just 9% in the general election one year later.  The public have pronounced a big thumbs down on a Green Party more consumed with petty bickering than promoting a coherent and progressive plan for the future.  Now the party's very future is in doubt. 

That'll be good news for the Liberals and the NDP, and perhaps even the Conservatives in some parts.  

I feel sorry for Paul.  Her failure reminds me of the nasty, brutal ways of politics and how it can devour well-meaning people, even in the minor leagues of the Green Party.