Friday, June 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 9, 2014

So many accusations of "corruption" flying around, the word is now being rendered almost meaningless...

Don't like your Liberal political opponents much?  Are they eating your lunch and beating you in the leadership department?  Why not throw a few smears at them and hopefully bring them down a peg or two by calling them "corrupt"?  Better yet, claim that "corruption" is rife within their government.  Point to numerous financial blunders or mistakes committed over the party's term in office - even though the players responsible for these decisions are long gone - and say that they're examples of "corruption!"

In the real world, by most reasonable definitions, corruption in government would of course refer to actions by certain members within that government that lead to personal/private financial benefit, sometimes against the public interest.   Corruption would be insider criminal activity or malfeasance that usually undermines the public good.

But in this Ontario election, the word "corruption" seems to apply to other things as well: when Andrea Horwath or Tim Hudak use the word, they seem to be referring to actions or political decisions by the Liberals designed to simply position the Liberals to win more votes, such as the decision to move two gas plants prior to the 2011 provincial election.

But is blowing maybe as much as $1.1 Billion over the next 20 years and failing to be upfront about those possible costs an example of corruption?

By all reasonable standards, that's quite a major stretch.  If it is, then both Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath are guilty of attempted corruption too.   They both also promised to scrap those gas plants after all, not knowing the costs involved.  The original sites in Oakville and Mississauga were deemed the best locations by hydro authorities considering the needs of the electricity grid and growing population trends.  Only politically were the sites absolutely wrong.  If McGuinty is definitely guilty of anything, it was taking a long time to react to growing public opposition to those sites.  McGuinty had a habit in government of making tough but necessary decisions and staring down the opposition.  It wasn't for nothing that he introduced the health premium in 2004 or the HST.

But when Hudak and Horwath smelled political blood over the sites of those plants during a tight 2011 election, they both promised to cancel the projects.  The worried Liberal campaign reacted by pledging to move both projects.  

It wasn't corruption that led to the decision to move those plants.  It was pure politics.  The subsequent handling of that decision including the less than upfront approach by the McGuinty gang admitting the possible costs was just inept.   The folks who masterminded the gas plants fiasco are thankfully all out of government at Queen's Park.

So does the smear "corruption" really apply to Wynne's government?  Not at all.  She's been completely upfront about her non-role in the initial decision, as well as her actions opening up the inquiry into the costs and her efforts to change the process into how such projects are sited.  The only reason we can quote a "$1.1 Billion" figure is because she asked the Auditor General to look into the costs of both Oakville and Mississauga.  The truth is out because of Kathleen Wynne.

Even if many voters dislike the behaviour of McGuinty's crew over the gas plants, most wouldn't use the word "corrupt" to describe it.   It cheapens the word "corruption" to call what happened corruption.

I have to blame Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath for this cheapening of our dialogue, giving permission to their numerous minions on Twitter and elsewhere to use the same cheap language.  See below for four such examples:

Tories Tim Hudak and Lisa MacLeod even went as far as to claim that Kathleen Wynne had overseen and possibly directed possible criminal actions in this scandal.   They had no evidence of this but they made the accusations anyway as they were desperate to smear Wynne with the same gas plant scandal brush.

But Wynne fought back against these lies by suing them for libel.   Since then, Hudak and MacLeod have toned done their smears.

Now Andrea Horwath is repeating the smear at every stop, dropping blanket statements, "The Liberals are corrupt...You don't have to vote for corruption, you can vote for me!"  Right-wing media reports about private companies seeking political revenge on the Liberals in the dying days of this campaign reinforce the false narrative.

But the accusations of corruption are largely baseless.   The Liberals have done nothing the other parties haven't also done or wouldn't do.  The public seems to know this full well.

Perhaps one day after this election the word "corruption" will again return to its actual definition.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Hudak uptick this week will be good news for the Wynne Liberals on election day next week...

After a rough month on the campaign trail, this past week was rather good for Tim Hudak.  He was generally viewed as winning the leaders' debate on Tuesday (although I still found him as phoney and overly-scripted as he's ever been.)

And last night, the story broke about how the OPP want to see guest logs at the Legislative Assembly as part of their ongoing investigation into the gas plants scandal.  The OPP has also confirmed that former premier Dalton McGuinty is not under investigation and he has been cooperating with them fully.  After this week's debate in which the gas plants issue played heavily, it's difficult to see how this new development at the end of the week is really going to add significantly to Grit woes.  Sure it's not fun for Grits to experience this so late in a campaign, but is there anything really revelatory here?  Not overly.

Granted, Hudak now seems to have a bit of wind in his sails and today's EKOS tracking poll confirms it showing him now polling slightly ahead of the Liberals,  The NDP is still way back at just over 20% support (three points below their 2011 vote percentage.)   I'm sure other polls will confirm a tightened race between the Liberals and PCs as a result of this week's developments.   And of course, Tory pollster Ipsos Reid will no doubt release another bogus poll soon showing that Hudak's Tories are on track to win a massive majority with the NDP coming in second place along with the Liberals losing party status (when they just factor in their bizarre "motivated voter" formula.)   That Ipsos poll will be bullshit, but the rest will be mostly accurate.


I stand corrected about the next Ipsos Reid poll, which puts the Libs and Tories tied at 35%, with the NDP showing strength at 26%.  I'm not sure I believe these numbers entirely.  But they're not as completely nuts as the polls this outfit put out in May. 


It's just too bad for Hudak that the election isn't this week.  As they say, a week is an eternity in politics. This Tory uptick will only spook progressives even further.  Today's gas plant non-developments will only stoke those fears.  Could Hudak really be about to win this election despite his crazy plan to eliminate 100,000 public service jobs and his idiotic math skills on display in his One Million Person-Years Plan?

I predict a bad couple of days for the Wynne campaign will start to become a string of good days for the Grits starting this weekend as they continue with their relentless message as reported in this Globe story:

“It’s becoming clearer that there’s really a stark choice between the two likely parties to form government,” [Kathleen Wynne] said just thirty seconds into her interview at the Globe. “What Tim Hudak is proposing is making a lot of people anxious… it’s much less in keeping with the way Ontario has grown, the way Ontario has functioned and is pretty reckless at this moment.”

...This tack is partly designed to peel away NDP supporters by presenting herself as the only person who can stop the PCs. It is also meant to fire up her base and make sure they come to the polls...

“In the last few days of an election that is going to be a close election -- there’s no doubt about that – I need to make it clear to people what’s at stake,” she told the Globe. “That is what we’re going to do.”

This is probably the ballot question the Liberals need to push in order to still win this election.  I said yesterday their narrative was unclear, but I take it back now.  It's quite clear and I think it's going to work.

Before this week, it looked like Hudak was a goner.  This week, he's back in the game.  Suddenly the importance of progressives coalescing around Wynne is more important than ever and every seat counts, including the five seats in the city of Toronto held by the NDP.   We should expect more of this kind of talk over the next few days.   This push to get behind Wynne will reach its peak on June 12th, mark my words!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Toronto Sun cartoon makes fun of brutal violence depicted against Kathleen Wynne

The cheapening of political discourse has hit a new low today courtesy of the Conservative Party's print media wing, the Toronto Sun.

How exactly are we to interpret this distasteful cartoon by Donato?  Clearly the glasses make it clear the cartoonist and paper are depicting the aftermath of some kind of physical attack on Kathleen Wynne.  It's clearly a brutal attack as her bloody teeth are visible.

It's been two days since the debate.  If this was meant to depict Wynne having been "clobbered" during that debate by her opponents, shouldn't it have been printed in Wednesday's paper?   Putting it in the June 6th edition, so Friday's paper, makes you wonder really what the Toronto Sun is trying to say here.

Is this supposed to be funny?  Donato's cartoons are usually supposed to be funny.  So beating the shit out of Kathleen Wynne until her teeth are knocked out and her glasses are busted up is funny?

This from the despicable paper that still runs ONLY Sunshine Girls every day, and hasn't published those tiny black & white shots of mostly clothed Sunshine Boys back on page 100 for years and years.

Robin Sears on TVO on Tuesday night used the word "clobbered" to criticize Wynne's performance, before Sears went on to criticize the clothes that Wynne was wearing during the debate.  Perhaps that denigration was the inspiration behind this cartoon?  Who knows?

Toronto Sun writers like Lorrie Goldstein and Christina Blizzard have been campaigning hard through their writings in favour of Tim Hudak this election.  Any pretense for fairness and objectivity went out the window as soon as the election was called.  Will this cartoon give them both a chuckle?   I'm sure they'll defend this disgusting piece of cartooning and dismiss any criticism.

On all levels, this cartoon is gross.   Shame on Donato and the Sun for publishing it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

When everybody expects a leader to be very bad, but ends up just being sort of bad, I guess that means he wins the debate...

I've had 24 hours now to digest what I saw during yesterday's Ontario leaders' debate, as well as the knee jerk analysis last night and today's commentary and reactions.  

I watched last night with my politically-inclined Brazilian boyfriend, whose knowledge of Ontario politics and the three leaders is less long-term than mine.   So it was interesting to get his initial reaction to all three leaders.   He liked Kathleen Wynne (but what fabulous gay man wouldn't), he also had positive things to say about Andrea Horwath, which was interesting.  But he couldn't stand Tim Hudak, whom he described as completely phoney and overly rehearsed, never reacting spontaneously to what the other leaders said, only offering canned and clearly well-practised lines.  

Such is the depth of Tim Hudak's talent, which we've known for quite some time is fairly shallow. Considering the low opinions most of the commentariat had of him, it's not surprising perhaps that when Hudak turns in a better-than-mediocre performance, they all declare him the big winner.

Former war room managers with personal axes to grind or those with supreme pro-Tory biases loved Hudak's performance of course, had sweet things to say about Horwath and declared Kathleen Wynne a complete failure. 

But of course, all of these folks are pretty much wrong.  Even Tory pollster Ipsos Reid could only muster numbers showing the viewing public was fairly evenly split between the three leaders as to who "won" the debate, with Hudak at 36%, Wynne at 27% and Horwath at 26%.   Forum Research also did a quick poll which put Hudak at 33%, Wynne at 28% and Horwath at 20%.

No one ran away with it.  All of them performed well.  But none of it is going to change current trends in this election much at all.  If you liked Wynne before the debate, you probably liked her after it.  If you liked Hudak and his plans before the debate, you probably still do after the debate.   If you were already disenchanted with Horwath's turn to the centre, there was probably little she said last night to bring you back into the NDP fold. 

I enjoyed the debate.  Overall, I thought Wynne was great but I'm biased.  She did have a rough start which is bad luck.  Nerves probably got the better of her as she had to take on the gas plant issue off the top thanks to a voter's question.   She's given much better answers before on that issue than during that segment.   

But one thing she did do very right in that encounter was admit the government's mistake:  

“The decisions around the relocation of the gas plants that were made were wrong,” said Wynne. “I’ve apologized, I’ve taken responsibility.”

I would've preferred her to have more time to explain how she handled the scandal differently than her predecessor and why this kind of mistake would not be repeated in the future under her watch.  

But there is something to be said for the public hearing her say "I'm sorry, it was wrong."  Such honesty is rare in political debates.  I would say it's essential for public forgiveness for something that can't really be defended.  Wynne accomplished that last night with her widest audience yet.  

After the initial tough start, Wynne recovered nicely throughout the rest of the debate.  Any weaknesses in last night's messaging were reflective of general weaknesses of the Liberal campaign.  I still don't think Wynne's narrative and ballot question is as clear as it could be.   For that reason, I'm still uncertain if they're going to get enough support to win a majority.

The Wynne Liberals have succeeded thus far in positioning themselves as the main alternative to the Hudak Tories.  They've lucked out as well as Hudak has presented such a polarizing and incompetent plan in this campaign that's not winning him many new fans.  Furthermore, Horwath has moved to the centre and angered many progressives, particularly in Toronto where 3 or 4 NDP seats are now under real threat of falling to the Grits.

Will Hudak get a boost from last night?  Maybe a point or two.  Certainly Ipsos Reid will come out with a new poll soon that shows Hudak set to sweep the province based solely on voters it identifies as certain to vote.  Such talk of Hudak still doing well will only help Wynne's cause as progressives will get even more spooked and decide to swing behind Wynne.

It's going to be quite an interesting 7 days until June 12th. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

2014 Toronto Inside Out LGBT Film Festival wraps: My favourite flicks this year...

Another year, another Toronto Inside Out LGBT Film Festival draws to a close.  The festival tends to creep up on many film lovers in Toronto, so many friends of mine remarked to me this year they forgot to go see much.  Not me, of course.  Despite ongoing election campaigns pulling politicos in every direction, I still managed to see a few films.  But I also missed some good ones.

I sadly missed the Brazilian opening night film 'The Way He Looks,' which is a feature film adaptation closely based on a short film from a few years ago by the same director.  I was busy that night working on my own feature film screenplay inspired by a short film I worked on a few years ago, 'The Golden Pin' (available for viewing on YouTube, including a direct link on the right.)

But the feature version of 'The Way He Looks,' looks great based on this trailer:

I haven't heard yet if 'The Way He Looks,' has Canadian distribution, meaning it could be a while before anyone else can see it in this country.  With some luck, perhaps it'll play at TIFF later this year, or at the Brazilian Film & Television Festival of Toronto in the fall.

I also missed the fundraising screening of HBO's new TV movie 'The Normal Heart,' starring Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer.  But I'll catch that one soon through other means and will blog about it if I'm inspired by it.

Two other features I missed which I hope to catch soon are 'Last Summer', an American feature about the final days of a vibrant summer love between two small-town high school male sweethearts torn between staying together and moving on to bigger and better things, and director Ira Sachs' 'Love Is Strange,' which stars Alfred Molina and John Lithgow.

The trailer for 'Last Summer' is here:

Now for the films I did see and loved.

My favourite film was Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan's 'Tom at the Farm' (pictured above.) Based on the play by Michel Marc Bouchard, the film chronicles the story of a young gay man who journeys to his dead lover's family farm in rural Quebec, where he discovers his late lover's mother had no idea her son was gay.  But his unpredictable, volatile and sexy brother certainly did, as we soon discover.

Here is the trailer:

Dolan has been receiving accolades for years since his debut feature, 'I Killed My Mother.'  I loved that film, but thought his follow up 'Heartbeats' was disappointing.  I completely missed the three-hour 'Lawrence Anyways' as a result.  But with 'Tom at the Farm,' I have to say that I'm now a Dolan groupie (and will have to go back and watch 'Lawrence Anyways' asap.)

I also appreciated the German/Hungarian feature film 'Land of Storms,' (pictured above.) Detailing the story of a young Hungarian soccer player who gets kicked off a German team and returns home to his desolate life where he meets a sexy would-be thief, it was captivating from start to finish.  I can't say I liked the ending much, even though it nicely brought closure to the story.  But the hot images of a naked three-way in a pond at night, not to mention other nice moments of eye candy more than made up for the cliched finale. Here's a link to the film's trailer on YouTube.

I also loved the Brazilian/German film 'Praia do Futuro,' (pictured above) or 'Future Beach,' a fascinating and beautiful film about a Brazilian lifeguard who falls for the German friend of a man who dies at the beach in the north-eastern region of the country and abandons his family to go live with his new lover in Germany.  It was sexy, atmospheric, unfurling itself with an easy pace I loved.

Here's the trailer:

And finally I will say good things about the Venezuelan gem 'My Straight Son,' (pictured below.)  Though heavy on some gay film tropes like commitment-phobic lovers, gay bashers, ignorant families who come around in the end, and tough transsexuals who save the day, it broke new ground as a mainstream, Spanish-language film that may eventually find a wide audience across South America (and change a few closed minds in the process.)   About a gay photographer reunited with his teenage son while his lover struggles in hospital after a brutal attack, it was sweet, supremely well-made and contained some truly beautiful moments.  I'd highly recommend it to most.

I did catch some short films as well, including three great ones: Austin Wong's hilarious 'Gaysian', Britt Randle's clever 'Run Rabbit,' and Sonia Hong's awesome dance video, 'Waack Revolt!'.