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 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.)