Category: 2018 Ontario Provincial Election

“Hop in your Edsel! It’s time to honour Doug Ford!”

The Ontario election results left me in a funk somewhat analogous to that many experienced after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. Doug Ford as premier of Ontario is now the new reality, and those of us who did not vote for him must find strategies for keeping sane in an era when many good policies and programs are destroyed. In the circumstances, humour may be the best medicine.

GEOFFREY STEVENS writes a weekly column which he circulates to his personal distribution list and publishes each Monday in the Waterloo Region Record. His July 16, 2018 column is, yet again, ever so timely. With thanks to Geoffrey, I commend it to you and share it here:

Hop in your Edsel! It’s time to honour Doug Ford!

(published July 16, 2018 in Waterloo Region Record)
BY GEOFFREY STEVENS

Hon. Doug Ford,
Premier of Ontario,
Queen’s Park, Toronto

My Dear Premier Ford,

Please find enclosed my application for membership in Ford Nation.

It’s my way of demonstrating my enthusiastic support for the work that you and your new Progressive Conservative government are doing.

You are a man of your word. You promised you would get rid of that $6 million man at Hydro One. Boom, he’s gone, and it’s only going to cost $9 million. Good job, Sir!

You are scrapping Kathleen Wynne’s Green Energy Act. You are eliminating subsidies on purchases of electric cars, ripping windmills out of the ground, and I’m sure you will soon be tearing solar panels off rooftops across the province.

You are doing a splendid job to prepare Ontario to confront the daunting challenges of the 1950s. Leslie Frost would be so proud!

You have rolled the clock back on other fronts. You have taken the sex out of sex education. Kids don’t need to know about gay and lesbian or bisexual and transgender or HIV and AIDS. They can still learn all they need to know about sex in the back seat of the family Studebaker.

Too much knowledge is a dangerous thing. That’s why you had the foresight to fire the province’s science officer. That may stop all the loose talk about human activity causing global warming. It is nonsense to suggest that Ontario’s cars and trucks, factories, mines and smelters create pollution. They create jobs, as we Ford Nation-builders know.

You canned Wynne’s “cap and trade” scheme. And you told that twerp from Ottawa, Justin Trudeau, where to put it when he came to warn you that if Ontario bailed on his national climate plan, he would impose his own carbon tax.

The effrontery of the man! Just because he is prime minister of Canada, he thinks he can speak for the people of Ontario. You, Sir, have a majority government. You and only you speak for Ontarians (we’ll overlook the inconvenient reality that Trudeau’s Liberals hold 80 of Ontario’s 121 parliamentary seats.).

You really told Trudeau off when he tried to con you into picking up part of the tab for resettling refugees who have flooded into Ontario in search of safety and a better life. He calls them “asylum-seekers,” but you set him straight. They are “illegal border-crossers.” If he wants to allow such criminals into Canada, let the feds pay.

You drove that argument home when you sent Lisa McLeod from your cabinet out to Winnipeg to slap down federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen at last week’s ministerial meeting. 

Poor Hussen was not happy. He called your attitude to refugees “irresponsible… It’s divisive, it’s fear mongering and it’s not Canadian,” adding: “The track record of collaboration between Canada and Ontario is being challenged by the new (Ontario) government.”

Yes! Of course! That’s your point, isn’t it, Premier Ford? The cozy days of collaboration between levels of government are over. Ontario is darned mad and isn’t going to take it any more. That’s the message you will be delivering this week in Saint Andrews, N.B., at the annual summer gathering of premiers (now tarted up as the “Council of the Federation”).

You are ready to lead us back to those heady days when provincial leaders like Joey Smallwood in Newfoundland, “Wacky” Bennett in B.C., and Ross Thatcher in Saskatchewan, stood up for provincial rights. They relished a good fight with Ottawa. And let us not forget “Old Man Ontario,” Leslie Frost, who made a such valiant effort to seize control of income tax from Ottawa.

Premier Ford, please hurry with my Ford Nation membership card. I’m enclosing a 5-cent stamp to cover postage. As soon as it comes, we will fill the bathtub with your one-buck beer, crank up the Elvis, and have ourselves a rip-roaring “Back to the Fifties” bash in your honour.

So hop in your Edsel and come on down!

Your huge fan,

etc., etc.

GEOFFREY STEVENS, author, former Ottawa columnist and managing editor of the Globe and Mail, resides in Cambridge, Ontario, and teaches political science at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Guelph. He welcomes comments at geoffstevens@sympatico.ca.

 

 

 

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“This may be counter-intuitive, but would you believe Premier Horwath?”

GEOFFREY STEVENS writes a weekly column which he circulates to his personal distribution list and publishes each Monday in the Waterloo Region Record. His new June 5, 2018, column brings some last-minute Ontario provincial election insight.

With thanks to Geoffrey, I commend it to you and share it here:

This may be counter-intuitive, but would you believe Premier Horwath?

(published June 4, 2018 in Waterloo Region Record)

BY GEOFFREY STEVENS

“By throwing in the towel on Saturday, did Kathleen Wynne tip Thursday’s election to the NDP and make Andrea Horwath the next premier of Ontario?

“I think she did – and I think that was her intention.

“Wynne was close to tears when she announced that she knew she would not be premier after the election. Her declared intentions were to save as many endangered Liberal candidates as possible – by removing her personal unpopularity as an impediment – and to help elect enough Liberals to block either the Progressive Conservatives or the New Democrats from forming a majority government.

“Her real target, of course, was not the NDP – most of their platform could have been written by a Liberal committee. It was Conservative leader Doug Ford, whose bombastic manner, ignorance of government and simplistic policies she finds deeply offensive.

“Although most opinion polls show the NDP tied with the Tories or a percentage point or two ahead, conventional wisdom has it that the Conservatives could form a government, even a majority one, with fewer popular votes than the NDP.

“That’s because the Conservative vote, spread fairly evenly across the province, is considered more ‘efficient’ than the NDP vote, and because the over-45 crowd are deemed more likely to turn out to vote (for the Tories) on Thursday than are the millennials on whose support the NDP depends.

“That’s the conventional perspective. As of Sunday afternoon, the CBC Poll Tracker had the Conservatives one point behind in popular vote but with a 77 per cent ‘probability’ of a majority government.

“That could be the way it unfolds. However, there is another way of looking at it.

“All of the polls in the CBC tracker were completed before Wynne threw in the towel. The most recent one was from Abacus Data, which was in the field from May 29 (last Tuesday) to June 2 (Saturday morning).

“Abacus put the NDP ahead of the Conservatives by 37 per cent to 33 (with the Liberals at 23).

“The firm also asked respondents which party they would prefer to form a government. Sixty per cent said they would prefer the NDP to 40 per cent who said PC.

“Interestingly, 26 per cent of those who said they would prefer an NDP government also said they intended to vote Liberal. Whether that intention will change with Wynne’s capitulation is anyone’s guess.

In an analysis of their poll, David Coletto and Bruce Anderson of Abacus wrote:

‘Given Ms. Wynne’s admission Saturday that she won’t win the election, these voters represent a large potential pool of swing voters. Here’s what we know about them: six in ten are open to voting NDP, only 25 per cent are open to voting PC, and only one in four (26 per cent) of them would be dismayed if the NDP won the election.

‘Looking at this another way, among current Liberal supporters, almost eight in ten would prefer an NDP win over a PC win. And this holds across the province from as high as 90 per cent of Liberals in eastern Ontario to 74 per cent for those living in the GTHA.’

“At this late stage, the NDP has the largest pool of ‘accessible voters.’ But how motivated are NDP supporters? Will they turn out to vote in large numbers?

“The folks at Abacus believe they will – ‘Thirty-four per cent (of province-wide respondents) say they are certain to or likely to vote NDP compared with 29 per cent saying the same for the PCs … NDP supporters are as motivated, if not more motivated, than PC supporters.’

“So, what is going happen on Thursday? It looks as though it is going to be desperately close. I’m inclined to give the edge to Horwath, but as Coletto and Anderson observe: ‘Events over the weekend show anything can (happen), so this election is not over and predicting the outcome at this point seems like a fool’s errand to us.’ “

GEOFFREY STEVENS, author, former Ottawa columnist and managing editor the Globe and Mail, resides in Cambridge, Ontario, and teaches political science at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Guelph. He welcomes comments at geoffstevens@sympatico.ca.

 

 

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“Momentum lost, Doug Ford is reduced to promising Ontario One-Buck Beer”

GEOFFREY STEVENS writes a weekly column which he circulates to his personal distribution list and publishes each Monday in the Waterloo Region Record. His new May 28 column is another good one.

With thanks to Geoffrey, I share his current column, right here:

Momentum lost, Doug Ford is reduced to promising Ontario One-Buck Beer

(published May 28, 2018 in Waterloo Region Record)

BY GEOFFREY STEVENS

“If desire for change is the most potent force in politics these days, momentum is the most unpredictable one.

“No one can predict when momentum will begin to build, how far it will go, or when it will end.

“Heading into Sunday night’s leaders’ debate, it was clear that momentum in the Ontario election had shifted, dramatically, from the Progressive Conservatives to the New Democrats. But no one could predict whether the momentum would be enough to carry Andrea Horwath into office, or whether it would stall or even shift again before June 7.

“Horwath did not need to ‘win’ the debate, the most meaningful three-way encounter of the campaign. But she did need to withstand the double-barrelled attack of Doug Ford and Kathleen Wynne. She needed to avoid making a ghastly mistake, and to emerge still standing as an attractive alternative.

“Although recent opinion polls show a clear trend toward the NDP and away from the PCs, most of the results are close. Conceivably, the NDP could win the popular vote, yet finish behind the Tories in seats. That’s largely because party support is unevenly distributed across the province. And if the Liberals retain enough of their strength in the GTA and southwestern Ontario – as they may – the result could be the election of Conservatives in places that would otherwise go NDP. 

“To backtrack, the PCs are experts in losing momentum, having made blunders that cost them the election in 2007 under John Tory and again in 2014 under Tim Hudak.

“They are poised to three-peat in 2018.

“For months, all of the momentum was with the Tories. It gathered force under the flawed leadership of Patrick Brown, who moved the party to the left. It survived Brown’s self-immolation. It survived a defective leadership process in which Christine Elliott, the members’ choice, was denied in favour of newcomer Doug Ford, a pseudo populist, who yanked the party to the right.

“Despite a blustering campaign that betrayed the new leader’s inability to grasp provincial issues, the PCs continued to dominate the opinion polls, rising so high that a few reckless pundits predicted they would enjoy the greatest landslide since the days of Leslie Frost.

“That’s not going to happen now. The choice of Ford shapes up as the ghastly mistake that has derailed the Tory campaign.

“I think what happened about two weeks ago was that voters, initially obsessed by a desire to get rid of the Wynne government and to end 15 years of Liberal rule at Queen’s Park, started to notice the alternatives.

“Horwath appeared calm and reasonable. In Ford, they saw a leader who did not look or sound like a premier. He was too belligerent, too in-your-face, too contemptuous, too slow to reveal his agenda yet too quick to create policy on the fly. For a professed ‘man of the people,’ he displayed remarkably few people skills.

“Setting aside the issue of corruption in the nomination of party candidates – some of it Ford’s responsibility, some his predecessor’s – Ford did not present himself as a potential premier who could be trusted to govern wisely, with a steady hand and in best interest of all Ontarians, especially those who do not hail from ‘Ford Nation.’

“Speaking of that nation, while Ford may not know how to manage the province’s finances, he is sure he knows how to satisfy his base. He promised at the weekend that, as premier, he would mandate a reduction in the retail price of beer to $1 a bottle.

 “If he thinks ‘One-Buck Beer’ is the path to power in Ontario in 2018, he is either desperate or out of touch with reality. Worse, he is insulting the intelligence of the voters. They know that what Ontario needs is affordable housing, an end to ‘hallway medicine,’ decent incomes for all, and equal access to opportunity in education and employment. Life is complicated. Issues are real.

“Cheap beer for all is just a cheap election bribe.”

GEOFFREY STEVENS, author, former Ottawa columnist and managing editor the Globe and Mail, resides in Cambridge, Ontario, and teaches political science at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Guelph. He welcomes comments at geoffstevens@sympatico.ca.

 

 

 

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Reacting to the May 27th Leaders’ Debate

Yesterday morning, between 6:30 and 8:00 a.m. China time, I watched the Ontario Leaders’ Debate live on my iPad in our hotel room in Luoyang in central China. It was a great debate. If you didn’t catch it, I would urge you to see it for yourself on the internet. Undoubtedly, it’s there somewhere.

All three leaders did much better than previously. Doug Ford is “learning to play the game,” but is long-winded, bombastic, and suffers from lack of any concrete platform or experience. Watching Doug Ford talk about daycare was positively hilarious; hearing him tout his “experience” at Toronto City Hall (a downright lie) must have been embarrassing for his party. Andrea Horwath is positively spritely, quick-witted, aggressive, and clearly an talented parliamentary debater. She was onto Ford like a bulldog, and scored points against Wynne on hydro privatization, if nothing else.

Kathleen Wynne was superb. From her opening statement, where she said, “I am sorry that you don’t like me,” but, “I am not sorry” about all the things my government has done, she showed herself head and shoulders over the other two.

Ford railed on against a carbon tax; Wynne told how she has talked with business leaders about how best to deal with carbon emissions and then implemented a cap and trade system which is effective and which conservatives are happy with. (See Andrew Coyne, he agrees with Wynne.) Ford said he will consult with front line professionals about how best to reform the health care system. Wynne explained that developing policy required her government to consult with these professionals already; if Ford had done so, he might actually have a campaign platform by now. Ford complained about Ontario’s debt load. Wynne replied that the debt has been accumulated to build necessary infrastructure funding for the power system, for health care, for transit, all that previous governments neglected. Wynne challenged Andrea Horwath on her Achilles’ heel, her refusal to support “return to work” legislation against public sector unions, and gave the York University strike as an example of the need for government intervention when collective bargaining reaches an impasse where no settlement is possible. When does the public interest have to dominate over the interests of particular unions?

I was awestruck by Wynne’s cool, calm, and mature contributions to the debate. She is totally knowledgeable about all the issues on her plate, discusses them with intelligence and sensitivity, and presented as an absolutely wonderful leader who deserves our respect. Why people dislike her so is beyond me. I see her at 65 years of age, at the height of her powers. She may well endure the demands of political life and the rigours of this particular campaign because she runs daily. What a role model she is for all of us.

 

 

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“Does Andrea Horwath Have Enough Momentum to Stop Doug Ford?”

GEOFFREY STEVENS writes a weekly column which he circulates to his personal distribution list and publishes each Monday in the Waterloo Region Record. His new May 22 (after the long weekend) 2018, column is, once again, particularly timely.

With thanks to Geoffrey, I commend it to you and share it here:

“Does Andrea Horwath have enough momentum to stop Doug Ford?”

BY GEOFFREY STEVENS

“The majority government that Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives expect – and think they deserve – is slipping away as the June 7 Ontario election campaign enters its final leg.

“With the Victoria Day milestone behind them, all three parties will be campaigning frantically – the Tories to win the majority they were confident they had safely locked up; the New Democrats to grab the balance of power; the Liberals to survive.

“Three new polls report a shift in momentum from ‘desire for change’ to ‘anyone but Ford.’ The benefit goes straight to Andrea Horwath’s NDP, which is capturing virtually all of the support bleeding from Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals.

“If the trend continues, the NDP would win enough seats to hold the PCs to a minority – an NDP government being a possibility, albeit remote. The Liberals, meanwhile, are sinking ever deeper into third place.

“Earlier, most polls reported a comfortable PC lead in the range of 10 percentage points. But the lead has been cut roughly in half in the past 10 days.

“The first of new polls, by Innovative Research Group (taken May 9-12) put the PC lead over the NDP at four percentage points (35-31); a poll a few days earlier (May 7-9) by the same firm had given the Tories a 38-28 margin.

“Next, a new Ipsos/Global News poll (May 11-14) showed the PCs leading the New Democrats by five points (40-35), down from 11 points (40-29) in its previous poll one week earlier.

“Third, at the weekend, Abacus Data reported its new poll (taken May 16-18). It had the PCs (at 35 per cent) in a statistical tie with the NDP (34 per cent). The previous Abacus poll (April 30-May 6) had given the Tories a lead of six points (35-29).

“Not all polling firms agree. Mainstreet Research, which has consistently reported higher Conservative numbers than other pollsters, still had them 13 points ahead in its May 15-18 survey.

“Looking at the new polls as a group, two striking features emerge. First, so far Ford and his party have weathered the battering that the controversial new leader has taken from his opponents; the PC numbers have barely moved since the campaign began. Second, virtually all the movement has occurred between the other two parties with ‘soft’ Liberals moving to the NDP; there is no significant movement from NDP to Liberal.

“The Abacus survey, which uses a combination of random interviews plus a panel of representative voters (the panel being refreshed for each poll), offers some interesting insights. For example, the desire for change remains intense with 83 per cent of respondents seeking change after 15 years of Liberal government; that’s up three points from earlier.

“The desire for change may be the bedrock of Conservative support, but it is offset by fear of putting change in the hands of Ford, whose agenda, beyond cutting spending and reducing taxes, remains a mystery to many voters. The NDP is the beneficiary of this dichotomy.

“As David Coletto of Abacus puts it, .Only the NDP can appeal to voters who want change and those afraid of Doug Ford at the same time. Voting NDP kills two birds with one stone: you get change and stop Ford.’

“Even if popular support is evenly split, as Abacus suggests, the odds will favour the Conservatives. Their support is spread more evenly across the province than the NDP’s and they have a higher proportion of supporters aged 45-plus, who are more likely to vote than younger Ontarians.

“On the other hand, the NDP has the advantage of the largest pool of ‘accessible voters.’ Sixty-seven per cent of respondents told Abacus they were prepared to consider voting NDP, compared to 54 per cent for the PCs and 42 per cent for the Liberals.

“In Horwath, the New Democrats have the best-liked leader and her positives are growing while Ford’s are shrinking.

“At the moment, she has momentum. How far will it carry her and the NDP?”

GEOFFREY STEVENS, author, former Ottawa columnist and managing editor the Globe and Mail, resides in Cambridge, Ontario, and teaches political science at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Guelph. He welcomes comments at geoffstevens@sympatico.ca.

 

 

 

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Is the Worm Turning?

The last couple of days I have spent learning about Twitter. It’s an amazing world out there which I did not understand until this week, when I became highly motivated.

When I started my blog in 2013, I registered on Twitter to promote my posts. My website settings routinely “tweeted’ to the Twittersphere every post I put on effervescentbubble.ca. Mine was a passive attachment to Twitter which allowed me to pass the time on the streetcar or waiting for the bus scrolling through the latest tweets to see what was going on in the world.

Now, I am very anxious to master the medium… to defeat Doug Ford. Nothing scares me more than the idea that Doug Ford might be the future premier of Ontario.

And the problem is that my husband and I are leaving for our first trip to China tomorrow. For eighteen days. I will be far out of the country for most of the campaign. We return to Toronto just in time to vote on June 7th.

I hope you have read the posts I have written on the election in recent weeks, and the very fine column by Geoffrey Stevens entitled “Does Doug Ford know about Walkerton?” which we published on Tuesday. Over the next few weeks, Geoff will likely write more columns about the election which we will publish on effervescentbubble.ca in my absence.

I have installed a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on my laptop, iPad, and cellphone, in hopes that I can follow the election campaign while I am away. I hope that it will work.

When my daughter-in-law, who served with the Canadian forces in Ukraine for eight months this winter, suggested last September that I put a VPN on my computer so we could email securely while she was away, I totally failed in my effort to install it. When we did exchange a few emails in February, all the porn sites, prostitution rings, and bitcoin dealers in Ukraine and Russia flocked to my insecure email address. Ever since, the spam filter on my Gmail account has been filled daily with their wares. To get rid of them, I will eventually have to change my email address.

A long digression. To get back to the point, if the VPN works and I have access to reliable WiFi (which may be more problematic), I will be able to use Google from China and will be able to carry on with effervescentbubble.ca, as usual. If not, Geoff, my blog editor Lori Myers, and other friends are committed to publishing his election columns on effervescentbubble.ca themselves, and to get them out on the broader social media of Facebook and Twitter.

Now we come to the crunch. Social media will be definitive in this election. If we want to stop Doug Ford, we have to use Facebook and Twitter.

We have to work with all those people out there who are coming out of the woodwork against electing Doug Ford. They are doing so on a variety of Twitter sites which I have just learned about: @NeverDoug @NeverFord @VoteABC @NotDougFord @FordBeGone @NotFord4Ontario. They include lifelong Conservatives who are alarmed at how their party has been hijacked by Doug Ford and his cronies.

Individuals with a large number of followers are throwing their social media resources into the anti-Ford movement. See Nickie @MuskokaMoneybag. She’s got 6,155 followers and introduces last week’s Toronto Star story about Walkerton with the comment: “Want to see what a PC Ontario looks like!” She has 6,155 followers on Twitter.

Also Carmel @CaramelCatsby. She has more than 800 followers and a “STOP FORD” icon on her Twitter page. When I searched for “StopFord” on Twitter, I expected to find more of Carmel’s very relevant tweets. Not so. The @stopford page said “This account’s tweets are protected. Only confirmed followers have access to @stopford’s Tweets and complete profile.”

This sounded familiar.

When I was looking for a title for my post “Not Doug Ford (@NotFordOntario),” last week, a friend and I found the @AnybodyButFord site. It had a note saying, “@AnybodyButFord hasn’t tweeted. When they do, their tweets will show up here.” Really? I guessed that the PCs had blocked the obvious Twitter handle as soon as Ford became leader.

Today, two of my more recent tweets appear there. Twitter says that @AnybodyButFord has 0 tweets, 0 Following and 0 Followers. I don’t know who did what to this site, but I just pressed the “Following” button, and 1 “Follower” appeared on the site. If this site is now open, I wonder how many will join. And whether we can turn this election around.

(Caveat: I don’t know who is behind the @AnybodyButFord Twitter handle. Maybe it’s a trap which will divert people from the other grass roots movements already well underway. If you are going to use the @AnybodyButFord Twitter handle, don’t forget to tweet to the others as well).

All this in addition to the LeadNow campaign which focuses on the extreme right candidates running with Ford. A retired family doctor I know sent me their ad by Messenger this morning. I hardly know how to use Messenger. My friend is so encouraging. A couple of weeks ago she didn’t know what to do in this election. Her note this morning applauded our posts on EB and attached the LeadNow ad. I put it up on my Facebook page. I love it.

Watch to see if strategic voting against Ford doesn’t become big in the campaign. If it does, who can possibly guess the result?

 

 

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“Does Doug Ford Know About Walkerton?”

GEOFFREY STEVENS writes a weekly column which he circulates to his personal distribution list and publishes each Monday in the Waterloo Region Record. His column, entitled “Does Doug Ford Know About Walkerton?,” published yesterday, is particularly timely.

With thanks to Geoffrey, I commend it to you and share it here:

“Does Doug Ford Know About Walkerton?

“Is there an Honest Broker in the Progressive Conservative party of Ontario?

“If so, please take Doug Ford aside, sit him down, and suggest he hush up while you explain some of the facts of political life, Ontario style.

“Be patient, Honest Broker. Ford is new and a bit brash. He won’t like it when you recall what happened two decades ago when the province was won by a leader wedded to a platform of rooting out so much waste at Queen’s Park that he could simultaneously slash taxes and eliminate the deficit without, as that leader promised, touching any basic services.

“That leader, of course, was Mike Harris, premier from 1995-2002, in whose caucus Ford’s father sat for one term. Before going into some of the nasty nitty-gritty (28 hospitals closed, 6,000 nurses fired, $1 billion chopped from education), please remind Ford about Walkerton. Walkerton remains the most enduring and tragic monument to the folly of Harris years.

“Tell Ford he must read the moving account of Robbie Schnurr on the front page of Saturday’s Toronto Star. Schnurr, a former OPP officer, took his own life through doctor-assisted suicide two weeks ago, making him the most recent known victim of the Walkerton tainted-water scandal.

“It was a hot, muggy day in May 2000 when Schnurr drove to Walkerton to visit friends. While there, he chugged down a pitcher of tap water. He did not know that the municipal water supply had been contaminated with E. coli bacteria. No one in the town knew. But they knew it soon enough, as 2,300 residents, half of the town’s population, fell ill. Seven died and many others suffered permanent health damage.

“Robbie Schnurr knew it when he got home to Mississauga and collapsed, bleeding, on the floor of his condo. “I had blood coming out of both ends,” he told the Star. He lay there for two days, too weak to summon help. The next 18 years were a downward spiral: constant pain from a degenerative neurological disease, unemployment, and, as the end neared, he was unable to walk or even open his medication bottles.

“If you are still with us, Honest Broker, you might give Ford a copy of Mr. Justice Dennis O’Connor’s inquiry report into the Walkerton tragedy. The judge found that proper chlorination could have prevented the outbreak. But budget cuts had left the provincial environment ministry without enough inspectors to oversee the system of checks and balances that had previously ensured the safety of municipal water systems.

“When O’Connor’s report was released in 2002, Premier Harris went to Walkerton to express his ‘deep regrets’… [saying] I, as premier, must ultimately accept responsibility for any shortcomings of the government of Ontario. … I would also like to say that I am truly sorry for the pain and suffering that you have experienced.’

“Expressions of regret and sorrow are welcome, but they do not bring back the dead or retroactively relieve a Robbie Schnurr of a life of pain. The effects of bad government policy can be irreversible.

“It can reasonably be argued that hospital wait times would not be out of sight today or hospital beds in such dire shortage had it not been for the damage inflicted on the health system by the Harris government. It has taken a generation to recover and the recovery is not complete yet.

“It seems to me, Honest Broker, that the high purpose of government is not to cut taxes or balance budgets. It is to serve and protect its people – to keep them safe from contaminated food and water, safe from violence when they venture into streets and other public spaces, safe from accidents on dangerous highways or in shoddy buildings.

“And to serve them by making sure all citizens have an equal opportunity in terms of education, decent housing and access to public services to make their way in the world, according to their abilities.

“Does Doug Ford understand this?”

GEOFFREY STEVENS, author, former Ottawa columnist and managing editor the Globe and Mail, resides in Cambridge, Ontario, and teaches political science at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Guelph. He welcomes comments at geoffstevens@sympatico.ca.

 

 

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Second Ontario Leaders Debate on North well worth watching

Unlike the initial leaders’ debate on Monday, the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities and the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association ran a great debate from their convention in Sudbury this morning. The leaders were well-placed behind podiums, the questions thoughtfully reflected a range of northern concerns, and the format was tightly controlled to permit the leaders to speak and the audience to hear. Bravo to those responsible.

I am so glad that I was able to watch it this morning on CBC.ca/news/canada/sudbury/ontario-election-northern-debate. If you missed it, I suspect that it will be available as a podcast on the internet somewhere. When I find out where, I will update this post.

This was an excellent debate. All the leaders did well.

Doug Ford is improving. But continually resorts to his standard slogans, his complaints about “the downtown Toronto elites” and the “extreme environmentalists,” his concern “for the little guy,” “how much” he loves “the north, and doctors and nurses, firefighters and other front-line emergency staff,”  how the other parties only know “tax, tax, tax… spend, spend, spend,” and how ”help is on the way on June 7th.”

Andrea Horwath is an ardent advocate who built on the northern MPP strength the NDP now has to tell us about the “built-in northern lens” they now apply to all northern issues. She thinks a permanent Northern Committee should exist. Her general theme is that the PCs will cut and that the Libs haven’t done enough already in the 15 years they have been in office. And of course, “If you want change, don’t go from bad to worse, get change for the better.”

Kathleen Wynne showed that she is the only one of the leaders who speaks fluent French (20% of northerners are French). She shone, drawing on her depth of personal experience and her broad knowledge of the precise issues raised in the questions. When permitted to speak (as she was in this debate, unlike that on Monday), she is a goldmine of information about what her government has already done in the north, how that will continue in the future, rich in context and nuance. Very impressive.

The debate taught me a great deal about Northern Ontario. I learned about what has been done for regional infrastructure and what remains to be done. About 800 new schools, 24 new hospitals, about a net 1000 new nurses, and 400 new doctors, the strengths and weaknesses of the existing Northern Travel Grant Pass system which brings patients from small northern communities to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and Sunnybrook for the best available care. I learned how the last PC government downloaded many health-related costs to the municipalities, how the Libs have gradually resumed provincial responsibility for some of those costs, and how that process is continuing. I learned about the shortage of personal support workers. 

I learned about the Environmental Species Act and the competing concerns of environmentalists, locals and indigenous groups. I learned about developing the Ring of Fire. The objective is to extract 60 billion dollars’ worth of minerals from the ground while ensuring benefits to the locals and without degradation to the environment. The process has been slow but it is happening. New roads need to be a series of bridges. Social supports and infrastructure must be in place to sustain the development. Apparently seven mines have opened in the north in recent years, many of them centres of excellence by global standards. What Doug Ford labels “unnecessary red tape” Kathleen Wynne considers “planning to ensure that mining development is ‘done right,’ for the benefit of all.”

I learned about recent regulations affecting firefighters and their impact on small town fire departments that depend on volunteers. Kathleen Wynne acknowledges that the provincial effort to improve safety standards across the province has created costs for municipalities responsible for training. Apparently, the Tories downloaded firefighter training to the municipalities when they were last in office. Given the difficulties they now face, the LIbs have promised to upload safety training for firefighters and relieve municipalities of that cost.

I learned about the life and death (or not) of the Northlander train, about the expansion of integrated bus service across the North, and about the refurbishment of the Cochrane-Moosonee train. I could go on.

It was a superb debate which shows that these three leaders do have the capacity to debate together if they are properly placed on the platform, if the questions put to them are intelligent, and if the format is strictly controlled. Check it out.

 

 

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Not Ford Ontario (@NotFordOntario)

Why let the polls dictate the results of the election? Convince everyone that a PC majority is inevitable, people won’t bother to vote and, with a low “progressive” turnout, the Tories will come up the middle, probably with a majority government, and Doug Ford will be the next premier of Ontario. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Less than nine short weeks ago, the PCs held the most embarrassing leadership convention in national history. Then everyone was asking, “If they can’t run a leadership convention, how can they run the province?” The Interim PC Leader was talking about “the rot” in his own party. Thanks to the extreme social conservatives led by Tanya Granic Allen, Doug Ford was elected leader. Ford courted her at the leadership convention; last weekend he disavowed her. “Flipflop Ford” he should be called.

Ever since the PC convention, we’ve heard about nothing but “the polls.”

The amorphous “public desire for change,” and the early polls, are all that the PCs have going for them. They have nothing else. They have no platform. They seek a blank cheque to use for whatever they want. Their leader is a populist “outsider” with no experience in provincial politics. As was clear in the first leaders’ debate, he has no knowledge of the details needed for an intelligent discussion of provincial policy issues.

His only political experience is as a City of Toronto municipal councillor for one term. In that political gambit, he showed beyond any doubt that he lacks the personal traits needed for the second most important political office in the country.

Rob Ford had a ten-year track record of questionable competence, and still was elected mayor of Toronto. Not by his “Ford nation” base, but by many “swing” voters who were part of what Doug Ford derides as “the elites.” These included business and professional people who wouldn’t vote for Joe Pantalone (because he was NDP) and were turned off by George Smitherman (the Liberal). Many lived and/or worked downtown. They thought that Rob Ford couldn’t do any real harm and that “stopping the gravy train” was a sufficient basis to vote for him. We learned differently. We know the part Doug Ford played in that debacle. If we don’t, we’d better learn about it.

Doug Ford is quite fairly compared with Donald Trump. He may not share all Trump’s characteristics, but he is exactly the same type of politician, using the same style and the same techniques.

There are, however, two differences noted by Thomas Walkom in the Toronto Star today.

1) He is more popular than Trump: “An EKOS poll… shows Ford and his PCs scoring highest among almost every category of voter… [and] The Ford Tories led their rivals in every area of the province except Toronto (where the Liberals did best). … this means… that the Ford phenomenon is not just based on the resentment of a Trumpian working class that feels hard done by… it is far broader.”

2) “But it is also shallower…. Trump’s appeal was based… on who he was…. By contrast, Ford’s appeal is based on who he is not: He is not Kathleen Wynne. Many voters know little more about him than that. And so he is more careful than Trump. In Monday’s televised debate, he avoided saying anything unduly outrageous…. So too was he careful in his flip-flop on the green belt… for a party leader anxious to avoid being labelled an environmental troglodyte, it was politically wise.” Ditto for the contradictions within his own party. “He was happy to accept the help of outspoken social conservatives… to win the PC leadership. But, like other Tory leaders before him, he balked at the idea of allowing such social conservatives to define the party…. In short, Ford–unlike Trump–is pitching to the centre.”

THIS ELECTION IS LIKELY THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION IN MODERN ONTARIO HISTORY. The Liberals, to their credit, enacted the Ontario Election Financing Law, effective January 1, 2017. This is the strictest election financing law in Canada. It reduces the limit on individual financial donations and bans contributions from unions and corporations. It also provides that the major political parties (PCs, Liberals, NDP, and Greens) would receive quarterly allowances based on their vote in the previous election. The initial rate was set at $0.678 per vote. This is the first Ontario election under these new rules. Can you imagine if the election results on June 7th are as predicted today by the CBC Poll Tracker: PC 86 seats, NDP 25 seats, Liberal 13 seats, Green 0? That would mean that the PCs would have a permanent stranglehold on all the public financing for the NEXT provincial election, and maybe the NEXT. Of course, Ford says that he opposes public financing for political parties, and will abolish the practice when he becomes premier. Oh yeah? Once he tallies the bucks that accrue to his party if he gets a majority, you can be sure he will change his mind. Flipflop Ford changes his mind all the time.

The time has come for people like me, retired, passionate about politics but not politically active, to get off our duffs. We need to stop being depressed and start working. I don’t want to have to tell my grandchildren that I did nothing to oppose Doug Ford in the 2018 Ontario political election. I have to become engaged. Not going door to door, but using whatever social media access I have… against Doug Ford. And talking about the election with everyone I meet.

That the PCs have offered us Doug Ford as “the next premier of Ontario” has totally changed this election. The “90.3% probability” (CBC Poll Tracker, May 08, 2018) that he will secure a majority government has become the most important issue facing voters in the province today.

THIS IS NOT A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Ours is a parliamentary democracy. We have many more subtle tools at our disposal to express our concerns with the existing government than by giving a majority to a political party that does not deserve it.

If we want change, we need to work for a MINORITY GOVERNMENT (less than 63 seats). Of whatever stripe.

A PC minority would reflect badly on Doug Ford, he couldn’t run amok in office, and we would likely have another election in the not too distant future. That would not be a bad thing. The next time, the PCs may choose a leader who is appropriate for the role of premier. If the Libs got a minority, they would be chastened, and likely could work with the NDP for at least a couple of years, just as they did in the mid-’80s and prior to 2014. Ditto for a NDP plurality supported by the Liberals.

Historically, election polls have often been wrong, and the broadly based polls we hear about in the press may well be misleading. A riding-by-riding analysis indicates that redistribution of the electoral districts has created many new ridings, many seats are too close to call, and even Doug Ford may have difficulties in his own riding.

Voters who do not want Ford as the next Premier must educate themselves on their local candidates and vote strategically. In traditional Liberal ridings, voting Liberal may be necessary. In ridings where the NDP has the best chance of electing their candidate, all “progressives” ought to vote NDP. If the Greens have a chance of gaining a seat, then vote for the Greens. Where there is any chance that the PC candidate can come up the middle between two equally divided “progressive” parties, defeating Ford means voting for the party that has the best chance of beating the PCs. If this produces a minority government, so be it. Minority governments keep all parties honest.

Take heart. The election is one month away. We don’t have to wait for Ford to commit a gaffe. But we all must work for his demise in whatever way we can.

Follow my other posts on the 2018 Ontario election @marionelane and at: 

https://effervescentbubble.ca/2018/04/30/so-what-is-the-tory-platform/

https://effervescentbubble.ca/2018/05/03/the-inside-dope-on-the-2018-ontario-election-riding-by-riding/

https://effervescentbubble.ca/2018/05/06/first-televised-ontario-election-leaders-debate-monday-night/

 

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First Televised Ontario Election Leaders Debate Monday Night

The writ will drop this week and the Ontario provincial election will officially be underway. Leaders’ debates are key events in any election campaign, perhaps no more so than this year in Ontario.

The “network consortium,” CBC, TVO, Global, CTV, CHCH, CPAC, will air their “official” consortium debate on May 27th. Coming as close as it does to election date on June 7th, it will undoubtedly attract widespread interest. Tomorrow evening, CityNews is offering a preview, beating the big boys to the punch.

MONDAY, MAY 7th, from 6 to 8 p.m., CityNews will host the first televised leaders debate between the three major candidates to become Ontario’s next premier. It will air commercial free on City TV, CityNews.ca, the CityNews Apps for iOS and Android, and the CityNews Facebook page. It will also feature on OMNI2 at 6 p.m. in Punjabi, and 10 p.m. in Mandarin.

The focus of this debate will be on issues of particular concern to the city of Toronto: policing, drugs, transit, education and real estate. The leaders have already chosen the order in which they will respond to six questions posed from the audience on these issues. Each will be able to ask one other question themselves.

Although organized with apparently little advance public notice, this first debate between the key leaders is a high stakes affair. The sponsor may be a minor player in the Canadian media scene but the computer and social media exposure means that the images created in this early debate will be readily available to a wider audience in the month ahead. And the focus on non-English-speaking voters is a healthy reminder of the changing nature of the Ontario electorate.

Several weeks ago, the Toronto Black Community organized a leaders’ debate in the city. Kathleen Wynne, Andrea Horwath and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner participated. Doug Ford did not; he said he was already occupied touring Ontario’s north country.

This time, Doug Ford will be debating, in the open, unprotected by his handlers, in a format where he has not shone in the past. The pressure will be on him to show if he has any real interest in, or knowledge about, policy issues and, equally important, whether he has the capacity to be “premiersorial” (as opposed to “presidential,” in the American context). Kathleen Wynne is an experienced debater who used the consortium leaders’ debate in the last provincial election to skewer Tim Hudak’s higher polls. Can she do it again? Can she reverse the prevailing polls, which presently predict a Tory majority? Andrea Horwath will be attempting to prove herself as an “alternative agent for change.”

Already, the nature of this debate, and that projected by the “consortium network” on May 27th, has come in for criticism. Martin Regg Cohn wrote a column in the Toronto Star on Thursday entitled “Green snub shows TV in the past,” which I highly recommend. His complaint? That Mike Schreiner, leader of the Ontario Green party, has been excluded from participation.

He writes: “To their credit, the Liberals and the New Democrats have previously agreed to invite the Greens into the studio. They also issued challenges to hold several televised debates. But Ontario’s TV networks are trapped in time… running their own shows without public accountability. This isn’t the first time they have conspired to exclude the Greens, but this time the exclusion is more egregious than ever.…. Today with Ford’s Tories vowing to dismantle cap and trade, and block any form of carbon pricing to reduce global warning, excluding the Greens from the discussion will deprive voters of an important voice.”

Cohn goes on to rebut the networks’ arguments against including the Greens: that they don’t yet have a seat, that they have no prospect of winning power, that adding a fourth leader will render the debate unwieldy. He quite rightly asks: “How is a political movement supposed to make headway without having a way to be heard?” He also points out that, in earlier federal elections, “the networks… invited the Western-based Reform party and the Bloc Québecois to participate, despite their narrow regional power bases,” and that these five-person debates were not particularly unwieldy.

He writes that “the Greens have consistently run candidates in every riding in Ontario, and attracted significant voter support in past elections, ranging as high as 8 per cent. That’s far more than any fringe party.” He adds that “there is one new factor that changes the calculation. Like the three biggest parties, the Greens receive a per-vote public subsidy, as part of the campaign finance reforms brought in before the election to curb the influence of corporate and union donors… it is manifestly unfair to deprive [the Greens] of the chance to attract voter support—and the financing that follows—during a debate. It is also anti-democratic to deny voters the chance to scrutinize the performance of any publicly subsidized party.”

I agree totally. Leadership debates are important. A well-functioning democracy (a rising concern in this age) depends on an informed electorate. Excluding the Greens is a betrayal of the professional responsibility and the trust that the media owes the public. To CityNews and the “network consortium,” I say: “Get with the times.”

I also want to know: Is it the networks who are responsible for excluding the Greens? Or have the PCs made it a condition of their participation? If so, that would be consistent with Doug Ford’s position that he will abolish the public subsidy for political parties. Whatever else one might say about the Ontario Liberals, they brought in Canada’s toughest political financing regulation, with the political party subsidy as the quid pro quo for curbing corporate and union donations. This will be the first Ontario election run under the new rules.

***** ADDENDUM: The second televised leaders’ debate will be on northern issues.  It will be live streamed at CBC.ca/Toronto at 11:00 am today, Friday May 11th.  Short notice but probably well worth watching. 

 

 

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The Inside Dope on the 2018 Ontario Election, Riding by Riding

If you are concerned about the upcoming provincial election, you owe it to yourself to get beyond the polls and the media’s painfully inadequate coverage. There is a third source which I have just discovered. It’s called the Election Prediction Project and is found at www.electionprediction.com.

The website offers an analysis of the local factors affecting the election campaign and the likely results in each riding. It lists the candidates in each riding (or lack thereof, even at this late stage). It describes the nature of each constituency, and earlier voting records (both provincial and federal).

Particularly useful is the information it provides about the many ridings reconfigured since the last provincial election. You will find a list of the incumbents affected by the redrawn electoral boundaries, and the previous results in the old ridings transposed to the new ones. There have been significant changes in many ridings since the last election and, if you are anything like me, you may not know the precise details of how the changes affect your riding.

Apart from these mechanics, the website is a window into current conditions and personalities running in each riding. Ordinary members of the public offer periodic submissions, based on their insight and experience, about what is going on locally and who they expect to prevail. The rules for posting require that each submission give some concrete reason for the view expressed and conform to specified standards. We cannot know the political persuasion of the authors, but diatribes and ideological debates are discouraged. Reading the posts is like sitting in on a discussion among local political junkies about the ridings they know best. Based on the submissions posted to the site, a panel of editors of diverse political backgrounds predicts the likely result.

For political junkies like me, and for anyone who wants to understand what is happening at the riding level in this election, The Election Prediction Project is invaluable.

There is a map breaking down the province and allocating each constituency to one of five regions in the province: The City of Toronto (416), The 905, Eastern Ontario, Southwestern Ontario, and Northern Ontario. You can find your own and neighbouring ridings, and other key ridings of interest across the province.

The latest “Current Prediction” (effective 2018-04-28) put the projected results in seats as follows: Liberal 20, Progressive Conservative 49, New Democratic 16, and Too Close to Call 39, for a total of 124 ridings. Given the polls we hear, even 39 seats considered “too close to call” surprised me. That offers some hope for a variety of scenarios.

Just to see how the website works, let’s look at Beaches-East York, which is a Liberal seat as yet too close to call. Apparently, the strong NDP candidate who ran there last time is not running this time, and, absent strong local candidates, this is said to be a riding that could vote for a leader like Wynne over Horwath. On the other hand, the close split in the vote last time could bleed votes from the Liberal incumbent to the NDP, making this riding an NDP pickup.

Or, take Mississauga Centre, where Tanya Granic Allen secured the PC nomination last week. This is a new riding cobbled together from four earlier constituencies, all of which voted Liberal in the last provincial election. If the post-Ford-win polls correctly show a massive switch to the Tories, this riding and its adjacent seats could turn on a dime and the Liberals could be wiped out in the region. But this riding is not considered socially conservative and many Tories are annoyed that the new leader overturned the nomination of the previous PC candidate in favour of a “parachute” candidate.

Check out the discussion of Etobicoke North (Doug Ford’s riding) and Don Valley West (Kathleen Wynne’s riding). Both could be tight races, depending on who turns out to vote. 

***** ADDENDUM: Yesterday’s NOW published a very interesting analysis called “Ontario Election Watch: Your Primer on 20 Make-or-Break Races in Toronto and the 905,” including a piece about “Why is Doug Ford Running Scared?” They have also launched an online hub at nowtoronto.com/election2018 to monitor all 124 ridings across the province leading up to June 7th. As they say, “Now more than ever, it’s important to be informed.” I agree and intend to bookmark it.

 

 

 

 

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So What is the Tory Platform?

If you are anything like me, relentless media predictions of a Tory majority in the upcoming provincial election, with Doug Ford as the next premier, are super depressing. 

“A desire for change” is seen as sufficient excuse to elect a government led by a novice of questionable reputation with a penchant for divisiveness and “doing his own thing.” Chosen by courting the extreme social conservatives in his own party, his first action on assuming the leadership was to shred his party’s platform unilaterally. Apparently “The People’s Guarantee” was a personal frolic of the discredited Patrick Brown and did not represent the considered intentions of the Ontario Conservative Party. If it didn’t, then what does? What does the Tory party with its new leader offer to the people of Ontario? Apart from some vague notion of “change,” we’ve heard nothing. Nada. It’s been two months since the Tory party leadership changed and still no platform.

Only a general call “to find efficiencies” in government. What efficiencies? To what programs and services? Doug Ford and the Tories do not say.

But Ford does promise to “fire the C.E.O. of Ontario Hydro,” which business commentators universally dismissed as “naïve, amateurish, and of no utility” in solving the problems at Ontario Hydro. And he promises to “audit the finances of the Liberal government,” an exercise independently completed last week as required by legislation passed by the Liberals themselves and now biting them back before the election itself. But if the Libs went into greater debt than they claimed to finance a reduction in hydro prices, Ford will add to the debt by promising to reduce hydro bills by a further 12%. Duh?

He has absolutely no policy on the environment, but will oppose any carbon tax, and will cut the highly successful cap-and-trade system, which is earning good money for green initiatives in Ontario. And he promises to “shut down” the newly opened drug addiction clinics, which all medical, legal, and law enforcement experts across the country support. Oh yes, and, despite years of parental and professional consultation, he will scrap the existing sex education curriculum for Ontario students. He has to do that, because he must repay the Granic Allen social conservatives who gave him the leadership.

Doug Ford knows nothing about provincial policy and has a track record at the municipal level of disliking the detail and collaboration that good policy development requires. What he seeks is a blank cheque to do what he wants, whatever it might be. Leave it to Ford to “stop the gravy train” in Toronto (and in Ontario), just as Americans were to rely on Donald Trump to “drain the swamp” in Washington.

As it turned out, there wasn’t a gravy train in Toronto, the executive in the White House is a revolving door, and Washington DC is full of Republicans “swamped” by the unpopularity of their own ostensible leader. Doug Ford may not be totally analogous to Donald Trump, but the Ontario Conservative Party has sold its soul to the same inexperience and populist bombast as did the Republicans in the United States two years ago. Former Ontario Premier Bill Davis must be appalled at what his strong and principled political party has become. 

If there is a need to curb the current Liberal government, there are other ways to do so than by giving a majority government to a political party that its own interim leader, less than three months ago, said was full of “rot.”

Have you noticed how the Tories are reining in their new leader, clearly scared silly that he might go off message? There is a Tory campaign bus, but the media has been denied access to it. “The media can attend my campaign meetings,” says Doug Ford, but he won’t facilitate their being there. That reminds me of how Mayor Rob Ford, with the support of his enabling brother Doug, denied the Toronto Star notice of the mayor’s agenda. Why? Because the Toronto Star exposed Rob Ford for what he was. Informed journalism is not what the Fords wanted when they were in earlier political office. And apparently not when Doug Ford is running for provincial election either.

When the Tories get their act together, and Doug Ford can be brought up to speed, maybe they will resurrect “The People’s Guarantee” which Ford so abruptly rejected. Saturday’s announcement that the PC’s are proposing a tax-rebate plan for child care may be the beginnings of that. If and when they do, we can look at their platform in greater detail. For the moment, the Tories are offering a pig in a poke, and one wonders why so many people are willing to buy in.

 

 

 

 

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