Archive for the ‘Municipal Politics’ Category

The Copenhagen Syndrome.

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

You have probably heard of the Stockholm Syndrome. The Copenhagen Syndrome is only different in that it is for people to learn to love bicycles–instead of the people keeping them captive. The Copenhagen Syndrome is prevalent in Toronto these days because nobody seems to understand the difference in climate and topography between the two cities.

Toronto is a winter city. I will never forget the winter of 1944 when we got more than a metre of snow in one dump and it took us two months to clear all our streets. You certainly could not have gone far with a bicycle back then. Yet, people insist that Torontonians should ride bicycles just like those in the Danish capital.

Copenhagen is a fun city. If you have never been there, I can assure you Copenhagen is beautiful city with a climate tempered by being by the straits connecting the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. It has a very busy year-round harbour. Many people ride bicycles around the city of over half a million because it is a mainly flat island with few hills to challenge the cyclists.

Yes, Copenhagen gets some snow each winter but nothing that stays very long. There is nowhere near as much snow and ice as Toronto. Rainfall is another matter but Danes seem very stoic about getting wet. I always enjoyed my visits to the city, yet never had time to ride a bicycle while there.

But Toronto has more obstacles to pleasant biking than just rotten weather. From the level of Lake Ontario to the highest point of land in Toronto is the equivalent of trying to ride a bicycle to the top of a 40-storey building. No matter how many ramps you used, that is a tough trip. (By the way, the highest point in the city is at York University on Keele Street. It is all downhill from there.)

But in a city four times the size of Copenhagen, with all Toronto’s hills and valleys, it is mainly children who ride bicycles on their neighbourhood streets. We never did develop a culture of bicycles, cars and trucks sharing the main roads.

And Torontonians are not doing well at it today. If you want to protect cyclists from getting ‘doored’ or run over, you need to get them off the busy downtown streets. We get all types of lost tourists driving in that area and they have no understanding why cyclists have any rights to the roads.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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“All politics is local.”

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

The adage about all politics being local is usually credited to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Tip O’Neill many years ago. All he was saying was that if you do not know what your voters have stuck in their craw, there is little you can do for them. You always have to assume that politicians have their own objectives but if they can share their objectives with their voters, they have a much better chance of being elected.

This occurred to me on receiving a piece of literature the other day from a new candidate in my ward. That provides the ward with four candidates for councillor from which to choose on October 22. I admit that I happen to like the current ward two councillor. Rose Romita was new to council in the last municipal election and I gave her a tip to improve her campaign. I have only talked to her once since then and I noted that she seems to be settling in well.

But this first piece from her main competitor for the next council was a bit of a surprise. It was four color, right out of the conservative party handbook and even used the tory blue. The last item I read about this guy was on the event of his retirement earlier this year, from the senior staff at city hall here in Barrie. After 28 years working for the city, this guy wants to double dip. I am sure he has a healthy pension coming to him from the city and he wants to add a councillor’s stipend.

I live two blocks from Barrie city hall but as far as this guy is concerned, I live in a different world. I watched him sometimes at city council meetings and during a few presentations to council over the years. He always struck me as being at the slow end of the throttle. And if I have had one complaint over the years about Barrie municipal management, they seem to have a single speed: slow.

The truth is, they do not like any ideas but their own. They really do not want citizens to add to their workload. Their epitaph is enshrined at the south-west corner of Kempenfelt Bay: it is the Allandale train station. This restored historic site sits as a permanent display of wasted taxpayer money. The millions spent on this unused site are an embarrassment to all.

And that brings us back to the candidate, the former city official. He was hired 28 years ago as a water resources engineer. It might explain why there are so many businesses supplying bottled water to the citizens of Barrie.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Toronto’s urgent need for unity.

Saturday, August 4th, 2018

It is a daunting prospect. No matter who is elected to what position in Toronto in the October municipal election, the Ford conservatives will be in their face for the next four years. And the only way to face it is with a united front. And to do that, you have to have a group running for mayor and most of the councillor spots on a united ticket.

You do not have to call it party politics. You could call it Tory’s Troublemakers and get the job done. What you want is to elect the mayor and at least 13 councillors who agree to giving Toronto some good government and really serving Torontonians. Since the Ford crew at Queen’s Park are remnants from the far right of the conservative party in Ontario, you might not want to identify as conservatives.

But bear in mind, your major problem will be the potential for the NDP to unite behind a mayoralty candidate such as Jennifer Keesmaat. While Doug Ford has left them few wards with easy wins for the NDP, that is still the group likely to provide the opposition at city hall.

And you definitely do not want to annoy any liberal candidates. If you could combine the liberal and conservative support for Tory’s Troublemakers, it should give you a majority on city council. It will be your chance to put through some very positive programs for the city.

There is not a lot of time to put this together but you should be able to put your candidates in a room and work out a common platform that you can all support. You might have your candidates bring supporters to an open meeting where they could pass judgement on the plans. You can invite the media to see your hard work and get a major boost for your platform and your candidates. And if you play your cards right, you will beat the NDP.

Ad hoc parties are a tenuous approach but, in time you could grow your group into a Toronto party that can stand up to Queen’s Park and negotiate better arrangements for the city.

The truth is that the threat of secession from Ontario is spurious. Toronto needs Ontario just as much as Ontario needs Toronto. They just need to see the need for each other.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Dougie doesn’t do distress.

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

At the end of April this year, a truck was driven down Yonge Street in north Toronto on a quest to murder. The driver succeeded in killing 10 people and injuring 14. Mayor John Tory was there on the scene soonest, Premier Kathleen Wynne came. NDP leader Andrea Horwath came. The prime minister of Canada came. Doug Ford, the man running for premier of Ontario on the slogan ‘For the People,’ was too busy campaigning.

And then we had the random shootings in Greektown on Toronto Danforth. Mayor Tory was there soonest. As premier, Doug Ford read a statement to the legislature. And since the prime minister was coming at the time of the funerals, the premier showed up for a vigil.

This is one of the toughest parts of the politician’s job. It requires that fine balance between showing your concern and appearing to be taking advantage of it for the exposure. Mayor John Tory does it well. Maybe it is because he gets more fires and shootings and other types of disasters in a large city. He also has the constant down-in-the-mouth expression of a St. Bernard. He was born to be a first responder.

But Doug Ford does not do concern well. He lacks empathy. He is too self-centred to feel for others. No doubt he has to let his staff pick the timing, prepare his off-the-cuff remarks and tell him how to dress and how to look. It is not in his DNA.

But nobody wants that brash loud-mouth at quiet moments of contemplation anyway. Doug Ford’s problem is that he only has an on-off switch. There is no volume control.

Ford’s attitude seems to permeate the entire conservative caucus at Queen’s Park. They applaud the brashness of their leader. They appear to revel in their party’s ignorance of climate change. They share the myopia when it comes to the growing demand for gun controls. And at a time of increasingly horrendous criminal attacks on complete strangers, they concur on the throttling back of funds for mental health solutions.

At a time of growing need for better government, Ontario has opted for ignorance. When better solutions should be sought to growing needs in fields of provincial jurisdiction, Ontario voters have chosen comic-book heroes. This is not a time to be proud of what we have done.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The Patrick Brown legacy lives on.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

It is like a bad smell that does not go away. There was some relief in Barrie during the period when Patrick Brown was living the high life in Toronto as leader of the Ontario conservatives. It was the complaints by two young, unidentified Barrie ladies that caused him to resign as conservative leader. And it was the vindictiveness of fellow conservative MPPs that convinced him not to run to replace himself as leader or to contest the Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte provincial electoral district as a conservative.

But like a bad penny, Patrick Brown keeps showing up—recently as a home owner in Mississauga—then as a candidate for Peel Region chair—and then, just as suddenly—candidate for mayor of Brampton.

Patrick Brown of Barrie is a political conniver. Some people think he is a pretty good ‘retail politician’ in the sense that he knows all the angles to work on voters. Yet he abuses those angles. He is slippery and has little respect for truth. He is only in it for himself.

Brown spent years in Ottawa and never made a contribution to his party policy or on behalf of his constituents. On free votes he voted against women’s rights and to re-open abortion arguments.

The old political term for Brown is “carpetbagger.” He little cares for the needs of Peel region voters but he figured to make around $200,000 per year in the newly elected role as regional chair. He took a quick look around when premier Ford slammed close that opportunity and selected mayor Linda Jeffrey of Brampton as the only potential opportunity. He has no personal connection with Brampton but figures, in the current times, his being a conservative and Jeffery being a former provincial liberal cabinet minister gives him a chance at winning. He knew better than to go after Bonnie Crombie in Mississauga (where he now lives) who has done a good job replacing a retired Hazel McCallion.

What reminded me of this was Brown’s acolyte, Alex Nutall MP, who is very proud of taking over Brown’s role at Hockey Night in Barrie this year. I think Royal Victoria Hospital and the other charities getting involved should get a forensic audit of this event in recent years. They might not know the kind of legacy to which they have tied themselves.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The Ford Follies fumble forward.

Sunday, July 29th, 2018

To be truthful, I had a hard time controlling my laughter reading the revelations on premier Doug Ford’s plans for Toronto and the municipal elections in Ontario. I am now convinced that Dougie is dumber than former Ontario premier Mike Harris. It was Harris who amalgamated Metro Toronto and left it in deplorable disarray 20-years ago.

If the Ford followers at Queen’s Park were truthful, they would mostly admit that it is high time that the good burghers of Toronto paid the piper. Those from outside the GTA are convinced that it is Toronto that sucks up all the good air (and money) of this province.

And if Dougie has something of a vendetta going with arch enemies such as Patrick Brown and Steven Del Duca, well why not get even? With the two of them looking for easy election as chair of Peel and York regions respectively, they were looking for an easy run at a lucrative job. This was to be the first public election for those positions and they both thought it would be a breeze. Those guys know something that has been kept secret in municipal elections for far too long: name recognition wins. Incompetence hardly matters.

The laugh might be on Dougie though for cancelling the chairs’ elections as Patrick Brown raced to file a nomination for mayor of Brampton. (Brampton is a city of just over a half million above Mississauga and west of Toronto.) Hopefully, the last laugh will be for Brampton mayor Linda Jeffrey, who will be no pushover. If that putz Brown looks like he is giving Linda any trouble, this old liberal apparatchik will be heading down to Brampton, volunteering to help her.

But the Toronto situation is providing the best laughs. Imagine the grin on John Tory’s face when former city planner Jennifer Keesmaat announced she is running against him. She might be the favourite of the bike-riding NDP but those people have their own problems.

Can you imagine those vaunted NDPers, Mike Layton and Joe Cressy, going head to head for a single downtown ward? I can hardly guess who will blink first but someone will have to step in to resolve that one.

No doubt some enterprising lawyer is dashing between already-nominated candidates putting together a lawsuit to cover monies they have already spent in now changed wards. Campaigns have to be completely re-evaluated and some will be abandoned in frustration.

The question is how are the voters going to accept this mess? I think we all need to listen to the voters very carefully.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Doug is doubling down.

Friday, July 27th, 2018

Is it fun yet watching our new Ontario premier doubling down with our money? Doug Ford has given the back of his hand to all the efforts in the recent years to protect our environment. He wants to take us back to what was the middle ages of sex education. You would think the damn fool would take it easy at first. After all, he has four years to really screw up.

But Dougie is a man on a mission. He has sent the unions at York University back to their classrooms in anger. His solution was to solve nothing. He left the blame on the university board when it belonged on Queen’s Park He is afraid the people of Ontario will find out he is a fraud.

He has Queen’s park settling in for a rare summer session. He wants to see just how much consternation he can cause. He is a man on a mission. He has a city to consternate and political enemies to obliterate.

This will not be a time of well thought-through improvements. It will be a time of slash and burn. The barbarians have breeched the gates.

Education and health will lead the way in the tumbrils to the public pillories. They account for the bulk of Queen’s Park expenses and must bear the brunt of the cost cutting.

And we already know that there will be little of the truth told as these ideologues struggle with the realities of multi-billion cost overruns. We already saw the truth trampled as Dougie pronounced that there was no cost in getting the Hydro One chair to leave. Some of this conservative government contract cutting will take years to wend its way through a slowed and under-funded court system.

The reality is that Dougie has absolutely no idea what the conservative’s hatred of clean energy efforts will cost to liquidate. Will the occasional wind turbine be left turning in the wind as a nostalgic note from the past?

But where Dougie will really sell his soul is in getting even with his municipal enemies from Toronto. There is more to come than to just reducing the number of councillors and settling old scores.

And then there is that promise of ‘a buck a beer’ and even buying beer in convenience stores. Hopefully that will be resolved in what is left of this simmering hot summer in Ontario.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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When “anti-social sewer rats” are black.

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Only the Toronto Star would pay good money for a resident reporter as an apologist for Toronto’s black community. When an angry Toronto mayor John Tory recently called some thugs “anti-social sewer rats” for shooting two young girls, it was hardly a racist comment. Nor do you expect the Star to defend the shooters as just “disadvantaged and misunderstood” black kids.

And why should we have to point out to the Toronto Star editors that the “B” in black community is not normally capitalized?

I grew up on those same streets in downtown Toronto. Your origins do not define you and do not give us that crap that being black is being over policed. Just be a skinny little kid in hand-me-down clothes and you will find out what over policing is all about.

The star’s resident black apologist is a great admirer of those people calling themselves after the American organization “Black Lives Matter.” It seems she does not think they should have to do anything to help the black community but stick to their own agenda. Well if I thought for one minute that those people gave a damn about the problems faced by disadvantaged Toronto blacks, I would be on their side.

But their agenda is power. Their interference in the LGBT community’s Pride Parade was inexcusable. And as incompetent as I might consider Toronto’s police chief, I do not see their complaints as being constructive.

It is like the Star apologist’s statement about the “sweeping anti-blackness in society.” She thinks these black activists are “provocative, courageous, (and) profoundly committed to anti-racism.”

In my humble opinion, I think these people are racist. I think they are using color to build barriers instead of bridges. I think they are trouble makers. And the Toronto Star writer seems to suffer from the same delusions.

While the Star writer denies being a member of this black activist group, she seems to go out of her way to praise them.

But her rants are opinion. She is obviously paid for her opinion. It is just that it is misleading and not in the interests of the community she believes she is supporting—and the community the Toronto Star believes it is supporting.

We all need to worry more about the marginalized in our society. They come in all colors, they come in a wide range of mental capabilities and they are all ages. They are all human.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Changing politics in Toronto.

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

We are seeing increased efforts in Toronto to end the frustrations and lack of direction for the city. What we are seeing though is a mishmash of solutions that are counterproductive and going nowhere. Most of the action is coming from interest groups that in themselves have nowhere near enough muscle or organization to win a single one of the 47 individual wards in the city. What is needed is political parties.

As it stands today, the new democratic party has a strong base in downtown wards and the conservatives and the liberals fight it out for footholds in the suburbs. The fact that all three parties disavow their winners as well as losers, leaves the city without realistic programs, inadequate direction and confused management. The city is in a permanent come-from-behind position.

And it is in the traditional political parties’ interest to keep it that way. The city is a creature of the provincial government. Conservative mayor John Tory was at Queen’s Park the other day laughing it up with the new conservative premier of Ontario and it is not going to do the city the least bit of good. In fact, if Doug Ford does what he really wants to do with Toronto, the city is facing a very sad situation over the next four years.

Anything Ford can download on Ontario cities, he will. The former Harris conservatives were amateurs. Ford will download everything but money. We really have no idea what Ford has on his hit lists—but we are going to find out, the hard way.

And those dumb downtown NDPers might as well get on their bicycles and get the hell out of ground zero. And if you thought the one-stop subway to Scarborough was the ultimate disaster in urban infrastructure ignorance, you should prepare yourself for fresh enlightenment. Premier Ford has some nascent thoughts about taking over the Toronto subways and interconnecting them with regional networks in Peel, York and Durham. They will probably tie in well with his new green belt housing developments.

It is too late for this coming election but if people in Toronto started organizing now and building a positive platform, a good mayoralty candidate could probably get your party elected in the 2022 municipal election. Name the party after William Lyon Mackenzie if you like. Just remember you have to build a big tent party. Make sure you have a good balance of promises and solid candidates for both downtown and suburban wards.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Patrick Brown is back.

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

The wife was worried with my unrestrained laughter over breakfast. “Brown is back,” I finally managed to tell her. It was word in the Toronto Star that Barrie’s own Patrick Brown is running for chair of Peel Region that had sent me into paroxysms of laughter.

She did not think it was funny at all. Her first question was “Could he win?” I thought about that for about half a minute and nodded. “Yes.”

It is the same area in which Brown launched his scheme to win the leadership of the Ontario conservatives. The Hindu temples that he used as base to link all areas of sub-continent immigrants in Ontario are in the Brampton area which is the heart of Peel Region.

While I am sure my old friend Hazel McCallion, former mayor of Mississauga, could make short work of a putz such as Brown, you have to remember she is 97. He has a good chance in a large field of mediocre candidates such as those already nominated.

A four-year sinecure as Peel chair, paying about $175,000 per year plus lots of expense money, would please Mr. Brown no end. He could even use it as a calculated catbird seat for his future ambitions in Ontario politics.

Brown’s ‘tell-nothing’ book should be out in time for the October 22 election. It will probably be a rather fictionalized version of events leading to his downfall as Ontario conservative leader.

But neither can it include discussion of the reports from the young ladies who caused his downfall. That is the stuff of a lawsuit with CTV television. I expect the Bell Canada lawyers are going to be digging into that problem soon enough and Mr. Brown might have an undisclosed, but still handsome sum, to put aside for a rainy day.

I understand that Patrick has a ‘fiancé’ these days to keep him out of bars where underage ladies might be skulking in wait for him.

Just what he sees as the opportunity in the Peel regional chair eludes me. Admittedly, Paul Godfrey, went from regional chair in Toronto to some heavy wheeling and dealing in the newspaper business that has left him in a quite respectable position in which to retire.

But like in any other skulduggery, it is always a question of following the money. Running for regional chair is not an inexpensive undertaking. From the lakefront in Mississauga to the northern tip of Caledon is not a hop, skip and jump. There are about 1.4 million residents in that area and it keeps growing. You do not run for chair on a ward-healer’s budget.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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