Archive for the ‘Municipal Politics’ Category

In search of leadership.

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

This is not as simple as Diogenes with his lamp, searching for an honest man. There are many possibilities in life for leadership and many who believe they can fill the need. In Canada, we tend to assume that when the need arises, a leader will step forward. We could not be more wrong in our assumptions and our best example of this is our municipalities—where, in most cases, we lack the organizational structures that can support leadership.

I was thinking of this today because of the ongoing complaints of the Toronto news media about where Toronto Mayor John Tory is leading the city. Mind you, the term leading might be inappropriate in this situation. It is a task more like herding.

In Toronto today, the voters elect a mayor citywide and 44 councillors in their individual wards. While most of these people are or become affiliated with this or that political party, there is no party platform or discipline to hold them accountable. They run on their own platform in their own neighbourhood. They are accountable only to their own voters. And if that is more than 35 per cent of the potential voters, it is considered a high turnout.

Watching various mayors put together their coalitions over the years, it seemed to be more of exercise in personality than of politics. They made it personal. It was more a moral persuasion than political party discipline.

A recent report on Toronto City Hall commissioned by the Toronto Sun Newspaper hardly solved the problems. A major recommendation was that council could have more time for the important stuff if it delegated more community problems to the existing community councils. Nobody seems to have pointed out that this would be moving the city backward.

The newspaper’s plan also included somebody having to write consumer-friendly write-ups on issues that the council was bringing up for debate—and here we thought that was the role of the news media!

Actually, nothing is going to improve on the municipal front until a provincial leader realizes that the lack of political accountability in Toronto is the biggest problem. This true leader will liberate the city’s serfs.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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What is the price of one child?

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

Children are returning to school at this time of year. In our wisdom, we Canadians have two types of school boards. (In most provinces.) We have a Catholic Board and a public board. The Catholic board must be the junior kindergarten of politics. It is where the wannabe politicians go to make their mistakes.

And they made a lulu of a mistake recently. The Catholic Board in Toronto caved in to unreasonable pressure and blocked the police and their school resource officer program from their schools until they get around to discussing the program at their next meeting. They were caving in to the demands of people with a bias a mile wide, using American statistics and who are not interested in the needs of our children.

These people are claiming that “putting police officers in schools puts vulnerable and ‘racialized’ students in danger…” Oh! What about the vulnerable children it helps? And who is really ‘racializing’ these students?

The only people we know who are forcing racial stereotyping are these writers in Toronto who write ‘black’ with a capital ‘B.’ They are the people who go to the Police Services Board to cause trouble and radicalize the proceedings. They are not there for the children. They are there to make a name for themselves. And they might not like the names they are earning.

These writers, who all seem to be black (without a capital ‘B,’ dear editor), are using American statistics to make their case. When they try to import these statistics, their case fails.

What about the kids we hear saying of the program that “That cop is my friend.”? That is the report that makes the case for the program. For every child who is told he or she should feel threatened by the police in schools, there must be two or three who feel safer. Who are we serving in these cases?

Frankly, if at least one child’s life is saved from getting involved with gangs and guns because of the police program, we should feel strongly about supporting it as citizens.

If we err in this, let us err on the side of the children.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Fear of Ford.

Monday, September 4th, 2017

Is he, or isn’t he? Is Doug Ford running for the mayoralty in Toronto next year or for the Progressive Conservatives in the provincial election? And who cares anyway? Oddly enough that is a matter that is mainly of concern to provincial politicians. Incumbent Mayor John Tory, who wants another term, could care less. The fact is that nobody expects Doug Ford to discover a magic elixir for winning in politics.

Doug Ford will let us all know where he is headed at Ford Nation’s annual backyard barbeque later this week. The reality is that Doug Ford reminds us of the old story about the erstwhile fisherman who goes to the fishing hole where his brother could always catch fish. He spends a day fishing with no luck. He is giving up when a fish jumps above the water and calls out: Where’s your brother?

Well Rob Ford is dead and Doug Ford in no fisherman. And Ford Nation is just a bunch of freeloaders.

The reality of the story, as any knowledgeable political apparatchik can tell you, is that Doug Ford is appreciated for his money and his name but he is a political liability. If there is fresh dog poop anywhere within range of the political Doug Ford, you can be sure he will step in it.

Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown is running a fragile campaign into next June’s provincial election and he hardly needs a loose cannon like Ford on his team. The younger Ford brother is a guy who thinks of Donald Trump as his hero. Brown wants the kind of candidates who can slide in under the radar. His campaign will be built on vilifying the Liberals and creating a massive vote against them. It is the only way a putz like him can get elected.

Patrick Brown is the type of candidate whom nobody has ever voted for as an individual. He is a wasted vote. He offers nothing other than a vague support for his party and not being the other guy. He is a user. And he is dishonest. He took the leadership of Ontario’s Conservatives by skulduggery—signing up temporary members of the party and paying for most of their memberships. His hero is former Ontario Premier Mike Harris.

But as much as Doug Ford would worry Patrick Brown, John Tory could care less about him. Lord knows, John Tory is not the perfect mayor. It is that Doug Ford is the kind of candidate who makes John Tory look good.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Leadership Lost.

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

One of many theories in politics is that the aspiring politico needs to pick a cause. Years ago, I heard a newspaper reporter advise a young Liberal to latch on to environmental issues. It was an emerging issue at the time and he took the advice and went on to a number of years in city politics. If he had timed his run better, he might have made it to the mayoralty, where he could have capped a successful career.

There are many issues in politics that need advocates and if your timing is right there might just be an issue out there to take you to the top. Lord knows, we need leaders. There are many who think they are the little engine that could but the reality is that there are really only few who have the timing, the news sense, the determination, the issues and the energy needed.

And we should also mention sponsorship. Few of us have the deep pockets needed to sustain us during the development days needed for new issues. You should always remember that the good issues are the ones that are easy to fund-raise for. And it is always best to have a little money from each of many than lots of money from one.

I was thinking of all of this as I was reading of novice advocate hopeful Desmond Cole in Toronto. Cole has been looking for a cause for some time but whether he can build any momentum is questionable. He seems to enjoy his harangues for their vitriol instead of their winning.

Cole seemed at one time to have joined with the group in Toronto who call themselves Black Lives Matter. Maybe he realized before they did that their obvious hate for Toronto police and foolish abuse of the Pride Parade were alienating their own black community.

Cole’s haranguing and obstructionism at Toronto Police Services Board meetings is hardly winning him any support. It is a tough issue to capitalize on when the black Chief of Police just sits there looking puzzled throughout his complaints.

Toronto’s Police Services Board is desperately in need of new ideas and cogent arguments. At the last meeting Cole and some other trouble makers wanted to rant about school resource officers. They need to realize that this system of police participation in the community is working and the community hardly needs people who just want to throw rocks.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Picking preferred politicians.

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

This is not really about Donald Trump. It was just when reading the complaints of an academic about the choice of Trump that it became obvious that all he was saying was that we need to have smarter voters.

In many years of working on elections for political parties or for the returning officer, you do spend a great deal of time answering really dumb questions. Some people suggest having a little quiz for each voter to make sure they know the purpose of their vote. It is assumed that, in turn, we would have politicians elected who know what they are doing.

But not everyone would ever agree to that. Democracy means that the people have their say. It also means that any idiot can vote and should. It is why some of us object to Justin Trudeau’s elitist approach to appointing senators. Why cannot stupid people be represented in the senate?

Proof that we should not just have knowledgeable people vote was demonstrated the other day here in Barrie. Our city council members chose one of their own to be the city’s new financial head and then decided to choose someone to replace him as councillor for his ward. They were opposed to spending money on a by-election and decided to just pick someone to keep the council seat warm for the next 16 months.

They then had 32 citizens apply for the job. They had everyone from the Town Fool (100 to 1 shot) to one of their favourite reporters (5 to 1 in the morning line). If they had an election it would have meant expense and hard work for a few smart operators. There might have been 16 contenders running in a by-election but it would have quickly been narrowed to two or three potential winners.

But the obvious choice of council members was a former councillor from the ward area whom the councillors felt they could trust. He narrowly beat out another former councillor from a different ward. There were at least four former councillors vying for the seat. It would have provided them a platform to return to politics. Their only problem was they were asking people who know them to choose them. Politicians usually do better with people who do not know them too well.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The poop power in waste water.

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

The one thing for sure is that some reader somewhere is going to give me heck for talking about fecal matter instead of politics. It seems that everyone is expert when it comes to human waste. It was delightful to read though the other day the Ontario’s environmental commissioner wants the politicians to get off their rears and take advantage of the energy producing capabilities of our excrement.

You probably did not know that your daily dump has latent energy. Neither do our politicians. Back a half dozen years, an environmentalist friend and I took the case to our city council here in Barrie. The city was in the process at the time of greatly expanding its waste water plant and we thought it would be smart for the city to use some of the energy it was wasting. We scoped out the potential and we figured that the wasted energy from the expanded plant, along with back-up natural gas, could provide heating and air conditioning to more than a dozen high-rise condominiums in the area.

We were talking of an inexpensive way to turn waste into a multi-million dollar return to the city. If you wonder if it works, you only have to study the Markham District Energy Inc. They are using networked natural gas facilities there to heat and cool a rapidly growing city.

But not Barrie’s politicians. They looked at us as if we had four heads instead of just two. And when I suggested that they should offer apartment building developers along their sewage trunk lines incentives to include kitchen garburators, they thought I was the crazy one. It would be the cheapest way to capture kitchen waste from apartment building and keep it out of landfills. It would also provide a great deal more methane gas.

That is why it is good to see that Dianne Saxe, Ontario’s environmental commissioner is trying to get more politicians in this province aware of the power of poop. The era of waste and dumping everything in landfills is past. We need innovation and we need progressive politicians.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Choosing mediocrity.

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

It has been difficult over the years to explain why preferential ballots for voting is a very bad idea. The current concern is that many municipalities may be turning to this type of voting without realizing the pitfalls. The Conservative Party of Canada obviously did not let people know what could happen when they used a form of preferential balloting in the recent federal leadership voting.

The crucial point of this type of system is that it encourages the choice of the mediocre candidate. Instead of choosing an effective leader, it chooses the least annoying, most accommodating and least aggressive candidate. (Which seems a fair description of the new Conservative leader: ‘Chuckles’ Scheer.)

This preferential voting is supposed to correct the situation where a candidate in a multi-candidate race can win a first-past-the-post vote with just one more vote than anyone else. Why that is considered unfair has never been clear.

Even in run-off voting, the leading candidate in the first vote is most often the winner. In a run-off, it is also the most controversial candidate who is most likely to lose in a close vote.

Under the old first-past-the-post voting, winning in politics has always been based on the art of creating coalitions. Not everyone in your voting area is motivated by the same issues and the successful politician had to use the building blocks of multiple issues to create a winning vote.

But if you are going to win with a preferential vote, you have to be second choice to all your competitors. That is very different from a solutions-based coalition. In this situation, you have to be the nicest kid on the block. You might choose to kiss babies and help little old ladies across the street. The last thing you want to do is propose solutions that some people might oppose. You are better off being solution neutral—and loved.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Cole bites the hand feeding his activism.

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Just who is the racist here? Do Torontonians need black activists stirring imaginary pots in our polyglot society? What is it Desmond Cole is peddling? If he has a case, why is nobody speaking out for Toronto’s Asian Canadians? Are they not also feeling the pinch of racism? It has been increasingly sad to watch as the Toronto Star encouraged this guy Cole to stir up racial turmoil. Is he not creating a problem?

Recently there was an incident at the Toronto Police Services Board. Cole was there as a private citizen making a submission. He was protesting the retention of information from carding now that the province has restricted the use of the practice. He made his point and then refused to leave after his submission. In response, the board adjourned the meeting.

Since his actions were as a private citizen, the Toronto Star did not fire him over the incident. In high dudgeon, he wrote a diatribe saying he quit the Star. It is tough to find ways to be a martyr these days!

We have had lots of opportunity now to evaluate Cole and his causes. As a spokesperson for the Black Lives Matter gang, he adds to their troubles. They are alienating the Toronto black community. They are challenging the Toronto Police and their black chief. They appear to be obnoxious trouble makers with their own agenda.

Cole is obviously heading for his own political career. He is a man with a plan and an ego. He claims that few of the Star’s columnists can compete with the following he has gathered as a freelancer. No doubt we could think of more than a few, but it would certainly be interesting to see the Starch editorial surveys supporting his claim.

This guy seems to have missed some of the basic ingredients of the profession of being a writer. In his diatribe quitting the Star that he headlined “I choose activism for black liberation,” he never said why he chose activism nor why he capitalizes “black” as though it is someone’s name? And would someone please explain what it is from which he wishes to be liberated.

It is not surprising that Toronto Star chair (and acting publisher at the time) John Honderich suggested to Cole that he was writing about race too often. It was good advice to some one who wants to make a career in journalism. It is not the advice wanted by someone marching to an unseen drummer.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Creating conflict for city and province.

Friday, May 5th, 2017

They really cannot be doing it to ‘sell’ newspapers in this day and age. The Toronto Star has been busy building a supposed conflict between Mayor John Tory of Toronto and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. It is based on the recent Ontario budget that did not mention more funds for Toronto’s subways and other infrastructure needs.

This is a sadly silly scenario. We have seen photo opportunities, television appearances and headline stories of the mayor and the premier and even with prime ministers assuring Toronto that they will have funds. So much has been promised over the past ten years, you would expect that Toronto would have about three more subways besides that light rail line it has been digging across town on Eglinton Avenue for the past four years.

Frankly the Toronto Star is not helping people understand what is going on in their city. You would think the paper could keep a tally of all of these offers of money by the feds and province and remind the various treasurers that some funds are due. The poor mayor should hardly have to always be going around with a tin cup.

And he could hardly be expecting to do any better with that putz Patrick Brown in the premier’s chair. That is the same guy who tried to convince Wynne not to let the mayor charge tolls on the city’s portion of the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway. It was only when Wynne was convinced of the heat she would take from the Greater Toronto Area voters that she told Tory to forget road tolls.

And based on the average selling price of Toronto homes these days, Toronto could be collecting far more taxes. It might be tough to get a third more but when the average house can be sold for about $900,000, we know the city is getting a cut.

Mind you the unwieldy structure of city council makes it extremely difficult for the mayor to build any kind of consensus or consistency of direction. No provincial party has ever brought forward a workable plan for the city and would hardly ask for any suggestions. Keeping the city in short pants and under the provincial thumb is key to many seats in provincial elections.

The Toronto Star always seems to ignore this issue. Why? We will leave that discussion for another time.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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A churlish chap called Cole.

Friday, March 31st, 2017

You get the strongest sense from Toronto Star writer Desmond Cole that if you are white, you are wrong. And the Toronto Star editors allow this form of discrimination? It might surprise Mr. Cole to find that there are people who do not approve of discrimination in any form.

And we are also very concerned about how he talks about the Toronto police. We do not assume they are bigots or racist. Our police are people from our community, serving our community. They carry guns to protect us. If they use those guns anywhere but on the firing range, they have a lot of questions to answer. To assume that they are collectively racist is a form of bigotry we do not need in our society.

Nor do we need to have all of our politicians referred to as “straight, white, cisgender, male. Since when? And where does this guy get off calling anybody “queer”? The only strange people are the ones cheering at the current fiasco between the Gay Pride organization and the police chief. Integrating the police into the parade was the best thing that could have happened.

Gay Pride works when it is about inclusion. When you let malcontents and trouble-makers dictate who can be in the parade you are destroying the good that it can do.

Cole seems to be a spokesperson for that group that calls itself Black Lives Matter. The Black Lives Matters movement originated in the United States as a reaction to serious incidents where American blacks were killed by militarized police in different parts of that country. That is not the case in Canada and the Toronto malcontents behind that movement here are an embarrassment to our black community.

Those ignorant people who blocked the Gay Pride parade last year did not speak for anybody but themselves. They should have been arrested for obstructing a legally conducted parade. No rational person considered their demands to be warranted or logical. They were invited as guests to take part in a parade in honour of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. This parade makes a strong statement for our rainbow coalition and Canada’s diversity and nobody gives a damn whether you are black or white. These people need to learn how to behave as responsible guests.

Maybe Mr. Cole wants to stir the pot a bit but there is no excuse for the Toronto Star assisting him.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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