Archive for the ‘Municipal Politics’ Category

Pondering the politics of the potty.

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

There are issues that people will step up to and there are issues that cause them to smirk and back away. I was reading a very intelligent story the other day about the politics of the toilet and the need for our politicians to grow backbones. To quote a current television commercial about toilet paper: “Everybody does it.” And our politicians have to recognize it.

But it happens at the most elemental level of politics that people are unwilling to face the issue. I took a problem to my city’s mayor over two years ago and it still has not been fixed. I worked hard to get that guy elected ten years ago and he is in the middle of his third term in the mayor’s chair. And yet, he cannot handle the need for public toilets in a city of around 150,000 and summer visitors in the tens of thousands.

I have checked out venues around the world for people to meet, to congregate, to be entertained and to enjoy food and I have always walked away from facilities with inadequate or inconvenient washroom facilities for the numbers expected. It is part of looking after your guests.

Well, I can tell you now: Do not come to Barrie, Ontario if you cannot say no to your basic human need to go to the toilet.

I told the mayor that my barber was frequently requested to provide toilet facilities to desperate people from across the street at the GO Train terminus. Since there are no Go Train employees working in that location, they think that toilets are unnecessary. The provincially run commuter train and bus service expects people to wait for trains and busses but there are no toilets at that terminal. They have a ghost station on the property, the historic Allandale Station, that cost the citizens of Barrie considerable money to restore, but nobody has ever thought to restore its old washrooms or use it for any other purpose.

Frankly, the mayor and council in Barrie have shown no backbone at all. They pretend they do not pee or poop like anybody else!


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Breaking Faith with Canadians.

Sunday, November 29th, 2020

Before people started accepting news in free form as whatever was trending on social media, we were encouraging business and government to work together. We called it by various names such as business-government partnerships but the essential component was the need to understand that the ultimate beneficiary was supposed to be the Canadian public.

In the late 1980s, one of the more remarkable examples of this partnership was SkyDome in Toronto, where the Blue Jays came to play baseball. At a shared public-private cost of around $600 million, few people really understood the benefits to the people of Toronto, of Ontario or Canada.

For one, it put more lustre for Toronto on the world map. It generated billions in tourism. It drove a steady stream of rebuilding to that part of Canada’s largest city. It helped bring Toronto to life. At least it did until ignorant provincial politicians paid off the debt of about $400 million and sold the building to private interests, including Labatt Breweries, for $151 million. Which seemed like quite a bargain despite the continued financial problems of the time. Labatt’s solution was to sell SkyDome in 2004 to Rogers Communications for $25 million.

But the death knell of any landmark is when you try to give it a new and commercial name. It is still our SkyDome, to us old time baseball fans.

But would you believe that these people who got SkyDome for a song, are now talking about tearing it down. They think they can build another smaller baseball park, with natural grass, nearby.

This new park would be further ‘enhanced,’ according to the proponents with new condominiums and office towers to improve the revenues from the property.

Luckily, the land that SkyDome sits on is not part of the deal for which these schemers paid so little. The lands are leased from a federal government-owned company that specify the only use for these old railway lands is for a ball park and entertainment facility. We might be lucky if this agency says ‘No’ to this new plan.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The last campaign.

Sunday, November 1st, 2020

You never know which one is your last campaign. You always look forward to your next until reality says your last was your last. I can no longer climb the front steps of homes they build today. Without a safety railing, steps spell danger.

But without the ability to test what people are saying at their doors, you have no feeling for the campaign. Without listening to the why of peoples’ votes, you can never really forecast the outcome.

I remember in my last campaign, about a week before voting day and the only people in the office were the candidate, the campaign manager and myself. I was finishing entering some ground game results and the candidate and the campaign manager were discussing the opponents’ possible strategies on election day.

It was no surprise when the campaign chair asked me to run the ground game instead of asking me to be campaign manager. I was new to the city at the time and directing the ground game and teaching volunteers taught me a great deal about the city.

I realized that despite what the campaign manager was spending on polling, neither of them admitted that we were assured of a substantial win.

The mayoralty race had eight candidates. The incumbent was running but not putting up any effort. Two were conservative, one a previous mayor and another a previous member of the provincial legislature. Two candidates were nominal liberals, our guy and another sitting councilor. There were another three candidates in the category of ‘also-rans.’

Our guy was coming in first with about 40 per cent of the mayoralty vote. Second place was the former MPP because of his name recognition. I told them how the other candidates would do and even included the three ‘also-rans’ who might collectively get three per cent of the votes.

The campaign manager had his polls to support his view but in challenging my figures he made the mistake of ridiculing my figures for the three ‘also-rans.’ Since the three of us would never bet on our own race, it was safe to bet on those candidates. I made a ten-dollar bet with the campaign manager that these candidates would not get three per cent of the mayoralty vote.

It was mean of me to point it out to our team at the victory party, but the campaign manager had to pay on his foolish bet.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Why does Toronto want ranked ballots?

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

Toronto City Council needs to take a very hard look at ranked ballot voting. It is no panacea. It is a solution for a problem that does not exist. It is a way to choose the least controversial of multiple candidates. And why would you want to do that?

Or maybe people are just tired of the same-old first-past-the-post voting.

To be positive, this system of voting seems to encourage the least likely candidates. It has been used in political parties recently and judging by results there, it has disappointed more people than it has pleased. And why you would want to disappoint the voters is a good question?

We might also consider that ranked balloting is preferred by more candidates because it encourages more of them to run for office. Judging by experience with this system of voting, we know that it tends to sort through the voting process to produce the least controversial result.

The one thing you can count on is that the more candidates in the race for the position, the less likely that you will get the most preferred candidate. The simple reason is that if nobody gets a majority of votes, the choice falls to the second, third, fourth or fifth most favourite—as chosen by the candidates dropped from the race. It becomes a numbers game and you might as well just toss a coin.

The city was authorized to allow ranked balloting back in 2013. In typical Toronto council fashion, the idea was dropped for 2015. It was revived again for 2022 (since the city is on a four-year voting cycle now, instead of two-year).

Mind you, if the city cannot find a supplier that can count ranked ballots for 2026—and carry out all the other requirements for ranked voting that the province requires—then we can wait for 2030. And whether people come to their senses by then, is the responsibility of an entirely new generation.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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A fond farewell to Joe Atkinson.

Saturday, August 29th, 2020

As an undeniable Torontonian, I have always had a special place for the Toronto Star. Sure, I have worked for the Globe and Mail, written for the long-dead Toronto Telegram but my oracle was the Star. As Canada’s Numero Uno daily newspaper, it has been my lynch pin with my country and my principles. The Star ran a eulogy for the Atkinson Principles at the beginning of August in the form of a full-page advertisement for the paper.

With the headline: Different times. It also went on to try to embrace “Enduring truths.” These are truths that the owners of the Toronto Star for the past 50 years have now abandoned. They are also my truths:

  1. A strong, united and independent Canada. (We need to keep working on that one.)
  2. Social Justice. (An ongoing battle.)
  3. Individual and civil liberties. (For all.)
  4. Community and civic engagement. (And always check both sides of arguments.)
  5. The rights of working people. (Make that all people.)
  6. The necessary role of government. (Not too big and not too small, it has to be just right.)

But will the new owners respect these more than a century-old truths? Why would they? These people are in the money game. They are players, not journalists. They are gambling on the potential for profit from a precious commodity, information. And information is only as good as its source.

I feel the five families who rescued Joe Atkinson’s legacy over 50 years ago have let us down. They have ended their struggle to keep the legacy alive. Their intent was honourable but, in the end, they have failed us.

We can look at what Paul Godfrey and his American friends have done to PostMedia for their own ends and wonder how long the new owners of the Star will try to work within the Atkinson legacy.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Comparing colonial India to Canada?

Sunday, July 26th, 2020

Why have so many people from the sub-continent immigrated to Canada? What attracted them to this country? These people are welcome. This question is raised because of a really confused op-ed in the Toronto Star last week. It was identified as being written by a gentleman who emigrated from India and became a Canadian citizen. He was lauding lawlessness.

What the hell was the Star editor thinking who allowed this garbage in Canada’s largest newspaper? Why would the headline writer not balk at saying: “Protesters are indeed justified in tarnishing colonial statues.”? There is no realistic justification for lawlessness in Canada.

And murder and lawlessness were never in the code of India’s Mahatma, whom the entire world honours. And yet, to this day, India is beset by religious intolerance and mistreatment of minorities. And the writer thinks murder and mayhem are the answer?

Not in Canada, thank you.

When a rabble such as the Toronto people calling themselves Black Lives Matter break the law, their leaders should be arrested. They were defacing public property. They were dishonouring Canada by splashing paint on a statue of John A. Macdonald. They were being destructive by trying to paint statues from the past of Edward VII and Egerton Ryerson.

They should remember the words of William Shakespeare: “The evil men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

The writer in the Star lauds the decision of the Indian government to change the name of a square in the ancient city of Calcutta to honour some murderers. We are told that this gentleman writer is also a student and an educator. He seems to have a lot left to learn. He advocates renaming Dundas Square in Toronto to honour the three Black Lives Matter activists with their silly paint. That will be a damn frosty Friday in July!


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Only fools annoy us.

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

There will be many fine words used to describe John Lewis who died last week. He was a leader of the U.S. civil rights movement and the long-serving representative for Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District.

But the words that need to be remembered are those attributed to John Lewis himself. In light of the growing disrespect of laws, authorities and public property, these words are the most important:

“I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.”

Those same words apply to the rioters in Portland, Oregon as to the fools in Toronto, Ontario who try to deface statues of people that others might honour.

We also need to understand that those rioters in the U.S. might be playing into the hands of Donald Trump. He wants his supporters to see him as a ‘law and order’ president to shore up his vote in November. The rioters in Oregon would be far more effective if they just organized and helped get out the anti-Trump vote to defeat him.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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“When Giants Walked Among Us.”

Monday, July 20th, 2020

That line about giants came in an e-mail from a reader the other day. It was referring to the time of Lester B. Pearson, Pierre E. Trudeau, John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. It was a heady time to be involved in politics. It was a time to not only share the dream but to be involved in making it happen.

But what have we come to today when pygmies are allowed to besmirch giants? Why can a group, using the honourable name of the American Black Lives Matter organization, be allowed to toss paint on the statue of one of Canada’s giants, John A. Macdonald?

An American who helped found the student nonviolent coordinating committee and spoke just before Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech to the Washington March, died last week. His name was John Lewis and he served as a liberal democrat in the House of representatives for many years. He spoke out for equality and justice.

John Lewis could have told these pygmies in Toronto that civil disobedience does not work. He could have told them that defacing public property does not work. He could have told them to join a political party, get elected and take their cause to where it matters.

I also think those ignorant people who dishonoured Canada by trying to deface Sir John’s statue should meet me there later today—and bring their toothbrushes—they have a cleaning job to do.

And after Sir John has been restored, we will can march behind the pink palace to the statue on Queen’s Park Crescent of what’s his name on the horse. We are also going to clean up that horse. That is one damn fine horse and does not deserve to be painted pink.

But do not worry about Egerton Ryerson’s statue. You did not get any paint above his knees. He has had far worse things done to him by students of the excellent university named after him.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Defund Police: Then What?

Sunday, July 19th, 2020

It reminds me of something out of an old Zane Grey novel. These people who mostly look like they need a job themselves are telling us to take away the money budgeted for police. Are they all so stupid that they think we do not need police?

Surely, they do not think some cowpoke is going to amble into town and save us from the big, bad policeman. I would welcome the chance to tell the cowpoke to start by getting rid of those noisy people who want to defund our police.

What else would you advise us to do with a bunch of knuckleheads who do not take the time to understand how we run our police in Ontario. The people who make the rules about our police are not at police headquarters or city hall. They are at Queen’s Park. They write the laws. They run the province’s Special Investigations Unit (S.I.U.) that investigates when the police shoot somebody. They appoint half the people on the city police board. No doubt they need a good laugh.

And I think us citizens are going to be generally happier when those law makers at Queen’s Park make it illegal for you to plunk your asses down on the asphalt and block traffic. I know there are laws against jaywalking. We need one against ‘jaysitting.’ In any event it is not a good idea to piss off the general public when you want them to support your cause.

What might have surprised all these yahoos who have been demonstrating their little hearts out over the brutality of police was the recent action by the S.I.U. The provincial agency has charged the police officer in Mississauga involved in tasering and shooting a citizen with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon and careless use of a firearm.

What these demonstrators need to understand is that the system can work. It is the person who writes letters, the person who speaks to their elected representatives, the good cop who says ‘no more’ and the respectful questions that get the answers. Stupid antics, by stupid people, get the brush off.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Defunding police not on Toronto’s agenda.

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

No mayor seems to read his city council better than John Tory in Toronto. With a few simple proposals, Tory defanged the move by the council’s inner-city left wing to cut the police budget. It led to a long day of debate to the disappointment of the downtown councillors as well as their supporters, camped out in Nathan Phillips Square.

But what made these foolish people think they were going to get anywhere calling for defunding of the police? In Ontario, the police are governed by the respective police services board for that municipality. The chair of the board in Toronto is a citizen appointed by city council, the vice-chair is a citizen appointed by the province, two additional citizens are appointed by the province, two councillors are appointed by the city council and the mayor is an ex-officio member. The city just gets to pay for the police.

You do not casually defund the largest municipal police force in Canada. Toronto police have more than 5000 uniformed officers and a budget of more than a billion dollars. Mayor Tory’s motion for council was a recommendation for body cameras and to investigate having specially trained, unarmed personnel to handle the approximately 20,000 calls each year that the police dispatch to assist emotionally disturbed persons—out of about a million calls. If that happens in the next year, prepare to be surprised.

There is no question that Canadians want and deserve better trained peace officers. One of our problems is that too many of these pop-up pressure groups watch too much American television. We do not have ingrained racism nor do we have systemic racism in Canada. And neither are we perfect. We have to continue to train our police better. We have to remember they are a para-military force, there to serve and protect. We have to stamp out any racist attitudes. Mutual respect is what builds a better country.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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