Archive for the ‘Municipal Politics’ Category

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.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

 

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.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Coddling the Cyberphobic.

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Why are we doing this? Why are we catering to the cyberphobes among us? Why should they dictate progress? Or lack thereof? After a career in computers with a side interest in politics, it should be easy to convince the politicians and their retainers of the ease of computer voting. It’s not.

Cyberphobia is a serious mental condition. If you are a cyberphobe, you are convinced that the Russians know more about computer hacking than the CIA, the FBI and Microsoft. And how silly does that make you feel?

The one thing that we remain convinced of is that Internet voting is the way of the future. It will ease election spending for every level of government. It will increase citizen involvement in the process of government. We can have run-off elections so that we will have politicians approved by 50 per cent or more of us. We can have election week instead of day. We can vote from home, from work, at government offices, our local schools and practically anywhere we are in the world at the time.

If we have a properly distributed voter database across Canada, we would find any hackers before they find an access point. And then why would a hacker bother when they could only get to one record at a time? The voter is only allowed to vote once and any hacker would be quickly exposed.

There are growing numbers of municipalities moving into Internet voting today. The strange thing is many of them are smaller, rural communities who are trying to involve their citizens in better communication with their politicians and their community services. It seems it is the cities with embedded civil servants running the show that are reluctant to move on it.

Our city of Barrie is one of the slowest. It seems every time we have asked to speak to city council about any opportunities here in Barrie, it is as though a solid steel wall of Conservatism rises between the speaker’s microphone and the dais of dignitaries. It is though you are talking to that wall rather than sentient humans. Even when you take the long route of getting a meeting with the right city staff people, you will have better luck getting the mayor to call you back than one of the civil servants.

We cannot afford to continue to let the cyberphobic make this type of decision for us. We should be using computers for useful tasks. It is time we moved forward.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Is this Toronto’s coming of age?

Monday, March 13th, 2017

In a scholarly work this past week from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, we learned that the City of Toronto is ready to cut the parental apron strings of the Province of Ontario. If you have never been involved in Toronto politics, you might even believe that is possible.

It took this writer back to an event in the early fall of 1969. Driving down Yonge Street to the office, we stopped the car for a red light at Dundas Street. Shortly after stopping a head appeared in front of the car hood and it was glaring at me. It was David Crombie, a lecturer at Ryerson at the time, he was obviously on his way to work.

David detoured and came around to the driver’s side of the car—where the window was conveniently open. He stuck his head in the window and said: “Peter, you and I are friends, so I am not going to tell you what I thought of your article in the paper yesterday about myself and CIVAC.

“But I have to warn you, watch out for Shirley (his wife). She’s mad.” And with that David drew himself up to his full 5 foot, eight inches or so and stomped through the traffic to continue on his way to Ryerson.

David Crombie went on to his fun-filled career as Toronto’s ‘Tiny Perfect Mayor’ and as a Conservative Member of parliament in the Mulroney government. Your writer stayed safely away from Shirley Crombie.

But all we had written about was the facts. David and his friends were not going to solve Toronto’s problems with their civic action (CIVAC) party. And to make matters worse, we talked our late friend Senator Keith Davey into helping organize an attempt at bringing Liberal politics to Toronto’s various city halls. The laughter was a little forced later on when we referred to it as our own Mack Sennett comedy.

The facts are that Toronto is the liberal engine that runs Ontario. The Ontario Landowners with their extreme right-wing ways can scream all they want but without Toronto, this province is a backwater worse off than Louisiana. And while outsiders can say they hate Toronto, those of us who really know the city love it. And the outsiders would miss it.

Whoever is in charge at Queen’s Park knows that they have to look after Toronto. It might be the adult child living in your basement but you never want it to leave. It has no political structure to help it survive in the wilds.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Pride Falls.

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Torontonians of all stripes and types have always been proud of their Pride Parade. Originating in 1981, the parade has cheerfully acknowledged the growing acceptance of diversity in a polyglot city. Today it is one of the largest events of its kind in the world and brings more than a million visitors to the city each summer.

But there has been a hitch. We have seen a single faction put their wants ahead of the community. We have seen a hunger for power overcome the principles of inclusion. We have seen how one group can pit themselves against the needs of their own community.

We are talking about a small group of people who have taken the name of an American movement called ‘Black Lives Matter.’ The name means little as these people have taken it to mean that ‘Only Black Lives Matter.’ It is an insult to the entire community and an embarrassment for the large Toronto black community.

What annoys their own community is their assertions that Toronto cops are racist. Their grandstanding at the Pride Parade last year was an insult to Toronto, the Toronto police and the Pride events organizers. To hold up the parade with their irresponsible demands was an outrage. They were playing to the cheap seats, to the bigots who shared their shallow views and to the media for their attention. The parade marshal who signed off on their silly demands did it to get the massive parade moving again. The media gave them the attention they wanted.

But now the Pride Parade organizers are creating their own monsters. They are letting this militant group with their own agenda dictate to them. They are dividing their community into ‘us’ and ‘them.’ And how dare they do that when the overall community was so accepting?

Nobody is foolish enough to believe that there is no homophobia in the city. It has been the successful Pride events that were helping silence that ignorance. The growing success of the events made people proud. The inclusiveness made people feel good about their community.

But what did people expect the Chief of Police to do about that idiotic vote denying their participation? Nobody wants their people where they are not wanted. He appears to regret that decision more than the people benefitting the most from the inclusiveness.

Frankly, by letting those people dictate to the parade marshal last year, Pride has told the entire parade that they can do whatever they want. You have to be able to manage your parade or get out of the business.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

For whom the Tolls Toll.

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

The premier’s office at Queen’s Park in Toronto has many roles. One of those is as a woodshed wherein one disciplines recalcitrant municipal minions who fail to realize that the provincial party in power makes all the rules.

There was an awkward bit on a news clip last week of the Premier of Ontario and the Mayor of Toronto both trying to get out the premier’s office door at the same time. It would have been funnier if the mayor had not been so angry. He had not only been woodshedded in the traditional manner but he felt he had been treated as a little boy in short pants. And he did not like it.

The waiting news media observed the mayor and premier doing the ritual handshake before following the mayor down the hall to get the lowdown on the spanking. To put it simply, the mayor felt he had been betrayed.

Mayor John Tory was still in the provincial legislature when he gave the news guys and gals an earful on what he considered the duplicity of the premier. He had obviously wasted a lot of political capital in promoting the idea and getting the support needed on city council. He had been told originally that the premier was on side.

The entire fiasco was about the city wanting to impose road tolls on the two provincial highways that still go to downtown Toronto. The Don Valley Parkway (Highway 404) and the Gardiner Expressway (Queen Elizabeth Way) are maintained by the city. While it might not have been as dumb an idea as the province wanting to charge tolls for less congested highway lanes running around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), it still got heavy static from the surrounding municipalities.

The governing Ontario Liberals are quite concerned about the electoral districts around the GTA being wooed with some success by the desperate Conservatives. With an election looming in the next year, these concerns are being taken seriously. This is not the time to annoy those voters any more than they might already be.

Frankly, Mayor Tory should be pilloried for the entire idea. If the foolish idea caught on with Toronto, the province would be forced to allow tolls on provincial highways running through cities and towns across the province. Thinking of the Queensway (Highway 417) in Ottawa, there would be a strong possibility of causing another Upper Canada Rebellion.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me