Archive for the ‘Municipal Politics’ Category

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.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

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.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

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!

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

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.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

 

“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.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

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.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

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.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

In the Wild—West of Toronto.

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

Who knew? When Barrie’s Patrick Brown, was ejected from Queen’s Park early in 2018, he picked Peel Region for his comeback. Rejected by his fellow conservatives in the legislature, Brown’s instinct was to return to municipal politics. He knows little else. He had no idea though that he had picked a region of lawlessness similar to the American West.

He had little choice. With a strong mayor already in place in Barrie, there was no hope in his home town. Brown needed an open field. His first choice was to run for the newly created elected position of chair of Peel Region. The former Peel County included the area that became the City of Mississauga, the older City of Brampton and the more rural area of Caledon.

Appalled at the idea of someone like Brown running the Peel Region, the new conservative Ontario premier Doug Ford blocked the election. He ruled the regional council would continue to appoint its own chair.

That left Brown with the only alternative of running for the mayoralty in Bampton. His connections with the South Asian community in Brampton gave him a base vote. Plus being a conservative in former premier Bill Davis’ home town did not hurt either.

But Brown had little knowledge of the problems in the region. With an area twice that of Toronto and about half the population, Peel Region has less than half the police to cover it. And about half of the population of the region was born outside of Canada. That statistic is not reflected in the members of the Peel Region police.

The other day in Brampton, Peel Region police broke into a Muslim gentleman’s home shouting in English and with tasers and guns blazing. The family was concerned about the man (who did not speak English) being off his meds and the police killed him.

And now we hear the other day, a female officer in Mississauga pulled out her gun and shot a black woman—who had already been tasered and was lying on the ground.

Things in Peel Region have been going sideways since Brown got there.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

When NIMBY’s win, we all lose.

Friday, January 31st, 2020

It has been almost a year since Barrie city council decided to do further research on a safe injection site in their town. Some of my neighbours were there to tell the councillors that they did not want it in their neighbourhood. I am sorry I was not there. I would have forgiven the neighbours who did not know better. I would not have forgiven the councillors who had a moral responsibility to lead and failed us.

The location chosen by an expert group lead by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, the Gilbert Centre and Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) was at the CMHA district centre just a few doors up Mulcaster Street from Barrie City Hall. It is across the street from the Ontario courts. That is why most of the larger homes in the area have been converted to lawyers’ offices. The experts had researched the question for about a year before deciding on this location.

And yet they were told that is not enough. The detractors claimed that the year of work was “fundamentally flawed.” They failed to explain how they also thought it was something that could “devastate a neighbourhood.”

Another complaint from the NIMBY’s was that it was too close to the David Busby Centre that deals with outreach to the homeless. The fact it is nearby seems irrelevant when you realize the difference in clientele. It also seems a puzzle as to just how big these people think Barrie’s downtown might be?

As important as it is that these people be heard, you have to wonder how nine people can convince council to bend to their will. Barrie has a critical situation in connection to the consumption of opioids. It is reputed to have the second worst problem among large cities in Ontario. Councillor Keenan Aylwin claimed that further delay in approving a site will lead to “dozens more deaths.”

It is hard for anyone to justify the unnecessary deaths caused by this further delay in what is an urgent need. Barrie council had a responsibility to its citizens and it should have done its job. For a bunch of NIMBY’s to come to council to delay this further is a disgrace for the entire city.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Toronto wants to choose mediocre?

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

Toronto councillors are setting things up to enable voters to choose mediocre council candidates in 2022. This was brought on by the previous provincial government allowing municipal councils to opt for ranked balloting as an alternative to first-past-the-post voting for council positions.  The system seems simple but the complications grow with the number of candidates seeking office in each ward.

Proponents of ranked balloting claim it is simple but anyone who has ever faced a ballot with more than ten candidates listed would beg to differ. Even knowing the names of all the candidates is a chore. To rank all of them is next to impossible.

What really happens when there are many names on the ballot is that the least obnoxious candidates get most of the third, fourth, etc. votes because the voter has nothing against them. In effect the voters end up drilling down to the candidates that nobody has anything against. It becomes a contest to elect the least controversial candidate.

Case in point: The conservative party federal leadership that chose Andrew Scheer as national leader was a ranked ballot fiasco. There were 13 candidates and the counting process actually went through 13 counts to arrive at a final tally, just over 50 per cent, for the Saskatchewan MP. And when you realize that Maxime Bernier was a very close second, it is enough to make you shudder.

But there is still time to make sure your favourite councillor in Toronto does not fall into the ranked ballot trap. Council has asked staff to lay the groundwork for the change in 2022. This includes holding multiple open houses and other forms of public consultation. The law does not say what to do if the public reaction is negative. You can only hope.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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