Archive for the ‘Municipal Politics’ Category

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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Will Toronto charge for parking on the DVP?

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

Did you hear that Toronto Council is now considering making the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway toll roads? This is hardly the first time the suggestion has been made and it is probably not the last. It shows you how desperate the city is for revenue other than taxing businesses and homes.

When the Toronto voters chose John Tory as mayor two years ago, it was in high hopes that he would bring a businesslike and workable approach to the city’s financial woes. Mind you there is nothing new in these woes and nothing really new in Tory’s various solutions.

But surprisingly there was general approval by the pundits in Tory’s midterm reports recently. Despite the poor guy wrecking his home life and working day and night to satisfy his constituents, the problems he faces are the same ole-same ole! It is an impossible task.

The problem is that the province holds all the cards and only deals them to the city as necessary for political advantage. The mayor might get the big bucks and the prestige of the chain of office but it is a job without joy. It is an attempt to lead without followers. Tory will always have more followers on Facebook than on city council.

You have to remember that the mayor might have some perks but he or she has only one vote on council. And the knives are now out on his taking leadership on the road tolls for the Gardiner and the Don Valley Parkway.

Without getting into the merits, or lack thereof, in the toll plan, it has all the earmarks of a trap for the unwary. It is not going to happen without specific approval from the province. And the possibilities of bringing any strong support from city council are close to nil.

The province can hang Tory by the thumbs at the first expressway overpass and laugh as he swings in the breeze. His entire case hangs on the assumption that 40 per cent of the Parkway and Expressway users are from out of town. You know it is alright for him to screw those people. The problem will be in the 60 per cent of users who already pay more than enough to park on those parking lots in morning and evening rushhours.

Maybe John can charge half the price per toll for plates showing a Toronto address and full price for the outsiders?

Or, even better, we could have responsible government for the city through the encouragement of political parties on the municipal scene. It would be nice to see a mayor and councillors elected on a party platform and then have to stand for re-election on its success or failure.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to

Go figure new municipal voting.

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

It has been so much fun observing the current political zoo in the United States that we tend to forget what is going on in our own backyard. Sure, we knew about the move by the Ontario government to allow municipalities in the province to move to ranked balloting but we were not aware that Bill 181 included transferable voting. It is typical of the Wynne Liberals that when they open a can of worms, they dump it on someone else.

To-date, cursory research has turned up no municipality boasting that it will be the first to choose ranked balloting in the province. Not even Toronto is partaking in the opportunity—and that was the city that asked for it. Toronto councillors changed their minds.

And here is the province looking silly because nobody wants the change.

But with more than 400 different municipalities in the province, surely there are at least a few who want to do something different. They can hardly all be too conservative to try a different system? And there are a few organizations such as Fair Vote that want to push them into change.

These organizations think that ranked voting is fair. They think we should only elect the blandest of candidates—or at least the ones voters know the least about. In a single-member ward for example, people are expected to number their choices one, two and three (or more if there are more candidates). Since most voters know at least one candidate, they can be vague about who should be numbers two, three, etc.

But the problem is how these votes are counted. If nobody gets a majority, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is dropped and their second choice votes are added to the other candidates. This process can continue until one candidate wins a majority of the votes. And that is why we refer to it as a method where the losers are the choosers. It only works in situations where every voter knows all the candidates—such as a party leadership vote.

The transferable voting that was also approved applies in multi-member wards where you have to select two or more people to elect. In this system, the votes remain on the table as you transfer the excess votes from the winning candidate to the second, third or fourth candidate as required. It can be more than a little complicated.

What really amuses us is that what the Ontario government has approved is old and outmoded systems that are easily manipulated. We stopped using them because it was too easy to cheat.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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The last laugh to Laschinger.

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

It was during the municipal election in Toronto in 2014 that both Warren Kinsella and John Laschinger were working on Olivia Chow’s campaign for the mayoralty. With Chow a New Democrat, Laschinger a Conservative and Kinsella a Liberal, it seemed like a match made in Heaven.

We were obviously a bit sceptical though as Babel-on-the-Bay’s Morning Line put Chow in third place behind both John Tory and Rob Ford’s brother Doug. Maybe neither Kinsella nor Laschinger had quite as much campaign experience in and around the wards and political ridings that make up the modern City of Toronto.

To do the Morning Line analysis in the summer months before that election, you had to know where the pockets of the suburban Ford Nation are located. The pockets of NDP strength are fewer and concentrated in the Spadina area and Broadview east to the Beach.

But if you draw a line on a city map from Church and Front to Bayview and Steeles, you will have drawn a line through the heart of John Tory’s support. It is this support that put John Tory in the mayor’s chair.

But John Laschinger got the last laugh on us. He got a book out of it.

Our friends at Dundurn Press have never looked as kindly on our book suggestions. To be fair; as soon as we see John’s book being remaindered, we will buy a copy.

It seems John has written a tell-all book that might not tell us everything. It is reputed to tell us about Olivia Chow being confronted by rude and racist supporters of the Ford brothers. It is unlikely that Olivia would have heard anything that she had not heard before and she knows how to handle it. And there are very good reasons an experienced campaign manager never lets a candidate go canvassing or to a political function alone.

Throughout that year-long municipal election in Toronto, we were frankly puzzled by the confidence of Olivia and her supporters. Her failure to rally large numbers of New Democrat supporters to her after the provincial election spoke volumes. It was also very puzzling why she was being touted as a budget expert when that was the last thing her supporters would have told anyone about her.

We hear that John has been involved in some 50 election campaigns over the years. He only claims to have won 30 of them. While that seems like a decent box score, it is always the losses that are most memorable.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Welcome to small-town gaming?

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

The other day the Toronto Star ran an editorial supporting Toronto’s Woodbine Entertainment becoming a full-fledged casino. It also supported a strange request from Toronto Public Health to restrict the casino to operating only 18 hours per day. And this is supposed to promote responsible gaming?

This closing proposal is not only small minded but is silly. If you do not like gambling just say so. Nobody forces you to gamble. If you are worried about problem gamblers, the hours of operation are not going to be a factor.

Having gambled on the ponies at Woodbine for the past 50 years, we might know more than the board of health about problem gamblers. We also have the experience of many visits to Las Vegas and to casinos in many parts of the world.

The only time we ever saw a casino that closed was when the wife was on a remarkable roll at an Atlantic City craps table. Your writer was also doing very well at a nearby blackjack table. It took two very large armed guards to convince the wife to give up the dice and join us for an early breakfast. We have never returned to Atlantic City—too rinky-dink!

And neither Woodbine Entertainment nor Toronto deserves that description.

Of course, living as we do near the Ontario casino resort at Rama, we are no strangers to the dealers, craps crews and pit supervisors at that gaming centre. And that establishment certainly does not need to close.

Sweeping out the gamblers at three or four in the morning does not protect anyone from problem gambling. It is like calling “Time” in an English pub to send the working men home to their families. It is silly. It is an anachronism.

We have waited a long time for Toronto council to grow up and agree to allowing a full casino operation at Woodbine. It is an ideal site. It serves a large market in the Toronto area and will be a better draw for tourists. Becoming a casino in name as well as operations will create jobs and related entertainment operations in Toronto’s Rexdale area.

Woodbine Entertainment has been a responsible member of the Ontario racing community for as long as this Ontario resident can remember. It has earned our trust and our respect. Let it decide what is best for its operations


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Heat is on to change municipal voting.

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

It seems the Ontario government is turning loose lots of bewildered voters in the 2018 municipal elections. In legislation brought forward earlier this year, the government is allowing municipal election officials across the province to use ranked ballots to select local councillors and mayoralty candidates. While supposedly to ensure some legitimacy to those elected, it also opens the possibility of considerable confusion and corruption of the election process.

When Toronto council originally asked for the use of ranked voting, it was assumed that it would bring some balance to the de facto party politics in that city. It is the lack of effective party politics today that ties the city council in knots. This change would be more difficult to disrupt or manipulate in the larger city and would enable council to get more done.

In smaller cities in Ontario, it will make it much easier to cheat the system. The best protection for them is to remain with the simple and easy to understand first-past-the-post system.

In a ranked voting system, it is supposedly as simple as one-two-three. That is how many people will mark their ballots. They will assume that they are being a good citizen by marking council candidates as their first, second and third choice. The only problem is they might not know their second and third choices and one of them can win because of the voter giving the candidate a second or third choice vote.

Many people think this is, in effect, an instant run-off but it is not. A run-off election gives you time to rethink your vote and you are able to consider who of the remaining candidates would do a good job.

What is essential for voters to understand in ranked voting is that there is no requirement for them to mark a second or third choice if they do not know anything about those candidates.

The smart campaign manager in this type of voting situation considers the field of candidates and creates a scenario. According to where the candidate comes in this scenario, you can run a campaign flat out for first spot and encourage voters to only vote for one candidate. You might, alternatively, run a soft campaign encouraging everyone but your sure supporters to give your guy or gal their second vote and slipping in that way. There are many possibilities.

But smaller cities and towns are better off with the old tried and true first-past-the-post system. It is simple, you get the results quicker, it is difficult to cheat and you win by simply working harder and convincing more voters to vote for you.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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All parades need elephants.

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

It was great wrap to the Pride month the other day when Toronto’s Pride Parade made its way down Yonge Street. It was also good to see Canada’s Prime Minister taking part. The only glitch in the day’s proceedings is when a group invited to be specifically honoured by the parade got carried away with its own importance.

Until this event, the group known as “Black Lives Matter” had done a good job of making its case in Toronto. Their cause is important and while some of their claims are related more to American circumstances than Canadian, the politicians need to hear what they are saying.

But it is just too easy to blow away all the good you have done with one stupid gesture. It is hubris (self-importance) that is the downfall of so many. And as they say: ‘Pride goeth before the fall.’

And as if the Pride Parade organizers do not have enough problems without a self-important group holding it up for their ‘demands.’ And it was not as though the parade organizers did not give a rat’s ass for the particular demands. They were self evident and mostly complied with. The only exception was the foolish request to exclude Toronto police in uniform and their floats from future Pride Parades.

What those so-called activists do not realize is that the police uniform is a uniform of service to the community. If they think it is a costume of conquest, they have a problem.

For a parade that celebrates inclusion to exclude anybody is to deny the very heart and soul of the event. Excluding the police is to insult some of the very strong supporters and participants in the parade. If these black activists have a problem with the Toronto police, let them take it to the police or the politicians. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community that certainly includes blacks counts on the support of the police who keep this a safe city. They are not about to throw away years of building good relations.

Here is a tip for the parade organizers: If Black Lives Matter want to be in the parade next year, they should be at the end of the parade. You can tell them that it is the place of honour. It is the position Santa Claus gets in his parade and who is more important than Santa? And if they want to have a sit down on the parade route, leave them to it. They will find that the police will be very helpful.

The only major difference for Black Lives Matter is that each of their participants should be handed a broom, a shovel or a garbage can on wheels to push. After all, somebody has to clean up after the elephants.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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