Archive for the ‘Municipal Politics’ Category

The Patrick Brown legacy lives on.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

It is like a bad smell that does not go away. There was some relief in Barrie during the period when Patrick Brown was living the high life in Toronto as leader of the Ontario conservatives. It was the complaints by two young, unidentified Barrie ladies that caused him to resign as conservative leader. And it was the vindictiveness of fellow conservative MPPs that convinced him not to run to replace himself as leader or to contest the Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte provincial electoral district as a conservative.

But like a bad penny, Patrick Brown keeps showing up—recently as a home owner in Mississauga—then as a candidate for Peel Region chair—and then, just as suddenly—candidate for mayor of Brampton.

Patrick Brown of Barrie is a political conniver. Some people think he is a pretty good ‘retail politician’ in the sense that he knows all the angles to work on voters. Yet he abuses those angles. He is slippery and has little respect for truth. He is only in it for himself.

Brown spent years in Ottawa and never made a contribution to his party policy or on behalf of his constituents. On free votes he voted against women’s rights and to re-open abortion arguments.

The old political term for Brown is “carpetbagger.” He little cares for the needs of Peel region voters but he figured to make around $200,000 per year in the newly elected role as regional chair. He took a quick look around when premier Ford slammed close that opportunity and selected mayor Linda Jeffrey of Brampton as the only potential opportunity. He has no personal connection with Brampton but figures, in the current times, his being a conservative and Jeffery being a former provincial liberal cabinet minister gives him a chance at winning. He knew better than to go after Bonnie Crombie in Mississauga (where he now lives) who has done a good job replacing a retired Hazel McCallion.

What reminded me of this was Brown’s acolyte, Alex Nutall MP, who is very proud of taking over Brown’s role at Hockey Night in Barrie this year. I think Royal Victoria Hospital and the other charities getting involved should get a forensic audit of this event in recent years. They might not know the kind of legacy to which they have tied themselves.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The Ford Follies fumble forward.

Sunday, July 29th, 2018

To be truthful, I had a hard time controlling my laughter reading the revelations on premier Doug Ford’s plans for Toronto and the municipal elections in Ontario. I am now convinced that Dougie is dumber than former Ontario premier Mike Harris. It was Harris who amalgamated Metro Toronto and left it in deplorable disarray 20-years ago.

If the Ford followers at Queen’s Park were truthful, they would mostly admit that it is high time that the good burghers of Toronto paid the piper. Those from outside the GTA are convinced that it is Toronto that sucks up all the good air (and money) of this province.

And if Dougie has something of a vendetta going with arch enemies such as Patrick Brown and Steven Del Duca, well why not get even? With the two of them looking for easy election as chair of Peel and York regions respectively, they were looking for an easy run at a lucrative job. This was to be the first public election for those positions and they both thought it would be a breeze. Those guys know something that has been kept secret in municipal elections for far too long: name recognition wins. Incompetence hardly matters.

The laugh might be on Dougie though for cancelling the chairs’ elections as Patrick Brown raced to file a nomination for mayor of Brampton. (Brampton is a city of just over a half million above Mississauga and west of Toronto.) Hopefully, the last laugh will be for Brampton mayor Linda Jeffrey, who will be no pushover. If that putz Brown looks like he is giving Linda any trouble, this old liberal apparatchik will be heading down to Brampton, volunteering to help her.

But the Toronto situation is providing the best laughs. Imagine the grin on John Tory’s face when former city planner Jennifer Keesmaat announced she is running against him. She might be the favourite of the bike-riding NDP but those people have their own problems.

Can you imagine those vaunted NDPers, Mike Layton and Joe Cressy, going head to head for a single downtown ward? I can hardly guess who will blink first but someone will have to step in to resolve that one.

No doubt some enterprising lawyer is dashing between already-nominated candidates putting together a lawsuit to cover monies they have already spent in now changed wards. Campaigns have to be completely re-evaluated and some will be abandoned in frustration.

The question is how are the voters going to accept this mess? I think we all need to listen to the voters very carefully.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Doug is doubling down.

Friday, July 27th, 2018

Is it fun yet watching our new Ontario premier doubling down with our money? Doug Ford has given the back of his hand to all the efforts in the recent years to protect our environment. He wants to take us back to what was the middle ages of sex education. You would think the damn fool would take it easy at first. After all, he has four years to really screw up.

But Dougie is a man on a mission. He has sent the unions at York University back to their classrooms in anger. His solution was to solve nothing. He left the blame on the university board when it belonged on Queen’s Park He is afraid the people of Ontario will find out he is a fraud.

He has Queen’s park settling in for a rare summer session. He wants to see just how much consternation he can cause. He is a man on a mission. He has a city to consternate and political enemies to obliterate.

This will not be a time of well thought-through improvements. It will be a time of slash and burn. The barbarians have breeched the gates.

Education and health will lead the way in the tumbrils to the public pillories. They account for the bulk of Queen’s Park expenses and must bear the brunt of the cost cutting.

And we already know that there will be little of the truth told as these ideologues struggle with the realities of multi-billion cost overruns. We already saw the truth trampled as Dougie pronounced that there was no cost in getting the Hydro One chair to leave. Some of this conservative government contract cutting will take years to wend its way through a slowed and under-funded court system.

The reality is that Dougie has absolutely no idea what the conservative’s hatred of clean energy efforts will cost to liquidate. Will the occasional wind turbine be left turning in the wind as a nostalgic note from the past?

But where Dougie will really sell his soul is in getting even with his municipal enemies from Toronto. There is more to come than to just reducing the number of councillors and settling old scores.

And then there is that promise of ‘a buck a beer’ and even buying beer in convenience stores. Hopefully that will be resolved in what is left of this simmering hot summer in Ontario.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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When “anti-social sewer rats” are black.

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Only the Toronto Star would pay good money for a resident reporter as an apologist for Toronto’s black community. When an angry Toronto mayor John Tory recently called some thugs “anti-social sewer rats” for shooting two young girls, it was hardly a racist comment. Nor do you expect the Star to defend the shooters as just “disadvantaged and misunderstood” black kids.

And why should we have to point out to the Toronto Star editors that the “B” in black community is not normally capitalized?

I grew up on those same streets in downtown Toronto. Your origins do not define you and do not give us that crap that being black is being over policed. Just be a skinny little kid in hand-me-down clothes and you will find out what over policing is all about.

The star’s resident black apologist is a great admirer of those people calling themselves after the American organization “Black Lives Matter.” It seems she does not think they should have to do anything to help the black community but stick to their own agenda. Well if I thought for one minute that those people gave a damn about the problems faced by disadvantaged Toronto blacks, I would be on their side.

But their agenda is power. Their interference in the LGBT community’s Pride Parade was inexcusable. And as incompetent as I might consider Toronto’s police chief, I do not see their complaints as being constructive.

It is like the Star apologist’s statement about the “sweeping anti-blackness in society.” She thinks these black activists are “provocative, courageous, (and) profoundly committed to anti-racism.”

In my humble opinion, I think these people are racist. I think they are using color to build barriers instead of bridges. I think they are trouble makers. And the Toronto Star writer seems to suffer from the same delusions.

While the Star writer denies being a member of this black activist group, she seems to go out of her way to praise them.

But her rants are opinion. She is obviously paid for her opinion. It is just that it is misleading and not in the interests of the community she believes she is supporting—and the community the Toronto Star believes it is supporting.

We all need to worry more about the marginalized in our society. They come in all colors, they come in a wide range of mental capabilities and they are all ages. They are all human.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Changing politics in Toronto.

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

We are seeing increased efforts in Toronto to end the frustrations and lack of direction for the city. What we are seeing though is a mishmash of solutions that are counterproductive and going nowhere. Most of the action is coming from interest groups that in themselves have nowhere near enough muscle or organization to win a single one of the 47 individual wards in the city. What is needed is political parties.

As it stands today, the new democratic party has a strong base in downtown wards and the conservatives and the liberals fight it out for footholds in the suburbs. The fact that all three parties disavow their winners as well as losers, leaves the city without realistic programs, inadequate direction and confused management. The city is in a permanent come-from-behind position.

And it is in the traditional political parties’ interest to keep it that way. The city is a creature of the provincial government. Conservative mayor John Tory was at Queen’s Park the other day laughing it up with the new conservative premier of Ontario and it is not going to do the city the least bit of good. In fact, if Doug Ford does what he really wants to do with Toronto, the city is facing a very sad situation over the next four years.

Anything Ford can download on Ontario cities, he will. The former Harris conservatives were amateurs. Ford will download everything but money. We really have no idea what Ford has on his hit lists—but we are going to find out, the hard way.

And those dumb downtown NDPers might as well get on their bicycles and get the hell out of ground zero. And if you thought the one-stop subway to Scarborough was the ultimate disaster in urban infrastructure ignorance, you should prepare yourself for fresh enlightenment. Premier Ford has some nascent thoughts about taking over the Toronto subways and interconnecting them with regional networks in Peel, York and Durham. They will probably tie in well with his new green belt housing developments.

It is too late for this coming election but if people in Toronto started organizing now and building a positive platform, a good mayoralty candidate could probably get your party elected in the 2022 municipal election. Name the party after William Lyon Mackenzie if you like. Just remember you have to build a big tent party. Make sure you have a good balance of promises and solid candidates for both downtown and suburban wards.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Patrick Brown is back.

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

The wife was worried with my unrestrained laughter over breakfast. “Brown is back,” I finally managed to tell her. It was word in the Toronto Star that Barrie’s own Patrick Brown is running for chair of Peel Region that had sent me into paroxysms of laughter.

She did not think it was funny at all. Her first question was “Could he win?” I thought about that for about half a minute and nodded. “Yes.”

It is the same area in which Brown launched his scheme to win the leadership of the Ontario conservatives. The Hindu temples that he used as base to link all areas of sub-continent immigrants in Ontario are in the Brampton area which is the heart of Peel Region.

While I am sure my old friend Hazel McCallion, former mayor of Mississauga, could make short work of a putz such as Brown, you have to remember she is 97. He has a good chance in a large field of mediocre candidates such as those already nominated.

A four-year sinecure as Peel chair, paying about $175,000 per year plus lots of expense money, would please Mr. Brown no end. He could even use it as a calculated catbird seat for his future ambitions in Ontario politics.

Brown’s ‘tell-nothing’ book should be out in time for the October 22 election. It will probably be a rather fictionalized version of events leading to his downfall as Ontario conservative leader.

But neither can it include discussion of the reports from the young ladies who caused his downfall. That is the stuff of a lawsuit with CTV television. I expect the Bell Canada lawyers are going to be digging into that problem soon enough and Mr. Brown might have an undisclosed, but still handsome sum, to put aside for a rainy day.

I understand that Patrick has a ‘fiancé’ these days to keep him out of bars where underage ladies might be skulking in wait for him.

Just what he sees as the opportunity in the Peel regional chair eludes me. Admittedly, Paul Godfrey, went from regional chair in Toronto to some heavy wheeling and dealing in the newspaper business that has left him in a quite respectable position in which to retire.

But like in any other skulduggery, it is always a question of following the money. Running for regional chair is not an inexpensive undertaking. From the lakefront in Mississauga to the northern tip of Caledon is not a hop, skip and jump. There are about 1.4 million residents in that area and it keeps growing. You do not run for chair on a ward-healer’s budget.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Two cities rebuttal.

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

Had an interesting objection to my kind comments about Toronto mayor John Tory last week. The reader provided an extensive list of what he considered to be the mayor’s failings. It might surprise him to learn that I agreed with all of his complaints. My only qualification is that he should lay blame where it belongs. In some cases, it was some of the other members of council whose individual votes are all equal to the vote of the mayor. And we can also blame the province that saddles mayors and councils with an unworkable system.

Mayors in Ontario have to rely on leadership skills, persuasion skills and wily horse trading to get the job done. And you win some and you lose some.

I personally think that John Tory has taken the high ground in Toronto and stays above the losers and ward healers on his council.

The poor guy has to deal with a council with a downtown core of semi-literate socialists and a block of do-nothing Libertarians from the suburbs. I bet former premier Mike Harris is still laughing every time he thinks about what he did putting that melange together. (And increasing the number of councillors from 44 to 47 is hardly going to help.)

When our reader complains about the incompetence of the police chief and the less than worthless chair of the police board, he needs to remember that even the premier of the province gets to kick that can down the curb. The system is designed to pick the least controversial—not the most competent.

The horrible lack of affordable housing or any reasonable rental accommodation in Toronto are just two more signs of a successful and growing city. John is fighting the good fight—which all lose!

What drives me crazy is John Tory’s constant lip-service to the idiots on bicycles. He is trying to pacify everybody and pleasing nobody. By the time they have the whole city in hopeless gridlock, they will have to stop killing cyclists. It is not going to become an Olympic sport anyway. In Toronto, you can have only bicycles downtown for seven months per year and cars only for the other five months. You cannot have both.

But where John Tory shines is in moral leadership. When something happens in Toronto, John is there just as fast as he can scurry. John is a beacon of calm in a churning and explosive city. I bet, sometimes, he beats the television crews to the scene of the crime. His motto on his shaving mirror should be: What the hell is going to happen next?


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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“A tale of two cities.”

Friday, June 29th, 2018

The words of Charles Dickens are ageless: ”It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…” He wrote those words 60 years after the worst of the French Revolution was over and yet they are as timeless today as they were then.

Dickens words came to mind as I considered the campaigns for re-election of two mayors, in two of my favourite cities. The first is John Tory of Toronto and the second is Jeff Lehman of Barrie. Both mayors have declared their candidacy in their respective cities and neither, as of now, has had any serious challenge.

John Tory is one of my favourite conservatives. He is a lawyer by profession, a part of the firm of the family name. He learned his conservatism over years of volunteering and working with conservative icon, and former Ontario premier, Bill Davis.

In his first run at being mayor of Canada’s largest city, John defeated former city counselor Doug Ford and the new democratic party’s dowager Olivia Chow (Jack Layton’s widow). It was a tough fight for the job and John Tory has spent the past four years showing that it was a good choice.

If you think Jeff Lehman had it easier the first time he ran in Barrie, he had to defeat a former mayor and a former MPP for the job. The size of the problems might be smaller (less than 150,000 population versus Toronto’s 2,500,000) but the job is just as complex and demanding.

Jeff Lehman bats over 300 in terms of his job as he is also a director of the largest municipally-owned public utility in the province and chairs a caucus of the mayors of 27 of Ontario’s largest cities. His advantage is that he has his post-graduate degree from the London School of Economics and previously made his living advising municipal bodies on maximizing their infrastructure planning and financing.

As most experts can tell you, economists are what are most needed in municipal politics. If property owners want their taxes kept under control, they need municipal politicians who know how to control spending.

I will run a few more comments on these two cities by you as the municipal campaign in Ontario moves toward the October 22 vote.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The malice that made the megacity.

Friday, May 4th, 2018

Toronto as a megacity turns 20 this year. Canada’s largest city has once again opened the nominations for its city council to be elected in October. It will be another lost opportunity. It will produce another council of dilettantes and wannabes to argue over meaningless issues. Former conservative premier Mike Harris can continue to enjoy his revenge on the city.

As part of a program to sharply reduce the number of municipalities—and to dump more provincial costs on them—the Harris government amalgamated Toronto’s five boroughs and the inner city in 1998. The most vocal outcry against the move was from the former city. It was Mike Harris’ specious claim that it would save millions in duplication of services.

Since most of the costly municipal services had already been amalgamated under the former Metropolitan structure, Harris’ promises of savings turned into increases in costs. His revenge for their fighting him on the amalgamation was to fail to offer the city any new tax revenues to help handle the increased costs.

The latter-day Queen’s Park liberals have taken back some of the people services, offered Toronto a few new tax avenues and promised additional grants. Yet there has been no move to giving the city a workable government structure. The system that the city has, does not work.

And to make matters worse, a schism has been worn into city hall council chamber that has separated the downtown councillors from the suburbs. The mayor can use an archaic appointment system to try to improve things but the frustrations are always with them.

This division was clearly evident in the tumultuous term of Rob Ford and his brother at city hall. There is no foolishness less understandable than the one-stop subway to Scarborough. It was forced through by the Ford’s, more to prove their point than to solve an infrastructure problem. Toronto, like many cities, is caught up in failing infrastructure in a rapidly growing city.

But to show you how much they care, the inner-city councillors devote their time to bicycle lanes and throttling down the accessibility of the city to automobiles. Toronto voters need a mayor and councillors who can come to them with a clear platform of city reform that they can promise and deliver. Until then Mike Harris’ revenge continues.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The Beatification of Bill Blair?

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

It took the questionable memory of Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee to relate it and the writing skills of Toronto Star writer Tim Harper to forge it. And it took them over seven years to prepare it for publication. It purports to be an explanation of what took the G20 Summit in Toronto in 2010 off the rails. The book is titled Excessive Force.

But any farmer could tell them that when you play road hockey with frozen horse droppings in the barnyard, you end up splattered as the puck melts. And those pucks sure get warmed as this team spins their tale.

First of all, they can hardly suggest that former police chief Bill Blair is a saint because, as he reports, he thinks he was responsible for nothing. The first question we would ask, if we were foolish enough to believe him, is what new communications systems did he acquire for that $14 million he supposedly got from Toronto taxpayers? And why did the police communications fail at times when communications were really needed?

What is very strange in this book is the reported arrangement between the chief of police and the police services board. It seems the board is not allowed to ask questions regarding operational matters. We are told operations matters are the purview of the chief. If you follow that thinking, the board, who hires him or her, is at the mercy of the chief of police. The board is therefore a sham that hires gunfighters to keep their town safe according to some ancient code.

What makes absolutely no sense in this story is the operational hierarchy in place for the Toronto summit. Mukherjee tells us that Blair was not responsible but his underlings were. Blair is reported to have told him that all orders originated from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Integrated Security Unit in Barrie. This operational centre had been established in Barrie to cover the earlier G7 near Huntsville, Ontario as well as the G20 in Toronto. From a technical communications view, Barrie made a lot of sense. From a street view, it was idiotic.

Good security systems for international events are built in rings. Typically, the inner ring of an event such as the G20 is covered by highly trained federal representatives such as the RCMP. The surrounding ring is handled by local people who know the site and its surroundings. Mukherjee and Harper make it sound like many of the police borrowed from other parts of Canada spent most of their time in Toronto learning their way about.

Mukherjee tells us that Blair’s preparations for the G20 were ridiculous and quickly found to be hollow. Blair sniped at his underlings instead of leading them. The tactics of the anarchist group the Black Bloc had been studied but not prepared for. Blair goaded his troops into retaliating on the innocent. He broke all the rules of effective policing.

Why should Toronto take pride in that?


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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