Election spleen vent

I have just been to vote in the Ontario provincial election.

I must admit, I don’t find any of the candidates in my riding particularly enticing, but I have always said that if you don’t vote, you lose your right to bitch. So off to vote I went.

This is where it went a little sideways. Unless I am very much mistaken, the two official languages in Canada are English and French. So how come the people that were staffing the polling station were conversant in neither?

I have voted many times before, so the process is well known to me, but if I hadn’t gone through it before, I’m pretty sure that I would have had difficulty after the totally mangled explanation that was given to me by the elections officer. I wondered if it was just the one person that was dealing with me, but her partner was having similar difficulties with the next person in line.

I was very tempted to switch to French to see what sort of reaction that would provoke, but instead decided that the best course would be to simply vote and get out of there before I said.something that I would regret. Well I’m going to say it anyway. Why for heavens sake can’t the hiring criteria state ability to speak and understand either official language clearly is mandatory.


Attack adverts

It is election day -1 here in Ontario, and as a follow up to a prior article about attack adverts, I would like to reiterate my objection to disingenuous names. It isn’t the Working Families Coalition, it is a variety of teachers unions.

These have been among the most vitriolic of the attack adverts against Tim Hudak, and it gives the impression that it is a group of concerned citizens, when in fact it is a very expensive media campaign by teachers unions.

There have been many others including a particularly nasty set by “Project Ontario” who I have been unable to identify.

Let me state again. I have no objections to attack advertising. They are part of the political landscape. I would much rather see politicians talking about their own platforms rather than saying little about what they would do and lots about how awful their opposition is. Where I have an objection is when unions and other organizations spend millions of dollars on slur campaigns and then hide behind innocuous names like the Working Families Coalition.

Hopefully these attempts to paint Hudak as some latter day Faust who has sold his soul to big corporations will suffer the fate that they should and cause a backlash. The question one needs to ask when seeing attack ads like that is to wonder what has been promised for a group of unions to spend so much money.

Working Families Coalition

Day one of the advertising war in the election campaign, and a vocal PC opponent is about to open up the big guns.

Obtained by Global News, a new advertisement by the Working Families Coalition paints PC Leader Tim Hudak as untrustworthy and “misleading voters again.” The union funded organization will release the ad on Thursday.

Now I’m not against any organization taking out public advert time on any form of media, however I would like a little clarity. The coalition, which includes the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, and the Ontario Nurses’ Association, spent $2.1 million on .ads attacking PC Leader Tim Hudak during the 2011 election campaign and it looks like they are planning on doing similar this year.

.What I would like is a clear statement on these ads regarding exactly who is sponsoring them, rather than the somewhat benevolent sounding Working Families Coalition.

The Ontario Election

I’m just a voter, I’m not a political commentator or a candidate, but please don’t interpret that to mean that I am stupid. The Ontario Liberals must think exactly that.

Firstly, I am not going to forget about Orange or the Gas Plant fiascoes. It is not past history that  is water under the bridge, it is indicative of how the Liberal Government works. Dalton McSquinty may have been Premier, but Kathleen Wynn was at the big table during all of this, so her bleating that it wasn’t under her leadership rings very hollow. Wynn was not elected to the top job as an outsider, she was very much part of the leadership cabal that is directly responsible for these disasters.

Secondly, the Liberals have been in power for 10 years, so blaming anything on prior government again is very hollow. If you can’t fix it in 10 years, or at least make significant progress, then I don’t want you as my government because you have shown that at the very minimum you are incompetent.

Finally, again as the Liberals have been in power for 10 years, how come there wasn’t any movement on all of their brand new promises before now. These are just election promises that will be thrown to the political winds as soon as someone is stupid enough to vote for them. For both the NDP and the Conservatives, their promises need to be viewed with a cynical eye as to whether this is true direction that they are going to follow or just election rhetoric, but in the case of the party in power, if they aren’t already moving on some of these promises, then you know how much you can depend on them following up.

With a party in power, they have a track record and you can look at that record. With opposition parties, you have to take their promises with cynical faith. The liberal track record is not something to be proud of and that needs to be reflected in a resounding rejection of them on polling day.

War of words

russiantanksMoscow is pressing Nato to explain its plans to enhance its military presence in Eastern Europe, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said.

“We not only expect answers, but answers… based fully on respect for the rules we agreed on,” he said.

Nato has said it will reinforce the alliance’s defences in Eastern Europe following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Nato has also halted all civilian and military co-operation with Russia.

Russia by all reports has massively built up its troop presence on the border with Ukraine, and has persistently refused to honor requests to reduce that presence. Now, when Nato is proposing some counter moves, which are based upon the nervousness of Nato members that are close to this region, Russia is demanding explanations.

Maybe, “well you are standing on the Ukraine border with 40,000 big clubs” would do.

Russia has proceeded with complete disregard to any international pressure to this point, so I would make the case that it was has a game plan that it is following. Whether that game plan is well thought out is up for debate, and how it  will play out depends on a lot of factors outside Russian control.

It has executed a force play on the ground, and is well into a media play to attempt to give those looking for excuses to look the other way a rationale for doing so. It is also blowing smoke out of every orifice.

It is attempting to destabilize an already unstable area for its own ends and hopefully the “excusnics” will get very little media play, but if past experience is anything to go by they will get far more coverage than they deserve.

Quebec separation

It is election time in the province of Quebec, and the Parti Quebecois is heating up the separation debate. The old chestnuts are coming out, with debates about continued usage of the Canadian dollar, trade with the rest of Canada and other sharing options.

It is up in the air whether this is simply a tactic to gain the additional support needed to get a majority or whether this is a serious push where gaining the majority is the first step in an independence campaign. There are some significant indicators that the latter is true.

Mr. Péladeau, the billionaire former chief executive of Quebecor Inc., would not be making the leap to run for the PQ were he not persuaded a major role awaits him in the push for independence, which he calls part of his “most intimate and profound values.”. Not only that, but having a major player in the Quebec media in the separation camp would be a very useful tool in shaping public opinion. If you believe that Mr. Péladeau would still not be pulling the levers, then I have land in Florida for you.

Ms. Marois, in the meantime, is downplaying the potential effects of separation, but pushing hard to keep it on the radar. She states that Quebec would continue to use the Canadian dollar, but would like a seat at the Bank of Canada table. She states that Quebec would still continue to use Canadian passports and that there wouldn’t be any border controls or tariffs. There is significant silence from her on Quebec debt, or the provinces share of Canada’s debt. Sounds like a soft sell and a continuation of the very successful “who blinks first” policy where Quebec threatens to leave and the rest of Canada then proceeds to bribe them to stay, both financially and through increased provincial powers.

For the PQ, there is no immediate downside to this. If they get a majority government using this tactic, they win. After that, they will try to use this club to gain additional powers and financial support and they win. If they go as far as a referendum and a yes vote, they win. Either they manage to slowly create a country within a country, or they gain their ultimate goal of true separation. It is a dangerous game, but politics isn’t a game for the faint of heart.

York U

Is it appropriate to allow university students decline to participate in a class assignment because it would force him to interact with female students, or should they be expected to set their “firm religious beliefs aside” in their search for higher education? And how should technology play into the decision?

That question is at the centre of a debate ongoing at Toronto’s York University, where a sociology professor and university brass have clashed over whether a student’s religious belief should allow him to skip class assignments that bring him into contact with women. The prof denied the request and the university brass overruled him.

It is a sticky situation, and one where easy black and white answers don’t really fit, but what it comes down to in my mind is the values that a Canadian University is expected to uphold. Note , I say Canadian University – if the Uni was in Saudi Arabia, the rules would be different.

On one hand there is religious freedom, and on the other there are many other Canadian societal norms that would point in the opposite direction. For many years women have been fighting for equality, and now those gains could be trumped by religious beliefs? Our traditional values, which are being eroded daily would say to the student – get over it and complete the assignment. The alternative is a slippery slope where the R word takes precedence.

One final point on this particular issue, is that according to Islamic and Judaic scholars that were consulted (and I guess that the person involved is in one of these groups) there is no religious prohibition against men and women being together in public. That makes this request even more outrageous. It is also interesting to note that the prof involved consulted these groups prior to making his decision not to accomodate, whereas York administration did not, before they overruled him.

That being said – the Human Rights Commission is now looking into it, so hold onto your hats as this could get very weird, as sense and HRC’s usually don’t go together. I can but hope that they agree with the prof, but whether they do or not shame on York U.

Fix or repair daily

That was the byline of a certain car back in the 70s, but they managed to turn it around. Can the other Ford in the news do the same?

Our dear beloved Mayor seems to be staggering from crisis to crisis as videos crawl out of the woodwork purportedly showing him smoking crack and wild drunken rants. His political opponents are speaking in measured tones to the media, mouthing platitudes while rubbing their hands in glee at his apparent self destruction.

Ford is a very polarizing figure, he has been an effective Councillor but does not seem to possess the one character trait that a mayor needs which is the ability to lead without completely pissing off all of the people that he needs to lead. Even before the current debacle, it was only a few days between stories of him having issues with someone, usually media.

Agree or disagree with his politics, you have to wonder about his political savvy. He has always had a love/hate relationship with the media, and has been at war with the Toronto Star during most of his term. That isn’t particularly effective even during the good times, but when you slip, the media is going to rip at you like a pack of hyenas at a wounded animal.

He also doesn’t appear to be handling this crisis very well either. He is making apologies, and then hiding from the media and doesn’t appear to understand that he can’t get back onto message, while he is the story. He seems to have forted up, with the hope that it will all blow over, or at least blow less strongly, and either isn’t listening to his advisers or doesn’t have any effective ones left.

Is there a way out ?

At this point it seems difficult – he needs space to put his house in order and the media and his political opponents are unlikely to give him that. He isn’t the first politician with issues – Churchill was a drunk, Clinton and Kennedy both couldn’t keep their pants zipped and the list is endless of the less stellar and their missteps. No reasonable person expects their leaders to be perfect, but we do expect them to show good judgement, and the Mayor is not showing that. He hasn’t shown good judgement with his actions, he hasn’t shown good judgement with the people he associates with and hasn’t shown good judgement about who he lets close to him with a camera.

Streetcar shooting

Sammy Yatim was killed on a streetcar in Toronto’s west end just after midnight ET Saturday. Much of the incident was captured on amateur video.

What we do know is that the entire incident transpired in about 10 minutes. Just after midnight, Yatim reportedly stood up and brandished a knife on the 505 streetcar on Dundas Street West near Trinity Bellwoods Park.

A few minutes later, police arrived at the scene. At that point, Yatim was alone on the stationary streetcar. A standoff quickly ensued, and within the space of 13 seconds one officer had fired nine shots.

There are many questions and on the surface, the amateur video looks pretty damning. Having said that – let us wait until the official inquiry is complete before rushing to judgement.

Our cops do a difficult job, and the level of hostility that has been leveled at them over the last few days sickens me. Protest all you want, but getting into a persons face and screaming at them isn’t what I would call civilized protest. I know what would happen if you did that to me, and the cops are showing remarkable restraint.

The second point is that I am very disappointed in the Chief of Police – he has already suspended the officer and established a separate investigation. This is not normal process and in my eyes has shown this officer has already been thrown to the wolves. Isn’t it the role of the SIU to investigate things like this?  If the SIU is ineffective, then deal with that. Do NOT play politics – just let the SIU get on with its job. If it whitewashes or tries to whitewash the investigation – then deal with that, but until they do, let them work. Our police, just like our citizens deserve that due process be observed when a potential crime is being investigated. Anything less is just another word for mob justice.

Senate reform

The provincial premiers say that senate reform isn’t one of their priorities.

They are so wrong on this. Yes – there are many pressing matters that have to be dealt with – but shoveling this smelly pile of beaver droppings under the rug isn’t the right message to send out to a tired electorate. Not only that – it re-enforces the view that a significant number of Canadians have is that the average politician is a mouth with no morals, whose only aim in life is to get re-elected enough times to qualify for the gold plated pension and other perks such as the senate. I know this view is being unfair to the politicians that are out there doing a good job, but when your nose is rubbed into a scandal like this  and you don’t actively seek to resolve it, then the odor clings, and quite rightly so.

Let’s be fair – the senate is a political bag-mans retirement home, and while it keeps a low profile and doesn’t make too many waves it can slide under the radar. Well, it broke the cardinal rule and because of that the rules have to change. If and I say IF the senate deserves to survive it needs significant public scrutiny to see that the pigs at the trough are only snuffling what they are entitled to, and what they are entitled to needs to be very rigorously looked at, and as soon as possible. It is actually possible to work on many priorities at one time and this should be one of the priorities.