Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Thinking About Running

So, with the provincial election out of the way the Ontario political calendar begins to tick down to another critical date - local elections on October 22, 2018. Across the province in cities, towns, regions and school boards votes will be cast to determine our local leadership for the next four years. As the election has gotten nearer I have started to consider, once again, whether or not I want to throw my hat into the ring finally.

I work in education. I am a tutor and I see lots of students who attend different schools across the Region of Peel and the more time goes on the more I'm worried about the current state of education and where it is ultimately going. I worry that schools are not delivering the quality of education they are called upon, that they are failing to innovate and adapt in necessary areas, and that the boards' energy and efforts would be better shifted elsewhere than where they currently rest. So, I most seriously considering standing for election this time around as a school board trustee.

The deadline to register as a candidate is late July, so I still have time to make up my mind. Some are adamant supporters of this idea, but I have my doubts. I think I could bring something valuable to the position. I think with the new government in Queen's Park there is extra impetus for strong voices for education at a local level beyond teachers' unions.

Right now I am doing research. I want to be sure I fully appreciate the role and the current educational issues. I also want to sit with the idea longer. Do I want to put myself forward to scrutiny and criticism, even if I think it might be worth it? It's a difficult problem to wrestle with. Also, given my work, it could be problematic for my employer. In addition, there are many things in my personal life that need addressing. I don't know if I can justify the time towards this sort of effort at the moment. That will take some thought.

The idealist in me cannot help but think about the struggle of ideas and that there needs to be accountability in our system for good governance. My incumbent trustee is seeking re-election. I don't know the woman well, but my two efforts to contact her on issues of my concern were fruitless. I think education will have to undergo a radical transformation over the next few decades, and defenders of the status quo will just make things worse.

I haven't made any decisions yet, but I have to one way or another soon. I'll be sure to share if I do.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Worth Reading - June 14, 2018

Eric Grenier suggests that the PC victory in Ontario largely was built upon a breakthrough in the GTA

Steve Paikin writes about the first meeting of the forty member strong NDP caucus

Fish are adapting to climate change faster than our laws can

Any dismissal of the Ontario Liberals as dead is far, far, far too premature. Their next leader will shape how they may recover

A big question for the Liberal Party of Ontario is how it will orient itself. Wynne took them well to the left, will they tack back to the centre?

Strong Towns looks at the psychology of decline

Paul Wells looks at how Doug Ford managed to win the provincial election. 

Jen Gerson looks at the PC majority and asks if they have been cursed

Why do recently built mixed-use buildings struggle to fill their store fronts

How do bike lanes help businesses? 

Communities can do more to make themselves friendlier to local businesses

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Ontario Election: History Repeats Itself

Meet the new election, same as the old election. As the results of the Ontario have been decided it is difficult to look over the results and not see a great deal of similarities between the 2018 provincial election and the 2011 federal one.

In both cases the Liberals were battered down to third place. The Tories secured approximately 40% of the vote and in the weakness of the Liberals the NDP filled the gap to become the Official Opposition after a breakthrough. The ultimate kicker - the leader of the Green Party managed to win her/his seat.

There are plenty of parallels to how the Progressive Conservatives won in Ontario to how their federal cousins did seven years prior. In fact, in 2011 Stephen Harper's Conservatives won 73 seats to Doug Ford's 76. Similarly, the Liberals were reduced to 11 seats federally and provincially it was 11.

I think we see a lot of alignment between these two elections because there simply is a lot of shared blood between the six parties. I am less clear on the Green Party, so I don't want to speak out of ignorance. Kathleen Wynne strongly supported Justin Trudeau in 2015, Jack Layton was a strong ally to Andrea Horwath and Jagmeet Singh did pitch in for the campaign this time around. An obvious move given that his brother now represents his old seat. The connections between the Tories are less obvious, but several Harper era Conservatives successfully ran for seats this time around.

Aside from the parallels in the outcomes and votes I think we can likely extrapolate how some of the politics over the next four years may look. Doug Ford is going to introduce a conservative agenda to the province for the first time in fifteen years. There is going to be substantial resistance from the progressive side and its allies. It will be the ONDP's job primarily to keep the PCs in check and hold them to public account. Ms. Horwath will be challenged to do it as well as Tom Mulcair did. For four years he made the case for why the Conservatives did not deserve re-election.

However, do not expect the 2022 election to be a mirror of 2015. Doug Ford will have only completed his first term and the public is more like than not to give him a second, just out of tradition and habit. More likely it'll be a battle for the opposition parties to assert themselves and reduce the PC majority, if possible, and for Mike Schreiner to prove his worth as the sole Green MPP.

On a final note, I predicted 111 of the 124 provincial ridings correctly. In terms of overall numbers I did better, but I figured I'd fess up and say that I was off. I underestimated the NDP breakthrough in Toronto, and which seats the Liberals would manage to hold, and underestimated the PCs in a few spots. Oh well, still not bad for an amateur. I did call all five of my local ridings correctly though, so that's a bonus.

2018 was a hell of a provincial election and will no doubt make for exciting politics in Ontario for the years to come. Keep watching, there's plenty more to come.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Worth Reading - June 7, 2018

Happy Election Day, Ontario! I've already went out and cast my ballot and I hope all of you have already or have made a plan to who live in the province. This week's Worth Reading has a lot about the election, perfect to read up on before the results start to come in tonight.

A cultural critic takes a look at The Ideology of the First Order in Star Wars.

Paul Wells argues that our government's focus on Trump is a waste of time.  

John Michael McGrath looks at what a possible PC or NDP cabinet could look like

The road to victory is through the GTA

Though a flawed method, using the surveys from vote compass someone put together the ridings in Ontario from most left to right

It's possible that the NDP will win the popular vote, but lose the election tonight

Martine Ouellet was kicked out as the leader of the Bloc Quebecois. 

The Toronto Star writes that all of Downtown Toronto may flip to the NDP

If the NDP wins tonight, what might it look like

Much is made of the 905, but this election the 416 will be an important part of the election. 

Cutting routes and frequency merely depresses transit usage. The more efficient and easy to use, the more riders a system attracts. 

Public engagement is a critical part of local government, and it is utterly failing. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Ridings to Watch and Prediction

In two days Ontarians will cast their ballots and elect 124 members of provincial parliament. Turnout will be a big decider. There is apparently a large number of undecided voters out there still trying to pick who they will vote for. Given how late in the game it is it is possible, perhaps likely, that those who cannot pick will not vote at all.

The position of the parties is quite strange. The Liberal vote is way, way down, the NDP vote is up and the Progressive Conservatives and NDP are virtually tied. As a result drawing clear conclusions about what will happen on Thursday is tricky. I sat down with a list of the 124 seats and made up a list of seats to watch during election night.

Brantford-Brant - An old industrial town with a growing student population and an indigenous community. Brantford has struggled for years economically. It is an urban centre in Southwestern Ontario and should be a battleground between the PCs and NDP.

Don Valley West - The riding of Kathleen Wynne, the incumbent premier. Some are predicting the Liberals will be virtually wiped out in this election and that Wynne will lose her seat. She has rebounded slightly after the debate and it will be interesting to see if the people of Don Valley West will stand behind the premier.

Durham - A 905 riding in the middle of the Durham Region that is largely rural, if memory serves. However, it seems to be a two-way race between the NDP and the PCs. The NDP need to win ridings like Durham and grow in the 905 if they want to form government.

Guelph - This is a seat that will get a lot of attention on election night as it is the only four-way race in the province. Mike Schreiner of the Green Party is running in Guelph and polls indicate that he has a strong chance of winning the seat. Any party could win the seat. I personally hope to see Schreiner at Queen's Park.

Mississauga Centre - Mississauga has been a bit of a mystery to me. Despite living in the neighbouring city I've had a hard time guessing where it would swing. I could imagine all three parties winning seats in this city. Mississauga Centre could be a bellwether for the rest of the city.

Mississauga-Malton - Part of this riding used to be in Jagmeet Singh's riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton. Given the composition it could be a tough fight between all three parties. This seat is precisely the kind that the NDP needs to grow into and the PCs need to win to form government.

Ottawa Centre - Ottawa Centre has flipped between the Liberals and NDP federally and provincially in the past. The local candidate for the Liberals is quite strong, but the rise of the NDP may have doomed Yasir Naqvi.

Ottawa South - This used to be Dalton McGuinty's riding. Despite polls showing a PC victory in a by-election after he retired the seat went back to the Liberals. If the Liberals come down to a handful of seats this may be among one of their final holdouts.

Sault Ste. Marie - In Northern Ontario the NDP has long been the dominant party. However, in Sault Ste. Marie the PCs have a real chance to take this riding. They have been working on inroads in the North up to this election.

Scarborough-Guildwood - This is another potential three-way race. If the Tories build a majority they need to win seats like this and establish a stronger foothold in Toronto. The NDP are looking for a breakthrough in Toronto themselves, while the Liberals just want to hold on. Seeing how this riding goes could be an indicator for others around it.

Overall thoughts and Prediction

So, despite the Progressive Conservative vote declining and the NDP vote rising it appears we are on the verge of a Progressive Conservative majority government. Polls could be wrong and the vote could shift, but at the moment that does not seem to be the case. The PC majority will be slimmer than they first thought.

Compared to projections and numbers put out from others mine differs in a few ways.

Progressive Conservatives - 72 seats
New Democrat - 43 seats
Liberal - 8 seats
Green - 1

I think some analysts are underestimating the Progressive Conservatives. I simply think that for many Ontarians they are used to voting red or blue and will default to that when their interest is kicking the Liberals out of office. I don't think the Liberals will be purged entirely. Pockets of support will save them a few seats. I am being an optimist and hoping that the Green Party enters the legislature in the next session.

Of course, things are not decided yet, so be sure to go out and vote and make your impact on the result.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Worth Reading - May 31, 2018

This article by Jeremiah Jenne compares the United States and China and finds some interesting parallels

Eric Grenier takes a look at the battleground in Southwestern Ontario

Eric Grenier takes a look at the battleground in Northern Ontario

The Ontario provincial election, some argue, will be decided in the 905

David Akin takes a look at the 20 closest ridings in Ontario, from his analysis. 

Steve Paikin writes about how party unity often helps decide an election. 

Martin Regg Cohn writes that Andrea Horwath appears safe as the Conservatives falter on the road to victory. 

Justin Trudeau throws his support behind the Trans-Mountain Pipeline

President Trump is imposing tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum as our ongoing trade dispute remains unresolved. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Ontario Debate

On Sunday Ontarians had their last chance to see Kathleen Wynne, Andrea Horwath and Doug Ford face off in a debate. I think for those having a tough time deciding it actually might be quite valuable. I think the 90 minutes gives a good portrait of what the three leaders offer our province.

I think it's important for me to put my cards on the table for those who may be reading this without knowing my history. I am a long-time New Democrat, I plan to vote for my local NDP candidate and I hope Andrea Horwath is our next premier.

From my perspective both Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horwath did well in the debates and Doug Ford struggled. One thing looked pretty clear to me, and I doubt objective observers could disagree - the experience of the leaders really showed. Horwath has a lot of experience in this sort of debate now, she seemed confident and prepared. Wynne has done this all before as well and was generally measured and able to respond. Ford sounded robotic and spouted slogans and rarely seemed coherent.

Wynne was confident talking about every policy area. Our current premier is strong in policy and it shows in a public performance like this. You may dislike her policies, but she has command over them and doesn't get tripped up on details.

Horwath to some would seem aggressive. She needed to defend her momentum and assert herself over her rivals. She seemed assured and spoke clearly about her platform while also pointing out the shortcomings in the PCs'.

Ford. Sigh. Ford appeals to some Ontarians I am sure, but it certainly isn't me. There was no denying that his speaking style mirrors that of Trump's. His declarations that that the 'economy will be great' and 'we'll see prosperity like Ontarians have never seen before' scream the same code. He has a simple message - trust us to cut your taxes and balance the books (somehow) and we won't cut services. A snake oil salesman will find his customers.

There is an intangible quality when watching the debates that you get that is hard to describe. The leaders' personalities come out and you get a sense of the person asking to be entrusted with governance of the province. I can't summarize that for you, but I advise you look into it for yourself.

And for the love of God, someone ban audiences from these things.

It's nine days until the election. Get out there and get informed, Ontarians.