Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pride in Toronto and Beyond

This week has seen quite a bit of news relating to homosexual issues in the media. For the record, I worked with my opening sentence for ten minutes and I still do not like it, but I wanted to move on. This week is Pride Week in Toronto. Toronto’s parade and related celebrations draw in thousands of tourists to the city and is one of the world’s largest international parades.

However, our friends across the border in New York state have broken new ground this week. A few days ago Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a same-sex marriage law. Gay Rights issues have largely died down in Canada in the last few years since we passed our own same-sex marriage legislation. Once marriage equality was won the gay rights agenda has lost much of its initiative from the 1990s and early 2000s.

The United States is not settled on the issue at all. Many states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, some have a constitutional ban but still allow rights of a married couple without the title. Look at the Wikipedia page for some insight, the map alone I think gives the picture. New York is now the sixth state to fully recognize gay marriage, the other five are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Congratulations New York.

I heard there was some controversy over the fact that Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto does not intend to attend the Pride Parade, and instead will be cottaging with his family. Ford’s office states that this is a family tradition that goes back many years for Canada Day. Rob Ford is Toronto’s most conservative mayor in many, many years, and he has made statements in the past that would lead one to believe he does not fully support the Pride parade. I must say that I do not have a problem with Mayor Ford not attending. I’d prefer a man with principles I do not fully share than a politician who panders despite the fact that he or she does not agree with the cause.

I have never attended a Pride event myself, not out of any special dislike of the activity, I just live away from the city and it has never seemed like my type of scene. To be fair, I also do not attend the Santa Clause Parade, perhaps I am just not a parade person. Doing research for this week’s posting though, something bothered me. I do not like the fact that Pride Week is held on the last week of June. July 1st will more often than not fall within Pride Week within the city of Toronto. Canada Day is a national holiday, for all Canadians, and I am uncomfortable with the competing interests of Pride and our national birthday.

Perhaps there is only an imagined conflict in my mind, but I would much prefer celebrations of Canadian nationalism to not have to fight for oxygen with any other festival. I would think it a modest suggestion that Pride in the future be held on a slightly different week, the third week of June or the second week of July. I honestly don’t expect things to move, I do not have any say at all and the forces of the status quo may view it as some sort of attack.

Of course, if it did not coincide with Canada Day Mayor Ford may still be in the city, and then what reason would he find to be away?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Orange Tory Anniversary!

On June 22, 2010 I revived my blog, the Orange Tory. I’m not sure there was a better 12-month period to begin the creative exercise in posting my opinion and views on important local, national and international issues. The difference between blogging and writing in a journal is feedback and contributions from readers. It has truly surprised me the growth in readership of this blog. I appreciate the comments, questions and ideas I’ve received from those who read, and I deeply value those who visit this site.

I have been proud to give my point of view on elections from the United States, Canada, and local ones in Ontario, education policy, urban policy, transportation, international issues and my constant touchstone – democratic reform. I believe that I have laid out a strong set of values and ideas that put principles ahead of politics. Despite my disposition for some political parties I have not hesitated to criticize those who supposedly lead my political parties, claim to represent me, or share my ideals.

In the coming year the Orange Tory will focus on upcoming provincial elections, most importantly the 2011 Ontario provincial election. As a NDP voter in 2011, and a Canadian citizen, I’ll be keeping a close eye on the performance of our new Loyal Opposition in Ottawa. More importantly now that the Conservatives have gained a majority government it is critical for us to be aware and put pressure on the government to do what we want.

I’d like to say more about what I will be writing about in the next twelve months, but I could never have predicted this past year, let alone the next one. Since I restarted this blog we’ve seen riots in Toronto and Vancouver, Obama’s Democrats lose control of the Congress to Republicans, how education policy is affecting our lives and some interesting reforms, the Middle East as fragmented and exploded in revolution, the economy has staggered back to its feet, but the future is unclear and we’ve seen a radical shift in Canadian politics in the last couple months.

As the expression goes, “May you live in interesting times,” and that we certainly do. Thanks again to my readers, and I look forward to the next twelve months!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Inside the Smoke-Filled Room

Today I made my first step into party politics. This evening I travelled to a union office in Thorold, which was to be the meeting place of the Ontario NDP’s Welland Riding Association meeting. When I arrived I discovered that there had been some confusion and the contact I had with the organization had mistakenly given me today as the date of a general meeting. Instead it was a meeting of the Selection Committee of the Welland NDP.

On June 3, 2011 Peter Kormos (NDP – Welland) announced he was retiring from the legislature he served in for over twenty years. The announcement came suddenly, and with very little warning. The Selection Committee I attended was anxiously trying to get together the much needed organization to replace Mr. Kormos as the NDP candidate to be the NDP MPP for Welland following the October election.

Peter Kormos is one my political heroes, and part of my participation in the Ontario NDP was to work with him. I am saddened at his departure from political life in the province of Ontario. I cannot say enough about this man who shaped my political identity and inspires me to this day.

I asked politely to sit in on this meeting. I contributed nothing, the Committee was selected through an unknown process and for me to shape the discussion because I showed up seemed improper. Before the meeting started a member of the executive encouraged me strongly to get more, and more involved in the party. I was excited and flattered to participate. Sadly, I held back in jumping in with both feet because of my impending change of life once I begin Master’s at Brock.

Something else, it will be difficult for me to volunteer for Welland. I live in the south end of St. Catharines, the most disconnected part of the riding. It would be far easier for me to work for the St. Catharines NDP, but I cannot be a member because I do not live in the boundaries. I cannot easily get to Welland, or Port Colborne to participate in the coming campaign, if I did have time.

The Committee discussed the nomination process and getting those interested the information they need. Constant concerns over the limited time left to get this all organized, and the issues with the postal workers strike were the focus of this meeting, along with who is in, and who is out. Looking over the forms a candidate needs to become the nominee I realized something. There are a lot of hoops a person has to jump through to get the nomination. It explains to me how strange people get the nominations in difficult ridings, like we just saw in Quebec. Local politicians – mayors, councillors, etc. and local notables (important businessmen/women and community leaders) don’t really have the time to do these things and they don’t want to risk his or her hard earned office. The people who do have the time are those who are determined to run or have the time to get their forms in order.

A person such as myself could easily get the forms in and stand as a candidate for nomination, but the mayor of Welland does not, or will not because he already has his position. It’s difficult to attract qualified and competent candidates for parties. We scorn career politicians, and people who want to enter politics. This Maclean’s article does a great job of talking about where we get our political talent. But unless we’re willing to run ourselves we are needed in quality control, and that’s why I can’t wait until my next party meeting.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Provinces, Take Your Seats

One of the key priorities of the Harper Majority government is to prepare for the next election. While I’m confident that’s true in the partisan meaning, I meant in the non-partisan governmental way. Every ten years the government of Canada examines the results of that years census, in this case 2011, and reapportions the number of seats per province. The Harper government is planning to address imbalances that have developed since 2001 by adding about 30 new seats to the fastest growing provinces in Canada – Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.

If you read the link above you’ll soon find that the process of allocating seats is incredibly complicated. Perhaps needlessly complicated, as are many things in Canadian politics. But before we return to that I want to discuss how I would allocate seats in a perfect world.

First, there may be a real need to increase the number of MPs, not substantially, but slightly. We are a massive country and the ability for citizens to gain access to their members of parliament is critical for our democracy to function as it is intended. But how many seats? Well, a reasonable riding would probably have about 100,000 (+/- 15%) people in it. Remember that a significant portion of this population will likely be under 18, so non-voters, so it still won’t be too difficult to campaign. This is roughly the size of districts now. How many MPs do we need to pull this off? According to an estimate Canada has about 34.5 million people, so the simple math says we would need 345 MPs. That’s an increase of 37 seats, or about 10%, more dramatic than what I initially thought.

Regardless, the break down in the next parliament would look like this:


Seats in 41st Parliament

Seats in 42nd (Future) Parliament

Newfoundland and Labrador


5 (-2)

Prince Edward Island


2 (-2)

Nova Scotia


9 (-2)

New Brunswick


7 (-3)



78 (+3)



132 (+26)



12 (-2)



10 (-4)



37 (+9)

British Columbia


45 (+9)



1 (-)

Northwest Territories


1 (-)



1 (-)




I came up with these numbers by taking the provincial population numbers and dividing by 100,000. Even with the dramatic increase in seats many provinces see a decline. Why? A number of provinces are dramatically inflated. The most dramatic example is Prince Edward Island. PEI has a population of about 140,000, I was generous and gave them two seats, but after the review they will still have four. The reason is because in 1915 a law was passed that a province shall not have fewer seats than it has Senators.

There are more problems though. Quebec feels it is entitled to compose 25% of the House of Commons, regardless of its population! The concept of representation by population has been part of Westminster Parliamentary Democracy since 1832, yet we have structural blockages in our tradition. Even if the government adds the much needed seats to BC, Alberta and Ontario there will still be significant imbalance.

Playing politics with this is dangerous to say the least. Each citizen’s vote needs to be equal to another by inflating the seat counts of smaller provinces you hurt voters in the big provinces. Let’s hope we see democracy triumph over small-minded interests.