Thursday, February 28, 2013

Worth Reading – February 28, 2013

I have decided to break one of my rules about Worth Reading. I’m expanding the selection to ten. It won’t always be ten posts, but sometimes seven felt very constraining. I’ve also been considering the future of The Orange Tory blog. This past Tuesday I posted a piece about the declining empathy I have noted among people. I have received good feedback about it but there were issues that came up this past week I wanted to address. Sometimes one post does not feel like enough. I briefly considered a Sunday essay. The topic would not be related to current events directly and be more of a commentary. I still haven’t decided whether or not I’ll do this, but I’m considering something along these lines.

We often hear how strong the Canadian economy is, but what we don’t hear often enough is many of the underlying weakness. One of the things that has crippled the American economy is the high level of consumer debt, which Canadians are also amassing. Another issue is the debt the provinces are taking on.  This isn’t just an Ontario issue, across the country the provinces are cash-strapped and struggling, even Alberta.

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government got hit with more controversy when new documents were revealed related to the gas plant closures in Oakville and Mississauga.

Metrolinx has set up a cool interactive challenge. Can you fund the infrastructure projects? What balance of taxes and fees will you use to pay for projects?

One of the big news items over the last couple of days was the release of a new political book called The Big Shift by John Ibbitson and Darrel Bricker. The authors argue that the 2011 election heralded a fundamental realignment of the country away from traditional eastern power centres to Western Canada. The Conservatives, they claim, are poised to be the “Liberal Party of the 21st century”, or, Canada’s natural governing party. A lot of columnists have responded with their own critiques. Susan Delacourt counters that it is hard to change the political DNA of Canada. In the Hill Times we have how the Conservatives changed politics in Canada. I’m hoping to pick this book up sometime this year and perhaps post a review.

Perhaps the biggest piece of news for a political nerd like me this week was the updated version of the Federal Ontario Boundary Commission’s report. The boundaries have been significantly altered in this version. I imagine I’ll dedicate next week’s post on the topic. A relatively new blog, Ontario Projections, has a write up on it if you want to check it out. 

Doug Saunders in the Globe and Mail discusses the international phenomenon that is “Vancouverism”. Vancouverism is the practice of increasing density in cities and developing infrastructure (particularly public transit) to match. However, as Saunders points out, there is an irony in that what the world is embracing, Canada is backing away from.

Samara’s series on Redesigning Parliament continues. This week I was particularly interested in a post that suggests that parliament needs to return to its supreme place in our political culture

Finally, something else urban/transit related. The author asks, “does light rail actually reduce congestion?” The answer may surprise you.

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