Thursday, August 29, 2013

Worth Reading – August 29, 2013

Marking Stephen Harper’s (CPC – Calgary Southwest, AB) tour of the Canadian Arctic the Edmonton Journal writes that the Prime Minister ultimately sees his legacy in Canada’s North. Not that it isn’t fraught with problems.

Macleans did a survey of Canada’s mayors and it turns out Mayor Susan Fennell of Brampton is the highest paid by their metric. 

Martin Regg Cohn in the Toronto Star criticizes the Ontario Municipal Board for overriding the democratically elected city councils of the province and likens the institution to the unaccountable Senate. 

From the Hill Times, a historian writes that Jack Layton’s death and the choice by so many Canadians to honour and memorialize his passing may have profound impacts upon our political culture in years to come. 

The Globe and Mail features an article on burnout among millennial women. Essentially this is a rehash of the problems women faced in the last few decades as they struggle to “have it all” and work to maintain a life-career balance.

From Daniel Kitts of TVO, a report says that Ontario doesnot invest enough in transportation. Did we need a report for that?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hitting the Hay

I could not resist the pun. I am currently in Hay River, Northwest Territories. The South Slave Divisional Education Council has an annual conference where all of the staff meet to kick off the school year. When I say all, I mean all. Support staff, including people like custodians take part. I must admit that I applaud that kind of thinking. Our smallest school has about a dozen total employees, therefore the staff rely on each other much more than at other schools.

Hay River is a town of about 4,000 people and, given that it is nearly twice the size of Fort Smith, it offers a much wider array of services. The centre of the community boasts a central business area that has stores that sell much more specialized goods. For example, there is a shoe store here. This may sound like a silly thing to point out, but earlier this week I broke the shoelaces in my dress shoes. I went to the three major businesses in Fort Smith and could not find any shoelaces that would be remotely suitable. Only the drugstore had any and they were bright blue and pink. I had begun to worry that I would have to ask my parents to mail some to me.

It’s nice to know that if/when I get a vehicle I can travel to Hay River and find some things that might be harder to acquire in Fort Smith.

My stupid pun-title has another meaning. Given that I am significantly further north the length of the day has shifted somewhat. Sunset in Fort Smith is approximately at 10 pm and sunrise is at about 5 am. I find I am unable to sleep in past 6 am, even on my days off work. I am not sure if this is a product of the jetlag/time zone jumping, or the length of the days. I’m 80% sure that my inability to sleep-in is related to my inability to adjust to the time change, but the fact that light is poking through the curtains of my hotel room is raising doubts in my mind.

The Wood Buffalo Inn, my hotel in Fort Smith.

Other than bizarre sleep patterns I am enjoying my life in Fort Smith so far. I’m finally getting a handle on what my job is, but in all honesty I do not expect to fully understand it until sometime in October or November. Most people assure me that this is normal, and that if anything it takes longer than that.
My office in Fort Smith.

I am meeting with Human Resources later this week and hope to have some firm answers about my blog. Thanks for reading during this interim time.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Worth Reading – August 22, 2013

My first Worth Reading from the 60th parallel. I haven’t had much time to do any reading this week. I did come across four that I thought were noteworthy.

I love maps. I find them one of the most effective ways to communicate information. This is a series of maps that help you better understand the world around you. 

Today marks the second anniversary of Jack Layton’s death. To mark the occasion a statue of the NDP leader was revealed on the Toronto lakeshore at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. 

David Akin of Sun News discusses the “winners” and “losers” of this summer in Ontario (in terms of politics). I reject this type of analysis, but it is worth checking out.

From the neat pile, the Toronto Star features a piece of art that is a projection of Toronto’s future skyline. Sometimes when I think about these things I think about silver jumpsuits and flying cars, but it definitely highlights the manhattanization of Toronto. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Arrived in Fort Smith

I am going to endeavour to keep this short. Since I last wrote I undertook the journey to Fort Smith, Northwest Territories and began work for my new employer. I still want to carefully review the Code of Conduct relevant to political writing and so I am writing another more personal piece this week.

Brampton to Pearson International Airport to Edmonton to Fort Smith to my hotel. It was not exactly an easy trip. From the time I woke up Friday morning to the time I checked into my hotel was about 12 hours. The flights went smoothly, it was the airports that were the problem. I switched airlines in Edmonton which meant I had to reclaim my bags and pass through security. Again. What I initially thought would be an interminable layover turned into a tight turn around by the time I got seated at the proper gate.

Fort Smith Airport

The airplane was... small. This was moderately alarming, but I don’t get nervous when I fly. Soon as the plane was in the air I was pretty relaxed. The wilderness surrounding Fort Smith is beautiful. It has a vastness to it that is overwhelming in some way. As the plane flew by Fort Smith I took note of the massive Slave River. According to my Google Earth calculations the river is 1.5 km wide by the town. I went to see it up close in person but I was nearly devoured by mosquitoes.

The Slave River

Fort Smith is not as different/alien as I first thought it might be. It is like many small towns I have seen or spent time in. One difference is that the level of services is significantly higher. The town of 2,500 people has a hospital and a college. Not exactly typical of an Ontario farm town. As I said I want to keep this short so I will hold off describing my job at this time. Until the next time.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Worth Reading – August 15, 2013

This is my last Ontario-based Worth Reading for a while. Tomorrow at about this time I’ll be leaving for the airport and on westward. I am excited, though understandably a tad nervous. On to the articles!

From iPolitics, the author suggests that the recent slate of candidates running in Toronto Centre to replace Bob Rae may signal a return of the political intellectual. The piece does not suggest that political intellectuals are great party leaders, but form a critical backbone to cabinets and effective caucuses. I am inclined to agree.

In the Ottawa Citizen, we need a better Senate and abolition does not do enough to improve our governing structure. This seems correct to me. As has been pointed out many times, federations similar to Canada all have functional upper chambers to balance state/province interests against the central government. Basically, I’d favour copying Australia completely, but I understand how difficult that is.

Don Lenihan in iPolitics interviewed James Rajotte (CPC – Edmonton-Leduc, AB) on what silences MPs. Rajotte says that anyone that claims the PMO and its staffers are silencing MPs needs to basically grow a backbone. Rajotte points to other issues, such as media coverage of MPs who speak out. Worth a read for sure.

Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak (PCPO – Niagara West – Glanbrook) refuses to face a leadership review

Excellent piece from the Globe and Mail highlights some of the more troublesome observations from the e-mails discovered in the course of the gas plant controversy. Staffers and advisors to Premier McGuinty come across as remarkably cynical and devious, it is not flattering, nor I imagine unique.

Based on the above information, the Opposition is calling on Premier Kathleen Wynne (OLP – Don Valley West) to cut ties to Don Guy

Corky Evans (Fmr. BCNDP – Nelson – Creston) offers an open letter about his thoughts about the current state of the British Columbia NDP. Evans calls on the leader Adrian Dix to resign, citing Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff as examples of fellow damaged goods. That isn’t the interesting part. Evans’ assessment of what has gone wrong with the party is the interesting part. He suggests the central control and destruction of internal dissent has crippled the BCNDP. I believe this could be applied to all parties in Canada to some degree. 

And finally, a video...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Leaving Ontario

I hope you will excuse this mostly personal post; I thought it was appropriate given its impact on the future of this blog. On Friday I board a plane to begin my new life in the Northwest Territories. Over the last couple of months while I have prepared to make the big move I have had to cut my commitments and change plans. It has been a difficult process, but one that required doing.

For anyone reading this blog the biggest change may be to this blog itself. I will be working for the government of the Northwest Territories. As a member of the public service I may be restricted in the type of political activities and public comments I can make. I have read the relevant sections of the Code of Conduct, but ultimately personal discretion and the direction of my employers will be important. So, it is possible that this will have to change focus and content. It that turns out to be the case I will be sure to post about it.

As I have written about on this blog my participation in the federal NDP and Ontario NDP have been important tasks I have taken on in recent years. I have greatly enjoyed getting involved in partisan politics, despite the partisanship. As I have advocated, I think being a member of a political party is critical for people interested in shaping how our politics/government operates. In addition it has been very rewarding meeting and engaging with people passionate about issues and politics.

A couple of weeks ago I put in my resignation for my positions on the Brampton West NDP executives. I worked as the Social Media Secretary for my local riding association for about seven months. It was a very exciting process. Working with dedicated and passionate people it definitely felt like we were starting to get the riding association off in the right direction. I am disappointed to be leaving the BWNDP behind, but I am confident they will continue to make progress.

I also had to resign my position on the Central West NDP. The provincial party created regional bodies to help coordinate and offer support to riding associations. A lot of hard work went into making it work. Funny enough on the drive home from the provincial council where I was elected I heard about the job that has me moving north of 60. It was terribly embarrassing to have to resign at our first official meeting.

While I’m sure I will be able to continue to do work for people, such as Samara, in the Northwest Territories, I will definitely miss traveling into Toronto and speaking to their wonderful staff in person. I am very grateful for the opportunities they have given me and the platform for my writing.

Obviously, leaving behind family and friends may be the most challenging part. I have tried diligently over the last two months to squeeze in everyone I could. I even travelled to Newfoundland to visit family out there. However, despite my efforts it looks like there is a list of people I simply did not get time to see. It is always the case, but hopefully our paths will cross again soon. My friends and family have been incredibly generous with their time, their kindness and even gifts as we say goodbye and I am honoured by that.

Taking this job and new opportunity is a tremendous step towards my greater ambitions. I will be working in a field I am interested in, doing work that feels important to me and serving a community. However, pursing this path means that I won’t be pursuing others. It is my life goal to one day stand for election. Given where my interests lay and issues within my community I was planning to run for City Council in Brampton in 2014. I harbour no illusions that I was likely to win, but this was one of the goals of my life. Now I am not certain I will ever return to live in my hometown, which is poignant in and of itself.

As the date of my flight approaches I am filled mostly with excitement for new opportunities and challenges, and frankly, I am excited to start living my life like a real grown-up. I hope I can pursue other projects, such as finishing the book I was working on, or working on other writing projects. I honestly do not know what the future holds, but at the moment I cannot help but feel optimistic.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Worth Reading – August 8, 2013

A short list of links. My life pre-move remains chaotic. I anxiously await when things settle down again. 

Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario leader Tim Hudak (PCPO – Niagara West-Glanbrook) is facing a potential leadership challenge after the party’s weak by-election performance. 

As a follow-up to the above story, two MPPs in the PCcaucus have now endorsed the effort, Frank Klees (PCPO – Newmarket-Aurora) and Randy Hillier (PCPO - Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington). This may cause a deep schism in the Tories, but will likely come of nothing. Leadership is very difficult to topple.

The Globe and Mail suggested that it was the Ontario NewDemocrats that have the most bragging rights after the August 1st by-elections

Oh God, I hate to say this, I agree with Rob Ford, a by-election should be held to fill Doug Holyday’s seat

I haven’t read all of this yet, but I find it interesting so far. It is about male entitlement and misogyny in “Geek culture”. As a nerd I can relate to some of the experiences presented here and worry about the narrow view of some of its proponents. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

By-Election Breakdown: Future Targets for Ontario's Parties

On August 1st Ontarians in five ridings cast ballots for new MPPs to sit in Queen’s Park. Five Liberal cabinet ministers resigned, many prominent faces in the McGuinty years, including the Premier himself. The results are well-documented; the Liberals held onto two ridings, the NDP picked up two and the Progressive Conservatives won one. Watching the results and the lead up to the by-elections I couldn’t help think about some of the potential trends and what these by-elections could teach us.

A moment of caution, by-elections are, more often than not, total flukes. A few short months ago in a federal by-election in Calgary Centre the Green Party candidate received 25% of the vote. I sincerely doubt that such a thing will be replicated in the next general election, but the Liberal strength in an urban Western seat might be an indication of future events and strategies. I am going to try to point to some of the trends that I saw last week that we may see again in a future general provincial election.

The Ontario New Democratic Party

Given my own partisan alignment my natural inclination was to see potential gains for the NDP and the by-elections offered many. Since the last general election polling in Ontario has been showing significant strength for the ONDP in Southwestern Ontario. It appears that when voters who previously supported the Liberals abandon them in SW Ontario they prefer to drift to the NDP. This was definitely the case in London West and Windsor-Tecumseh which elected Peggy Sattler and Percy Hatfield of the NDP. The trend was on display in Kitchener-Waterloo last year with the election of Catherine Fife.

Targets for the NDP in Southwestern and Midwestern Ontario will include Windsor West (which they hold federally), and perhaps a stiffer challenge in London North Centre so they can take all three London seats. I also expect the ONDP to make a play for Brant. Taras Natyshak (ONDP – Essex) won Essex in an upset in the last election. With strong candidates it may be possible for the ONDP to flip some of the rural seats as well, like Sarnia-Lambton where their numbers are not horrendous to start.

Scarborough-Guildwood also offers hope for the ONDP. Star candidate Adam Giambrone placed a strong third, with 28%, in a riding where last time the ONDP received less than 19%. The NDP federally won two seats in Scarborough in 2011: Scarborough-Rouge River and Scarborough Southwest. The party made a strong showing in Scarborough Centre and Scarborough-Guildwood, though they came in third in both instances. Next time Ontarians vote I would expect the ONDP to make big plays for Scarborough-Rouge River, where they last received 35% of the vote, and Scarborough Southwest. Depending on NDP fortunes (i.e. provincial wide polling) these could be beachheads to take the rest of Scarborough or where they make big breakthroughs.

The Ontario Liberal Party

It is hard not to look at the by-election results as a sign of trouble for the governing Liberals and Premier Kathleen Wynne (OLP – Don Valley West). Many of the ridings where by-elections were held were won by double-digit margins in the last election. No doubt incumbency and cabinet status protected these seats previously, but the tremendous routs in London West and Windsor-Tecumseh must offer a chilling effect. The Liberals won in Ottawa South and Scarborough-Guildwood and did well in Etobicoke-Lakeshore. This indicates to me that the critical suburban/urban vote is not abandoning the Liberal Party. While not as strong as they once were the Ontario Liberals needn’t fear the Michael Ignatieff-style defeat, yet. Ottawa South is not so different from the outer 905 suburbs, and Scarbough-Guildwood was vulnerable to both the NDP and PCs, yet the Liberals managed to hold onto enough of their base.

The results in the by-elections may suggest that the Liberals can basically hold on to the urban and suburban seats they have. Places like North York, Mississauga, and Ottawa may be safe from opposition incursions. The public is mad at the government, but not furious, or at least they didn’t demonstrate that. While this vote decline for the Liberals would mean tighter races in Ottawa and the 905, and losing seats like Oak Ridges-Markham, many are still safe which means they can work on rebuilding and not just holding on.

The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario

While the narrative suggests that the PCs had the worst night of the three parties they should not totally despair. To begin, the PCs came in second or first in all five contests. That might not sound like much but when measures against the NDP it puts them in a far better place to make a push for government. The NDP did abysmally bad in Etobicoke-Lakeshore and Ottawa South while the PCs put up respectful numbers everywhere. The PCs also grew their vote and made an inroad into Toronto with Doug Holyday (PCPO – Etobicoke-Lakeshore).

Sadly for the PCs the victory in Etobicoke-Lakeshore is more a product of Mr. Holyday and less his party. His win does not mean the PCs have an easy handful seats to grab from Fortress Toronto. However, Etobicoke Centre may be a viable grab for the PCs, especially if Holyday switches to that, his home riding, in a general election. Their strong performance in Scarborough-Guildwood means they will make a play there, as well as Scarborough-Agincourt, I assume. A riding that the PCs will likely make a fight for is Mississauga South. MS used to be a strong riding for the PCs and it borders Etobicoke-Lakeshore. The Liberal finance minister Charles Sousa comes from that riding, but given the location of the gas plants he would make a great symbolic cabinet minister to topple. A win in Etobicoke-Lakeshore may signal a greater openness in the GTA in the affluent urban/suburban regions to vote PC. If the Ontario Conservatives can do as their federal counterparts and win over visible minority voters, or even grab some of the original “Ford Nation” voters they could do well in Mississauga, Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York.

This post is not about what will happen in the next election, merely it is an idea where the strategic thinking of the three main parties might be as a result of the by-elections. Each gives a reason to despair but also hope for future growth.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Worth Reading - August 1, 2013

Today is by-election day in Ontario. Five ridings are set to select new MPPs from the St. Clair River to the Ottawa River. Many of the most interesting pieces in the last week have to do with this topic, so please forgive me. Polls close tonight at 9 p.m.

This brief write up from the Toronto Standard is a shocking piece of news. The North Pole has melted

Former MP and cabinet minister Ian Waddell offers his opinion on what the B.C. NDP needs to do next to overcome their self-inflicted defeat

A piece I wrote for the McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy went up this week about the impact of attitudes about buses on policy choices

Tom Mulcair and the NDP are testing out their election machinery this August as he criss-crosses Canada on a tour. 

Now to the by-election stuff!

Canadian Election Atlas offers the most comprehensive breakdown of the by-elections. Earl Washburn always does fantastic work and I strongly recommend following him on Twitter tonight when the results start coming in at @EarlWashburn

Steve Paikin at TVO wisely cautions us against reading too much into any of the by-election results

Eric Grenier at 308 says that the Liberals are under a lot of pressure today and has interesting numbers showing tight races in four out of the five ridings

The Globe and Mail says that Scarborough-Guildwood is a great sample of suburban Toronto and an important bellweather for each of the three parties. 

Martin Regg Cohn looks at the stakes of the by-elections tonight and minimizes their overall importance. He questions how the further allegations of misdoing by the McGuinty government will affect Liberals across the province

Finally, the Toronto Star says turnout will be key in determining all of these races. Absolutely true. With by-elections this close it is a matter of getting out the vote.