Thursday, October 30, 2014

Worth Reading - October 30, 2014

I hope you will forgive my Torontocentricism in this week’s Worth Reading. In the wake of the election I have been reading a lot of the aftermath pieces.

Edward Keenan in the Toronto Star discusses the divisions in Toronto revealed in Monday’s vote. 

Much was written about the divide referenced in the previous article. I think it would be valuable to take a look at this piece from City Lab. It turns out that America’s most liberal cities are the most difficult for the lower-class to survive in. I think there is evidence to suggest that Toronto is undergoing the same process and that it explains the voting result to a certain extent.

A break from municipal politics, with the Ontario municipal elections out of the way focus for politicos in that province shift to the 2015 federal election. Alice Funke writes about the nominations.

A nice little resource from BlogTO comparing election maps from the last few Toronto elections, since amalgamation. 

TVO’s The Agenda had an episode last night about the new right-wing movements across Europe. The rise of the far-right has definitely been a concerning trend since the start of the Great Recession. 

Desmond Cole in the Torontoist has a longer piece on the issue of white privilege and why it is critical to discuss. 

Back from my hometown's wards 3 and 4 has two new faces at city and regional council. 

Jon Lorinc in Spacing postulates how we might expect John Tory to govern once he becomes mayor. Lorinc is likely on the right track given the olive branch he has extended to Olivia Chow, David Soknacki and Karen Stintz.

The Toronto Star wrote “what you need to know” after Monday’s election. 

Morgan Baskin was one of the better-known minor candidates for mayor. Now that the election is over she writes about what’s next for her and reveals the mental and physical strain of running for office. It’s a topic not nearly given enough thought.

In the Globe and Mail we get a break down of some of the economic reasons for the divide in Toronto’s vote on Monday. 


The Guardian in the U.K. writes that multiculturalism in Toronto is failing as it prepared to elect another white, upper-class male

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ontario’s 2014 Municipal Election: The Next Morning

Coming up with a narrative that describes what happened in Ontario’s municipal election last night is probably a fruitless venture. Drawing commonalities between the 444 local governments that selected leadership last night is even more meaningless than developing a common narrative during federal elections.

On the one hand observers, including myself, could talk about a new era in politics, but that would ignore the overwhelming strength of incumbents in all local elections. That being said I think it is appropriate to think of this as a new era in Ontario. There are four new mayors in the province’s five largest cities: Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, and Hamilton. There are also new mayors in Kitchener, Waterloo, London and Windsor. This alone will change the dynamic.

Toronto has elected John Tory as its chief magistrate. Many are hoping this brings an era of peace to municipal politics and progress on a number of policy areas (see transit) that have been languishing. However, most of Toronto’s City Council has been re-elected so aside from the mayor it is mostly the same cast of characters.

Brampton’s political class has been radically remade. Only five of the incumbents were returned to City Council, though two of the new councillors are sons of former political leaders. Linda Jeffrey takes over as mayor from Susan Fennell, but she was the representative for Brampton-Springdale at Queen’s Park for many years. It will be interesting to see how issues play out in Brampton in coming years with fresh leadership.

While I have yet to look into it at any depth I’ve heard that London might have been an interesting election where incumbents were tossed out in favour of a new class of progressive councillors. How will they change London to deal with its problems in the coming years?

While people wake up this morning and start to consider their new roles in our lives as public servants and how they will work together there are other considerations in place as well. At Queen’s Park Premier Kathleen Wynne has many new partners to develop relationships with and work with to solve the provinces problems. In the approaching federal election the parties will probably find candidates from those who made a good showing or councillors and mayors who won and are sympathetic to their causes.

Ultimately I hope that peace, order and good governance takes root in our municipalities, particularly in our largest cities. Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all those candidates brave enough to put their name forward.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Worth Reading – October 23, 2014

In the wake of yesterday’s events in Ottawa I would like to refrain from commenting extensively at this time. I would like to share Jonathan Kay’s article from the National Post about adapting without compromising our public space

Royson James from the Toronto Star tepidly throws his support behind Bonnie Crombie and John Sanderson in the upcoming municipal elections. 

From the New York Times, American political parties are very different animals from their peers elsewhere in the world. In this opinion piece the author argues that stronger political parties would reduce partisanship. 

Also from the New York Times, why are young people attracted to the frivolous start-up in Silicon Valley while engineering tech companies struggle to recruit? This article provides a lot of great insight to Silicon Valley and the current culture there.

Jon Lorinc writes about strategic voting, which has become a hot issue as the municipal elections come to a close. 

Ashley Csanady lays out what’s ahead at Queen’s Park. 

Tim Harper writes about which events could upset the dynamic leading to the federal election. 

Dammit Premier Wynne! The Liberal Ontario government has made it possible to raid the transit fund... 

The Toronto Star has been running a series called “10 Big Ideas” on how Toronto could be made a better place. In this piece, what if the provincial government took over transit from the City of Toronto. 

This is an old one, but Dan Gardner was referencing this piece so I gave it a look. Why a higher birth rate is good for the environment


In perhaps what will be the biggest technological change in decades – Skunk Works might be close to a fusion reactor

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Endorsements - Brampton 2014 Municipal Election

This is perhaps the most interesting set of municipal elections in Ontario in quite some time. On October 27th voters across the province will be electing their local officials. While the mayoralty race in Toronto has garnered the most attention there are contentious elections in Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton, London and Sudbury. My hometown, Brampton, has a significant number of open seats as a large number of councillors retired this year as well the controversial mayor of Brampton faces serious challengers. Some people back home have asked for some help picking out candidates so here are my suggestions for Brampton’s elections. There are a huge number of candidates running so making an informed decision is challenging. I would appreciate any feedback and wish all the citizens of Brampton good luck in making their choices.

I did not do school board endorsements because finding information for those races is very challenging.

Mayor

While Mayor Susan Fennell protests her innocence and threatens lawsuits to her critics it seems clear that her time and office will and should end. Even before the spending scandals began I was no fan of Mayor Fennell. Her leadership style and position on issues has been troubling for me. Brampton has severely lacked in leadership to manage the transformation from a sleepy suburb to an urban community. Leadership has been far too reactive and not enough proactive to meet challenges the city faces. Fennell faces two realistic opponents, current regional councillor John Sanderson and former Liberal MPP for Brampton-Springdale Linda Jeffrey. Polling suggests Jeffrey is in the lead. To be honest I am not entirely satisfied with either Sanderson or Jeffrey. Both candidates are still appealing to the auto-oriented development style that can no longer help Brampton. Both discuss highway and road expansion/widening. The Hurontario LRT is one of the most important issues to my mind and both are non-committal or critical of the current route.

Reading the platforms it seems to me that Jeffrey offers vague promises that rely to a large degree on action by the provincial government.  Sanderson offers greater detail within the scope of a municipal mandate and a far more detailed platform. Sanderson has been pushing for greater accountability in city hall and his experience as a member of council should serve him well as mayor of the city. For me, John Sanderson is the best choice for Brampton’s next mayor.

City Council

Looking at the candidates for city council was more difficult than I had hoped. Far from Brampton I had to rely on the information I could find online. Many candidates seem to have no internet presence at all and a brief description on a webpage of Facebook page is hardly enough to base an informed decision. Given that some of the following should be considered under the caveat of incomplete information.

Wards 1 & 5

City Councillor Grant Gibson and Regional Councillor Elaine Moore are seeking re-election. I’ve met with Elaine Moore and think she is deserving of another term. I am less familiar with Mr. Gibson, but none of his opponents seem credible enough for me to recommend unseating the current city councillor. Given how many new councillors there will be in the next Council it will be valuable to have a few experienced hands.

Wards 2 & 6

An open race for the city council seat will mean a competitive election. Reviewing the available websites I was intrigued by Mr. Sukhminder Singh Hansra. I think he has some misguided policies, like increasing policing, but he actually addresses issues like poverty and affordable housing, which is depressingly rare. His experience as a journalist and long-time resident of the city makes him a strong candidate in my opinion.

For regional councillor John Hutton is seeking re-election for regional councillor. Mandeep Jassal looks like an interesting challenger for the incumbent. Jassal’s platform indicates that he is an urban progressive with interesting policy ideas. His support for a city-wide bike network and expansion of transit services and fair representation for Brampton makes a compelling case.

Wards 3 & 4

Bob Callahan is retiring this year which has led to a wide range of candidates seeking to replace him. More challenging to voters in Wards 3 & 4 is that John Sanderson is running for mayor making an opening for regional councillor too. 

Looking at the candidates putting their names forward in 3 & 4 for City Council Michael Freeman stands out to me. Given his experience and platform I think he has a reasonable, thoughtful vision for my home community. While I am not in favour of his proposal, Freeman has a detailed plan for the Hurontario LRT and how it can form the basis for a stronger transit system. Outside of the big picture policies he also has nice planks on important local issues, like modernizing Peel Village Park. I recommend checking out his platform positions. In addition I would like to recommend looking at Jeff Bowman, a businessman, community volunteer and life-long Bramptonian. Freeman and Bowman share a great deal in common in their platforms. I like what Mr. Bowman has to say about affordable housing and he has a novel notion for a re-routed Hurontario LRT to the new hospital complex. I think the biggest highlight to me is Mr. Bowman's reference to Brampton's "unbridled growth" and the employment issues and affordability of this approach. Jeff Bowman is passionate about his community, that much is clear, and is worthy of consideration. 

For regional council I would cast my ballot for Kevin Montgomery. Kevin is passionate advocate for re-examining transportation and urban design practices in Brampton. He also has platform planks on a wide array of important topics such as poverty and mental health. I think he would be a valuable voice at city hall and regional council.

Wards 7 & 8

For city council in Wards 7 & 8 I would like to throw my support behind Veenay Sehdev. Veenay might be the candidate I am most familiar with in this election. Full disclosure, a friend connected us so I could offer some advice on his campaign. I found Veenay passionate, intelligent and bold. He is also young, which would be a valuable voice compared to our last city council.

There was insufficient information for choosing a candidate for regional council. The incumbent Gael Mills was the only one with a website that I found. That being the case I am uncomfortable endorsing anyone.

Wards 9 & 10

The city council race is pretty narrow in Wards 9 and 10 compared to the others. Vicky Dhillon is the incumbent and he is seeking re-election. Of the candidates available I would lean towards voting for Gurpreet Dhillon, who was the recent ONDP candidate for Brampton-Springdale. Unsurprisingly I am in favour of more progressive voices at city hall.

For regional council John Sprovieri is seeking re-election. I have a tough time picking an endorsement for this race. I would encourage voters in these wards look at Michelle Shaw or Gurratan Singh. I like what Mr. Singh has to say, but his platform is not fully fleshed out, on the other hand Ms. Shaw has more platform planks, but lacks in details.

Overview

Brampton, hopefully, has reached an inflection point. The old-style of doing things has come to an end and if the city is to make progress moving forward it means changes in leadership. Brampton can’t think of itself as a sleepy suburb, it is a city of over a half-million people. Evidence and case studies around the world show us that sprawling suburban development is not the way to build successful, healthy cities. Brampton will look very different fifty years from now, but it will take time and thoughtful politicians and citizens to get us there. Hopefully the next city council can lead this transformation for a better Brampton.

A full list of candidates in Brampton can be found here. Best of luck to the candidates who put their names forward.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Worth Reading - October 16, 2014

One of the big issues in any municipal election in North America is dealing with the issue of congestion. Michael Keenan makes the point that virtually all the promises the candidates make will not reduce congestion, only congestion pricing does that. 

Jon Lorinc writes about the role class and race has played in the Toronto municipal election. 

Most of the criticism you read about the suburbs comes from the political left, or a progressive criticism. Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns writes an example of the conservative critique of suburban development

From the Strong Towns blog, a guest writer talks about the importance of places versus non-places in determining the strength and vitality of a community. 

So-called “Gamergate” has caused a firestorm in the video game community as well as threats and intimidation for its major personalities in real life. This long article from Deadspin lays out the background of the story as well as its other socio-political comparisons like the Tea Party. 

The source of the “angry gamer” is up for debate. I really enjoy this take on how gamers (a term I generally dislike) perceive games criticism and video games

The Toronto Star has endorsed seven candidates for City Council. It’s a great list and I hope to put out some selections for Brampton’s elections on Tuesday.

Justin Trudeau’s (LPC – Papineau QC) management of the ISIS debate and Canadian intervention has hurt him politically

Mayor Hazel McCallion, the spirited and forceful mayor of Mississauga, is about to retire but in her interview with the Toronto Star suggests she has plans for the future. 

One last bit about video games, from The Atlantic the rise of the blockbuster video game and its negative impact on the medium


The Globe and Mail takes a look at the business dealings of Doug Ford and his “strengths” as a businessman. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Choosing to Die

The Supreme Court of Canada is hearing a case on euthanasia this week. The case was advanced on behalf of two British Columbia patients who are arguing for the right-to-die. Quebec’s National Assembly earlier in the year passed a law to allow doctor-assisted suicide after extensive study. Quebec now joins a growing rank of jurisdictions in North America that has approved of euthanasia

Euthanasia is a delicate subject. Those in favour make a compelling case. There are those who are suffering from terminal disease and wish to die with dignity sometimes do not have the means to end their own lives. One of the plaintiffs, Gloria Taylor, had ALS, which robs its victim’s the ability to move, could not end her own suffering and so required medical help.

As we continue to advance medical science and life expectancy continues to rise we must come to confront the reality that more and more of us will die in long, drawn out diseases. Perhaps more frighteningly, our minds may give out well before our medically-assisted bodies. 

The problem is compounded by simple issues, like the fact that suicide is legal. So it is perfectly lawful for an able-bodied young adult to die, but an infirmed, terminally ill one cannot with the assistance of a doctor.

There are social and cultural implications to this. Opponents of the right to die say that sick patients may be pressured, actively or passively, to end their lives early. Governments have campaigns launched to stem elder abuse, could hospital personnel really be able to tell if a patient wants to die willingly, or is thinking about the good the inheritance would do for his/her beneficiaries?

There is a question of life as well. If we validate that people can terminate their own lives and that others can assist them with it (when medically appropriate), what are we saying about the value of life itself? This isn’t merely a question of the religious perspective on humanity, but on the value we assign each human being. Are the sick a burden upon whom we wait to die? What if euthanasia becomes commonplace for certain illnesses? Will those who choose to die naturally face additional pressures? Will this curb valuable medical research?

I am a big fan of the television program House so whenever I use the phrase “die with dignity” I hear Dr. Gregory House yell (paraphrasing), “There is no dignity in death! There’s only dignity in life!” The truth is, of course, that doctors across the country quietly provide medically-assisted death. Once the patient is ready a little too much morphine eases their passing. It is not pleasant, but it is the truth. The truth is that we live in a society paralyzed by a fear of death and aging and sickness and yet a cavalier relationship with life. It is parliament and our elected leaders who should be deciding this issue, not the Supreme Court. Emmet Macfarlane writes about the case before the Supreme Court far better than I ever could, check it out here

I personally don’t know what the answer is. Doctors should be able to help their patients, even when that means they are beyond help. The rules should be strictly written and guidelines very clear for when it is and is not appropriate. Other jurisdictions have models Canadian provinces could use, and I need not lay out any details. Ideally, like something like abortion euthanasia should be available but exceedingly rare and unnecessary in an ideal world.

It should be in our great house, the House of Commons, where an issue like this, as painful as it is, should be decided and discussed. Sadly leadership has been lacking, but perhaps the Supreme Court will once again force our politicians’ hands.  



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Worth Reading - October 9, 2014

It was a busy week in politics between the developments in the House of Commons and the ongoing municipal elections in Ontario. Take a look.

John McGrath writes the (satirical) case for Doug Ford mayoral candidacy. 

Chantal H├ębert writes that this week’s debate and political manoeuvring in Ottawa over the ISIS combat mission was disastrous for Justin Trudeau (LPC – Papineau, QC). 

I think the ISIS situation and the Canadian dimension is difficult to understand. Thereofre I strongly recommend Justin Ling’s fantastic piece on what this issue is and how the federal parties have responded. 

In the progressive urbanism circles there is much disparaging of the suburbs, but in reality the urban core has come to resemble the suburbs in many ways and the suburbs are adapting urban elements as well, this article discusses this blurring line

Jane Hilderman of Samara writes about democracy at the local level in Canada. 

From the Globe and Mail, are career politicians imperiling our system of governance? I don’t think so, but it’s worth taking a look at.

From the Brampton Guardian, there has been an implication that Mayor Susan Fennell’s poor relationship with the provincial Liberal government has hurt Brampton. 

Also from the Brampton Guardian, an editorial discusses political engagement

Interesting analysis breaking cities into creative-class, service-class and working-class areas.  


Gentrification is a really interesting issue for cities in my opinion. Related to the above, the impact on San Francisco is transforming the city, killing what makes it work. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Making Municipal Elections Accessible

This autumn voters in four of Canada’s provinces (Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island) will be casting their ballots for local government officials. Given that I am only familiar with the local Ontario context this piece truly only applies there, though I am sure there could be something to be gained from it elsewhere in this country.

Our current system for local elections does not really help voters make informed decisions. There are several simple reforms that might help voters make more informed decisions that I wish to throw out for consideration.

Back in Brampton there are 16 candidates running for city council where my parents call home. That does not include the candidates for regional councillor, mayor, or school trustee. Voters across Brampton are experiencing similar problems. With incumbents lashed with the issue of mismanagement and corruption along with a large number of retirements a higher than normal number of candidates have come forward to be considered. With a massive slate of candidate engaged citizens must compile whatever data they can scrounge together to figure out who to vote for.

Pollsters, politicians and pundits should not be surprised that citizens find it so hard to keep everything straight. I never thought of home as Ward 3. I lived in Peel Village, or southern Brampton. The wards’ numbers only ever come up at election time and if the boundaries have changed... well, good luck to any citizen trying to work it out. Federally and provincially the name of ridings corresponds to prominent geographic locations. Perhaps this is what should replace wards either formally or informally to help citizens connect to their representatives/candidates.

Assuming the citizen does figure out their slate of candidates they then have to go on a wild goose chase putting together enough information to make an informed decision. Media will sometimes compile the relevant information about candidates, but oftentimes that is incomplete as well. Local campaigns are often small, poorly funded and have limited resources for full websites, mailers, advertising or anything else like that. Therefore candidates with money or name recognition (even if for the wrong reasons) tend to be frontrunners. In The Campaign Manager by Catherine Shaw she referenced that the county or city put out public information on all of the candidates. This is put out at taxpayers’ expense so that everyone has some information. I think this is a simple and relatively cheap way to help the public make informed decisions.

I am a supporter of the ranked ballot initiative and I am very excited to see Premier Kathleen Wynne (OLP – Don Valley West) has promised to move forward on that legislation. Ranked-ballots might do a great deal to help citizens make better choices and encourage better campaigns at a local level but it won’t necessarily help voters make a more informed decision.

Though controversial, political parties on the local level may do a great deal to clarify this mess. Many large cities in Canada, Montreal, Vancouver, employ party systems. Toronto is notorious for having a fairly open informal party system at its city council. Political parties help organize candidates and campaigns and inform voters of what their general positions are. Municipal parties could even run multiple candidates for the same office. There’s no reason in a Liberal stronghold there couldn’t be two, or more, candidates, especially if ranked-ballots were being used. Organization and generating a volunteer base is one of the most difficult parts of running an independent campaign, couple with that the development of policy ideas and a case for municipal parties really grows. In addition, it might build some consensus before a city council ever meets over policies instead of having 11 or 7 or 45 different ideas being hashed out at once.

Voter turnout at the local level is never going to improve until citizens are helped in making clearer, more informed choices. Even useful ideas like ranked-ballots won’t help inform someone that John Tory is not running to be mayor of Mississauga. The way we consume media makes this a very difficult process, but municipalities provide critical services and are our most accessible level of government. Our election officials and governments need to help us make informed decisions less a tiny minority govern for the rest of us.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Worth Reading – October 2, 2014

Vasiliki Bednar writes about the “lazy feminism” surrounding our politics and how greater analysis of how policies will impact women is required. 

The fellow mentioned in this article seems horrendous, however, I feel uncomfortable with the digital mob that was spawned through his alleged terrible actions

Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced that it will be a priority for her government to bring in ranked ballots for the municipal elections in 2018. Hurray!

The Brampton Guardian, my hometown paper, has nicely collected their resources on the candidates running in the upcoming October 27th election. 

Mayoral candidate John Tory’s plan for the TTC has come under strong criticism for being impractical. Royson James writes that despite this it is resonating with Torontonians

Behold, the most recent and obvious manifestation of sexism from popular culture to be called out. 

The collapse of the Bloc Quebecois has created all sorts of interesting possibilities for the three federalist parties. 

Andrew Coyne offers his take on the embarrassing spectacle in the House of Commons last week. 

Aaron Wherry reflects on the role of the Speaker of the House of Commons. 

Maclean’s magazine draws a line between the excitement for the iPhone 6 and the decline of religion.