Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rediscovering Democracy

Since I became eligible to vote many years ago, I have participated in every federal, provincial and municipal election that has been called. Even though it has become something of a cliché, the assertion that voting is a sacred duty has never been far from my mind.

And yet, for all of that, up to a few months ago, I was seriously considering doing something I had never done before: going to the polling station and officially declining my ballot. In that contemplation, I felt a righteous justification.

Why did I consider that option? First of all, of course, the Progressive Conservatives were never a consideration. Just like those who are gun-shy about the NDP after Bob Rae's Ontario premiership, I have never forgiven nor forgotten the depredations of the Harris years, an era when government sought to pit citizen against citizen, stigmatizing people according to socio-economic status and drastically cutting funding for an array of programs, an experience from which we have never fully recovered. And of course, there was the bone-headed move by these self-proclaimed fiscal masters of selling a 99-year lease on the lucrative highway 407 for a mere pittance.

Kathleen Wynne's Liberals were off my radar, having betrayed all Ontarians by the majority sell-off of Hydro One, the publicly-owned power transmission utility. Her justification? To broaden ownership and raise cash for green infrastructure, all without raising taxes. Of course, the first billion dollars was used to eliminate the government's deficit. Currently the government receives about one-third of the revenue from Hydro One it was receiving before privatization, and estimates are for the loss of billions over the longer-term, billions that government can ill-afford to surrender.

So that left the NDP for me to consider, and for the longest time I discounted offering them my support. The last election was triggered by Andrea Horwath's greed for power, despite the fact that the party held the balance of power over a minority Liberal government. And Horwath ran a campaign where the term small businesses was uttered regularly to the exclusion, if memory serves me, of any reference to the working class or working folks (the latter term seeming to have become part of today's political nomenclature). The closer they thought they were to power, the more to the right they tilted, the same error Thomas Mulcair made in the last federal election.

So prospects for voting seemed dim. What changed my mind? It was this column by the Star's Martin Regg Cohn, a journalist for whom I have a great deal of regard. Written at the end of February, it was a piece lamenting the increasingly low turnout in Ontario elections, a trend he sees as a real threat to democracy:
In the last two elections, barely half of Ontarians bothered to cast a ballot — an embarrassing 48 per cent voted in 2011, and a dispiriting 51 per cent turned out in 2014.

They were the worst showings by civic no-shows in our democratic history. And far worse turnouts than in any other provincial or federal election ever.

With the next election coming in roughly 100 days, Ontario’s democratic deficit is creating a crisis of confidence that no party can solve alone. No matter who wins on June 7, the worsening turnouts will prove a losing proposition for everyone — the politicians and the people.
This downward spiral undermines the very assumptions upon which democracy is based:
More than six in 10 Ontarians (62 per cent) believe that “the legitimacy of the government is called into question” if less than a majority of eligible votes are cast in a general election, according to the polling by Campaign Research.
I hope you will read Cohn's entire piece, plus other articles he has written within the past year on democracy. Simply go to the search function on The Star website and put in his name.

In closing, I cite his final sentence in the above-referenced article:
Democracy is an opportunity. Which is why a vote is a terrible thing to waste.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The "Perils" Of Socialism

If you have a few minutes, check out the following video. Enlightened, witty and amusing, its message will, of course, be lost on many citizens of the Benighted States of America, as well as those most peculiar denizens of that entity known as "Ford Nation."

Monday, May 21, 2018

UPDATED: What The Fossil Fuel Industry (And People Like Justin Trudeau) Want To Keep You In The Dark About

Methinks most of us can all use a bit of good news.

UPDATE: For an interesting answer to those who claim that renewable energy cannot be relied upon in all situations, take a look at this article.

Those Star Letter-Writers

They never disappoint. They can spot a shyster a mile away.

It’s sad that Doug Ford’s solution to the high cost of gas is to reduce the gas tax. A much better solution would be to incent people to not buy the largest, heaviest and most powerful SUV they can afford. When I switched from a turbo Volvo wagon to a Toyota hybrid, my gas bills dropped by 60 per cent. But what else could we expect from someone who bought his brother a Cadillac Escalade. It doesn’t get any less environmentally friendly than that.

Michael Yaffe, Toronto

Doug Ford’s policy on gasoline shows that he doesn’t care about the environment. Reducing the price of gasoline will only make air pollution worse, as people who are buying more gas-guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks will consume more fuel.

Rene Ebacher, Toronto

PC Leader Doug Ford claims to be upset with the excessive compensation being paid to board members and executives at Hydro One. However, he also vows to cut the corporate tax rate by 8.7 per cent. Who does he think will benefit from this corporate windfall? No doubt already highly paid corporate executives will receive a big slice of it. And who does he think will have to pay more to make up for the loss of tax revenue? No doubt many of the taxpayers he pretends to be looking out for. What a hypocrite.

Peter Bird, Toronto

... Contrary to Ms. Horwath’s posturing, the NDP and Liberals could, and should, find many points of agreement on a plan to govern if the opportunity presents itself. It is only being fair to the majority of Ontario voters to have confidence that such an outcome is indeed possible and would be chosen when and if the election results permit it.

Back in 1985, the Liberals and NDP agreed to a legislative accord when the Tories had the most seats but not a majority. Ontario was well served by this arrangement and it may well be needed again. The very notion and real possibility of a Doug Ford government should be sufficient reason for any progressive person to not pre-emptively and arbitrarily rule out this option.

Simon Rosenblum, Toronto

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Setting The Record Straight

Robert Reich is one of America's true heroes. He seems indefatigable in his efforts to educate the American public as a counter to the lies and distortions of Donald Trump. Given the prodigious challenges involved in bringing people toward the light, I have no idea where he gets either his resolve or his energy.

The following is but one example of his work:

Saturday, May 19, 2018

See Doug. See Doug Run.

Bullies, con artists and cowards all have something in common: they live in fear that they will be exposed for what they are - weak, manipulative people who try to mask their massive inadequacies through bluster, empty rhetoric and false bravado. That Doug Ford, leader of the Ontario PCs, seems to epitomize these traits is becoming increasingly evident to those who care to open their eyes rather than respond like the Pavlovian dogs his kind prefer.

How else to explain the muzzle that has apparently been placed on so many PC candidates in the run up to June 7?
More than 20 PC candidates have skipped debates since the beginning of the provincial election campaign, a trend that recalls similar absenteeism among federal Conservative candidates under Stephen Harper. Candidates from other Ontario parties, meanwhile, have been far more likely to show up.
Consider these few examples of candidate muzzling/cowardice:
Meredith Cartwright, the Toronto Centre candidate who hired actors to pose as Ford supporters at a leadership debate, was a no-show at an all-candidates’ meeting in Corktown on Tuesday that was attended by the Liberal, NDP and Green party candidates ... She has not spoken publicly since the crowd-for-hire controversy erupted.

PC candidates skipped four separate debates held this week in Scarborough, including Gary Ellis in Scarborough Southwest, who claimed a long-standing prior commitment; Sarah Mallo in East York; Christine Hogarth in Etobicoke-Lakeshore and Vijay Thanigasalam in Scarborough Rouge-Park, who cancelled the day of the event, according to an organizer.

Four out of five PC candidates did not participate in public debates held by the Brampton Board of Trade on May 11, and three of them cancelled on the same day.
What does party central have to say about these no-shows?
Ford spokesperson Melissa Lantsman declined to confirm or deny.

“We work with candidates to ensure they are effective in their voter outreach, be it phone calls, door knocking or debates,” she said.
If you would like a fuller sense that the PCs are fearful and in hiding, check out PressPrgress, which details 23 MIA PC candidates.

This kind of shielding of candidates from the voters is nothing new, of course. Along with limited access to the leader, it is the same cowardly tactic employed under Stephen Harper, whose contempt for the press was legendary.

It is a contempt that does not sit well with the tenets of democracy:
This is not how our parliamentary democracy is supposed to work, says Duff Conacher, director of Democracy Watch. “Any campaign that tries to control access and control the message is a campaign that is hurting the voters’ right to choose the person they really want to represent them,” he said.

Doug Ford wants you. He is, after all, for the people. Of course he is, as long as they are kept ignorant about anything that might challenge his overblown rhetoric and his increasingly tattered credibility.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Setting The Record Straight

In theory, this primer should cut through climate-change denialism. In practice, of course, it will do no such thing. Conspiracy theories, junk science and muddled thinking, after all, are so much easier to spout.