Thursday, May 30, 2024

If You Really Think About It...

The ads making the rounds these days from the PC war room tell you all you need to know about Doug Ford's view of the electorate: they are stupid - mere Pavlovian dogs that will salivate accordingly to attack ads. Young Sam Oosterhoff, who kindly posted the above on X, is just the latest of the Tory caucus to follow marching orders to denigrate the woman they see as their greatest electoral rival, Bonnie Crombie.

The above picture, which has also been promoted and propagated by various members of the PC caucus,  depicts their ongoing narrative of Crombie as The Tax Queen. The second point, about raising taxes every year as mayor, is a particular affront to intelligence. As far as I can determine, all municipalities raise taxes every year. That inevitability, for those who have any institutional memory, is thanks to the massive downloading that another PC government, led by the execrable Mike Harris, engaged in in the 90s, to the tune of the then massive sum of $3 billion. One needs only look at the ubiquitous homelessness and tent encampments blighting our cities to see how that one worked out.

As for supporting the carbon tax, well, there have been endless discussions about how the levy benefits the majority through the federal rebates; indeed, the latest revelation that the Parliamentary Budget Officer made a big mistake suggests this is just another of the red-meat issues that both the provincial and federal Tories use to stoke discontent.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer made an error in its carbon-pricing reports that are frequently cited in the Conservative Party's “axe the tax” attacks, and the Liberals want a more prominent correction issued.

The PBO quietly published a note on its website on April 17, admitting its economic analyses of the consumer carbon price in 2022 and 2023 erroneously included the impact of the industrial carbon price, too.

The PBO’s reports purported to analyze the impacts of the consumer fuel charge and rebates and concluded the carbon price’s impact on economic growth and jobs could mean up to 80 per cent of families won’t break even with rebates. The federal Conservatives seized on this talking point to counter the federal government’s assertion that eight out of 10 households will receive more money back through fuel rebates than they are taxed. For the last year, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and his caucus have cited the PBO report as a reason to “axe the tax.”
“By incorporating the impacts of the industrial Output-based Pricing System (OBPS) for industrial polluters, the economic impacts projected in your report certainly overestimate the real costs of the fuel charge,” wrote [Liberal MP Ryan] Turnbull.

Not that any of this will make any difference to the attack dogs and those who bay at their provocations. However, the electorate, if it wants to make an informed choice, really needs to rise above the street tactics so favoured these days by our 'leaders' and learn to think for itself.

A big ask, I know.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Will He Or Won't He?

H/t Theo Moudakis

When my son was young, he had a Magic 8 Ball which, if you asked it a question, would attempt to answer it after a fashion. One of its most frequent responses was something along the lines of, "All the signs point to it." For those given to political prognostications, that would seem to be the answer to the question of whether Doug Ford will call an early election in Ontario, despite winning a resounding majority two years ago.

Indeed, all the signs point to it. Despite paying out a potential $1 billion in early contract cancellation fees and subsides, Dougie is hell-bent on getting more alcohol into more hands at the earliest possible date. Why? Presumably non-drinker Doug believes that the way to a (wo)man's heart is through the liver, but more importantly, there are storm clouds on the horizon that may not augur well for a later election.

There is, of course the ongoing investigation into the Gteenbelt scandal, including a criminal probe by the RCMP. While such investigations are notoriously slow, it would not be a good look for the Ontario PCs if a negative result of that investigation came down before the next election. Another reason could be that they are still riding high in the polls, and given the recent by election results in Milton, one that was supposed to show the Liberals as a force to be reckoned with, the Liberals don't seem to have much of a ground game, leader Bonnie Crombie still finding her footing.

However, according to Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson, the greatest impetus for an early election may be the fear of a Pierre Poilievre federal victory in 2025.

Sources say Ford is worried that if, as polls suggest, Pierre Poilievre wins an election expected in October 2025, there would be reduced transfer payments to the provinces, a scrapping of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s electric-vehicle strategy that is a cornerstone of Ontario economic policy and other slashed spending that would hurt the Progressive Conservatives.

However, such a plan is not without political peril.

... some Tories fear a reprise of 1990 — when popular Liberal premier David Peterson called a snap vote, and then lost to Bob Rae’s New Democrats in one of the most stunning upsets in Canadian political history.

“Peterson was higher in the polls (50 per cent in summer of 1990) than Ford (at 39 per cent in the latest Abacus Data survey) is now and had won a larger majority (in 1987 than Ford did in 2022),” said a fourth Tory.

“But voters were ornery and punished him for the early election.”

A fifth Tory expressed alarm that voters would feel it was “cynical and self-serving” to have a vote so soon after Ford received such a resounding re-election mandate in June 2022.

“What would the rationale be for going early?” asked the Ford loyalist.

Depending upon the engagement of the electorate, another peril could be the fact tha the PC government is showering payoffs and subsidies to various entities at a time when basic services in Ontario are fraying. Even if we consider just the payout to the Beer Store, to many, the money seems misallocated. Writes Robyn Urback:

To put the cost in perspective, that $225-million is roughly $100-million more than the Ontario government will spend to boost nursing enrolment over the next three years (the figure announced in the budget was $128-million). It represents nearly a third of what Ontario spends annually on autism services ($720-million). And it is almost equivalent to what the Ontario Liberals said it would cost in 2010-2011 to cancel a couple of gas-plant projects in Mississauga and Oakville. In reality, the cost for the Liberals to buy support in those ridings (which, of course, was paid for by taxpayers) rang in at more than $1-billion.

Then there is this missive from someone living in rural Ontario: 

Apparently, Premier Doug Ford and his government are using valuable time and funds to put beer and wine in convenience stores. As a resident of a rural community in the province of Ontario, I would far rather see time and money spent on providing adequate health-care facilities, doctors and nurse practitioners to those of us who have no primary care provider and very little hope of attaining one in the near future. To me this push to supply more access to alcohol is misguided when so many Ontarians are struggling to get help for a wide range of health issues. Wake up, Ford. Realign your priorities to meet the real needs of the people of Ontario, the people who voted you into power.

Sharon Phelps, Lindsay

The cynic in me would say that most sins are quickly forgiven and forgotten by an often-oblivious electorate. My inner, barely-alive optimist hopes this is not the case.


Saturday, May 25, 2024

For Someone Who Doesn't Drink

 ... Doug Ford seems to have an unhealthy preoccupation with alcohol. Or perhaps he wholehearted believes that the way to a (wo)man's heart is through the bottle?

At a time when increasing numbers of people are being killed and maimed on the roads due to alcohol misuse, the one statistic that seems to matter most to Mr. Ford is the number who will vote for him and his party of narcissistic n'er do wells for whom the public good is a quaint notion to be paid lip service when the occasion merits. Hence his recent promise to stiffen sentences for those who drive while having enjoyed too many stiff beverages. 

In light of his announcement yesterday to make alcohol even more conveniently accessible very, very soon, that promise has the heavy whiff of performative politics. Here is Dougie's exciting news, news that will undoubtedly set atingle the loins of the dipsomaniacs who walk amongst us but perhaps cause conscientious taxpayers and citizens to blanch:

Ontario is speeding up its expansion of alcohol sales in the province, and the move comes with up to $225 million in public money for The Beer Store.

Premier Doug Ford announced late last year that sales of beer, wine, cider and ready-to-drink cocktails would be allowed in convenience stores and all grocery stores by 2026.

He announced Friday that the phased expansion will now start on Aug. 1 of this year, with licensed grocery stores that currently sell beer, cider and wine able to sell ready-to-drink cocktails and sell large-pack sizes like 30 packs.

After Sept. 5, eligible convenience stores will be able to sell beer, cider, wine and ready-to-drink cocktails, and after Oct. 31, all grocery stores and big box stores could sell those products, including large-pack sizes. Over time, the changes will add up to 8,500 new places where people in Ontario could buy alcohol, the government said.

Saner voices, lost in the crush of enthusiasm from those undoubtedly contemplating a few 'pops' (as Doug likes to call them) en route to the cottage (he knows his people), have expressed their concerns.  

... a coalition of public health and advocacy organizations have called on the province to develop a comprehensive alcohol strategy for reducing harms.

The coalition, which includes the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Canadian Cancer Society, has said alcohol-related harms cost Ontario more than $7 billion annually, and the last time access to alcohol was expanded in the province, the number of emergency department visits related to alcohol grew.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto said it was disappointed with the news of the early rollout.

“There are already more than 6,000 alcohol-attributable deaths a year in Ontario, and the changes announced today will significantly increase this number,” it wrote in a statement.

“The main driver of alcohol-related harm is convenience. Decades of research show that increased ease of access leads to more consumption and, in turn, more harm.”

That's the social cost. In terms of the fiscal price, the PC government, mythically deemed responsible economic stewards, will not only be paying out the above-mentioned $225 million to the Beer Store, but also

 .. the beer companies could receive an additional $375 million because some fees they currently pay the LCBO will be rebated, potentially meaning a total cost to taxpayers of $600 million or more.

Political reaction has been swift:

NDP Leader Marit Stiles questioned Ford’s priorities, noting that paying off the brewers comes as “emergency rooms are closing, millions of Ontarians are without a family doctor and our shelters are at capacity.”

Green Leader Mike Schreiner said “people need the government to fast-track funding for housing affordability and health care instead of giving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to The Beer Store to speed up a timeline they announced just five months ago.”

Not to be forgotten, Liberal leader Bonnie Crombie

said the announcement was “a blatant attempt by Doug Ford to buy the election at a massive cost to the people of Ontario” and said the Tories are scrambling to change the channel from the $8.28-billion Greenbelt land swap scandal now being investigated by the RCMP.

Doug, of course, seems impervious to such carping, betting, perhaps correctly, that if the electorate does not become blind drunk over his promise, it will at least remain blind to anything that smacks of reasonable political discourse and public policy in this province.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A Voice From The Past

Lately, I have been spending more time reading than writing. A tome I have almost finished is a biography of Albert Einstein by Walter Isaacson. While I do not pretend to understand the physics Einstein was world-famous for, a strength of the book is the very human portrayal the author renders.

Einstein was a pacifist, but that changed when the Nazis came to power. As one who had left Germany before things became really bad, he was aware of friends and colleagues who suffered tremendously under Hitler's Third Reich.

He was also a socialist, but with a wariness of centralized power, the  abuse of which he saw in the Soviet Union. Despite that wariness, he knew in his heart the dangers of untrammelled, unfettered capitalism. Here is a paragraph from the book:

...unrestrained capitalism produced great disparities of wealth, cycles of boom and depression, and festering levels of unemployment. The system encouraged selfishness instead of cooperation, and acquiring wealth rather than serving others. People were educated for careers rather than love of work and creativity. And political parties became corrupted by political contributions from owners of great capital.

Looking at what our world has become, is there anyone who can disagree with that assessment?

Saturday, May 18, 2024

This Is What They Have Become

Sometimes, no commentary is necessary. Their words indict themselves and their government: 

Marjorie Taylor Greene: “Why don’t you debate me?” AOC: “I think it’s gonna be self-evident” Marjorie Taylor Greene: “Yeah, you don’t have enough intelligence” James Comer: “Miss Greene, do you agree to unanimous consent to strike your words?” Marjorie Taylor Greene: “Yes, I’ll strike my words but I’m not apologizing” Jasmine Crockett: “I’m just curious to better understand your ruling. If someone on this committee then starts talking about somebody’s bleach blonde, bad built, butch body… that would not be engaging in personalities correct?” James Comer: “Uh, a what now?”

Friday, May 17, 2024

Rabid, Unadulterated Hatred

The following is hard to watch, but captures the unadulterated hatred for Palestinians that grips some Israelis as they work hard to stop humanitarian aid to Gaza:

The narrative has clearly changed. At one time Israel was regarded as the little country that could - feisty, proud, and indefatigable.

They are now the region's ugly bullies, mindful only of themselves.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

It's Like Listening To A Deranged Bizarro Jerry Seinfeld

Pay no attention to the talking fool. Judging by the following video of a Trump rally, many, many agreed.

Please note that I only listened to about 1;30 minutes of this bore, and out of consideration for readers of this blog, that is all I will put up here from a 33 minute 'free association' by the Orange Oaf which he undoubtedly thought was virtuoso riffing. If you want to hear more (but why would you?) simply click on Walter Masterson's feed:

Here is 35 unedited minutes showing thousands of MAGA walking out on Trump while he’s still talking.