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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Calgary Mayoral Election - Revolution or Business as Usual?


Calgarians woke up Tuesday morning with a new mayor. Naheed Nenshi won an upset victory, defeating front-runners Barb Higgins and Ric McIver. Nenshi dubbed his campaign the "Purple Revolution" and, if you were to read the headlines, you might be fooled into thinking this was a political revolution.

"He achieved what many observers thought impossible — a wonkish, even dorky, academic and visible minority elected to the helm of what is often called Canada's most conservative city after a campaign driven by charisma and sheer determination," reads a story in yesterday's Globe and Mail.

To be sure, the Canadian media has been playing-up the redneck conservative stereotype that Calgarians are often saddled with for a few days now. "So Calgary, I'm writing you this letter as a friend. I feel someone has to let you know you've gone soft.… To stop this insanity and preserve your reputation as Canada's conservative bad boy, I am urging a massive 'Rob Anders write in' campaign for mayor. You need to make this happen, simply to keep the natural order of the universe in balance," wrote Dan Arnold in the National Post on October 14th.

Yet what should be surprising is not that Calgary elected a progressive mayor, or that it elected a Muslim mayor. Rather, I am surprised that anyone is surprised at all.

Calgarians have traditionally voted differently in municipal elections than they do provincially or federally. Outgoing Mayor Dave Bronconnier spent most of his nine years in office getting into pissing contests with the other two levels of government, in a bid to secure more funding for the city. He's basically the Danny Williams of the prairies. He also has ties to the federal Liberal party, having run for them in the 1997 election. So it's not like Nenshi is succeeding Attila the Hun.

While it may seem paradoxical to the rest of Canada—and many Calgarians—that the city would consistently vote for conservative politicians at the provincial and federal levels and at the same time vote for liberal mayors, I think the mentality is actually quite rational, if a little short sighted. Albertans have long been sceptical of government spending, especially if the money is going to support Eastern Canada. But if we're going to be taxed anyway, so the thinking goes, we might as well have a mayor who will try to keep as much as possible for the city itself.

Nenshi is also a bit of a paradox. He seems to have branded himself as a fiscally conservative progressive. Of course, it's simply impossible to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars while supporting progressive causes, but the key to winning in Calgary is to make people think you have a fiscally conservative mindset. I can't tell you how many Calgarians have tried to convince me that the Green Party of Canada has a fiscally conservative policy platform.

By all accounts, Nenshi is articulate, charismatic, well educated, and he used the Internet and social networking to ride a populist will for change straight into office. Sound like a certain U.S. president? Much like Obama, Nenshi could end up running up the debt with massive social programs and creating an uncertain political and economic climate that would scare away business investment (as if Premier Stelmach needed any help in that department). There is also a question of whether he will be able to push his policy platform through council, since he lacks political experience.

Nenshi does have some good ideas like allowing secondary suites and reducing red tape at city hall to make for a more friendly business climate. Unlike McIver, however, who pledged to reduce the corporate tax rate, Nenshi wants to create a "fair and equitable tax burden," which sounds like progressive code for increasing taxes.

He also wants to improve the transit infrastructure, reduce poverty, make the city safer, as well as build libraries, recreation facilities, and cultural centres. Some of his ideas, like improving the roads and rail lines, are much needed. Others, like conducting social engineering experiments on our neighbourhoods, are downright scary.

But where's the money going to come from? Calgary already has a higher debt to GDP ratio than Toronto, where mayoral candidate Rob Ford has a good chance of winning on his platform of derailing the "gravy train" at city hall. It would seem as though we're in for another three years of watching Calgary's mayor whine about how he wants more money.

So was Nenshi's victory revolutionary? Hardly. If you want to see a real Alberta political revolution, wait until Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Alliance unseat the governing Tories in the next provincial election.

(Photograph courtesy Naheed Nenshi. Licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. Cross-posted on jesse.kline.ca)

Posted by Jesse Kline on October 20, 2010 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (44)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Should homosexuals be worried about Ford?

Toronto Mayoral candidate Rob Ford is facing a controversy over supposedly homophobic comments. But should gays really be worried?

The case against Mr. Ford is based on his support of an anti-gay marriage pastor and a comment that he made in 2006. Neither of these adequately proves that Mr. Ford is a homophobic.

This is what he said about gay marriage according to the Globe & Mail:

“I support traditional marriage. I always have,” Mr. Ford added. “But if people want to, to each their own. I’m not worried about what people do in their private life. I look out for taxpayers’ money.”

This is exactly what libertarians would want to hear from someone who is socially conservative. His personal views are one thing but this statement suggests that he will not use the state to enforce his personal views. Mr. Ford is rather light on policy declarations but I doubt that he will have any policies that discourage gay marriage. In fact I doubt that there would be anything that the mayor of Toronto could do even if he wanted to eliminate gay marriage.

This is the quote from 2006:

“If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably.”

This isn’t so much homophobic as it is true. It is like saying a black person is more at risk for vitamin D deficiency. It isn’t prejudice it is a medical fact. Homosexuals and people who share needles are more likely to get AIDS. Mr. Ford’s opponents will have to do better than that to demonstrate that he would make Toronto less “gay friendly.”

I am undecided on Rob Ford. He is being touted as the conservative candidate but his lack of policy commitment beyond a generic ‘cut spending’ is worrisome. Still, I see no evidence that Mr. Ford presents a threat to the gay community.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on August 5, 2010 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (8)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The race for Mayor of Calgary

The Calgary Herald reported yesterday on how the race for Mayor of Calgary is shaping up. Two things struck me about this race, based on that article. The first is that it seems that everyone and their cousin are running for Mayor. The second is the candidacy of Alnoor Kassam.

Mr. Kassam seems to be the only candidate who is running from the ‘outsider’ position, and in a crowded field such as this one it is the ‘outsiders’ that can be the game changers. He ran for Mayor in the last election, and got in second, but he used his own money to finance the campaign. This time around he is fundraising and looking to pose as a serious candidate for Mayor. It is early days but Mr. Kassam is exactly the sort of candidate that can help shape a campaign. It should be interesting to keep an eye on how it plays out.

With both Calgary and Toronto up for grabs, it looks like this is going to be an exciting year for municipal politics.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on April 1, 2010 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Toronto Council makes war on progress

Last few years Ossington has gone from a dump to a happening entertainment district. It is a clear example of how investment and hard work can change a neighbourhood for the better. So of course the City Council has to destroy it.

Among the recommendations made in the report: an ongoing ban on backyard patios, a size limit for restaurants and a regulation that would require every restaurant to provide parking spaces.

I don't think I've ever been to a bar in Toronto that provided parking spaces. And what the hell is with limiting the size of restaurants? Oh sorry you are too successful, we want you to be making less money.

It's Joe Pantelone, the area's councilor, who is leading the charge against progress. Basically he's afraid that the new comers won't vote for him so he's doing everything he can to chase them out. He already succeeded in preventing any new licenses to be issued on Ossington.

Toronto is a great city, I love it there. I just wish the its government would allow it to be even better.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on October 25, 2009 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (9)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cheap at half the price?

David Miller is being given $167,000 when he steps down as mayor. Sadly I think we are all becoming jaded to the excesses of political pensions, but this seems more outrageous than normal.

(I told this to my girlfriend and her only response was "I want to be mayor")

Of course the alternative way to look at is this: we are getting rid of David Miller for only $167,000.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on September 29, 2009 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Screw The Homeless

...which is what the City of Winnipeg is trying to do.
Charlie Warman owns (or so he thought) a home in the St. Boniface area of Winnipeg, on which sits 2 sheds that he rents out to two homeless people for $100 a month each.
One of the tenants, Debbie Peachy said;
if it were not for Warman, she would be forced to live in a tent under a bridge.
She said the shed is warm and comfortable. She said she has access to running water and a bathroom.
"I don't want pity. I don't want none of that," Peachy said about her situation. She said social assistance payments are not enough to cover rent in a regular apartment.
She has been living in the shed for two years and prefers it to a homeless shelter, which she said she has experienced in the past.
The City of Winnipeg government certainly didn't like this. They ordered Mr. Warman several months ago to stop the practice, due to health and safety concerns.
Today Mr. Warman was fined $247 by inspectors who came to the property and told him that the insulated sheds were too small.
"It's Buckingham Palace compared to what I used to have. I have serenity here," said Louis Kryminski, 56, who has been living in the other shed for about a month.
"I have a radio I listen to music. You know, I got my space where I can lay down and feel better about my life."
Kryminski said he worked for 40 years but was recently diagnosed with a mental illness. Coupled with a physical disability, his ailments have left him down and out.
On the streets, where he has been before, Kryminski has been robbed and beaten.
This was a consensual transaction between all parties; the tenants got what they wanted and Mr. Warman was able to help some people out, and then the City comes and steps in between them and says "No! You can't let those people stay on your property! We said so! If you still do it you will pay!" And what if Mr. Warman refuses to pay? He will go to jail... for giving the homeless a place to stay.
Lessons learned from this story;
  1. The Government doesn't give a damn about helping people, just about forcing people to follow their rules
  2. Don't let Government people onto your property
  3. Don't pay the fines, refuse to co-operate




I welcome feedback and I ask for civility in the exchange of comments. Vulgarity is discouraged. Please express yourself creatively with other language. We discuss ideas here, attacks on a person are discouraged.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on September 14, 2009 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (32)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Mr. Tory do not run for mayor

There has been rumors for three years now that George Smitherman, Ontario Liberal cabinet Minister, will run for Mayor of Toronto in 2010. Today Mr. Smitherman made it as close to being official as he can without making it official. The race in 2010 will be between Mr. Smitherman and Mr. Miller.

The open question is if there is going to be a third factor. John Tory has been contemplating running for mayor as well. This could lead to the splitting of the anti-Miller vote, thus allowing Mr. Miller to slip by for a victory. What is more both Mr.Smitherman and Mr. Tory agree that running two candidates against Mr. Miller is a bad idea.

So the question becomes this, who is best able to defeat Mr. Miller?

George Smitherman has long been elected from a downtown riding, yet he has a network throughout the city. He has shown leadership during the garbage strike by organizing people to clear the garbage. He has real executive experience as the former Minister of Health and current Minister of Energy. Mr. Smitherman has the makings of a strong candidate.

John Tory has never been elected in Toronto. The two times that he tried he failed. He has never been in government and has demonstrated a lack of leadership ability. He has also destroyed all his credibility as a political player. The by-election defeat that precipitated his resignation as party leader was the final humiliation. A party leader who cannot even win a safe seat is not a political force. The only thing he can hope to do is drain votes away from Smitherman.

Mr. Tory, for the sake of the city, do not run.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on September 9, 2009 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vancouver considers adopting free software and open standards in government

I always assumed it would be a cold day in hell when Vancouver city council came up with a good idea. They are usually too busy trying to make a bad road system even worse or harassing small business owners like Marc Emery. I was, therefore, quite surprised to hear that council will be debating a motion on open standards and open source software on a day that is forecast to be sunny and 19 degrees.

The motion would see the city developing and procuring free and open source software (FOSS), making more information accessible to the public, and publishing the information using open standards.

FOSS is a method of developing computer software, whereby an application’s source code is made freely available and software is developed collaboratively by programmers from around the world. Popular applications developed using this method include the Firefox web browser and the Linux operating system.

Using FOSS in government has the potential to save significant amounts of taxpayer money since governments would be able to avoid costly licensing fees. They would also have a greater degree of flexibility in customizing the software and could distribute the costs of development across numerous municipalities and other levels of government that have similar needs, while at the same time harnessing the well established free software community to help with development (see my post on using FOSS in public institutions here).

There is also a strong relationship between using free software and open document standards and having a more transparent government. Providing public information using open standards will mean that more people will have access to that information. It will also mean that people will not be forced into buying expensive pieces of software, like Microsoft Office, in order to view information that should be available to everyone. Perhaps more importantly, it will mean that future generations will have access to the information as well.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, try pulling one of those old disks from the late '80s/early '90s out of the closet and try to access the information. Chances are that you either won't have a drive that can read the disk, and if you do, it's likely that current versions of the software won't be able to read the information that's on the disk. This is because many proprietary software vendors try to lock in their customers by writing information in ways that competing software packages will have a hard time reading. If document standards are freely available, it would be easy enough for someone—20 years down the line—to create a new piece of software that can read the information.

In terms of office documents, there has been a big push recently for the adoption of the Open Document Format (ODF), which is currently supported by a number of office suites, including OpenOffice.org, StarOffice, Google Docs, KOffice, and Lotus Symphony. There are also a number of plugins that add ODF support to Microsoft Office and Microsoft recently added partial support for the format in an update to Office 2007. According to the ODF Alliance, however, there are "serious deficiencies" in Microsoft's support for the standard. This would appear to be yet another attempt by the monopolist software company to lock people into using their proprietary office suite. One more reason why governments need to be proactive in procuring free software technologies that can properly read and write open formats.

For a good explanation on the relationship between free software and free knowledge, take a look at this interview with Calgary-based FOSS developer Aaron Seigo:

Posted by Jesse Kline on May 20, 2009 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A trace of sanity in the City of Calgary, bottled water will still be available at rec centres, golf courses

A trace of sanity, because that's the only thing required to make the right decision. The Calgary Herald reports:

A city committee has capped a proposal to look at banning the sale of bottled water in city facilities such as recreation centres.

In a 7-3 vote this morning, the intergovernmental affairs committee voted down a motion to have city staff explore the implications, including financial, of such a move.

Concern ranged from removing a healthy drinking choice to the impact it could have on city water contracts.

“If we pick on water, we’re saying perhaps we’d rather have you drink sugar-based drinks,” Ald. Ric McIver said. “That all we’re really doing, taking away choice.”

Contrast this to Toronto, which recently earned a special mention on a US "dumbest bans" list, for its decision to prohibit sales of bottled water in December 2008.

(h/t AM770 CHQR)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on April 2, 2009 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Perhaps YWAM should have offered to erect a giant windmill on their roof

In Vancouver, the Christian youth missionary group Youth With A Mission (YWAM) has been trying to get permission to turn an old and vacant hospice in East Vancouver into an operations centre for their work. (Shotgun readers will recall that I wrote on the early agitation against YWAM"s plans last April.) Well, on Tuesday, Vancouver's  city council refused to re-zone the building. I'll grant that I have my own biases here -- as several of the YWAMers  trying for the rezoning are friends of mine. However, I would still say that this decision, when compared to one quietly and quickly passed two weeks ago, shows that the left has taken control of Vancouver politics and they are already making their own rules.

Last spring, the city's planning department, wanting to help YWAM, suggested that the group seek to have the old building rezoned as a "vocational school", which seemed to be the closest thing to what YWAM does -- bringing youngsters into a neighbourhood to teach them how to do evangelism work and other projects to help the surrounding community. After the first open house meeting on the YWAM plans, where some of the immediate neighbours had an attack of the NIMBYs, the skittish planning department recommended that the city not allow YWAM to proceed with the rezoning.

Last fall, though, the city's then conservative majority on city council, decided that YWAM deserved to at least go to a public hearing on the proposal. The latest municipal election then gave the two leftist slates a 9-1 majority on city council and the stage was set for the Jan. 20 public hearing on the rezoning proposal. That evening, city council heard YWAM's case and then, for the next three hours, heard public comments for and against what YWAM was proposing.

On Tuesday, YWAM's efforts with this building came to an end as Vancouver city council decided not to rezone the building. From what I understand, councillors were very worried about setting a precedent by bending the rules to call YWAM's activities a vocational school and being obliged to make similar rulings in the future. One of the speakers at the January 20 meeting may have foreshadowed this when they asked the councillors whether "putting special interests ahead of the public interest is a good idea."

But, there are precedents and then there are "precedents". I'll explain.

On January 20, in the run-up to opening the floor to comments on YWAM's proposals, city council debated and approved a sweeping principle that would override many city building and renovation bylaws. Perhaps it was only an in-principle vote, but it all happened in under ten minutes, tops, including the representative of the city planning department rattling everything off (and skipping items) at top speed, so readers will perhaps forgive my uncertainty.

The representative from the city planning department noted that the councillors had ran on a platform urging more green and environmentally friendly building projects. Unfortunately, the representative noted, Vancouver has all these bylaws and regulations that prevent the city planning department from allowing exceptions on environmental grounds to the building rules that affected all the buildings already in place. They cited several possible examples. One, for example, is that city height bylaws might prevent an on-roof garden. Regulations regarding the look of a commercial office building could prevent special roof outcroppings or coatings to give more shade to a building.

Wouldn't it be better, the planners asked, for council to give them permission to grant a lot of blanket exemptions to current rules if those behind the project can show that these exceptions are for green or environmental reasons? Council agreed heartily, passing the planners' proposal by voice vote.

I'm no fan of excessive regulation, but it would seem to me that there might be a lot of valid reasons for the bylaws and regulations already in place. What if these exemptions are abused, such as that green-friendly roof garden growing a lot of smelly foliage that blows off the roof onto other people's property? What about the competitive market advantage offered to the owners of a brand new building compared to the owners of a building that just finished last fall under the last council's regulations?

I anticipate niggling annoyances and problems in several neighborhoods that Vancouverites will have to sigh and deal with, because "This is going to be a green building!" will trump all, thanks to that quick council vote.

Which brings me back to YWAM's proposal. We can guess that there certainly will be hassles caused by the "big green exemption" that the new Vancouver council eagerly passed. However, this same council, seeing a group that has a proven record in our city of not causing problems and trying hard to be a good neighbour, saw its exemption refused, on the grounds that another group wanting the same privilege could bring in a problem. Vancouver city council must never bend the city's rules...except when it does?

I'd argue that any problems caused by a YWAM exception pale when compared to the possible problems caused by the "big green exemption " just passed. Denying YWAM on potential-to-cause-future-problems grounds is sort of like saying that a skateboarder skating down his street on Sunday afternoon would cause the same sort of problem for Vancouver residents as Patton's Third Army using the Lions Gate Bridge to come into downtown Vancouver during rush hour.

It's clear that Vancouver's new city council can be quite ideological when it comes to its decision making. No exceptions to the rules that affect everyone allowed...except when they want them for their pet reasons.

I also have a sinking feeling that in a year or two a group beloved by the progressive politicians in charge at Vancouver city hall will ask city council to rule that their new-to-them building is something that it is not (according to the current zoning bylaws) only to have the politicians decide that what the group wants to do to help the community is so important that of course an exception will be made. Should that happen, I hope that Councillor Suzanne Anton, the sole conservative on council, will throw the decision to deny YWAM their rezoning in the face of her fellow councillors.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on February 4, 2009 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

If it matters, measure it: Poor reporting could be hiding poor performance in Canada’s municipal governments

If it matters, measure it. This is the mantra of policy wonks, CFOs, managers, accountants and all those geeks who make a living enhancing the performance of...well, everything. But if you want to measure the performance of Canadian municipalities, you’ll confront a mess of varied reporting standards for even the most basic financial information, and this has David Seymour and Larry Mitchell concerned.

In "Rating Canada’s municipal governments,"Seymour and Mitchell with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy write:

Financial statements are the lifeblood of good governance. Unfortunately, poor financial reporting is the norm for Canadian municipalities, made worse by the fact that there is no consistent standard for comparing one municipality to the next.

It is easy to assess the performance of the federal and provincial governments: unfortunately our municipalities, the neglected cousin of the body politic, easily escape our attention and their impact on our daily lives.

Read the rest here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 18, 2008 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Paging the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

Losers in municipal elections may have a remedy if Dr. Lakhbir Singh gets his way. Dr. Singh, who ran for the centre-right NPA slate for a school board seat in Vancouver, and lost, has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

The Georgia Straight reports that Dr. Singh plans to challenge the city's at-large electoral system on the grounds that it is racist. He was "one of six candidates of South Asian descent who came last on their respective slates", and believes that a system of wards would level the playing field by allowing candidates to concentrate on their neighborhoods.

Reporter Charlie Smith paraphrases Dr. Singh as saying that "results in recent Vancouver elections demonstate that people with South Asian names cannot get elected on a citywide basis because there are too many citizens who won't vote for them. He said this amounts to discrimination."

Oh? This appears not to have been a problem for the candidates running for the two left leaning slates, such as George Chow, Raymond Louie and Kerry Jang who were elected to city council. Not to mention Raj Hundal who was elected to parks board. I'd love to see Dr. Singh try to make this argument when Allan Wong and Alvin Singh (both of COPE) defeated him in his bid for a school board seat.

The simple answer is that it wasn't the right's year in this election. I doubt that even the Dalai Lama could have been elected as dogcatcher running for the NPA.

I'm not a fan of wards. I am definitely not a fan of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal getting their mitts onto Vancouver's electoral system.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on December 4, 2008 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Monday, November 17, 2008

George Bush rebuked at Vancouver polls?!?

Saturday, municipal elections day in British Columbia, was a sad day for conservatives in Vancouver as the united left slate of Vision Vancouver and the Committee of Progressive Electors handily won the mayoral race and carried majorities on the City Council, the Parks Board and the School Board. New mayor Gregor Robertson made the trendy promises--that he would make Vancouver the greenest city in Canada, that he would end homelessness and that he would even support artists.

You could tell that the slate supports recycling after hearing Jim Green, who ran for the job on behalf of the left last time, offer some comments to a Shaw Cable TV reporter on election night.

"I think that Obama has shown us how to do things," Mr. Green said, "Gregor's the one!"

It's odd that Barack Obama would come up while explaining the results of a Canadian municipal election. (Perhaps President Bush deployed Vancouver's garbage collectors to Iraq to collect trash there, and I missed it.) The slate's organizers should have had some explanations handy as to why Robertson won--even if they only won by default. If so, the reasons should have been readily available for Mr. Green.

Perhaps Vancouver voters wanted "change" too. Well, they are going to get it, and perhaps they will learn, through painful experience, that change for the sake of change is not a wise choice.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on November 17, 2008 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Former Marijuana Party leader Brian Taylor now Mayor of Grand Forks

Last night I asked Marc Emery for a comment on the results of his unsuccessful Vancouver mayoral race. Here's what he had to say:

For me, the great news of the night was seeing my friend and BC Marijuana Party Leader in the 2001 campaign, Brian Taylor, get elected Mayor of Grand Forks, BC, and medical marijuana activist Philippe Lucas elected to Victoria City Council.

I gave $500 each to both campaigns instead of my own, and am glad I did, because spending money on my campaign would have been a waste of money. I placed a far distant fourth, getting not even a 1,000 votes. The pot culture was behind the Vision Vancouver slate which elected Mayor Gregor Robertson, former MLA, and 9 of 10 Councillors. I have friends on City Council and any haters were voted out, so for me, it might be a helpful result too.

Thanks in part to Emery's pioneering work, last night was a success for the marijuana policy reform movement.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 16, 2008 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Toronto: What is wrong with you?

While the world gazes upon the land to our south analyzing the election results (not just the Presidential races but also the initiatives), we should not forget the challenges facing us here at home. I lived in Toronto for almost six years, and despite my Western roots always found Toronto to be a great city to live in. I enjoyed my years there, and could easily see myself moving back there one day. Those days, however, I must confess, were days when I was oblivious to municipal politics. Not that I am any savvier today, but even I can tell when a city is going downhill politically. Its government has become dominated by men and women bent on destroying its infrastructure in the name of the common good. Here are some examples:

1. The City is demanding that Coffee chain Tim Horton's change its lids from plastic to paper! They can also switch to styrofoam, which of course is worse healthwise than plastic. But the average citizens' lives can be sacrificed on the altar of recycling.

2. The City is starting down a slippery slope of charging landlords fees for so-called services and inspections it will be conducting. Tenants: watch your rents go up.

3. Property taxes may go up 4% next year, because of projected revenue shortfalls. Maybe if you stopped chasing business away, and maybe if the mayor stopped travelling all over the world claiming to promote the city that is becoming so unwelcoming, the city could actually have its books in order.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on November 6, 2008 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Ric Dolphin Writes Again

Although loath to use another of those horrible words  concocted by the geeks  who, sadly, have inherited the world, there seems to be no avoiding it. I now have a "blog" which I shall endeavor to update at least every Monday and which you are invited to visit at, ricdolphin.com
Be aware that, unlike when I wrote for Western Standard magazine, I am not being  censored for language. I am also not specifically writing about politics, although the subject may be broached on occasion.  Be assured, however, that I shall never  use "blog" as  a verb.

Posted by Ric Dolphin on July 9, 2008 in Aboriginal Issues, American History, Books, Canadian Conservative Politics, Canadian History, Canadian Politics, Canadian Provincial Politics, Crime, Current Affairs, Film, Humour, International Affairs, International Politics, Media, Military, Municipal Politics, Religion, Science, Television, Trade, Travel, Web/Tech, Weblogs, Western Standard, WS Radio, WStv | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

An argument that's for the birds

The Vancouver Park Board, a long-time repository of "watermelons" (green outside, red inside), actually showed some common sense last night by voting to cut down 70 trees at Queen Elizabeth Park in order to restore views of downtown and the North Shore Mountains.

CKNW has a short story on the decision here, but the print item does not include the just-aired quote from one opponent, a quote so wonderfully eco-nuts that I simply have to get it on the record: "The birds are stakeholders, too!"

Posted by Terry O'Neill on July 8, 2008 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Monday, June 16, 2008

A pyrrhic victory for Vancouver churches

Shotgun readers may remember that a few months ago, I posted on the efforts of Vancouver's Tenth Avenue Alliance Church to protect its outreaches to the poor from Vancouver city bureaucrats who were not convinced that it was part of the role of a church (or any similar religious body) to minister to the needy.

Well, in the run-up to municipal elections, the ostensibly small-c conservative government of Vancouver has decided to acknowledge that it can be part of the role of a church to help the disadvantaged. Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, who failed in his efforts to be renominated for another term as mayor, even took pains to announce this on the steps of Holy Rosary Cathedral downtown. But, as reporter Jim Coggins notes, the devil is in the details.

While the city has agreed that churches will not need "special use permits" for their programs to help the poor, a new "Administrative Bulletin" for interpreting the policy cited in the above story allows the city bureaucrats to step in if any "problems" arise with neighbours. Programs "should be" restricted to church buildings and grounds and food programs will have to abide by health bylaws. Also, any church applying for a building permit will have to explain any new help-the-poor programs that they have in mind in their rezoning permits, allowing the city to cite these plans in any rezoning decision that they make.

I am hopeful that Vancouver bureaucrats don't have time to act as the "Free Sandwich Police". That said, I do need to note that whatever a government can regulate, it can stop, well-meaning words from a mayor aside.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on June 16, 2008 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"Toronto the Dump"

(Cross-posted from Burkean Canuck)

So, I'm sitting in my barber's chair, and he starts in about all that ails his city, Toronto.  He gets through the wackiness of what city regulations require every time a Toronto resident wants to improve his property and, as a result, his street and neighbourhood by setting an example and encouraging the "keeping up with the Joneses" effect.  My barber gets to how onerous household garbage disposal is, now, and how nothing is too little trouble to be an imposition on Toronto's garbage collectors.  In Toronto, the recyclables must be separated from other waste and, then, into glass, plastic, paper, newsprint, and boxes, and non-recyclables into dry and wet.  And this wrinkle:  not only must the corrugated cardboard boxes be broken down, flattened, and tied, but the square footage, er, metre-age, must not exceed thus-and-so, or the collector can refuse to throw it into the back where it's compacted.  My barber observed that in Montreal, the garbage collectors still pick up whatever's put out to the curb, in whatever state -- no refuse refused.

And then, Nick the Barber makes this observation.  Twenty years ago when he visited Chicago, he gave the relatives a hard time about how dirty Chicago was and how clean his home city of Toronto was by comparison.  Now, the Chicago relatives brag about how clean their city is compared to that dump, Toronto!  How in Chicago the streets and sidewalks are spotlessly clean, but in Toronto there's trash lying around all over and the sidewalks are speckled with chewing gum carcasses.  And, no panhandlers on Michigan Avenue, Chicago -- unlike on Toronto's Yonge Street or Bloor where one is accosted by panhandlers once or twice each block.  (This, even though the Safe Streets Act is still in force in Ontario).

Chicago is, um, "my kind of town."  But it's not just Chicago that looks better than Toronto.  Manhattan is no longer known for the stink of garbage rotting curbside in the hot, summer sun, or for muggers in Central Park.  Manhattan streets and sidewalks are free of trash or any signs of chewing gum remains.Central Park is filled to overflowing with families, strollers, and dogs on leashes.   Not long ago,  I walked around Central Park and from Midtown down to Greenwich Village and on -- maybe sixty blocks -- and I encountered exactly "zero" panhandlers!  "Start spreadin' the news."

"Toronto the Good"?  Nope.  I hereby christen thee, "Toronto the Dump."

Posted by Russ Kuykendall on August 1, 2007 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (86) | TrackBack

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Edmonton mayor's "Pride Brunch" in Catholic hall

The announcement can be found, here and here, as follows:

Mayor's Pride Brunch
Special Guest Mayor Stephen Mandel.

A fundraiser for Camp fYrefly, a GLBT youth camp.
St. Andrew Centre, 111 Ave & 127 St
Time: 12:30 PM Tickets: $30.00, available at the Edmonton Pride Centre (9540 - 111 Ave, 488-3234)

I'm told that St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church is one of the most conservative parishes in the city.  Evidently, whoever rented the hall on behalf of the event was not entirely forthcoming with the parish priest and administration as to what event would convene.  Then, apparently anticipating (wanting?) trouble, the event organizers arranged for two uniformed members of the Edmonton Police Service to be posted at the entrance to the hall.  The parish priest is said to have advised parishioners who saw what was taking place across from the church sanctuary to pray.

What else could the priest advise?  When the Knights of Columbus attempted to cancel a reservation for a lesbian wedding and offered to pay any costs associated with the change, they were brought up before the human rights commission.

The message that appears to be sent to Catholic Christians who don't accept this "lifestyle" as acceptable is that "equality" means that gay activists can take their agenda not just to your front door, but inside the door to places that are consecrated to the Catholic faith, with uniformed police officers (!) exercising state coercion to defend that right!

Now, will someone please tell me:
What happened to the separation of church and state?

UPDATE:  "Nbob" took issue in the "Comments" with what appears below.  Nbob suggested I hadn't read the ruling.

Although it was awhile ago, I did read the ruling.

On p. 42 of the PDF Nbob linked to, in comments below, the ruling indicates that the Knights were found guilty of discrimination by the Commission.  Lawyers are presently advising churches and religious organizations with premises to rent that they cannot make their premises available for renting to the general public without putting themselves at risk of being compelled to rent to groups with whose aims they foundationally disagree.  As in the Brockie case, this understanding of what constitutes public space represents a departure from what was formerly understood as private v. public space.  The effect is that the state is now intruding on premises used for religious purposes if the religious organization dares to make them available to the general public.

This holds implications for community organizations that have traditionally rented church-owned facilities because they're inexpensive.  Many churches make their premises available to some groups at no charge.  This ruling prevents churches from making their premises generally available.  Lawyers are advising churches to institute policies that may prevent many of these community groups from accessing church premises.

Instead of churches' being in a position to exercise discretion as to whom they shall rent on a case-by-case basis, they must limit themselves . . . unless they want uniformed policemen to show up on their premises.

Posted by Russ Kuykendall on June 20, 2007 in Canadian Politics, Municipal Politics, Religion | Permalink | Comments (51) | TrackBack

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mr. Bateman is learning quickly. Unfortunately.

I like Jordan Bateman. He's a first-term Langley Township municipal councillor out here in B.C. and his blog, Langley Politics, offers very thoughtful commentary on municipal and regional issues. Yet, a recent column, which he turned into a post on his blog,  shows that Mr. Bateman may be picking up a bad mindset shared by many politicians.

Mr. Bateman notes that municipal governments are having to fund more and more services as Canada's population grows. Municipal governments, moreover, have to primarily rely on property taxes and Mr. Bateman well knows that taxpayers are extremely sensitive to property tax increases.

Mr. Bateman's solution...

(which he shares at http://www.langleypolitics.com/2007/05/save-our-cities.html)

...is to have the federal government dole out large chunks of its budget surplus to  local governments.  It's  a easy  solution,  but  the wrong one.

It would be far better to have massive federal tax cuts and then have the provinces and municipalities increase taxes and user fees as needed. Otherwise, if we merely redirect the federal surplus, you will have municipal politicians  looking like they can wave a magic wand and provide goods and services, while the bad old federal government keeps taxes unnecessarily high. Irresponsible spending might thrive.

If municipal governments had to raise enough money to directly pay for the goods and services they provide, taxpayers might gradually become open to private enterprise solutions to local needs and  problems. The prospect of this should make usually conservative local  politicians, such as Mr. Bateman, smile.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on May 19, 2007 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Liberals love the money

I am not sure if the news of recent provincial Liberal scam is being heard by real Canadians out there in the rest of the country but that's becoming a serious issue within the Iranian-Canadian community here in Ontario and many are questioning the motives behind the recent move by a Liberal candidate, Mr. Reza Moridi, to get CDN$ 200,000 in grants from the Liberal government of Ontario through personal ties in the provincial government. And therefore Premier McGuinty has also come under fire for money sent to the so-called cultural centre with ties to Liberals.

It really makes me think that Liberals can't stay away from money, fraud and scams at all.

I am linking to four news articles by the Toronto Star newspaper which is following this shameful scam-like incident closely:

Toronto Star 1, Toronto Star 2, Toronto Star 3, Toronto Star 4

Posted by Winston on May 3, 2007 in Canadian Politics, Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 20, 2006

vancouver needs a giuliani

Soon taxpayers in my fair city of Vancouver are going to ask the question — Why us? Why should it be us who has to have blocks and blocks of government ghettoes? Who gives up entire sections of their city to criminals? Why should it be us who has to use our property taxes to pay for facilities for safe injections, new treatment facilities, etc, etc? Why should it be us who has to put up with the one of the worst property crime rates in Canada?

Who made this drug problem Vancouver’s alone to bear? The answer is that we did. We elect politicians and we continue to elect politicians who care too little about home owners, small business people, and their tax dollars. We continue to elect politicians who use property tax payer money to fund their half-baked (literally) ideas. We continue to elect politicians who have decided that next door to Chinatown should be Canada’s biggest open-drug market (yes, I’ll call it racism).

The drug problem in Vancouver is solveable. Go to Manhattan and walk around the whole island. Do that at night, too. You won’t see anything like Oppenheimer Park, Main and Hastings, or heck, even Granville Mall (try spending time in that urinal after 10 PM). The reason why you don’t see stuff like that in Manhattan is that they cleared it all out. And they did that because Giuliani said “no more”. He called a moratorium on social housing. Much whining and screaming ensued. The “activists” (who typically work in the poverty industry) went nuts, of course.

And you know what happened? Left to its devices, the market pushed the drug-dealers and criminals out of the city. It’s tough to live in Manhattan and pay the $400 grand for the 500 ft appartment on selling crack (while smoking up your profits). The only way you can do that is by living in a government house — well, no more.

Vancouver is not much different. We just need city politicians to stop being bleeding hearts and do the right thing for their constituents. Enabling these drug users and drug dealers is not helping anybody. It’s time to close the needle exchange. We need to put a moratorium on public housing. We should let the market do its work. The Downtown Eastside would be valuable land if it wasn’t full of feces, garbage, needles, used condoms, drug dealers, and prostitutes. If the city rezoned much of the area and let developers have at it, it would be turned around in no time at all. And the drug dealers would be gone.

I can hear the whining now. But where will they go, Peter Jay? Well, maybe back home, for one. Many people out there are from all across Canada. They are here for the high-quality, relatively cheap drugs, the blocks of cheap housing, the free meals from every society you can name, the good climate, etc. The fact is that if somewhere else had cheaper, easier to obtain drugs, they would go there. We don’t owe or own them. Vancouver doesn’t have to be the rest of Canada’s dumping ground for addicts. Other communities will deal with them. And you know what? They will probably do a better job. It’s pretty hard to clean up your life when you live in the Downtown Eastside with temptation everywhere.

In 10 years, Vancouver’s drug problems would be mostly a thing of the past. Just like Manhattan’s. All we need is our own Giuliani.

From boonbloggle.com.

Posted by Peter_Jay on April 20, 2006 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

CTF calls on Toronto to fiscally responsible

From a Canadian Taxpayers Federation press release:

"The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) is calling on the City of Toronto to live within its means by looking for innovative ways to reduce costs, return to basics and freeze property taxes in advance of Toronto’s official budget debates that begin on Wednesday, March 29.

With an annual budget shortfall of over $400-million, Toronto must trim costs and focus on essentials instead of providing frills while relying on annual handouts from Queen’s Park. Contracting out services such as waste collection, and landscaping would begin to reduce the city’s rising labour costs. City Hall should also review city salaries which have increased 19% in four years, while also scrapping its union-only policy which prevents it from getting the best value for taxpayers. "

I presume that CTF also believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

Posted by Paul Tuns on March 29, 2006 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Things go better with Coke

In British Columbia, municipal elections will be held on Saturday.

While out on my travels this week, I found an election advertisement for a left-leaning coalition that was trying to challenge the traditional big two in Vancouver politics (the Non-Partisan Association and the Committee of Progressive Electors).

The leaflet read, in part:

"Protecting Educating Peace Sovreignty [sic] Environment

Take the P.E.P.S.E. Challenge

Join the P.E.P.S.E. Generation"

The PEPSE coalition was so new, mind you, that they were inviting anyone who wanted to run for them to telephone them. All they had was a catchy acronym.

That said, the actual name of the coalition doesn't seem to make sense!

I think that going for the easily remembered acronym, no matter the cost is a old trick. But, as far as I can remember, only the left seems to use that trick.

Can Shotgun readers recall other unwieldy political names?


Posted by Rick Hiebert on November 13, 2005 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Woo'd away

Former B.C. Human Rights czarina Mary Woo Sims has announced she is running for Coquitlam city council, thus bringing to a premature end the series of weekly debates in which we have been engaged on the pages of the Tri-City News for the past several weeks.

Sims tells me her progressive friends were pleasantly surprised to discover, through her debate pieces, that she was more than just a one-trick equity/rights pony, and that she actually has knowlege of, and opinions on a full range of issues. They thus urged her to run for council.

Yikes! I hope this doesn't mean that the many conversations we had, prior to writing our pieces, helped Sims refine her views and, thus, made her into a better candidate.  If so, I might then be partially responsible for having launched Sims back into public life. It's an achievement I wouldn't want to put on my c.v.

Anyway, News editor Richard Dal Monte promises to find me a new sparring partner as soon as possible to replace Sims. Until then, I've offered to write both sides of a debate on an issue on which, I have to admit, I am currently conflicted -- the legalization of marijuana.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on October 15, 2005 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Unable to have a serious discussion about crime

A suggestion by Toronto city councilor Michael Thompson to pull over and search young blacks as part of the solution to the growing violent crime problem in the city has shifted the debate away from crime and toward racial profiling and Michael Thompson. The hysterical reaction to Thompson's suggestion is indicative of the impossibility of having a serious discussion about crime in this country. Mayor David Miller and his liberal allies on city council, the various "community groups" and the media want to focus on guns or the lack of "recreational opportunities" for young people or poverty, anything but the criminals themselves.

The most hysterical reaction to Thompson came from Toronto Star municipal columnist Royson James who said in a repugnant column:

"If Toronto city Councillor Michael Thompson is trying to make a name for himself, he certainly has. Around city hall yesterday, the rookie politician was being called Uncle Tomson.

When it comes to name-calling, that's as offensive as it gets for a black man. And yet, this black man has brought it on himself."

Read that again. Is not James and perhaps even the Star endorsing the use of the phrase Uncle Tom to describe a black politician who strays off the liberal plantation? Or at the very least, defending those who would use such terms?

Another example of hysteria: "... after all, even South Africa abandoned apartheid." Profiling is hardly segregation. But speaking of South Africa ... several years ago I was talking to a black South African going to university in Toronto. She said that when she hears someone walking behind her at night and she turns around and sees a white person, she is relieved. She knows the statistics and they don't lie. Young blacks are more likely to the perpetrators of crime. Blacks are also more likely to be the victims of crime. Few people mention the latter fact, although city councilor Michael Thompson has. That part of his talk to Toronto Star reporters on the crime epidemic isn't getting a lot of play.

The merits of Thompson's proposal should be debated, not dismissed. There are certainly arguments against profiling criminals -- and that's important; based on personal experience, anecdotal evidence and statistics, the police know what most criminals look like. Not every black youth would fit the profile of a likely gun-toting criminal, and those that are pulled over, searched and found to be gun and drug free should recieve an apology and go on their way. But instead of debating criminal profiling, Royson James, David Miller, Police Chief Bill Blair, and others would rather demonize a city councilor for putting forward an admittedly controversial idea to help fight crime than risk alienating some noisy black leaders by targeting likely criminals.

Listening to Blair in recent days it sounds as if he believes that Job One for the boys in blue is improving relations with minority communities rather than fighting crime. And Miller is coming up with ideas on locking up people's guns in one central location, a signal that the gun control agenda begins with registration and ends with confiscation. But no one on the Left wants to talk about what to do with criminals. It's as if the guns are murdering Torontonians without anyone shooting them.

Posted by Paul Tuns on August 17, 2005 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Tale of Two Cities

- Some of Ottawa's rural wards are thinking of breaking off and recreating Carleton County.
A rural group proposes a return to county governance for four Ottawa wards, saying their needs can never be met in a city system dominated by urban councillors.
As an urban studies student, this is the kind of thing that I'm actually interested in (but surprisingly enough, have no strong convictions about). The first thing that came to mind upon reading this opener was the extention of unreasonable City laws into clearly rural wards. For instance, in neighboring Leeds & Grenville county just west of Ottawa, you can discharge a firearm on your own property for shits & giggles. Can't do that in Ottawa! I live in a downtown urban ward and this (grudgingly) makes sense for me (self defence excluded, naturally). But out in West Carleton? However, for the small gov't conservative in me, there's this:
"I don't under any circumstances agree with de-amalgamation," El-Chantiry said. "I'm one of those people from day one who believed the less politicians the better. Going from 88 municipal politicians to 22 - that's a good news story."
- Mitch brings us the Ruins of Detroit tour. Great, but sad if you ever saw old film of what Detroit once was.

Posted by CharLeBois on August 3, 2005 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Just wondering

Over at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation blog, Tanis Fiss notes that Winnipeg city council will vote on whether to "completely privatize garbage collection," a move that could save the city $2 million a year. Fiss comments, "Let's hope they reduce taxes accordingly." I share Fiss' hope but I think this is unlikely to occur. Does anyone know of an example of a city reducing the cost of a specific program and cutting taxes proportionately to the savings. My guess is that more often than not city council (or whatever level of government) uses the money elsewhere, that reducing costs through privitization is meant to defer cuts to social spending.

Posted by Paul Tuns on July 28, 2005 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

City Hall's twisted "moral standards"

Ng6_thumbThe recent decision by municipal government staff to ban Miss Universe Natalie Glebova from appearing at a festival in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square is hardly surprising considering the nature of Toronto politics.  The absurdity of this decision (for which Mayor David Miller apologised only after it received negative media attention) has been adequately covered here on the Shotgun.  City Hall claims that beauty contests “objectify women” and cannot be held on city property.  Apparently, this regulation also means that the winner of such a contest cannot set foot on city property to attend the Tastes of Thailand festival unless she is never, and I mean never, referred to as Miss Universe.  As reported in today’s National Post, Miss Universe was upset by the decision saying, “it is a little weird for this happen, especially in my own city that I love.”  The Miss Universe organization said the decision was “shocking.” 

Miss Glebova has much to learn about the city that she loves.  Her appearance at a food festival may have been banned but she may be surprised to learn about an art exhibit at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery at Toronto’s prized Harbourfront Centre that is currently on display for the public.  The Centre, funded by all levels of government, and touted by City Hall as a great place to bring your kids, is currently displaying the work of Glenn Ligon that includes a collection of photographs of men’s penises.  Apparently it’s a reinterpretation of Robert Mapplethorpe’s “exploitative, homoerotic photographs of black men.”

The more you learn about your beloved city Miss Universe, the more you may find your love for it dwindling.

Posted by Michael Dabioch on July 20, 2005 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Tale Of Two Cities

"Activities which degrade men or women through sexual stereotyping, or exploit the bodies of men, women, boys or girls solely for the purpose of attracting attention, are not permitted on Nathan Phillips Square."
There, says Ms. Reid. Miss Universa non grata.

She can come. But no sash, no tiara.

The big parade ends Gay Pride week which began on June 18th when the Rainbow Flag was raised in Nathan Philips Square in front of City Hall.

More photos of the welcomed parade participants. Not work safe.

(Not lunch safe, for that matter.)

Posted by Kate McMillan on July 19, 2005 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Toronto cops to play PC police

The Toronto Star (and other media) highlighted comments made by new Toronto police chief Bill Blair on the city's diversity. The Star reports that the new chief "devoted a substantial part of his inaugral remarks to the city's diversity, which he described "not as a challenge but as an opportunity." But that paper is pre-occupied with race so perhaps celebrating Toronto's diversity wasn't really the focus of his inaugural comments but rather the media's priority. Then you read a little further along and find that Blair said:

"There is no greater challenge to our relationship with diverse communities than the corrosive issues of racism and racial bias. It will not be tolerated in the Toronto Police Service and must not be tolerated anywhere in our society."

So I guess we know why the city chose Blair for the post: political correctness is a prerequisite for top cop in Hog Town. Great. Now if only the police would work as hard against crime as Blair has indicated they will against racism, Toronto's streets might become a little safer for everybody -- including blacks and other visible minorities.

Posted by Paul Tuns on April 27, 2005 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

"I'm a baby because you're two-faced!"

A few days ago I posted on San Francisco's ban on outdoor smoking. Bill Whalen in the Weekly Standard yesterday filed a piece about the city's board of supervisors, "Where the Inmates Run the Asylum", noting the ban and listing a few other instances of fun in the Bay area;

In a rare episode where common sense prevailed, the board rejected a $100,000 aid package for tsunami victims--after an initial proposal of $1 million in city aid. These gestures of charity came at a time when San Francisco faces a budget shortfall just shy of $100 million. All of which prompted a comical exchange between two supervisors sitting two chairs apart--Chris Daly (author of the relief proposal) and Jake McGoldrick (who voted against it, prompting Daly to claim he was double-crossed)--whose juvenile tone sounded more like Beevis and Butthead than two city leaders butting heads.

McGoldrick: How come you gotta act like a baby?
Daly: How come you're two-faced? I'm a baby because you're two-faced!
McGoldrick: You know where you can kiss, don't you, Chris?
Daly: Yeah, I'll kiss your ass. Right after I kick it.

Is that a syllogism? "...act like a baby...you're two-faced...ergo, I'm a baby because you're two-faced."

There's a whole generation with a new explanation...

Posted by Kevin Steel on February 2, 2005 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, January 22, 2005

She Feels They're Pane

Helen Smith-McIntyre, chair of the Saskatoon Police Service Committee on Diversity, has called for the scrapping of a police aptitude test that discriminates against visible minorities, who have higher than usual failure rates. Smith-McIntyre took the test and "passed" - if one discounts that she didn't complete it within the allowed time.

The half-hour test measures grammar, spelling and reading comprehension.

(Via local radio.)

Posted by Kate McMillan on January 22, 2005 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Blame the law, not the lawyer

[originally posted to Daimnation!]

We lawyers don't have the best reputation, and this probably isn't going to help matters:

A 26-year-old recent law school graduate may have cost the City of Toronto millions of dollars. He's persuaded a court to throw out a traffic ticket because the road sign was not in both official languages.

If the decision stands up, hundreds of thousands of road signs across the city will have to be replaced, at a cost of $200 each.

The sign in dispute has an image that says no left turn, "7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon to Fri."

Jennifer Myers was handed a traffic ticket after a police officer caught her violating the sign's warning.

Myers, a lawyer at Toronto firm Pinkofskys, turned the citation over to Daniel Brown, an articling student who'd been with her firm for just two months. She thought it would give him some courtroom experience.

Not only did Brown get the ticket thrown out, he convinced justice of the peace Alice Napier that all of the city's traffic signs were in contravention of a clause in the Ontario's French Language Services Act. The clause appears to require a number of the province's cities, including Toronto, to display traffic signs in both English and French.
Myers admitted to CFTO that she speaks very little French. Nevertheless, she argues "this defence was there to be argued." Brown says if the sign is illegal, it is invalid.

"It was clear from the legislation that French and English signs were required and it is unfair to hold someone accountable to a sign that is not a lawful sign," he explained.

The city says it will appeal the decision. The city's lawyers say the Highway Traffic Act makes it clear that the clause in question in the French Language Services Act only applies to provincial government services.

The accused doesn't even speak French, but got her ticket tossed out because the sign wasn't in French. It seems outrageous on so many levels - and yet, I find myself wanting to congratulate Brown for coming up with this. I've been called to the bar for five years, and I certainly never would have thought of it.

If the legislation says the signs have to be bilingual but they aren't, the city is in breach of its legal obligations. You can argue that Toronto shouldn't be forced to make all its signs bilingual in the first place, and I'd probably agree - but if that is indeed the law, the city has to follow it. Period. If a government is not subject to the rule of law, well...I don't even want to think about where that could lead.

The key word here, of course, is "if". I presume Brown based his argument (and the judge, his decision) on Section 5 of Ontario's French Language Services Act, which states that a person has the right to recieve French-language services from any government listed in the Schedule, including Toronto. Do road signs count under "available services"? If so, that would appear to contradict section 14 of the Act, which gives a municipality the option of passing a by-law making "all or specified" municipal services bilingual. If section 5 automatically makes all services bilingual, what's the point of section 14?

That's the position the City of Toronto will be taking on appeal, and I think they'll be successful. But I give Daniel Brown a lot of credit for thinking up the defence. He'll go far in this business.

Posted by Damian Penny on October 20, 2004 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Not Actual People

Toronto Public Health News Release: 1,700 people die each year from air pollution in Toronto.

Although the study was unable to pinpoint any specific individuals who were killed by pollution...

Abridged version: "More money, please".

Posted by Kate McMillan on July 10, 2004 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Monday, April 19, 2004

Toronto-area transit follies

The Toronto Star reports on a GO Transit mega-project and in one (opening) sentence demonstrates everything that is wrong with government: "GO Transit's board of directors has passed a $2.2 billion expansion plan, even though it does not have the money — or even the promise of the money — to pay for it." Well, maybe not everything, but a lot of what is wrong with government.

Posted by Paul Tuns on April 19, 2004 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack