Category Archives: Queen’s Park

By the People

The Toronto Star isn’t wild about reforming Ontario’s electoral system.

The best argument in favour of the status quo is that it leads to strong governments. By contrast, proportional representation is a recipe for unstable coalitions, permanent minority government and legislative chaos. For proof, one need look no further than Israel and Italy.

First of all, the system apparently favoured by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform is mixed member proportional representation, used in countries like Germany, not Israel and Italy.

Secondly, strong governments aren’t necessarily a good thing. Mike Harris, of who I’m sure the Star is no fan, was able to implement the Common Sense Revolution with two-thirds of the seats but less than 50% of the vote.

Today, the Liberals are doing a half-decent job at running a ‘benevolent dictatorship’, which it has been said is the best form of government. But there is no metric for separating the benevolent from the malevolent; it’s all subjective. That’s why I would rather take the risk of a less effective government over an effective dictatorship.

The Citizens’ Assembly is on the right track, and I look forward to the day when seat distribution in the Legislative Assembly more closely mirrors popular support.

2007: Domestic Outlook

Polar Bear swim 2007 by *

What’s in store for 2007? I doubt there will be a lack of things to blog about!

Ontario

There is a provincial election scheduled for sometime in October, the first of it’s kind in this province. I don’t doubt Howard Hampton when he saysI expect we’ll see 10 months of photo ops and press conferences.” On the other hand, the government doesn’t get to choose when to call the election, so I suppose it’s a worthy trade-off.

With the election still ten months away and polls reasonably close, it’s anybody’s game. Well, anybody except the NDP. Regardless of how well Bob Rae did at the Liberal leadership convention, his ghost still haunts the Ontario NDP. Still, this being the first election since the departure of Mike Harris, vote-splitting, and all that fun, the NDP stands to gain a handful of percentage points at least. But I digress. It is more accurate, and less distracting, to say the election comes down to Dalton McGuinty and John Tory.

I think McGuinty has done a decent job leading the Liberal government so far. Things were a bit shaky at first with the infamous broken promises and budget deficits, but aided by a cooperative economy things have gone (un)remarkably smoothly of late.
Tory has spent his brief time running the PC party by building up a personal image of respectability without committing to anything too substantial. The impression I’m getting is that he will govern more-or-less like the Liberals, except more honestly. He has cast himself, successfully I think, as a Bill Davis PC: Big on common sense and pragmatism, where common sense is always uncapitalized and never revolutionary.

All this leaves me pretty apathetic about the election, because either way we are going to end up with a pretty decent government. I’ll probably vote for the Liberals at the end of it all, only because they are already known and tested. But who knows what will happen in the intervening months. I certainly wouldn’t have to choke back my own bile to cast a ballot for John Tory, and I won’t lose any sleep if the pull ahead in the polls.

Speaking of losing sleep…

Canada

Stephen Harper is our Prime Minister. This whole business of minority governments is too complicated for me to follow without quitting my day job, so I won’t even speculate about when the government is going to fall or under what conditions. What I can tell you is I will not, under any conditions, be voting for a Conservative. I had high hopes after the last election, but they were quickly dashed. It makes me angry just thinking about it, and a bit nervous thinking about how much worse it could be.

Setting aside all that, I was very impressed with most of the Liberal leadership hopefuls, and have a good feeling about Stephane Dion. I’m glad too that Michael Ignatieff is now deputy-leader or whatever title they gave him. It would have been a shame (and a very bad way to signal “renewal”) if they had ostracized such a smart guy. Compared to the last few years, the Liberals have a bright future ahead.

I voted for the NDP candidate in the last election because it was the best way to vote against the Liberals without voting for the Conservatives. However, the way the NDP has been trying to work with the Harper government while criticizing the Liberals only makes sense in an abstract way. In practice, the enemy of your enemy should not be your friend when your party is as idealistic as the NDP usually is. Wearing the Liberals’ clothes does not become New Democrats.

And don’t forget about the Greens! They have a new leader who comes off a bit, shall we say, flowery compared to Jim Harris, but there’s no denying they have momentum. Could we see our first Green MP in 2007?

It doesn’t look dull from here, and we haven’t even stumbled across the best unexpected stuff yet.

*credit where credit is due

Observation on Immigration

I’m always interested when newspapers print opinion columns by-lined by politicians. They provide a flood of information compared to the usually TV sound-bites. And I’m a political geek, so I like that.

Today’s Star has a column with Premier McGuinty’s name on it, about what the government is trying to accomplish on a trade mission to South-East Asia this winter. There’s the usual talk about jobs, dollars, our track-record, education, and so on.

The whole thing is closed with talk of “family.” Because there are so many people from East Asia in Toronto, we are family.

And a light-bulb went off.

I suddenly get all this talk about building connections through immigrants. Even more than building purely economic ties (You know, that commercial with the Indian woman moving seamlessly from talking to her contacts in Mumbai to talking to her Canadian co-workers in the boardroom?).

We could be building something special, like we already have with Great Britain and the United States. A connection of more than just traded goods, a bond made through shared family and history.

With Toronto as the second-most (some might argue first-most) diverse city on the planet, Ontario is well-poised to make these connections.

MPPs get richer

The Liberals and Conservatives at Queen’s Park are voting to give themselves a 25% raise today. This would bring the base salary of an MPP to about $110,000.

On one hand, there’s something distasteful about being able to give yourself a raise. Especially when MPPs already make way more than most Ontarians, and the less-than-rich are being squeezed on all sides by things like housing and energy costs.

Yet they still take home 25% less than federal MPs, and they have done some good work with raising the minimum wage since 2003. Bonus points for passing the legislation before an election, instead of waiting until after.

I think the pay hike will probably do more good than harm. In the grand scheme of things, it is a small cost for the government. And it will make provincial politics more attractive to “regular people” – rather than the already-wealthy lawyer/business stereotype who can afford to quit his or her job to run for a position that might go to someone else.

I would be happier if it weren’t such a shockingly huge amount (especially for cabinet ministers and the Premier) and if it didn’t go into effect until the next election, but I can live with these shortcomings. It feels a bit trite to say so, but I think this will be good for the state of democracy in Ontario.