Try Try Again: Persistence in Politics

Try Try Again: Persistence in Politics

A candidate may be elected for many reasons; by the values they hold, by the platform they stand for, by the party they represent or finally by sheer persistence to get elected.

Last night Toronto Councillor Raymond Cho finally accomplished his desire to be elected to a higher level of government. Cho won the by-election for MPP of Scarborough-Rouge River and will vacate his city council seat.  Previous attempts by Cho to win either provincial or federal elections illuminates how persistence may pay off in politics.

Posted on September 2, 2016 .

Toronto Council and Ranked Ballots

I have been a supporter of ranked ballots in Toronto since I don't believe a candidate who receives below 20% has a mandate to represent their community.  Given the already huge advantage incumbency brings, it is reasonable to expect changes to increase democracy.  The current system of FPTP (first past the post) where the winner is determined by having the largest number of votes is flawed.  As seen in 2014, should a candidate with 17% be elected?

Posted on April 7, 2016 .

Politics & Celebrity

The danger of 'Reality TV' rather than reality in Politics

Ask the general public who their local representatives are from all three levels of government.  Several will be able to identify one or two politicians, while a small minority would be able to identify all three.  Now ask the same public who got voted out of a reality show the day before and see the increase of interest and information they will be able to provide.  In an age of technology where it is everywhere and information is easily accessible, the interest in politics has grown incrementally.  The average person doesn't pay attention to politics out of a jaded response to scandal, process or policy.  The politics machine is too big, too slow and doesn't address their immediate concerns.  

A change is coming to politics, the influence and idolization of celebrity.  From Trump to O'Leary to Ford, their danger of engaging in politics is starting to show signs of influence.  The substance doesn't matter; it's all about the sizzle.  Media recognizes the opportunity to profit, the public seems to enjoy the process as if a reality show and the 'celebrity' politician understands how to maximize the exposure.  Policy is lost in the political abyss, slowly turning the political theatre into actual entertainment.

Ask someone to describe the political policies of Trump, O'leary or Ford.  The following themes will appear:

  • Low taxes (protecting the taxpayer) at all costs
  • Identify a group to blame for (insert problem here) 
    • Blaming ethnic groups for economy, crime, etc
    • Targeting ideologically different politicians as corrupt without proof
    • Pitting region vs region in the 'divide and conquer' mentality
  • Catchphrases lacking solid basis for policy "Subways, subways, subways"

The danger of physical violence, hatred, racism and prejudice attitudes have been evident by some supporters of Donald Trump.  Blaming illegal immigrants for an increase in crime is attempting to capitalize on the xenophobic paradigms of some citizens.  Having a potential presidential candidate incite violence through veiled messaging is irresponsible.  The threat of violence has grown to action, especially against those who oppose Trump that demonstrate at his rallies.  As Trump inches closer to becoming the Republican nominee for president, the likelihood of more violence and even death also increases.

One of the biggest contributors to the increase of celebrity in politics is the glamorization by the media.  The more inflammatory a message is, the bigger the media coverage.  The increase in media coverage given to negative and sensational statements, the further the exposure reaches  The era of 24 hour news and instantaneous social media exposure only exacerbates factually incorrect statements.  Many believe the media is a conduit to unbiased information.  The reality about political coverage and media, there is always an underlying bias.

There is no better example of the media fueling the spectacle of scandal in politics than their love affair with Rob Ford.  The history of Ford during his mayoral tenure has been well documented by every media outlet regionally and sadly internationally.  From his drug addictions, photo ops, lack of attention to policy details... he was their lightning rod of coverage.  Books have been written, promotions have been given because the circus show of Toronto politics gave media an endless barrage of front page news.  

With Ford's death on March 22nd, prepackaged obituaries serve as a media memoir of his political career.  The articles detail the follies, the fantastical and the fascination of local politics and the man who kept the printing presses working.  The media eulogizes the narratives that follow the path they have reported.  Ford was either a hero or a villain depending on the perception of the author.  Camera crews stand across the city to get reactions of his legacy, his importance or how he helped.  This need to televise a city grieving doesn't facilitate healing, it breeds opportunism.

 Where does this integration of politics and celebrity take governance?  Will policies be driven by twitter polls or popularity contests?  Will politicians be worried about midterm 'vote off the island'?  Will policies be dictated by catchphrases and empty political promises rather than fact based studies?  Toronto has seen the narrative of "Subways, Subways, Subways" without a funding model.  Toronto has seen SmartTrack without a viable integration with current and future transit lines continued to get promoted.  The rhetoric on respecting the taxpayers only works when policy addresses inequities such as affordable housing.  

The danger of celebrity and politics will grow as the U.S. presidential race eventually pits Trump vs Clinton.  Will the debates have merit; will the substance be about 'Trump steak' or how to find concrete ways to fix the economy?  Will there be a sideshow, clowns, t-shirts made?  Or will the race show the dangers of elevating celebrity figures in political power because of a false sense of stature?  If reason cannot win over reality tv, what future are we destined for? 

We'll discuss the future after this short commercial break.

Posted on March 23, 2016 .

Evolution of SmartTrack Jan 2016

Augmented SmartTrack plan

My first overall reaction was that decision to build Eglinton Crosstown Phase 2 was the right one.  Heavy rail on Eglinton was never a feasible idea, nor did it make financial sense.  The limited stops within Etobicoke hurt local transit needs since buses would still have to run on Eglinton

Posted on January 15, 2016 .

Federal Election 2015 Wrap-up

A change in government, a change in direction

The federal election ended over a week ago, many have yet to decompress.  The emotional high or the elevated stress may not have subsided for those who worked on any campaign.  As the results finally revealed what government Canada would have, the next four years now has a clearly different direction.  There were cheers, jeers and sadness for various political camps.  Let's examine the aspects of the campaign now that it is over.

Posted on October 27, 2015 .

Federal Election 2015

Your Vote Matters

For many Canadians, politics is not part of their daily life.  Political decision making is the murmur muffled on television while dealing with immediate daily problems.  For some Canadians there is no attempt to engage in understanding why elected officials stand in Parliament and act like children.  The statements of 'they are all the same' 'how can they help me?' 'what about the issues that affect me?' show the disconnect between elected officials and the general public.

Posted on September 24, 2015 and filed under Election, Politics.

Gardiner East Result

How did council get to its decision on the Gardiner decision?  For those who watched the council meeting over two days regarding the Gardiner, it would be hard to understand the solid fundamental support by some members of council. 

Posted on June 12, 2015 .

Toronto Ward Boundary Scenario - 50 Councillors

Toronto Ward Boundary Scenario: 50 Councillors

Running with the scenario of 50 Councillors I have taken the approach of re-examining the 2014 municipal election results to see what the effect would be by increasing council.  The process is hypothetical because the number of wards, their boundaries and the election races may be extremely altered in 2018 if implemented.  I cannot lay out the exact council that would be created but I can use the data available to suggest some of the candidates that were not successful but could have been elected if council had an extra 6 seats.

Posted on May 27, 2015 .

The War of Politics

POLITICS IS WAR

There are factions, propaganda & casualties.  The decisions are made by few, instigated by rank & file and affect everyone.  Like most wars, politicians use the façade of moral reasoning to mask their true purpose based on ideological opportunism.  Many are blinded to the moral, social and communal destructive path of all armed parties until the battle is over and the survivors are left to pick up the pieces.

Posted on May 9, 2015 and filed under Politics.

Toronto Ward Boundary Scenario - 22 Councillors

Scenario of 22 Councillors

The concept of decreasing to 22 councillors has been brought up by several groups looking to find efficiencies or to make municipal governments smaller.  Their contention is that having the same number of representatives within the city should match other levels of government.

Running with the scenario of 22 Councillors I have taken the approach of re-examining the 2014 municipal election results to see what the effect would be by cutting council in half.  The process is simply comparing the votes received during the election between the two councillors currently in the same "riding"

Posted on May 6, 2015 .

Councillor Municipal Elections Limits

The City of Toronto has begun to upload all campaign financing for all candidates in the 2014 municipal election.  I have collected as much data as possible to begin to understand a few important aspects of winning a campaign.

Questions to ask:

  1. Who collected the most amount of contributions?
  2. What was the spending limit for that ward?
  3. Are there serious concerns with the entire municipal campaign financing?
Posted on April 13, 2015 and filed under Election 2014.

Expectation on Politicians - Rob Ford Feb 2015

I have finally begun to "Storify" my streams of consciousness on twitter.  The concept is to group tweets into one continuous thread that is easily accessible.

With the expulsion of Rob Ford from council chambers yesterday, I felt compelled to finally speak about him and how I am disappointed in his election win.  He doesn't exemplify the characteristics of a ideal politician nor does he live up to the higher expectations politicians should have.

Please take a moment and read my thoughts.
Let me know if you agree or disagree.

ROB FORD: "The Man, the myth, the legend"

Posted on February 12, 2015 .

Fallacy of Party Politics

Fallacy of Party Politics

I pledge allegiance...

There is no one perfect way to govern.  
There is no government that benefits all of its people.
There are as much similarities to other parties as there are differences.
There is no "one ring to rule them all"...

Posted on February 11, 2015 .

Toronto Ward Boundary Review

What Ward/Riding am I in?

For most residents, the day to day operation of any level of government is not on their minds.  People are elected to represent and maintain a level of understanding on what is going on and how to keep the system running.  Only when election campaigns are occurring do residents' interest in politics awakens from its hibernation.

One of the first questions people ask is "what ward/riding am I in?"  There is the obvious answer of "same one as last election" but the honest truth arises - is it?

All levels of government do assessments of the ward/riding boundaries.  Unfortunately for residents, the possible realignments do not all occur at the same time, nor do they alter in the same way.   In Toronto the Federal and Provincial ridings are extremely similar, with the municipal ward boundaries half of each Provincial riding.  The Federal government has done a realignment for the next election that will alter boundaries, add new ridings (based on factors including population).  Some ridings Federally do not stay within municipal boundaries and can overlap segments of cities.

An example of an Etobicoke resident:

A resident may have always voted in the riding/ward of Etobicoke-Lakeshore for all the levels of government.  The realignment of the ridings had a section in the northern part be altered and added to Etobicoke Centre.  By going to the 'change in map link here", the boundaries are evident in their alteration (will need to focus on specific geographic area).  The resident will now vote in these ridings/wards:

  • Federally: Etobicoke Centre
  • Provincially: Etobicoke-Lakeshore
  • Municipally: Etobicoke-Lakeshore Ward 5

The same can be said for a resident in Etobicoke Centre Ward 3, who would vote federally in Etobicoke North.

Confused?

The idea of possibly voting in two different ridings/wards can be confusing.  The different levels of governments attempt to inform residents about the changes, including having forums for giving opinions on boundary changes.  The Province will be assessing their boundaries; will they align with the Federal government?  This is a discussion that you can be a part of when the public forums open.

Toronto Ward Boundary Review

Toronto is in the process of assessing its own ward boundaries for the 2018 election.  The process is in the preliminary stages of consultation and can be found on their website of DRAW THE LINES  

The website is a great tool to understanding the process; being informed on where and when public forums are being held and general FAQ's.  

I have had the opportunity to attend several meetings and hear from residents, organizations and current councillors about their thoughts and ideas of what the boundaries should be.  Ideology is very evident when discussing ward boundaries and proportional representation.  Some attendees question the usefulness of council and want less representation, while others realize the important role and disparity in population averages within wards.  

Some main topics/views of the meetings:

  • Should the municipal boundaries align with Federal/Provincial boundaries?
  • Should there be more or less wards?
  • What should be the population representation average be per councillor?
  • Are there neighbourhoods affected by current/future boundary changes?
  • Should the city de-amalgamate 

My views on some of the topics/views.

I do not believe that Toronto needs to follow the boundaries set out by the other levels of governments.  There doesn't need to be alignment symmetry between the boundaries because of the inherent nature of the boundary assessments.  Each level of government does their assessment on their own timeline.  Toronto is projecting population density until 2031; the Federal government does an assessment every 10 years.  Which boundary assessment is the baseline, when do the other levels change their boundaries?  Toronto should be able to control its own governance.

Should there be more less wards?  To be honest, wards are different in many aspects and this conversation needs more information.  A ward like mine (Etobicoke Centre Ward 3) doesn't have the same concerns, population density projections or major projects compared to the downtown core.  The ward's sense of maintaining the 'status quo' is one of the reasons Ward 3 has barely any growth planned and a major reason why the huge disparity in ward representation exists.  

I do not agree with the concept of cutting the current councillor count from 44 to 22.  The major paradigm behind this opinion is that if other levels of government only have 22 (25 for the next Federal election), why does Toronto need that many more?  Seriously?  The other levels of government do not have the same control over the day to day issues in our lives.  Roads, transit, housing, infrastructure... when there is an issue in your life, you are likely to call your councillor, not your MPP or MP.  Reducing the number from 44 to 22 would mean instead of having 60,000 residents per councillor, we'd have 120,000.  Try to wait on hold behind that many other residents!

The belief that cutting councillors will eliminate waste in government spending is both naive and problematic.  For a government that has an operating budget of $10 Billion and a capital budget much larger than that, having 22 (plus the mayor) to make critical decisions in insane.  This would morph into discussions about bringing in a party system municipally (a concept that already exists by examining each councillor's voting tendencies) that is also a bad idea. 

Instead of decreasing councillors to reduce the political gridlock, I would suggest increasing the power of the regional council.  This is worthy of its own discussion.

I am not sure if having more councillors will make the city more effective.  There are plenty of wards where despite low population density, are the current councillors properly representing their community?  The average population projections can be found from Draw the Line website (image below).  Is having 44 councillors with an average increase of 13,000 residents per ward warrant adding more councillors?  I do not believe so.

Should the city de-amalgamate, again another paradigm that creates separation and exclusion.  I have heard over the past year that if we de-amalgamated Etobicoke would be better off.  I had to bite my tongue several times after hearing those statements because the sense of entitlement was narrow-minded and shortsighted.  During the last election I didn't hear from Etobicoke North about the abundance of opportunities, new transit plans or overall high standards of living.  Returning to Etobicoke as its own city would essentially consolidate the decision making in proportion to the current city as a whole, the core controls, the outskirts are excluded.  This is also another topic that will be revisited.

The process of engagement will continue until council makes its final decision.  Make sure to stay informed and add to the conversation.  The end result may change who represents you, isn't that worth paying attention for?

Posted on January 30, 2015 and filed under CoT Meetings.

Volunteerism

My first post in my politics blog is about the most important aspect of any organization: Volunteers.

Volunteers are the difference makers in the viability and success of any organization.  Take a minute and think of any campaign, fundraiser, organization or group within Toronto and how volunteers play vital roles.  It is the commitment of their time which carries the most value,  time that cannot be replaced with technology.  A computer doesn't knock on a door or energize a crowd, nor can a robot be able to reasonably empathize with a resident or member.  

In the context of an election; volunteers are the lynchpin of a campaign and will make or break its success.  No matter the quality of the candidate, not having a team to engage a community and put in work that is often not publicly recognized will likely end in defeat.  Volunteers range from experts (willing to donate their time to a dedicated purpose) or are a friend/family/resident who believes in the campaign and will do any task asked. 

From personal experience I know that volunteers are great resources in communities.  I had volunteers that had never canvassed and were apprehensive.  They overcame their personal fears to accomplish a goal I could not do alone.  There were many moments I learned something new from the experiences of my volunteers.  I hope that all my volunteers know how much their involvement meant to me, I certainly don't want them to believe I didn't appreciate their help.

With so much positivity from volunteerism, there is one definite negative: convincing people that they could/should volunteer.  If we split volunteerism into two camps: politics vs everything else, the fundamental purpose is the same. 

VOLUNTEERISM IN POLITICS

The main difference: political volunteers usually are only needed for a short period of time which may or may not be predetermined.  The intense focus of needing volunteers usually aligns with political affiliations or the belief in 'getting the other party out'.  Like any good organization would have, a solid base of volunteers can be counted on.  A truism about volunteers: they aren't usually paid, are there on their own volition and make the personal decision to come back.  This is the hardest point to stress, volunteers don't have to come back.  When a person decides to volunteer they choose when they are done.  A lot of hard work rests on shoulders that may not decide to come back. 

This leaves campaigns vulnerable to volunteer fatigue.  When the main cluster of volunteers are relied on heavily, it may put undue stress on them.  Like stated above, they can choose if they want to come back and the tightrope act begins of finding that balance of personal satisfaction and organizational need. 

VOLUNTEERISM IN ORGANIZATIONS

Volunteerism also has an organizational need for groups that operate within Toronto.  Many grassroot organizations are created, funded and managed by volunteers.  Expanding an ideology, paradigm or purpose needs physical beings.  An organization needs to go beyond a social media structure to have a true impact.  People pounding pavements or meeting face to face entrenches the importance of the organization. 

Organizational volunteers also have the issue of fatigue because life doesn't always allow for constant and consistent availability.  If a volunteer commits to a monthly allotment of hours but cannot for situational circumstances, does the absence make them less likely to 'double up' or stay away?  As attitudes shift and the perceived importance of one's time alters, organizations are left with a fluid gain and loss of volunteers.

Unfortunately there are simply too many organizations out there to volunteer for and not enough people who actually donate their time.  Unlike high school students that are required to accumulate community hours, residents of communities have no social contract to contribute to its well being.  There will never be legislated volunteer requirements for residents because that in itself seems over-reaching to say the least.  

I personally do not volunteer for any organization on a regular basis.  I do attempt to donate platelets as often as I can (of which the process from leaving my home and returning) takes approximately 4-5 hours.  Over the course of the past year I have taken the opportunity to meet and promote many organizations.  I have become an active participant in events or attend meetings to offer advice/time on a one-off basis.  I am still searching for an organization I can dedicate more time towards that is both enjoyable and also community changing.  Political organizations will be there for my interests, I simply categorize their needs differently.

What can you do?

I will not preach to anyone about how they should volunteer more.  There are many who attempt to bribe, shame, entice or even  expect people to help their organization.  My advice is simple: if you have the time, if you have the motivation and finally if you have the ability, volunteer.  How do you choose, that is the best part, it is up to you.  Depending on your thoughts/beliefs/hobbies/neighbourhood, many opportunities can be done locally with like-minded individuals.  

Where should you volunteer?

I contemplated creating a list of organizations that I would suggest but felt those interested in the concept have the capacity to seek out organizations who they would best align with.  My list was a bit heavy on the political spectrum and know many are simply not interested.

Good luck and hopefully this year Toronto sees an increase in volunteerism, an increase in making a difference and finally a year where anyone realizes they can make a difference.

Posted on January 23, 2015 .

2014 Municipal Election Wrap-up - Part 3

This post will be best described as a summation of twelve months; a 'year in review' if you will.  I was told over the course of the election that my website was very personal.  Residents liked the fact they could sense my tone, my voice and my overall thoughts beyond the statistics and policy directives.  I had wondered if it was a good thing, do we want political leaders that are more than their position and instantly thought "YES!!" 

Posted on December 31, 2014 .