• Randall White : A very short note on the Ontario cabinet shuffle, June 20, 2019

    Posted: June 20th, 2019 | No Comments »
    Ontario Premier Ford at Toronto Raptors’ NBA championship celebration.

    [UPDATED JUNE 22]. The obvious first reaction to Premier Doug Ford’s big cabinet shuffle at the end of his first year in office is that it wasn’t his cabinet who was so visibly booed at the Toronto Raptors NBA championship celebration this past Monday.

    The point was not lost on CBC TV’s “This Hour Has 22 Minutes,” which tweeted just past 11 AM this morning : “Several high-profile ministers demoted in major Ontario cabinet shuffle. It doesn’t get much worse than Doug Ford saying you’re the one doing a bad job.”

    For details see “Fedeli, MacLeod, Thompson all demoted in major Ontario cabinet shuffle by Ford” ; “High-profile ministers demoted in Ont. Premier Ford’s cabinet shuffle” ; and “Fedeli, Thompson, MacLeod and Mulroney moved from embattled posts as Ford shuffles Ontario cabinet.”

    The new official list, in alphabetical order by surname, appears online at “Meet the Cabinet.”

    Rod Phillips, the new Minister of Finance.

    If you are a Twitter addict, you may have arisen this morning to Mike Crawley’s 7:29 AM message : “One of my PC sources is calling this a bloodbath, and the most heavy-handed cabinet shuffle ever.”

    Some two and a half hours later Adam Radwanski observed : “after all the initial hoopla about having a small cabinet, it’s now grown significantly.”

    I have only a few immediate thoughts myself.

    To start with, Rod Phillips might make a good Minister of Finance. By some accounts Stephen Lecce could become an effective Minister of Education — from a conservative point of view at any rate.

    I am personally somewhat puzzled by the appointments of Monte McNaughton as Minister of Labour, and Todd Smith as Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.

    The class act of the official swearing-in was Caroline Mulroney — who first did her oath of office in the kind of French you only learn growing up in Quebec.

    Finally, in the end it’s at least hard not to wonder whether some of Premier Ford’s current problems have more to do with his own office than his cabinet.

    Premier Ford marches in York Region Pride parade with cabinet ministers Caroline Mulroney (l) and Christine Elliott (r), Saturday, June 15, 2019. A cabinet shuffle anchored by these two women might have made more sense?

    (As a Toronto Life article on “Doug Ford’s now-undisputed second-in-command” explained early this year : “He doesn’t have a lot of experience in government.”)

    Meanwhile, the bottom line does very much remain that the Ford Nation Ontario PCs still have three more years to do much better — or, as some critics will no doubt urge, much worse.

    If they really are going ahead with major health care system reform (almost bound to cause more initial trouble at best?), my guess at this moment would be that the Premier’s ultimate reputation will depend on just how well — or badly — this works out.

    Meanwhile again, Ontario PCs now have until late October 2019 to get their big one-year stab at reforming the management team to work, without constant harassment from the opposition in the Legislative Assembly. (Where MPPs in the government majority just act like much-observed trained seals in any case!)

    UPDATE JUNE 22 : As of late yesterday — “BREAKING: Premier Doug Ford’s embattled chief of staff, Dean French, has resigned.” (And note above : “in the end it’s at least hard not to wonder whether some of Premier Ford’s current problems have more to do with his own office than his cabinet. ” It seems the premier finally wondered this himself.)

    Six notes from the Six, waiting for Raptors parade : Hillier vs French, Senate reform, Federal Liberals, Citizenship oath, 2011 voter fraud, BoJo in UK

    Posted: June 16th, 2019 | No Comments »
    Ontario Premier Doug Ford (l) and his Chief of Staff Dean French, in happier times.

    (1) Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s chief of staff, Dean French, is going ahead with “a defamation lawsuit over posts made on social media by Randy Hillier, the maverick MPP ejected from the governing Progressive Conservative caucus.” And “Maverick MPP Randy Hillier says lawsuit by top Doug Ford aide is meant to silence him.”

    All this quietly puts one revealing finger, I think, on the growing unpopularity of the Ford nation so-called “For the People” government at the end of its first year in office. It is stumbling over its own inexperienced and unseasoned contempt for successful traditions of Ontario government and politics largely bequeathed by its own “PC dynasty” precursors, many long years ago.

    (2) Meanwhile, back in Canada’s federal capital on the banks of the Ottawa River Justin Trudeau’s Senate Reform lite gestures of the past few years are receiving what also strike me as undeserved support from some surprising places.

    “Senate Liberal Lillian Dyck (left) and Government Representative in the Senate Peter Harder (right) welcome Manitoba’s newest Independent Senator, Mary Jane McCallum, to the Red Chamber on December 13, 2017. PHOTO: Greg Kolz.”

    See Emmett Macfarlane on “The Renewed Canadian Senate: Organizational Challenges and Relations with the Government,” and (especially surprising?) John Ibbitson on “Trudeau’s reforms to Senate worked – and Scheer should follow suit.”

    (3) I personally agree with the editors of this site that the Trudeau Liberals “have altogether lacked courage and depth (and common sense) on real Senate reform and democratizing our head of state.” But I also agree (and quite unlike Mr. Ibbitson I’m guessing) that “in the very end this time we’re outright supporting the Justin Trudeau Liberals for Oct 21, 2019.”

    So I have been pleased by such recent reports as “Liberal bleeding after SNC-Lavalin affair seems to have stopped: Poll,” and “Liberals and Conservatives neck and neck as Greens rise to 12%.” I can’t resist adding my own recent Ontario News Watch column : “Ontario in the 2019 Federal Election: Is 1972 a Model?

    (4) I have recently been pleased as well by a column from the beautiful northwestern BC wilderness that does show some serious courage and depth (and common sense) on such overdue Canadian constitutional issues as real Senate reform and democratizing our head of state.

    Smithers, BC.

    See Thom Barker on “Citizenship oath an unacceptable double-standard … Thom argues it’s time to stop making new citizens swear (or affirm) pledge to Queen,” in the Smithers Interior News.

    (5) Meanwhile, back on Twitter I was recently equally struck by certain at least vaguely related provocative thoughts from pollster and Canadian political philosopher Frank Graves.

    The thoughts were perhaps so provocative that @VoiceOfFranky has now taken them down. There is, however, still some evidence for : “This is arguably the greatest travesty in modern Canadian democracy.” It was in any case all about the robocalls issue in the 2011 Canadian federal election. And for more on this front (from back in 2013) see : “Federal Court won’t remove MPs over election robocalls … Judge finds that fraud occurred, linked to the Conservative Party’s CIMS database.”

    (6) These political thoughts while waiting for the Raptors’ great Toronto parade tomorrow end with a glance back across the Atlantic Ocean, at the latest strange permutations of what earlier Canadian generations called the Mother of Parliaments.

    Hugh Laurie (r) as Bertie Wooster and Stephen Fry (l) as Jeeves, long before it looked like Boris Johnson might actually become UK prime minister!

    My text here is Sam Knight’s June 13, 2019 New Yorker piece on “The Empty Promise of Boris Johnson … The man expected to be Britain’s next Prime Minister makes people in power, including himself, appear ridiculous.”

    I especially liked : “To the British public, Johnson is an immediately recognizable figure in the culture. He is Bertie Wooster. His hair is a mess. He falls into ponds …. You can find yourself feeling sympathetic toward him, because of … vulnerability and a sense that he is fundamentally unserious. ‘Boris has the capacity to lose his way in a sentence …’ Michael Gove … has said.”

    For my own always-try-to-say-something-positive concluding thoughts here : It may at least be better to have Bertie Wooster trying to run your government than, eg, Donald Trump. And who knows? Contrary to everything he has said up to this point, Bertie might even stumble into keeping the United Kingdom in the European Union by accident or mistake? The big remaining question is just : who is the sensible companion Jeeves?

    Is Toronto Raptors’ first outside-US championship 2019 just the start of a new NBA in the global village?

    Posted: June 14th, 2019 | No Comments »
    Celebrating the victory at Jurassic Park, Toronto.

    GREATER ONTARIO”. FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 2019. As rarely enough in Toronto these days, there is sun in the sky (along with intermittent foreboding clouds for tomorrow). According to our latest reports from the streets, it’s almost warmer than lately too.

    It is impossible not to be affected in some happy way as well by the great news that finally, after so much extended game-end agony, even with mere seconds to go on the official clock, the Toronto Raptors (We the North) became 2019 National Basketball Association champions, for the first time in their 24-year history.

    It was, to start with, the Six in Six. And close to all residents of the local city region today feel some elemental joy, beyond all foolish attempts at written description.

    Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard : NBA champs 2019.

    And then, with all due allowances to local exaggeration on this front, “We the North” was also “Canada’s team.” As Kyle Lowry from Cardinal Dougherty High School in Philadelphia nicely explained, when asked about a message for the fans : “We brought it home baby. O Canada.” (And then in Toronto proper or Whitby or Barrie or Mississauga or Oakville on TV we could see the local Jurassic Parks and related celebrations in such places as Halifax and Regina or even Montreal and Vancouver. It is impossible not to be locally happy about that too!)

    Then again for sympathetic observers beyond Canada, the ultimate Toronto Raptor fan base is in the much larger global village. According to the Associated Press in the USA : “A global NBA now has a truly global champion.”As viewed by the Guardian in the UK : “’It means the world’: Toronto Raptors win first NBA title after beating Warriors.”

    Raptors president Masai Ujiri who grew up in Nigeria — in many way the long-term architect of 2019 NBA title.

    The AP piece (by Tim Reynolds) also explains how the global, Canadian, and local themes finally tie together. It points to former NBA veteran Jamaal Magloire, who “has been on the [Raptors’] staff since his playing days ended” and “is a Toronto native.” As Magloire “said as he watched champagne spray all over the locker room .. ‘Canada and Toronto especially are very diverse places. And this team, all the diversity that we have, it served us well’.”

    From where we sit as (in a few cases at least) other Toronto natives, it is finally impossible not to be happy about the various good ways in which showing support for the We the North Raptors has helped (and will continue to help) all we diverse Canadians of 2019 express the shared enthusiasm and solidarity we feel for our community life in challenging times.

    Mr. Reynolds’s AP piece notes as well that : “At NBA headquarters in New York, they truly didn’t care who won the series … That doesn’t mean they don’t realize the Raptors’ title is a good thing for the league’s future.”

    Compliments of Felix Richter, statista.com.

    The NBA in the United States, that is to say, is ultimately going global. And the Toronto Raptors in Canada who have become 2019 NBA champions are just a step in this long-term direction. All of which can have some crazy echoes in a city which once described the late 1920s new headquarters of its Canadian Bank of Commerce as “the tallest building in the British empire” (on which the sun, as they used to say, never dared to set). History, in the words of the T.S.Eliot who grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and died in London, England, “has many cunning passages.”

    PS : For something completely different try “Democracy is what finally makes America great (& Canada too etc, etc),” on our reviving companion “music and the arts” site, birdhop — named in honour of the great master of modern jazz, Charles Parker Jr., born in Kansas City 1920 and died in New York City 1955. (If he were alive today, we think he’d be a Raptors’ fan too.)

    Big Blue Wave stops at The Rock (well .. Lib minority, maybe dependent on NDP) — good or bad news for Justin Trudeau?

    Posted: May 18th, 2019 | No Comments »
    Kelly Jefferson, originally from faraway Regina, now in Toronto : a master of the tenor saxophone.

    Some of us were at The Bluebird near the Dundas West subway station in Toronto as the results of the provincial election in Newfoundland and Labrador (aka The Rock) rolled in.

    We were listening to the “Stubble Jumpers … a brand new cooperative Jazz Organ trio consisting of Kelly Jefferson (saxes), Jeff McLeod (organ), and Ted Warren (drums).” All three began their lives in Regina, Saskatchewan — where “Stubble Jumper” is a term of proud abuse. Then they moved to the city with the heart of a loan shark, where they have become accomplished musicians and energetic entertainers for discriminating democratic tastes.

    Dropping quickly into the office on our ways home, we caught up with the results of the election still further east, where Giovanni Cabotto may or may not have landed in 1497.

    There are 40 seats in the Newfoundland House of Assembly — making 21 seats a bare majority. On May 16, 2019 (based on results reported by Maclean’s) Dwight Ball’s incumbent Liberals won 20 seats with 45.1% of the popular vote across the province. Ches Crosbie’s Progressive Conservatives won 15 seats with 43.7% of the vote. Alison Coffin’s New Democrats won 3 seats with 6.5% of the vote. And 2 seats were won by Independents among the Other candidates, who collectively took 4.8% of the popular vote province-wide.

    Surviving Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball says his party is listening to voters’ plea for politicians to “work together.”

    Possibly hinting at how federal Conservatives may react to some broadly similar result in the Canadian federal election this coming October 21, 2019, Conservative leader Ches Crosbie declared : “I am not conceding victory to the Liberals …They will have to struggle for the next months and years to hang on to power.”

    In particular, Premier Ball’s Liberals may have to depend on co-operation with the three elected New Democrats — party leader Alison Coffin in St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi, Jim Dinn in St. John’s Centre, and Jordan Brown in Labrador West.

    Conservative leader Crosbie has apparently “said he will be calling on three elected members of the NDP and two Independents to form a coalition to counter the Liberals.” If those he is calling on accept his invitation, there will indeed have to be a fresh election very soon. (20 Liberals vs 20 very strange bedfellow united Conservatives, New Democrats, and Independents is a contest that no one can win, including a provincial budget!)

    It would, however, seem a better bet for Ms Coffin’s newly energized New Democrats to trade co-operation with Dwight Ball’s Liberal minority government for concessions on NDP policy objectives that could not otherwise be met. (And then it is also true that the government only needs one of the two Independent votes for at least a bare majority in the House of Assembly — one of which belongs to a former Liberal.) Only time will tell definitively, of course.

    Very Rockish NDP leader Alison Coffin, whose party has made gains and could hold a balance of power in the House of Assembly over the next while.

    Meanwhile, whatever some might say about how close the 2019 Newfoundland election has been, the Big Blue Wave that brought conservative governments to office in five provinces over the past year has been stopped by democracy on The Rock.

    Our very rough and ready guess of the mere moment is that these Newfoundland election results may also prove to be a good enough predictor of the broad shape of things likely to emerge from the Canadian federal election this coming October 21.

    We’d guess as well that, at a time when such things are not easy to find in Ottawa, the 2019 election in Newfoundland and Labrador has to qualify as good news for Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada. Along with such headlines as “Canada, US reach deal to lift steel and aluminum tariffs within 2 days” — if not the results of today’s Australian election!

    Who knows? A federal Liberal minority government dependent on NDP (and/or Green Party) votes for parliamentary majorities may even be the best PM Trudeau can hope for in 2019. And this would nicely echo his father’s second election as party leader as well, in 1972!

    Will Labor win in Land of Oz on May 18 (and what will it mean for Liberals in Canada if they don’t) ??

    Posted: May 15th, 2019 | No Comments »

    [SCROLL DOWN FOR MAY 19/20 UPDATE ON ELECTION RESULTS]. With only a few days until voting on Saturday, May 18, the 2019 Australian federal election seems a closer thing than it appeared to be six months ago.

    (Fellow Commonwealth citizens in northern North America should also note that Australia is considerably further ahead of us in time of day than either the UK or France. Polling places down under on May 18 will close at 6 PM. And, eg, 6 PM in Sydney is 4 AM in Toronto. By 10 AM ET this coming Saturday — and only 7 AM PT in Vancouver — we should have at least some serious sense of the election results in the Land of Oz.)

    As one of our excellent Twitter correspondents from down under, Meredith King, explained to us a day or so ago : “Polls suggest it’s very close but Labor have hit their stride in the past week. Anything to do with action on climate gains traction every day.”

    A similar story is told by Max Walden on aljazeera.com : “Here’s everything you need to know about Australia’s election … The opposition Labor Party is expected to win Saturday’s election, with climate change emerging as a key issue.”

    Labor leader, Bill Shorten (left) and current Liberal PM Scott Morrison (right) at third leaders’ debate. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian.

    Mr. Walden also gives a tidy summary of the two main forces contesting the election : “the incumbent Liberal Coalition of Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hoping tax cuts and the enduring resilience of Australia’s economy will be enough to keep it in office … But growth is slowing and climate change has emerged as a major issue after the country’s hottest summer on record … The opposition Labor Party under Bill Shorten is betting voters will instead back its promises to improve education and healthcare as well as create a fairer Australia.”

    Aljazeera.com, does not do as well on some practical details. It claims : “Australians will choose 150 members of the House of Representatives (the lower house) and some 76 Senate seats (the upper house).” The parallel summary on the Express website from the UK is more exact : “The election will see voters choose members of the 46th Parliament of Australia with all 151 seats in the House of Representatives and 40 out of 76 seats in the Senate up for election.”

    The UK Express also offers a somewhat more sobering account of recent opinion polling : “The latest opinion polls place the [Liberal] Coalition ahead with 38.5 percent. They are closely followed by the ALP [Labor] with 35.5 percent … Green, ONP [One Nation Party] and the other category have 10 percent, four percent and 12 percent respectively … When voters were asked to choose between either the LN/P [Coalition] or ALP, Labor won by four percent — with 52 percent of the vote.”

    Like Canada, Australia broadly speaking is a parliamentary democracy, on the Westminster model whose original home is on the Thames River in London, England. But there are at least three intriguing major differences between the two former self-governing dominions of the old global empire on which the sun once never dared to set.

    First, Australia has an unusually short, three-year term for members of its “lower” House of Representatives. Second, it actually has the kind of “Triple-E” or elected Senate that Alberta used to urge on Canada. And third, participation in Australian federal elections is compulsory : you can be fined if you don’t vote without a very good excuse.

    Bondi Beach in Sydney — a place to go when politics gets you down?

    Similarly, Australia doesn’t have anything quite like the unique province of Quebec in Canada or two official languages. In compensation, perhaps, it also has its own unique geography (and kangaroos etc). Beyond all such things, however, the Land of Oz down under does have some provocative similarities with Canada. And they make the results of its May 18, 2019 federal election a possible source of revealing light on our October 21, 2019 Canadian federal election.

    If Labor does not win as many still expect this coming Saturday, eg, that could mean the international forces of right-wing conservatism are growing stronger, not weaker. And that could be bad news for the Justin Trudeau Liberals (more like Labor than the Liberals down under) this coming fall, in the true north, strong and free.

    We’ll be watching as closely as we can from such a great geographical distance — even in the current age of high communications technology. And we’ll add a short report below when the results are finally known — probably sometime later this coming Saturday our time, on the northwest shore of the Great Lake Ontario. Stay tuned …

    UPDATE MAY 19, 2:00 AM ET (TORONTO) : We’ve waited a bit to report back on what PM and Liberal Coalition leader Scott Morrison has greeted with “I have always believed in miracles.” Despite all polling predictions about a tight race with Labor finishing ahead , it turned out to be a tight race with the incumbent Liberal Coalition finishing ahead!

    Claudia Cox in regional Victoria was not sure which party would be best for her area : “I have no idea what is going on with the election, to be completely honest. All I know is my family usually votes for the Liberals because they usually help us out the most…”

    With just over 75% of the vote now counted it remains unclear whether Mr. Morrison has won a majority or minority government. On numbers from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), as of 4 in the afternoon May 19, Australian ET, the Liberal Coalition has 73 seats in the House of Representatives, where 76 is a bare majority. Labor has 65, and Others have 6, leaving 7 seats still to be decided. There does seem a good enough chance that the Coalition will have a majority when all the counting is done. [UPDATE MAY 20 : The ABC is now predicting that the Liberal Coalition will finally have 77 seats, just one over a bare majority!]

    For the moment the long and short appears to be that the undecided vote was rather high. After all the last-minute decisions the Liberal Coalition did somewhat better than expected and Labor did somewhat worse — especially as it lost votes to the Greens and other smaller parties! Support for the Coalition was especially strong in the state of Queensland and among older voters. According to the Vice site : “The upset is already being compared to Hilary Clinton’s 2016 US presidential loss and Brexit” in the UK.

    This is of course not a good precedent for the fate of the Justin Trudeau Liberals in the October 21 Canadian federal election this fall. (They are more like Labor than the Australian Liberals.) One big lesson they might be drawing is that in a pinch nowadays in countries like Australia and Canada, voters’ concerns about the economy will finally “trump” concerns about the environment. (And too much of the green vote will go to the Green party in any case!) PM Trudeau may already be exploring this proposition with recent headlines like “Canada, U.S. reach deal to lift steel and aluminum tariffs within 2 days.”

    Top 5 list : why we still support the Justin Trudeau Liberals for October 21 .. in spite of all their faults ..

    Posted: May 5th, 2019 | No Comments »

    (1) Opinion polls certainly do suggest that the Justin Trudeau Liberals in Canada have serious problems right now.

    Sophie Gregorie-Trudeau watches her husband deliver his victory speech on election night, October 19, 2015.

    It is also true that a late April 2015 Abacus poll shows vaguely comparable results to a 2019 Angus Reid poll for broadly the same time of year. In late April 2015 Abacus was reporting Cons 36%, Libs 28%, NDP 24%, Greens 6%. In late April 2019 Angus Reid is reporting Cons 38%, Libs 25%, NDP 18%, Greens 11%.

    Even so the Liberal poll performance now in 2019 is generally worse than it was around this time in 2015 (when the Trudeau Liberals finally won a 54% majority of seats in the Canadian House of Commons on October 19, with 39.5% of the cross-country popular vote!). Or, as Alex Boutilier at the Toronto Star has lately explained, using another source of 2019 intelligence (Forum Research), “SNC-Lavalin affair having an effect on voter intentions, poll finds.”

    (2) There remain many things about the Justin Trudeau Liberals we do not like at all. For us, eg, they have altogether lacked courage and depth (and common sense) on real Senate reform and democratizing our head of state. And they have been too worried about losing the “progressive” side of the old Progressive Conservative vote. (Which often proves illusory in any case!)

    Wilfrid Laurier (left) and his successor as federal Liberal leader, William Lyon Mackenzie King (grandson of the 1837 Rebellion leader William Lyon Mackenzie) : two inventors of the “natural governing party of Canada” in the 20th century.

    We agree as well that ever since Wilfrid Laurier invented them as Canada’s natural governing party in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the federal Liberals have been recurrently arrogant and a bit too elitist for Canada’s original populist party of the sovereign people. And for too long they have been too intermittently weak in Western Canada, for too many good reasons.

    (3) But when all is said and done we also essentially agree with, eg, both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts from Glace Bay, NS, and the current Liberal MP for Kelowna-Lake Country in beautiful BC, Stephen Fuhr.

    To quote from Althia Raj’s interesting recent interview with the former principal secretary : “Butts said he expects the SNC-Lavalin affair ‘will obviously play a role in people’s determinations in the fall’ but won’t be a ‘deciding factor’ for many people … ‘Canadians are fair people, and they make judgments based on a wide variety of the government’s accomplishments and disappointments,’ he said … Trudeau has been a ‘very good prime minister’ leading a ‘very good government … I think that the government is just getting started on its agenda to make the economy fairer and to make growth work for everybody’.”

    At the historic Lambton House in Toronto, opened in 1848 — the European year of revolution when modern parliamentary democracy began in Nova Scotia and the old United Province of Canada (modern Ontario and Quebec), May 3, 2019.

    And as Stephen Fuhr from Kelowna somewhat similarly tweeted Friday, May 3 : “ [Canada] was #1 in 2017 for economic growth amongst the G7 and #2 in 2018. Unemployment is at a 42 year low and poverty in Canada has been reduced by 20%. Andrew Scheer … thinks BREXIT was a good idea. Choose wisely.”

    (4) We have some sympathy with those who voted Liberal in 2015 and are now contemplating voting either NDP or Green in 2019, because they value political principles above political expediency.

    Our failed preferred outcome in 2015 was some form of Liberal-NDP (or NDP-Liberal) co-operative government (that might have actually implemented electoral reform!). Still more intriguing fantasies of this sort seem in potential play for 2019. And we’ll probably have more to say than anyone wants to hear on this subject between now and the fall.

    Harold Innis, 1924.

    (5) But in the very end this time we’re outright supporting the Justin Trudeau Liberals for Oct 21, 2019 — on the now ancient argument given one classic expression 70 years ago by the late great first Canadian president of the American Economic Association, Harold Adams Innis :

    “As evidence of the futility of political discussion in Canada, there were Liberals who deplored the activities of the federal administration in no uncertain terms but always concluded with what was to them an unanswerable argument — ‘What is the alternative?’ In one’s weaker moments the answer does appear conclusive, but what a comment on political life …”

    Or in our view Justin Trudeau, for all his faults and personal foibles, is just too much better an international representative of what Canada is today and can and will be in the future than any of Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh, Maxime Bernier, or (especially?) Elizabeth May. QED.

    Happy earth day 2019 : will the people of PEI elect the first Green government in North America tomorrow?

    Posted: April 22nd, 2019 | No Comments »
    Excellent Grade A potatoes are one thing PEI is famous for in the rest of Canada. Beautiful beaches are another. Photo courtesy of Tourism PEI/John Sylvester.

    GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. EARTH DAY, MONDAY, APRIL 22, 2019. The first thing to say about the provincial election tomorrow in Canada’s smallest province of Prince Edward Island (on the east or Atlantic coast) is that the entire island (and Canada at large) has been sadly stricken by grief over the tragic deaths of Green candidate Josh Underhay and his son, in a canoeing accident this past Friday.

    (There are 27 ridings or electoral districts in the PEI Legislative Assembly, but elections will be held in only 26 on April 23, 2019. No election will take place in Mr. Underhay’s old riding of Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park, out of respect for the tragic deaths. Somewhat further down the road a “by-election will be held at a date to be determined.”)

    The next thing that will inevitably be said in, eg, the 192 out of 338 Canadian federal electoral districts with more than 100,000 people (on our hasty count at any rate) is that the current population of “the Island” is only 154,748. And note as well that at the time of the last federal election there were 10 federal ridings with more than 120,000 people.

    At the same time, as of 2017 there is now a Canadian federal law known as the Recognition of Charlottetown as the Birthplace of Confederation Act. (In 1864 a conference in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island began the process that led to the Canadian confederation of British North American provinces in1867 — though PEI itself did not actually join until 1873.)

    Whatever else, PEI remains a unique Canadian province. Much of this has turned around its preservation of pasts that have almost altogether faded away, in parts of the country with more people and without the Islander spirit that only a compact, self-contained geography can sustain.

    There are now provocative signs, however, that in its April 23, 2019 election Canada’s smallest province may be about to make a big bow to the future as well, by electing the first Green party government in North America.

    For some reason, in the global village today the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush, Park Corner, PEI is a place where couples from Japan like to get married!

    (In the sense, say, that the Canadian province of Saskatchewan elected the “first socialist government in North America” back in 1944. Green politicians have certainly been elected in all of the United States, Mexico, and Canada. But, in our current state of knowledge, it seems fair enough to guess that a full-blown Green government has yet to be installed at provincial/state or federal levels in any of the three countries?)

    PEI’s small population makes realistic opinion polling somewhat more difficult than in places with more people. Peter Stewart Bevan-Baker’s Green Party nonetheless first jumped into the polling lead very briefly in early 2018, and then more frequently this past summer of 2018. According to the Wikipedia article on “2019 Prince Edward Island general election,” the Greens have led consistently in the last half dozen polls that have been taken, since late January 2019.

    Here on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario we of course have no special knowledge about what will happen tomorrow. But we’re happy to recommend :

    • The Pollcast: Is PEI ready to give the Greens a try? … The CBC’s Kerry Campbell talks about the PEI election.” CBC News, Apr 18, 2019 : CBC polls analyst éric Grenier is interviewing Mr. Campbell here. One encouraging note is that the PEI campaign has apparently been notably civil, unlike (so far?) the emerging federal campaign that will climax on October 21.
    • A new vote projection points to a historic Green win in PEI… Philippe J. Fournier: Uncertainty remains high but a simplified 338 electoral model puts the Green Party just above the threshold for a majority win.” Maclean’s, Apr 21, 2019. “Philippe J. Fournier is the creator of 338Canada.com, Qc125.com, a regular contributor to L’actualité magazine and a professor of physics and astrophysics at Cégep de Saint-Laurent in Montréal.”
    • What We’re Watching: Is the land of Anne about to go Green?. … By Kady O’Malley. ipolitics.ca, Apr 22,2019. Ms. O’Malley, who has been remarkably sensible lately about such matters as SNC-Lavalin, notes : “According to the latest polls, the PEI Greens are poised to win a majority of the 26 seats up for grabs in the provincial legislature, which would make party leader Peter Bevan-Baker the first capital-G Green premier in the country.”
    The almost 13-kilometre long Confederation Bridge, opened in 1997, at last connected Prince Edward Island with the Canadian mainland in New Brunswick. Photo : Igor I. Solar.

    For added zest tomorrow night the PEI election will include a referendum on electoral reform. Islanders will be asked “Should Prince Edward Island change its voting system to a mixed member proportional voting system?” To be implemented the reform “must be approved by a majority of voters in at least 60% of the province’s 27 provincial electoral districts.”

    According to the local Guardian newspaper : “PEI voters could not be any more divided on electoral reform.” But there will be some great irony afoot if the Islanders finally do vote for a Green majority government and for the kind of electoral reform that would arguably make a similar majority government quite unlikely down the road.

    We’ll be watching closely and will report back briefly when the results are known. Meanwhile, best wishes to the people of Canada’s Island democracy who will be making the decisions — on both the Green party and electoral reform! And congratulations on conducting an election campaign with some civility in 2019.

    UPDATE APRIL 24, 12:30 AM : The Greens did well, but not well enough to form even a minority government. In a legislature where 14 seats makes a bare majority that limited honour goes to the Progressive Conservatives led by Dennis King, who won 12 seats with 36.5% of the Island-wide popular vote.

    From left to right, NDP Leader Joe Byrne, Progressive Conservative Leader Dennis King, Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker and Liberal Leader Wade MacLauchlan smile at the provincial debate in Summerside, PEI on April 16, 2019. Photo by Andrew Vaughan/CP.”

    The Greens led by Peter Bevan-Baker did manage to become official opposition, with 8 seats and 30.6% of the popular vote. Former Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Liberals, who were seeking an unusual fourth consecutive term in office, had to rest content with only 6 seats and 29.5% of the vote. (The balance of the Island-wide vote and 0 seats went to Joe Byrne’s NDP.)

    Premier-elect Dennis King was apparently one of the people who kept this still unusual 2019 PEI election so unusually civil. His minority government may have better prospects with non-partisan support in the legislature than usual?

    Voter turnout was 80.5% — compared eg to 58% in the 2018 Ontario provincial election and an unusually high 71% in the recent 2019 Alberta election. In the accompanying electoral reform referendum, Islanders “narrowly chose to keep the first-past-the-post system rather than switch to a mixed-member proportional system of voting.”

    We’re back .. having survived still mysterious malevolent attacks — just in time for Alberta election!

    Posted: April 16th, 2019 | No Comments »
    Great Canadian economic historian Harold Innis in Europe during First World War.

    Our apologies to all and any who may have visited us over the past week or so, and found we had temporarily vanished from the world wide web.

    The long and short is that the site just suddenly crashed, not long after our April 3, 2019 post on “Time for a change : our latest Canadian madness is really starting to make us look dumb in the global village.”

    (Which also offered “gratitude and praise to the rafters for Andrew Cohen’s recent opinion piece : ‘Canada’s SNC melodrama baffles a world facing real crisis … “To our allies, our debate is parochial and petty. Worse, in a world of unrest where Canada’s progressiveness matters, it is self-indulgent.”’”)

    As best we mere editorial people can understand from our much valued technical advisors, the crash was the result of malevolent cyber-attacks from sources that have still not been exactly defined and determined.

    Various steps have been taken to guard against future attacks of this sort. But without knowing exactly where the malevolence comes from such steps inevitably involve guesswork that could prove wrong. So we could be attacked and shut down for a time again.

    Having started in the summer of 2004, however, we’re not about to surrender now (or “give up” may be better), in the year of an important Canadian federal election (on October 21, 2019) and an important provincial election in Alberta today (and Prince Edward Island, where the Greens may actually win, next Tuesday, April 23).

    While we’re at it, we don’t have anything to add to the widely held poll-driven conventional wisdom that, although Rachel Notley’s New Democrats (NDP) are doing better than many expected, the likely enough winners will still be the United Conservatives (UCP) — led by Jason Kenney, the currently somewhat but apparently not decisively scandal-ridden grandson of Canadian “premier” big band leader Mart Kenney (and his Western Gentlemen) : a kind of hip version of Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians back when.

    Mart Kenney and his Western Gentlemen back in the day, probably 1930s in Vancouver.

    (Guy and his brothers were from Southwestern Ontario. Even the Liberal Mart Kenney for a time ran a musical ranch in the Greater Toronto Area, where he was in fact born, although he retired to BC where his serious musical career began. Alberta, which also seldom gets credit as Marshall McLuhan’s birthplace, has a right to sing the blues. As today’s election will one way or another make clear!)

    We’ll nonetheless be pleased if Ms Notley — who by all appearances north of the Great Lakes has done a commendable job as premier of one of Canada’s Big 4 provinces in challenging times — proves the conventional wisdom wrong. And even on the polling this seems unlikely but not necessarily impossible!

    Meanwhile, one of the technical measures to try to guard against future counterweights crash attacks from the malevolent side of the also remarkable and even benign regions of cyberspace involves updating the software that we mere editorial people use. Please bear with us while we struggle through yet another set of new software ropes. It is a jungle out there, no doubt.

    UPDATE APRIL 17, 12:30 AM : Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party has now won an unquestionably commanding 62 of 87 seats in the Alberta Legislative Assembly, with some 54% of the cross-province popular vote. The premier-elect has a big task ahead of him, but there can be no doubt that he is what a quite clear majority of the people of Alberta want right now. Even his Liberal grandfather would almost certainly be impressed (and probably a bit pleased as well).

    Time for a change : our latest Canadian madness is really starting to make us look dumb in the global village

    Posted: April 3rd, 2019 | No Comments »

    Pierre Trudeau as Minister of Justice and Attorney General with Prime Minister Lester Pearson, at Federal-Provincial Conference on Canada’s Constitution, February 1968.

    We have two main objectives in this short note on the latest episodes in what the Montreal Gazette has nicely called “Canada’s SNC melodrama.”

    The first is to offer gratitude and praise to the rafters for Andrew Cohen’s recent opinion piece : “Canada’s SNC melodrama baffles a world facing real crisis … ‘To our allies, our debate is parochial and petty. Worse, in a world of unrest where Canada’s progressiveness matters, it is self-indulgent.’”

    We couldn’t agree more with the main thrust of Mr. Cohen’s piece. Eg : “To foreigners, our current melodrama is madness, a kind of derangement syndrome. ‘Are you nuts?’ asks a visiting friend from London. The poor man – a leading international lawyer – is staggered by the circus in Canada’s Parliament. He sees us as a country of stability, sobriety and moderation.”

    We won’t go on, except to urge that the article deserves to be read and read and read again!

    From Angus Reid poll released March 28, 2019.

    Our second objective is just to register a very polite nuance regarding the concluding paragraphs of “Canada’s SNC melodrama baffles a world facing real crisis.”

    To us it almost seems that Andrew Cohen has come to see the current SNC melodrama madness as something that has perhaps already prompted we the people of Canada to leap into an abyss of vast unknown dimensions, like the legendary dogs of Dumbarton.

    Liberal leader Justin Trudeau introduces his son Xavier to Prime Minister Stephen Harper at Calgary Stampede, July 2014 — a moment when Canada really was a “country of stability, sobriety and moderation.”

    Our nuanced view is that some of this almost-note of despair flows from Mr. Cohen’s spending so much of his time in Ottawa. Only mere hundreds of miles west there are many more matters competing for public attention. And even the latest opinion polls still show the Liberals decisively ahead in the City of Toronto, where we go about our daily lives — and (by a much smaller margin) in the wider suburbs and exurbs of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

    There are no doubt still many who want to carry on with the madness. And they have been re-energized by the expulsion of Ms. Wilson Raybould and Ms. Philpott from the Liberal caucus.

    Our opinion here was that the two aspiring saints of the new politics should be left inside the tent. But we can understand how a caucus still deep for good reasons in the old politics would see things otherwise. And one half-sensible side of the current madness does seem to be that the real world is urging Prime Minister Trudeau to leaven his new politics with a few fresh doses of the old medicine. (Thus the departures of Mr. Butts and Mr. Wernick, along with Ms. Wilson Raybould and Ms. Philpott — who have at least been treated more respectfully than the Randy Hillier who was recently expelled from the Ontario PC caucus by Premier Doug Ford?)

    Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer smile during a joint news conference on the closing of the seventh round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City, March 2018.

    In? any case the protests of those who have argued that what Justin Trudeau needed to do was “get some balls” have been listened to. What will be will be.

    We still think that the “country of stability, sobriety and moderation” can return in time for this year’s October 21 election. Note that the latest “Nanos tracking has Trudeau as the preferred choice as PM at 31.1 per cent of Canadians followed by Scheer (26.7%), Singh (7.8%), May (7.6%) and Bernier (2.7%).” And the latest Mainstreet poll reports that “despite … drops in support” everywhere, the Trudeau Liberals “are still leading in Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces.”

    Our intermittent bouts of self-indulgent political madness in Canada never last forever. There is evidence enough to support the view that the country whose progressiveness matters in a world of unrest will be back soon enough, with some more practical mix of old and new politics. (Meanwhile, for the moment Andrew Cohen’s April 2 piece in the Montreal Gazette still deserves many, many, many more readers!)

    L’Affaire SNC-Lavalin : “I do not believe I have anything further to offer” + another great night for jazz at the Bluebird

    Posted: March 30th, 2019 | No Comments »

    “Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau gets an enthusiastic greeting from a woman” at Vancouver Pride parade, August 2, 2015 — at which point a Forum poll showed New Democrats with 39%, Conservatives 28%, and Liberals 25%. (PHOTO : R. JEANETTE MARTIN / FOR THE TORONTO STAR).

    On this rainy, second-last day of March, 2019 (a Saturday — here at the start of at least one great Northwest canoe passage from the Great Lakes to the Canadian Prairies, the Rocky Mountains, and Canada’s beautiful Pacific coast), we have two short notes to offer from frequent contributors to this site.

    First, Randall White has now updated the latest in his haphazard and reluctant series on what the Quebec press calls L’Affaire SNC-Lavalin. The update has been posted at the end of his most recent expression of his free and democratic views on the subject : “Jody Wilson-Raybould told Elizabeth May no one broke the criminal code and ‘that is no small fact … lost on most’ so far?.”

    Dr. White confesses that his update is “no doubt longer than it should be, just like the original.” (Again you can CLICK HERE if you haven’t already, now or later, whenever!) In compensation he? hopes this really will be the last time he feels an urge to write about The Affair.

    As he explained over coffee in his TV room, accompanied by the sound of falling rain : “In her latest submissions Ms. Wilson-Raybould has declared (at last wisely?) : ‘I do not believe I have anything further to offer.’ I am hoping many others will continue to follow her lead.”

    David French without baseball hat, and playing tenor sax instead of the baritone he played March 28, 2019 at the Bluebird in Toronto.

    Our second note is from Dr. White’s younger friend Citizen X. It updates his earlier report on “Starting 2019 with jazz at the Bluebird — one of the ‘top 21 new bars in Toronto’.”

    X just wants to say that he was back at the Bluebird for this past Thursday Jazz Night, with spring in the air :

    “The place was packed and very lively to say nothing of hip. Guitar and bass entertained (Harley Card on guitar, I think, and possibly Mike Milligan on bass?), joined for a second and third set by David French on baritone sax (and wearing a somehow suitable baseball hat). The place has a great vibe and the musicians were getting into it. As I left there was even some impromptu dancing in a corner, not far from the front door.”

    Places like this, our message from Citizen X ended, “are just what we need in this day and age of extreme political (and no doubt other) craziness on so many fronts, for the good of our souls.” For the April 2019 schedule for Jazz Thursdays at the Bluebird, click on “MUSIC” HERE.

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