Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

What Would a PR Result Look Like?

October 15, 2008

This is what the ‘first past the post’ result currently looks like, and for comparison, if they were awarded seats based upon the ‘proportional representation’ percentage of the popular vote that they received:

PARTY VOTES % OF FPP PR
    VALID SEATS SEATS
Conservatives 5205334 37.630 144 116
Liberals 3629990 26.242 77 81
BQ 1379565 9.973 48 31
NDP 2517075 18.196 37 56
Green 940747 6.801 0 21

I can wish, can’t I?

No ‘Mandate’ for Harper

October 15, 2008

Was it fear of what a majority Conservative government might do? The way that PM Harper has tried to ‘manage’ the press corps, the failure of the Conservative Party to release it’s election platform until the tail-end of the campaign, the number of Conservative candidates who didn’t show up for candidate meetings, the increasingly global financial meltdown despite the PM’s assurance that we’re somehow magically insulated? Was it the fact that, in seeking an election now, Mr. Harper was breaking his own fixed-date election law?

Whatever the reason, an embarrassingly small percentage of eligible voters denied Mr. Harper the majority that he wanted last night.

There was no real victory in this election for Mr. Harper, save for maybe a small one. In gaining a few more seats, it will now take virtually unanimous support of all of those in opposition to defeat any government bill. But there’s still no certainty. Mr. Harper cannot be completely unmindful of those ‘across the way’ and simply shove legislation ‘down their throats.’

Jack Layton didn’t become the first NDP PM, and he didn’t form the Official Opposition, but he was a big winner. The 37 seats won by the NDP is second only to the 43 that Ed Broadbent achieved. And he’s still relatively new to the job. He’s still learning. This is something real that he can build upon and try for a historical breakthrough the next time.

Elizabeth May had mixed success. Although the Green Party didn’t win seats, there was the mid-campaign victory of being included in the debate. That established the party’s credibility in a way that only an incredibly expensive amount of advertising might have been able to match. It virtually guarantees that Greens will be included in future debates without having to battle for it. And the increase in their percentage of the popular vote means that they will get $$$ from Election Canada with which to further build their grassroots.

Mr. Dion, while gracious in defeat, must have had some trouble sleeping last night. Did he dream of hearing knives being sharpened by Mr Rae, Ignatief, Kennedy, et al? If the Liberals have anything to be thankful for at all, it’s that there wasn’t the kind of total collapse that it appeared they were heading for going into the campaign’s last week. But one thing you can be certain of. There will be many members of that party looking for somebody to blame. And Mr. Dion, like a deer in the headlights, is it.

How will the votes fall in London?

October 13, 2008

Tomorrow is election day, and if you haven’t voted yet make sure you get out and do it. Not sure where you go to vote? Check Elections Canada for information on your riding and what you need to vote. Remember that in Canada you don’t need to register to vote, just ID and a piece of official looking mail with your address on it.

But this is about where the chips will fall by the end of the night, and who I think is going to take London’s ridings.

Let’s start with the Federal results. It definitely looks like we’ll see a Conservative minority if not a majority.

The Liberals have run a pretty poor campaign, with a leader at the helm who most Canadians will agree isn’t ready for the job (as will most Liberals). Their carbon tax wasn’t a hit either early on in the campaign; Dion was unable to sell the plan and convince Canadians that a new tax would benefit them. The most promising part of their platform was the education announcement, but that didn’t come up in the debates because students don’t vote ergo politicians don’t care about students.

Despite campaigning to be Prime Minister, Jack Layton would be lucky to see some sort of miracle seat the NDP as official opposition. We’ll see them hold their numbers in Parliament, give or take a few seats, since divine intervention isn’t likely. While his campaign ads on TV were excellent, hammering on the kitchen table hasn’t won over the numbers of voters that he needs to accomplish his goal to be Prime Minister. That’s especially true with voters who see the NDP as a party that would drive the country into a deficit with all their socialist programs. It also doesn’t help that Layton and the Liberals have been trying to sway votes with fear-mongering about the economy, even criticizing Harper for telling people to buy stocks while they are low.

In this first election that it’s been able to be taken seriously in, the Green Party still has to get past the fact that the party has no money. Grassroots will only get you so far, and the debate is about as far as they took May. Maybe next time, but this go-around I don’t see them gaining more than a seat at best.

Now for London.

Lets start with London North Center, where incumbent Glen Pearson will easily take the riding again, helped out by the lackluster candidates that were offered in opposition. The only real competition in this riding (despite a strong turnout for the Greens in a by-election) is Conservative Paul Van Meerbergen, who I find hard to see as a city councilor let alone an MP. Described as the last decent man in Ottawa, Glen should have no trouble in London North Center

Moving east we hit London Fanshawe with incumbent Irene Maytheson. It will be a tight race between Irene and the celebrity candidate for the Liberals, Jacquie Gauthier, who they think will take back London Fanshawe which is historically a Liberal stronghold. Irene is no stranger to losing either. In eight campaigns for office she’s won twice, the first time becuase people were looking to oust Liberals provincially and unfortunately elected Bob Rae’s NDP. She is also no stranger to controversy, chastising an MP in the house for having a picture of his girlfriend in a bikini and their dog on his laptop. Unfortunately for her it wasn’t as interesting of a pic as it could have been given those descriptors and she had to apologize. Layton stopped by her office yesterday to try and boost support for Irene, who last time only won by 800 votes.

Then there is London West. The conservatives have been inching closer to taking this riding from the incumbent Liberal Sue Barnes who only held the seat by 1,300 votes in 2006. On Saturday, Prime Minister Harper visited Ed Holder (his candidate for this riding) to boost numbers in what is supposedly a bellweather riding. This will be a tight race between them, and it wouldn’t be the first time the Conservatives took this riding (previously as the Progressive Conservatives).

Elgin Middlesex London wasn’t too high on my radar throughout the election. It has an incumbent Conservative Joe Preston, who defeated a Liberal incumbent in 2004 and easily held the riding in 2006. Liberal challenger Suzanne van Bommel has received a push from the party though, and could gain some traction for this rural riding, but it’s likely it will stay with Preston.

I think that’s about it, and we’ll soon see if I’m right. I already voted at an advance poll. If you haven’t voted yet, make sure that you do. See you on the other side.

Liquid Waste Treatment Facility

October 13, 2008

London is examining how best to deal with hauled liquid waste. And although the preferred solution appears to be a leachate pre-treatment facility adjacent to the W12A Landfill, there is a lack of consensus about proper procedure.

Planning Committee debated this issue last Monday. Members struggled with the question of whether the area ought to be rezoned, with Councillor Caranci taking the position that “We’re running this as a business…It’s a revenue generator…It should be zoned industrial.” The area is currently designated for agricultural land use and staff has recommended that it be rezoned as “a Special Provision Agricultural Zone.” I wonder if that’s political goobley-gook for ‘commercial activity that’s being disguised as something else’?

Councillor Branscombe appeared to struggle with understanding the difference in zoning designations. Unfortunately, I struggled in hearing that part of the discussion because of the terrible sound quality in the Council chamber. However, I did manage to capture this one of her questions: “If we zone it Industrial, who knows where that’s going to end up?”

For me, an even more interesting exchange occurred around the propriety of making any rezoning decision before an Area Plan has been completed. Readers of this blog know that proper process is of significant importance to me, and that it was the subject of one of my submissions to the Governance Task Force.

Members of the committee held opposing opinions on whether or not the rezoning decision ought to be considered prior to the completion of an Area Plan, with Councillor Caranci and Controller Polhill arguing in favour of waiting.

Controller Polhill wanted to know “The Area Study won’t be completed until the end of the year so why rezone this now?” and made the excellent point that “We tell other people “If your Area Plan isn’t done we won’t rezone it”… We don’t have to follow the rules but everybody else does.”

In the words of Controller Polhill, “It’s really funny because Roger and I are on the other side of the fence this time.”

It was particularly difficult for me to listen to Controller Barber’s attempted justification for pushing ahead with the rezoning prior to the Area Study completion, but in the end the committee made the correct decision to refer the rezoning matter back to the Planning Committee along with the Area Plan.

On a somewhat related matter, it was revealed that a draft compensation policy for area residents who’ve been affected by the continued operation and expansion of W12 will be coming forward in 6-8 weeks.

Harper, Layton last minute stops in London.

October 13, 2008

As the Conservatives bounced back into majority territory in the latest polls, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a stop to shore up support for Ed Holder, the party’s candidate in the London West riding, and to announce $500M for rural broadband.

He also took the opportunity to address the Liberals proposed new job-killing tax, and the demonizing of him as a Bush-like oil man. “It’s a critical decision and I ask Londoners and people in the area to think about it,” he said.

On Sunday and with only two days until voters go to the polls, NDP leader Jack Layton made a stop at one of the party’s few seats in the region, London Fanshawe. Layton went after the Liberals, calling Dion an ineffectual leader and responsible for propping up a Conservative government. It was a rare moment, breaking from a strategy that attempted to make the Liberals look like an exhausted force on the decline by ignoring them and going after Harper alone.

He also promised that an NDP government would provide skills training, take action on climate change, and make investments in green industries, a national childcare program, and a “fair-trade deal.”

Petitioning Local Government

October 11, 2008

It was interesting last Monday, listening to what transpired during the ETC meeting during discussion of a citizen’s submission to have the direction of one-way travel on his neighbourhood street changed.

In 2000, a similar attempt by the individual resulted in a city mail-back survey of residents. “The survey had a 63% response rate with 40% supporting the proposed reversal, 50% against and 10% indicating no preference. Based on the survey, reversing the existing one-way designation was not recommended.”

Prior to this latest attempt, the citizen personally knocked on doors gathering signatures on a petition. “Out of the owners of 25 houses 24 were in favour and one had no preference. Of the remaining 7 houses three are out of town owners of student residences, the other four I could not reach. There seems to be no opposition to this proposal.”

That didn’t sit well with Mr. Leckie (Director, Roads and Transportation), who managed to convince the committee that the city needs to do another mail-back survey “to ensure the integrity of resident’s opinions.”

Which got me to wondering. Does the city have any policy with respect to surveys, petitions, etc?

The city website returned 4 pages of documents based on a “petition” keyword search and 32 pages based on a “survey” keyword search. Other than a single document which states that “a petition for curbs and gutters must be circulated on both sides of a street…” I was unable to find anything about the relevance of submitted petitions, or the format that they should be in, etc.

It’s been my personal observation that Council and its committees usually just accept petitions without any comment other than to note the number of signatures.

Where does this sudden concern about the validity of signatures come from? Are there some political shenanigans going on here, simply because the city staff doesn’t like what’s being proposed?

Who do you Vote for?

October 10, 2008

Polls have indicated that people don’t have an issue that sticks out this go around like past elections, it’s not about health care, or the environment, or even the economy despite the Liberal and NDP fear mongering. These issues all poll out evenly. So what can the parties focus on as the key issue this election?

Leadership.

This isn’t surprising to me, for the last few elections people have asked whether the party leaders or local candidates should be their main concern when at the polls. Is it more important to vote based on which party leader you like, or which of your local candidates appeals to you the most.

In the past I’ve based my vote on a mix of the two. The last provincial election, my first in London, I voted based on the leader of the party (Liberal) as I wasn’t familiar with the local candidates as well as I should have been. The previous provincial election it was a mix, I lived in the NDP leaders (Howard Hampton) riding and the other local candidates were weak offerings.The last federal election though I decided to vote for the preferable local candidate (Green) helped by a desire to not support Paul Martin and knowing the incumbent local, who I also liked, would be re-elected anyways.

But what about this election? How will I vote, how will you vote?

In my riding London North Center I’m presented with four choices. The incumbent Liberal Glen Pearson, who is the strongest of the group and has a rather interesting background. The Green and NDP candidates are fairly lacking in experiance and self confidence, and the Conservative candidate is the parties script reader write in.

As for the party leaders only Stephen Harper seems to have any sort of air of leadership about him. The Liberals have been on the losing end since electing Dion as leader, he does grow on you if you see him in person a few times but that’s not enough. Layton and the NDP have been trying to pull up the middle, but smell of desperation and lack fresh ideas of their own. Lastly the Green’s Elizabeth May who came in second during a by-election in London North Center isn’t likely to do well, but it would be nice to have an alternative to the NDP. Furthermore The Undecided tells me my beliefs are 41% in line with the Greens, 24% for the Conservatives, 21% with the NDP, and 7% with the Liberals.

So with that said, do I vote for my local preference Liberal Glen Pearson despite Dion’s poor performance, or vote for Stephen Harper despite the lackluster local candidate, or what a website tells me is my political leanings with the Green Party despite their awful Local candidate and Leader.

In the end does it even matter who your local candidate is anyways? Despite how you may feel about an issue and how your candidate feels the best they can often do in Parliament is not show up for a vote they oppose for fear of punishment by the party for voting against the whip.

Maybe it’s time we changed out electoral system.

Concerns About PCB Leaching

October 6, 2008

Agenda item #3 on today’s ETC Agenda was an information report about the MOE’s PCB Storage Facility Decommissioning Project. However, instead of simply receiving the report, several councillors raised concerns.

Councillor Lonc quietly expressed a concern about the city’s potential liability if there happened to be a vehicle tip-over during transport because of a street condition and a consequent spill into the sewer.

[Note to Councillor Lonc: please learn how to use your microphone so that interested members of the public don’t have such a hard time hearing what you have to say.]

P. McNally (Acting G.M; Environmental Engineering Services & City Engineer) was quick to dismiss the concern, since it’s a provincial project.

Councillor Orser scored some points with me when he quickly reminded the committee that the safety of citizens is one of Council’s responsibilities. He appears to think (as I do) that the city shouldn’t ignore a potential danger to citizens simply because it doesn’t appear to be at any legal risk.

Councillor MacDonald expressed a concern about the possibility of PCBs that might be trapped under the building and the risk that they might be released if there’s any disturbance to the building.

Mr. McNally reflected a lack of concern for citizen safety when he offered the simple rejoinder that “the building is not city property.”

Controller Hume took exception to the concerns raised by his colleagues and cited the $50M being spent by the MOE. His largest concern seems to be that the city not lose the current opportunity to have the province pay for the removal. He did not appear to have any misgivings about potential risk to citizens.

A New Downtown Surveillance Camera

October 5, 2008

According to the annual evaluation report of the Downtown Monitored Surveillance Camera Program, a decision has been made to install a camera “near the intersection of Richmond and Kent Streets.” The area is identified by LPS as “one of highest for calls for service in the downtown area.”

The 16 current cameras cost $136,000 to operate in 2007. They are monitored “from approximately 9pm to 5am daily and as staff are available during the off times.”

According to a London Police Services analysis, “crime rate in the area covered by the cameras was 14% lower in 2007 compared to 2006” whereas “the area neighbouring the camera coverage showed a 2% increase in incidents from 2006.”

Subsidized Bus Passes

October 5, 2008

In it’s 8th report to ETC, the AAC cryptically notes that “the issue of subsidized bus passes has been put on hold for the time being.”

I’d like to be able to tie this information in with the recent submission to CAPS with respect to this city’s disgraceful non-support of ODSP LTC users, but it’s once again a case of lack of transparency at City Hall.

Specifically (and as I complained about in Migratory Birds), this information “was brought to an advisory committee in verbal form and not properly captured. In other words, there’s no audio recording of the presentation for interested citizens to listen to.”

Other Links:
GTF Submission #05 – Audio Recorded Meetings

Migratory Birds

October 5, 2008

In the report of it’s 7th meeting, the the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AWAC) advises the Environment and Transportation Committee (ETC) that there is currently “very little signage regarding responsible feeding of geese at the City’s parks” and that it is waiting for a report from the Manager of Parks Operations about “key signage locations, appropriate signage wording and cost estimates for proposed public education signs.”

Interestingly, the report notes that there is an (unidentified) individual who “verbally educates the public on the risks of feeding the birds inappropriate food” and that the City has hired this same individual “to run their dogs on a irregular basis, in geese populated parks, in an effort to discourage congregating of the geese.”

I can’t help but wonder if this job was advertised, and how much it pays?

Typically, this terse report follows information which was brought to an advisory committee in verbal form and not properly captured. In other words, there’s no audio recording of the presentation for interested citizens to listen to.

Perhaps there will be some further disclosure at tomorrow night’s ETC meeting. On the other hand, given the poor manner in which committee members use their microphones, maybe there won’t be.

Other Links:
GTF Submission #05 – Audio Recorded Meetings

2008/10/06 Planning Meeting

October 3, 2008

I’ll continue to add commentary about items of interest to me as time permits. For full details about agenda contents, interested persons should log on to the city website and review what’s available there for themselves.

4:00 PM Planning(01)
Consent Item: “Potential for additional tree conservation through Site Plan Approval.”

4:00 PM? Planning(02)
Consent Item: The placement of signage for fire routes.

4:00 PM? Planning(03)
Consent Item: DNL Group’s appeal to the OMB

4:00 PM? Planning(04)
Consent Item: Heritage alteration application re 512 Colborne Street.

4:00 PM? Planning(05)
Consent Item: Integration of lands acquired at 544 Riverside Drive into McKillop Park.

4:00 PM? Planning(06)
Consent Item: Status report re Keep London Growing Coalition (KLGC).

4:00 PM? Planning(07)
Consent Item: Reduced fees when applying for building permits online.

4:00 PM? Planning(08)
Consent Item: Environmental and Ecological Planning Advisory Committee (EEPAC) 9th report.

4:00 PM? Planning(09)
Consent Item: Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC) 4th report.

4:00 PM? Planning(10)
Consent Item: 2008/08 building construction.

4:00 PM? Planning(11)
Consent Item: London cannot control demolition of Middleton House.

4:30 PM? Planning(12)
Public Participation Meeting: Zoning change re 2034 Hyde Park Road and 1446 Fanshawe Park Road West.

4:30 PM? Planning(13)
Report: variance from Sign and Canopy By-law re 1350 Trafalgar Street.

4:30 PM? Planning(14)
Report: variance from Sign and Canopy By-law re 500 Springbank Drive.

4:50 PM? Planning(15)
Public Participation Meeting: Long-term plan re Veterans Memorial Parkway.

7:00 PM? Planning(16)
Public Participation Meeting: Leachate Pre-treatmentlHauled Liquid Waste Facility at 3438 Manning Drive.

7:30 PM? Planning(17)
Public Participation Meeting: Springbank Park road closure.

8:00 PM? Planning(18)
Application for Demolition Permit: vacant building at 544 Riverside Drive.

2008/10/06 CAPS Meeting

October 3, 2008

I’ll continue to add commentary about items of interest to me as time permits. For full details about agenda contents, interested persons should log on to the city website and review what’s available there for themselves.

5:00 PM CAPS(01)
Consent Item: 2008/10 Dearness Home Community Newsletter.

5:00 PM? CAPS(02)
Consent Item: CSCPAC Report.

5:00 PM? CAPS(03)
Consent Item: LDRRAC Report.

5:00 PM? CAPS(04)
Consent Item: Council resolution re Advertising in Public Parks.

5:00 PM? CAPS(05)
Consent Item: Options for Future Dearness Home Operation.

5:00 PM? CAPS(06)
Consent Item: Defibrillators in Recreation Faciliiies.

5:00 PM? CAPS(07)
Consent Item: Facility Rental Contracts.

5:00 PM? CAPS(08)
Consent Item: Downtown Monitored Surveillance Camera Program.

5:00 PM? CAPS(09)
Consent Item: Canada-Ontario Affordable Housing Program.

5:00 PM? CAPS(10)
Consent Item: Street to Home Model.

5:10 PM? CAPS(11)
Item for Direction: Clarence Point Park. .

5:25 PM? CAPS(13)
Item for Direction: Child and Youth Agenda. .

7:00 PM? CAPS(14)
AAC 8th Report. .

7:00 PM? CAPS(15)
CCAC 4th Report. .

7:00 PM? CAPS(12)
Request for New Dog Park. .

2008/10/06 ETC Meeting

October 3, 2008

I’ll continue to add commentary about items of interest to me as time permits. For full details about agenda contents, interested persons should log on to the city website and review what’s available there for themselves.

4:00 PM ETC(07)
Appeal of an order to muzzle a dog.

4:30 PM? ETC(01)
7th Report of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee..

4:30 PM? ETC(02)
Response to Requests to Discontinue Water Fluoridation in London.. A staff report which describes “the fluoridation of the City of London’s drinking water and recent lobbying efforts by citizens and organizations opposed to drinking water fluoridation” and a recommendation by the Middlesex-London Health Unit that no action be taken by the city at this time because of a currently ongoing Health Canada study.

4:30 PM? ETC(03)
PCB Storage Facility Decommissioning Project.. Information requested by the 2008/08/18 City Council meeting. It describes the removal of PCBs and related contaminants and their storage in containment vaults, the permanent decommissioning of the Westinghouse PCB storage site (near Huron Street and Clarke Road), blood testing of interested individuals, public consultation, etc.

4:30 PM? ETC(04)
Removal of Maple Trees@) at 165 Grey Street..

4:40 PM? ETC(05)
Request to Reverse…Traffic Direction….

5:00 PM? ETC(06)
7th Report of the Trees and Forests Advisory Committee..

5:00 PM? ETC(08)
Raising…Awareness About…Plight of Factory Famed Animals… A letter from Humane Society International (Canada) asking that London adopt a “non-binding, no fiscal impact” resolution (draft provided) to raise awareness about the egg industry’s cruel use of confining battery cages.

NDP Website an Embarrassment… Stolen from Obama.

September 29, 2008

Old NDP siteHistorically Canada’s political branding and websites have been sub par at the best of times. But the one exception to that rule in the last few years has been the New Democratic Party (NDP), their recent re branding and online presence previous to this election has been a refreshing break in that trend. So when I went to visit the party websites after an election was called on the 12th I was disturbed at what I found.

It’s no secret that Layton is trying to import American style politics into our election this year. The party pridefully admits that their media strategy, their online campaign and their fundraising campaign is from south of the boarder; it’s painfully obvious that the NDP are hoping to catch some of the enthusiasm in the American Presidential campaign by borrowing from Senator Barack Obama.

But despite concepts being lifted wholly from Obama’s website, the execution of it is, quite frankly, horrible. The most obvious similarities are the donate splash page, and the sites header and navigation. However the thought put into Barack Obama’s layout and graphics are notably absent.

The content of the site appears to be jammed wherever there was space, action items are marginalized, and the content not directly inspired by the Senator’s site seems hapazard. The riding map page is one example of missing the boat entirely, and while I wouldn’t pick Drupal as my first choice to manage the sites content, the use of tables to layout the site, an archaic practice, is embarrassing.

Riding Maps

It’s clear that the shape of political branding is going to follow in Obama’s footsteps for years to come, it is undoubtedly one of the greatest brands to grace the political landscape in a long time; and Layton’s NDP are not the only party to recognize the success of Obama’s campaign. In the UK the Labour Party has adopted elements from Obama’s website into it’s own, but unlike the NDP they used them as jumping off points and not as something to be copied whole.

This new NDP site is not only an embarrassment but a huge step backwards from what was one of the only good political party websites in Canada. And for what? To trick people into thinking you’re Canada’s Barack Obama? How about a made in Canada solution for Canadian problems? We don’t need to copy our neighbours ideas, strategies, and designs; esspecialy if the execution is going to be so obvious and poorly done.

I believe Canada can do better, do you Jack?