Political Analyst and Observer, Bill Longworth's, Weekly "Eye on City Hall" Columns, as published in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada's Oshawa Central Newspaper

Monday, May 30, 2011

So You Thought City Politicians Were Elected to Serve You? You’re Dead Wrong!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and Unfiltered Opinion
Reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
May 30, 2011

Once elected, city politician’s chief job often becomes serving themselves and looking after their own interests.

It’s a little club and they look after themselves first---any service to you is simply a by product. It doesn’t seem the chief objective of their work.

Oh, from time to time, we do see politicians full of bluster at their “opposition” cohorts appearing to serve our interests, but that anger is an academy award performance like that mustered up for public consumption by the WWE boys in tights who get together for a few friendly beers after they’ve been socking it to each other for your entertainment.

What is best for the Region and the City, and you, is not always “the right stuff” to earn a politician’s vote.

While the “right” outcome is generally obvious to voters, it is frequently not the choice made by politicians.

Politicians are often “dead wrong” in decisions they make like implementing the general vote in Oshawa to make it virtually impossible to mount creditable campaigns to unseat incumbents. The motivation to implement the general vote was to protect incumbent's seats....or so they thought before the last council messed up so badly.

It’s easy to spot the rationale for many political decisions and, very often, it’s what’s best for the politicians.

Consider online voting. That would seem to be a convenience that would increase voting, something politicians “say” they are keen to do...but city politicians turned it down. “Not secure enough,” they said, while continuing to collect our taxes online and send confidential contracts and other communications electronically.

The real reason they’ve resisted this convenience for voters is that low voter turnouts favour the re-election of incumbents---it has nothing to do with security of the vote.

Those places that use online voting protect vote security by simply mailing voters an individualized identification code necessary to login to the voting site, similar to the system the city already uses for online registration and payment for parks and recs and seniors programs.

Politicians continually talk up transparency and care with the taxpayer dollar---yet they continue to vote for tax increases and hide details of their expense spending.

Two city politicians, “tax fighter,” Bruce Woods of Oshawa Taxpayer Coalition fame, and Tito Dante Marimpietri both exceeded their Yearly Expense Account Budgets in the first quarter.

This, despite the fact that Marimpietri’s Election Web Site championed what he called his 6 Progressive Tax Controls to reduce spending and property tax increases, and Wood, as the founder of the Oshawa Tax Coalition, was calling for tax cuts and more responsible city hall spending.

During the election, Marimpietri didn’t tell you he was going to splurge $426.24 of your hard earned tax dollars on Souvenirs and Mementoes and another $982.38 on Conferences and Travel during the first quarter for a grand total of $4598.81 ($1000+ per month) excessive first quarter spending over his second highest high-rolling city council competitor. And Bruce Wood, Oshawa Taxpayer Coalition Founder spent $625.20 on Communications (runner up spent $77.68 in this category) and $517.90 on civic receptions and meals (runner up Amy England at $318.87---$207.20 over next highest competitor). These excessive expenditures were highlighted by the very limited expense spending of some city politicians.

There are so many discrepancies in what a politicians say they’re going to do and what they do that political promises have no credibility.

Politically some things just make good common sense. Basic to our whole idea of democracy is Representation by Population, the idea that political representation is somewhat related to population, although alterations to this premise are necessitated when a small population resides in a large area.

In Durham Region, According to a report authored by the Town of Ajax, Ajax has a Regional Councillor for every 30,056 residents, Whitby has one per 27,796, Clarington has one per 25,940, Pickering has one per 21,959, while Oshawa has a regional councillor for every 17,000 voters---almost twice the representation of Ajax....and this inequity grows worse with each subsequent year as population growth in Ajax, Pickering, Whitby, and Clarington outpaces growth in Oshawa.

To correct these serious inequities in political representation, Ajax Mayor, Steve Parish, presented a motion at the May 18th Durham Regional Council to strike a committee to review the composition of Regional Council and make recommendations to adjust the present allocations for fairer representation.

Part of his motion called for a freezing of the size of Regional Council, thus adjustments in representation would result in losses in over represented communities and gains in under represented communities.

Oshawa, as an over-represented area, stood to lose 2 or 3 Regional seats.

Remarkably, this common sense motion to review Regional Representation was defeated 18-8 (2 absent) in a recorded vote.

Too bad!

Back room deals must have shuttled any common sense (and common decency) aside.

Politics is not for looking out for your best interests and mine...be damned what is right and proper for taxpayers! It’s all about protecting the interests of the politicians, in this case protecting the jobs of politicians already in the cosy Regional Club.

The representation review would have resuled in a reduction of 2 or 3 Oshawa members bringing our present 7 Regional jobs (not counting the Mayor) down to 4 or 5.

Such a reduction would result in a job loss for probably some of the recently elected politicians such as Amy England and Tito (High Expensing) Dante Marimpietri and potentially one other.

Because of danger of losing their jobs, both England and Marimpietri were most verbal in opposing any change to city regional representation to protect their jobs.

England called potential reduction of Oshawa’s representation “undemocratic” and argued for an increased council size to facilitate fixing the under representation of Ajax and Whitby. As population grows into the future, I guess her idea is that council size should also grow to preserve political jobs and grow taxpayer expenses.

Marimpietri argues that Oshawa taxpayers contribute more to the Regional Coffers than other municipalities and thus our relative “richness” deserves greater representation.

Democracy stands for the equality of votes among the population....not that votes by wealthier areas or wealthier people should be more plentiful or influential...and so Marimpietri’s argument runs contrary to everything democracy stands for.

Representation by population is the most basic principle of democracy without any reference to wealth or influence.

Both England and Marimpietri were stretching at straws to preserve their seats.

Governments should not be about protecting political jobs but be about providing effective and cost-efficient governance.

The Minutes of the May 18th meeting have not yet been published so we can only speculate that Parish's motion gained support from Ajax and Whitby Councillors, plus one other, and was opposed by all others. It is obvious that it would have been opposed by Oshawa Councillors plus those of the Brock, Scugog, and Uxbridge, the municipalities whose low populations spread over large areas, justifies their richer representation...but they wouldn’t have wanted to “chance” this being changed.

I see any adjustment to reflect rep by pop as a good thing and a first logical step in wiping out the costly and superfluous local municipal governments like Oshawa City Council that has few meaningful or important responsibilities.

Despite losing all real responsibilities to Regional Governments, local Civic Administrations have persisted with expensive unneeded duplicate departments for responsibilities now carried out at the region. While their roles have been lost, the costs of retaining these unneeded duplicate departments continues to consume about 1/3 of our municipal taxes.

The city now only acts as a tax collector for the Region and the Board of Education, administers City Parks and Recreation Services, Library Services, and Fire Protection Services, collects garbage which is transferred to Regional Trucks for disposal, and maintains local roads even running their snow plows over Regional Roads with plows lifted to get to their local streets.

Such a waste...and the duplicity of politicians and bureaucrats to sell us on keeping something we don’t need, all for saving their jobs is criminal.

That’s why when you look carefully at City Hall Agendas, there’s nothing of substance there....and why our city hall meetings, since verbose grandstander Brian Nicholson got defeated, can now be over in an hour or so!

So city taxpayers, keep smiling as you spend thousands of tax dollars on a city government you don’t need!

Keep dishing out that taxpayer cash to keep the political charade alive.

Editor's Addendum
A classic example of the idea of politicians serving themselves even at the expense of putting their government (and the world) in jeopardy is the recent refusal of USA politicians to come to timely decisions to raise the American national debt ceiling until the eleventh hour.

This was part of the plan for the scare-mongering Republicans with their 2-stage debt reduction plan to bring renewed budget battles to the fore during the next presidential campaign to undermine President Obama's electoral chances at a second 4 year term.

This irresponsble action has cut the USA credit rating for the first time in history, caused huge week-long massive declines in the stock market and cost all investors, large and small, considerable losses. This game of political gamesmanship will no doubt put the gun to the head of all borrowers by pushing up interest rates and provide a significant pull-down of the American and world economies.

American brinkmanship has additionally hurt small Canadian RRSP and mutual fund investors who have lost close to 30% of their investment as a result.

So much for politicians doing what is right and best for their nation,for their people, and for the world!

As I've stated in the main article, national interests (or municipal interests in the case of local governments) are trumped by political interests and what is best for the politicians!

And here is another prime example of a politician priming his own pump at taxpayer expense....despicable!

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

Monday, May 23, 2011

City Hall works to undermine
Free Press in Oshawa

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and Unfiltered Opinion
Reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
May 23, 2011

On May 12, the Mayor attended the 356th Annual Mayor's Breakfast, this hosted by the Christian Business Ministries Canada (CBMC) of Oshawa and District.

This was a public event and presumably the Mayor was going to make some pronouncements about this city. In anticipation of these announcements, Tamara LeClair, a talented local videographer, requested permission to film the event.

She was given permission by the event organizers who in turn informed the Mayor`s Office who refused the request---there being the rub that fires the inspiration for this column.

Countless others, not seeking permission, may of course have informally videoed or recorded the event. In such public events, we have been conditioned by experience to have implicit and implied permission to photograph, record, or video, unless that permission is explicitly denied either verbally or by signage

So while Ms. LeClair was polite in asking for permission to video, there was little need to do so. And of course, the mainstream media never seek permission in recording of news events, often recording at the outright annoyance of the subject of their cameras

The situation is quite different, obviously, in small private gatherings where the substance and privacy of individuals, by the nature of the gathering, is seldom for public consumption.

The Mayor`s Office, in turning down the video request, and in fact, any time they turn down an opportunity for publicity, raises serious questions.

While at first blush, the video refusal sounds insignificant, upon reflection it has huge implications for democracy and the governance of this city.

Politicians and public officials thrive on publicity and see it as a necessary component of their political success. Thus they’ll put city business on hold to go and cut a ribbon...as long as the press is there.

All politicians operate with the same motto, "Any publicity is better than none!” Unless, of course, it is the kind of publicity recently earned by the disgraced Head of the International Monetary Fund.

In a deeper vein, information is an absolutely necessary component of a democracy. According to Canada`s Supreme Court, it is a basic right of citizens to be informed of all viewpoints, as part of their enlightenment, in order to make informed ballot choices.

So straight jacketing formal and informal media limits public information and thus undermines democracy itself.

And in this age of social media, every individual can be a legitimate public commentator, and in fact, can often be as powerful as the traditional press.

This is, of course, where democracy started in the first place. Every individual had opportunity for input, comment and discussion in gatherings in public squares. And the internet and social media is now that public square of much of the social discourse and dialogue. Democracy has come full circle!

The decision to disallow LeClair's video seems to have been made by Mayor John Henry`s Executive Assistant, Mark Sheriff, an appropriate surname for a guy to straitjacket the Mayor into the straight and narrow.

Sheriff, as you will recall, is the Past President of Colin Carrie’s Conservative Riding Association that was instrumental in getting Henry elected. When Henry got elected, Sheriff resigned from that role to take his present Executive Assistant role in the Mayor’s Office.

And Sheriff, as a rabid Conservative, will get the inspiration for his political decisions from his hero, Stephen Harper, whom you will recall limited the press to five questions in the recent election. Harper wanted to keep his message straight forward and scary about what others would do to the economy without being handcuffed into explaining details of his own record or his plans for the future and why they would be better.

He simply wanted to make unsupported and unsubstantiated declarative statements unsullied by any sloppy explanations that in themselves would raise more questions in the public`s mind. He just wanted to dumb down his message so we ordinary folks could understand it. The truth of what he was saying didn’t matter.

So Sheriff, having made the decision to refuse the videoing, then worked to justify his decision. He stated LeClair, 1) didn't run a legitimate business, 2) didn't make money at it, 3) would use the video for other than personal use, and 4) would redistribute the video on facebook. He also stated that she was "unaccredited"---all clues as to how City Hall would conduct its public information campaign.

In response to questions on how to become accredited, “The Sheriff” indicated that it was necessary to be on City Hall’s List of media contacts without stating how to get on that list.

Sheriff stated that he couldn’t permit “just anyone” to video Henry because they would then have to let everyone and his brother have that right...and that will just not happen as respect for the office would be lost.

Sheriff didn’t explain how Mayor John Henry's tooling around Southern Ontario to various City and Town Council meetings in a Mackie's Moving Van to seek support for extension of the 407 highway to Hwy /35 enhanced respect for the office of Mayor of the City of Oshawa!

In any case, Sheriff’s attempts to explain his refusal to allow Ms. LeClair’s videoing of Henry's speech was obviously an amateurish grasping at straws to justify a decision he had made---but it does speak volumes about how city hall information is going to be disseminated.

Sheriff’s refusal in this case ignites serious concerns undermining the basic principle of the “free press” to report various sides of issues, events, and personalities, unhampered by the whims of City Hall.

It implies an attempt by City Hall to allow media access only to those selected which calls into question the selection criteria. Is it only those media outlets that would put a positive spin on all City Hall activity, no matter the smell, that is favoured with City Hall accessibility?

We do know that City Hall only advertises in a few “friendly” newspapers and allows distribution of those publications in the libraries and other city facilities. To keep that “friendly” designation, those papers a) print frequent pictures of prominent city politicians, b) print frequent puff (public relations) stories on prominent politicians, c) print frequent “rose-coloured glasses” stories about the city, d) never print hard stories that are critical of politicians or City Hall operations, and, most importantly, e) never do any investigative reporting to scratch below the surface of City Hall operations.

This lack of objectivity is a severe disservice to Oshawa voters and means that city taxpayers are kept in the dark about many “sensitive” stories such as the mysterious, abrupt, hasty, sudden, surprising, and completely unexpected departure of Commissioner Stan Bertoia who controlled the largest budget of any city hall bureaucrat and who was responsible for letting contracts for public works and many expensive consultant’s reports. Bertoia left a city salary of $189,000 for one of about $110,000 for a much more junior position with the TTC, a resignation that is extremely unlikely to be voluntary.

It is amazing that no other city newspaper has taken up this story. It seems gaining favour with city officials and the politicians to boost their advertising revenue from City Hall is more important than real investigative reporting to properly inform city readers.

Funny---the only city paper to take on stories like this, the Oshawa Central Newspaper, does not get any advertising revenue from the city.

Guess that is because the Central is not a propaganda rag for City Hall. It takes its responsibility very seriously, particularly with this watchdog column, in commenting objectively with informed opinion on City Hall.

Newspapers have played an important role in the development of Free Western Societies over the last 200 years, one of the principal reasons democracy has flourished, and the Central Newspaper does not take this important responsibility lightly.

City Hall's insistence on patronizing only friendly newspapers is discriminatory, anti democratic, and censorship of the worst kind, and a supreme disservice to city ratepayers.

Real social change has come from newspapers that take their responsibility seriously...and that will not change at the Central.

We shall persist as the only FREE PRESS in Oshawa, unconstrained by any need to remain popular with the politicians.

You, the Citizens of Oshawa, are the most important players in our game---and our pledge is to be diligent in our reporting to you!

We shall continue to feed you a caviar and fine wine menu of information rather than the stale bread and polluted water you might get from other city news sources.

You can depend on us!

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hey City Hall!...Get out of the Way and Let the Magic Happen!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and Unfiltered Opinion
Reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
May 16, 2011

During the election campaign, I stated that creating a UOIT campus downtown was a terrible and costly error for city taxpayers.

I suggested that the huge city tax losses from all of the downtown buildings being taken over by “tax exempt” UOIT were going to have to be made up by residential taxpayers and that is still a fact.

I suggested that the downtown was in decay because city council over the years had demonstrated little vision to correct the situation. And that continues to be the case.

My Mayor Election campaign site called for major concentration in the improvement of our downtown.

Part of the plan was the creation of pedestrian malls along King Street from Mary to Centre and along Simcoe from Bond to Athol. I suggested redirecting Eastbound King traffic down Centre and along Athol to rejoin King Street at Mary. Similarly I suggested Northbound Simcoe traffic be redirected East along Athol and North on Mary and West on Bond to rejoin Simcoe.

I suggested an international design contest be promoted to conceptualize downtown streetscapes and building facades and the city to offer financial inducements by way of tax credits to property owners to improve their buildings in ways suggested by the winning plan.

I had a giant vision for making the downtown an attractive and distinctive “people place” which in turn would attract pedestrian traffic and high end retail and cultural operations.

So many municipalities have brought new life to their once-lifeless places that it is not beyond the possible in Oshawa’s downtown. I think of the main streets of Port Perry, Port Hope, Toronto’s Beaches, Yorkville, The Junction, Little India on Gerrard, Queen West, Spadina, Kensington Market, Liberty Village, The Distillery District ...and the list goes on and on. Revived neighbourhoods, often with their art and cultural components, are leaping up every day...and it could happen in Oshawa with a vibrant, creative and determined vision.

Unfortunately, Oshawa’s “Industrial Age” Politicians seem frozen in time hoping for the best but refusing to take even baby steps into the future. They’re not developing a vision of what this city could become. The closest they’ve come to visioning is continually telling us what a great place this is. Words are not enough! We need forward thinking vision, ideas, and action!

City leadership, under this Mayor, is not leading council and city staff to brainstorm ideas for city development. Real leaders would be setting direction for our future but this is not being done. Council, and this mayor, sees its role as simply putting out fires on issues that arise and City Bureaucrats effectively manage council by keeping them too busy swatting flies to concern themselves with truly important matters such as a vision for the future development of this city.

They’re kept busy debating the size of signs, the kinds of pets people can have, their weight loss programs, etc., and acknowledging decisions made by the Region on Oshawa’s behalf . City Council Agendas rarely address anything of significance.

We have now almost completed 1/8 of our new council term, and not a decision of significance has been taken. Everything seems frozen in time. Of course, this lacklustre performance should be expected since those elected promised no big vision and no big ideas for the future direction for this city....and I guess we have to accept the non-visionary “blind” leadership voters elected.

All growth and change in Oshawa is haphazard and left to chance as it has been for the last 50 years during which time Oshawa’s downtown has been sliding downward.

From time-to-time, we’ve had some outsider’s efforts to pump some progressive development into the downtown with the CIBC tower on the four corners, the Michael Starr Building, and now the Courthouse...and a few restaurants have opened to cater to the increased lunch crowd but the downtown has not taken off.

None of these developments have occurred as a result of planning or decisions of city hall. All resulted in decisions by external agencies...CIBC and the Provincial Government.

In light of the absence of any city hall vision and planning for the improvement of the city downtown over the last 50 years, I am now ready to support the move of the university and its development of a downtown campus and just ask city hall to move aside in favour of UOIT’s real thrust to breathe life into the downtown.

UOIT has recently released a planning document for its downtown campus which promises some ambitious and exciting developments for the downtown including an influx of 5000 students by 2015. UOIT’s vision, in the absence of any coming from city hall, has persuaded me to now support the downtown campus.

As City Hall and the politicians have reneged on their leadership responsibility in planning for downtown renewal, I am now supporting UOIT which has created a strong vision for downtown development and renewal...and ask City Hall to simply get out of the way and let UOIT’s magic happen.

I am pleased to see some additional greening, additional walkways, and increased building development related to the UOIT plan, and a concentrated effort for some cultural focus points. Even more, I am excited to see for the first time in 50 years that there has been some major planning for the future development of the downtown.

There will be severe student safety problems with the heavy traffic along King and Simcoe Streets and to alleviate this concern, I’m hoping that more landscaped pedestrian walkways and redirected traffic as I suggested during the election campaign will come to fruition. This will create a downtown “people place” that will not only improve safety for the students, but will attract adult foot traffic to a more pleasant downtown atmosphere which will in turn attract more upscale business. It would also provide opportunity for fountains, sculpture gardens, tree plantings, casual seating areas, etc, a magnet for cultural growth, and high end dining and retail establishments.

Proper development could turn Downtown Oshawa into a tourist destination changing the reputation of Oshawa from “blue-collar” industrial to education, high tech, and culture.

While the UOIT plan indicates some greening of the downtown, in my estimation, there can never be enough of this...and my idea about closing two blocks of downtown Simcoe St and about four blocks of King Street would add a “nature,” “upscale,” and “clean” atmosphere to the downtown. While the university plan includes a pedestrian mall by closing one small street between King and Bond adjacent to the Regent Theatre. I would encourage closing all streets from Bond to Athol between Simcoe and Mary for additional pedestrian walkways and student safety.

As in the case where streets are closed to Landscaped Pedestrian Walkways like Calgary’s premier 8th Avenue downtown business district, and Ottawa’s “Spark Street Mall,” the streets are accessible for emergency vehicles at all times and for delivery vehicles early morning and overnight.

Because of the exciting prospect presented by UOIT’s vision for the downtown, I am now of the opinion that the loss of city tax revenue is simply a cost for an improved downtown and a more attractive city which will boost Oshawa real estate values from the GTA basement and provide increased value to every city property owner.

The UOIT plan is coming close to my ideas for downtown renewal as expressed in the Mayoral Campaign....and the presentation of creative and big ideas for the city which was why I was in the race in the first place.

Oshawa has suffered from small time City Hall thinking for too long. Now is the time to take the shackles off and do everything possible to facilitate the leadership now being given by UOIT.

And in the meantime Oshawa City Hall---Move over! Ship out! Get out of the way! By inaction over too many years, you’ve abdicated your responsibility to plan for downtown renewal and development. Hand the job over to an organization that’s serious about getting the job done! Now!

As for the waterfront? We’ve had enough of small time city hall bureaucrat and political thinking. So far, planning has seemed to take a number of disparate elements, thrown them up in the air, and planted them where they landed. There’s no sense of developing an overall integrated plan to produce a world class waterfront. Let’s not lose this opportunity to transform our great waterfront resource into a world class place to complement the work UOIT will do in our downtown.

And so I say to the City Politicians and their City Hall Masters, the bureaucrats, if you want example of big league thinking to apply to our waterfront, check out the plans I introduced during the Mayoral Campaign.

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

Monday, May 9, 2011

Election Results...Things aren’t always what they seem!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and Unfiltered Opinion
Reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
May 9, 2011

So I was wrong in some of my prognostications about the Federal Election result in last week’s column submitted 3 days prior to the vote. I was in some pretty good company, though, as none of the major polling companies predicted a Conservative Majority, for example, even on the day before the vote and even the Conservative Party itself predicted only a minority win.

Certainly pollsters had to be surprised with the Harper’s runaway victory as even up to the day before the election, many said the result was too close to call.

All predicted the Harper Conservatives would win the most seats but even the Conservatives admitted in the days leading up to the vote that they could not secure a majority government and seemed resigned to be displaced by what Harper referred to as a reckless and dangerous coalition of the opposition parties.

The last poll before the election, predicted a minority government with Conservatives—143 seats, Liberals--60 seats, NDP--78 seats, and the BLOC--27 seats. All failed to predict the magnitude of the Liberal and BLOC collapse and the NDP surge.

The election results make it even more likely that there will be a “Unite the Center Left Movement” to form a new “Liberal Democrat Party.” This will give Canadians a clear two way choice in future voting.

Obviously my prediction of an NDP led minority government was incorrect, as was my prediction of a Harper resignation based on that NDP minority government. My prediction of Ignatieff’s resignation was correct but I failed to predict the utter collapse of the BLOC and Duceppe’s resignation.

As a side message of interest, Gilles Duceppe, the longest serving Member of Parliament, was elected in one of two by-elections in the country in August, 1990. The other by-election was the one in Oshawa in which I was Brian Mulroney’s first Federal Progressive candidate called upon to support introduction of the GST and the Free Trade Agreement, and to answer to other issues like the defeat of the Meech Lake Accord and the government response to the Oka Aboriginal uprising. No wonder Conservatives couldn’t win!

The vote result of the May 2, 2011 election looks massive with Stephen Harper’s huge runaway seat totals...but things aren’t always what they seem. Despite appearances to the contrary, the seemingly massive Harper win, is razor thin.

Harper’s win resulted purely from vote splitting with a realigned Liberal/New Democratic Party vote split allowing Conservative Candidates to come up the middle of the divided vote particularly in Ontario and the GTA.

Microscopic changes in popular support can factor into huge changes in seats. In comparing 2008 election results to the recent election results, for example, the 12.4% increase in NDP popular support brought them an additional 68 extra seats and the Conservative gain of 2% in popular support gained them 23 additional seats while the 7.3% loss in popular support by the Liberals cost them a loss of 43 seats and the BLOCs loss of 4% popular support cost them 45 seats.

The Conservative’s 2% popular vote gain (2 additional votes for every 100 cast) gave them their 23 additional seats and a majority parliament.

Equally obvious to Harper would be that a minimal loss of voter support of 1 or 2% would put him back in minority positions and a 2 or 3 percentage point gain could give the NDP a majority government.

As a result, I don’t think the world will fall with Harper’s majority. In the end, if a government is to retain the support of the majority of Canadians, it has to reflect its general will, and not just that of their died-in-the-wool supporters.

And getting re-elected is the number one priority of all politicians. Therefore, Stephen Harper will moderate his right wing agenda to implement change that he believes will retain the support of Canadian voters.

Despite this, reports are surfacing that Harper is being pressured by the religious right to open the abortion and “women’s right to choose” issues as well as abolishing human rights tribunals.

Governments always make the heavy lifting changes at the beginning of their mandate in the hopes that the short memory of the electorate will prevail in overlooking unpopular changes by the time of the next election. So we’ll see any results of Harper’s secret agenda earlier rather than later.

Realizing that only 39.6% of voters cast a vote for Harper’s Conservatives while 60.4% voted against him, it is clear that Harper is not close to having the support of the majority of Canadians. And surely he doesn’t want to wake up the 38.6% of eligible voters who were so indifferent they didn’t bother casting a vote.

In the meantime, Harper will move the government toward the right in tiny unnoticeable incremental steps as he’s already done such as cancelling Federal funding for NGO’s like KAIROS with the famous “not” inscribed in the PMO, after the fact on a funding document that had already been approved, because it supported abortions in its third world work---and this is against Harper’s, and his Evangelical Alliance Church’s, beliefs.

There were many factors leading up to the final vote result.

Pundits rationalize that part of reason for the liberal loss is they lost their bearings...under Ignatieff, they’d become another Conservative Party---and why vote for a conservative Liberal party when you can vote for the real thing.

In the election, they also theorize that many Liberal supporters deserted the party for the NDP and Conservatives. That certainly happened here in Oshawa with a dismal 7% of the vote, the poorest Liberal showing in years despite (or because of) a parachuted “star” candidate.

The desertion of many Liberals for parties on their left and right flank cost them 56% of their pre-election 77 seats dropping them down to 34 seats with the lost 43 seats being divided between the Conservatives and the NDP.

And Harper’s years of character assassination of Michael Ignatieff destroyed most chances of Liberal electoral successes, and just as importantly, they portrayed Harper’s character as far from Prime Ministerial.

Demonizing the opposition is part of the basic Conservative modus operandi. In Oshawa here, one Colin Carrie Conservative supporter continually referred to Jack Layton as “Taliban Jack” in conversation. I don’t know how widespread this terminology was in Carrie’s or the Conservative’s Camp, but it certainly speaks mountains about the bigotry and the irrational thinking of neo-con radicals. It reminds you of the Ku Klux Klan irrationality of the Republican South.

While Ignatieff was the early target of the Conservatives character assassination, it was too little, too late to attack Layton when they got around to recognizing the NDP’s surge.

In Quebec, the strength of the BLOC collapse was so dramatic that even “throw-in” NDP student candidates whose names were simply submitted to put an NDP candidate on the ballot were able to handily defeat Conservative Cabinet Ministers and long-time BLOC members often with little or no campaigning.

One 22 year old female non French-speaking barmaid famously got elected in French speaking riding while not visiting the riding and holidaying for part of the election campaign in Vegas.

The merging of the Liberals and NDP and the disappearance of the BLOC will produce a 2 party system to give a clear choice without splitting the center left vote among Liberals and NDP. The combined Liberal/NDP vote this election was 49.5% while the Conservatives got 39.6% support which logically would place them second behind a new merged NDP/Liberal Party.

While there will be some reshuffling of Liberal supporters as right leaning Liberals will align themselves with the Conservatives and left leaning Liberals will align themselves with the new Liberal Democratic party, it is likely that the combined vote of the new party would get the greatest public support and be able to form the government.

This possibility as well will place restraint on Stephen Harper equal to his minority government position in the last session...so we can expect Harper to moderate his positions to capture as many Liberals as possible leading up to the next vote.

So I see the May 2 vote result as positive in promoting long term benefits to the country by way of promoting national unity and promoting a “unite-the-center-left” party to produce a clearer two party electoral choice to provide a government that does have the support of more than 50% of voters.

The new opposition Harper can see for the next election will make him a more open, accountable, conciliatory, and honest Stephen Harper over the new term of Parliament.

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It’s a GOOD DAY for Canada....Welcome Prime Minister Layton! Good Riddance Mr. Harper!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and Unfiltered Opinion
Reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
May 2, 2011

If the polls prognosticating a vote surge for Jack Layton’s NDP turn out as predicted by the pollsters, we’ll have a new Canadian Government at the end of this voting day.

It’ll be a nightmare for Stephen Harper but a godsend for the Canadian people.

Fortunate for Canada, distrust and dislike of Stephen Harper runs as deeply within the walls of the House of Commons as it does out on the hustings, so even if Harper’s Conservatives do win a minority plurality, they will lose the government very quickly through a non-confidence vote of the House of Commons.

Jack Layton, predicted to have the second most number of seats will assume the Prime Ministership with the assistance of the other parties.

A potential coalition government would undoubtedly include Liberal MP’s but not BLOC as the NDP and Liberals alone would constitute a majority according to the current poll results.

There is danger of a constitutional crisis with such a scenario.

Following an election, it is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to call the House to Session and the timing for so doing is solely his responsibility. According to the Constitution, the House only has to be called into session once in any 12 month period and the Conservative Government winning the most seats could not be dissolved without a loss of Confidence Vote in the House.

If the House of Commons is not called into Session by Stephen Harper, his Government could not be rejected by the House.

In order to postpone his inevitable defeat in the House of Commons and retain his control of Parliament, it is not too far fetched to suggest that Harper might refuse to call Parliament into session for a lengthy period of up to the year allowed by the Constitution. After all, he did Proroque Parliament on two occasions---once to avoid a Loss of Confidence Motion that was going to carry in the House and the other to avoid tabling embarrassing information regarding Canada’s treatment of war prisoners in Afghanistan.

Part of the reason Harper has lost the confidence, not only of Parliament, but of the Canadian People is that they’ve come to see him as a contemptuous strong-arm demagogue, rather than the democratic and conciliatory “Pearson-esque” and principled leader Canadians deserve and expect.

After all, conciliation and co-operation are defining hallmarks of the Canadian psyche and of the traditions of Canadian Parliament since 1867 in governing the widely divergent interests of this great country.

And Canada’s priorities in governing produced the best country in which reside in the entire world, up to the last decade, according to international measures of such things.

We have slipped in international ratings over the past decade through cuts in support services for Canadians---and with Conservatives in power, the plug would be pulled on more "People Services" as concentrated spending would be directed to jets, jails, and corporate tax cuts rather than expenditures directly affecting Canadian’s support services such as Universal Health Care, Canada Pension, transfer payments to support higher education, decent housing and opportunity for all, women’s right to choose, etc., all of which are factors in determining liveability ratings.

Over this entire election campaign, rather than telling us the policies he would put in place, Harper has engaged in character assassination of Michael Ignatieff combined with his key campaign mantra that Conservatives are the best economic managers, and that anything other than a Conservative majority is dangerous and reckless, and that his leadership has led the G8 in economic recovery. Further, Harper claims only he knows what was best going forward for job creation and the economy.

Doug Porter, Deputy Chief Economist at the Bank of Montreal, was quoted in Friday’s Star stating that a Harper majority troubles Bay Street as it would embolden Stephen Harper to impose even tougher austerity measures which would be a mild threat to the recovery of the Canadian economic recovery.

Porter also states that the NDP surge is not a concern to Bay Street as Layton’s approach to governing would be to demonstrate his party capable of prudent government as Tommy Douglas did in Saskatchewan before introducing "novel" policies like Medicare.

What? Medicare a novel policy? It is now one of the foundations of this country and a model for the world.

Rather than scaremongering about NDP reckless government, Harper should acknowledge former Saskatchewan NDP Premier Tommy Douglas who lifted Saskatchewan out of the Depression while pioneering public health care and balancing the books through five majority governments.

Harper also fails to acknowledge a whole ream of successful and respected NDP leaders including BC’s Dave Barrett (Gov’t. Car Insurance, Gov’t Question Periods, Agricultural Land Reserves), Manitoba’s Ed Schreyer who developed the province's hydroelectric wealth and public auto insurance while investing heavily in affordable housing, introduced pharmacare and homecare, and Gary Doer¸ former labour leader and 10 year Manitoba NDP Premier won three majorities on economic policies that delivered balanced budgets, tax cuts, the lowest unemployment rate in the country, increased spending on education and health care and expanded public day care, a project later cancelled by Stephen Harper. On August 28, 2009, Stephen Harper appointed Doer Canadian ambassador to the United States

Despite this great NDP political leadership and in response to the NDP nation-wide surge in support putting the NDP ahead of the Liberals at approximately 100 seats, Harper has turned his attack ads, smear campaigns and doomsday scenarios against the surging NDP campaign of Jack Layton.

Rather than reckless and ramshackle leadership defined by Stephen Harper, the history of NDP leaders in Canada need not apologize to anyone for the excellence of their leadership and contributions to Canada. In support of that excellence you might think of NDP leaders Roy Romanow, Stephen Lewis, Mike Harcourt, and Ed Broadbent, as well as the current premiers of Nova Scotia and Manitoba, Darrell Dexter and Greg Selinger.... Ramshackle and reckless leadership---get real Mr. Harper!

Harper’s major policies, of course, are to put Canada deeper into the huge deficit he created by spending $30B on jets, $13B on jails (I guess to jail those who wouldn’t be able to cope with all the social program cutbacks necessary to pay for Harper's jets and jails), and $6B more of government revenue losses resulting from Harper’s final instalment of corporate tax cuts he had promised to promote job and productivity growth.

Harper’s promises to create jobs and improved productivity with corporate tax cuts are strongly disputed by Statistics Canada which has demonstrated that past corporate tax cuts simply went to increased executive bonuses, increased dividends, and increased corporate capital pools....and no increased jobs or productivity gains. In summary, Harper promised to help the working classes when in fact he was simply directing more capital to his rich friends in the corporate world.

Harper forgot to inform the Canadian People that following giant 2008 infusions of government capital into Canada’s banking industry, his economic and fiscal statement the following month projected budget surpluses going forward three years when the actual deficit ballooned to $55B in 2009, the largest deficit in Canada’s history.

Harper then announced $4.5B worth of public spending cuts on civil service wages, provincial equalization payments, and no new infrastructure investment that would have compounded the recession difficulties. Fortunately Harper removed these cuts due to threats of non-confidence motions.

Harper is all over the economic map like a drunken driver....just doesn’t seem to have any consistent economic direction at all.

Even’s Harper’s claims that Canada leads the G8 in economic recovery is in dispute by experts.

According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), Canada’s unemployment rate was 18th and 13th on GDP growth performance out of 34 countries, 6th out of G7 countries in GDP per capita, 5th on productivity growth, and had the second highest trade and investment income deficit exceeded only by the USA.

These OECD figures demonstrate that Harper is misleading the Canadian people in our economic health. Rather than leading developed nations as he suggests, we are more following up the rear.

Stephen Harper has set himself up as the only leader able to lead Canada into the future and has warned of the dire consequences of anything but a Conservative majority. The Canadian people will show him what they think of this.

I must confess that all of these prognostications and opinions were written last Thursday, days before the vote and many are written in the presence of a die-hard conservative supporter who is claiming a majority Conservative victory.

The bets are on to see who is more accurate in their forecasting.

The visitor, however, would vote Conservative even if he were the last acknowledged Harper supporter on Earth....but hey, radicals, zealots, fanatics, and true believers can never be convinced of the real truths even if it hammers them between the eyes...and Harper must now be praying that many of his true believers don’t wake up with a renewed common sense on election day.

Besides a change of Federal Government in Ottawa, there will be other major changes.

We can expect Harper to resign or get pushed out by his party, Ignatieff to surrender the Liberal Leadership potentially to Bob Rae, and a call to unite the center left parties----which I predict will be the Liberal Democratic Party....You heard it all here first!

Canada needs your voice. Be sure to vote today!

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/