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/

Monday, April 25, 2011

Oshawa Voters Have a Clear Choice in the May 2nd Federal Election

“Eye on City Hall”

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

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
April 25, 2011

By the time you read this, the Federal Election will be one week away and hopefully you are planning to vote. After all, it is a responsibility of every citizen to exercise this right that is still being fought for in many parts of the world.

It’s unfortunate that many citizens take the right for granted and fail to take advantage of their opportunity to have their “say” in the important task of choosing a government for our nation.

I took the opportunity to vote in last Friday’s advance poll and was impressed with the numbers of people exercising their franchise on that day. Obviously there is a lot of voter interest in this election and we hope the voting turnout is high across the country.

This election gives voters a real choice between two distinct philosophies and two main directions ahead for this country. There’s the Conservative’s Jets, Jails, and Corporate Tax Cut Agenda vs. the Liberal and New Democratic Party Agendas that focus more on social programs like health care, pensions, and educational opportunity.

There are the campaigns that focus on hopes and aspirations of ordinary Canadians vs. those that focus on scare mongering, attack ads, and benefits for Corporate Canada.

Harper’s main message, for example, are the dire straights Canada would find itself in if he was not given a majority. Many citizens, of course, feel the reverse is true. That Canada would be changed significantly if Harper had a majority and unfettered ability to implement his extreme right wing agenda that he has developed over a number of years as policy wonk for the Reform and Alliance Parties.

But then, right wing politics, like religion, is worshipped unquestionably by the fanatics and true believers....and reports are now surfacing that Harper’s political philosophy is hugely influenced by the fundamentalist Alliance Church he attends. This despite the fact that the vast majority of Canadians, unlike the United States, believe in the separation of Church and State.

By way of illustration, Harper’s church opposes abortion and women’s right to choose, supports a law and order agenda and capital punishment, is anti-gay opposing same sex marriage, opposes stem-cell research (anyone here remember “born again Christian" George W. Bush on this?)...all faith based values that Harper would want to impose on the Canadian public given a majority, a dangerous practice in Canada’s pluralistic society.

This, of course, is part of the American way where the strongest right wing Republican supporters and opinion leaders are the Bible belt fundamentalist church groups...the politically motivated Gerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons of TV evangelism fame, that hold sway in influencing the American political agenda...and Harper has often been criticized as a PM that wants to Americanize our country...and giving him a majority government would be a good start to pushing our country to the intolerant right.

Last Wednesday, political forums were held at the John Street Branch of the Senior Citizens Centre and another held at the CAW hall sponsored jointly by CKAR radio and the CAW...and the contrast among the candidates was as broad as the philosophies that divide them.

Conservative Colin Carrie did not have the intellectual, debating or presentation skills or knowledge of the other two main candidates and thus came off as a much weaker candidate despite the seven years he’s been our MP. Many of his answers were simply read out of the Tory Platform Book, and he made some preposterous statements such as his criticism of the Liberals for their negative TV ads. While I don’t recall seeing any such Liberal Ads, I suppose he was wanting to go on the offensive to deflect criticism away from the Conservative character assassination ads that have flooded the airwaves for the last year criticizing Ignatieff with lines like “He didn’t come back for you.”

Liberal Candidate James Morton is a polished, cerebral, and slick Toronto Litigation Lawyer who is past president of the Ontario Bar Association, Osgoode Hall Law Professor, Media Commentator, and author of 17 legal texts. His practice focuses on commercial, criminal, and constitutional litigation at all levels including the Supreme Court.

James Morton is a most impressive candidate and would be sure-fire cabinet material on any Liberal majority or minority government if elected.

Unfortunately, as a parachute candidate, he is unknown in this parochial city that prefers well-known Oshawa names and it is doubtful whether even this “star” candidate can make up sufficient ground in the short election period. Beyond that, the Liberal Riding Association has not had a good campaign organization for some number of years.

Oshawa’s NDP Candidate, Chris Buckley, is impressive in another way. Born and raised in Oshawa, he is president of CAW local 222 and lead Canadian negotiator for GM workers. In June 2008, Mr. Buckley received international attention for leading the historic fight against the closure of the GM Oshawa Truck Plant. He has been a long time fighter for pension and EI reform, and worker’s rights. He has put his money where his mouth is for years in terms of fighting for reforms for workers and for ordinary Canadians.

More importantly, during the candidate’s debates, Buckley very impressively demonstrated his quick repartee and his straight-talking “shoot from the hip,” “down to earth” style, the kind of guy that really knows how to make sense to ordinary people and says what they want to hear. Both Buckley and Morton, if either got elected, would be sure to find themselves in a cabinet seat in a minority parliament coalition government.

Both Morton and Buckley, if elected, have the skills, ideas, intellect, communication abilities, and talent, and a big view of important national issues to influence policy nation-wide on the governing of this nation while Carrie, if re-elected, would continue to be one of the uninfluential back row trained monkeys that raise their arm to vote when they were told to do so.

In his presentation, Carrie bragged about providing federal funding for many city projects, like Federal Grants for lighting for the Senior's Center pool rooms, highlighting his belief in the role of an MP as delivering mickey mouse “pork barrel” peanut-sized morsels of our tax money back to us in vote-buying Federal Grants. He's unlike his fellow Conservative, Tony Clement, who was able to direct $50M away from Parliament Approved Border Infrastructure Programs to his own Muskoka Riding just in time for the 2 day G8 summit there.

Both Liberal Morton and NDP Buckley mentioned the need for pension reform citing the need for guaranteed worker pensions. The simple method, both agreed, was to amend the Bankruptcy and Creditor Act to move pensioners to the head of the creditor line in the event of bankruptcy. They also mentioned prohibitions against corporations raiding surplus pension funds. Never again should there be workers, like those at Nortel, for example, that lost their pensions and their security after lifetime employment because all of the capital was siphoned off by creditors leaving pensioned employees high and dry.

In terms of pensions, Harper’s and Flaherty’s plan has already been floated as a trial balloon---they want to privatize the CPP to provide extra commissions to their banking and insurance industry friends and remove the idea of guaranteed pension benefits.

Both Morton and Buckley criticized the Conservative's corporate tax cuts stating that Stats Canada demonstrates that jobs are not created by corporate tax cuts but that the proceeds from the cuts goes to shareholders and increasing corporate cash reserves.

Clearly Carrie was outclassed in every way by his opponents. He often read answers to questions directly from his party briefing books, rambled on in ways unrelated to the question if he didn’t know what to say to it, and had some very nonsensical answers. In a question to how he would promote good job growth in Oshawa, Colin Carrie stated the same asinine answer that John Henry had spouted at the CAW hall during the Mayoral Debates. Carrie said Oshawa has a deep water port, the main rail line across the country, we’re on the superhighway linking Oshawa to markets, and we have an airport....how stupid an answer since we’ve had these attributes for the last 50 years and still have a net outflow of good manufacturing jobs.

It’s logical that Carrie had the same answers as John Henry to that question though as they both had the same speechwriter as their campaigns were intricately connected, Carrie even donating the maximum $750 to Henry’s Campaign, moneys that probably came from Carrie’s MP Expense budget funded from your tax dollars. Carrie donated over $2000 to 7 or 8 municipal candidates, likely from the same taxpayer funded expense account with involvement in a municipal campaign unheard of from Federal Politicians.

Carrie tried to tell the audience that the election was about the government record, financial responsibility, lower taxes (for corporations, he forgot to say but not for individuals), more jobs, the Conservative budget and an election Canadians don’t want while Buckley countered that the election was about contempt of parliament, health care, pension and EI reform, and worker rights, and cutting government waste as he referred to the $1.2B weekend photo op G8/G20 summits that trampelled the Constitutionally Guranteed Civil Rights of Canadians.

Buckley stated that any tax breaks should go to the workers generating profits in the economy and not the fat cats wanting to line their pockets on the backs of the workers.

Recent polls put Morton at 17.4% support, third behind Carrie at 44.8% and the NDP’s Buckley at 31.6% with the Greens trailing at 5.7%. While these polls are changing daily with the most recent poll showing Layton’s NDP overtaking the Liberals into 2nd place, one should remain vigilant about these polls (See most current poll) because they could have a roll in your voting choice.

Canadians can vote on principle like voting for the Greens in this city or they can vote strategically to insure the election (or defeat) of a specific party.

If they support Conservatives guns, jails, and corporate tax cuts agenda and a prime minister who shows contempt for parliament they should support Colin Carrie. If, however, the find Harper’s leadership to be dangerous for this country, they should vote strategically for a larger objective, and that is to cast a vote against Harper.

In Oshawa, that means throwing their support behind the candidate most likely to defeat Colin Carrie. The candidate in the best position to defeat Carrie is the NDP’s Chris Buckley. Buckley should get the vote of strategic voters who are afraid of a Harper majority.

While the Liberals Morton would be an outstanding parliamentarian for the city and for the country, polls show him to be so far behind Buckley that he has little chance to win and thus voting for the Liberals in this riding is like voting for the Greens....throwing away your vote towards the greater objective...the defeat of Stephen Harper and his jets, jails, and corporate tax cuts right wing law and order agenda.

In any case, please make your choice...and vote! Canada needs your voice!

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, April 18, 2011

Does Stephen Harper Deserve A Majority Government

“Eye on City Hall”

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

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
April 18, 2011

It seems a new bombshell is dropping every day and all seem to question Stephen Harper’s credibility, honesty, transparency, respect for Parliament and for the Canadian people.

Mr. Sincerity, Stephen Harper, thanks Seniors for their contributions... read from a teleprompter of course!
Our Federal Parliament approved $131M under the “Border Infrastructure Fund” to ease traffic congestion at our border crossings and you’d expect every penny approved to go to that purpose, wouldn’t you? Yet more than $50M of that cash was siphoned off for projects completely unrelated to expenditures Parliament had approved.

Every Canadian has cause to be damn angry at the lack of honesty, transparency, and accountability of the ruling Conservative Government which shows distain and disrespect for Parliament and for the Canadian people at almost every turn.

That $50M of Parliamentary approved funds to ease border crossing congestion went straight to "Tammany Hall" vote-buying spending rampages in Conservative Tony Clements’s riding for Stephen Harper’s photo-op $1.2B G8/G20 summit.

Harper’s bait and switch tactics are deceitful and dishonest at best and criminal at worst.

The G8 Legacy Projects funded with moneys approved for the border infrastructure improvements include public toilets, Muskoka roads, sidewalks, and parks improvements, improvements to downtowns in Huntsville, Bracebridge, and Gravenhurst, new highway signage, tourist information centers, and airport improvements, all of these projects quite distant, in some cases 100 Km, away from the G8 summit site.

I do suppose it is possible that if President Obama, or one of the other G8 leaders cloistered at the Deerhurst Inn Resort, found time to drive about for a little tourist site seeing on the two day Muskoka Conference, they may have found nature calling and shouted out to their driver....”Stop the Limo...I’ve got to have a pee at those public privies over there!” After all, when nature calls, job 1 (or job 2 for that matter) is not far behind! So spending the $275,000 for these privies 20 km away from the conference center might be a useful contingency (LOL!).

On the other hand, one could assume that the $50M spent in Tony Clement’s Muskoka riding was blatant vote buying. Even some conservative supporters are turned off by these tactics...and you should be too!

Vote buying is a common strategy for Harper's Conservatives! Two members of the Julian Fantino’s Vaughan Conservative Riding Association, one a former Federal Conservative Candidate, resigned their riding membership last week to protest $10M of your tax money being given to the Vaughan Health Centre in a fundraising drive being spearheaded by Fantino’s former fundraisers. This looks like a giant Harper payback for helping get Fantino elected!

It seems the bloopers, blunders, boners, bungles and botch ups orchestrated by the Harper Conservative boneheads never end. There’s another one every day! And you ain’t seen nothing yet!

The roots of the Harper Conservatives arose out of the Western Canada Reform and Alliance Parties which were seen as extremist and intolerant due to a number of statements by Reform MPs which were considered to be racist, homophobic, or sexist. The Reform Party called for the privatization of various government services that the party believed could be better provided by the private sector. These government services included a number of state-owned corporations including Canada Post, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and Petro Canada (sold in the last couple of years under the Harper administration to Suncor Energy), and Harper and Jim Flaherty have recently floated trial balloons suggesting privatizing the Canada Pension Plan.

If the Conservatives get a majority government, we are sure to see the re-emergence of the right wing legislation reflecting the Reform ideas Harper described in his firewall letter to Premier Ralph Klein such as replacing the Canada Universal Health Plan with a two-tier private and public health insurance system, anti abortion legislation, and reduced social program expenditures, all publicly supported by Stephen Harper in his writings. Harper once stated that he favoured scrapping universal health care and replacing it with "for profit" U.S. style health care. Harper's principal objective is to Americanize all aspects of Canadian Society creating a society favouring the rich and privileged...and armed---with Harper's intent to scrap the gun registry.

One of the keys to Harper's present election platform is a reduction in Corporate taxes from 18% to 16.5%...and these corporate tax rates are already among the lowest in the world. The lost government revenue necessary to balance the huge defit budgets, of course, will have to be picked up by you, Mr. and Mrs. Middle Income Earner, either through tax increases or the slashing of social programs.

We have seen inklings of Harper’s Right Wing and Extreme "My Way or the Highway" Agenda in his trampling of Civil Rights during the G20 Gadhafi style police smackdowns, his government’s withdrawal of government CIDA grants for Kairos, a church-based aid group because it supported abortions in its third world work (the famous Bev Oda “NOT” controversy), and Harper’s key current election platform of funding Jets, Jails, and Corporate Tax Cuts all funded through spending cuts to support the poor and middle class through spending on higher education and social programming to provide opportunity to ordinary Canadians.

In showing distain for Parliament and its traditions, Harper refused to provide documentation to MP's about the costs for the jets and jails he proposed and thus was ruled by the Speaker of the House to be in Contempt of Parliament, the first time a Westminster Democracy of any of the 178 in the world following the British Parliamentary model has been found to be in contempt of its Parliament---a serious matter that Harper puts down to simple political gamesmanship.

Harper calls potential coalition governments "dangerous and reckless"...no way! They are the common governments in many countries and are likely to be so in Canada into the future as long as the Bloc wins support in Quebec at the expense of the old line parties.

Coalitions governments now exist in Britain and in Australia, Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, Israel, and many other countries, and Lester Pearson's 1960's Minority Liberal Governments brought us National Health Care, Canada Pension Plan, the Auto Pact, and the Canadian Flag---productive governments indeed!

Harper’s misrepresents the truth on so many fronts in his efforts to retain control.

He rants about the “dangerous” and “reckless” coalition that will result if Canadians don’t give him a majority yet his Conservative Party is a coalition of the Reform, Alliance, and the Progressive Conservative Parties.

Also, in 2004, Harper plotted to form a coalition with the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois in order to wrest the Prime Ministership from Paul Martin’s minority Liberal Government and in a TV interview in 1997 strategized overthrowing a minority Liberal Government by a coalition of conservative parties.

Harper does not respect the traditions of Parliament. When he was about to lose confidence in a House of Commons vote, or when he wanted to squelch the release of sensitive information, he has simply closed down parliament---twice---not at all protective of the traditions of Parliament followed by “honourable” Prime Ministers!

And yet Harper continues to dispute the recent “Contempt of Parliament” ruling of the speaker.

He’s a guy that makes up the rules as he goes along. He obviously believes that the ends always justify his means.

With Harper’s history of coalition building, it is extremely dishonest for him to now call them reckless and dangerous!

Dangerous is what Harper would be if he ever got a majority government and started implementing some of the programs he developed as a policy wonk for the Reform Party.

Fortunately, I don’t believe that Harper will get that majority he craves because his campaign launches a different controversy every day. He has been courting the ethnic communities with government handouts, and as I write this, Etobicoke Centre Conservative candidate Ted Opitz’s campaign team has asked multicultural groups in the riding to wear “ethnic costumes” for a photo op backdrop at Harper’s televised rally in the riding. This has resulted in controversy within the ethnic communities as costumed ethnics appeared with signs “Is this ethnic enough?”, “I’m Canadian,” “Harper’s Photo Op Prop,” “I’m very ethnic,” “CTV news...Is this ethnic enough for you,” etc, ridiculing the request from the Conservative Campaign Team.

My gosh, we just barely got over the story about Stephen Harper’s Campaign Team ejecting a young girl from a rally as the planning team found a picture of her and Ignatieff on her facebook page.

Interesting how Harper is so keen on screening stuff like this when a recent story describes a 70 year old top Harper advisor, disbarred lawyer Bruce Carson,who had spent jail time for fraud (5 cases) and was recently “outed” for influence peddling in negotiating federally funded water purification contracts with aboriginal communities in which his 22 year old girlfriend would get 20% commissions. Incidentally this same advisor had been invited to dinner at the Prime Minister’s 24 Suffolk Drive residence accompanied by his former live-in girlfriend, a woman deported from America for running a prostitution ring and for money laundering.

There’s a new scandal every day and we’re only seeing a small sample of what we’ll get with a Harper majority.

Lord! Please save Canada from a Stephen Harper majority!

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, April 11, 2011

There's Gold in Them There Government Palaces

“Eye on City Hall”

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

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
April 11, 2011

The Sunshine List of high roller public servants has just been published and no doubt has all private sector workers yearning for public sector employment.

The list confirms that there are now two classes of workers---those that work in the public sector and those that work in the private sector.

According to a Canadian Federation of Independent Business Report, Federal public sector employees enjoy a 15.1% wage premium over their private sector counterparts. Similar premiums over the private sector are earned by Provincial and Municipal government workers.

But wages are just part of the story according to the CFIB Report. Public sector non-wage benefits such as pensions, paid vacation time, paid health and insurance benefits, etc. remain, on average, 60 per cent higher than those of equivalent private sector employees boosting the Federal employee wage/benefits premium to 23.3% over their private sector counterparts when non-wage benefits are included.

And dramatic Public sector employment growth, up 24% since 1998, combined with the salary premiums paid public sector employees, has fuelled dramatic increases in the costs of government, all banking on that seemingly bottomless pit of taxpayer cash that redirects our disposable income away from the productive segments of the economy that would contribute to growth of every citizen’s standard of living and to the country’s productivity and wealth.

Since 1998, total wages and salaries paid to general federal government employees are up 28% compared to inflation and private sector wage growth over that period.

And then there is the question of job security. While private sector wages are frozen, workers laid off and plants shuttered, and workers fall prey to the vagaries of the sputtering economy, public sector workers soldier on with iron rice bowl job security with their guaranteed salary and benefits increases that bear no resemblance to the uncertainties in the real world

When we consider the wage and benefits premiums enjoyed by public sector workers, the Ontario’s Sunshine List, the list of public sector workers making over $100,000 annually, rubs salt in the wounds of taxpayers footing the bill.

The current Sunshine List for the City of Oshawa, lists 81 workers making in excess of $100G’s, 6 in excess of $150G’s, and one, the City Manager, at $259,110.75 including his taxable benefits. There were only 71 workers making in excess of $100G’s the previous year for a high income growth factor of 14% over the previous year, an unsustainable growth of city hall high income earners that city taxpayers just cannot afford.

Computing from a city report of February 2009, there were approximately 1194 total city employees at that time stationed in the various work sites with about 550 of these at city hall. Assuming most of the highly paid workers work out of city hall, almost 15% of city hall workers would be in the $100,000+ salary levels. This is a proportion of top earners not to be found in any corporate head office in the country.

In comparing salary growths for 2009 to 2010, the City Manager went from $251,526 to $259,110, a $8435 (3.3%) increase, Commissioners went from $168,192 to $181,978, a $13785 (8.2%) increase, the Auditor General went from $163,589 to $169,842, a $6253 (3.8%) increase, the City Solicitor went from $140,883 to $152,415, a $11,532 (8.2%) increase, and the City Clerk/Sr. Director Level went from $127,822 to $136,408, a $8553 (6.7%) increase....and all this without any market-place bottom-line performance criteria.

These one year pay increases are clearly unconscionable during yearly inflationary times of 1.3% (2009) and 2.4% (2010) but do indicate how “outrageous greedy civil servants can be. While you’re hoping to keep your job, they are grabbing pay increases of these mind-blowing magnitudes.

Actual wage 2010 increases by city senior bureaucrats quoted above ranged from 3.3% to 3.8% to 6.7% to 8.2% to accompany the 2010 inflation rate of 2.3%. Even the last term of council increased city taxes by 13% while inflation hovered about 3% over the term. Government costs are increasing far faster than citizen’s pay increases.

As an example of escalating salaries, if we compound the city manager’s salary into the future at the 3.3% increase he had last year, his 2010 $259,110 salary would compound exponentially to $267,660 in 2011, to $276,493 in 2012, to $285,617 in 2013, to $295.043 in 2014 at the end of this council term, to $304779 in 2015, to $314,837 in 2016, to $325,226 in 2017, to $335,959 in 2018, to $347,045 in 2019, to $358,498 in 2020, to $370,328 in 2021, to $382,549 in 2022 a mere 10 years into the future. These kinds of increases will bankrupt our citizens! Just how much can we afford? City officials need some restraint...and some common sense!

All this while Provincial Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has recently announced Ontario Welfare rates for a single person will rise 1% ($5.92) from $592 to $597.92 monthly, while a single mother raising a child will get an additional $10.14 monthly.

Shame! The single welfare mother with a child will get a measly extra $121.68 a year while some city employees will get a yearly salary increase of $13785.

Reminds me of my youth when my welfare family of 5 lived in one room in downtown Toronto.

The growing disparity between the rich and poor is highlighted by the obscene raises taken by senior city bureaucrats and this disparity is raising alarms by widely divergent voices from Chinese President Hu Jintao to British Prime Minister David Cameron to IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

In 2007, Canada's highest paid 100 CEOs pocketed the average Canadian's annual pay of $40237 by 9:04 a.m. on January 2, the first day of work in the new year.

Income inequality has emerged as a major social and economic issue in Canada and elsewhere, writes Canadian author and political commentator Frances Russell. No longer is it the sole concern of the left. A working paper by the International Monetary Fund states that if income inequality remains unaddressed, the revolutions taking place in the Middle East could possibly spread elsewhere.

It’s now time for those city politicians who got elected based on tax restraint to start pegging staff salary increases to performance and to some semblance of reality reflected in the private sector.

Thoughts from the Federal Campaign Trail

Got a Colin Carrie election flyer Wednesday inscribed with the apparent personally handwritten message, “Sorry to have missed you---Colin.” Only perplexing thing about this was it was delivered with my regular mail by the postman. Leaves me wondering whether the postman is campaigning on behalf of Carrie on his rounds----or is this a cunning and dishonest deception by the Carrie Campaign?

We do know Harper’s main message in seeking a majority government is to decry the potential for an “unstable” and “dangerous” coalition government, the same coalition he worked to form to unseat the Martin Government in 2004.

Harper fails to mention that it was a Lester Pearson Minority Government that brought us the Canada Pension Act, the National Health Act, the Auto Pact, and the National Flag---proof in the pudding that minorities have been good for Canada.

Did you unknowingly donate to some Municipal Election Campaigns?

The municipal candidate’s campaign financial forms are now on the city website. They disclose that Colin Carrie donated $750 to Mayor John Henry’s campaign and $200 to each of Roger Bouma, Bruce Wood, John Neal, and Tito Dante Marimpietri.

The real question is whether Carrie unethically and dishonestly used his parliamentary expense accounts, and thus your tax dollars, to donate to these campaigns.

This is only a part of his undue influence however. There are so far only two Carrie signs in my neighbourhood both arriving in the first days of the election. During the municipal election, one had a Henry sign and one had a Bruce Wood sign, that neighbourhood resident probably turning down Henry’s sign as he is a close neighbour of mine.

The indications grow stronger with the Federal Election that Carrie used his campaign team, his sign locations, his telephone bank, and probably his parliamentary expense allowance to promote conservative candidates at city hall, an undue influence usually avoided like the plague by most senior government politicians...but perhaps part of Stephen Harper’s agenda to gain control of politics across the country right down to the municipal election.

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, March 28, 2011

What's up Doc? Was There Some Illegal Hanky Panky at Oshawa City Hall?

“Eye on City Hall”

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

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
April 4, 2011

Sometimes when a set of facts comes to your attention for which there is no public explanation, your imagination runs wild with speculation.

And today’s column is such a state of affairs.

A top city bureaucratic official, Commissioner of Community Affairs, Stan Bertoia, whose 2010 salary was $186,778.39, left employment at Oshawa City Hall and a few months later took up employment in a junior position (Head Civil Design) with the Toronto Transit Commission at a vastly reduced salary of about $115,000.

Mr. Bertoia’s former department controlled the largest city budget, in excess of $35M, of any city department.

His department was responsible for the maintenance, improvement and beautification of the City’s roads, parks and public open spaces, including maintenance of valley lands, walking and bike trails, and forestry and horticulture programs, management of the parking system, management of the City’s recreational facilities, including the delivery of fitness and leisure programs and support programs for arts and culture, as well as the management and maintenance of City buildings, waste collection and environmental programs----quite broad and far reaching technical responsibilities.

For such a senior official at city hall, you’d think that there would be some public acknowledgement of his leaving.

The lack of any public acknowledgement of this major change at city hall smells of rot.

Equally baffling is the very quiet appointment of Garth Johns, formerly commissioner of Durham Region Human Resources, whose 2010 Regional salary was reported as $181,981.42 to fill Mr. Bertoia’s former position.

Mr John’s appointment to this top level city position seems to have taken place without any external executive search, formal vetting process of alternative candidates, or any candidate competition, all of which you’d think would be standard for senior public positions.

Nor does any evidence exist that a set of job qualifications, background experience, or hiring criteria were ever developed. After all, the public has to be assured that the best candidate available was hired in any public service capacity and, in this case, there is no evidence of identifying candidate experience or qualification criteria.

Mr. Bertoia was a professional engineer, a basic requirement you’d think with a responsibility to oversee roads and public buildings and the whole host of technical responsibilities in his department.

Bertoia’s replacement, Mr. Johns, in addition to operating a part time Human Resources Consulting Practice, holds a BA in health administration, an MBA, is a Certified Health Executive, a Certified Municipal Officer and holds additional certifications in Organizational Development, Conflict Management and Coaching, certainly not the kind of technical expertise we’d think would be required to oversee major engineering responsibilities.

There has also been no public announcement of Garth John’s appointment to the city senior administrative position.

The only public acknowledgement is his appearance at the March 3, 2011 meeting of the city’s Community Services Committee Agenda as the “Acting Commissioner” which has since been recently replaced on the city web site as “Commissioner.”

You’d think that such a high level appointment would have been accompanied by a press release.

All of this secrecy about Bertoia’s leaving and John’s appointment and the giant mismatch in filling the vacancy leaves a smell in the air of cronyism and the mysterious and unexpected vacancy leads to thoughts of cover up….and why? Which is where speculation begins to take place!

Human Resources, which seems to be Mr. John’s expertise and experience, falls under Oshawa’s Corporate Services Committee….so Mr. John’s appointment to the technical Community Services Department seems to be a giant mismatch of experience, competence and training….and there has been no public acknowledgement of this significant change of upper management at city hall.

As best as I can discover, Bertoia left the city employ sometime after Aug 31, 2010, the last community Services Committee meeting he attended prior to the October 25, 2010 election, and became employed at the TTC in February, 2011. He didn’t attend the January 20th City Community Service Meeting and so at that date, he was absent, had been fired or had resigned, or was on enforced leave prior to the first meeting of the new council Community Services Committee meeting on Jan 20, 2011.

If indeed there were ethical issues involving a dismissal, did the city hide this from Bertoia's new public employer?

Another interesting question is why Johns would choose to leave his job at the Region for a very comparable salary at Oshawa City Hall. Perhaps Johns is now part of the succession planning for City Manager.

Anyway, there are too many questions....and no authoritative answers to the questions!

Public figures and corporations who are caught in difficult or unusual circumstances have learned to get out in front and take control of the situation, but in some cases, those with the facts just want to play dumb, and by so doing compound any residual public relations problems arising from the situation.

A personnel issue, presumably involving Bertoia, was discussed in a 5 minute closed session of the Jan 20,2011 City Council Finance and Administration Committee attended by Councillors Diamond, Bouma, Aker, Wood and Mayor Henry as well as Support Services Manager, Mary Medeiros, Corporate Services Commissioner Rick Stockman, and Finance Services Director Chris Brown.

This short 5 minute in-camera session was obviously simply an information session for councillors as there is no evidence of any discussion or decision being made in the few minutes and so I surmise the decision had been made earlier outside of the realm of council.

The fact that the closed meeting to discuss a confidential personnel issue was attended by the Corporate Services Commissioner and the Finance Services Director suggests discussion of unethical or illegal transgressions around city cash.

Smart PR people know that they can reduce the collateral damage of public speculation resulting from negative situations by full information disclosure--otherwise the public will expect the worst.

The fact that Mr. Bertoia left his city commissioner job at a 2010 salary of $186,778.39 for another employer that paid him about $115,000 annually which he started after a 3-4 month period of unemployment suggests a dismissal from his Oshawa position.

The fact that there have been no threats of lawsuits for wrongful dismissal suggests a dismissal for cause.

The fact that a “personnel issue” was discussed at the Jan. 20, 2011 in-camera meeting of the Finance and Administration committee of council attended by city financial officers, Corporate Services Commissioner R. Stockman and Finance Services Director C. Brown suggests a financial concern in relation to the personnel issue.

The fact that the personnel issue was discussed by a committee of council suggests a serious discussion about a senior level employee.

Obviously politicians Diamond, Bouma, Aker, Wood, and Mayor Henry who attended the Jan. 20th Finance and Administration meeting have decided to perpetrate the past lack of council transparency and keep taxpayers in the dark about potential difficult circumstances at city hall.

All of these politicians who have direct knowledge of all of the details of the issue campaigned on increased accountability and transparency, and now they’ve chosen to keep you, the taxpayer, in the dark!

In the light of no official information regarding this issue, and the juxtaposition of all of these factors along with Mr. Bertoia’s sudden and unexpected departure suggests a reasonable assumption of corporate fraud through one of the many types outlined in the Deloitte and Touché Report, “Confronting Fraud and Unethical Behaviour in Government” quoted in my March 7, 2011 Oshawa Central Newspaper Column "Greed Trumps Trust Even in Public Service."

As pointed out in the Deloitte Report, one in six cases of government fraud results in losses in excess of $1M and 26% of these cases were never prosecuted.

If indeed, there was some fraud perpetrated on public moneys in this case, then the public has a right to know the details of the loss and assurance that any guilty party would be prosecuted with full restitution and appropriate criminal penalties being sought.

If there was no fraud in this case, despite all appearances to the contrary, city officials have the responsibility to provide full information regarding Mr. Bertoia’s sudden departure from the city with a view to protecting his reputation and the integrity of the city’s financial controls.

A cover up is an injustice to every city taxpayer and every party interested and involved in this issue.

And another major question. Why is the Oshawa press not all over this like fleas on a stray cat? Is it possible they’re too busy researching stories on silly PR stunts like “Durham Politicians to shed pounds for good cause” to report on things that really matter?

We’d better pass this on to the Toronto papers for some serious investigation and reporting on Oshawa City Hall!

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