Thursday, 22 September 2011

First impressions of davenport candidates: the fringe

When I have a bit more time, I'd like to take a close look at what the candidates are saying about local issues, but in the mean time, let's take a quick look at what they and their parties are about.

Here are the fringe candidates in Davenport, from the Communist Party, the Freedom Party, and the Libertarian Party (in alphabetical order by name).

Paul Bedard, Ontario Libertarian Party

There's not much to say about Bedard at the moment. His profile on the Libertarian Party website says only that is top issue is "limited government". No surprise there. The party's platform expands on this idea a bit:
There are many areas in which the government of Ontario has interfered to the detriment of the citizens of this fine province. ... the only proper functions of government are national defence (protection from foreign invaders), the police (providing protection from criminals) and the courts settling, according to objective laws, disputes among individuals, where private, voluntary arbitration has failed).
The party's website has lots of info for residents curious about how libertarianism works generally and where the party stands on broad issues like tax reform, education, health care, crime prevention, environment, child care/day care, employment equity/pay equity, poverty, and energy.

Franz Cauchi, Freedom Party of Ontario

There's not much info about Cauchi either, not even a top issue, but the party's website offers helpful information, including the party platform. Here's what Wikipedia says about the Freedom Party:
Instead of embracing the libertarian motto that "the government that governs least governs best", the Freedom Party asserts that "the purpose of government is to defend every individual's freedom, not to restrict it."
In other words, while the Freedom Party of Ontario might at first seem like a libertarian party, it is in fact an "objectivist" party. The distinction might not be obvious to anyone who is not a political philosophy scholar. At any rate, the party espouses capitalist policies based on reason, rational self-interest, and consent, and rejects appeals to altruism, irrationality, and the supernatural. The party's platform calls for eliminating various taxes and provincial bans, and perhaps most controversially, introducing medical cannabis centres.

Miguel Figueroa, Communist Party of Canada (Ontario branch)

Davenport is lucky to have the leader of the Communist Party's Ontario branch. Figueroa is the only one with a bio on his party's website, but it doesn't say anything about Davenport. The site does however offer this:
The aim of the Communist Party is a socialist Canada: a society in which the wealth is owned equitably by the working people who create it, and where exploitation and oppression of one human being by another is ended.
You don't need a degree to know that communism is pretty much the opposite of libertarianism and objectivism. The latter two call for as little government as necessary to defend the country, its citizens, and the law. Communism calls for government to regulate the economy and to provide a wide variety of social services to citizens. The Communist Party's platform calls for increased wages and employee benefits, enhanced labour rights and health and safety laws, electoral reform, improved access to quality affordable housing, improved public health care, education, and transit, sustainable energy and natural resource management, and food security.

That's it for the fringe candidates. To be clear, by "fringe" I only mean that their parties' ideas are at the edge of the mainstream. I don't mean to say that they are invalid in any way. Often ideas on the fringe slowly work their way into the mainstream.

Feel free to let me know what you think of any candidate!
Read on..!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Ontario election 2011: Davenport and beyond

I live on Symington Avenue, right in the middle of the recently christened Junction Triangle. I've been here for over three years now and I love it. I think the West Toronto Railpath is one of the city's great recent successes, abbreviated though it is for the time being. The Wallace Avenue footbridgeoffers a terrific view of the city (and great exercise). There are excellent and affordable new restaurants, cafés and businesses opening up all around. Even the 168 Symington bus, which runs frequently past my door, is more convenient than noisy or intrusive.

I try to pay attention to neighbourhood issues. The things I hear about most are the Georgetown rail corridor/air-rail link (could be amazing), planning (where's that boys and girls club?), development (there's lots), incumbent industry (should it stay or go?), politics (how to engage the diverse and transitional population?), and traffic (Dupont is pretty bad).

Here are the issues that concern me the most this election.

1. Honesty, integrity, and vision among candidates
I have had enough of politicians who lie or misrepresent the truth to the public in order to advance their agenda. Toronto and Canada have seen too much of this in the last 10 years. In my opinion, candidates should have a positive vision for their city and province. They should express their vision plainly; they should answer questions clearly; they should avoid pithy slogans and name-calling; they should publicly discuss their ideas to improve their city and province, rather than simply attacking other candidates' proposals. They should act like concerned citizens, like you and me. They should talk and listen to citizens, and try their best to understand them. They should be clear about their ideas and willing to defend them, but accept that they might be wrong. (I know, I know. I must be dreaming!)

2. The Georgetown rail corridor/air-rail link
This is an issue that affects the entire electoral district of Davenport, and really the entire west end of Toronto. The problem is pollution, mainly from diesel exhaust. The Liberals have committed to increasing the number of trains running between Union Station and Georgetown, starting with a Union-Pearson Airport rail link. Due partly to the costs and partly to an artificial timeline, they have chosen an unproven "clean diesel" technology at a time when jurisdictions around the world are implementing electric railways. Critics of the plan say it is an immense threat to citizens' health and an enormous waste of money. The government says it will electrify the corridor eventually, and the new technology will limit the threat from pollution.

3. Public Catholic schools: LGBT rights and funding
These aren't Davenport-specific issues. Rather they affect citizens across the province. First, the taxpayers of Ontario support Catholic religious education with their money to the exclusion of other religions. In fact, Canada's constitution mandates this arrangement, but the constitution was written at a time when there were only (or very nearly only) Catholic and Protestant Christians in Canada, and there were fears that Catholics would suffer discrimination in what were at the time mainly Protestant schools. That is obviously no longer the case, but the system remains, only now it discriminates against all non-Catholics. Second, the Toronto Catholic District School Board recently refused to endorse a policy of support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) students, in defiance of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Ontario's Human Rights Code. The problems that this situation presents are obvious: can the province justify using citizens' money to fund an organization that actively discriminates against citizens?

4. Planning, development, transit
Some might find this stuff dull, but I am very interested in how the city looks and, more importantly, how it works. I travel the city on foot, by bike, by car, bus, and train. I get stuck in traffic, and I get delayed on the subway, and I'd love the city to move people around better. In my neighbourhood, I hear of new developments regularly. In fact, I can hear one project being built at Dupont and Lansdowne from my house. I'd like Toronto to demand greatness in its development; to create and follow long-term plans that make the city—its streets and buildings and businesses and services—work for communities, not against them; to do more to respect its built heritage and to complement what exists with developments that make citizens and communities proud.

But Davenport is much more than my neighbourhood, and I'd love to hear what you think is important this election or in general. I'll be writing about the election on The Star's Speak Your Mind blog until the results come in. See the Davenport file there. (Click the "Blogs" tab beside ">>Davenport news" for the good stuff.) Blog blog blog.
Read on..!

Friday, 2 September 2011

A letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty on the electrification of the Georgetown rail corridor

The Honourable Dalton McGuinty
Room 281, Main Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

Re: electrification of the Georgetown rail corridor

Mr. McGuinty,

I live in the Toronto neighbourhood, the Junction Triangle, so named because it is bounded (closely) on all three sides by intersecting rail lines.

My purpose in writing you today is to express my concern about your government’s plan to expand the use of diesel trains—by nearly ten times—along the Georgetown rail corridor (one of the three lines that borders my neighbourhood), and to voice my support for electrification of the line. I believe you understand the facts of the matter, since Metrolinx (along with many others past and present) has already affirmed that electrification is the logical next step for rail along the corridor. I expect you have heard facts and arguments from the Clean Train Coalition and other public interest groups, and I hope from your own caucus members from the affected ridings. So I will try to be brief.

Please understand that I support rail expansion. I believe it is extremely important—so much so that it is almost the only issue of importance for me and many others in this coming election—and I applaud you for acting to improve rail transit in Toronto and the surrounding areas.

First, simply put, diesel is the past, and as a citizen I resent wholeheartedly that you would waste my and my family and friends’ money on something that is already out of date and which will only serve to waste more money in the future. It seems like madness to me. I further resent as a citizen and human that you would spend my money to effectively poison me and my neighbours for decades to come. That is a conscious betrayal. I do not trust that the purported benefits of new technology will pan out as claimed. And the fact remains that diesel technology belongs to the past.

Second, I understand that the province made some sort of promise to the organizers of the Pan-Am Games that Toronto would have in place some sort of effective transportation option from the airport into the city for the games. Perhaps that promise involved trains, which puts Metrolinx on a tight timeline, but this is a poor argument for moving ahead with the wasteful and dangerous diesel plan. If we have made a foolish promise, it is better to take it back and make amends than to follow through.

The diesel plan is disrespectful to our Pan Am guests and more so to Ontarians. We should be showing how well and intelligently we do things here—how we plan for the future. We should be setting an example for the Americas and the world. Instead, we are insulting everyone by choosing to live in the past. And there are options. Designated busways/lanes for the duration of the games could easily transport athletes, guests, visitors, and others between the airport and various destinations. Has your government considered this option? The GO system itself could be used to greater effect if shuttle buses travelled from the airport to nearby train stations.

Third, you have made many claims of building a green economy in Ontario and generally advancing a green agenda. How can anyone trust such claims when you insist on moving ahead with such an environmentally unsound project? This is dishonest, and I cannot understand it, especially when the choice is so easy. Don’t let your past and ongoing investments and initiatives in the environment be overshadowed by this pointless move.

Finally, know that this is an election issue, and it is one that could cost you and your party their leadership. You must know at this point that your past accomplishments mean very little when facing opponents that are dedicated to change and an electorate that sees your government as complacent. Proponents of rail electrification are united and their numbers are growing. They are vocal and they are right and they will only support candidates who support electrification.

I believe that you, too, know electrification is right, and I suspect you would prefer to do it right the first time. If you think your hands are tied by the Pan-Am Games or finances or anything else, know you have options. Consult the people of Ontario, in whom you have said you believe so strongly, and they will give you solutions. You have the power and you can make the Georgetown rail corridor electrification happen, as you have with numerous other worthwhile causes over your tenure as premier. You can be the person who finally brought Ontario’s rail system into the modern era. Or you can be the premier who poisoned thousands of Ontarians for no good reason.

Please make the right choice.

Thank you very much,

Adam Gorley
Read on..!
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