Sunday, September 07, 2008

Election Called

I probably won't be blogging this one, seeing as I haven't been blogging at all in the past couple years and am mostly out of the loop about which blogs are even worth reading these days beyond a few.

However, I thought it might be worth making a few points...

The issue of Stephen Harper violating the spirit of his own election scheduling law isn't going to get very far. The opposition needs to welcome the election if they want to form the government. Personally, I never liked fixed election dates, but I do see it as another example of the Conservatives' holier-than-thou approach in opposition being pretty close to hipocracy.

On the bigger question of what to expect, people seem reasonably satisfied so that looks good for Harper. But anything can happen. The factors that are going to matter are:

-How will Dion come across? Can he connect?

-Which way will the wild card, Quebec, turn?

-What positioning will the Liberals take and how will it fly?

If I was working for Dion, I'd advise him to run on the economy and suggest that Harper is less trustworthy when it comes to fiscal management and has deficits on the way. The economic prognosis is quite different in different parts of the country and the new Environics poll shows people are feeling it. Harper hasn't played nice with Ontario, so Dion's chances depend on what he can do with that.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Comments on the 2007 Ontario Election

Several times during the election campaign, I was tempted to break my de facto retirement and make a comment or two on this blog. But... I wasn't tempted enough since this election was over before it really began.

John Tory is now finished, and before more people comment on what a nice guy he is and what a shame it is that he nuked his campaign with a single moronic issue, we need to recognize a pattern in his behaviour. While he likes to play the nice-guy red tory role, he has a habit of taking this sort of turn.

I group his religious schools wedge issue promise with his making-fun-of-Chretien's-face ad for Kim Cambell. In both cases he was making a (mis)calculated move to win votes by polarizing voters. And both times he should have known that Canadians would reject him solidly.

I don't know if he has a bad ear for Conservative Party advisors, or if he isn't the nice guy he appears to be. In any case, his showing this time suggests he's not the leader many (including myself) thought he could be. The schools issue was not a small thing. To make a mistake like this is to be utterly out of touch.

Now that he has lost his seat and is most likely through with politics, he has handed Dalton McGuinty a double victory. Not only will Dalt have 4 more years in power, he already has a promising hope for a third majority in 2011. If he can continue his basically competent management he will have the lead over whichever unknown the PCs select as new leader.

The biggest surprise for me was the showing of the Green Party. Approximately 8% of the vote shows these guys have really arrived as a mainstream party. Certainly some of these votes were just protest votes by people who didn't feel comfortable with the other alternatives. On the other hand, it's probable there are others who would have been more likely to vote Green if they thought the party could win (or if we have proportional representation).

Speaking of PR, I have mixed feelings about the solid defeat of the MMP referendum tonight. At the last minute, I changed my mind and voted for it (swayed in part by Spacing's editorial). But it was a system with flaws and (more importantly) was a solution for a problem that most voters didn't really feel was that serious or important. So, it is done and election reform in Ontario is off the table for a while. It's going to get complicated if we have four parties that can break into double digits.

We now face four more years of Dalton McGuinty. The past four, I felt, were basically competent management but with mediocre leadership on some critical issues. Hopefully he can do better in his second term.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Toronto's New Pay-As-You-Throw Plan for Garbage

This blog has been pretty much dead for the past 15+ months. Sometimes I regret that. But I can't really imagine my life changing enough to get me back to continuous blogging. Still, occasionally something interesting comes up and I feel like writing a quick note. It won't be very often, so I suggest subscribing to an RSS feed and forgeting about it. (I use Bloglines.)

Anyway, I noted an article in the Globe and Mail today about Toronto's proposed new fee structure for garbage. Basically the plan is to:
  1. Remove waste management from the property tax system
  2. Give you a special City of Toronto garbage can that will be the only can you're allowed to use
  3. Charge you an amount dictated by the size of can that you select

The stated benefit is that this will encourage residents to recycle more or pay the consequences. The other significant benefit that will come once the province allows it is that people living in homes downtown won't have to pay more to have their garbage removed just because their property value is higher.

In the Globe article, City Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong is quoted complaining about the new rules. It's a bit strange to me, because critics on the right frequently claim to want to run government services more like "business", and that's exactly what this is.

The question I am left wondering about is whether people can opt out entirely. The smallest can they plan to offer is $209 per year for 75 litres (picked up every second week). What if I produce less garbage than that? What if I (or a neighbourhood cooperative) can responsibly dispose of our garbage for less than that price? Allowing people to opt out could really produce some interesting changes.

The other question I'm wondering about is whether they will step up enforcement of dumping bylaws.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Transit City

Today's announcement of the TTC's Transit City plans was a complete and happy surprise to me.

After years of seeing little good news and little inspiration on the transit front, this concept was remarkably right. Unlike the recent Vaughan subway announcement, this plan uses funds efficiently and brings transit to the areas where we need to be driving growth.

I recommend reading Steve Munro's comment today to get a feel for how surprisingly good this plan is.

I have to wonder how this came about and to what degree the new City of Toronto Act, the new leadership at the TTC, and the influence of bloggers (led by Spacing) played roles. (On that last point, note the Spacing-style buttons that decorate the Transit City website.)

If there was anything I'd like to add to the design, it would be connecting the Jane and (especially) Don Mills routes to downtown or Union Station.

Anyway, $6-billion over 14 years is not a crazy expense. We can do this if we put our minds to it. And our city needs it so that we can grow, and so that we can face our current transportation challenges.

(Sorry for the lack of links in this post. I couldn't get to work today and had to post by email.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Census 2006: Toronto City Slow Growth

The 2006 Canadian census results are coming out, and there is lots of interesting data to look at.

One thing I've noticed is this:

  • Toronto CMA growth (2001-2006): 430,252
  • Toronto City growth (2001-2006): 21,787
Over the years, I've spent a lot of time arguing on this blog that, for Toronto's economic and environmental health, it should be a city policy to compete for and win the lion's share of new growth coming to the region.

Well, in the past 5 years the city proper has received only 5% of Greater Toronto's net population growth.

I don't have access to (or don't know how to find) the data that will tell me more specifically where the changes have been. But, given the condo developments in the core, I imagine that downtown has actually grown by more than 20k and we've seen decreasing populations in Scarborough and the other inner suburbs.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Rush-hour TTC Jams

For almost the entire time I've lived in Toronto, I've had the benefit of being able to walk to work. I've used the TTC a lot, but apparently not much during rush hour. In the past month, however, I've had do go downtown for 9am on several occasions and find the conditions to be awful.

By the time the train arrives at my Danforth-line home station it is frequently already crammed beyond comfort. It's not just standing-room only. It's more like contortionists only. Then, when you make the change at Yonge -- after slowing making your way upstairs -- you face the same situation on the southbound trains.

Obviously many people know this already, as these trains are collectively filled by tens of thousands of daily commuters. So, this post isn't news to them.

I simply want to make the point that this overloading is one of the biggest factors preventing new riders from joining the system. It also places a limit on the economic development downtown. Transit strategies that keep adding new capacity in the outer areas therefore add to this problem at the same time that they are limited by the bottleneck. Meanwhile, the TTC and our governments don't seem to think this is a priority problem.

My favourite solution, a downtown relief subway line from Pape to Dundas West via Union Station, is not likely affordable anytime soon. (Although, I would argue that it seems a better investment for the city than the York University extension.)

There are other, smaller things that can help. Among these I'd include better and better-integrated GO Train service for the outer 416, alternative routes like the proposed Don Mills Bus Rapid Transit, and generally better-planned and less stingy surface routes like the Queen Streetcar. For more informed discussion of these and related issues I refer you to Steve Munro's blog.

In the meantime, daily commuters have my sympathies.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dion on Mansbridge

I just finished watching Stephane Dion being interviewed on The National (or whatever Peter Mansbridge's show is called these days). I thought he did a very good job.

Just a few comments...

In the opening part about the environment, Stephane Dion sounds greener than any major politician I have seen in Canada or the United States at any level of government. It was inspiring and almost shocking to see. He talked about implementing Kyoto and fought back against those who say his government acheived nothing on climate change. But I find his message on sustainable development to be more notable. He's not backing down from calling it the issue of the century.

On some issues I do feel that Dion has been a bit hyperbolic in his criticism of Stephen Harper. While there have been failings, and while Dion needs to show that he can produce notably better results, it doesn't help his credibility to imply that on every issue Stephen Harper is an outrage. On Afghanistan, for example, I don't know that what Harper has done is dramatically different from what the Liberals would do. While it may be accurate to group Harper with the "neoconservatives", does it really apply in this case?

I liked how Dion handled the dual citizenship issue in his discussion with Mansbridge. First, he explained that it is merely something with emotional value due to his relationship with his mother. But, he also said that if it becomes a barrier for Canadians he will drop it. While he stressed again his total loyalty to Canada and pointed out past examples such as John Turner's dual Canadian - UK citizenship, he was also sensitive to the fact this may be important to Canadians.

Income Trusts was another of those areas where I feel he ought to leave well enough alone. Yes, there are people who are complaining. Yes, Harper was hypocritical on this issue. But does the current state of affairs need the further interventions Dion was implying? Goodale, McCallum and Brison have made suggestions to Dion, but what problem really exists to be fixed? (I guess that isn't totally a rhetorical question as I haven't followed every aspect of this particular issue.)

Anyway, that was the show and I'm glad I caught it.