Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Toronto Election Turnout 2006

The Globe and Mail is reporting 41.1% turnout for this election, up from previous years. I suggest that reporters, when faced with surprising numbers, need to ask some questions rather than just accepting things at face value.

For a comparison, here are the number of votes cast in all of the four mayoral elections since Toronto amalgamation.


Mel Lastman: 383,848
Barbara Hall: 346,452

(Total: 749,897)


Mel Lastman: 483,277
Tooker Gomberg: 51,111
Enza Anderson: 13,595

(Total: 604,394)


David Miller: 299,385
John Tory: 263,189
Barbara Hall: 63,751
John Nunziata: 36,021

(Total: 692,085)


David Miller: 332,969
Jane Pitfield: 188,932

(Total: 584,484)

This is clearly the lowest total of any year, and of course there have been population increases.

If the "turnout" seems to be high, then the count of eligible voters is probably way off.

Miller, McGuinty and the Municipal Fiscal Imbalance

David Miller was reelected yesterday and in his acceptance speech he reiterated his plan to go after the other levels of government for a share of the sales tax.

I do support the notion of municipalities having access to more mature forms of taxation. If we are ever going to be able to have municipalities in control of their own destiny, they will need sources of revenue that grow with the economy. Property tax is a weak form of tax and not suitable for serious demands... especially demands of the sort downloaded by Mike Harris and retained by Dalton McGuinty.

However, the early response to Miller's plan makes me laugh. In the Toronto Star:

Premier Dalton McGuinty says he'll stand with Toronto as it seeks a portion of federal tax revenue, but the city shouldn't expect to get any provincial tax money.

"I'd love to be in a position to be able to dole out additional revenues to our municipal partners, but I'm not," McGuinty told reporters yesterday when asked about Mayor David Miller's election night vow.

Within minutes of his landslide victory last night, Miller said he'd fight Queen's Park and Ottawa to get Toronto the money it needs to succeed.

The mayor wants 1 per cent of either the provincial sales tax or federal GST generated in Toronto, which is worth about $450 million a year.

"What we can do is stand shoulder-to-shoulder- not just our municipal partners but the business community and the social sector as well - as we approach the federal government and continue to make our case," McGuinty said.

Well, if Dalton McGuinty feels that way, the solution is simple.

The federal government has already relinquished 1% of sales tax room and has plans to vacate another 1%. If Ontario had a harmonized sales tax, it could easily keep that 1% in place and have it directed to the municipality in which it was collected.

Easy to imagine, but it's not going to happen easily, any more than Quebec easily solved their fiscal imbalance by doing the same thing when Harper's first GST cut came around. This is an issue where you really can't believe what the politicians say, especially when those politicians are provincial premiers.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Quick Hits, Volume LIV: Toronto Election Day 2006

I've obviously been involved slightly less this time around! Congratulations to all the other great blogs out there that tried to make something of this election.

Just a few comments from me:

  • From the look of today's Toronto Sun cover, all I can think is that with friends like this, Jane Pitfield doesn't need enemies!

  • Various election predictions are here. Hmmm... I'll make it Miller 68, Pitfield, 25, LeDrew 1-2, No other with over 1%. I don't know who will win the contentious wards, but Diane Alexopolous has a chance to pull an upset over Case Ootes in Ward 29. (Well, that's just based on lawn signs, which isn't the most trustworthy guide.)

  • I am pleased, however, that most predictors see Joe Mihevc winning decisively.

  • Jane Pitfield's platform seemed, at least in part, based on the notion that downtown is in decline. However, everything I have been reading during this campaign has left me more convinced that it is the outer 416 where we need to be focusing our attention. The core is doing okay. Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke, etc., are suffering from job sprawl, gridlock with poor transit, commercial tax rates that put them at a disadvantage compared to their neighbours just across the street, social inequality and a relative lack of community services.

  • Today's Globe and Mail suggests that new rules might enable the Mayor to get more done. I hope so. But I've always felt that a great deal of what affects Toronto is still decided at Queen's Park. The election campaign that can really affect this city is still to come next year.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Where are all the federalists?

Yesterday, Michael Ignatieff had an essay in the Globe and Mail (Google backdoor) that confirmed his Quebec-as-nation position. This position has been criticized in many places, including a letter to the Globe's editor today from Ramsay Cook:

Is Michael Ignatieff confused or obfuscating? He says Quebeckers form a nation "with a language, history, culture and territory that marks them out as a separate people." That describes an "ethnic nation" to which only the majority of Quebeckers belong. Cree, Inuit, allophones and anglophones have different languages, cultures and, to some extent, histories. And "territory" has its problems.

But Mr. Ignatieff insists that "Quebec is a civic nation, not an ethnic nation." What about his phrase "blood and belonging," which supposedly differentiated ethnic (language, culture, history) from civic (common civic values) nations? There are many more alligators in this swamp where Mr. Ignatieff wants to lead us.

Meanwhile, Stephen Harper proposes to amend the constitution to prevent the federal government from intervening on provincial issues such as health, education, etc.. A commenter on Andrew Coyne's blog explains...

I've just been reading Paul Wells' new book (Right Side Up) and so am reminded of Harper's Alberta "firewall" history. This new move makes me wonder if he isn't well aware how he might be pushing our federation into a more devolved association of provinces more like the model of American states.

The funny thing about walls, even firewalls, is that they can be constructed from either side of it. Perhaps Harper has more in common with the BQ than we had thought. Run for federal office even though you don't really believe in federalism because dismantling the system from within is easier to do.

Of course, the NDP is no real friend of a federalist position given Jack Layton's attack on the Clarity Act. So... what choices do real federalists have?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tory Income Trust Flip-Flop is Fine

I've read in several places that the Tories' flip-flop on the income trust file is going to cost them the election. Hardly. They still may well lose the next round, but not because of this. How many voters are really going to care?

I generally find it hard to get upset when a government breaks a bad promise. Sure, false promises should be punished. But making the right decisions tends to soften me up.

In this case, the income trust loophole needed to be fixed and recent events were making that more clear. Waiting for an election to review their policy would have been irresponsible when action was required now.

Their decision appears abrupt, but that's for the best, too. Hints, leaks or warnings would have simply given some investors an advantage.

Now, that's not to say that the Tories don't deserve criticism for their switch. But the criticism they deserve is for all the grief they laid on the Liberals for a similar policy not that long ago. Still, it is better to switch now than to not act simply for consistency's sake.