Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ontario's Real "Have Not" Status: We "Have Not" A Plan For Economic Success

I'm not that worried about my home province of Ontario being on track for receiving equalization payments in the next two to three years. As I understand the changes to the formula last year and again a few years before that, the "have/have not" status means less than it did a decade ago.

What truly bothers me is the lack of a economic road map to get Ontario back a sure footing.

My big problem is that while the Ontario economy continues to weather serious challenges, the McGuinty government is spending time banning pesticides and implementing smoking bans in cars. In the lead-up to the last provincial election, when people asked me who would win, without hesitation I said McGuinty would win a second term. This was long before the poison pill of faith based funding. I knew the Liberals would win because they hadn't really taken any bold steps and hadn't really done anything to piss people off. They threw money at the unions to buy labour peace, they halted development in the greenbelt around the GTA and they spent more money on health care by raising taxes through a premium.

But that lack of strong action is a double edged sword. They have done very little on the economic front, besides cancelling Conservative business tax cuts and we are now seeing the harsh, depressing results. Other provinces, most notably Newfoundland and Labrador, have been net beneficiaries of skyrocketing oil prices. Ontario has no oil patches to speak of. Instead, Ontario continues to weather the perfect storm of a high dollar, a slow US economy and an over reliance on manufacturing jobs such as auto production.

Many if not all of those factors are really beyond the control of the current provincial government - I don't dispute that. However, this is when true leadership is so crucial and the absence of which right now in Ontario is so stark. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can govern in good economic times. When you are looking at a GDP growth of 2-3% annually, its pretty darn easy to float along, passing legislation that is largely symbolic in nature, but amounts to very little in real terms. When the money is coming in, its easy to spend your four years in power cutting cheques and draping yourself in token gestures.

But as the months pass and the economy continues to weaken, then we will really see what this McGuinty fellow and his team are made of. Given their (in) action thus far, I would suggest they have no clue of how to actually manage the affairs of Canada's most populous province. I suspect their PR flak Warren Kinsella and other hangers on are giving them advice to govern in the Chretien mold: say lots, do little of consequence. These guys are great (apparently) at the spin, the campaigning and the photo ops, not so much on the business of actually being in power. Chretien also governed with a positive economy, a weak opposition, and a largely indifferent public. A charmed life these folks lead.

But, these things change quickly. An economy is a fragile thing, and if weakness is not addressed quickly and firmly, it can often spiral off in unexpected ways. It takes real and competent management to ensure the province continues forward. I believe that when push comes to shove, this Ontario emperor will have no clothes.

Despite the Hysteria...

...the In and Out scandal does not allow parties to spend unlimited funds. Each candidate has their own spending limit. At the end of the day, I think the process could be changed, but there is no way to use unlimited funds to buy the election.

Unless you are Ontario Liberals. Then you have the Working Families Coalition in Ontario with an extra $5 million to spend on attack (issue ads, surely? - ed.) ads.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Office Politics - Transformers Style!

When the "Dinobots" project goes in the toilet, everyone is covering their own asses.

Friday, April 25, 2008

In and out (and in and out....): An Update

John Robson of the Ottawa Citizen makes my arguments from the other day with greater eloquence and cites the appropriate sections of the act I was too lazy to look up.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Not As Pictured - In Your Mind

Let's get the homies from the Blogging Tories to weigh in on this: is it a bad sign when you're significant other is attracted to celebrities or certain "types" that look nothing like you? I was thinking about that this morning.

I have a friend who looks like a big-headed and less attractive version of Peter Jennings (RIP). His wifey, a lovely gal, told me a while back that she has a huge thing for the rapper Common. My friend does NOT look like that - in any way shape or form. The only similarity is that that they are both male.

Similarly, my ex-girlfriend was really hot for David Usher of Moist (semi) fame. I do not look like David Usher, I can assure you. I look more like a flabby version of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Luckily (in every sense, but in this case in particular) my lovely wife likes guys a little more similar to me (she has a HUGE thing for Jon Bon Jovi, who... wait a minute... he looks nothing like me either), so I'll skip that thought.

So, I'm wondering: how common is this phenomena? Is this something that happens often within relationships? Does it spell trouble ahead for the couple involved, or is it just a "variety is the spice of life" kind of thing within the mind of the person?

I'm not sure why I wondered about this today (oh, yeah - I was listening to a song by Common), but it is something I have been curious about for some time.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In and Out...

First, for the record, let me state that I find it deplorable that the name given to this perceived scandal does not relate to sex.

Second, I couldn't find anything to disagree with in this article by Chantal Hebert.

Third, it seems that this is blown out of proportion. Political parties are always looking at ways to work within the rules to maximize their spending.

While the "spirit of the law" may have been circumvented, the letter of the law is pretty clear:

1) Transfers from the central party to riding associations are legal
2) Invoicing by the central party for work done on behalf of the riding association is legal
3) Tailoring an advertisement for local production by the local candidate is legal. In fact, at all the training sessions I have been at, we hit the candidates and the campaign managers over the head with the "consistent message" theme.

In 1995, I was responsible for helping 14 ridings during the provincial campaign. This well organized campaign had all the media messaging for the candidates ready to go. A sort of "insert candidates name/photo here" kind of thing. We used the ads in the local media and did relatively well. Back then, it was the central campaign that was strapped for cash, so the local ridings had to pick up the slack to get the message out.

How is this different?

Critics would say it was organized. Well, yes, as a card carrying Tory, I hope to God it was organized. That would be a refreshing change from most of the campaigns I have helped out on since 1995.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ontario's Pesticide Ban: The Triumph Of Junk Science

This morning, the Ontario government announced it would be implmenting a province-wide ban on non-essential cosmetic pesticide use.

I have a fair bit of experience with this particular subject, and I can tell you that this ban is absolute nonsense. I have read many, many studies published by international research bodies over the course of many years and there is ABSOLUTELY NO PROOF that there is a direct link between pesticide use and human health, including cancer. None.

One herbicide in particular, 2-4-D, has been tested for 50 years. Any link to cancer or other disease has never been found. NEVER. Health Canada tests these products frequently and finds them safe (as long as you don't drink them or bathe in them).

This is all being done under the concept of "prudent avoidance", which means "well, we don't know for 100% certain that they are safe (as "safe" can be objectively defined), so we should just not use them at all." I am not surprised the McGuinty Liberals made this a part of their election platform, given how they are trying to present themselves as "green." It doesn't hurt that the provincial Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Sheela Brasur, implemented the Toronto ban which got the ball rolling.

So why does this proposed ban bother me? A couple of reasons:

First, the language used in this announcement illustrates that the environmental activists have completely co-opted this initiative. Things like "non-essential use" and "potential toxic effects" and the heavy emphasis on children and cancer are hallmarks of this movement. It is interesting to note that they never say it is actually harmful - they say "the potential toxic effects of pesticides." Of course, its not dangerous enough to stop the use on golf courses, which are usually hundreds of acres in size and located near residential development.

Secondly, it is introducing legislation that tells people what they can and can't do on their own private property. That bothers me, especially when there is no actual threat. I'm a big fan of property rights.

Thirdly, this ban is a lot like the climate change debate. In the name of "the environment" and "human safety" government is taking (expensive) steps to do something that will likely have no positive impact on the environment but will cost taxpayers, propoerty owners and business people.

Environmental zealots are using fear and "potential risk" to promote heavy handed public policy options without really having any concrete proof that there is any risk to mitigate.

Think this won't affect you? Then clearly you don't own property. Grubs can lay waste to an entire lawn in weeks. Weeds grow 2.5 times faster than grass. One dandelion can produce millions of spores which can take over an entire lawn very quickly.

I hope you have the time to pour beet juice or vinegar over each weed next summer, or hire a professional to tend to your property, because that's what its going to cost you.

Think of it as McGuinty's "potential risk" tax on your home.

Junk science triumphs once again. Bring on the carbon tax.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Pick-Up Move Fit For A King

He deserves the crown right now just for THIS.

That was a straight-up, ice-cold pimp move.

Prince William is the MAN.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Screw Iwo Jima, Don't You Know There's an Earth Day Coming?

Headline: "Iwo Jima Veterans Blast Time's 'Special Environmental Issue' Cover"
Agreed. While I understand that many in the media and the environmental cult community see this as a war for the future of the earth, I would say this particular image is not something that should be photoshopped. But that's just me.

Memo To John Tory: Want a platform plank? The TTC just gave you one

While the anticipated strike by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Union may not be of interest to our readers outside of the GTA, it is certainly top of mind for those of us who have to live and work in and around Toronto.

The Union has put the public (and of course the media) on notice that if there is no serious progress by 4pm Sunday, the Union will strike as of 4am this Monday. The primary issue is aligning workers' wages with transit employees in cities like Mississuaga.

My annoyance with a union clamouring for higher wages during an economic slowdown in this province aside, this situation presents a great opportunity for John Tory to show some leadership and get some much needed attention. Thus far, John has echoed the Premier's sentiments in the press, which is basically to encourage both sides to step up and come to an agreement. His quote this morning:
"Sit at the table, please don't get up, please have as much coffee and bad
sandwiches in the room as you need to keep you going until you arrive at a
settlement. There's always a settlement possible, that's reasonable.
You just gotta keep at it until there is one."

Alrighty. Not exactly inspiring you to become a solder in the Tory army, but OK. If I were advising him, I would use this as an opportunity to show that his mind is firmly focused on the plight of taxpayers, commuters and folks to use the TTC (and public transit each day). This is a great battle to weigh in on: this strike will hurt lower and middle class folks first and hardest. The strike is a minor annoyance if you have a car or can work from home. But what if you don't and you can't?

Secondly, even the Union themselves know they will be public enemy numero uno the second their workers hit the bricks. They know that the public at large will not tolerate listening to TTC workers - the same folk who were pictured on the front of the Toronto Sun bragging that they earned over $100,000 by working crazy overtime - talk about how "second class" they are while their lives are thrown upside down.

John Tory can use this as an opportunity to outline what he would do if he were Premier in this situation. John Tory should state that if he was in charge, he would:
  1. Immediately bring the TTC under provincial jurisdiction, through the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority);
  2. Declare public transit an essential service and exempt from strike action by workers; and
  3. Ensure these kinds of salary disputes can and will be settled through binding arbitration an willnot interfere with our competitiveness or disrupt the lives of people in Toronto and the GTA.
He can couch this not in terms on union bashing, which is not his racket, but in terms of protecting one of the most important pieces of the Ontario (nay, Canadian) economy. He could state that the work that the TTC union does is so important that it is something, in his judgement, he thinks should be on par with firefighters, EMS and the police.

He could also state that the TTC itself is the lynchpin of the entire GTA public transportation network and is of a provincial interest, which is why it should be under a strengthened agency like the GTTA. If we are serious about tackling gridlock to remain competitive and allow Ontarians more time with their families rather than living in their cars, sez John, it begins and ends with the TTC. As such, he will work with the City of Toronto to transition operational responsibility from the city to the province immediately upon taking office.

I believe that gridlock is an immense irritant to voters, and its only going to get worse over the next 10 years. The McGuinty government has begun a plan to create a province wide strategy to get people moving in the GTA. And while I am doubtful that there are real solutions at this point, at least its on the Liberal radar screen. Tory needs to take the initative back.

If he were to do this, he would show he is all about making decisions that make people lives easier, while at the same time he would be relieving the City of Toronto of a financial obligation that they have repeatedly stated is a burden on their budget.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

CHTV: GO-ing Nowhere

Go easy, its our first time.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Rethinking Kyoto? Kyoto should be completely gassed

I'm always interested in the online presence of environmental activists. For a while now, I've noticed that every time Q or I write about climate change, global warming or Kyoto, someone comes out of nowhere and attempts to refute our thoughts or opinions.

The latest comes from new visitor Mound of Sound, who dismissed Q's view that without China as a signatory, Kyoto is essentially useless. Here is the comment from Mound:

"You also misunderstand Kyoto. It was never intended to fix global warming, merely to get the developed industrialized world committed to taking the first concrete steps to curbing emissions."

Wow. There is so much that is wrong with that statement, but it is quite insightful in giving us a view on where the so-called "green" movement is going. You know that people are finally waking up to the huge costs and very small benefits of Kyoto when they are saying that Kyoto was "never intended to fix global warming."

Further, that statement is intellectually dishonest. For years, Kyoto has been sold to the west precisely as one big solution to ending global warming. While I agree wholeheartedly that that is not what Kyoto does, it has absolutely been sold that way. Don't believe me? Here's a quote from none other than the sainted Internet-inventor Al Gore, in a July 1, 2007 editorial in the NY Times:

"To this end, we should demand that the United States join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy Earth."

Yeah, Mound - with quotes like that, no one could EVER think that Kyoto means the end to global warming. What Al MEANT to say was that it was "merely a first step." Guess its all about the fine print.

Secondly, I give Mound his due on one thing: Kyoto definitely won't stop climate change. In fact, many economic models predict thatKyoto will have virtually no effect on global temperature. If we were to fully implement Kyoto (and that means, the US as well) over the next century (which, as people like Mound know that it will be harder and harder as the years go by), the global temperature would only be approximately 0.1 degrees F cooler by 2050. By the year 2100, there would only be a decrease of 0.3 degrees F. It is important to note that these figures come from the IPCC's foremost modelers.

So, given that Kyoto will essentially do nothing to halt global warming, why on earth would anyone sign up for it? Symbolism? Why would the West handcuff itself to the tune of $5 to $10 TRILLION in order to allow China, Russia and other developing or transitory economies from polluting essentially at will? Q is right: China is key. That nation is building two medium-sized coal plants a week. They will invest $128 billion in coal production between 2007 and 2020. Without them, we might as well shooting ice cubes into the atmosphere.

Dumb idea? No, Kyoto is the dumbest response to climate change going. It does nothing, but has an immense cost. But the fascist nature of the current environmental movement does not allow discussion, especially dissent. As we keep hearing, time and again "the debate is over." No, folks, it isn't. Its just beginning.

Those in the "green community" have long wanted environmental issues to be at the forefront of the agenda. Now that it is, they want it to be on their terms - with no discussion on the validity of their arguments or their data. They just want all of the unenlightened to put up, shut up and do what they say. Namely, spend billions of public and corporate dollars on phantom programs that do nothing to advance the goals of reversing climate change.

Well, guess what? Now that the world is paying attention to your issues, they are calling you out on your assumptions and recommendations. After all, as you keep telling us, there's lots at stake right now. Did you actually think you'd be getting a blank cheque?

Kyoto is a very expensive sham, which targets western "eco-guilt" just like carbon trading, offset and other stupid programs that allow people to spend money to keep doing what they are doing.

I have always believed that the faster a trend comes onto the scene, the faster it burns out. Everything right now is green, green, green. Its all just another fad. I just hope, like the Atkins diet, that this new fad will soon crest and fade away. Then we can have a real discussion on what to do, instead of listening to garbage about ethanol production and McDonald's new "carbon neutral sandwich."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Tom Lukiwski Should Resign....

For EVER looking this good:

Larry Dallas (Three's Company)

+ Ricky (Trailer Park Boys)

= Tom Lukiwski (Awesome!)

I'm still just drinking it all in. That Tommy Boy is looking like One! Smooth! Operator! The Pimp of the Praries! The big easy from Esterhazy!

I know I'm a little late to the dance, but I had to comment on this splendid piece of Saskatchewan fashion and social commentary.

A CH tip of the hat to you, Tom.

A true beacon of polyester/cotton blends in this cold, cruel world.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Rethinking Kyoto

I find myself sitting in a restaurant in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, in China.

I have been here the last week and it has been an eye opening experience.

This one city has a population of 9 million. Almost the entire population of Ontario (give or take a million).

The smog here is unbelievable, and this is considered an administrative centre, not an industrial centre.

When people tell me that Kyoto will make a difference but China is not involved, you have to see it here to understand what a crock the Kyoto protocols are.

Oh, and as an aside, planting trees simple changes one greenhouse gas (Carbon Dioxide) for another (Water vapour).

But the is just basic biochemistry. Hard to believe that should be considered.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Cool.. The Incredible Hulk Trashes Yonge Street

Sweet. It comes up at the end. He runs right past the Zanzibar!

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