Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is Rob Ford a lame duck?

After several high profile defeats, it seems that 2012 will be a very bad year for Rob Ford. Since I voted for Miller twice, a lot of my friends (ok fine, almost all of my friends) have a hard time understanding my continued support. I voted for him because he was the only candidate with serious fiscally conservative policies. I was willing to overlook his numerous (and highly publicized) personal flaws. My preferred candidate (Rocco Rossi) didn’t gain any traction with the public, so the only other options were George Smitherman (Mr. e-Health and now ORNGE!) and Joe Pantalone (a good guy, but essentially Miller 2.0). That being said, here’s my review of Ford's accomplishments and failures.

The 2012 budget delivered layoffs, funding cuts, service cuts, a property tax increase, and a TTC fare hike.  Ford's budget was amended by Council to use $15 Million of the $154 Million surplus to undo some of the more controversial cuts.  I think this was a wise move, and Ford should thank Josh Colle for pulling it off.  He still delivered a smaller budget than last year, which is a huge feat, and he no longer has to deal with the fallout from Library and TTC cuts.  He should have negotiated this deal behind the scenes, which would have saved him from embarrassment.  This was one of many unnecessary self-inflicted wounds.

City Council
Councillors’ office budgets were cut from $50,000 to $30,000. Their free metropasses and free lunches are gone. He also promised to cut the size of council in half, but this is something determined by the province, not the city. I don’t see it happening.

Ford's bike plan is an anathema to his 'war on the car' base, not good enough for for the TCU types, but great for people like me.  Bike lanes on Jarvis were removed; they will be replaced by new lanes on Sherbourne.  Toronto may even get its first separated bike lanes.  There are also several off-road routes in the works.

Ford promised he’d tackle this issue, but there’s been no action on this file yet.

Low Income Housing
After the Auditor General's shocking findings, Ford managed to replace the TCHC board.  He wants to sell off 675 standalone TCHC properties to generate $222 Million for multi-unit TCHC properties.  That still leaves a $528 million repair shortfall.  He was forced to compromise on the issue recently.  I'm optimistic about the new board, but I don't see much happening to address the repair backlog.

Ford's stance on the G20 shenanigans is utterly depressing.  He also backed down from a cut to the most bloated city budget of all.  I didn't expect much from him in this area, but I'm still disappointed.
Side note: I have my issues with the Star, but their investigative reporting on the G20 was fantastic.

The Vehicle Registration Tax is gone as promised, but the Land Transfer Tax still remains. I don’t see this one being repealed anytime soon, if ever. Property taxes were frozen for 2011 but were hiked 3% for 2012.

The province made the TTC an essential service, preventing any future strikes.  Ford scrapped Transit City as promised and made a new deal with the Premier.  Then everything went wrong, and Transit City was resurrected.  I'll give him points for negotiating a new deal with the Premier, but he should have ensured he had enough votes in Council to get it passed.  When it was clear his plan would be defeated, he should have accepted the compromise offered by Stintz and Matlow.  When his plan was defeated, he should have humbly accepted his fate instead of calling Council 'irrelevant.'  Finally, he shouldn't have fired Gary Webster now.  He should either have done it on day 1 to install a manager who would carry out his vision, or he should've waited until the political heat subsided.  Instead he's galvanized the left and pissed off the swing votes he needs on Council.  This is yet another crisis that could have been easily avoided.

This is one area where the mayor has delivered, although I give most of the credit to Doug Holyday's negotiation skills.  The Jobs for Life clause has been neutered, management has more control over scheduling, the wage hike is minimal, and Paramedics are now an essential service.  I hope to see more of the same results with the remaining union deals being negotiated now.

After decades of political wrangling, Waterfront Toronto has a full fledged plan, some amazing designs, is proceeding with environmental assessments, and has even completed some projects. Then Doug Ford decided he had a better plan, and proceeded to make a mess of things and embarrass the mayor. What an utter waste of time, effort, and most importantly, political capital.  I was under the impression that Doug would provide adult supervision to the more bombastic younger brother, but that's obviously not the case.

Ford has built up an impressive win list, but his most recent (and in my opinion, most impressive) win in the union deal is not getting any play in the media.  This is his fault, because he continues to shoot himself in the foot.  He should immediately make nice with council to ensure he doesn't actually become a lame duck.  Lefties may be celebrating too early though, since he will be mayor for another 3 years.  He's been consistently underestimated by his opponents.  He was laughed at when he criticized Council's expenses in his early days as a councillor, he was dismissed when he announced his candidacy for mayor, and it was assumed he'd get nothing done once he won the election.  He's always defied the odds, and may do so again.  

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ford vs Stintz in the next great Transit Battle of TO

Toronto's transit plans have a very long and complicated history.  Here's what happened recently:
-After taking office, Rob Ford cancelled David Miller's Transit City plan.
-In March 2011, the Mayor signed a 'Memorandum of Understanding' (MoU) with Metrolinx, with the agency agreeing to spend $8.4 billion on the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT.  Let's call it the Ford plan.  This plan has not been brought to a vote before City Council yet.  The Mayor was planning to hold the vote in April.
-Several councillors (including TTC Chair Karen Stintz) have been working to get this line built according to its Transit City specs. Let's call this the Transit City plan.  We are only talking about Eglinton here, not the rest of Transit City.
-On January 23, Karen Stintz publicly supported the Transit City plan, making the point that it will save money that can be diverted to other projects such as the Sheppard Subway.
-On January 31, Metrolinx sent a letter to the city asking Council to approve the Ford plan to ensure that the City is bound by it.
-On January 31 (same day as the letter), the TTC voted to shelve a staff report on the pros and cons of the Ford plan.  Stintz was outvoted by the Mayor's allies, and this was largely seen as punishment for her recent public support for the Transit City plan.
-On February 6, Karen Stintz submitted a signed petition from 24 Councillors (including herself) to the City Clerk calling a Special Meeting on February 8.
-On the same day, Stintz replied to Metrolinx's letter stating that the Special Meeting will "reaffirm the November, 2009, Memorandum of Agreement ("MoA") between Metrolinx, the Toronto Transit Commission, and the City of Toronto."  This 'MoA' would be the Transit City plan.

Considering the fact that 24/44 Councillors already sided with Stintz, Ford will probably lose this vote.  There will be a lot of hoopla over this, and a lot of lefties will probably jizz their pants.  Just kidding (not really).

Metrolinx has stated that it wants Council and the Mayor to agree on one plan, which will not happen.  It is ultimately their decision which line gets built.  There are four possibilities:
1 - Proceed with the Transit City plan, and use the $2 Billion savings as the City wants.
2 - Proceed with the Transit City plan, but withhold the $2 Billion in savings.
3 - Proceed with the Ford plan.
4 - Decide to build nothing since Council and the Mayor can't agree on a plan.

I have no idea what they're thinking, but the Province is in cost cutting mode so I think #2 is likely and #4 is possible.  Metrolinx has stated that sticking to the Transit City plan will save $2 Billion from the $8.4 Billion budget, but they have also stated that it's "too early" to say whether the money will be shifted to the Sheppard project.  Remember, the Province has broken its transit funding promises in the past.

Now, let's take a look at the two plans.  Both sides have misrepresented their opponent's plans (quite egregiously on some occasions).  Here's what I know:

Scope - There is only one line along Eglinton.  There is nothing else.  Transit City proponents keep talking about the Sheppard, Finch, and other LRT lines as if they are a part of this $8.4 Billion plan.  They are not.  Ford proponents keep talking about the Sheppard subway extension in the same manner, but there is no money for it.

Route - Both plans will follow the exact same route.  The Eglinton line will be built from Black Creek creek drive to Scarborough Town Centre.  The existing Scarborough RT will be replaced by this line, which will continue its run on the already-built RT line.  Therefore, both plans will have one continuous line along Eglinton Ave to Scarborough Town Centre to McCowan.

Surface vs Underground - The main difference between the lines is Transit City's surface component and lower cost. Transit City's line will run underground from Black Creek to Laird, then above ground until Kennedy.  Ford's line will run be fully underground.

Cost - The Transit City line will cost $2 Billion less due to the surface component.  Stintz and co. want to divert that money to other projects, but that will not necessarily happen.

Speed and Reliability - The Ford line will cut travel time by 25% since it will not encounter traffic lights. It will also be more reliable for the same reason.

Ridership and Capacity - The Ford line will have double the peak ridership and a higher capacity.

Automation - The Ford line will be driverless, the Transit City line will require drivers.

LRT vs Subway - Both plans will use LRT.  A proper subway is categorized as Rapid Transit (RT), which we are not getting under any plan.  Light Rapid Transit (LRT) is simply the 'lighter' version of Subways.  Ford supporters are misleading you when they present this as a Streetcar vs Subway debate, because it is not.  According to the Toronto Environmental Alliance, LRTs run at an average of 27 km/h and Subways run at an average of 32 km/h.  But, when an LRT is underground, it runs at subway-like speeds.  So, the Transit City plan gets us LRT that is both underground (faster) and above ground (slower).  The Ford plan gets us LRT underground (faster) only.  You could get away with calling this a Subway since it runs underground at similar speeds, even though it does not have the higher capacity and higher speed.

Now, for politics.  I wanted to see a map mashup with the city's Wards and the LRT but I couldn't find one.  So I decided to make one myself.  The Star published a handy article tracking support for both plans.

The LRT line cuts through 11 wards.  I've marked the Ford supporters in Blue, the Stintz supporters in Red, and the Undecided/Unknowns in White.  The Underground portion of the new line is in Blue, and the surface portion is in Red.

12 - Frank Di Giorgio - Ford
17 - Cesar Palacio - Unknown
15 - Josh Colle - Stintz
16 - Karen Stintz - Stintz
21 - Joe Mihevc - Stintz
22 - Josh Matlow - Stintz
25 - Jaye Robinson - Undecided
26 - John Parker - Stintz
34 - Denzil Minnan-Wong - Undecided
35 - Michelle Berardinetti - Undecided
37 - Michael Thompson - Undecided

Underground - Giorgio, Palacio, Colle, Stintz, Mihevc, and Matlow's constituents will get the underground LRT one way or another.  From this group, Giorgio is the only confirmed supporter of the Ford plan.  Colle/Stintz/Mihevc/Matlow are willing to screw over the wards to their East by sticking them with surface LRT (while their own constituents are guaranteed underground LRT).  Palacio is undecided, but he tends to vote with Ford.

Surface - Robinson, Parker, Minnan-Wong, Berardinetti, and Thompson's wards are all in the potential surface LRT zone.  All but Parker are undecided.   I don't see how they vote for the Stintz plan, since all of them vote with Ford more than 70% of the time and their constituents will probably want the faster underground LRT.  John Parker's case is interesting, since he votes with Ford very often, and his ward is in the surface zone.  Yet he is on record having called the Ford plan 'goofy.'  I wonder if his constituents agree.

To sum it up: The Transit City line will cost less, but will also be slower, with lower ridership, lower capacity, lower reliability.  It will also require unionized TTC Drivers.  But, it may get us an extra $2 Billion for the Sheppard subway extension.  The Ford line will cost $2 Billion more, but that money will get us faster trains, higher ridership, higher capacity, higher reliability, and automation.  These are facts, not opinions.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Foreign Corporation interferes in Parks Canada proposal!

A friend of mine recently shared this from, an American advocacy group that is involved in politics in several countries.  I'd originally heard of these guys during the Sun News licensing saga (somehow the country survived, whew).  

So it seems the Harperites are going to privatize a chunk of Jasper National Park in Alberta by selling it to an American company:
"In days, the Harper Government could privatise a section of Jasper National Park and let an American-owned company blast a 300m metal walkway into our World Heritage mountains -- but Jasper's Superintendent has the power to stop them.
The plan would not only spur development, but would give an American company the right to charge each of us for entry into parts of Jasper park. Greg Fenton, a local Jasperite, has the ability to stop the privatisation of the park he grew up in and loves -- but the company's lobbying effort means he will face pressure to sell out this natural wonder. Let's send him a tidal wave of support and give him the strength he needs to stand up to corporate power and save our Rocky Mountain sanctuary. 
Click to ensure our parks stay in public hands -- sign the petition calling on Fenton to save Jasper National Park before it's too late."
Naturally, I was alarmed.  I found the Evil American Company's website for the proposed development, and it seems Avaaz wasn't being entirely honest.  The proposal would create a skywalk of sorts, hanging over a valley, with a glass floor letting you look down into the value.  This actually sounds, and looks, really cool.

Then I found my way to Parks Canada's page on the development. Although they don't mention Avaaz, it seems to be a point by point rebuttal of Avaaz's claims.  Turns out the park will not be privatized, it will remain firmly in public hands.  Brewster Travel will not control who gets into the park, Parks Canada will.  

Avaaz supports some great causes like Arab democracy and gay rights.  I just don't get why they waste their time with stupid ones.

Parks Canada says it best:  "National parks are protected for – not from – Canadians."

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ontario Election 2011 - Comparing the Liberal, Progressive Conservative, NDP, and Green Platforms

Top 5 reasons to vote for the Liberals
1 – Education - A bevy of accomplishments in this area. Higher test scores, higher high-school graduation rate, lower class sizes, more schools built, full day kindergarten, etc. Future promises include 3 new undergrad campuses, increased tuition grants, more full-day kindergarten spaces.

2 – Business Tax Cuts - Cuts in Corporate Income Tax and Small Business Income Tax have helped create jobs. Further cuts promised.

3 – HST – It was a necessary change and will create a lot of jobs. They bungled the execution, which is why it’s more unpopular than it should be.

4 – Families – New caregiver leave program.

5 – Transportation – Full day GO train service, money back guarantee for GO train delays.

Top 5 reasons to vote against the Liberals
1 – Taxes – Health Tax, Eco Fee, rise in PST (hidden within HST). They’re promising no new taxes (again).

2 – Corruption – It started with $30 Million in grants to Liberal-friendly groups, got bigger with the OLGC scandal and finally exploded with the eHealth scandal.

3 - Caledonia – They abandoned the people of this town to lawless thugs by ordering the OPP to stand down. An absolute, utter embarrassment and the single biggest reason why McG is not fit for the Premier’s office.

4 - Energy - Billions of dollars going to Solar, Wind, and other renewables which will generate very little usable energy. The Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program has us buying renewable energy at significantly higher rates. Hydro rates increased sharply under the Liberals, and will continue to rise.

5 – Debt/Spending – Ontario used to owe about $100 Billion when the Liberals took over, we now owe $200 Billion. That’s money that we’ll have to pay back. This is mainly because government spending has increased almost 80% under the Liberals.

Five isn’t enough for this list, so I’ll add some more:

6 - Pollution – They promised to close all coal power plants by 2007, then moved it back to 2009, then again to 2014.

7 - Labour – There haven’t been any big strikes because the unions have been bought off with a lot of (our) money. The dollar figures are staggering.

8 - Premier Dad – They proposed a new sex-ed curriculum, then quickly abandoned it after being pressured by conservative groups. They banned pit bulls, which led to countless dogs being euthanized, but apparently didn’t reduce the rate of dog bites. They proposed a ridiculous young driver law, then quickly backpedaled. I can’t wait to see what they try next.

Top 5 reasons to vote for the Progressive Conservatives
1 – Taxes: Income splitting for families, 5% income tax cut for the first $75,000, corporate tax cuts, remove HST from hydro and heating.

2 – Healthcare – 5000 new long term care beds, tie hospital CEO pay to performance, increase residency placements for medical students educated outside Ontario.

3 – Deficit – Reduce cabinet size by 20%, reduce public payroll through attrition, review public sector compensation.

4 – Transportation/Infrastructure - $35 Billion in spending promised.

5 – Good Government – Appoint minister in charge of reducing red tape, make government information for contracts and expenses public.

Top 5 reasons to vote against the Progressive Conservatives
1 – Tim Hudak – After McG’s numerous screwups, this election should’ve been a cakewalk for the OPCP. Instead, they find themselves about to lose.

2 – Healthcare – They want to eliminate LHINs, which means that provincial healthcare would go back to being controlled from a central location (like Toronto).

3 – Education – They want to eliminate the foreign scholarship program, which was designed to bring the smartest people in the world to Ontario.

4 – Protectionism – Buy Ontario policy for government institutions.

5 – Energy – Ending demand based energy pricing.

Top 5 reasons to vote for the NDP
1 - Taxes – Small business tax cut, remove HST from electricity and home heating.

2 - Healthcare – Eliminate ambulance fees, cut ER wait times by half, open 50 new 24-hour clinics.

3 – Good Government – Ombudsman will get oversight of health spending.

4 - Transportation – 50% of transit operating costs, infrastructure spending on roads, bridges, and bike lanes.

5 – Andrea Horwath – Best person for premier out of the big three. If only she didn’t believe in policies that will hurt the economy.

Top 5 reasons to vote against the NDP
1 - Taxes – They will raise the corporate tax rate.

2 - Healthcare – They will eliminate LHINs.

3 - Protectionism – Buy Ontario policy for government contracts.

4 - Deficit – Develop an Ontario Retirement Plan, which will cost a lot of money. Also, we already have the Canada Pension Plan.

5 – Energy – Maintain Feed-in-Tariff, stop building nuclear power plants.

Top 5 reasons to vote for the Green Party
1 – Taxes – Income tax cuts, business tax cuts.

2 – Good Government – Reduce red tape, put all public contracts online, disclose expenses, and improve FIA requests.

3 – Really Good Government - Eliminate corporate and union donations to political parties. This one deserves its own section.

4 - Transportation – More HOV lanes, transit tax credits.

5 – Environment – Reduce pollution, improve water quality, improve sewage treatment.

Top 5 reasons to vote against the Green Party
1 – Taxes – They want a carbon tax!

2 – Nanny State – Incentives for people pursuing healthy lifestyles, require residents to participate in local energy projects.

3 – Energy – No new nuclear plants.

4 – Food – Comprehensive and unnecessary plans to micromanage Ontario’s food.

5 – Issues – Their platform is short and easy to understand, but it has very little information on key issues such as the HST, Healthcare, and Education. Meanwhile, one fifth of it is dedicated to a non-existent problem (food).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

HuffPo peddles some BS about immigration and immigrants

After reading a blog post on the Canadian version of Huffington Post, I'm left quite unimpressed.  It's not your usual 'hidden-agenda' piece, but more of an 'in plain sight agenda with nefarious intentions that only huffpo can see' piece.

Some tidbits:

"The Harper government has already prioritized spending on fighter jets and prisons and championed corporate tax reductions, a course that will most likely necessitate social program reductions."

The Conservatives have indeed increased military spending, but the corporate tax cuts are a Liberal program that they've continued.  If and when social programs are actually cut, we'll have something to discuss.  "Most likely will necessitate" isn't a great argument.

"According to the Canadian Election Study, Conservative gains among immigrant voters were overstated -- vote splitting between Liberals and New Democrats in suburban Toronto facilitated Conservative gains in large part. Nonetheless, the Harper government was able to claim the language of moderation on immigration and multiculturalism."

Vote splitting between the LPC and NDP did help the CPC, but it doesn't entirely explain the result.  If this were the only explanation, then Harper would have had majorities in every election the CPC has fought.  Vote splitting theorists simply don't understand that Blue Grits exist, and when we're not voting Liberal, we'll vote Conservative. 

"Annual visa quotas for sponsored parents and grandparents dropped dramatically between 2005 and 2011 from 20,005 to 11,200, with actual sponsorship applications taking nine to 30 months longer depending on location of visa application. While the rationale may be that sponsored elderly immigrants use social services and do not contribute to tax revenue, this raises a fundamental question of why members of immigrant communities cannot have their elderly parents and grandparents nearby to look after, a privilege which non-immigrants enjoy."

You've already answered your question, its because non-immigrant parents have already contributed to the tax system. 

"Something else to note, when the Maengs, a family of landed South Korean immigrants in Moncton, New Brunswick, faced deportation because of the costs of caring for their autistic son, it was the provincial government of New Brunswick -- in stepping up to cover related healthcare costs -- and not the federal government which acted to ensure this family could stay in Canada."

Well, that's because healthcare is a Provincial responsibility, not a Federal one.  Apparently huffpo doesn't understand this.

"While Conservative gains among immigrant voters are overstated, looking at Greater Toronto it is interesting to note that Conservatives made limited seat gains in Scarborough, where there is a relatively large Tamil population, while sweeping ridings in Mississauga and Brampton, where there are relatively large Indian and Pakistani populations (although at this point the exact demographic breakdown among different groups in these ridings is uncertain)."

Generalizations about ethnic groups, assumptions about their voting motivations, all while admitting that you don't have the numbers to back any of it up.  Nice.

"Could Conservatives be targeting certain groups, Indian and Pakistani -- misleading them on facilitating a swifter immigration process -- while writing off others such as Tamils who came as refugees? "

This is one of my biggest pet peeves: the media's patronizing attitude towards immigrants.  If we voted Conservative, we must have been "misled" into doing so.  Is it possible that immigrants who voted for Harper are very well aware of his policies, and support them?  Nah.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Top 5 Reasons to vote for (and against) the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, and Greens

Top 5 Reasons to Vote for the Conservatives
1 – Economic Record - Since the economy is doing well, they get credit for it.  If it was in the gutter (like the US economy), they'd get blamed for it.  They also signed trade agreements with Columbia, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Jordan, Panama, and Peru.  Also, I like TFSA accounts and paying less GST.

2 – Law and Order - They eliminated the Two for One Credit and passed bills related to Identity Theft, Organized Crime, and White Collar Crime.

3 – Afghanistan - I supported this mission when Chretien got us into it, and I still do.  I'm well aware that this issue will be in the next list for a lot of people.

4 – Pro-Market decisions – The government spanked the CRTC on two key decisions.  #1 - Allowing Wind Mobile to operate in Canada.  Wind and some other new carriers have changed the Canadian wireless market for good.  I'm really enjoying my cheap unlimited talk/text/data plan.  #2 - Tony Clement forced the CRTC to review its Usage Based Billing decision, which will probably be reversed.

5 – Political Party Welfare - I really don't like political parties receiving welfare money from taxpayers.  This will be a huge accomplishment if they can pull it off.

Top 5 Reasons to Vote against the Conservatives
1 – Lies/Incompetence - Bernier affair, Busty Hookers, Chalk River, Kairos, Galloway, and the legendary "not" document.

2 – G20 - Could go under #1 but this was such an epic fuckup that it deserves its own section.  I still can't fathom why you'd spend a couple of billion dollars holding a conference in the downtown core.

3 – Contempt of Parliament - Triggered the current election.  Absolutely shameful and idiotic conduct from the government.

4 – Quebecois as a Nation – A big 'fuck you' to Federalists and one of the worst decisions they made in Harper's bid to secure Quebec votes.  Got them nowhere.

5 – Economic Un-Conservatism - Unbalanced budgets, increased debt, protectionism (Air Canada), corporate subsidies...the list goes on forever. 

Top 5 Reasons to Vote for the Liberals
1 – Change - The Liberals are the only other party that could form a government, and Michael Ignatieff is the only other person that can be Prime Minister. 

2 – Deficit - They're promising to reduce it immediately and eliminate it eventually.  They have a lot of credibility on this issue since they've done it before.  Iggy should be pushing this hard, but instead the Libs are running desperate 'hidden agenda' ads.  Pathetic.

3 – Open Government - Some interesting ideas including posting all access to information requests (and their response times), government datasets, grants/contributions/contracts.

4 – Infrastructure/Transportation - Lots of promises on high speed rail, municipal infrastructure, and highways.

5 - Canada Learning Strategy - Interesting ideas including education benefits for veterans and language training for new immigrants.

Top 5 Reasons to Vote against the Liberals
1 – Lack of principles. They got us into Afghanistan but they now want to cut and run. They initiated the corporate tax cuts which they’re now against.  They always act as if Harper will destroy the country, yet they always vote with him to keep his minority government alive.

2 – Taxes – They will raise them. The Liberal party president said so himself

3 – Culture - They will increase subsidies for artists and support cancon rules.  I'm against this, but I know a lot of people are for it.

4 – Coalition – It’s real, and it could happen again.  For me this was the their worst moment since I've followed politics, and it really soured me on the party.

5 - Iggy - He's come a long way as a politician, and his support for the Iraq war has become a non-issue.  But, he's still not performing as well as a Liberal leader should be. Considering his impressive background in international affairs, he should be mopping the floor with Harper on foreign policy issues, but he isn't.  Considering how many times team Harper has screwed things up, Iggy should be riding sky high in the polls, but he's failed to take advantage.

Top 5 Reasons to Vote for the NDP
1 – Tons of Benefits - They promise to improve EI, CPP, mat leave, and introduce several new benefits.

2 – Abolishing the Senate - A cause near and dear to my heart.

3 – Infrastructure - A lot of investments are promised.

4 – Foreign Policy - Increased development aid, strengthening consular services, and pushing generic drugs.

5 - Jack Layton - The most credible federal leader (other than Mr. Duceppe, but he doesn't count).  I don't like him much, but I do like him more than Harper or Iggy.

Top 5 Reasons to Vote against the NDP
1 – Taxes - They've promised to reverse the Liberal/Conservative corporate tax cuts.  There's nothing in their platform that specifically mentions raising any other taxes, but come on, it's the NDP.

2 – Afghanistan - They want out, asap.  Layton loves to talk about refocusing on aid and development, but has no answer for one simple question: Who will defend the NGOs when the Taleban are trying to blow them up?

3 – Cap and Trade - If they implement this, the economy will suffer.

4 – Culture - Like the Liberals, they want huge subsidies and cancon rules.  They also plan to muck around with the official languages act to strengthen minority languages.

5 - Vote Splitting - If you're a lefty who wants Harper out, the best way to do so is by voting Liberal.  The NDP will not form a government after this election. 

Top 5 Reasons to Vote for the Greens
1 – Benefits - Expand access to EI, reduce EI/CPP contribution premiums for businesses.  Love it.

2 - Corporate Subsidies/Tax Breaks - Cut and eliminate, especially for big corporations.  Hallelujah.

3 – Taxes - Cut income taxes (!), and introduce full income splitting (!!!).  I had no idea the Greens had this on their platform.  If the Libs push these policies, it'll go a long way towards winning back Blue Grits like myself.

4 – Municipal Infrastructure - Long term funding is promised.

5 - Legalize and Tax Marijuana (!) - We should have done this a long time ago.

Top 5 Reasons to Vote against the Greens
1 – Carbon Pricing - They are the green party after all.

2 – Market Interference - Plans to pick winners in farming, fisheries, and forestry industries.  Also plans to muck around in the broadcast sector.

3 – Federal Funding for GMO Research - They plan to stop it.

4 – Taxes - They'll cancel the corporate tax cuts, and introduce new ones on industry.

5 - Elizabeth May - They may have reached their highest ever vote totals in 2008, but I believe this was despite her leadership (not because of it).  Their platform has some hidden gems that she has failed to promote effectively.  I actually bothered to read their platform; I doubt most voters have.  She comes off as whiny in debates.  I attended the Munk debate on Climate Change and she constantly lost her cool (pun not intended) and it was difficult to take her seriously.  Suing TV networks because they won't let her into debates was just daft.  It's their channel, they can do whatever the hell they want with it.  If they decide to host a Harper vs. sock puppet debate, it's their prerogative.

I pulled most of this information from the respective parties' platforms: Cons, Libs, NDP, Greens.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

UofT PhD grad rejects a diploma and the Varsity decides to write a shit article to report the news!

Well, it took UofT's student-run Varsity newspaper to bring me out of blogging hibernation.

Last week, the Varsity published an article about a PhD student who rejected his diploma to protest Peter Munk's recent donation to the Munk School of Global Affairs at UofT

I would've dismissed this as typical lefty whinging but the article was just so, so, horrible.  

It seems Mr. Zoghi is upset with this recent statement from the school: “The Munk School positions U of T as a leading player in a broad range of subjects from water to cyber security.”  He alleges that the school's academic direction is being determined by the donation, but can only offer that one line as proof.  

"Zoghi said he feels that the company is “crushing academic freedom” and “making it difficult for academics to question the actions of the company involved,"..."  Surely there are some academics at the school complaining that their work is being restricted or influenced?  The Varsity doesn't mention that.  Surely Mr. Zoghi can offer something more than speculation and insinuation?  Can he elaborate on what exactly the company actually is doing to crush academic freedom?  The Varsity doesn't ask him that.  

"The graduate also took issue with conditions on Munk's donation."  Ah, now we're getting somewhere, it seems that the evil rich mining guy had some conditions (egad) attached to his donation, and the Varsity "anonymously" obtained a copy of the donation agreement!  What juicy details of skulduggery await us?

"...reveals that Munk's donation comes in yearly increments. Although the agreement clearly states that academic freedom is to be unhealed, the university must report to Munk every year."  Oh.  That's it?   The agreement clearly states that academic freedom is to be unheeded?  Isn't that the exact opposite of what Mr. Zoghi is alleging?  The rich guy wants yearly reports on what the university does with his donation?  That's it?  Really?

"Zoghi is adamant that he will only take back his degree if university administration starts consulting with the wider community.  “I don't want to be associated with a university whose integrity is compromised this much,” he said. “I will make every effort not to use this degree for a job.”"

Zoghi has it backwards, he shouldn't be ashamed of being associated with UofT, it should be the other way around. Based on his statement, I assume he'll never put "PhD from the University of Toronto" on his resume.

I hope the university keeps accepting donations from rich guys who want to help out.  It should be noted that the same rich guy gave a lot of money to Toronto General Hospital for a new Cardiac Centre.  I wonder what Mr. Zoghi's theory is on that donation?  Surely there's a sinister ulterior motive?  Who knows, maybe the rich guy is wants the hospital to breed a race of mutant super soldiers to help out at his mines. 

All kidding aside, it's disappointing to see the Varsity uncritically publish a bunch of innuendo and speculation.

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