By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday October 30, 2014
Doug Ford could have a real shot at winning Ontario PC leadership, party insiders say
Some Ontario Progressive Conservatives say Doug Ford could have a real shot at winning the party’s leadership if he decides to enter the race.
After losing the Toronto mayor’s race to former PC leader John Tory, Doug Ford told radio station NewsTalk 1010 that he was considering entering the race to become provincial Conservative leader.
Ford said the party needs to reach out to union members, people in public housing and other “common people that are fiscally conservative, but you have to have a social conscience.”
Conservative insiders who spoke on condition of anonymity because they support other leadership candidates say Ford could be a serious contender because of the party’s one-member one-vote system.
One party veteran says Ford would absolutely be a credible candidate, especially with his talk about broadening the party’s traditional base and his ability to make a breakthrough in Toronto, where the Conservatives don’t hold any seats.
However, another longtime Conservative says party members would be leery of taking a risk on a man many consider to be a very polarizing figure.
There are currently five declared candidates to replace Tim Hudak as leader of the PCs and Ontario’s Official Opposition, and voting won’t take place until next May. (Source: National Post)
Editorial cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday October 29, 2014
Where did you go, Hamilton voters?
Not good enough, Hamilton.
That was the consensus among disheartened democracy boosters after voter turnout plummeted to a record low of 34 per cent in Monday’s city election. By contrast, 60 per cent of eligible Toronto voters cast a ballot.
Sure, Hamiltonians weren’t motivated by a world renowned mayoral soap opera — but we did have a three-way battle for the top job, four empty council seats and a polarizing LRT debate.
“People just aren’t interested,” said Larry Pomerantz, chair of the Hamilton Civic League which supported a People’s Platform resident engagement effort this election.
We’re not alone — cities throughout the GTA saw turnout under 40 per cent, with some, like Oshawa, even dropping to 26 per cent.
Pomerantz said the key is to convince residents it’s in their interest to join the civic debate. “Do we really want more voters, or more informed voters?”
Education is essential, says mayor-elect Fred Eisenberger. “Voting is a learned behaviour we need to instill in our children,” he said.
Eisenberger also argued that the city can make it easier to vote. He vowed to “aggressively” pursue online voting options, which the city will study in advance of the 2018 election.
Online voting helped Ajax reach its best turnout in decades — even if it was just 30 per cent.
Municipal Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin also said Tuesday Ontario is “committed to moving ahead” with offering a ranked ballot option to cities — and “quite possibly” a shorter campaign period.
Ranked ballots allow voters to list candidates by preference, with second choices used in a run-off until a candidate earns 50 per cent support.
While Hamilton’s election day had some snafus, they shouldn’t have kept voters away from the polls, said election manager Tony Fallis, who called the vote one of the smoothest he’s seen in the city.
Fallis received five complaints about electioneering at polling stations and a parking problem at a Flamborough school.
Councillor Judi Partridge said she also fielded complaints from upset voters who claimed the station opened late, leading to lineups.
Fallis said he was not aware of any delays in opening of any of the 209 polling stations. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday October 28, 2014
Fred Eisenberger elected mayor of Hamilton
The Spectator declared him the winner over mayoralty front-runners Brad Clark and Brian McHattie about an hour after the polls closed Monday.
Voting results posted on the City of Hamilton website showed Eisenberger with 41.54 per cent to Clark’s 30.21 per cent and McHattie with 19.76.
Since Hamilton was amalgamated in 2001, the city has only experienced one-term mayors – Bob Wade, Larry Di Ianni, Eisenberger and Bob Bratina, who leaves office in January when the new mayor takes over.
This is Eisenberger’s fourth try at mayor: He won in 2006 but lost in 2000 and 2010.
A total of 366,000 Hamiltonians were eligible to vote but total voter turnout was not yet available about an hour after the polls closed. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, October 25, 2014
Rising to the challenge: Gondolas belong in Hamilton
(Written by Joseph Sneep) Gondolas, a form of cable-propelled transit perhaps more usually associated with ski resorts, are not a practical addition to every city’s public transportation arsenal. In Hamilton, however, they are an ideal solution to that particular obstacle to urban mobility with which our city has always had to contend: the escarpment.
Last August, at a forum hosted at the Art Gallery of Hamilton called People First City Building: Focus on Sustainable Mobility, this idea received plenty of attention, and with good reason. Since then, interest seems to have waned.
However, with the beginning of the mayoral race in January, public transit will once again become a hot topic in municipal election debates, so I now want to present the case for gondolas as a valuable component worth integrating into any proposed future developments in Hamilton’s transit infrastructure. Whether our considerations be economic, environmental or even cultural, gondolas belong in Hamilton.
Michael McDaniel from Frog (an international innovation and design firm), the man behind a proposal for installing a system of gondolas in Austin, Texas, has calculated construction costs of gondola lines to be around $3 million to $12 million US per mile; this versus $36 million for light rail lines, and $400 million for subways
Considering Hamilton’s escarpment is about 100 metres tall at the three proposed light rail lines going up the escarpment (i.e., the A, S, and T lines of Hamilton’s LRT plan), the math reveals an estimated savings of at least $4.9 million. That alone should get everyone in the city thinking more seriously about cable propelled transit.
A gondola line travels at about 16 km/h, and can move between 6,000 and 8,000 people per hour per direction. According to projected 2031 ridership numbers from Hamilton’s LRT plan, this is more than enough capacity for lots of growth, which means gondola lines will not require any major expensive overhauls to accommodate future increase in usage: they would be a one-time cost.
And, unlike buses and trains, gondolas do not require an operator for every vehicle in service: the city would basically only have to pay one operator per gondola line running. Considering how many people a gondola line can move in a day, that’s great bang for our buck.
Gondolas would also significantly reduce day-to-day maintenance costs of Hamilton’s public transit system. Trains and buses were originally designed for use in flat environments where most of their work would be horizontal transportation, and that’s where they remain most effective. So it’s easy to see how the presence of the escarpment implies costly increases in the upkeep of these conventional forms of transportation: hauling all those passengers up and down so many times every day means that engine and braking systems of any light rail train or conventional city bus will fatigue much faster than those of vehicles travelling in flatter cities.
Freelance writer Joseph Sneep is working on a collection of short stories inspired by his upbringing in Hamilton. He prides himself more on this urban apprenticeship than his recently acquired MA in philosophy.
By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday October 24 2014
Naheed Nenshi Comes to Hamilton to Bedazzle Progressives & Pluck Brains
Plainspoken and outspoken Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi will be the keynote speaker for the second Ambitious City event Oct. 23, hosted by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.
“He is, as far as I’m concerned, the second-most popular politician in Canada, right up there with Justin Trudeau,” said chamber president Keanin Loomis, who worked for a year to bring Nenshi, a charismatic, yet self-described nerdy leader, to town. “He will bring a positive, progressive, urbanist message to Hamilton. He knows that quality of life contributes to economic development.”
City of Toronto chief planner and Hamilton native Jennifer Keesmat will moderate a Q&A with Nenshi at the event. She was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Ambitious City. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
In addition, he hopes to take some of McMaster’s best and brightest home with him.
Nenshi will be making a pit stop at the university on Thursday to speak with students about job opportunities out west. Calgary Economic Development staff will set up a pop-up career fair with more than 60 organizations represented. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
This cartoon was reposted on Yahoo News Canada, and was printed in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers credited for protection of Parliament Hill
In the midst of the terrible tragedy and fear that overtook Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, there were moments of heroism and pride.
Commendations rolled in for the Ottawa police and their quick response to protect those in the downtown core, after one or more gunmen opened fire at the National War Memorial and prompted a full lockdown on Parliament Hill.
Respect and prayers were sent to the family of the yet-unnamed guard shot and killed at the beginning of Wednesday’s chaos, and all men and women who wear a military uniform across the country.
And there was also a flurry of commendation for the country’s Sergeant-At-Arms, 57-year-old Kevin Vickers, a veteran of the RCMP and the protector of the House of Commons.
According to several Members of Parliament and the Canadian Press, Vickers stepped into duty on Wednesday and shot a suspected gunman during the chaos on Parliament Hill.
“All the details are not in, but the sergeant-at-arms, a former Mountie, is the one that engaged the gunman, or one of them at least, and stopped this,” Conservative MP Julian Fantino told QMI Agency. “He did a great job and, from what I know, shot the gunman and he is now deceased.”
According to the Government of Canada, the Sergeant-at-Arms is a largely ceremonial position that, among other administrative duties, “is one of the officers who may administer the oath of allegiance to newly elected Members (of Parliament).” (Source: Yahoo News)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, the Hamilton Spectator – Thursday October 23, 2014
Masked gunman killed after Canadian soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, fatally shot at National War Memorial
A soldier was fatally shot at the National War Memorial Wednesday morning before a single, masked suspect was shot dead in Parliament. The chaotic situation is ongoing as police seek multiple suspects in the attack but say they do not know how many individuals were involved.
“One shooting victim succumbed to injuries. He was a member of the Canadian Forces. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his loved ones,” Ottawa police said in a statement.
The soldier has been identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a reservist based out of Hamilton, Ontario.
“Today a member of Hamilton’s own Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was killed while performing the duties of a sentry at the National War Memorial,” Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina said in a statement.
Two others were injured in the attack, one of them a security guard at Parliament’s Centre Block. Both are in stable condition.
One gunman has also been confirmed dead.
“One male suspect has also been confirmed deceased,” police said. Sources told The Canadian Press that Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms for the House of Commons and 29-year RCMP veteran, shot the gunman within Parliament.
CBS News said the gunman has been identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian born in 1982, citing unnamed U.S. government sources.
The RCMP and Ottawa police say: “This is an ongoing joint police operation and there is no one in custody at this time.”
At an afternoon press conference, police said they could not confirm yet if the gunman who shot the soldier is the same as the one who was killed in Parliament.
Gilles Michaud, RCMP assistant commissioner, called it a “dynamic, unfolding situation.”
Police have been tight with information, leaving politicians to be the first to break news Wednesday.
“Gunman at Parliament’s Centre Block has been shot and killed,” Conservative MP Bernard Trottier tweeted at 10:30 a.m. Tory MP Bob Zimmer also reported the same.
Police expanded their perimeter throughout Wednesday afternoon and have confirmed there has been shootings in two areas, the National War Memorial and in Parliament. Police said there was no shooting at the Rideau Centre, as was reported earlier during the chaotic situation. (Source: National Post)
What an egregious insult Thursday’s cartoon is to the citizens of this country. Is The Spectator that short on Canadian-ness that you could not think of a Canadian image to present your point — you just had to superimpose a Twin Towers impression, a tragedy paid for and sanctified by American blood?
Shame on you all. You owe an apology to every Canadian and American citizen. – Judy Kambeitz, Dunnville
The rendition of the events which dreadfully occurred at the Parliament building as conveyed by Graeme MacKay’s sketch the day after Nathan Cirillo was gunned down is a shameful depiction far from what readers would expect in conveying what remained in the hearts of all civilized Canadians. Heavy smoke shown permeating from the building bears no significance to the actual happening there on that day. A depiction of reverently bowed heads under a seam of grey clouds would have been far more fitting. – Frank L. Gallo, Ancaster
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday October 22, 2014
Conservative government orders studies into homegrown terrorism
A day after committing six fighter jets and hundreds of personnel to the fight against the Islamic State, the federal Conservatives are commissioning five new studies into homegrown terrorism and terrorist financing.
Public Safety Canada issued a call for five new research projects into a variety of terrorism-related topics Wednesday, including the domestic impact of international conflict and the role of the internet in terrorist recruiting.
“A prominent threat facing Canada’s national security . . . is radicalization leading to violence, including homegrown violent extremism,” reads the call for proposals.
“These cases are rare, but the impact of an act of terrorism is potentially enormous, with serious and lasting psychological and emotional harm to a large number of individuals, as well as economic impact and/or the creation or escalation of tensions between communities and countries.”
The research will consider a number of questions:
How does the “psychology of the internet” play into terrorist activities and recruitment?
What are the domestic impacts of international conflicts, such as the war in Iraq?
What are the gender dynamics involved in radicalization to violence?
How are resources transferred to terrorist organizations? How are those resources moved and used?
What makes people susceptible to recruitment into violent extremism?
The research will be funded by the Kanishka Project, a five-year, $10 million fund created in 2011 to study security issues.
Despite the government’s mockery of political opponents for searching for the “root causes” of terrorism or “engaging in sociology,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has committed around $5 million to similar research over the last three years. (Source: Toronto Star)
Illustration by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday October 21, 2014
Election promises candidates should not make
Election candidates say the darndest things. For the most part, it’s all motherhood. But sometimes they overpromise. Sometimes they promise — or semi-promise — things that just aren’t going to happen. Here are some examples. We’re not saying they all do this, but we know some do.
“If elected, I will stop school closures.” Candidates who say this, or even hint at it, are either naive or misleading. The province holds the purse strings and the decision-making over all education policy, in particular around closures and matching funding. A more accurate way to say this is: “I oppose school closures, but sometimes they are inevitable. When that happens I will work with my colleagues and with city hall to ensure unused schools remain community hubs so neighbourhoods don’t suffer.”
Here’s another one. “If elected, I will revisit amalgamation.” If a candidate says this to you, here’s a suggested response: “No, you won’t.” Only the province could revisit amalgamation, and it has no interest. That egg cannot be unscrambled. The Harris Conservatives forced amalgamation on Hamilton and its suburbs. A more honest pledge is: “If elected, I will work tirelessly to ensure my constituents and all citizens get a fair shake in the City of Hamilton.” Outgoing Mayor Bob Bratina got a fair bit of traction with his pledge to revisit amalgamation. Don’t get taken in again.
Here’s a classic. “If elected, I will work to put term limits in place.” If a candidate says this, it’s either untrue or it suggests the candidate is unwise, because any work invested in this project is a waste of time. Term limits would require provincial legislation to be changed, and there is no indication this or any provincial government is interested. Why? In part, because there’s a good chance that legislated term limits would not survive a constitutional or legal challenge. And in part, because if a provincial government indicated it supported term limits, it wouldn’t take very long for people to suggest they be applied provincially.
If you’re a person who believes that term limits are a good thing, the best thing you can do is ask your candidate if he or she will agree to voluntarily limit their time in office. If someone makes that commitment, take it for what it’s worth.
This one is less black and white. “If elected, I will make sure tax increases are never more than the rate of inflation.” This one isn’t untrue, necessarily. All three leading mayoral candidates say they will aim for tax hikes 2 per cent or lower. But that’s only half the story, because inflationary increases don’t get at the infrastructure deficit. And city departments are getting less than 1 per cent funding increases, which is less than inflation. Economic development wins will make a dent in this, but the bottom line is that in the medium and long term, tax hikes that low are not sustainable. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday October 18, 2014
What’s fair play in an election campaign?
The efforts of purported online hackers to “expose” a Ward 3 candidate as a Freemason just jumped to the top of a list of questionable campaign tactics in Hamilton.
It’s getting to be a long list.
Alleged mass destruction of Marie Robbins signs in Stoney Creek. An anonymous letter disputing how long Sandy Shaw has lived in Ward 1. A suspected “whisper campaign” about the health of mayoral candidate Brad Clark.
Clark, in turn, was accused of mudslinging after claiming candidate Fred Eisenberger misled the public by withholding rapid transit memos when he was last mayor. Clark then faced criticism when it was revealed he got the memos from outgoing Mayor Bob Bratina, not via a Freedom of Information request, as suggested by his campaign.
The difference between hardball tactics and dirty politics is often in the eye of the beholder, said political pundit Gerry Nicholls, known for creative attack ads during his time with the conservative National Citizens Coalition.
“Attack ads, brawling tactics … it’s kind of par for the course in elections,” said Nicholls, who fondly recalls skewering federal politicians using “farm animals and billboards.”
“Politics really is a blood sport. If you’re not ready for the rough stuff, maybe you’re not ready to run for office.”
Still, Nicholls said every candidate has to respect basic rules, such as libel law. “You don’t call someone a liar … You may hint at it, you may imply it,” he said. Also, do your research. A factually incorrect attack ad “can really come back and bite you.”
Clark rejects the characterization of his campaign as negative. He argued Thursday the vast majority of his announcements have been positive and added it’s fair to criticize the track record of opponents.
“There’s a difference between comparing performance and quite literally name calling,” said Clark in response to a Spectator question at a news conference on improving council relations.
The Stoney Creek councillor has indeed endured some notable barbs from mayoral competitors like Brian McHattie, who has called him “Machiavellian.”
Clark also recently held a news conference to address what he felt was a “whisper campaign” about his rheumatoid arthritis, which he said is in remission and has never interfered with his duties as councillor.
Shaw was irritated to learn about the anonymous pokes at her residency. The rookie candidate said she briefly lived outside the ward for family reasons but is back and has had a home in Ward 1 for 32 years. She describing the letter in field hockey terms: “like a crack at your ankles on a breakaway.”
Ward 3 candidate Matthew Green is the latest victim — or, possibly, beneficiary — of a political attack. A YouTube video ostensibly posted by the online collective of hackers Anonymous warns viewers the rookie candidate is a Freemason who moved his business to Ward 3 to “control” the neighbourhood.
Some online comments noted the video does a good job reminding viewers of Green’s activism and media plaudits for being a “young professional to watch.”
Green said he appreciates the shoutout, if not the “poor production values” and “tinfoil hat stuff.” He declined to say who he thinks is behind the video — but added it isn’t him.
“I don’t know, this election seems to have really brought out the kookiness in some people,” said the candidate, who described himself being “two-for-two” in unwanted election news after being accused of defamation following a heated exchange with a school board trustee.
“Maybe you haven’t arrived until someone makes an Anonymous video about you?” (Source: Hamilton Spectator)