Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday November 25, 2014
No détente in sight for Stephen Harper and Kathleen Wynne
(Column by Tim Harper) The Long War between Stephen Harper and Kathleen Wynne is only going to get longer — and likely more intense.
There’s simply too much at stake for both sides for détente, certainly not heading into a federal election campaign and the electoral riches available in this province.
The Harper Conservatives remember how Wynne campaigned against them last spring, they know they are dealing with aggressive adversaries in Ontario and they remember well Wynne’s characterization of the Harper “smirk” during that campaign as she recounted a previous, private discussion about pension reform.
They feel there is too much whining coming from a Queen’s Park government trying to take the focus off its own problems.
They want to campaign against a gang that will wear the hated sobriquet of “tax and spend” Liberals, a group of renegades who do not kneel at the Harper altar of tax cuts and shiny balanced books.
Wynne and her Finance Minister Charles Sousa, with their big-spending election budget, their declining revenues, potential tax hikes and blame-it-all-on Ottawa bleating make an inviting target.
“If you wrote a story every time Charles Sousa blamed Ottawa for his problems, you’d end up writing nothing else,’’ a senior Conservative said this week.
“After 11 years in office, it is time for the Ontario Liberals to take responsibility for their economic management,’’ says Finance Minister Joe Oliver — also the GTA minister, by the way.
When Conservatives look at Kathleen Wynne, they see Justin Trudeau. Their instincts tell them to fight and discredit, not to sit and discuss the big issues of the day bedeviling the country’s two largest governments.
They saw Trudeau stumping for Wynne last spring and Wynne returning the favour, appearing on behalf of Trudeau’s candidate in this week’s Whitby-Oshawa byelection.
If Harper is seen to be snubbing Wynne, then he does so at his own peril, because it is risky to campaign as a tired government seeking a new mandate after nearly a decade in office by taking on a popular provincial government, with Wynne and Trudeau campaigning arm-in-arm. (Continued: Toronto Star)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday November 22, 2014
Snow-covered Buffalo area faces risk of roof collapses, flooding
A snowfall that brought huge drifts and closed roads in the Buffalo area finally ended Friday as the looming threat of rain and higher temperatures through the weekend and beyond raised the possibility of floods and more roofs collapsing under the heavy loads.
More than 30 major roof collapses, most involving farm and flat-roof buildings, were reported overnight, officials said Friday, after snow Thursday brought the Buffalo area’s three-day total to an epic two metres or more.
The forecast called for a chance of rain on Saturday and more through Monday, along with temperatures of about 15 C.
The U.S. National Weather Service issued a flood watch for Sunday through Wednesday, and meteorologist Jon Hitchcock said there might be trouble with drainage as snow and the uncollected autumn leaves underneath blocked catch basins.
As towns and villages began preparing for potential flooding, stir-crazy homeowners — some stuck inside since Tuesday — and store employees around the region climbed onto roofs to shovel off the snow and reduce the danger of collapse.
“Five hours yesterday and that’s just the beginning,” John Normile said Friday of the effort to clear snow from the roof of his Lake View ranch-style home. He, along with his daughter and her boyfriend, had knocked about 180 cm off the back of the house and planned to be back at it for a second day.
“We’re getting really concerned about the weight of it,” Normile said. “We’ve got to do it before the rain comes.” (Source: CBC News)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday November 21, 2014
Over $1.1 billion in unspent funds at Veterans Affairs since 2006
Veterans Affairs Canada has returned $1.13 billion to the federal treasury in unspent funds since the Conservatives came to power in 2006 — cash that critics say should have gone toward improved benefits and services.
The figure, which surfaced this week in the House of Commons, has led to renewed criticism of the Harper government, which is already smarting over its frayed relations with disgruntled former soldiers.
Data tabled in the House in response to a written question shows roughly one-third of the so-called lapsed funds were handed back between the 2011 and 2013 budget years when the government was engaged in a massive deficit-cutting drive.
The Conservatives often trumpet how much the budget for veterans care has gone up under their watch — right now it’s about $3.4 billion a year, up from $2.8 billion when the Tories took office.
What they don’t say is that anywhere between 4.7 per cent and 8.2 per cent of the total allocation has been allowed to lapse because of the department’s inability or reluctance to spend it all, said NDP veterans’ critic Peter Stoffer.
Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino met Wednesday in Quebec City with select organizations representing ex-soldiers, but some of the loudest critics of the department’s spending on benefits and services were not invited.
On Tuesday, Stoffer put a pointed question about the lapsed funds to Fantino, who answered by tallying up the government’s total spending on the veteran’s department — roughly $30 billion since 2006.
“It means improved rehabilitation for Canadian veterans,” Fantino said. “It means more counselling for veterans’ families. It means more money for veterans’ higher education and retraining. It means we care deeply about our veterans.”
But that didn’t answer the question of why so much of the budget has been allowed to lapse, said Stoffer, noting that the overall budget of the department is something the government is committed to under the law.
The use of lapsed funding to reduce the federal deficit is an exercise that’s being practised across all departments, he added. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday, November 20 2014
Charles Sousa won’t rule out Ontario tax hike
As the Liberal government staggers under the weight of a $12.5-billion deficit, Finance Minister Charles Sousa refuses to rule out raising taxes.
“I am concentrating on those measures that I have spoken about already, which are making certain that the underground economy is addressed, looking at ways to expand our revenues through our assets, looking to ensure that we transform government,” he told reporters after question period.
A day after delivering his fall economic statement, Sousa told reporters he prefers to “maintain our tax rates the way they are now” but when asked seven times if tax increases could be part of his plan to bring in more money, Sousa wouldn’t dismiss an increase.
Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton, a leadership candidate, said the Liberals will take the easy way out.
“I think (Premier) Kathleen Wynne is going to take the easy route and that is to raise taxes instead of reducing spending,” McNaughton told the Star.
In the legislature, he asked Wynne: “How can you expect the people of Ontario to believe that you’ll balance the budget without raising their taxes when you keep overestimating revenue and won’t stop spending?”
The Liberals’ July budget did not increase corporate taxes but did increase taxes on aviation fuel and for individuals earning more than $150,000 a year.
Sousa said he wants to “plug the leaks that exist in our tax system” so that everyone pays their fare share. That alone could bring in $400 million more, he said. (Source: Toronto Star)
Illustration by Graeme MacKay – Wednesday, November 19, 2014
The Polar Vortex Cometh
A blast of Arctic air is expected to push across many regions of North America this week, including Western Canada and typically temperate areas in the U.S. Last winter, meteorologists referred to the dreaded “polar vortex” as temperatures plunged to punishingly low levels. Some theorized the cold snap was linked to the weakening of a polar vortex spinning above the North Pole.
Some scientists theorize that cold air spills out of the weakened whirlpool above the Arctic. The cold air then travels south across North America. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes, however, that extreme winter weather is often influenced by a host of atmospheric factors. (Continued: CBC News) http://www.cbc.ca/news/multimedia/what-is-a-polar-vortex-1.2829763
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator, Wednesday November 19, 2014
The Reptiles of Mass Transit
The HSR plans to fight back against a spike in assaults on drivers by outfitting buses with pricey security cameras — and possibly even protective shields.
Statistics obtained through a Spectator freedom of information request show the number of assaults and threats shot up this year, with 37 recorded in the first 10 months. That’s already a five-year high and nearly double last year’s total.
The city refused to hand over incident reports outlining locations and details, citing employee privacy, but union officials describe routine incidents such as punching, spitting and coffee-throwing over the last several years.
Some of the most egregious cases include a female driver beaten with a coil of steel wire and a male driver dragged off a bus and pummelled by a group of teens.
Newly hired transit director David Dixon said he is concerned and will make a budget request for on-board security cameras for 2015. “Operator and customer safety is a critical issue for me,” he said, adding drivers will also receive more training in “de-escalating” disputes and dealing with mental illness.(Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Meanwhile, every day in cities around the world, on buses and subways and trams, women face sexualized abuse, from taunts, to flashing, threats, groping and worse. In London, England, 15% of female riders have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour on public transit, according to a study by the British Transit Police. (Of those, 90% never brought their complaints to the authorities.) In Vancouver, transit police launched a public crackdown on sexual offences in April after seeing a 23% spike in complaints year over year.
In Toronto, neither the TTC nor the police could provide up-to-date stats on sexual assaults on public transit. Brad Ross, a spokesman for the TTC, said “in general” the numbers aren’t going up. But anecdotally, women say this city’s transit system is rife with sexual predators.
On Monday, police announced they were hunting for a man wanted for three sexual assaults committed on the same bus route since Oct. 21. Last week, a Brampton man was arrested and charged with four counts of sexual assault for attacks that took place on TTC buses between November, 2013 and November, 2014. (Source: National Post)
By Graeme MacKay – Tuesday November 18, 2014
Liberals win in Whitby-Oshawa (second place)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives survived a tough fight with the Liberals on Monday night to hold on to a seat with symbolic and sentimental significance — the Whitby-Oshawa riding held for a decade by the late finance minister, Jim Flaherty.
Conservatives kept the riding and preserved Flaherty’s legacy, but the margin of victory was nowhere near as wide as what the former finance minister enjoyed after first being elected in 2006.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals strongly chipped away at the Conservative stronghold, with Celina Caesar-Chavannes in a neck-and-neck race all night with the Tory candidate, former Whitby mayor Pat Perkins.
With nearly all the results in late Monday night, the Conservatives and Liberals were separated by less than eight percentage points.
The closeness of the race will buoy Liberal hopes for the 2015 election, while potentially sending a chill through the ruling Conservatives’ hopes for retaining power after the next general vote.
The New Democrats trailed far behind in third place, which will also prompt some hard thinking in NDP circles next year. (Source: Toronto Star)
Last night’s federal byelections wrap up #cdnpoli
— Graeme MacKay (@mackaycartoons) November 18, 2014
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator, Tuesday November 17, 2014
Andrea Horwath learns the lessons she unlearned
Andrea Horwath now has a second chance to lead Ontario’s third-place party.
New Democrats are sticking with their leader largely because they’re stuck with her: With no obvious understudy ready to step in, delegates voted to forgive her forgettable 2014 campaign performance.
On judgment day, Saturday, Horwath atoned for her electoral sins. She vowed to learn the lessons of a campaign that sent the party back into opposition obscurity.
In a formal leadership review, delegates returned their verdict: 76.9 per cent voted in favour of Horwath keeping her job — slightly above the 76.4 per cent she won in the last convention in 2012, and well above the traditional benchmark of 66 per cent that spells trouble. That means Horwath will survive — if not quite thrive — to run again another day.
In the months since the June 12 election, NDP activists had complained bitterly about a campaign that cost them three crucial Toronto seats — and, importantly, the balance of power in a minority legislature. That defeat deprived New Democrats of the leverage they’d held since 2011 to push a progressive agenda upon the Liberals.
The bigger loss, however, was the sense that Horwath had lost her way — and her progressive purpose. She had ceded the NDP’s traditional vision to Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, who emerged as the more persuasive progressive voice in the campaign.
The unprecedented role reversal left voters perplexed: Why elect New Democrats to be keepers of the legislature’s conscience if Horwath had already ceded it? If Wynne was cheerfully campaigning for pension improvements and wage hikes for the working poor, while Horwath was publicly opposing an Ontario pension plan and playing politics with low-wage workers, why vote NDP? (Source: Toronto Star)
By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Monday, November 17, 2014
Stephen Harper at G20 tells Vladimir Putin to ‘get out of Ukraine’
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has earned some love from the Australian media for his dustup with Russia’s Vladimir Putin on the first day of the Group of 20 summit.
All-news networks and Australia’s Sunday Mail reported on the prime minister’s bold admonishment to Putin to “get out of Ukraine” at a private leaders’ retreat ahead of the official opening of the summit earlier this weekend.
“Handshake came with a slapdown for Russian leader,” read the headline of the Sunday Mail piece. It featured a photo of a beaver chomping on the Russian flag.
Australia’s Business Insider also reported that Harper showed Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott “how to shirtfront the Russian president.” Shirtfront is an Australian expression for smack down.
Harper’s spokesman, Jason MacDonald, said the prime minister was speaking to a group of G20 leaders at the retreat when Putin approached and extended his hand.
MacDonald said Harper told Putin: “I guess I’ll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine.”
According to MacDonald, Putin did not respond positively. He didn’t provide further details. (Source: CBC News)
This cartoon was posted at iPolitics.
— Graeme MacKay (@mackaycartoons) November 17, 2014