Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday May 28, 2022
Doug Ford and Ontario’s race for second
Doug Ford is heading toward a second majority at Queen’s Park — not that anyone is paying attention.
In the unlikely scenario all the polls released in Ontario ahead of its June 2 election turn out to be wrong, or if tens of thousands of voters do indeed vote strategically to deny the premier his majority, I stand to be corrected.
Many observers, including yours truly, yearned for movement in the polling numbers — not for partisan purposes, but for the sake of storylines that might capture the attention of an electorate seemingly apathetic to the campaign: Will the Liberals get over 30 percent? Will the Ontario NDP — ONDP — go in the tank? Or will it regain second place to keep Liberals at bay? Alas, none of it was to be.
But if the writing is on the wall of this 2022 campaign, the race for official opposition could still be compelling.
The PC gained the reins of the Ontario Legislature in 2018 by winning 76 seats (out of 124) with 40.5 percent of the popular vote. The NDP climbed to official opposition with 40 seats (33.6 percent of the vote). The Liberals, after forming government for 15 straight years, collapsed to 7 seats and 19.6 percent of the vote.
In the campaign now underway, the Ontario Liberals and ONDP have attempted, repeatedly and unsuccessfully, to dent the PC armor: More money for public education and long-term care, less for new highways. Remember when Ford closed playgrounds during the pandemic? All legitimate points, but not enough to rattle his base.
Ford has been playing 1995 New Jersey Devils-style defensive trap, both soporific and highly effective. Add to the mix an electorate suffering from Covid fatigue, the long-awaited return of sunny patios, the NHL and NBA playoffs (although it went by fast in Ontario), and it is hardly surprising many voters do not feel engaged. Sometimes defense is the best offense.
As of Tuesday, the 338Canada Ontario model has the PC leading voting intentions with an average of 37 percent, a 9-point lead over the Ontario Liberal party, which is at 28 percent.
The ONDP takes third place with 23 percent.
The Green Party of Ontario, which had earned just under 5 percent in 2018, has climbed to an average of 7 percent.
With a little more than one week to go before ballots are counted, the OLP and ONDP stand in a statistical tie in terms of seats, as it appears the anti-Ford vote has yet to coalesce behind one single banner.
And that’s just fine for Doug Ford. (Politico)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday May 28, 2022
All parties fall short on housing crisis
When it comes to tackling the crisis of housing affordability in Ontario, pretty much everyone agrees on what must be done: build a lot more houses.
The trouble is, none of the parties asking for your vote on June 2 have a convincing plan to achieve the ambitious goals they’ve set out.
We got our hopes up earlier this year when a task force appointed by the Ford government produced an admirably clear and compact report on how to tackle the issue of supply lagging behind demand.
The panel put its finger on a key reason for the problem: the fact that municipalities typically put most of their land off-limits for anything but single-family homes.
So in too many communities, you can’t build duplexes or small apartment buildings, the so-called “missing middle” that would make cities denser by allowing a lot more units to be built.
But that would mean leaning heavily on municipalities whose councils usually speak for existing homeowners — the ones who want to preserve the “neighbourhood character” of their cities by keeping things just as they are. It’s called “exclusionary zoning.”
It was no big surprise, therefore, that when the Ford government produced a housing plan in March it conspicuously failed to address this issue head-on.
The plan made no mention of the ambitious goal the task force set out: building 1.5 million new housing units over the next decade. And it had nothing to say about exclusionary zoning.
At least the municipal affairs minister was frank about why he didn’t follow through with the task force’s key recommendation: he didn’t want to upset towns and cities. “They’re just not there yet,” he said.
He may be right. But we need to get there given how serious the national housing crisis is. Canada has the lowest average housing supply per capita among G7 nations, with 424 units per 1,000 people. That’s behind the United States and the United Kingdom. France, by comparison, leads the G7 at 540 units per 1,000. The pandemic, which allowed households to accrue record savings and saw unprecedented stimulus measures, stoked the country’s hot housing market and pushed it into utterly unaffordable territory.
Voters who want to make up their minds based at least partly on which party would best tackle the crisis of housing affordability will find more to chew on in the platforms put forward by the New Democrats, Liberals and Greens. But, on this same crucial point, the opposition parties also fall short.
On the positive side, both the NDP and Liberals include the goal of building 1.5 million new homes over the next 10 years. But that won’t be achievable unless cities allow denser housing across much more of their area; the time is long gone when just building endless suburbs on empty land could be justified.
The opposition parties actually have quite a bit to say about exclusionary zoning. They clearly recognize that it’s a problem. But when it comes to actually acting on this, they’re awfully vague.
The NDP’s housing platform promises to end exclusionary zoning. How? It says it would “work with municipalities to reform land-use planning rules.” The Liberals say almost the same. They would “work with municipalities to expand zoning options.”
Clearly, none of the parties want to anger municipalities or residents who already own single-family homes in low-rise, low density neighbourhoods. It’s understandable politically, but it puts a big question mark over whether they’d be able to meet their big targets for new homebuilding.
There’s much more to housing policy, of course. The opposition parties promise to build a lot more affordable housing for those completely shut out of the market. And there’s a big difference in what they would do for renters.
The Liberals would reinstitute rent control for units built after 2018 (the PC government excluded them). The NDP would go much further and bring in rent control for all units, even if a tenant voluntarily moves.
But the key to loosening up the housing market is more houses. And right now none of the parties are really stepping up. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday May 25, 2022
Airport madness must be fixed now
Had Dante Alighieri experienced the special torments of 21st-century passenger flight, there would surely have been another ring of Hell in his depictions.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, air travel had become a relentless accumulation of aggravations, from the time of parking (at exorbitant cost) on arrival at one airport until (unless it was lost) the claiming of baggage at another.
But the current state of affairs — as travel gradually returns to normal while COVID-19 protocols remain in place and understaffing prevails — has upped the misery index to unacceptable levels.
Near-endless lines for check-in and security. Passengers imprisoned in planes on the tarmac for hours after landing because of crowding inside terminals. More hours in jam-packed arrival lineups at customs caused by staffing shortages.
In all, what’s going on in Canadian airports at present is a recipe for chaos and anger, not to mention the abuse of flight attendants and frazzled, overburdened ground staff. And with the high-travel summer season only weeks away this dispiriting situation needs to be resolved fast.
The Canada Airports Council is calling on the federal government to scrap random COVID-19 tests and public-health questions at customs in order to ease the congestion travellers are being greeted with in Canada.
Such measures mean it takes four times longer to process passengers than it did before the pandemic, the council has said.
That was just barely tolerable when travel was down, but it’s become a serious problem now that people are starting to fly again in numbers.
The council said it makes little sense to retain such stringent testing measures in airports — facilities never designed for procedures that halt the flow of travellers into and out of the precincts — when they are no longer in place in the community.
The situation has been particularly bad at Pearson International Airport, Canada’s largest.
Before the pandemic it took an average of 15 to 30 seconds for a Canada Border Services Agency officer to clear an international passenger, the airport said. Now, “due to the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 health screening questions, this has increased the processing time at Canada’s borders by two to four times.”
Pearson blames the understaffed Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. The Canadian Airport Council blames the over-rigid COVID-19 safety regime. Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra even blamed travellers for being out of practice.
“Taking out the laptops, taking out the fluids — all that adds 10 seconds here, 15 seconds there,” he told reporters.
That sort of thing is likely to inflame rather than calm regular flyers — who have long since mastered the hassle-filled procedures of travel. It does raise the matter of fluids and whether the current security fixation on them is justified. State-of-the-art technology exists, and has already been installed at Shannon Airport in Ireland, that would allow the inspection of fluids, carried in normal amounts, and of laptops while still in cases, backpacks and computer bags.
For travellers in this country, bringing in such advanced techniques could not come too soon.
Alghabra also points to an increase in last-minute bookings as well as flight schedules that see too many planes arriving around the same time. His department says it’s trying to address the delays and hopes more screening personnel will be added by CATSA to speed up procedures.
Among those monitoring that progress will be the union representing flight attendants, who have effectively been asked to work for free since they are typically paid for time in the air, not for trying to control and placate ticked-off travellers on the ground.
There was a time — though you’d have to be rather long in the tooth to recall it — when airports were exciting, exotic, efficient. The charm of those quaint days has long passed. The experience has slipped from taxing, to miserable, to unendurable.
Exasperated travellers aren’t much interested in excuses, explanations and vague assurances. They just want the current hellishness fixed, and soon. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday May 21, 2022
Doug Ford nets another union endorsement, positions Ontario PCs as labour friendly
Doug Ford touted his union ties and tried to position his Progressive Conservatives as the labour-friendly option for voters on Tuesday, as his political rivals accused him of simply paying lip service to workers.
The Tories gained the endorsement of another construction workers’ union on the campaign trail, while the more traditionally union-friendly NDP secured the backing of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents 180,000 workers.
But Mr. Ford downplayed his tiffs with public sector workers, whose ire he’s drawn over a bill that capped wage increases at 1 per cent for three years, as he highlighted the endorsement from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT).
“These are the people that are going to build Ontario, build Toronto, build the whole province. They’re out there slugging it out, day in and day out, no matter what type of weather it is. And we couldn’t run the province without ‘em,” Mr. Ford said at a morning press conference. “… I’ll always have their backs, always.”
He was speaking at IUPAT’s headquarters in Toronto’s north end, where he used a stencil and sprayer to paint his campaign slogan, “Get It Done” on a Progressive Conservative blue wall.
Mr. Ford, who’s seeking re-election in next month’s vote, kyboshed attempts to compare his Tories to a previous PC government in Ontario.
In the seven years Mike Harris led the province, he earned a reputation for being anti-union.
Mr. Ford said that’s not his position, nor was it the position of his late father, who served as a Progressive Conservative MPP under Mr. Harris for several years.
“I’m not gonna judge any other any other party. I’ll tell you, our families, be it my dad or my brother Rob or [nephew] Michael, we’ve supported the hard working women and men in this province, the union members,” Mr. Ford said. “We always have. I love ‘em.”
But Mr. Ford hasn’t always had a friendly relationship with unions.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath noted Mr. Ford has been at loggerheads with unions representing public employees over legislation passed in 2019 that caps pay raises in the public sector at 1 per cent or less.
He declined Tuesday to commit to repealing the bill – something several unions have been requesting since the legislation passed – saying instead that he’d “treat them fairly” when the three-year raise freeze is over.
Mr. Ford has also feuded with teachers’ unions, first during lengthy contract negotiations and later over his policies for reopening schools during the pandemic.
Ms. Horwath, whose New Democrats have historically been the party most closely aligned with unions, said workers should pay attention to the changes in Mr. Ford’s tune.
“I don’t change my mind about my support for unions and working people,” Ms. Horwath said at a campaign stop on Tuesday. “We’ve seen Mr. Ford attack unions, we’ve seen him attack working people, many, many times. The Conservatives always do that. (The Globe & Mail)