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Posts Tagged ‘politics

[URBAN NOTE] “Immigration and Visible Minority Status Shape Toronto Election Turnout, Study Finds”

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Desmond Cole’s analysis at Torontoist, illustrating with numerous telling charts, of nationality and ethnicity and race as factors in Toronto politics, is telling. Plenty of links at the Torontoist site.

In their publication “Who Votes in Toronto Municipal Elections?” Ryerson University professor Myer Siemiatycki and geographic analyst Sean Marshall explore how immigration, visible minority status, income, and home ownership affected residents’ likelihood of voting in the last three municipal elections. Their findings show that neighbourhoods and wards with higher proportions of immigrants and visible minorities tend to have lower turnout rates.

Siemiatycki ranked Toronto’s 44 wards by turnout and then looked at the percentage of immigrants in each ward. In the 10 wards with the lowest turnout, immigrants comprised an average of 63 per cent of the population, visible minorities 62.7 per cent. Immigrants made up 37 per cent of the population of the top 10 wards for voter turnout, visible minorities just 27 per cent.

“The short answer is, not enough of us turn out to vote,” said Siemiatycki in an interview earlier this month. The report states that “voter turnout over the last three Toronto municipal elections averaged 42.7%, compared to a 61.6% turnout average in the last three federal elections.” But Siemiatycki expressed particular concern about the lower turnout rates among immigrants and residents of visible minority status.

“One very likely explanation is that the composition of elected officials and candidates is not representative of the communities,” Siemiatycki explained, noting that only five of Toronto’s 45 city council members belong to a visible minority group, and that this pattern of disproportionate representation exists across the GTA. “This sends a signal that our elections and politics are the domain of some people and not others,” said Siemiatycki.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 24, 2014 at 1:08 am

[LINK] “The case for Northern devolution”

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Writing for Open Democracy, Paul Salveson makes an argument for the establishment of devolved regional assembly in the North of England, part of a more general federalization of the United Kingdom and a response to the marginalization of the north. It’s worth noting that reactions in the comments is hostile to this idea, with an English Parliament being mooted as an answer.

What do the English want?

It’s widely recognised that England is a highly centralised nation with power and resources increasingly concentrated on London and the south-east. The historic ‘north-south’ divide is getting bigger and virtually every index of deprivation shows the North (Yorkshire and the Humber; North-West and North-East) becoming poorer in comparison to the South-East. The Scottish referendum campaign has forced the political establishment to accept further devolution for Scotland and the ‘English Question’ – how to re-balance England itself so London and the South-east becomes less dominant – has shot up the agenda. The response from the political establishment has been to avoid creating any new directly-elected bodies but instead to devolve some powers and resources to ‘combined authorities’ in Northern city regions. Some of these already exist, for example in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. They bring together the local authorities in their respective areas, with the council leaders forming a leadership group. They have growing budgets covering a range of sectors, including transport and economic development. While it could be argued these are a pragmatic response to existing needs, their big problem is the lack of accountability. Indirectly-elected bodies such as these give greater powers to officers and effectively remove any semblance of popular participation. Further, almost by definition, ‘city regions’ have an excessive focus on the main city conurbations and less emphasis on the more peripheral urban centres and rural areas.

The alternative is ‘democratic devolution’ to the regions, with elected assemblies having similar powers to Wales and Scotland. They should be elected by PR to allow a better balance between town, city and rural hinterland. It has been suggested that this merely creates ‘another tier of bureaucracy’ but surely regionalisation should be an opportunity to radically reduce the size of the central civil service, with fewer MPs at Westminster. Further, it should involve a fundamental re-organisation of the dogs’ dinner that is English local government, with smaller and more accountable local authorities which reflect people’s local identities. Again, critics have said that there is no ‘public appetite’ for regional assemblies and cite the 2004 referendum in the North-East as proof. Yet ten years is a very long time and we’ve since seen the success of devolution in the UK. And the original ‘offer’ in 2004 was not only a top-down fix but offered little concrete advantages.

Popular regionalism needs to reflect strong historic identities and be of a manageable size. In the North of England, it means accepting that there are three ‘regions’ – Yorkshire, the North-east and North-West (at least). They have many things in common and need stronger physical links – through improved transport infrastructure and telecommunications – but also economic and other forms of co-operation. The political implications of this are assemblies for Yorkshire, the North-East and North-West who co-operate with each other on a number of issues.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 23, 2014 at 10:48 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Class divisions at heart of this campaign”

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Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc write a nice post examining quieter issues of class and race which contaminate Toronto politics.

During the scrum following Friday night’s shouty debate about priority neighbourhoods, a Global News reporter asked John Tory if he believed that white privilege exists. Tory, in a clip that ricocheted around the city all weekend, denied it, and then attempted to backtrack by talking about the importance of giving people living in communities like Jane-Finch a “hand up.”

At another debate at the C.D. Howe Institute a few weeks ago, Tory also stated that racism wasn’t a factor. Yet despite such denials, discussion over the role of race in this election — which began with the deluge of odious attacks against Olivia Chow — only intensified after Ward 2 candidate Munira Abukar, who is challenging Rob Ford and Andray Domise, tweeted disturbing images of a campaign flyer with her face scrawled out above the words, “Go home.” Kristyn Wong-Tam has also received a stream of hateful correspondence that blends racism and homophobia.

Anyone who professes surprise that the election has exposed this side of the city needs to re-examine their assumptions. Yes, Toronto is a remarkably diverse, and impressively peaceful, city. We haven’t had the sort of racially-fueled riots that tore up suburban areas in Paris and London in recent years. But it doesn’t follow that the absence of such explosive responses to grinding poverty, social exclusion and racial profiling means that all is well.

Still, the racism narrative is complicated. The Fords gave a lot of people permission to publicly express themselves in ways that they might not have indulged in a different political climate. Moreover, the psycho-geography of racism in Toronto is linked to culture, religion, location, and the social-professional origins of specific newcomer communities. This story plays out in lots of different ways.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 23, 2014 at 10:39 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO notes Ryerson University’s new building on Church Street.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to one paper examining comet-like exoplanets and links to another tracking two families of exocomets in the Beta Pictoris system.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the intelligence of raccoons.
  • Steve Munro supports Olivia Chow as the best transit candidate.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that oil prices might remain relatively low for a while.
  • Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc defends strategic voting in Toronto.
  • The Toronto Standard and blogTO both like candidate Ari Goldkind’s transit plan.
  • Towleroad notes pop star Ariana Grande dropped Catholicism because of hostility towards gay people like her brother.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Ukrainians overwhelmingly believe there’s a war with Russia while Russians disagree, suggests the benefit of a new Russian history that tracks the people along with the state.
  • Zero Geography’s Mark Graham announces a new project of his studying global digital development.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • blogTO notes that a party celebrating the end of Rob Ford’s term as mayor is being planned for election night at City Hall.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the discovery of secondary targets for New Horizons after it passes Pluto.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper that looks to examine the oblateness or otherwise of some exoplanets discovered by Kepler.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to one paper examining underwater archeology and links to a series debating the question of whether or not there was a human presence 30 thousand years ago at a site in Uruguay.
  • Eastern Approaches reports on the aftermath of a failed claim by Radek Sikorski that Russia made a 2008 proposal on partitioning Ukraine.
  • Joe. My. God. notes a Costa Rican survey suggesting that up to a fifth of Costa Rican police think that harassing GLBT people is OK.
  • Language Hat notes the etymology of the Egyptian title of “khedive”, apparently obscure for a reason.
  • Language Log notes a contentious issue in Chinese translation: “rule of law” or “rule by law”?
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at the aftermath of a stunt at a Serbian-Albanian football game.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog considers estimates for Russian losses in Ukrainian fighing.
  • Towleroad notes that Argentina has granted asylum to a Russian GLBT claimant.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that Ukrainian events have awakened Belarusian nationalism.

[URBAN NOTE] On the case for Alex Mazer as councillor for Ward 18, Davenport, Toronto

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My particular Toronto neighbourhood is located in Toronto’s Ward 18, Davenport. Current councillor Ana Bailão, who has appeared here in October 2012 after an impaired-driving charge, and in a 2011 link to a blogTO interview with Bailão that featured heated exchanges in the comments about her views on the future of Toronto, is facing challenges from multiple candidates. The foremost of these challengers is Prince Edward Island-born lawyer Alex Mazer. (Full disclosure: I knew him in high school.)

Sahar Fatima’s article in The Globe and Mail takes a look at the contest between the two.

If taxes were to rise in Toronto, you wouldn’t hear any complaints from Beaconsfield resident Rhea Lavery.

Ms. Lavery, who wants to see more separated bike lanes around the city, said, “I want to vote for somebody who’s actually honest enough to say, ‘If you want these things in the city, it’s going to cost money.’ These people who say we can have something for nothing, I’m just so tired of that.”

It’s for that reason Ms. Lavery said she’s supporting Harvard-educated lawyer and policy adviser Alex Mazer in the race against the incumbent councillor, Ana Bailao, in Ward 18, Davenport, which stretches from Dupont Street to Queen Street between Dovercourt Road and the Kitchener GO Train tracks to the west.

Mr. Mazer is among nearly a dozen challengers looking to unseat Ms. Bailao, who took over for former councillor and TTC chair Adam Giambrone after winning by more than 1,300 votes in 2010. He’s racked up endorsements from the Toronto Star, Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner, and his old boss, former Ontario finance minister Dwight Duncan. Mr. Mazer and Ms. Bailao’s platforms are similar, with both pledging to improve bus and streetcar service by reducing bunching, increase affordable housing options and provide better access to affordable childcare services.

“City council has become dysfunctional and is in need of new ideas and new leadership,” Mr. Mazer said in an interview. “I feel [Ms. Bailao] has supported the Ford agenda on too many occasions.”

He pointed to her support for the Scarborough subway, elimination of the vehicle registration tax and removal of the Jarvis Street bike lanes as examples of her siding with the Ford administration.

“There’s a difference between being a hard-working councillor who shows up and real leadership,” Mr. Mazer said. “She’s voted for tax cuts and then she’s also said we need better services.”

Sediya Ansari’s Toronto Star article also compares the two.

Bailao has lived in the ward since she immigrated to Canada as a teen, entering the municipal arena as assistant to councillor Mario Silva in 1998. Her first run for office against Adam Giambrone was unsuccessful, but her 2010 effort landed her a seat with sway as a centrist on a deeply divided council. Her term was not without controversy — Bailao pleaded guilty to drunk driving after a night out at the Thompson Hotel in October 2012.

While she may be leaning on her track record and name recognition, her main competitor, 35-year-old Alex Mazer, says another four years with the rookie councillor could mean continued support for Ford policies.

“She’s supported the Ford agenda on a lot of instances where I would have voted differently,” said Mazer, citing her vote to scrap the vehicle registration tax as an example.

Mazer, a P.E.I.-raised, Harvard-educated lawyer, has positioned himself as the “progressive alternative” to the incumbent, although their campaign platforms are quite similar. Both promise to improve streetcar service, keep school board-owned land at Bloor and Dufferin in city hands and extend the West Toronto Railpath. Mazer says that might not be a coincidence.

“Her platform came out a month after mine, and frankly, a lot of the ideas sound very familiar because I think they are resonating,” Mazer said.

I don’t think that Bailão was a bad city councillor. I do think that Mazer has the potential to be a better one. I’m not alone: Mazer was endorsed by the Toronto Star editorial vote. When I went to the Wallace Emerson Community Centre Sunday evening to cast my vote in the advance polling, I cast my vote for Alex Mazer. I think that you should, too, so long as you’re actually qualified to vote in Ward 18.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2014 at 1:11 am

[URBAN NOTE] “Strategic voting: A troubling factor in Toronto’s race for mayor?”

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The Toronto Star‘s Betsy Powell reports about concerns of some that strategic voting in Toronto’s mayoral elections–perhaps most importantly, people voting for John Tory instead of Olivia Chow in fear that a Chow vote might mean Doug Ford’s election–is a bad phenomenon. When I went to the advance polls, after much prior thought I ended up voting for Chow. I like the candidate, Ford is behind Tory significantly, and quite frankly if Doug Ford gets elected it will be because a sizable plurality of Toronto’s voters want him. Some sort of electoral reform would be nice, here.

Strategic voting in the 2014 Toronto mayoral race has become a hot and contentious topic — one that pundits and partisans suggest is a symptom of a flawed municipal electoral process that needs revamping.

“The last four years have been such a polarizing time for Torontonians, in terms of the Ford factor, that in a way it’s understandable that the issue of strategic voting may be prevalent for a significant number of voters,” Ryerson University politics professor Myer Siemiatycki said Saturday.

Those in the ABF (Anybody But Ford) camp are struggling with two impulses, Semiatycki said: Do I vote for the candidate I most prefer, or do I vote for the person who has the best chance of beating Doug Ford (open Doug Ford’s policard)?

“That’s the no-man’s-land in which strategic voting dilemmas start to play out and, potentially, even become agonizing for voters.”

Brian Kelcey, campaign manager for former Toronto mayoralty candidate David Soknacki, said the message they heard knocking on doors was an “overwhelming strategic voting lesson loud and clear.”

“People said to David, ‘We love you, we love your ideas, you’ve got the best platform, but I’ve got to make my choice based on getting rid of Rob or Doug Ford — and maybe talk to me next time,’” Kelcey said Saturday.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 21, 2014 at 10:54 pm


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