A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politics

[URBAN NOTE] “Gardiner Debate Sheds Troubling Light on Infrastructure Investment Priorities”

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Torontoist’s David Hains writes on how the ongoing debate about what to do about the Gardiner Expressway overshadows other, arguably more important, issues with public infrastructure.

What to do with the Gardiner will come down to council’s priorities. As the City pushes up against its debt ceiling while facing a growing number of projects that demand attention, City Hall will have to make some tough choices. If council’s recent track record is any indication, Torontonians have cause for concern.

Those looking for troubling indicators of council’s current leanings don’t have to look further than the TTC budget. The City is all too willing to find $910 million for the Scarborough subway extension while maintaining a massive state of good repair backlog, all while falling short of the $240 million to make the transit agency accessible by the legislated date.

In the most recent budget, council was willing to speed up repairs on the Gardiner to the tune of $443 million while other needs, like Lower Don flood protection and the ongoing crisis in social housing, continue to receive more lip service than action.

What doesn’t get represented in the City budget is the squandered opportunity cost, year after year, as difficult but good decisions get deferred in favour of easy sells that may not be the best use of funds.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 15, 2015 at 10:36 pm

[LINK] “More bad news for Alberta Tories in latest election poll”

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The Edmonton Sun reports on the collapse in Progressive Conservative support in Alberta polls as the province prepares for election. I’m sure I’m not alone in being surprised by the strength of the Wildrose Party, so soon after it had seemingly been gutted by the defection of its leader Danielle Smith.

The Alberta Tories continue to slide, while the NDP surges and the Wildrose maintains the lead, according to the latest election poll released Tuesday morning.

The NDP is dominating Edmonton at 51%, according to the survey, and is in a three-way race in Calgary.

The telephone poll of 3,121 Albertans conducted Monday showed that compared to a week earlier:

•Wildrose is flat with 24% support
•NDP increased to 23% support, up 3%
•The PCs dropped to 18%, down 3%
•Liberal support is down a point, to 8%
•The Alberta Party is up a point to 3%

The survey was conducted by Mainstreet Technologies.

“One thing is becoming clear at this stage of the campaign, the effect of the budget and residual anger to the governing PCs will have a lasting impact on the outcome of this election,” said Mainstreet’s Quito Maggi.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 15, 2015 at 10:33 pm

[LINK] “Statues Defaced as S. Africans Protest Colonial-Era Symbols”

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Bloomberg’s Renee Bonorchis and Palesa Vuyolwethu Tshandu report on the wave in protests in South Africa against statues of prominent colonial-era figures, people whose work led to apartheid. On the one hand, they are only symbols; on the other, well, they are symbols.

The statue of Paul Kruger, a president of the Afrikaner-led Transvaal Republic before the Anglo-Boer war, and four figures of townspeople around him, were splashed with green paint in Pretoria’s Church Square on April 5. Statues of Britain’s King George V in Durban and Queen Victoria and the Horse Memorial in the coastal town of Port Elizabeth were also vandalized over the Easter holiday weekend. In March, the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town was smeared with human excrement.

The “statues should be taken down,” Moafrika Mabongwana, EFF deputy chairman for Tshwane, the municipal area that covers the capital Pretoria, said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “We don’t agree that these statues should be put in public places. We aren’t saying that history should be erased. All the statues should be identified and taken down.”

In the 17th century Dutch and French settlers arrived in what is now South Africa’s Western Cape province. Later the British arrived and Rhodes helped to expand the U.K.’s influence as head of the provincial government and by funding an expedition that led to the colonization of what is now Zimbabwe. The government that created apartheid laws came into power in 1948 and the country’s first all-race elections were held in 1994.

While some towns and street names commemorating apartheid and colonial-era leaders have since been changed, many historical symbols have remained.

“If you want to change these statues, defacing them is exactly the wrong way to go about it because it builds resistance,” JP Landman, a Johannesburg-based independent political and economic analyst, said in a phone interview.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 14, 2015 at 10:22 pm

[ISL] “Our Duffy, ourselves”

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Aaron Wherry of MacLean’s examines the significance of this photo, given to Mike Duffy by Stephen Harper before the latter’s denunciation.

Exhibit D, as it was officially registered with the Ottawa court by Mike Duffy’s lawyer last week, shows the senator and Prime Minister Stephen Harper together, on stage, at an event in June 2009. Duffy had been appointed six months earlier, one of 18 senators suddenly nominated before Christmas 2008—at a moment when Harper, as a result of the Governor General’s decision to grant a prorogation, was only barely clinging to power (having incited a Liberal-NDP coalition when he used a moment of economic crisis to propose reducing the financial resources of political parties, a move that would have wounded his rivals far more than his own party).

Duffy and his fellow appointees had apparently all pledged to support the government’s Senate reforms, pledges that now seem adorably quaint, like coming upon a picture of the games children used to play in the Victorian period.

What the Prime Minister came back with in January 2009 was what he and Duffy were advertising that day in June: Canada’s Economic Action Plan™. This was the snappy moniker given to what was actually just an earlier-than-usual budget with measures designed to stimulate a faltering economy and get the country through a global recession with minimal discomfort. And this was the title of what would become a massive marketing campaign, with billboards and television ads; a monument of self-promotion and aggrandizement, all of it paid for with public funds. In time, each federal budget would come to be styled as an Economic Action Plan—the public mind apparently too distracted or leaden to be impressed by something like a mere accounting of government spending.

The Prime Minister and his senator are on stage for the second report on the progress of Canada’s Economic Action Plan. These progress reports had been forced on the government by Michael Ignatieff in his pledge to put the Conservatives on “probation”—the price of winning the support of a Liberal leader who didn’t want to try his luck with a coalition government anyway. But what the Liberals wanted to portray as a demand for accountability, and perhaps imagined as future opportunities to topple the Conservatives, the government turned into quarterly celebrations of their good deeds. Ignatieff never got closer to being prime minister than he had been in January 2009 and the Conservatives won a majority in 2011.

Funny thing: while the government carefully tracked the total number and locations of its Economic Action Plan signs, in some cases with GPS co-ordinates, the government didn’t track how many jobs were actually created by its stimulus spending, so beyond signage we can only guess at what the Economic Action Plan actually amounted to. Behold the state of public policy.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 13, 2015 at 7:34 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] More on the Mike Duffy affair

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The above photo was given to Mike Duffy by Stephen Harper in 2009, congratulating the former senator on a job well done. This just underlines, as noted by CBC’s Chris Hall among many others, the extent to which Stephen Harper was deeply implicated in Duffy’s wrongdoings.

Harper won’t be a witness at this trial. He’s denied any role in the efforts inside his own office to get Duffy to repay the expenses.

But he will certainly face renewed questions about that. Wright, his former chief of staff, has told police he went to Harper in February 2013 to sign off on a deal, telling him at least this much: that they were forcing Duffy to repay money that he was legally entitled to claim.

For Harper, this wasn’t a legal issue. It was a political problem. And, as Wright reported to his colleagues, the prime minister was “good to go” with the deal to fix it.

As we know now, the deal fell through, and Wright would eventually repay the money himself, a fact Harper says he didn’t know until May 15, 2013 — even though Wright wrote to colleagues a day earlier that “the prime minister knows, in broad terms only, that I assisted Duffy” in making a repayment Wright believed Duffy might not actually owe under the Senate’s rules.

Will this have an impact on the election? Time will tell.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 11, 2015 at 1:04 am

[LINK] “Why The SNP Is Poised To Win In Scotland”

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At Five Thirty Eight, John Curtice makes the case why the Scottish National Party is expected to sweep the country come the impending British elections. Despite the referendum setback, the party is credible in a way its peers simply are not.

[M]any voters who back Scottish independence have hitherto not voted for the SNP in a U.K. general election. According to the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, only 55 percent did so in the last election in 2010, for example. Consequently, the SNP won only 20 percent of the total vote in Scotland (and six seats) on that occasion, well below the 45 percent it was to achieve in the devolved election just 12 months later. Labour, in contrast, maintained its dominant position in the 2010 election, with 42 percent of the vote and 41 seats.

However, the referendum has served to make support for independence and backing the SNP more or less synonymous, even in the context of a U.K.-wide election. Last September’s ballot focused voters’ minds — and especially the minds of those who voted for independence — on the future of Scotland. The question of who might be best able to govern Britain as a whole has been put in the shade. Consequently, supporters of independence see little reason why they should not follow up their “yes” vote with a vote for the SNP in May’s general election.

Recent polling evidence suggests that as many as 84 percent of those who voted “yes” in September (and who are willing to indicate how they will vote in May) now say they intend to vote for the SNP on May 7.1 Included among these “yes” supporters are the 40 percent or so of 2010 Labour voters who voted for independence, over three-quarters of whom are now backing the SNP.2 Conversely, only around one in 10 of those who voted “no” in September are now backing the nationalists — though that is still more or less enough to compensate for the limited number who voted “yes” in September but are now not backing the SNP.

However, the increased salience of the independence debate in voters’ minds is not the only reason that many former Labour supporters have switched to the SNP. During the referendum campaign, the SNP was also able to lay out its vision for the country, claiming that an independent Scotland could be a more equal Scotland. This argument directly challenged Labour’s position that it was better able to bring about greater social justice, not least by using the resources and the institutions of the U.K.

It is an argument that seems to have hit home.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 10, 2015 at 9:49 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • At Acts of Minor Treason, Andrew Barton is very unhappy with the misuse of the Hugo Award.
  • Anthropology.net notes that DNA has been retrieved from an ancient and mostly fossilized Neanderthal fossil.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the early history of the Milky Way Galaxy.
  • Crooked Timber looks at the controversies over religious liberty.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze considers how extraterrestrial life can be detected through disequilibria in exoplanet atmosphere and notes the recent Alpha Centauri B study.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that by 2018 a laser will be deployed on a drone.
  • Geocurrents shares slides from a recent lecture on Yemen.
  • Language Hat examines the Yiddish word “khnyok”.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers the Republican race.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the unpopularity of political jobs among young Americans.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes SpaceX’s problem with retrieving the first stages of its rockets.
  • Torontoist looks at beekeeping in Toronto.
  • Towleroad notes a Kickstarter fundraiser for Emil Cohen’s photos of queer life in Providence.
  • Transit Toronto notes the expansion of free WiFi throughout the subway system.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that divorce papers can be served via Facebook if it is the most practical alternative.
  • Window on Eurasia fears a summertime Russian attack on Ukraine, notes Russian fears of rebellion at home, and looks at Russian Internet censorship.
  • The World’s Gideon Rachman wonders if the Greek demand for Second World War reparations will bring the Eurozone crisis to a head.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes the essential lack of difference on government spending between Labour and the Tories and looks at flawed computer databases.
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