Has Donald Trump pushed us into a new age of political mendacity, like Orwell’s time between the two world wars?

Posted: June 20th, 2018 | No Comments »

The still seriously unreformed Senate of Canada wisely passed Bill C-45, the government's legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, Tuesday evening, June 19, 2018, without further toil and trouble. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press).

Something Donald Trump tweeted this past Monday morning illustrates one of the many things wrong with his view of the real world I live in.

In Mr. Trump’s own words : “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

As I have tried to write down what I object to in these three sentences I have fallen into what may be the ultimate depths of the issue. (A fate the stunning new information technology of our time  so easily promotes.)

Stepping back from the ultimate depths for a moment, I began my quest with : “what is wrong with these three particular Donald Trump sentences on Germany and Europe?”

In the first place, crime in Germany is way down, not way up.

(See, eg : “Actual German crime data from last month shows the national crime rate in Germany over the previous year was at its lowest level since 1992.” Or : “Crime actually fell in 2017 by 9.6 percent in Germany … Also, crimes by non-German suspects fell by 22 percent in 2017. By any measure, Germany has far less violent crime than the US.”)

This may not be a “real-life” photo of Donald Trump with a gun in his hand, of course, but it seems arguable that it at least speaks a language he admires. Thanks to North Amarillo Now — part of the rising tide that will eventually rule Texas!

So the second of Mr. Trump’s sentences above is simply factually incorrect. This is admittedly not an issue that seems to worry his own art-of-the-deal political philosophy unduly. But for those who want to be at least outwardly sensible it ought to raise concerns.

From a more complex angle, Donald Trump’s three sentences about Germany and Europe (above, in italics) were tweeted in defence of his (and Jeff Sessions’) own deeply mean-spirited recent immigration policy practice of separating children from parents (just now discontinued), in migrant families who break the law along the US-Mexico border. (See, eg: “President Trump blames Democrats, doubles down on immigration amid backlash.” And, most recently : “After outcry, Trump signs order that will stop separations and detain families together … ’The border is just as tough, but we do want to keep families together,’ president says.”

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Are Trump’s US trade policies a new argument for the Trans Mountain pipeline to Asia in Canada?

Posted: June 16th, 2018 | No Comments »

Wild weather downs trees, wires across Toronto — as here in the St Clair and Oakwood area — 13 June 2018. Photo: Matty@mattytoophatty.

[UPDATED 4 PM]. The brief but fierce big rainy wind that toppled a huge old oak tree down by the lake is over, here in this big-urban Ontario NDP electoral district. But it also almost seemed like a meteorological comment on key current political events.

The human dramas have calmed down now, along with the big rainy wind. And like others of our citizenship — with “Protégera nos foyers et nos droits” ringing in our ears — we’re pleased to hear that the Angus Reid polling organization has discovered : “Canadians feeling confident, not cowed, post G7; prefer harder line in negotiations with Trump.”

Along the way, Justin Trudeau’s once-flagging approval rating has jumped up 12 percentage points. It is now almost back to where it was this time last year. And : “The surge in Trudeau’s approval rating comes alongside an uptick in support for his Liberal Party.”

(In an era when conspiracy theories do grow on trees, it is almost impossible not to wonder whether Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump have cooked up their latest public quarrels, to gain domestic political advantages both could use at the moment? But of course this cannot possibly be true in Justin Trudeau’s case …  Well, probably … ?)

“Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau at the most recent G-7 summit, in Quebec. Photograph by Evan Vucci / AP.”

And then two gentlemen who may or may not be from the New York intelligentsia have acknowledged various deeper truths in : “Why Justin Trudeau Is Able to Stand Up to Donald Trump” (Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker) ; and “Trump’s Insults Are Bringing Out Canada’s Inner Fiery Nationalism” (Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine).

Finally, there are (were) Bill Maher’s warm words of love for Canada (home of several of his girlfriends?) — and the amusing Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump piece in his show from darkest Los Angeles last night. (Which also had George Will suggesting there is an argument the Mueller investigation has not been set up in a strictly proper way, or some such thing. Which may or may not mean who knows what for the increasingly absurd career of President Trump?)

In any case as of 4:02 PM ET, 15 Jun 2018, Maclean’s magazine journalist Paul Wells was tweeting : “For what it’s worth, I think the mood in Canada has shifted rapidly from outrage to ‘whatever’” …  Not too much later, we counterweights editors here can report that we (well … most of us) have now moved beyond our initial outrage too.

On June 14 the Toronto Marlies beat the Texas Stars 6-1 to win the Calder Cup — trophy of the American Hockey League championship.

Whatever else, President Trump has managed to unite the bitterly warring Canadian political classes, in both official languages, from coast to coast to coast, and from left to right and back again. That is a rare achievement.

The Trumpeter may have also provided a decisive reason for going ahead with the Trans Mountain pipeline in Alberta and BC  (while doing everything possible and more to protect Canada’s stunning Pacific coast). As Prime Minister Trudeau has noted, Trump’s US trade policies just underline the importance of diversifying Canada’s trade relationships. And Trans Mountain will open markets for Canadian oil in Asia instead of the United States.

Meanwhile, however the future develops exactly, we share the quiet faith in Canada’s unique northern North American destiny that the latest trade disputes with the USA (and Mexico) have once again laid bare. Go Canada Go. “Protégera nos foyers et nos droits”!

UPDATE 4:00 PM ET This just in, from John Bowden  : “Americans favor Trudeau over Trump on trade policy: poll … A Global News/Ipsos poll released Saturday [JUNE 16] finds that Trudeau enjoys a 20-point advantage … among Americans when it comes to which leader respondents think is better handling the discussions over tariffs and other trade issues … “Fifty-seven percent of US respondents told the poll they support Trudeau’s actions, compared to just 37 percent who said the same for Trump.”

FOX News will not believe this, of course, but … could the venerable US Constitution actually be amended so that presidents have to be either born in the United States or have previously served as head of government of a neighbouring North American democracy? (Under some updated 21st century interpretation of the old Monroe Doctrine?) Certainly not of course. But if something like that ever did happen, former US head of government Barack Obama could win a reciprocal election as Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada successor without campaigning.

Ontario election 2018, VI : Donald Trump clone inevitable after all north of North American Great Lakes

Posted: June 8th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

[UPDATED JUNE 10]. At somewhere around 3:00 AM the morning after, with 99.89 % of all polls reporting, the Doug Ford PCs have 76 seats (61.29% of the total) with 40.49% of the province-wide popular vote.

Andrea Horwath’s NDP has 40 seats with 33.57% of the popular vote. Kathleen Wynne’s former governing Liberals have 7 seats with 19.59% of the vote. And Mike Schreiner’s Green Party at last has 1 seat (his own, in Guelph) with 4.60% of the vote.

Mr. Ford’s victorious majority government is not quite of the greatest in Ontario history magnitude he once envisioned. As a handy chart published by the Globe and Mail makes clear, among the now 19 Conservative majority governments in the modern province the 61% of the seats won by the Ford Nation PCs in 2018 ranks 15th.

It’s better than the 59% of seats managed by John Robarts in 1967, but not quite as good as the 63% Mike Harris won in 1995. And it pales altogether beside the 88% won by Old Man Ontario Leslie Frost (aka The Silver Fox) in 1951, or the 85% won by Frost in 1955. Or the 81% achieved by James Pliny Whitney in 1908. Or even the 80% won by Howard Ferguson in 1929.

In any case it has generally proved true that this time the pollsters were pointing in the right direction. And, eg, Éric Grenier’s very final seat projections for the CBC Poll Tracker on June 6 (PC 78, NDP 45, LIB 1) underestimated the Liberals and overestimated the NDP (and even the PCs slightly), and left out the Green Party’s first seat in the legislature. But both here and in its % popular vote estimates the CBC Poll Tracker was close enough to what has finally happened to make M. Grenier look pretty good (and even the CBC too, maybe?).

On another front, with almost all the polls now reporting, Elections Ontario’s “Election Night Results” are estimating a province-wide voter turnout of 58% — at least up considerably from the 51% of 2014 and especially the 48% of 2011.

[For JUNE 10 UPDATE on Liberals and Green Party click on "Read the rest of this page" and/or scroll below.]

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Ontario election 2018, V : Is it really “more volatile than the polls suggest”?

Posted: June 7th, 2018 | No Comments »

At Doug Ford’s final event of the campaign, Caledonia Fairgrounds, June 6, 2018. Photo : Adam Radwanski.

If you altogether accept the polls as the best guide to what will happen in Ontario election 2018, it seems clear enough that the Ford Nation Progressive Conservatives will indeed win a majority government at Queen’s Park on June 7.

There are 124 seats in the Ontario legislature now, making 63 the minimum for a majority government.

As of 11:30 PM, June 6, Éric Grenier’s CBC Poll Tracker was projecting the final seat count as PC 74, NDP 49, LIB 1.

On the earlier afternoon of June 6, Barry Kay’s somewhat parallel operation at the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy was predicting PC 69, NDP 50, LIB 4, GR 1.

(Trying to check this later in the evening for any updates, I was greeted with “Too Many Users. Sorry, but this application has exceeded its quota of concurrent users. Please try again later.” There seems no reason to expect any large last-minute change in any case.)

Professor Kay’s “GR” wrinkle incorporates the likely enough prospect that Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner will win a seat at last in Guelph.

The smart money says Marit Stiles will take Toronto Davenport for the New Democrats.

(Somewhat intriguingly, Guelph is the home of the old Ontario Agricultural College, now known as the University of Guelph. And  Mike Schreiner was born and raised on a family farm in The Sunflower State of Kansas.)

Meanwhile, if the larger prospect of the late Rob Ford’s older brother, Doug Ford, as Premier of Ontario distresses you to no end, you might take some residual hope from an Adam Radwanski article in the Globe and Mail : “ Ontario’s election outcome is more volatile than polls suggest.”

I haven’t read this article. (You have to pay for it.) But I think I could imagine several different ways  in which Mr. Radwanski may be right? (Or not, of course?)

Set aside all more efficient PC translations of popular votes into seats. And the vote percentages from the “last instalment of the Maclean’s-Pollara tracking poll” — PC  38%, NDP 38%, LIB 17% — capture a mood  among certain observers. They harbour a sixth sense (hope?) that some slightly bigger final surprise than a PC majority government might be in the air.

More than one forecast seems to predict that Nathalie des Rosiers will keep her seat in Ottawa Vanier — even if no other Liberal wins anywhere else.

Anti-Premier-Ford voters could take additional heart from Abacus polling chair Bruce Anderson’s June 4 tweet : “Here’s a probability forecast published by the NY Times ON THE SAME DAY Donald Trump was elected President.  As the polls closed, the model said Clinton had an 85% chance of winning.”

(According to the CBC Poll Tracker, as of 11:30 PM on June 6, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives have an 88% chance of winning a majority government.)

I am left with two conclusions myself. The first is that I am quite certain about the allocation of the 124 seats in the Ontario legislature I, Citizen X, would like to see when all the ballots are counted on June 7 —  PC 58, NDP 55, LIB 10, GR 1.

This would soon enough, I think, lead to some form of NDP-Liberal Accord government for the next two years, say, broadly on the model of the 1985 Liberal-NDP Accord.  And as far as I’m concerned this would be the best possible outcome of the election.

Will it actually happen? My second conclusion is that I am much less certain about what I think the final result in the real world will be, when all the ballots from all parts of the province are properly counted.

. How one group of 10 politically smart Ontario people think the 124 seats in the provincial legislature will be allocated after the June 7, 2018 election. Compliments Warren Kinsella, 11:35 AM - 6 Jun 2018.

A Doug Ford Conservative majority government still doesn’t sound quite right to me.

But much of that could just be more wishful thinking.

And I certainly  am impressed both by the weight of polling evidence and by the many politically smart people who do believe a Doug Ford PC majority government is …

… what the non-believing majority of the people of Ontario will have to wake up to this coming Friday morning …

At the same time, we will be having a big counterweights TV surveillance party on Ontario election 2018,  as it unfolds over the evening of June 7.

If only to keep things interesting for this event, I will continue to urge objectively that the outcome on the eve of the election remains uncertain and unknown — in yet another place of sudden deep mystery and fascination, with god knows what for an immediate future?

Who knows? In the age of alternative facts that may even be half-right.

(And my final strictly personal thought remains : may the best woman win.)

Ontario election 2018, IV : Could unlikely Liberal blip at the end lead to bold experiment in challenging times?

Posted: June 3rd, 2018 | No Comments »

Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horwath at discussion on electoral absenteeism among youth and minority groups in Toronto, February 2018. (CP/Chris Young.)

OLD STREETCAR SUBURBS. SUNDAY, JUNE 3, 2018. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny afternoon. At one point the sound of birds in the yard reminded me the world will still be beautiful, no matter what happens in the Ontario election on Thursday, June 7.

And the announcement on TV  — in which an “emotional Kathleen Wynne … acknowledged that she will no longer be premier after the June 7 election and encouraged voters to elect Liberal candidates to prevent the NDP or PCs from securing a majority” — may have gone to my head.

But I have concluded I like the idea myself, for my own hidden-agenda reasons.

Like more than a few Ontario voters I’ve long believed the Liberals and New Democrats should do more to co-operate at Queen’s Park — or in Ottawa for that matter. (As bizarre as that may seem, in the midst of our own local version of the early 21st century tribalist political culture, north of the Great Lakes.)

Without going into great (or even minor) detail, I agree with those who think each party, New Democrat and Liberal, has important virtues that the other lacks.

They work best together. And the people who agree with me begin with my TV-watching partner, such that the view in my immediate surroundings is unanimous.

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Ontario election 2018, III : Maybe it’s NOT turning into the Con vs. NDP struggle Stephen Harper dreamed of ????

Posted: May 25th, 2018 | No Comments »

UPDATE MAY 28, 12:30 AM ET —  INITIAL REACTION TO ONTARIO ELECTION, SUNDAY LEADERS’ DEBATE : Whatever else, on this kind of subject Twitter cuts closer to the bone (and thus more intriguingly) than the much-abused mainstream media.

Everyone has their own tastes and convictions. Two tweets from justly eminent conservative journalist John Ibbitson — about an hour apart — struck me as especially intriguing :

* “If a televised debate could move numbers, the Ontario Liberals’ numbers would move tomorrow. Kathleen Wynne’s performance is head and shoulders above Andrea Horvath’s. And Doug Ford does not belong on that stage.”

* “Bottom line for me: Ford: an incoherent glop of policies he couldn’t convincingly explain. Appeared confused at times. Horwath: Aggressive and argumentative, but got her message across. Wynne: Proud of her legacy. No regrets. Master of every file. But people have already said no.”

I also liked Susan Delacourt’s “Watching the  #onpoli leaders’ debate. That “I’m not sorry” bit by @Kathleen_Wynne off the top was pretty powerful. May not change minds, but memorable.”

Traditionally Liberal policy and politics guru Warren Kinsella (who, some may be starting to think, actually could be a closet supporter of his friend Doug Ford this time around?) gave what may finally be the most cynical but nonetheless trenchant observation :

“This debate, in and of itself, won’t matter. It was at 6:30 on a beautiful almost-Summer evening. Few watched it … All that’ll matter are the clips that show up later. I suspect @Kathleen_Wynne will prevail in those — which is what @fordnation needed her to do.”

Meanwhile, just before the debate the latest Abacus ON Pulse survey (May 25–26) went some distance toward confirming the sizeable NDP surge in the latest Forum poll. Abacus ON Pulse found NDP 37% , PC 33%, LIB 23%.

Its literary conclusion is worth quoting too : “The election, by all accounts, is too close to call. The NDP has momentum headed into the Leaders Debate tonight.” It “remains incredibly difficult to imagine a Liberal comeback.” And “PC support has declined somewhat (thanks more to undecideds moving to the NDP than a loss of its own support) but its support remains solid and concentrated among voters more likely to vote.”

PROLOGUE. MAY 27, 5PM ET : Many thanks to Gary Davis@VoteTheGOPOut18 for two recent quotation tweets, that also seem to nicely set the stage for tonight’s Ontario election leaders’ debate from the depths of the CBC in downtown Toronto (among many other things, the most populous Canadian province’s capital city).

First, from the great liberal, populist, politically incorrect Los Angeles environmentalist and stand-up comic and social critic, Bill Maher : “Over the last 30 years Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital.” (And what if we Ontarians stuck a “New” in between “years” and “Democrats” these days?)

Second, from the great liberal critic of the American Gilded Age that followed the Civil War, Mark Twain : “Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

The final thought here, as preparations for viewing the great debate on the 65-inch TV in the counterweights conference room wrap up, is just may the best woman win. And (yet again, and again) the ultimate thing to remember was spelled out years ago by the last great master of the Big Blue Machine : “The people of Ontario have never been spoiled by too much perfection in government.”

GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. UPDATE MAY 25 — BACK TO HUGH SEGAL? [UPDATE 2 — MAY 27, 3 PM ET] : What a difference a day makes in Ontario election 2018.  The world north of the North American Great Lakes awoke this morning to a 5AM posting of a new and almost dramatic Forum Poll taken just this past Wednesday, May 23.  It reported : “amongst those decided and leaning almost half of Ontarians (47%) say that they would support the NDP. A third (33%) say they would support the PCs, and one-sixth (14%) say they would support the Liberals … If the election were held today, we project these results would see an NDP Majority Government with 79 seats.”

Éric Grenier, guru of the CBC Poll Tracker, remains more cautious as he integrates this latest Forum poll into his broader sample of current surveys. His “Updated on May 25, 2018” rounded popular vote numbers are NDP 38%, PC 37%, LIB 20%. (Later in the day this moved to NDP 36%, PC 36%, LIB 21%.) And he further explains : “The PCs are still projected to win the most seats because they hold a lead in the GTA-Hamilton-Niagara region, where they can win twice as many seats as the NDP despite a relatively modest edge in the polls. But they are losing their advantage quickly — the NDP has moved ahead in Toronto and has widened its lead in southwestern and northern Ontario. The best hope for the Liberals at this stage is a few seats in Toronto and Ottawa.”

So (as Premier Wynne might say) … we are still some distance from an NDP majority (or even just minority) government in the real world … But even serious progressive supporters of the current premier might be starting to breathe a little easier?

Even old-school Ontario observers and just plain political junkies might also be starting to think, at least for the moment, that a Premier Doug Ford may not actually be inevitable. The ancient PC guru Hugh Segal’s seasoned wisdom of the late 20th century may still have at least some currency in the age of Donald Trump : “What is fundamental is that no Conservative wins an election in Ontario by getting only Conservative votes. The Conservative core on a good day is 24 percent. A Conservative can win an election in the province only if a lot of people who normally vote otherwise decide the leader can be trusted for the next four years.”

In any case there are now a few more reasons to stay tuned …

(And  a May 23-24 EKOS poll — NDP 36%, PC 35%, LIB 20% — also suggests that the latest Forum poll could prove something of an outlier, with residual Liberal strength giving the Ford Nation team the most seats in the end, though possibly not a majority?) Meanwhile, for earlier deep background on Ontario election 2018 see “Ontario election 2018, II : Is it turning into the Conservatives vs. New Democrats struggle Stephen Harper dreamed of ????”.)

Ontario election 2018, II : Is it turning into the Conservatives vs. New Democrats struggle Stephen Harper dreamed of ????

Posted: May 24th, 2018 | No Comments »

Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley welcomes then Conservative PM Stephen Harper to Calgary Stampede, July 2015.

GANATSEKWYAGON, ON., MAY 24.  [UPDATED 1 PM ET]. According to CBC poll analyst Éric Grenier’s latest calculations, the rounded-off polling averages for Ontario election 2018 are now Ford Nation PCs 37%, Andrea Horwath New Democrats 36%, and Kathleen Wynne Liberals 21%.

M. Grenier explains the future between now and the June 7 election day with : “Doug Ford’s numbers have been trending downwards since the start of the campaign and are beginning to put a PC victory in some doubt. Nevertheless, the PCs lead where the bulk of the seats are located … After first taking support away from the Liberals, the NDP appears to be eating into PC support. If this continues, the odds of an NDP victory will increase.”

Meanwhile, the latest Maclean’s-Pollara Ontario poll for May 21–22 has Andrea Horwath New Democrats 38%, Ford Nation PCs 37%, and Kathleen Wynne Liberals 18%. And the latest Leger poll has PCs and NDP tied at 37% with the Liberals at 21%. (Leger finds as well that “a sizable number of voters — more than one third of those asked — have yet to make a final decision.”)

Warren Kinsella has also stressed that the PC vote “is spread out in a way that is more efficient” than the NDP vote. And Éric Grenier’s latest calculations are still suggesting a PC majority government of at least 63 of 124 seats in the legislature.

It is still not exactly easy to believe that a government led by Andrea Horwath is finally going to be the result when all the votes are counted on June 7. Grenier’s May 24 poll averages nonetheless suggest that both Liberals and PCs are losing ground, while the New Democrats (and to a much lesser extent Mike Schreiner’s seldom-noticed Green Party) are gaining.

If current trends continue over the remaining two weeks of the campaign, the prospects of at least a PC minority government may increase. And Sun columnist Lorrie Goldstein’s calculation of 10 days ago now, suggesting that the PC s won’t be able to make a minority government work, still looks provocative. (“Unless the PCs win a clear majority of 63 of the Legislature’s 124 seats on June 7, it will likely be either an NDP majority or minority government.”)

From an Ipsos poll released May 9, 2018 when the official election writ was dropped in Ontario and the sign campaigns began.

At the same time, there are moments when I wonder whether what’s happening in Ontario right now is actually coming very close to Stephen Harper’s old dream of a Canadian political system that congenitally pits Conservatives against New Democrats, who the majority of voters are finally bound to view as unrealistic socialist utopians (or something of that sort).

There may or may not be some prospect that the leaders’ debate on TV this Sunday, May 27 (6:30 to 8:00 PM) will add a fresh edge to the race. Meanwhile, I am hoping that Mr. Harper’s old dream remains locked in the closet to which it was consigned by the 2015 federal election. While I continue to wonder and wait … wait and wonder …  (and remain personally convinced that a Premier Horwath could certainly not be any worse than a Premier Ford).

Ontario election 2018, I : On the apparent inevitability of the Donald Trump clone north of the North American Great Lakes

Posted: May 13th, 2018 | No Comments »

Premier Kathleen Wynne (l) and Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Mitzie Hunter (r) with friends.

[UPDATED MAY 19]. I will still be voting for Kathleen Wynne in the Ontario election this coming Thursday, June 7, 2018.  (Or more exactly, for those less familiar with the system up here in We The North, I will be voting for her Liberal party candidate in the electoral district where I reside, on the north shore of the fourth largest of the North American Great Lakes, as measured by volume of water.)

To me Premier Wynne is the one seriously class act in Ontario politics today. And she has done a better job than any other prospect in sight of governing Canada’s most populous province through challenging times, and in the interest of the great majority of its ordinary citizens (among whom I of course count myself).

The province’s economy, broadly speaking, is doing well. (The latest statistics,  eg,  show below average unemployment rates for all of BC, Quebec, and Ontario  — along with 9,300 net new jobs in Ontario for April 2018 alone, and 133,400 new jobs in the province since April 2017.)

Ms Wynne’s government, which seems to me to have been more mindful of the interests of the province’s diverse business community than some branches of this community have been willing to credit, has also tried to help those adversely affected by an economy that is both growing and changing dramatically (adding to GDP while “creatively destroying” other parts of itself).  [For more after the UPDATE click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below.]

. John Barber from Lakefield, Ontario.

UPDATE MAY 19 : Citizen X, author of this piece, also wants to highly commend John Barber’s May 17 article in the Toronto Star : “Kathleen Wynne was the premier we didn’t deserve .” It apparently says everything X finally wanted to say about Premier Wynne and more, and “much better than I managed.”

Here is a quick taste of Mr. Barber’s tribute : “Certainly four years of Premier Doug Ford will be more than enough to clear the air. But even before that, I suspect Wynne will emerge in hindsight as the bold leader of the most capable and effective government Ontario has enjoyed since the heyday of the fabled Big Blue Machine.  She will be remembered as the best of her generation … Ontario at its best.”

Kathleen Wynne and William Davis, last modern master of the Big Blue Machine.

Mr. Barber concludes : “She failed because she was too ambitious, she failed because she never resorted to easy deceptions. She failed because she’s a woman, and because she’s gay. She failed because she’s Ontarian, at the mercy of Ontarians, and we’re as ugly as anyone … The future will judge, and what it will say is that we didn’t deserve her.”

Citizen X cites for his necessarily modest commendation as well the short bio of John Barber that accompanies this Star opinion piece, for any who may be unfamiliar with his long and distinguished career as a Canadian journalist : “John Barber chops wood, varnishes boats, and yells at clouds in Lakefield, Ont.”

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Toronto van killings : strong city that ignores painful truths joins real global village at last

Posted: May 2nd, 2018 | No Comments »

It was strange being in the USA (well, California at any rate) when a 25-year old man from Richmond Hill was reported to have deliberately driven a rented van along the sidewalk on north Yonge Street in Toronto, killing eight women and two men, and injuring another 16.

At least the TV we were watching in Petaluma, CA (CNN, MSNBC — same as we watch in Toronto actually) — noted the kinder and gentler way the Toronto police soon enough got their man (with special reference to the deft use of minimum force by Constable Ken Lam).

Yet catching up on what had happened when we returned to town several days later was not altogether easy.

There was a “Toronto Strong” vigil at Mel Lastman Square on north Yonge Street, on the evening of Sunday, April 29 — not quite a week after the tragic events of Monday, April 23. At the same time, a headline on a recent Globe and Mail article by Elizabeth Renzetti pointed to a feeling I share : “Toronto may be strong, but so is the drive to ignore painful truths.”

I haven’t actually read this article. You have to pay for that. I put so much on the net for free myself (whether readers want it or not of course) that I find it impossible to pay for anything else.

Wayne Adam from faraway Danforth and Greenwood holds up a Canadian flag at vigil remembering the victims of deadly van attack, at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto on Sunday, April 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn.

But the day after we were back from California I went drinking (very moderately at my age) in the Toronto Annex with old friends. We talked about almost everything else in the news at length. But we said nothing about the tragic van killings on north Yonge Street. Ms Renzetti’s local “drive to ignore painful truths” was too strong …

Even several days later, early in May 2018, exactly what drove “accused killer Alek Minassian” to do what he did on north Yonge Street in Toronto (and then unsuccessfully ask Constable Lam to shoot him) is a story with complex depths. It will take time (and a weakening drive to ignore painful truths) to discover and even longer to understand.

Already, however, it does seem that the event has been plausibly enough placed politically, as it were, in the larger universe of crazed mass murders of our time, in North America and beyond …

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Off to Trump’s America again in .. just what is going on there anyway (& in good old ontariario too) ????

Posted: April 17th, 2018 | No Comments »

Petaluma, California in the late 19th century.

In some ways we cannot really say that almost all of us in the Toronto editorial office here will be headed for Trump’s America on April 18, 2018, for one of our regular conferences with our growing technical staff in northern California.

California generally is not really in Trump’s America, of course,  and northern California especially (except in the more seriously rural places?). Our technical staff have in any case recently relocated to Petaluma — “a city in Sonoma County, California, part of the North Bay sub-region of the San Francisco Bay Area, located 37 mi (60 km) north of San Francisco. Its population was 57,941 according to the 2010 Census.”

Our expanding technical staff were particularly attracted to Petaluma by the availability of increasingly large real estate packages at (well, sort of) reasonable prices — and by the location of the Lagunitas Brewing Company on one edge of town.

California Governor Jerry Brown and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speak to reporters after a "fireside chat" on climate change in downtown Toronto on Monday, April 16, 2018. (KRISTIN RUSHOWY / TORONTO STAR).

Meanwhile, we will be travelling to the Golden State bearing something of a disrespectful embarrassment from We the North of the Great Lakes. See : “California governor snubbed by Progressive Conservatives … The Ontario government asked for Jerry Brown to be allowed to address the legislature, but the PC party refused to allow it.”

Meanwhile, we are also leaving with various recent New Yorker headlines ringing in our ears. See, eg : “Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency” ; and “James Comey’s Blistering Interview About Donald Trump.”

We remain at a Show-Me-the-Money stage in all this, though we’d agree the forces against President Trump seem to be gaining some momentum at the moment.

Our views are increasingly blunted as well by the growing realization that there is a perhaps even extremely good chance that Canadian Trump follower Doug Ford  — older and (possibly?) somewhat wiser brother of the late wild and crazy Toronto Mayor Rob Ford — will be “Progressive Conservative” Premier of Ontario (like a state governor, sort of) before the local elementary schools start their summer holidays this year.

Downtown Petaluma today by the water, at night.

We will be pondering and discussing all such weighty and other important matters during our Petaluma conversations. We’ll be back on the north shore of Lake Ontario later in April. And on current calculations we’ll be ready to report on the further adventures of the universe as visible from our we-the-northern regional observatory early in May.

As on past occasions of this sort Bunting will be staying behind to guard the office furniture. But he’ll just be keeping a light in the window, nothing more.

He is advising all those who seriously require something to help put them to sleep on a troubled night (or morning) to consider his esteemed colleague Randall White’s recently completed Part III of his Children of the Global Village work in progress, on “The Dominion of Canada, 1867–1963” — a snapshot history of the growth of democracy in the first 96 years of the modern Canadian confederation, in six chapters :

1. First self-governing dominion of the British empire : Further founding moments, 1867–1873

2. Arduous Destiny : Canada’s alternative to the Great Barbecue, 1873-1896

3. Sunny Ways : Imperial Preference, New Boom, and Last Best West, 1896–1911

4. Our Lady of the Snows, 1911–1921

5. Age of the Incredible Canadian, 1921–1948

6. Democracy in the Dominions, 1948–1963

(O and btw : Happy 70th birthday in the Buckhorn woods Spirit of CHW : “In the morning the sun was up and the tent was starting to get hot … The sun was just up over the hill … There were birch trees in the green of the swamp … He built a little fire and put on the coffee pot.” )