Doug Ford’s mid-2024 shuffle brings “the largest cabinet in Ontario’s history”!!

Posted: June 18th, 2024 | No Comments »
Donald Trump and the late Rob Ford, former Mayor of Toronto, brother of Doug Ford.

RANDALL WHITE, ONTARIO TONITE, TORONTO . TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 2024. The somewhat bizarre recent Ontario cabinet shuffle, “shortly after the Ontario Legislature ended for an extended summer break,” might be viewed as proof that Premier Doug Ford really is in some ways quite a lot like Donald Trump in the USA .

Whatever else, the current leader of the Ford Nation does not altogether accept (let alone know about?) the conventions and practices by which Canada’s most populous province has been soberly and sometimes even wisely (if also too often boringly) governed, since the long founding regime of the Oliver Mowat regionalist Liberals in the later 19th century (1872–1896, to be somewhat more exact).

Doug Ford (right) and his late brother Toronto Mayor Fob Ford (left), taping their “Ford Nation” TV show, mid November 2013.

So (it might equally be said) in his almost humourous cabinet shuffle of June 6, 2024 Premier Ford has knowingly or otherwise altogether set aside the conventions of executive government on the Westminster parliamentary democratic model — as evolved in the United Kingdom from, say, the late 17th to the late 19th centuries, and embraced with quiet colonial enthusiasm by Premier Mowat and his successors in Ontario, more or less all the way down to Premier Wynne.

And so also, as explained by Colin D’Mello and Isaac Callan at Global News, the June 6, 2024 “cabinet shuffle at Queen’s Park … resulted in the largest cabinet in Ontario’s history… While the shuffle meant some ministers swapping portfolios and fresh faces being added to the cabinet table in newly-created positions, Ford didn’t remove a single minister during reorganization … The result: 36 ministers and associate ministers … up from 20 in 2018,” when the present Ontario Ford Nation government began.

Historical trends in cabinet growth in Canada and Ontario

Freshly elected Ontario Premier Doug Ford celebrates Father’s Day 2018 with his wife Karla and their four daughters.

It can of course be said that even a historically large Ontario provincial cabinet of “36 ministers and associate ministers” remains somewhat smaller than PM Justin Trudeau’s current federal cabinet in Ottawa.

And, as explained by the relevant online Canadian Encyclopedia article : “The federal Cabinet consists of Members of Parliament … appointed by the prime minister to head major government departments. With the expansion of government activity, cabinets have increased in size from the original 12 to a high of 40 members (under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in September 1987). Downsizing reforms somewhat reversed this growth. (Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s Cabinet in January 1996 had 25 members.) However, in July 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper led a Cabinet of 39 members.”

Ontario conservative Premier Doug Ford and Alberta conservative Premier Danielle Smith meet for breakfast at his home in Toronto, early February 2024.

Provincial cabinets in Ontario, it might be added, also started out considerably smaller than “the original 12” in Ottawa. Oliver Mowat’s first cabinet in Toronto had only five members, including himself. On the eve of the First World War in 1914 the Ontario cabinet (now under the Conservatives James Whitney and later in 1914 William Hearst) had increased to eight members. One hundred years later again : “In 2014, the average size of the provincial cabinets was 18 members. Ontario and Quebec were the largest with 27; PEI was the smallest with 11.”

In parliamentary democracies everywhere cabinet sizes increased almost dramatically as the size and role of government generally increased almost dramatically in the 20th century. And in virtually all cases as well the old ideal of the prime or first minister or premier as merely primus inter pares (“first among equals”) in the cabinets he or she appoints, has given way to various present-day traditions of “prime ministerial dominance.”

Doug Ford and the commanding heights of prime ministerial dominance in Canada 2024

Premier Ford and colleagues on their way to new cabinet announcement at Queen’s Park, June 6, 2024.

Numbers do seem to count here too. A cabinet of even as many as 20 individuals, as the Ford Nation started with in Ontario in 2018, may be able to more or less make collective decisions, where the first minister just aspires to the at least theoretical status of first among equals — if not altogether as easily as cabinets of from eight to 12 members.

In a cabinet with as many as 36 members the more bureaucratic office of the first minister is probably bound to assume more of a co-ordinating role, outside formal cabinet meetings. And this leads to a more centralizing and commanding role as leader for the first minister (who does appoint the cabinet ministers to start with).

A perhaps increasingly extreme version of this same general trend may help explain why many who do business with the Ontario government today assume that almost all important decisions are made by Premier Ford, and merely implemented by his cabinet ministers. (Insofar as such a thing is possible in the highly complex, diverse, and far-reaching public enterprise that is the Ontario government of the 21st century.)

In any case some of we the people of Ontario have already grown weary of Ontario Conservative (or as they say “PC”) TV commercials, that are all hagiopgraphic stories about Premier Ford.

Doug Ford, MPP, Etobicoke North.

At the same time, we are happily watching news clips featuring such attractive federal cabinet ministers as Melanie Joly (while hearing nothing at all from PM Justin Trudeau — current “dean of the G7,” someone recently explained on X).

We might be pardoned for imagining that the commanding heights of prime ministerial dominance in Canada may now reside in the office of the premier of its most populous province.

Meanwhile, Doug Ford’s somewhat bizarre largest cabinet in Ontario history of 2024 does somehow fit the MPP from Etobicoke North, who in 2022’s provincial election with the lowest voter turnout in Ontario history (44%) won a tidy majority of seats in the legislature with not quite 41% of the province-wide popular vote.

The premier equally does appear to think, as do his close advisors, that the Ontario government is first and foremost all about him! And this finally takes us all the way back to what might be viewed as yet more proof (well … evidence at least) that Premier Doug Ford really is in some respects quite a lot like Donald Trump in the USA today (but hopefully not tomorrow too).

2024 Indian election : Modi wins third straight government but BJP’s Hindu nationalist brand has stumbled

Posted: June 12th, 2024 | No Comments »
Narendra Modi celebrates not as big a BJP/NDA victory as he’d predicted.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON, CANADA. WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, 2024. In our last Indian election report about a month ago we wrote : “As things still look to us, Modi almost certainly will win his third term as prime minister on June 4. His BJP might not be as strong in the Lok Sabha as it has been for the past five years, but he will remain in firm command …”

Now that the June 4 results have been digested and acted on, we could somewhat self-indulgently urge that our May 15 report was close enough to what has finally happened.

Narendra Modi, leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has this past weekend been sworn in for a third consecutive term as Indian PM — a record previously matched only by Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian National Congress (INC : although all told Indira Ghandi served almost as long in office as Nehru — without winning three consecutive elections.)

Rahul Ghandi.s Congress Party/INDIA did better than many had predicted.

At the same time, after 2024 Modi’s BJP is not at all as strong in the Lok Sabha as it was after the 2019 election (or the one before that in 2014). In 2019 the BJP won 303 seats in the so-called lower house of parliament. This year it managed only 240 seats. And this year : “During campaigning, Modi said his party would likely win 370 seats”!

Like many others, in fact, we did underestimate just how badly Narendra Modi’s BJP would finally do in the Lok Sabha in 2024, while still at least managing to hang on to the office of prime minister.

All told the Indian lower house has 543 seats — making 272 a bare governing majority. And this is 32 seats more than the 240 the BJP finally won this year. In both 2014 and 2019 the BJP had won a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha all by itself. In 2024 it has to rely on support from other parties in the same broader conservative alliance to make up the at least 32 seats it needs.

Read the rest of this page »

Why everyone in Toronto loves the Edmonton Oilers in June 2024

Posted: June 4th, 2024 | No Comments »
The great Connor McDavid .of the Edmonton Oilers, Canada’s team 2024 — born in Richmond Hill, Ontario, formerly with the Toronto Marlboroughs.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON, CANADA. TUESDAY, JUNE 4, 2024. This is the day India’s election results are due — the grand conclusion of the world’s largest democracy’s majestic but still somewhat troubling 2024 quest to give Nardendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP government a third consecutive term in office.

As we write the BJP has still yet to win a parliamentary majority! We’ll certainly be offering a few further gratuitous thoughts on all this somewhat further down the road. But our brief main objective here today is quite different.

Yesterday we saw someone from Alberta on CBC TV, asking with the usual friendly hostility whether anyone in Toronto seriously cared about the Edmonton Oilers as Canada’s team in their 2024 Stanley Cup finals with the Florida Panthers? Starting this coming Saturday night!

As long-term Greater Toronto Area residents we just want to make clear that, from now until the end of the 2024 Stanley Cup final, absolutely everyone in the GTA loves the Edmonton Oilers deeply. (As does for that matter, eg, everyone in Southern Ontario, Central Canada, and indeed all of Canada east of the Lake of the Woods to the Atlantic sea-bound coast — in French, English, and Cree, to say nothing of Mandarin and Punjabi.)

Read the rest of this page »

Democracy in America holds Donald Trump to account at last in New York, New York (if not in more rural red states)

Posted: May 31st, 2024 | No Comments »

SPECIAL FROM L. FRANK BUNTING, GRAND BEND, ON. MAY 31, 2024. Just before it became clear what the jury would decide in the first (and least substantively serious) criminal trial of Donald Trump, I tried to slow down and think about it all.

I have been surprised, like others, by the extent to which the imperfect but still sometimes almost riveting coverage on US TV (supplemented by Canadian TV and BBC World News America) has commanded my time and interest over the past few weeks.

There have been more than a few moments when I’ve felt the TV coverage of Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, assorted similar characters, and of course the former president himself, has been altogether overblown, repetitive, and finally boring.

Yet to me there have also been a surprising number of moments when I felt almost as emotionally engaged as I was watching Watergate on US TV, back long ago in my late 20s.

Greatest surprise came with jury verdict

I have been surprised as well by at least my own sense as a mere TV observer, living in another (albeit attached) country, that Donald Trump has been more affected by his least substantively serious criminal trial over the past several weeks than he (and I) thought he might be.

My greatest surprise, however, came last night (or yesterday, late afternoon or early evening), when the unanimous jury verdict was finally announced on TV.

Deluded it now seems, like many others, by the (in some ways laudable) mainstream media urge to give both right and left equal billing, I was not remotely expecting even a New York jury to decide for each of 34 counts — guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, etc, on to guilty # 34.

As best as I can broadly make out, from here on the sunshine eastern shore of Lake Huron, former president Trump has been found guilty of 34 specific variations on the broader theme of illegally (during an election campaign) covering up hush-money payments to a porn star he’d slept with, through the falsification of business records.

Read the rest of this page »

Victoria Day 2024 in Canada : Queen Victoria is NOT “the mother of confederation” — and never was

Posted: May 24th, 2024 | 1 Comment »
The lovely Jenna Coleman played Queen Victoria in the ITV series that ran from 2016 to 2019.

RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO . FRIDAY, MAY 24, 2024. This past Monday was “Canada’s oldest public holiday.”

According to Wikipedia it is “observed on the last Monday preceding May 25 to honour Queen Victoria, who is known as the ‘Mother of Confederation’. The holiday has existed in Canada since at least 1845, originally on Victoria’s natural birthday, May 24.”

This is one of those (not all that many) cases where it is unwise to lean too hard on Wikipedia. In fact a 1960 article by the late University of Toronto historian J.M.S. Careless — “George Brown and the Mother of Confederation, 1864” — only somewhat whimsically urged that Anne Brown, wife of the Globe founder and Liberal Reform political leader George Brown, deserved the title “Mother of Confederation.”

Some one hundred years earlier, however, the title does not seem to have been applied to anyone at all during the 1860s founding moments of the Canadian political system we still live under today — and certainly not to the Queen Victoria who lived across the sea in England.

Ottawa began as capital of the old United Province of Canada

An unattributed article in the online Canadian Encyclopedia, first published January 15, 2016 and last edited January 25, 2023, does include Queen Victoria as the first of six only recently invented “mothers of confederation” — none of whom (again) was apparently so recognized by anyone when the confederation first took shape in the 1860s.

Parliament buildings in Ottawa under construction,1863.

This same unattributed Canadian Encyclopedia article also claims that “Victoria selected Ottawa as capital for the Dominion in 1867 as it was sheltered from potential American invasions and stood on the border between English and French Canada).”

What actually happened historically is explained in such long-lived standard works as J.M.S. Careless’s The Union of the Canadas :The Growth of Canadian Institutions 1841–1857, and W,L. Morton’s The Critical Years : The Union of British North America 1857–1873.

In 1857 the elected politicians of the United Province of Canada (broadly today’s Ontario and Quebec), whose capital kept rotating between Toronto and Quebec City, had sent the question of a permanent capital for the province to the office of the Queen in London, England, with Ottawa as a possibility suggested by United Province Governor General Edmund Head.

Read the rest of this page »

UK election I : could big Labour Party win on 4th of July US national holiday have any impact on November 5, 2024 election south of Canadian border??

Posted: May 22nd, 2024 | No Comments »
Conservative leader and current PM Rishi Sunak announces July 4 UK election in the rain, in front of 10 Downing Street.

NORTH AMERICAN NOTEBOOK. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO . WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 2024. Am I the only human being to notice that PM Rishi Sunak has just called a UK general election for the time-honoured 4th of July US federal holiday — celebrating the Declaration of Independence from the UK on July 4, 1776?

The long and short answer here would seem to be YES — based on a quick survey of : “British PM Rishi Sunak calls election, with his Conservatives at risk of a heavy defeat” (NBC News/USA) ; “5 great things Britain’s July election ruins : A summer of fun in the sun? Nope” (Politico/Europe) ; “Rishi Sunak announces 4 July general election” (BBC News/UK) ; and “UK election called for 4 July – what happens next?” (The Conversation/UK).

I have myself (and again virtually all by myself, it usually seems, at least on the street where I live) long wondered if the widely predicted left-wing Labour Party landslide victory in a 2024 UK election that precedes the 2024 US election would have any significant impact on the contest between current Democratic President Biden and former Republican President Trump.

Labour leader Keir Starmer (right) on the campaign trail.

Possibly because I live in Canada, where federal Conservatives currently enjoy a big polling lead over the Trudeau Liberals, I have a sense that at least part of Trump Republican support in the USA does not ultimately have all that much to do with the twisted charisma of Donald Trump.

It (arguably) flows more from a sense of some wider conservative political mood in the air — not just in the USA but in such places as Hungary, India, Italy, and even Pierre Poilievre’s Canada. And if there is a big left-wing Labour Party victory in the UK, and now especially on the 4th of July US holiday, that just might dispel enough of the conservative mood internationally, as it were, to boost the cause of the Biden Democrats on November 5.

Read the rest of this page »

Indian Election II : Is there any doubt Hindu nationalist BJP and allies can win landslide predicted by opinion polls?

Posted: May 15th, 2024 | 1 Comment »

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON, CANADA. WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 2024. India’s vast election from April 19 to June 1 (with final results on Tuesday, June 4 — exactly three weeks from yesterday) continues to raise almost as many questions about the democratic global village in 2024 as the US election on Tuesday, November 5.

The day before yesterday, May 13, the fourth of the seven phases of the election on the subcontinent took place. Each phase applies to a different configuration of Indian geography. (See adjacent map : the fourth phase geography is coloured orange, more or less.)

The fundamental reason for this complexity is just the vast number of people (more than 1.43 billion!) in what is now the world’s most populous country. (India surpassed China for this title, on the expert reckoning, in 2022.)

For some sense of the magnitude of the task here, compare the 969 million eligible voters in India’s 2024 election currently underway with the “roughly 244 million Americans” who “will be eligible to vote in 2024.”

(1) Four out of seven phases now complete (and voter turnout is so far down from 2019)

South Indian actress Madhavi Latha, running for the BJP in the Hyderabad seat in Telangana.

One US election in its own right is a remarkable almost spirit-guided exercise of decentralized democracy in America, managed by the 50 states of the Union (and unofficially by the major national mass media of the day). Multiply this by four and you have one Indian election.

With so many people in the world’s largest democracy it no doubt makes sense to hold (in fact) seven geographic phases of the 2024 Indian election. The first phase started the process on April 19. The fourth phase took place just the day before yesterday on May 13. The seventh and final phase will be held on June 1. (And then the results will come on June 4.)

So much for the mechanics. As to “what’s at stake?” (according to Al Jazerra) : “The two main contenders for power are Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), a coalition of 26 parties led by the main opposition party, Rahul Gandhi‘s Indian National Congress.”

According to the Times of India : “As voting … ended on Monday, turnout dipped to 67.3% in the fourth phase, compared to 69.6% in 2019, mirroring the falling trend seen during the previous rounds.”

Read the rest of this page »

Two by-elections change absolutely nothing in Ontario politics … maybe?

Posted: May 6th, 2024 | No Comments »
Michael Seward, Stirring Up the Past. 2024. Acrylic. 48” x54”.

ONTARIO NOTEBOOK. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO . MONDAY, MAY 6, 2024. Two Ontario by-elections this past Thursday, May 2, 2024 (“special elections” in US parlance) changed absolutely nothing in Ontario provincial politics.

Yet various observers seem to suggest that these political housekeeping events in Canada’s most populous province may still harbour deeper meanings in the fateful 2024 US election year.

On the surface both by-elections took place in ridings won by the Ford Conservatives in the last 2022 general election, where the incumbent member subsequently resigned in pursuit of further career objectives. (Which they didn’t see happening at Queen’s Park under Doug Ford?)

Ontario Conservative Premier Doug Ford hard at work.

Both ridings remain in Conservative hands after the 2024 by-elections. (Yawn, yawn.) With much the same degree of support the party had in 2022. (And btw many sources still misleadingly call the Ford Conservatives “PC” — for the old Ontario Progressive Conservatives of an earlier era. In my view the real Ontario PCs ended in the mid 1980s, under Bill Davis.)

(1) 2022 general election and 2024 by-elections

Lambton-Kent-Middlesex in Southwestern Ontario was won by then Conservative Labour minister Monte McNaughton in 2022, with some 59% of the riding vote. In this past Thursday’s by-election Steve Pinsonneault took the riding for the Conservatives with 57% of the vote.

Similarly, Milton in the west end of the Greater Toronto Area was won for the Conservatives by Parm Gill with 43% of the vote in 2022. This past Thursday in 2024 Zee Hamid won Milton for the Conservatives with 47% of the vote.

Read the rest of this page »

Donald Trump’s Stormy Daniels election interference trial (for want of better words) carries on this coming week — what would Will Rogers say??

Posted: April 28th, 2024 | No Comments »
Michael Seward, Coming Through (Ancestor2). 2024. Acrylic. 24”sq.

SPECIAL FROM CITIZEN X, BUCKHORN, ON. SUNDAY, APRIL 28, 2024. It’s raining up here in the exurban northern wilderness. — April showers that bring May flowers.

If only for a few hours I am trying to escape the troubling choppy waters of US politics on TV, in the new age of Trump on trial. For some reason I’m struck by what I recall as an old Will Rogers joke : “The Duke of Richmond comes from Richmond, England. He doesn’t have enough ancestors to come from Richmond, Virginia.”

Richmond, Virginia today deserves a somewhat better press. Will Rogers was born November 4, 1879 “on his parents’ Dog Iron Ranch in the Cherokee Nation … Indian Territory, near present-day Oologah, Oklahoma.” He “died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post when their small airplane crashed in northern Alaska.”

Will Rogers … has a message for YOU! From his official website today.

(And as it happens the fateful US presidential election this year is on November 5, 2024 — the day after Will Rogers’s 145th birthday! Alas he died in the Alaskan plane crash 89 years ago when he was only 56.)

Even when I visited Richmond, VA for the first time in the early 1980s it was already becoming more of a hip place than it must have been in the 1920s, when Rogers’s career as a legendary folksy newspaper columnist, book author, radio personality, and movie star blossomed.

Maybe partly for that reason when I tried to google what I recall as an old Will Rogers joke about the Duke of Richmond, I couldn’t seem to turn anything up. But I did stumble across a number of earlier 20th century quotations from Will Rogers. And they somehow seem to fit the present troubling political scene of the USA in the earlier 21st century well enough.

Read the rest of this page »

The Bill Maher who thinks Canada has gone too far left will apparently still be voting for Joe Biden in the USA today

Posted: April 20th, 2024 | No Comments »
Michael Seward, Garden of Earthly Delights. 2024.

RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO . SATURDAY, APRIL 20, 2024. Bill Maher’s latest misunderstanding of the Canadian real world (see eg “Canadians react as Bill Maher takes a swipe at Canada” on blogTO) reminded me that Mr Maher once admired Rob Ford’s ability to be both a frequent recreational drug user and Mayor of Toronto.

In this first respect current Ontario Premier Doug Ford is apparently different from his younger brother. (Probably?) And if Bill Maher were to somehow take a sudden liking to Doug Ford, he might have to confront the conservatism he sometimes seems to admire more directly.

(1) Summarizing Bill Maher’s new conservative Blame Canada tirade on April 12, 2024

Mr. Maher himself is apparently self-consciously moving in a somewhat more conservative direction lately.

See eg this hasty summary of the blogTO summary of his April 12, 2024 Blame Canada tirade (as reported by Irish Mae Silvestre) :

In a recent episode of the HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher, the American comedian criticized Canada and its problems, calling it ‘a cautionary tale’ for his country … In an eight-minute segment, Maher described Canada as ‘what American voters think happens when there’s no one putting a check on extreme wokeness.’”

Ms Silvestre and blogTO carry on, as Mr. Maher more or less directly addresses we the Canadian people : “‘I’m not saying any of this because I enjoy it — I don’t because I’ve always enjoyed you,’ said Maher. ‘But I need to cite you as a cautionary tale to help my country and the moral of that tale is yes, you can move too far left’ … He added, ‘And this is why people vote for Trump. They say in politics, liberals are the gas pedal, and conservatives have the brakes, and I’m generally with the gas pedal, but not if we’re driving off a cliff.’”

Read the rest of this page »