The Globe and Mail seems to be saying that Canada must just accept some obsolete colonial constitution forever (and make the country today an Authoritarian State?)

Posted: May 28th, 2022 | No Comments »
“Lemongrass Sutra for Allen Ginsberg” by Michael Seward, May 2022.

SPECIAL FROM THE DEMOCRATIC DESKTOP OF CITIZEN X, ON THE EDGE OF THE CANADIAN SHIELD IN BUCKHORN, ON. K0L 0C1. 28 MAY 2022. There was a time when I thought of the Globe and Mail as Canada’s newspaper of record..

Then a retired engineer I knew who had worked on the Avro Arrow cancelled his longstanding subscription to the Globe. He said it had become too right wing politically for a real newspaper of record. Living in the GTA (aka Big Smoke), he subscribed to the Toronto Star instead.

My grandparents’ Toronto house where I lived until age 11 (long before I moved up here to the Kawartha exurbs) preferred the old Telegram (and before 1936, I was told, the old Mail and Empire). My grandfather apparently felt that the Toronto Daily Star of his day was a “red” newspaper. Yet in his last few decades my father, who was still taking the Telegram when we moved to a new house of our own in the suburbs, also finally subscribed to the Toronto Star.

When the old Globe, founded by George Brown in 1844, became today’s Globe and Mail in 1936.

I was still reading the Globe and Mail more or less as a newspaper of record back when my own kids were younger. I can remember them reporting on the subject to their grandparents. But like the retired engineer, by the time my kids were in their late teens or early 20s, I was also growing estranged from what was then I think still calling itself “Canada’s National Newspaper.”

I should acknowledge that I have all due respect for the hard fact that, according to one “List of the top 10 Canadian newspapers by circulation … Updated July 2021,” The Globe and Mail — “In print for 170 years” — is currently at the top, in the Number 1 spot, etc.

I should confess as well that I am an I-think-inadvertent part of the problem old newspapers seem to be confronting virtually everywhere, in the face of the new information technology.

I used to live in a house that sometimes seemed engulfed by newspapers (and magazines). I live in a much more at least orderly looking house now, with a much smaller overall consumption of paper products.

I no longer lean on even the pay-walled websites of the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail online. I rely on the still free reporting available on the CBC News and CTV News sites (to present them in alphabetical order). Then again, there is a vast assortment of tailor-to-taste online reportage and opinion in such places as Twitter …

Untitled by Michael Seward, May 2022.

All of which is just a very long preface to my personal reporting that I (accidentally) found a Globe and Mail editorial on May 26, 2022 altogether appalling, and certainly unworthy of and completely inappropriate for any serious Canadian newspaper of record.

It blithely opines : “Canada’s monarchy is here to stay. Embrace it … For those interested in making Queen Elizabeth II the last Queen of Canada, we have bad news for you: It’s almost impossible.”

Moreover, this opinion is offered in the wake of two recent polls from the Angus Reid Institute — in November 2021 and April 2022. These polls have suggested that although Queen Elizabeth II remains widely admired, a full two-thirds majority of Canadians do not support carrying on with the monarchy under King Charles, after his 96-year-old mother unhappily passes on.

My own opinions on this issue are much closer to those of my counterweights friend, colleague, and policy advisor Randall White, who also on May 26, 2022 offered this advice in a Loonie Politics column : “Visit of Prince Charles and Camilla should remind us that we will finally have to explore Canada’s constitutional future again.”

Home of Globe and Mail on King Street in Toronto since 2016.

To me, the Globe and Mail editorial edict that “Canada’s monarchy is here to stay. Embrace it” (because it’s allegedly “almost impossible” to end it) summarizes almost everything that is wrong with Canada today.

In the real world modern Canada is what the Constitution Act, 1982 calls “a free and democratic society.” And to believe in the future of the remarkable diverse Canadian people — from the Indigenous First Nations to the latest new citizens (and everyone in between) — is to believe that in the end We Shall Overcome all obstacles in the way of fulfilling this destiny.

No newspaper worth listening to would advise that our Canadian democracy today must somehow “embrace” continuing with the old colonial monarchy because it’s just “here to stay,” as a result of various arcane rules flowing from the old colonial history — when two-thirds of the Canadian people already want this old colonial history to end.

What kind of legacy is that to pass on to our children and grandchildren and the many new migrants to Canada’s growing free and democratic society, who are coming from around the global village to enjoy the practical blessings of just this kind of free and democratic human experience?

In the current rising struggle between what the political scientist Franz Neumann called The Democratic and the Authoritarian State, back in the 1950s, the Globe and Mail has now effectively placed itself on the side of the latter option! What other conclusion is there?

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH IV : Starting to look like Ford cakewalk .. only small chance of minority government??

Posted: May 24th, 2022 | No Comments »
“51.4%” by (half Albertan) Toronto artist Michael Seward, May 2022.

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH 2022, CW EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MAY 24, 2022 : Just to start with, here’s a sunny lakeside toast to the real 24th of May, in the Old Ontario that only sees a 2022 future for itself under the newly “evolved” conservative grass-roots political guru from Old Etobicoke, in the Old Toronto northwestern suburbs.

(To say nothing of the shrewd gentlemen and remarkable women said to be running the premier’s current controversial but apparently successful enough election campaign.)

Old Ontario mood in the air

This Old Ontario mood isn’t the only element in the Ford Conservative political base of great consequence in the 2022 election.

But it is important, and you can still see it on the ground as you travel around especially Southern Ontario. It works hard to survive and it still has many roots in the old 19th century family-farm democracy, aka nowadays colonial settler society.

From here take the regional breakdown in the “Last Updated: May 24, 2022 11:03 a.m.” version
of Éric Grenier’s “Ontario Votes 2022 Poll Tracker” on the CBC News site as one case in point.

Untitled by Michael Seward, May 2022.

The Liberals’ problem is that they are only in first place in one of the six regions — the new amalgamated City of Toronto (which now includes Premier Ford’s family home in old Etobicoke, and has 25 seats in the current Legislative Assembly).

The New Democrats’ similar problem is that they too are in first place in only one region — Northern Ontario (13 seats).

Meanwhile, the Ford Conservatives are ahead in four of the six regions : Southwest Ontario (24 seats), Greater Toronto Area (34 seats), Eastern Ontario (19 seats), and Hamilton-Niagara (9 seats — but note the New Democrats are very close behind the Ford “PCs” in this Andrea Horwath homeland.)

Read the rest of this page »

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH III : Ford not exactly on cruise control to certain victory with majority government, but …

Posted: May 18th, 2022 | No Comments »
“Untitled” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, May 2022.

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH 2022, CW EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MAY 18, 2022 : With a mere two weeks before election day on June 2, we’d point to the headlines for two recent opinion columns by noted analysts to summarize our own sense of where the 2022 Ontario provincial election is right now.

To start with we don’t quite agree with the memorable slogan for a May 17 Don Martin piece on the CTV News site : “Ford on cruise control to victory in Ontario …. .” We think the Ford Conservative polling numbers are not quite good enough for quite this buoyant an assessment.

It is certainly true that the two leading poll aggregators, Éric Grenier and Philippe J. Fournier, are both projecting Ford majority governments as we write. But a poll just released today from Mario Canseco’s Research Co. reports that “34% of decided voters say they will support the Ontario PC candidate in their riding in next month’s provincial ballot.”

And it seems clear enough from the available records which begin in 1914 that no party has won a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario with as little as 34% of the popular vote — with the possible inexact exception of E.C. Drury’s unique United Farmer-Labour coalition government just after the First World War (and the so-called Spanish Flu pandemic).

How big a popular vote do you need for a majority government?

In 1990 Bob Rae’s Ontario New Democrats won a majority government with 37.6% of the province-wide popular vote.

Drury’s Farmer-Labour coalition governed from the election of 1919 to the election of 1923 with a slim majority of 56 to 58 seats in a 111-seat house (depending on just how supporters are calculated in a less strictly regimented earlier 20th century party system).

The combined popular vote of the two parties was just under 34%.

Since then, if our eyes haven’t completely glazed over looking at the numbers, no party has won a majority government with less than the 37.6% won by Bob Rae’s New Democrats in 1990. (Though Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals came close in 2014 with only 38.7% .)

All other such “majority government” victories in Ontario political history since the First World War have been accompanied by province-wide popular votes of at least 40% — and usually a bit more. The Ford PC s in 2018 had 40.5 %. The average vote of the eight successive Progressive Conservative majority governments from George Drew in 1945 to Bill Davis in 1971 was 45.6%.

Read the rest of this page »

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH II : Is this just the calm before the storm or the calm before the disengaged electorate?

Posted: May 14th, 2022 | No Comments »
Untitled by Michael Seward, May 2022.

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH 2022, CW EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MAY 14, 2022 : Among many other things, Greg Barns’s excellent recent report on the May 21, 2022 Australian federal election may suggest something of a parallel fresh but relevant perspective on the June 2, 2022 provincial election in Canada’s most populous province.

To quickly review the current Ontario numbers, the two best-known opinion poll aggregating projects — Éric Grenier’s “Ontario Votes 2022 Poll Tracker” on the CBC News site, and Philippe J. Fournier’s “338Canada Ontario” associated with Maclean’s — are still predicting Ford Nation Ontario PC majority governments, with not too much less than 40% of the province-wide popular vote.

A bare majority in the current 124-member Legislative Assembly of Ontario is 63 seats. Grenier (“Last Updated: May 13, 2022 9:25 a.m.”) is projecting 72 seats for the PCs (or Ford Conservatives is almost certainly more apt) with 37.1% of the popular vote. Fournier (“Latest update: May 12, 2022”) gives the Ford Conservatives as many as 80 seats with 38% of the vote.

Both Grenier and Fournier are analyzing the same public polls using only mildly different assumptions. And it can be both reassuring and not surprising that they come to the broadly same average conclusions. Ever since the unofficial Ontario election campaign began sometime last fall, however, the recurrent Ford majority government average poll calculations have included a few individual polls suggesting a somewhat different story.

The best recent example is a Nanos survey for CTV News and cp24 taken May 7-8. It reported : “As of May 8th, 2022 the Progressive Conservatives have 35.4 per cent support, followed by the Liberals at 30.4 per cent, the NDP at 23.7 per cent, the Greens at 4.2 per cent, the New Blue Party at 3.6 per cent and the Ontario Party at 1.4 per cent.”

Nanos does not do more complex seat projections along with its individual polls. But a province-wide popular vote of only 35.4% is at the very least straying perilously close to a minority rather than majority government result. And the Ford Conservatives have recurrently strayed into this territory in individual polls — and even in some multiple poll averages — again since last fall.

Read the rest of this page »

A primer on May 21 Australian election for (non) voters in fellow Commonwealth Realm of Canada (&/or next door in USA!)

Posted: May 11th, 2022 | No Comments »

SPECIAL FROM GREG BARNS. HOBART, AUSTRALIA, 11 MAY 2022. On May 21 Australians go to the polls in a general election. After what will be a dull contest, light on big ideas and competing visions, the choice will be between another term for the conservative Liberal National Party coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison or the election, for the first time since 2013, of the centre left Australian Labor Party (ALP) headed by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. The policy differences between these parties are, much to the disappointment of many, few and far between. The level of voter disengagement is high. The real interest in this election is the rise of independent candidates who are threatening incumbent Liberals by presenting themselves as genuinely liberal.

The Coalition has been in office since 2013 and in that time has cycled through three leaders —Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Morrison who has been Prime Minister since 2018. Morrison is a tenacious fighter, having won the previous election in 2019 against the odds. But this time it looks a step too far for a man who is described by some in his own party as dishonest, “a horrible person,” “a complete psycho”, and by French President Emmanuel Macron, a liar. The latter’s jibe came after Morrison announced Australia was joining the US and UK in the AUKUS grouping and cancelling an order for French made submarines.

Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese and Liberal PM Scott Morrison (right) find something amusing during the first 2022 leaders’ debate.

Morrison’s opponent Albanese is a child of the ALP. He has been in the federal parliament since 1996 and was a minister in the last Labor government of 2007-2013. Leader since 2019 Albanese has struggled to cut through with voters, albeit Covid has been a factor in that regard. He has maintained a “head down” approach to policy, with his party gun shy after it lost the 2019 election partly on the back of a scare campaign over much needed tax reform it proposed. Both the ALP and the Coalition have played the populist card with promises of big spending, despite the fact whomever wins will have to deal with a long term inflation threat, rising interest rates and a gaping budget deficit.

If the polls are right, Morrison’s government is too far behind to win this time. Opinion polls since last year, and they have not shifted despite Albanese being somewhat gaffe prone during the election campaign, have shown the ALP ahead of the Coalition by a margin of 53-54% to 46-47%. Currently the Coalition holds 77 seats, ALP 68, and minor parties and independents 6 seats in the House of Representatives. There is also a Senate election but, as is nearly always the case these days, it will be cross benchers who hold the balance of power in that chamber.

“Support for independent candidates includes a wave of ‘teal’ ahead of the federal election” in Australia in 2022.

What is intriguing about this election is the rise of the so called ‘teal’ Independents – a reference to the colour used in their marketing. These are independent candidates bankrolled in part by Simon Holmes A’Court, a member of one of Australia’s wealthiest families who is campaigning for greater action on climate change. They are running in seats held by the Liberal Party where there is a preponderance of affluent, well educated voters many of whom have traditionally voted Liberal but who see the party as now deeply conservative and captured by vested interests.

In my 2003 book What’s Wrong with the Liberal Party? (Cambridge UP) I argued that there was a gap in the Australian political ideas marketplace. On the one hand the Liberals had shifted to the right ; the ALP was influenced by the union movement and its right wing faction kept it socially cautious ; and the Greens had emerged on the left. There was no progressive liberal force representing the views of voters who are concerned about issues such as climate change, Indigenous Australia, and economic reform. The ‘teal independents’ are filling that void and look like they have a fighting chance of being successful in removing from office senior Liberal MPs.

The power of the teal independents is demonstrated by the hard fight the current Treasurer (in Canada, Finance Minister) Josh Frydenberg is having against Monique Ryan. Frydenberg represents Kooyong, a seat in Melbourne’s inner eastern suburbs which has been the one of the safest Liberal seats in the nation and which was formerly held by Sir Robert Menzies, Prime Minister from 1949-1966 and founder of the Liberals. Ms Ryan is leading in some of the opinion polls and is garnering support from voters who are particularly concerned about the failure of the Morrison government to take seriously climate change and to establish an anti-corruption commission. Similarly in the wealthy south east of Melbourne Tim Wilson, a Liberal assistant minister, is behind Zoe Daniel, a former journalist.

Former Liberal ministers and leaders such as Fred Chaney, whose family has been a feature of the Liberal Party in Western Australia since the 1950s, is backing his niece Kate who is running as a teal independent in Perth. Chaney recently penned an opinion piece in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald lamenting the takeover of the Liberal Party by the right and the factional warfare that has been tearing the party apart around Australia.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese and partner Jodie Haydon at Australian premiere of blockbuster musical Hamilton in Sydney, March 2021.

If the ALP is elected what might it do about some of Australia’s important unfinished business, such as constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, the move to a republic and a national human rights charter? It is certain that the Indigenous voice will be heard with Mr Albanese promising a referendum if he is elected. On the issue of an Australian head of state Mr Albanese and his party are committed to a republic and the imminent end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth will ensure the republic debate is back on the front burner. Australia’s appalling lack of human rights protection might also be a priority for the man likely to be Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus. There have been three attempts since the mid-1970s to follow Canada on human rights protections and each has been stymied by right-wing media and political campaigning.

What would the election of Mr Albanese mean for the Trudeau government, given both are committed to containment of China and in particular to ensuring China’s Asia-Pacific influence is checked? The short answer is that there is unlikely to be any substantive policy change from that pursued by the Morrison government. However the megaphone diplomacy and sabre rattling by current Defence Minister Peter Dutton will likely be replaced by more nuanced advocacy. On climate change an Albanese government will be keen to shed the image of Australia as a laggard, but moving away from a reliance on coal both as a power source and a valuable export commodity will be politically difficult given influence of mining unions and key electorates in states such as Queensland.

One possible outcome for this election is a hung parliament, with teal independents and current minor party and independent MPs holding the balance of power. This has been considered a real prospect but appears less likely given the present state of the polls. If this scenario became reality it would be much more likely that the ALP would form an alliance and therefore a government with the predominantly liberal independent and minor party MPs.

What many Australians hope for is an end to this election campaign where the most talked about feature has been the tendency of some in the media to catch out Mr Albanese with “gotcha” questions.

Greg Barns is a former political adviser in Australia, the author of four books in Australian politics, and a weekly columnist for the Hobart Mercury.

Pausing in Ontario election campaign to consider prospect that PM Stephen Harper and PM Justin Trudeau may (in some ways) be similar federal leaders?

Posted: May 10th, 2022 | No Comments »
Untitled by noted Toronto artist Michael Seward, May 2022.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS. GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MAY 10, 2022. Just as the Ontario provincial election campaign finally starts showing some (half?) life (maybe?), we’ve at long last just received the last narrative chapter in Randall White’s work in progress, Children of the Global Village : Democracy in Canada Since 1497.

It is called “‘An object lesson to the whole world … If Canada could exist, what couldn’t?’, 2006–2021.” And this title apparently refers to a quotation with which the book began (see “Prologue : too much geography”), from the British American economist and philosopher Kenneth Boulding (1910–1993) : Canada is an “absurd country … whose very existence is an object lesson to the whole world … I’ve always thought, ‘If Canada could exist, what couldn’t?’”

This last narrative chapter brings the particular modern democratic story that (for the sake of argument) began not too long after Giovanni Cabotto’s 1497 journey to some place on the northern North American Atlantic coast (probably present-day Newfoundland) down to the present moment — the Age of PM Stephen Harper followed by the Age of PM Justin Trudeau.

How does Mr. White himself explain that more than a year has elapsed since the posting in this format of his second-last narrative chapter, “The Return of the Natural Governing Party, 1992—2006”? He notes that all four now complete draft chapters in “PART IV : The Long Journey to a Canadian Republic, 1963–20??” have taken some time.

[READERS WITH LESS TIME MAY WANT TO OMIT THIS : The first — “Canadian flag to Parti Québécois government, 1963–1976” — was posted Dec 23rd, 2018. The next — “New northern directions (and two lights that failed), 1976–1992” — first appeared Dec 31st, 2019 (just over a year later). But the third chapter — The Return of the Natural Governing Party, 1992–2006 — was posted about a year and two and a half months after that, on Mar 18th, 2021. Now the fourth and final chapter in Part IV — “An object lesson to the whole world … … ‘If Canada could exist, what couldn’t?’, 2006–2021” — has appeared on May 7th, 2022, not quite a year and two and a half months after the third chapter.]

Untitled by noted Toronto artist Michael Seward, May 2022.

Mr. White reports as well that he might still be searching for an end to the fourth chapter, were it not for the March 22, 2022 Delivering for Canadians Now, A Supply and Confidence Agreement — masterminded by Liberal (minority) PM Justin Trudeau and New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh. This (a much overused word these days) iconic (and optimistic) bow to the concept of co-operation between centre-left and more radical left democratic political forces, White has speculated, at last provided a convenient end point for the story he wants to tell. (eg CLICK HERE.)

Read the rest of this page »

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH I : Could June 2 finally prove a very big surprise at Queen’s Park?

Posted: May 1st, 2022 | No Comments »
“Archaeology/Memory,” mixed-media on canvas, by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, April 2022.

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH 2022, CW EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MAY 1, 2022 : Barring unforseen prospects the, as it were, official official campaign for the Ontario election that takes place on Thursday, June 2 will begin this coming Wednesday, May 4.

Today’s Sunday editorial meeting here considered a dozen relevant recent news items. Before just briefly sketching them as an introduction to the coming four weeks and four days in Canada’s most populous province, we should note our general conclusion up front. We’re still looking for signs of anything at all different from a second Doug Ford Nation Ontario PC majority government on June 2.

If some (and even some of us) are thinking that Liberal leader Steven Del Duca is doing better than expected, that still seems far from common wisdom among deep thinkers at large. As we think the list below illustrates there are various intriguing currents in today’s political waters north of the Great Lakes. None, however, altogether qualifies as evidence of some very big surprise ahead at Queen’s Park … at least not quite yet …

Untitled by Michael Seward, April 2022.

(And then there is the recent press release of the hard-to-believe Ontario Party, which actually has at the moment one sitting Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario : “With Roger Stone as our Senior Strategist, we have put together an incredible team of candidates to take down the ‘fake conservative’ Doug Ford and his leftist elites in Queen’s Park.” And it makes you wonder : Is Premier Ford paying the Ontario Party to say these things?)

In any case much closer to the ground here are the dozen news items with which we’re kicking off our own unofficial official campaign that starts on May Day 2022 :

The Saturday Debate: Should the provincial Liberals and NDP form an alliance? Tim Ellis and Tom Parkin debate whether the Ontario Liberals and NDP should follow their federal cousins to form government after the June 2 election.” Toronto Star, Sat., April 30, 2022.

Ontario party leaders try to connect with francophone voters while none speak French.” By Allison Jones, The Canadian Press, Sat., April 30, 2022.

Read the rest of this page »

Citizen X’s top half dozen issues — Ontario election, Abolishing monarchy, India on Ukraine, Indigenous Reconciliation, Arctic sovereignty, Anhad Accord

Posted: April 22nd, 2022 | No Comments »
Untitled collage by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward.

SPECIAL FROM THE DEMOCRATIC DESKTOP OF CITIZEN X, BUCKHORN, ON. K0L 0C1. 22 APRIL 2022. At last it’s starting to seem like spring in Southern Ontario. Looking at the minor forest outside through a large back window, as I sit in front of this smaller screen on the electronic highway, I am inspired to compile a list of my current top half-dozen issues in the news, with linkages to at least somewhat greater detail in various online resources :

(1) ONTARIO ELECTION — WILL THE FORD NATION PCs WIN AGAIN? Two recent polls have suggested slight hints of a surprise in the June 2 election in Canada’s most populous province. See “Provincial election race tightens as Liberals gain ground on PCs: Ipsos poll”; and (on a similar poll from Abacus) “Ontario Liberals in ‘striking distance’ of PCs, poll suggests.”

Steven Del Duca on the campaign trail.

Strangely enough, just as these polls have hit the news I hear over the phone from progressive left-wing friends in West Toronto that someone has just seen Liberal leader Steven Del Duca speaking, and reported that he sounded and even looked surprisingly good. (And this from sources not inspired by either Andrea Horwath or Steven Del Duca in the more recent past.)

At the same time, my residual sense of professionalism also prompts me to report that Philippe J. Fournier’s 338Canada Ontario aggregator of all recent public polls (Latest update: April 21, 2022) is still projecting the PC s with a majority government of 75 seats on June 2 (where 63 is a bare majority) based on 38% of the province-wide popular vote.

And yet for those who are absolutely appalled by the prospect of four more years of Premier Ford (and his still-freely-breathing Nation), it is also true that five of the half-dozen most recent polls in M. Fournier’s calculations are only rated A minus. And the one full A-rated is the Ipsos poll that has the Liberals (32%) within three points of the PC s (35%). Personally, I’m waiting to see what happens at the May 10 leaders’ debate in North Bay.

Read the rest of this page »

Giving Canadians stable progressive government for the next three years in a stormy global village

Posted: April 15th, 2022 | No Comments »
For a workable majority government after the 2021 election Liberals needed at least 170 seats in the Canadian House of Commons. There have been some slight changes since the election night of September 20, 2021. The Liberals currently have 159 seats, the BQ 32, and there is one Independent. (Everyone else is the same.) As of today the Liberals and New Democrats together have a comfortable majority of 184 seats.

“LAMENT FOR A NATION”. COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON, 15 APRIL 2022. According to pollster Nik Nanos the recent “Budget promises haven’t increased Liberal support” in Canadian federal politics. But this may not matter much.

The March 22 “Supply and Confidence Agreement” between the Justin Trudeau Liberals and Jagmeet Singh New Democrats likely enough means that there won’t be another federal election until October 20, 2025. There is plenty of time for the government’s (and the New Democrats’) polling numbers to improve!

Meanwhile, we counterweights editors have now had time to collectively pore over the text of the March 22 Agreement that appears on the Prime Minister of Canada website. And while we seem to agree that there are some serious moments of humour in this text, we feel pretty good about the Agreement and its potential impact on federal politics over the next three years.

According to rumour the essential nature of the new Delivering for Canadians Now, A Supply and Confidence Agreement was largely determined in conversations between PM Trudeau and NDP leader Singh. The actual detailed text of the ultimate written document, however, inevitably reads more like something finally negotiated by the two leaders’ staffs.

A quick overview

The general principles enunciated up front are straightforward enough : “The Liberal Party of Canada and Canada’s New Democratic Party have agreed to improve the way we approach politics over the next three years for the benefit of Canadians. The parties have identified key policy areas where there is a desire for a similar medium-term outcome.”

At the same time : “The parties will not always agree. The government will pursue elements of its agenda that the NDP may oppose and nothing in this agreement prevents either party from doing that.” Nonetheless : “The arrangement lasts until Parliament rises in June 2025, allowing four budgets to be presented by the government during this time.”

As a crucial part of the implementation of the Agreement : “Both parties agree to the minimum standing meetings: Leaders meeting at least once per quarter, Regular House Leader meetings, Regular Whip meetings, Monthly stock-take meetings by an oversight group” which “will consist of a small group of staff and politicians,” who “will discuss overall progress on key commitments and upcoming issues.”

The real fun begins when the document starts spelling out the “key policy areas where there is a desire for a similar medium-term outcome.” Broadly : “The Parties agree to prioritize the following actions, while continuing to work on other possible shared priorities through the oversight group … 1. A better healthcare system … 2. Making life more affordable for people … 3. Tackling the climate crisis and creating good paying jobs … 4. A better deal for workers … 5. Reconciliation … 6. A fairer tax system … 7. Making democracy work for people.”

Read the rest of this page »

Blue Jays 2022 : This year’s lineup has World Series capability, but living up to that billing won’t be easy

Posted: April 8th, 2022 | 2 Comments »
Vladdy Guerrero Jr at spring training.

SPECIAL FROM ROB SPARROW, HIGH PARK, TORONTO. APRIL 8, 2022.O the Joy of Opening Day 2022. Games provide distraction. In a world where one delicately navigates the atrocities and reckless tyranny in Ukraine, the continual struggle to cope with the ongoing complications and uncertainty of COVID-19, every little bit of joy matters. Baseball aficionados always find comfort in the rhythms of the game — its daily lessons of patience, persistence and humility. Now more than ever, amid a gloomy two-year drumbeat of upheaval and anxiety, we have the arrival of Opening Day, a moment of deliverance from our long period of privation.

Yet that moment did not seem so certain just a few weeks ago when owners and players were at a standstill, mired in a lockout that had gone on for months. The delayed start to spring training, and the specter of a shortened or canceled season, was almost too much to bear, another disquieting sign of these troubled times.

Locked Out for the Winter…

Tension between the owners and players dates back to the ratification of the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in 2016, which paved the way for an era rife with tanking, service-time manipulation and cost efficiency that prompted player salaries to decrease at a time of booming league revenues. The bitterness further escalated when the sides failed to come to a mutual agreement over the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season and boiled over during negotiations in the past offseason.

Player salaries had dropped over the past four seasons (from $4.1M in 2017 to $3.7M in 2021) despite growing league revenues that topped out at an estimated $10.7 billion in pre-COVID 2019. The significant rise in franchise values — which have almost quadrupled over the past two basic agreements — became a rallying cry for players and heightened their demand to claw back some of those gains and for a larger share of the pie.

Major League Baseball deputy commissioner Dan Halem, center, arrives for first in-person negotiating session in New York since MLB lockout began, Monday, January 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle.)

The players walked into bargaining asking for the moon but possessing a weak hand, not exactly the sort of combination that affects change. They outlined five key areas they wanted the new agreement to address – raising the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) which has acted as a defacto salary cap on team salaries, getting players paid earlier in their careers, fixing service-time manipulation for rookies, preventing teams from tanking, and removing restraints on free agency compensation.

Perhaps it was under the backdrop of all the troubles going on in the world; the absurdities of haggling over the minutiae of how to splice up the almost $11 billion dollar pie, the prospect of further alienating the paying fan, and continual loss of the interest of the streaming millennial/Gen-Z audience, that nudged the Billionaire Owners and Millionaire Players to an agreement in early March.

The new five-year CBA includes increased minimum salaries from $570,500 to $700,000, a new pre-arbitration $50M bonus pool to reward the top young players in the game, a raise in CBT thresholds from $210 million to around $230 million, the introduction of a universal designated hitter for both leagues, the widest-ranging Draft lottery in pro sports, a system to prevent alleged service-time manipulation, and limits on the number of times (five) a player can be optioned in a season to address concerns regarding “roster churn.” To finance the gains the players wanted the deal also includes new revenue streams for the sport by expanding the playoffs to 12 teams, and in following other sports (e.g. NBA, NHL) in the debasement of players uniforms and helmets with advertising patches and decals.

For Blue Jay fans, the one number that matters the most in the new CBA is the number 12. Under this years’ expanded playoff setup, the Jays would have made the playoffs last year and would have played the White Sox to open the post season.

Just Short in 21…

Vladdy introduces Home Run Jacket to fans on Twitter, Summer 2021 — The Trailer for the Movie in 2022.

Aww … what could have been … the Blue Jays in 2021 were outside looking in when their 91 victories fell one short of the Yankees and Red Sox and a potential three team Wildcard round. Yet their COVID disrupted journey in 2021 was indeed a tale of three cities. One that began in Dunedin, with a detour in Buffalo, before finally landing in Toronto in late July.

Perhaps it was this nomadic course, where they really were not the “home” team for most of the season, that more than anything else kept them out of the playoffs. Viz. the Jays were 10-11 at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, 12-11 at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field before charging to a 25-11 finish over the last two months at the Rogers Centre.

Blue Jay manager Charlie Montoyo feels his players “don’t get enough credit for what we did [while] not knowing where we’re going to play, playing in Dunedin and then to Buffalo.”

“When you think about it, you’ve got to move families, you’ve got to get new apartments and all that stuff,” he added. “I don’t think they get enough credit, our players. They never complained and that’s why we almost made it to the playoffs and won 91 games.”

Yet the season did not fall short on highlights. With Cy Young award winner Robby Ray and MVP-type seasons from Vladdy Guerrero Jr and Marcus Semien, along with league hit leader Bo Bichette. This wasn’t just a Blue Jays team capable of winning the American League. This was a team that could have pushed for a World Series ring. This was a team with characters and character, with a new hero every day dawning the “Home Run Jacket”— the joy they brought to the field was palpable.

So many of the pieces came together like they rarely come together at any time on any team. The Blue Jays have been kicking around since that cold and snowy April day in 1977, and there haven’t been many seasons — not even the World Series years — with a team that that explosive, magical, having so much fun.

Vladdy becomes a superstar…

Lourdes Gurriel Jr (left) with Vladimir Guerrero Jr (right).

One of the feel-good stories in baseball last year was the superstar breakout of Vlad Guerrero Jr. While his first two seasons were fine by most standards, questions swirled around Vlad Jr. Some were around his conditioning when he showed up at 2020 summer camp tipping the scales at a hefty 282 pounds. He then committed himself to arrive early every day to work getting himself into better shape, no simple task when trying to maintain strength and energy for the daily grind. Then over the winter in 2020, in his home Dominican Republic and on visits to the Blue Jays’ player development complex in Dunedin, he focused on improving his agility, flexibility, explosiveness, and endurance.

When Vladdy arrived at camp in 2021 he had lost 42 pounds, and set about answering any of the lingering questions definitively. He finished first in home runs in the American League, first in runs scored, first in OPS, first in slugging, second in batting average, first in total bases, fifth in RBIs. Quite simply one of the greatest offensive seasons in Blue Jays history. His stature within the game was further heightened with a prodigious home run of Corvin Burnes at the MLB All-Star game, garnering him the MVP award, the youngest player to be so honoured.

Having already dealt with more than his share of expectations, and with hoisting the franchise at least partly on his back the way it was long envisioned, Guerrero knows better than to get too far ahead of things. He’s finally found himself as a big-league superstar, establishing his place among the new generation of players taking over the game. “I’m a fast learner,” Guerrero says. “Here, you really have to work very hard, stay focused on your routine, all the work, and just put in everything so that it goes the way you want. That was, for me, the difference. I learned the process very quick and it’s just paying off right now. I can’t really tell you if I’m going to get better than this, but all I can assure you and everyone is that I’m going to keep working very, very hard to try to get better.”

The real Vladdy has arrived, now a perennial threat to win the Triple Crown and showing he could be every bit the monster that rampaged through the minor leagues as a teenager. It’s not just the sum of the formidable package of hitting abilities that makes Guerrero one of the game’s greatest talents, it’s that he, much like his teammates, has so much fun showing it off.

Potent Lineup for 22…

Shortstop Bo Bichette

In Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, the Blue Jays have two of the game’s most exciting young players. When you add in George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. it rounds out one of the game’s best lineups. Last year the “Home Run Jacket” happy Blue Jays led the league in home runs and were third in baseball scoring over five runs per game. If OPS is the ultimate statistic for offensive players, the Blue Jays had three of the top eleven hitters in the American League, three of the top seven in batting average, and three of the top ten in slugging percentage.

One major subtraction from the Blue Jays lineup in the offseason was the loss of Marcus Semien to the Texas Rangers in Free Agency. To make up for some of the departed offence the Blue Jays traded for third-baseman Matt Chapman formerly of the Oakland Athletics. Chapman is a three-time Gold Glove winner (2018, 2019 and 2021) and was an All-Star in 2019. He has spent all of his five seasons with Oakland, with a .243 career batting average, although last season he batted just.210, with 27 home runs and 72 RBIs, while striking out more than 200 times — a number which would have been a Blue Jay record … [Cw editors’ note : CLICK ON “Read the rest of this page” AND/OR SCROLL BELOW FOR MORE ON POTENT LINEUP, 2022 AND 1993, PITCHING A KEY, VLAD ON 2022, THE NEW SPORTS GAMING IN ONTARIO, AND A COMPLEX PREDICTION] …

Read the rest of this page »