March 19, 21, 24, 27, and 29 — two weeks of political mania in the Toronto-Centred Region .. and beyond

Mar 19th, 2012 | By | Category: In Brief

MP Olivia Chow greets guests at a celebration of Jack Layton’s legacy on St. Patrick’s Day 2012, at the Central branch of the Calgary Public Library. Photograph by: Bryan Weismiller.

Today’s by-election for Jack Layton’s old seat in Toronto-Danforth just kicks off two weeks of intense political mania at all three levels of government, in what was once mistakenly called the Toronto-Centred Region by Ontario government planners.

Inevitably all this is of most interest to actual residents of the region. (See “Jack Layton’s Toronto-Danforth riding looks to stay NDP in Monday’s byelection” in the Toronto Star.)  But the Edmonton Journal, eg, has also noted “Byelection kicks off for Layton’s old seat.”  And over the weekend Jack’s widow Olivia Chow was actually in the oil patch metropolis, to accept an award to her late husband from the University of Calgary Social Work department.

Meanwhile, back in hogtown, following today’s March 19 by-election we have a March 21 meeting of Toronto City Council, carrying on the struggle between Mayor “Subway Rob” Ford and his LRT opponents. (See “Rob Ford pledges to block LRT construction—even if council votes for it” and “Ford reportedly considering property tax hike to pay for Sheppard subway.”)

Calgary Transit LRT system at work.

All this might also make Toronto residents like Olivia Chow wonder if Mayor Ford knows that Calgary already has a quite successful LRT network with plans for expansion. (See “Calgary LRT Network Plan.”) In some similar connection this past weekend Ms. Chow was apparently talking with “Mayor Naheed Nenshi, among others” about “the price tag for the southeast LRT — recently estimated at around $2 billion.”

From here we move on to the March 23–24 leadership convention of the New Democratic Party of Canada / Nouveau Parti démocratique du Canada — at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre – South Building, 222 Bremner Blvd. (“Together, we will move Canada forward.”)

My own favourite recent newspaper reports on this front are: “Cullen: The NDP leadership race wild card” (Vancouver Sun) ; “Cullen denies interest in pre-convention pact with NDP rivals” (Globe and Mail) ; “Tim Harper on NDP leadership race: Thomas Mulcair’s opponents have helped him” (Toronto Star) ; and “Why Mulcair should be the next NDP leader” by the ancient Central Canadian NDP stalwart Gerald Caplan (Globe and Mail).

The Halifax Chronicle Herald on the NDP leadership race.

As supplementary reading for insomniacs I’d also recommend : “Broadbent on Mulcair: ‘I’m just putting up warning signals‘” (Edmonton Journal) ; two reports from la belle province — “LYSIANE GAGNON … Back in the arms of the Bloc … There is little doubt that a new NDP leader would revive the party’s fortune in Quebec as elsewhere, especially if the crown goes to Thomas Mulcair” (Globe and Mail) and “Les conservateurs lancent une publicité contre Bob Rae …  Les néodémocrates se choisissent un nouveau chef samedi, mais ce sont les libéraux que le Parti conservateur a choisi d’attaquer cette semaine, mettant en ligne une publicité qui s’en prend à leur chef par intérim” (Le Devoir) ; and last but by no means least the editorial cartoon in today’s Halifax Chronicle Herald, “When an NDP leadership campaign gets nasty.”

The final stretch of the intense political mania in the misnamed Toronto-Centred Region takes in the Ontario provincial budget on Tuesday, March 27, and the Canadian federal budget on Thursday, March 29.

For further food for thought on all this, try “Ontario Budget 2012 … Deep Cuts Expected … The minority government is expected to seek support for the budget from the NDP” ; “Ontario revamps hospital funding model” ; “Federal Budget 2012: Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reverse spending, hiring sprees” ; and “Canadians oppose Tory budget plan for pension system cuts: poll.”

Some have questioned our earlier report of rumours that Kim Kardashian may be supporting West Coast candidate Nathan Cullen at the March 24 NDP leadership vote. But here she is, “at LAX bound for Canada in ripped jeans and an army jacket, flashing the peace sign as she proceeds to boarding.” Photo by PacificCoastNews.com.

In the first instance, of course, it doesn’t matter in Ottawa just what current opinion polls may or may not say. The Harper Conservatives have a nice majority, and can push whatever budget they like through Parliament — barring some virtually impossible backbencher revolt. (Why would the backbenchers revolt? They’ve never had it so good — at least not since the earlier days of Brian Mulroney.) In Ontario, on the other hand, the McGuinty Liberal “majority minority” government is two votes shy of what it needs to pass its budget. And, as the article above notes: “The minority government is expected to seek support … from the NDP.”

Even more generally, from the standpoint of putting Canada back on its more accustomed progressive path at the next federal election in 2015, I still prefer the federal NDP leadership candidate Nathan Cullen’s strategy of New Democrat-Liberal-Green co-operation. If Mr. Mulcair does prove the ultimate victor, I hope it is true that Mr. Cullen “ is believed aligned with Mulcair, although he denies it.” (And vice-versa.)

And in this same context, I find it a bit distressing that in today’s Toronto-Danforth by-election the only serious contest is between the New Democrats and the Liberals. The real world of politics being what it is, I suppose, I can only hope this doesn’t set some kind of precedent for the further mania that lies ahead.

UPDATE, MARCH 19, 11 PM : See “NDP holds fast to Layton’s old seat … The New Democrats won a federal by-election in the riding of Toronto-Danforth by a landslide … With more than three-quarters of polls reporting … NDP candidate Craig Scott had almost 60 per cent of the vote … Liberal candidate Grant Gordon finished a distant second at roughly 29 per cent, and conceded the race … no one expected Conservative candidate Andrew Keyes to mount much of a challenge … Mr. Keyes finished a poor third with about five per cent of the vote.”

UPDATE, MARCH 22 : A day later than planned, the “final decision on Rob Ford’s [allegedly] cherished Scarborough subway” (and more broadly, if you like, on the “Ford brothers revolution — decline and fall or restoration?”) are now in. See counterweights’ “Streetcar named Rob Ford” update: “It’s not really ‘streetcars against subways’ … it really is whether private cars should dominate over public transit!

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