Friday, October 12, 2007

Figure Skating on Christmas Day: Priceless

It seems the mayor has accepted the offer from MasterCard. It seems the money is no strings attached, so no advertising.

Of course, we can't always rely on the goodwill of private business, I think it might be worth the money to hire a few fundraisers to find people who have always wanted a public park named in their honour.

MasterCard for Mayor

Mastercard Canada has offered $160,000 to the city of Toronto to open the ice rinks on time. Mayor Miller had decided to keep the rinks closed to teach Torontonians what happens when they displease him.

It will be interesting to see whether the city accepts this offer, or if we instead get a lecture about corporate control of public space.

It strikes me that the city should be looking for lots of deals like this. It would seem that most of our recreational facilities could be financed by the private sector. Nike sponsored basketball courts, Wilson tennis courts, Canadian Tire park.

I am well aware that there are always objections to this kind of arrangements, but they always come from people who aren't offering a solution beyond "more taxes". And if we aren't going to get advertising for public facilities then it's time to start charging for their use. I see no reason to be subsidizing other people's recreation.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Shut Up CTV

CTV has projected that the referendum will fail. They provided further analysis that it was just too darn difficult to explain to people. Which, I suppose is why they didn't even bother trying. If it can't fit into a 3o second sound bite it's too complex for CTV. The failure of the pro-MMP side was that they didn't go around the province sticking cats up trees with "Vote MMP" buttons. CTV would have been all over that!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Only In Canada

One level of government is lobbying for another level of government to hand over funds to yet another level of government. And either way you slice it, it's our money. Now that's accountability!

Monday, October 01, 2007

More About MMP

Reviewing my posts I realise that I have failed to address another positive of the proposed system: we will probably see higher turnout in "safe" ridings.

I would never not vote. I'd always go and at least spoil my ballot, because voting is fun. But many people do not share this nerdy passion of mine. Most people don't get the giddy excitement when the phone rings around election time that it might be a pollster asking who I'll be supporting or what issues matter to me most. They don't vote because they know their vote won't make a difference, this isn't cynicism on their part, it's an accurate assessment of our voting system. For those Conservatives who live in a comfortable NDP riding, or those NDPers who live in a safe Liberal riding, why bother going out of your way to cast a ballot when it will have no effect on the outcome? But if they knew their ballot would count for something -- as it would under MMP -- they'd probably get out to vote.

I grant you this probably isn't a huge segment of the non-voting population. Many people just aren't interested in politics at all, but this is a group we really should want to vote: the people who are well informed enough to know what's going on and that their vote really won't make a difference. The Elections Ontario ads telling us we must vote so that we can have our say simply aren't true for people in safe ridings. For their vote to count they'd have to move somewhere with a contested seat. That seems a lot to ask for a little bit of democracy.

Vote MMP

So I've told you why the people who support FPTP (which apparently now includes the Toronto Star) are wrong. But why should you support MMP? In a nutshell because it is a fairer way of electing government that makes sure the votes of all Ontarians count. We will still have the local representation that we have now, but the amount of power that a party has will reflect their support across the whole province. More specifically:

We don't have a two party system. As much as the establishment Liberals and Conservatives would like to pretend that we live in a two-party system -- with the NDP and smaller groups acting as an uninvited guest to their party -- we don't. If we did, First Past the Post would do just fine because those who received the majority of the vote in a riding, and across the province would form a majority government. Instead, it is typically the case that those who receive the largest minority of the vote wins a majority government, or occasionally a minority government.Very occasionally, the party that does not win the largest number of votes still wins more seats and they form the government.

We don't have a system of independents. Those who support First Past the Post suggest that it isn't about who forms the government provincially but who is representing you locally. At one of the debates I attended, we were actually told (by a Liberal no less) that democracy is what happens in the constituency office in the days before an election when disabled people, minorities and women get together and stuff envelopes for the candidate of their choice (presumably while able-bodied white men are working to bring these people down). I'm not making this up. In reality of course, it's not about the local candidate. Most people cast their ballot for the party. Either because they are lifelong supporters of the party, because they support the platform this time around, or because they are trying to defeat another party. Certainly there are exceptions to this, some people really like or really hate their local candidate and voting for the individual, but on the whole this is rare. It is good that this is rare, because it is a stupid thing to do. When your candidate gets elected, he or she will have to follow the party's orders. We do not send 109 107 MPPs to Queen's Park to deliberate on the issues of the day, we send 107 votes to Queen's Park, for or against the government's agenda. Some people with power within a party will have more say that others, but if your candidate is a backbencher it's basically their job to shut up and vote as they're told. I'm not suggesting that this will change with MMP but let's at least get the voting in line with the wishes of the people of Ontario.

Millions of votes are being wasted. Now the anti-MMP gang have done a pretty good job of making it seem like people who say this are being immature whiny brats. My point is not that if I don't get the government that I want that my vote is wasted. My point is rather that vast numbers of people may support a particular issue, but unless they all happen to live near one another it doesn't matter at all in this province. I'm perfectly willing to accept the idea that I am not always going to get exactly the government I want. But everyone should get a say in who forms government, not just the people who happen to support the successful candidate in an arbitrary geographical area.

Some issues are larger than your neighbourhood Although I have been told many times that all politics is local and the community is what matters, I simply don't believe it. We live in an age where I can communicate as easily with someone in Thunder Bay as I can with someone down the street. Toronto isn't only ethnically diverse, we have people of all political stripes as well, too bad that isn't reflected in government. If Sudbury and Oshawa are such vastly different places that local representation must trump province-wide support in all cases, why bother sharing a province at all? We could just have really powerful municipalities instead. Yes, from time to time, one region will need more attention and will need someone to stand up and represent it in the legislature, and MMP will still protect this. In fact, list candidates will be able to help when one region of the province is having troubles, in a way that local candidates from other regions cannot without taking time away from their own constituents. I am simply not willing to accept that the only thing that matters in 21st century Ontario is what city you happen to live in.

I don't believe that MMP will fix every problem we have in this province, but I do think it's a step in the right direction.

Update: The correct number of seats in the legislature is 107 not 109, as I originally stated.