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Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Closed for Business, Hostile to Seniors

Closed: that’s the message Collingwood Council sent to business during its recent budget discussions. We’re making it more expensive to run a business here, and by the way, we’re hostile to seniors and low-wage earners, too. Under the tissue-thin pretense of keeping taxes low (which they aren’t, really), council approved a staff initiative to remove the costs […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Bully Pulpit

“I suppose my critics will call that preaching, but I have got such a bully pulpit!” US President Theodore Roosevelt uttered those words in office (reported in the February 27, 1909, issue of The Outlook magazine), coining the phrase ‘bully pulpit’ in referring to the presidency as an ideal platform from which to expound his […]

Babel-on-the-Bay: A paean for once-great Montreal.

Political writer Chantal Hèbert recently wrote a requiem for Montreal in the Toronto Star. She described the city as a political orphan. It is no surprise. Montreal has become insular. It is a city that has forgotten its wondrous past and searches for a future. It is a city that has forgotten that for people to give a damn about you, you first need to care about others.

It was not always like this. There were happier times. There was a glorious Expo and the world came to Montreal. And then there was the crack of the bat by les (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: When losers are choosers.

Somebody needs to rap knuckles around Toronto. People who should know better keep coming up with really dumb ideas and nobody tells them to stop being stupid. Once again the gremlins are trying to screw up the way people vote. It is so bad that even Mayor John Tory wants to get in on the act and support preferential balloting.

Preferential voting is a no-brainer for dumb voters. Can you imagine the simplicity of lining up maybe four candidates for councillor in your ward and marking the ballot: 1, 2, 3 and 4? That is when ‘1’ represents the candidate (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: Common-sense thinking at Toronto City Hall.

What is this we hear about an upgrade of Woodbine Entertainment Group to a full-fledged casino? The operation deserves it. It was a bad move when Woodbine got caught in the battle between former Mayor Ford and the downtown cyclists. It was almost as though those downtown councillors had never been to Woodbine Race Track. They had no concept of the services Woodbine offers and the excellence of the operations.

First of all Woodbine is Canada’s premier race facility. It hosts the richest horse races on turf or dirt in Canada. Even if you have never punted a $2 bet, (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Email and Confidentiality

A story in this week’s Connection titled “Private talk with CAO leads to Collingwood integrity commissioner complaint” sparked the following comment. No, this is not about what strikes me as the unethical and secretive behaviour of the councillor in question and his defending that behaviour in the media as if the town’s Code of Conduct did not […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Councils and Their CAO

A good relationship between a municipal council and their town’s CAO is crucial to smooth, effective and efficient governance. The CAO is the liaison between council and staff, responsible for directing staff to implement council’s direction and overseeing internal personnel issues. If the relationship is rocky, then governance and Council’s interactions with staff – and therefore the […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Collingwood council’s committee system is broken

Last term, council approved a recommendation from the CAO to dump its traditional structure of council and public committees, to an internal system of standing committees filled only with politicians. The structure is used in several other – mostly larger – communities. It sounded intriguing, bold and exciting, so council said yes, let’s try it. […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The tail wags the dog again

In January, the CAO coupled a ‘sky-is-falling’ presentation about the town’s debt with a proposed 5.11 percent tax increase. * Councillor Kevin Lloyd made a motion to have staff bring back two options for council to consider: a one and two percent increase to the general tax levy, with comments on how these would affect […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: What’s Wrong with Municipal Bonusing?

Until the early 1970s, municipalities in Ontario were involved in a free-for-all competition to attract business and industry. They offered tax breaks, free land, free infrastructure, utilities or services, housing — whatever it took to get a plant or office to open within their boundaries. A lot of small Ontario communities were able to attract […]

Song of the Watermelon: The Case for ‘Yes’ in Metro Vancouver’s Transit Referendum

Well, anybody could have called this one.

According to a new survey by Insights West, 53 per cent of residents plan to vote No in the upcoming 2015 Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit Plebiscite. Only 38 per cent say they will vote Yes to the proposed half-percentage-point sales tax increase to help fund more buses, new rapid transit lines, improved walking and cycling networks, road and bridge upgrades, and more.

The once mighty Yes campaign’s decline is a regrettable development, but no one can honestly claim to be surprised. Though referendums can be useful exercises, they are out of (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Whitewash

In early January, Council was presented with a report by outside consultants on the state of the shared service agreement between Collus/Powerstream and the town. The report, however, was rejected by council as flawed – wisely, it turns out – and the following motion was made (emphasis added) that night: THAT the motion be deferred for […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Open for Business, But Not For Your Input

Did you happen to read the town ad on the inside page in the Enterprise Bulletin this weekend? February 6, top of page D7? I’m betting you didn’t because no one I’ve spoken to seems to have read it. And since you can’t find the ad on the EB’s website, you won’t have read it online, […]

Babel-on-the-Bay: Yes, you can fight city hall.

Local readers of Babel-on-the-Bay have asked occasionally why we do not discuss city politics in Barrie. The honest answer is that city politics in Barrie is boring and is something of a closed shop. Anyone who gets elected because they want to rock the boat is soon subsumed by the system. Trying to shake the cage from the outside is also a formidable task.

There are three classes of people in this city who wear suits and ties to work. They are lawyers, politicians and undertakers. And this is their town. They will all get a piece of you one (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Hypocrisy Starts

It didn’t long for the hypocrisy to start at council. Monday night, council approved a five-year contract for an unsolicited proposal from the town’s only (monopoly) taxi service without going to an open bid process. Yes that’s right: this council approved a sole-source contract in its first two months of this term. No tender. No RFP. […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Professional Politicians? Not Here…

There’s an editorial in the January 29 edition of the Collingwood Connection that underscores how little the local media really understand local politics, and how biased it remains. Which is unfortunate, because buried within this vitriolic screed was a nugget of wisdom; a salient point about local politics.* First, it begins with an essential error by […]

Babel-on-the-Bay: Will Chief Blair also use the Nuremburg defence?

Lawyers at the disciplinary hearing over a senior Toronto police officer’s actions during the G20 fiasco want Police Chief Bill Blair called to testify. The hearing should also hear why Chief Blair has not been charged with the same offences. Here it is almost five years later and the real culprit has yet to be charged.

If Superintendent Fenton is charged with unlawful arrest and discreditable conduct, just whose fault is it? Already known as the “one of the biggest infringements on civil liberties in peacetime Canada,” the G20 kettling of innocent bystanders was a disgrace that nobody wants to (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: That was another good year.

The New Year came and went and it was such a busy time for political comment that we missed commenting on the past year. And that year needs a look. Babel-on-the-Bay set some records. Readership is up. In 365 days, there were 365 commentaries. Other sites are asking for our commentaries. Others send us readers. The numbers are confusing because so many of you are frequent flyers. This blog is fun but on the occasional cold day, it can also be onerous.

But the record continues. Babel-on-the-Bay called the shots on every election of interest to us last year. The (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: A new age of civility for Toronto.

Welcome to Toronto of 2015. There is a new chief magistrate, a new regime, a new spirit of cooperation with all levels of government and a mayor who brings a new level of civility to the job at City Hall. It is unseemly for the media buzzards to gather waiting for John Tory to stumble. When someone is the answer to all your prayers, how can the news media start to disrespect him before he is even settled in his new office?

The media must still be lost in the infighting of the last council to complain about the new (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: How about gun control that works?

Just for a couple minutes, we can assume that the coming federal election will create a government other than that controlled by the Conservative Party. And, if we are finished enjoying the thought after almost 10 years of the Conservatives, we know we have lots of work ahead of us. One area that we need to address is gun control. This problem has to be fixed. And one way to fix it is to look at the past.

The one thing that we know for sure is that there is a serious dichotomy between urban and rural voters on the (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: Not likely, David Peterson.

Former Liberal Premier David Peterson has been labelled as a left-wing social democrat by the Toronto Star. It is hardly the first time the Star has been wrong but even Peterson denies the label. It was pinned on him after trying the Vox Pox Labs’ political Sentimeter quiz. The quiz divides respondents into four right wing political slots or four left wing political categories. It is an interesting exercise but determining someone’s political stance is much more complex.

What is interesting about the questionnaire is that of the 50,000 people claimed to have participated, roughly half have been labelled as (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: Arm-wrestling with police services.

Just like Toronto Mayor John Tory, this writer once thought he could make a difference on the local Police Services Board. The boards are made up of elected municipal politicians and citizen appointees. This resolve was strengthened the first time we saw the local Police Services Board chair stand up at City Council to present the police budget. It seemed to make a lie of everything we thought we knew about these boards.

A person appointed by their council or by the province to their police services board does not work for the police. These are the people who are (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: These people can’t even spell ‘Rabbit.’

There is a group in Toronto promoting ranked balloting in municipal elections. They call themselves RaBIT. This means Ranked Ballot Initiative in Toronto. They seem to be also linked to the Fair Vote people—the ones who tell you your vote will not count unless your candidate wins. If it was not for the support of the Toronto Star and their friends at Forum Research, you could just ignore the foolishness.

In the last couple weeks, Forum Research made 950 (completed?) automated telephone calls in Toronto that indicated 65 per cent of whoever answered approved of ranked balloting. And so (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: The Tory-Wynne Two-Step.

They might not be Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire (if you are old enough to remember the era) but Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne have more than voters in common. Tory is a left-leaning Conservative and Wynne is a right-leaning Liberal. And they dance to the same tunes.

Pundits seem surprised at how quickly the Premier is buying into Tory’s SmartTrack proposal. They should not be. Wynne’s Liberals have already bought into the proposition of electrifying the GO trains in the Greater Toronto Area. Tory’s SmartTrack solution can only work with an electrified system as electrified (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: Tory takes over in Toronto.

The problem is that we sometimes get what we ask for. On February 10 this year Babel-on-the-Bay was pleased to note that John Tory would be running for mayor of Toronto. The tell-tale signal was that he was sporting a new toupée. That was a most worthwhile investment. It carried him through the campaign in fine style.

But all is not roses.

What we always added to any comments about John Tory was that he is a card-carrying Tory. There was nobody else in the running who could defeat Rob Ford. Olivia Chow’s supporters did her in. And she is (Read more…)