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Babel-on-the-Bay: You should take up gambling Sousa.

Occasionally this commentator gives advice to Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa. It is because we actually like him. He is a nice guy. He is kind of like a slow relative whom you always want to help along. He tries your patience but you keep making the effort. It is in this light that we must admit we left out an important asset when discussing the challenge faced by the blue ribbon panel Charles asked to advise him on how to make more money from provincial assets. The asset is Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG).

As you probably know, Charles (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: More musing on TO’s mayoralty marathon.

Obviously the Olivia Chow campaign team must know something we do not. It is hard to believe that John Tory’s mayoralty campaign is that far ahead? It is the only excuse we can think of for the unrestrained and vicious anti-Tory campaign from Chow at this time.

Until now we have always respected Conservative John Laschinger’s work. He is a smart and steady strategist and Chow was lucky to get him to run her campaign. This is not your typical New Democratic run for the roses and current activities on Chow’s behalf show desperation. Here it is more than six (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: Reports from the Toronto mayoralty marathon.

A visitor to Toronto could only suppose that the election for mayor is to be held next week. The air is charged with the accusations, slurs, gutter language and snide reporting as though it were the final weeks of the campaign. And that is just in the social media.

But the commercial media seem just as rabid. Rosie DiManno is not about to have her pen bronzed and hung over the mantel while she retires to her rocker. The city hall media rabble—replete with cameras and recorders—are hardly about to forget their favourite part-time mayor of all the people. Nor (Read more…)

Melissa Fong: #Urbanarium2014: How to build a truly “Engaged City”?

“Engaged City” was unanimously passed yesterday, and it seems like the pundits are all out criticizing the process. … Democratization of the planning process is a fundamental problem with bureaucratic institutions; government is fundamentally hierarchical. Do we target Vision Vancouver? NPA? Nah*- There is a problem with the plumbing and none of them are plumbers…. An Urbanarium, in its basic sense, is a three-dimensional model of the city. If a developer wanted to propose a development, they would have to create a 3-D model of the building(s) and place it on the model city for public review. I can still remember (Read more…)

Melissa Fong: Vancouver developers- Gillespie, DTES & other thoughts on financial reform, Vision Vancouver

…. They WILL earn a profit because it is Vancouver.

Gillespie knows that encroaching on DTES is best odds at this point in Vancouver’s real estate. Largest “rent-gap”/ current to potential price in the city- and he’s always known that so he’s more bold, perhaps than others, to make that happen.

I know a lot of people are really pissed off at developers, but I think we’ve just created relationship/political economic environment that allows developers to do “business as usual”….

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Getting solid numbers makes sense

I recently was directed to read a statement that I had “…put forward a notice of motion calling on the municipality to spend the money to put a concrete floor in the building, without any kind of business case …” That is incorrect. The notice simply asked the town to put out a ‘request for […]

Babel-on-the-Bay: Rushing to claim victory—in seven months!

Torontonians now have the main contenders for the Toronto mayoralty in October. You hardly need public opinion polls to tell you who are the serious three and the lesser two. With Olivia Chow, Rob Ford and John Tory in the race and Karen Stintz and David Solnacki looking on, the city is settling in for a long political summer. If you know now who is going to win in October, you are much smarter than the rest of us.

But there is not one of those campaigns that could not change the odds by running a better thought out and (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: Larry, Curly and Moe represent Canada?

This is disgraceful. Canada’s foreign affairs seem to be in the hands of the Three Stooges. Recent events in Jerusalem, Kyiv and Hollywood appear to be making the point.

First of all, Prime Minister Harper leads an invasion of Israel. That is a small country and they hardly need more gawkers, self-serving politicians and rabbis cluttering the landscape. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu obviously wondered at what they wanted, it was low tourist season in Israel and “Bibi” appreciated the hotel room bookings and restaurant revenue. And, not many people are satisfied with having a bird sanctuary named for them. (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: Achieving electoral mediocrity.

The faster you try to do something, the longer you will have to regret it. There are too many stupid things we do that seem like a good idea at the time.

Take the latest ill-considered suggestions at Queen’s Park to change the way people vote in Toronto elections. The proponents seem to think it will keep the city from electing another Rob Ford. It could also keep them from electing anyone who might be really good at the job.

What is happening is that both a Liberal Member and a New Democrat Member are proposing private member’s bills that (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: Better button up Tory!

In more than 30 years of dealing with the news media, you find that you can make all the mistakes you will ever need to make in the first week. If you do not clue in during that first week that the news media are not your friends, all is lost. And that is why Toronto mayoralty candidate John Tory’s little elves need to get him to button-up.

John is no longer a radio host able to prattle on as he wishes. We all know he is erudite and knowledgeable. Now he can shut up. He is leaving too many (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Conspiracy Theories: 2014 Update

It’s time to update a piece I wrote in December, 2012, outlining the secret deals, backroom negotiations and “barbecue politics” that our council has been involved in since that date, more than a year ago. So here comes the update, the emperor without his clothes: Secret meetings: none Backroom negotiations: none Barbecue deals: none Sorry, […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Time to get serious with distracted drivers

In March, the fine for being caught texting, talking on your cell phone, or tinkering with your MP3 player while driving will jump from $155 to $280 in Ontario. That’s better, but not good enough. Distracted drivers are a growing threat to everyone sharing the road – other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. We are all […]

Babel-on-the-Bay: It is not about you Mr. Kinsella.

If it were not for the egos involved, political campaigns would be far more fun. Most political apparatchiks get their comeuppance early in the game and learn the hard way that the candidate is always the star, not the hangers-on. It is like the old ventriloquist Edgar Bergen was always the politely bland chap in the background. It was the dummy on his lap who made it all work.

Another lesson learned early in politics is the need to assess the strengths and weaknesses of an opponent’s support team. What types of campaigns have they run? What are their favourite (Read more…)

Babel-on-the-Bay: Toronto’s Phoney War begins.

The endurance contest in Ontario that has replaced municipal election races has its own challenges and strategies. The Toronto mayoralty race can be considered launched Monday with the official entry of Councillor Karen Stintz and former provincial Conservative Leader John Tory. And like the period from September 1939 to April 1940, it can be described as a “Phoney War.”

But there were many casualties on land and sea in that period of the Second World War and there will be casualties by the time the Toronto mayoralty contest comes down to the basic three. By the end of the (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Collingwood’s municipal debt and 2014 budget

Tuesday, Council got a combined debt-and-budget presentation that set the stage for the upcoming, fuller 2014 budget deliberations starting next week. CAO John Brown gave us a recap of a report (produced by BMA Management Consulting) about the town’s debt situation and financial wellbeing. It was a mix of good news/bad news. The good is […]

Melissa Fong: Overheard in Toronto – On #RobFord’s Critics

On #RobFord’s Critics: “You know why Rob Ford still wins and will keep on winning? All these people in the newspapers, writing blogs and rushing to criticize him are upper-middle […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Should councillors abstain from voting?

In an earlier post, I wrote that Collingwood’s Integrity Commissioner, Robert Swayze, proposed two changes to the town’s Procedural Bylaw: amending section 13.7 and deleting section 13.8. Last post I dealt with the former; here I will explain my concerns about the latter. Section 13.8 currently reads: 13.8 No vote – deemed negative – exception […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Legal Versus “Personal” Conflicts of Interest

In May, 2013, I wrote my thoughts about Ontario’s Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and the effect it had on the governance and procedural behaviour of municipal councillors. Back then, I wrote, The Act allows no grey areas: there are no “perceived” conflicts in law, only clearly defined legal ones. This is obviously intended by […]

Babel-on-the-Bay: John Tory, ready to rumble in Toronto.

It is now obvious that broadcaster John Tory is going to jump into the Toronto mayoralty. He gave up the news on Global Television’s Focus Ontario over the weekend. And he had no need to answer host Alan Carter’s snide introduction as “Soon to announce for the Toronto mayoralty, John Tory.” In fact, one of the benefits of running for mayor will be an excuse for Tory to stay off that show with its amateur and biased host.

And he might as well run for the mayor’s job. Someone has to do the healing after the Rob Ford years (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Running for re-election in 2014

Earlier this month, I filed my nomination papers for municipal council. I am running for a fourth term as Collingwood councillor. I will post a new election website with updated information and campaign content later this winter. I would appreciate your support, your trust and your vote. I believe I have earned them during my […]

Melissa Fong: Does public participation waste time and money?: A note on the value of participatory democracies

Francis Bula, Vancouver pundit, introduced a debate on wasting public resources to open up a debate that would have resulted in the same decision: Does public participation slow down cities’ […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Brands, Buzz & Going Viral

My third book for Municipal World, Brands, Buzz & Going Viral, has just been published as part of the Municipal Information Series. I received my author’s copies yesterday. I am very proud of this book; it took a lot of work to research and write. I enjoyed writing it. I hope readers find it both informative […]

Babel-on-the-Bay: Choose early, repent longer.

It really is foolish. There was a commentary the other day by Bob Hepburn of the Toronto Star that Toronto liberals are in a quandary about this year’s mayoralty race in their city. Bob is a bit early in suggesting that liberals need to make any decision. The problem for them is not to jump into this or that campaign. Their challenge is to find the right candidate for liberal-minded voters to support.

There is not one of the present or suspected candidates at this time who could meet any criteria for liberal support. Liberals might be losing organizational and (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: To err is human. And bureaucratic.

Errare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum, et tertium non datur. To err is human; to persevere in error is diabolical; there is no third option. Bit of a tough love phrase, that one. Most of us know this as the later paraphrase of Alexander Pope: to err is humane, to forgive divine. Yes, he wrote “humane” […]

Babel-on-the-Bay: Looking for Mr. Mayor for Toronto.

In the 1977 Richard Brooks movie Looking for Mr. Goodbar, the character played by Diane Keaton might as well have been looking for a mayoralty candidate as for someone to share her bed. Either way, it seems to be a self-destructive quest. In looking for a mayor for the city of Toronto, people are spending more time on resurrecting past fantasies than dealing with the hard reality of what the city needs.

Frankly, as presently structured, Toronto needs a referee not a mayor. The current and future city council are a ragtag group of misfits that no degree of (Read more…)