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Politics and its Discontents: The Luddites of Education

Throughout my career as a high school teacher, I believed, as I still do, that education is one of the prime tools by which society can be bettered and critical thinking cultivated. And yet there are Luddites among us who would severely circumscribe the use of this all-important mechanism, preferring that we limit access to ideas and thinking that they find personally objectionable. Two stories from my experiences sadly attest to this reality.

Once, many years ago, one of my students had chosen Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business for independent reading. Early in the novel, a Baptist minister’s wife is struck (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Connecting The Dots?

Here in Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s decision to sell off 60% of Hydro One, the very profitable public utility that generated a pre-tax income of $803 million in 2013, is causing quite a storm of outrage. Despite her promise to put all profits from the sale toward transportation structure, the fact that the sale will yield a mere $4 billion after taxpayer money pays off Hydro’s long-standing debt means the sale makes almost no sense. And, one might ask, why a sale of 60%, a proportion that will put hydro squarely in private sector’s control?

Operation Maple has put up (Read more…)

reeves report: Unreleased government report shows no benefits to neonic use

A honey bee collecting pollin.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth Canada are calling on the Ontario government to implement an outright ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides after a leaked government report shows no positive economic gains from the pesticide’s use.

Draft findings from Canada’s Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) were leaked today before the final report was made public, showing farmers who use the pesticide receive only a 0.4 per cent yield benefit from coated soy seeds and a 3.4 per cent yield benefit for corn.

“Arguably, based on the findings of PMRA’s draft value assessment, Ontario (Read more…)

reeves report: Ontario Anti-Fracking Bill Passes Second Reading

NDP MPP Peter Tabuns speaking with reporters at Queen’s Park. (CBC News Image.)

A PRIVATE MEMBER’S BILL from Toronto-area NDP MPP Peter Tabuns to ban fracking in the province passed second reading Thursday by a 29-18 vote with support from the governing Liberals.

“Water or gas — that’s our choice,” Tabuns explained to the House. “We can’t have both.”

Threats to groundwater contamination as found in Pennsylvania this month; links to triggering earthquakes in Ohio and Alberta; questions over the perilous, ponzi-like investment structuresupporting the fracking industry. It all led Tabuns to believe the (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: And Speaking Of Fanatics

While right-wing religious zealots like Pat Robertson and Gordon Klingenschmitt are the two crazed evangelicals I most frequently highlight in my blog, we would all be very naive to believe we lack home grown examples of the corrupting influence the bully pulpit can bestow. Here in Ontario, for example, the ‘Rev.’ Charles McVety is a leading exemplar of such madness.

Yesterday, McVety was in his glory at a rally held outside of the Ontario legislature to protest the revamped Ontario sex-ed curriculum which, despite widespread consultation, doesn’t sit well with some.

Many of the protesters were new Canadians, some (Read more…)

Progressive Proselytizing: Ontario’s brave new cap and trade program

The Globe and Mail just broke the story on what will likely be the defining component of Kathleen Wynne’s legacy: The Ontario Liberals are introducing a big cap and trade plan. Details are sparse as yet, but it looks like they will be joining the Quebec/California regime. This is huge news, especially given Ontario’s relative prominence in Canada’s economy.

While BC (under the Liberals as well, incidentally) were moving forward with their carbon tax, Ontario Liberals had made big moves on the green energy file. With cap and trade, they are now tackling the greenhouse gas production side of the (Read more…)

reeves report: Opposition Bill Wants Ontario to Ban Fracking

NDP MPP Peter Tabuns speaking with reporters at Queen’s Park. (CBC News Image.)

New Democratic MPP Peter Tabuns introduced a private member’s bill Wednesday encouraging the Liberals to adopt a ban on hydraulic fracturing in the province.

Tabuns, a former executive director of Greenpeace Canada and his party’s Environment and Climate Change critic, said the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne should follow the lead of Ontario’s neighbours, many of whom — Quebec and New York state, in addition to the Maritime provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia — have already outlawed the disputed oil and gas extraction procedure.

“There (Read more…)

Aaron Manton: On Last Night’s News: My thoughts on the TTC fare increase

I appeared on Global News Toronto last night on behalf of TTC Riders to offer a few comments on the TTC fare increase coming into effect this weekend. Even though they spelled my name wrong, I was happy to have some good quotes make it into the online and broadcast versions of the story: “I […]

Politics and its Discontents: Why Has Accepting Scientific Fact Become A Matter Of Choice?

Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. They speak different languages and use different powers of the brain.

-Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, The Great Partnership

As the quotation above suggests, the schism between scientific fact and religious belief is, in fact, one that shouldn’t exist. Yet, given the kinds of absolutist thinking that permeate the world today, demagogues and zealots suggest the two are mutually exclusive, an invalid proposition if one’s belief in transcendent truth manages to rise above seeing the narratives of the world’s religions as literal truths.

It (Read more…)

350 or bust: Ontario Government Launches Climate Change Discussion Paper

* Citizen-based lobby group applauds Ontario Government’s public engagement on greening the economy Hundreds of citizen climate lobbyists to participate in new discussion paper to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (Sudbury, ON) – Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) applauds the government of Ontario for initiating public discussion on plans to transition Canada’s largest province […]

reeves report: Environmental Groups Pin Slim Hopes for Rouge Park Changes to Senate

Rouge Park in autumn.

Canada’s Rouge National Urban Park Act began second reading in the Senate earlier this week after sailing through the House of Commons is just six months.

Tobias C. Enverga Jr., a Stephen Harper appointed Senator for Ontario, is acting as the bill’s sponsor in the Senate.

On Monday this week, Enverga Jr. spoke on the bill, urging all Senators to offer their support. “One hundred years from now I am confident that the decision to preserve this remarkable place as our country’s first national urban park will be viewed as one of the most (Read more…)

reeves report: Ontario’s endangered species get their day in court

Endangered American Eel.

LAWYERS ACTING ON BEHALF of the Ontario government told the courts last month that Ontario’s endangered species legislation is now only concerned with the most dire of species listed under the law.

The Woodland Caribou; the American Eel; the Blanding’s Turtle — these and more than 150 other species currently listed as endangered in Ontario will only receive the full weight of government support when they teeter on the brink of local extinction.

So much for our “gold standard” Endangered Species Act.

In September 2013, lawyers from Ecojustice announced Ontario Nature and CPAWS Wildlands League were suing (Read more…)

The Ranting Canadian: Pretty much every time I hear Canadian Prime Minister Stephen…

Pretty much every time I hear Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper or one of his Conservative minions speak, I think of this song: “Propaganda” by the defunct punk/Oi! band Blitz. The same goes for when I hear Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne or one of her provincial Liberal hacks spew BS talking points. Even though the crooked politicians and partisan bureaucrats are obviously lying and spinning the facts, I realize that a large percentage of the population takes what they say at face value. It is scary and demoralizing to contemplate.

Here’s my suggestion for an updated version of one of (Read more…)

reeves report: Contentious Rouge Park Bill Passes Third Reading

Despite united opposition against the proposed National Urban Park, Conservative Bill C-40 passed third reading Monday. The legislation is now on its way to the Tory-dominated Senate for further review.

Orchard Trail in Rouge Park.

The passage of Bill C-40 in Ottawa earlier this week, creating the country’s first National Urban Park in Toronto’s Rouge Valley, is not the cause for celebration a large number of its proponents hoped it would be.

Many of the countries leading environmental groups — including Ontario Nature, Environmental Defence, the David Suzuki Foundation and Friends of the Rouge Watershed — lamented the fact that in (Read more…)

Scott's DiaTribes: Ontario Politics Chatter: The Beer Store Monopoly, eyes on Sudbury.

I haven’t talked a lot about Ontario Politics much of late, but for my first post of the New Year, a few things have caught my eye I wished to comment on.

First, the Beer Store and its attempt to bring local craft beer dealers onboard is being viewed by some as a too-little too-late gamble in a desperate attempt to hold off competition to its monopoly. This series of paragraphs in a Toronto Star op-ed from Martin Regg Cohn is significant for me:

As more Ontarians realize that The Beer Store isn’t what they thought it was — not (Read more…)

reeves report: 2014 — Canada’s Year of the Pipeline

Keystone XL wasn’t the only pipeline project to rankle Canadians in 2014.

WIDESPREAD PUBLIC DEBATE on building vast networks of snaking energy pipelines throughout Canada dominated the country’s environmental newsreel in 2014, and will continue making headlines in the year ahead.

A collection of Canada’s top environmental NGOs told Reeves Report the climate change file — particularly an uptick in news stories, op-eds, consultations and street-level protests over whether and where oil and gas pipelines could be situated — was the environmental story of the year.

Devon Page, head of environmental legal group Ecojustice, said there has been more conversation (Read more…)

Calgary Grit: 2014 Person of the Year

Every December, I name a “Person of the Year” – the individual who left their mark on Canadian politics over the past year, for good or for bad. Below is a list of recent choices:

2013: Rob Ford & Naheed Nenshi 2012: Allison Redford 2011: Jack Layton 2010: Rob Ford & Naheed Nenshi2009: Jim Flaherty2008: Stephane Dion2007: Jean Charest2006: Michael Ignatieff2005: Belinda Stronach2004: Ralph Klein

I’ve never picked Stephen Harper because, duh, obviously the Prime Minister is going to have an impact on politics. And 2014 was no exception. In a year which (Read more…)

reeves report: Loopholes threaten Ontario Greenbelt

The Greenbelt Alliance wants better protection for the ecologically sensitive area, which remains at risk from sprawl, mega-highways and contaminated soil.

Map of Greenbelt and other protected lands in Southern Ontario.

SOUTHERN ONTARIO’S 7,200 square kilometre Greenbelt and the prime farmland and headwaters it contains remain at significant risk from expanding urban development despite protective legislation in place for a decade.

Ontario’s Greenbelt at Risk, a study from the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance and Environmental Defence, believes the Ontario government must do more to strengthen protections for the sensitive Greenbelt space stretching from Welland east to Coburg and north to (Read more…)

reeves report: NDP to refuse support for Rouge National Urban Park bill

Everyone wants the 10,500 acres in the Rouge Valley to be made into a national urban park, yet few but the Harper Tories think their plan for the green space is the best path forward.

Rouge Park at Sunrise. (Flickr Photo Courtesy of Snuffy.)

ON A MEDIA TOUR this week of the proposed park on Toronto’s eastern boundary, federal NDP environment critic Megan Leslie (Halifax) told reporters she will advise her caucus to oppose government Bill C-40 despite the personal difficulty she feels in opposing the park.

“I’m in a parallel universe where I get applause for voting against (Read more…)

reeves report: Ontario Invasive Species Act gets second chance

A control test site for invasive plant phragmites at Wasaga Beach on Lake Huron.

LIBERAL NATURAL RESOURCE MINISTER Bill Mauro reintroduced the Invasive Species Act Wednesday, the first standalone legislation in Canada geared towards stopping the spread of invasives into the province

There is currently a patchwork of more than 20 different federal and provincial pieces of legislation affecting the control of invasive species in the country but none are designed specifically with invasive species in mind. Ontario is keen to change that, Mauro said.

“Our proposed legislation will help to address these legislative gaps,” he told a crowd (Read more…)

reeves report: NDP propose tough rules for importing Asian carp

On Oct. 1, New Democratic MP Brian Masse from Windsor, Ontario introduced a private member’s bill calling for tougher action and better coordination across Canadian governments in the fight against Asian carp.

The bill would make it illegal to import Asian carp — or “invasive carp,” as Masse calls it in his remarks — into Canada unless the fish is dead. And, to make sure border guards aren’t fooled by fish on ice that later spring to life in water, the fish must be eviscerated. Through a change to the Fisheries Act it would also forbid the inter-provincial transportation of (Read more…)

reeves report: Ontario and Ottawa face off over fate of Rouge Park lands

A STANDOFF IS BREWING east of Toronto in the Rouge Valley between Queen’s Park and the federal government over the proposed Rouge National Urban Park.

Ontario Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid made it clear to federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq that the province would not hand 5,400 acres of land it owns, stretching from Lake Ontario to Markham, over to Ottawa to create the new 10,000 acre park.

Map of existing Rouge Park.

At issue is the wording of Bill C-40, the Rouge National Urban Park Act, which began second reading in June. Much of the 5,400 acres Ontario controls (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Is That The Pitter Patter Of Little Feet I Hear?

Sorry. False alarm. Turns out it was the sound of Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath doing a fancy dance as she practices her routine for the November leadership review she is facing.

In Toronto this past Saturday, more than 200 members of the party’s provincial council were witness to the reborn Horwath expressing her allegiance to essential party principles, principles that were decidedly absent in the provincial election she forced last June that saw her party lose the balance of power it had held.

Averred the rechristened leader:

“We believe in fighting each and every day for a more equal (Read more…)

reeves report: Transportation sector key to reducing GHG emissions in Ontario: ECO

GETTING SERIOUS about tackling greenhouse gases has to start with dramatically cutting emissions from Ontario’s transportation sector, the province’s environmental watchdog warned recently.

In releasing his latest update on efforts to curb climate change-inducing emissions in Ontario, Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller told reporters at Queen’s Park the biggest sector emitter of greenhouse gases has witnessed the smallest efforts at reducing GHGs.

“The biggest section is transportation emissions and that’s a section where we have achieved only miniscule changes,” Miller said. “The growth in transportation means our emissions are increasing from the 1990 base.”

Since 1990 — the baseline year (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Andrea Comes Down From Her Perch

But only a little bit. And only because her campaign is being criticized from within.

As I noted in a recent post, Ontario NDP leader Andrea’s Horwath’s hubris following what almost everyone else would call a failed Ontario election campaign has been both unseemly and wholly unjustified. She initially avowed that she had no regrets about causing the election, terming it a success despite the fact her party lost key Toronto ridings and, more importantly, the balance of power. However, now that she is being publicly taken to task by both Peter Julian and Cheri DiNovo, Horwath seems to (Read more…)