Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ontario Liberals are NOT nice, they are "nefarious" (Part II)

As someone who takes language very seriously, I thought I should defend my use of the term nefarious to describe this Liberal government. This government was not only largely ineffectual. Worse, it was recklessly arrogant, unscrupulous, dishonest, and at times utterly reprehensible. This government was elected to bring in sweeping change. It was given, under the current electoral system, what amounted to absolute power at Queen's Park and it was accompanied, for the most part, by a very buoyant and robust economy. Moreover, the overwhelming majority with which this government was entrusted only led to the most acrimonious and inhospitable parliament I've witnessed. Queen's Park was permeated with a sense of entitlement and arrogance that only absolute power can create. Question period has become a complete circus (those who argue against MMP because it would undermine the consensus that happens under First Past the Post should recognize that currently we have the most divisive and pettily partisan legislatures imaginable).

And when we look back at this government's record we see that little has changed in four years and we see a government that even in the twilight of its mandate continues to refuse to take responsibility and to be accountable for its failure to deliver. Since, it cannot stand on its record, this government must repeatedly attack, fear monger, and blame previous governments. For all of this, McGuinty's Liberals should not be rewarded .

So let's begin...

Least on my list of reprehensible actions taken by McGuinty is the fact of his having "broken promises". And for me, the worst broken promise was the failure to close down coal-fuelled power generating plants, most notably Nanticoke. It was disingenuous to promise to close down those plants. Even worse, it was irresponsible to wait until the election year to begin to show signs of being interested in energy conservation and renewable energy. And now, all this government has in store for us is massive investment in nuclear energy. As sad as it is, the air quality today in Ontario would have been better had the Conservatives remained in power, since at the very least it is likely they would have added scrubbers to those plants, plants which will be open for at least another seven years.

On the subject of McGuinty's breaking his pledge not to raise taxes. I've posted some thoughts on the health "levy". I'll simply add that far worse than increasing my taxes, was the regressive type of tax he imposed and that McGuinty expected me to believe that he was caught completely unawares by the deficit left to him by the Conservatives. Again, it was not his breaking of the promise in itself but his contempt for the intelligence of the electorate by promising it in the first place.

Moving on, I also find it insulting when McGuinty attempts to sell the party as anything other than a brokerage party, one that has replaced any kind of ideological core with opportunism and a win at all costs mentality. We are to believe that Liberals are an alternative to fear mongering, nasty Conservatives. Liberals, by contrast, are nice and friendly and McGuinty stands for principles like fairness and accountability. Quite the contrary. This is a party that hires henchmen like Kinsella to shape its strategy and spin its misinformation. It is a party committed to negative campaigning, often negative campaigning in the extreme. I need only point to last year's by-election in Parkdale High Park and the malicious attacks on MPP Cheri DiNovo. See here, here, and here.

If this weren't enough, where the Ontario Liberals, in my mind, become even more contemptible is in their feigning concern for poverty, for ethnic and new Canadians and, even for democracy itself. We all know this is a brokerage party that is ultimately beholden to the rich. Not surprisingly, then, the Liberal government's record on tackling poverty, whether we're talking child poverty, affordable housing, minimum wage, or the "poverty budget", is deceptive and appalling. SlushGate was not only an affront to transparency and accountability, but also a manipulation of ethnic Canadians. Similarly, can we see this government's initiatives for democratic renewal, most notably, its actions around the referendum on electoral reform, as anything but a pretense to democracy?

Lastly, there were in particular two incidents which I consider especially egregious. First, diverting millions of dollars in legal fees to fight parents of autistic children. This was quite widely reported.

Second, and something very few people are even aware of, this government had the audacity to manipulate virtually every firefighter in this province into thinking that it is the Ontario Liberals to whom they should be grateful for having easier access to compensation for job related diseases. In a very carefully staged performance and with great fanfare, the Ontario Liberals paraded firefighters into the legislature to announce the legislation they were about to introduce. With shameless gall, the Liberals quickly escorted the firefighters out before the opposition could speak to the bill, for had they stayed any longer they would have discovered that it is to the tireless efforts of Andrea Horwath that they truly owe their gratitude.

That Andrea Horwath wasn't given the least bit of credit from the Ontario Liberals was one of the most callous and self-serving moments I've witnessed in politics. Many firefighters will vote for the Ontario Liberals on Oct. 10 and few of them will know how they were completely hoodwinked by the government they're supporting.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mr. Urquhart: Liberals are NOT nice, they are nefarious, btw where are the blogging dippers during this campaign?

When partisan hacks like Cherniak or washed up smear apologists like Kinsella scurrilously demean what it means to think and to write (or even to treat others with dignity), I tend not to worry. I may react, but I don't necessarily worry because I know that, for now at least, the dissemination of information is still largely in the hands of "professionals". Now I'm under no delusions that journalists are objective and unbiased reporters of "the truth", but being professionals, they are at least to some extent accountable.

This is why I am increasingly troubled when a journalist like Ian Urquhart, whom I respect as a journalist, starts to sound partisan and disingenuous. In today's Star, Ian urges McGuinty to take the gloves off and go negative but laments that McGuinty is too nice a man:

The problem for McGuinty is that he is uncomfortable "going negative" himself.

Sorry, Mr. Urquhart, McGuinty and his henchmen have no problems going negative and you above most people should know that. After all, you covered the Parkdale High Park by-election. When an entire provincial government maliciously gangs up on a United Church minister, whose biggest mistake is that she wants to serve her community under the wrong political banner, that's not a reluctance to going negative. And need I say, negative in the extreme.

You well know that the Liberal smear campaign against Cheri DiNovo originated in the office of Liberal cabinet minister Gerry Phillips. You also know that it was a concerted effort that involved much of the Liberal brass, including McGuinty who, as you reported, campaigned in the riding four times. It included Gerard Kennedy and Bob Rae who were seen distributing incendiary literature translated into Polish, to incite a reaction from the Roman Catholic vote. Preying on religious fault lines is just sleazy. And Sylvia Watson was all too happy to oblige and play along.

To this day, Liberals are remorseless of those tactics which smeared a good woman's name and deeply insulted the intelligence of the electorate. Watson stands by her smear. McGuinty endorsed the tactics. You reported it yourself (see below). Only recently has Sorbara, wanting not to sound like a complete hypocrite for denouncing the conservatives' attack ads, said that the smear campaign was a "mistake". A mistake, do you hear that? A mistake? A mistake, by the way, is what Kinsella calls his sexist gaffe. In Liberalese, a mistake means something that could cost the party votes at election time. What we can't fail to see here, is that the regret over the smear campaign is only for NOT having won the by-election and for having made a tactical error in judgement. The regret has nothing to do with the possibility that it might ethically be wrong to attempt to assassinate another's character.

Liberals have no principles, no ethics, no vision. Only a ruthless insatiable appetite for winning at all costs. So please, Mr. Urquhart, don't tell the public the Liberals are uncomfortable going negative. They're quite comfortable going negative, problem is they're stupid about it.
By-election gets down and dirty
Sep. 13, 2006. 01:00 AM

On the surface, it would appear that the New Democrats are well positioned to win tomorrow's provincial by-election in the west-end Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park, formerly occupied by Gerard Kennedy.

It is, after all, a riding that has gone to the NDP before — in 1990 provincially and as recently as this year federally, with the election of Peggy Nash.

And it is a by-election, which New Democrats are very good at winning. By-elections allow them to concentrate their formidable organizing resources and to invite the electorate to lodge a cost-free protest vote.

NDP canvassers in Parkdale-High Park are coached to remind voters at the doorstep that their ballots "will not defeat the government."

Nevertheless, the Liberals want desperately to hold onto the riding, apparently at any cost.

Kennedy won Parkdale-High Park in 2003 by a whopping 42 percentage points — the sixth widest margin in the province — before quitting as education minister earlier this year to run for the federal Liberal leadership.

To replace Kennedy, the Liberals are running Sylvia Watson, a humourless one-term city councillor and former city bureaucrat. Suffice it to say that she ain't no Gerard Kennedy.

So she is getting help, plenty of it. This week, Premier Dalton McGuinty made his fourth campaign appearance in the riding — an unusual number of visits by a premier in a by-election.

As well, 11 cabinet ministers were dragooned into the campaign this week for an event in a Bloor St. W. café and subsequent canvassing.

"I'm very confident we're going to win this by-election," said an unconvincing Finance Minister Greg Sorbara.

Yesterday, Kennedy himself and former New Democratic premier Bob Rae (who lives in the riding) took time out from fighting each other in the federal Liberal leadership race to campaign for her.

It is not these high-profile interventions that are raising eyebrows at Queen's Park, however. Rather, it is the smear campaign being waged against the NDP candidate, Cheri DiNovo, a 56-year-old United Church minister.

At first, the smears — including references to her youthful indiscretions and carefully edited excerpts from her sermons — appeared only in blogs and anonymous flyers. That made it easy for the Watson campaign to deny any connection to them.

But this week the Watson campaign handed out a press release, on Liberal party letterhead, that dredged up a year-old sermon in which DiNovo allegedly said that the media treatment of child-killer Karla Homolka was "comparable to the persecution of Jesus Christ."

DiNovo said the remark was taken entirely out of context by the Liberals and suggested she might sue them over it.

But the press release almost immediately backfired by putting the Liberals, not the New Democrats, on the defensive.

At an all-candidates' meeting Monday night, even the Conservative candidate, former city councillor David Hutcheon, castigated the Liberals for trying to "assassinate the character" of their NDP opponent.

"This is not fair," Hutcheon told the 100-plus in attendance. "It is not the Canadian way ... They (the Liberals) have lost their moral compass."

(An aside: Although the Conservatives ran second in the 2003 provincial election, party insiders admit that they are long shots to win tomorrow. It would be a nice consolation prize for the Conservatives, however, if DiNovo were to knock off the Liberals.)

The negative reaction clearly threw McGuinty for a loop. Pestered by the press on the smearing of DiNovo, the best response he could muster was: "Look, it's a tough by-election for us."

As for Watson, the candidate, she tried to distance herself from the smear. "It wasn't my idea," she told me, while declining to say whose it was.

The opposition parties are pointing their fingers at Warren Kinsella, the lobbyist who ran the Liberal war room in the last provincial election.

As evidence, they noted that his blog yesterday included an attack on DiNovo (whom he referred to as "DiNutso") and a link to Waton's web site.

But Kinsella denied any involvement in the Watson campaign. "I've never met or even spoken to her (Watson)," he said in an e-mail response.

Of his shot at DiNovo, Kinsella said: "I'm entitled to an opinion about her candidacy." As for the link to the Watson web site, he explained it as an automatic function of a Google advertising program to which he subscribes.

I'm predicting that we haven't heard the last of this.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Liberals' internal polling must be showing a drop last week

What some of the media suggested going into last weekend (that Howard Hampton and John Tory were the winners after the first week of campaigning) must have also shown up on the Liberals' own polling numbers. How else to explain Ian Urquhart's column today in the Toronto Star? While Mr. Urquhart has no obligation to be NDP friendly, and while I usually find him one of the more balanced and sober writers at The Star, this piece will be used to deflect valid criticism of the Liberal record on taxation. Is it really a reality check that Liberals imposed a levy rather than a tax? Is it really a reality check that depending on how one calculates things the Liberals may not have imposed the largest tax hikes in Ontario history?A 24% tax hike regressively applied on average income earning Ontarians still ranks up there.

First, it's patently obvious that the Toronto Star is heavily a mouthpiece for Liberal rhetoric and policy. Having caught the Ontario Liberal government in scandal after scandal, funny that the writers of the Star never felt terribly scandalized themselves. A typical example was ColleGate. While lots of ink was shed to report the scandal, the coverage was often tempered with language ranging from "so called slush fund" to "there was no slush fund". Regardless of semantics here, the actions of the Liberal government around doling out year end funds should have scandalized the public in no less measure than did the sponsorship scandal of the federal Liberals.  These were reprehensible actions taken by our provincial government. They were unethical (funds not openly available to the public and meant to lure and bribe supporters) and lacked any integrity (completely disregard for  accounting controls and measures).

Speaking of semantics, and returning to the issue at hand, Mr. Urquhart's story today should be seen for what it is: a defense of the indefensible Liberal record on what will undoubtedly remain a campaigning issue this week. McGuinty will be pressed hard on both his breaking of a written promise and his imposition of a massive and regressive tax hike. And Urquhart's piece is clearly an attempt to deflect or attenuate this criticism. How so?

First, Urquhart repeats the Liberal apologist line in the title of his article when he calls what the Liberals imposed a "levy". Whether it was a levy, a tax, a premium, it was money taken away from me which McGuinty promised not to take away me. Second, Urquhart wants to argue the point that it wasn't the biggest tax hike in Ontario history. Fine, depending how you want to measure things, perhaps it was and perhaps it wasn't. But does it make it any more palatable that McGuinty's health tax hike might be only the second or third highest in Ontario history? We're all at least agreed that it was a massive tax hike. And, more problematically, this was a regressive tax in which average Ontarians  saw their taxes raised by almost 25%, but those Ontarians making over $200 000 per year saw their taxes raised by only 3%.

Truth be told, of the nefarious things done by the McGuinty Liberals, I actually don't consider McGuinty back tracking on his promise not to raise taxes as one of them.  I especially don't mind paying more to ensure a viable universal health care for Ontarians. What I greatly object to is the imposition of a regressive tax that disproportionally hurts those who can least afford to have their taxes increased, not to mention the failure to make significant improvements to our health care system with those monies raised through increased taxation.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

McGuinty defends record on child poverty: Pllleeaase!

Ontario Liberals' record on poverty has been appalling. Period. Made worse still by their attempts to deceive the public that they have made any significant progress in this area. Most recently, McGuinty has defended his record on child poverty as "real" progress. Bullshit! A Conservative with a poverty agenda is contradictory. A Liberal with a poverty agenda is pure artifice and ruse.

Of all the back pedaling and broken promises of this government, McGuinty's refusal to end the clawback of the national child supplement is among the most egregious. In 2003, McGuinty ran on ending what he argued was a wrong and unjust clawback. Yet, when he became Premier, he refused to stop taking away $1500 per year away from the poorest children in the province. For four years, the Ontario Liberals have continued to rob the poorest children in this province of $1500 earmarked for them. And we know child poverty is only getting worse.

In this year's budget McGuinty announced with great fanfare that his government was finally phasing out the clawback and phasing in a child benefit over five years. The child benefit for this year was a paltry $250, and if I recall, one of the remarks around Queen's Park was that the announced child benefit was less than the cost of the shoes worn by Greg Sorbara when he made the announcement. Regrettably, the clawback has not ended and we'll have to re-elect this government if we want to see it eventually phased out in the next few years. I'm sorry, this is not a record on which to stand. McGuinty ran in 2003 to end the clawback, and he might as well be running on it again because shamefully he's yet to end clawing back money set aside for needy families.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

NDP ad questions McGuinty Liberals' record

Will the poor record of the McGuinty Liberals stick to this government? Or will Ontarians instead reward this government with re-election, and in the process lower what is expected of political mandates even further? Brian Evans, professor at Liberal friendly Ryerson University (you know the institution helping Gerard Kennedy pay back his debts from his run at leadership by appointing a person without even a B.A. to the position of Distinguished Visiting Professor) defends the prospect of re-electing Dalton McGuinty as premier this way: "At the end of the day, people would say this has not been a horribly bad government."

This is what it's come down to? We re-elect not horribly bad governments???

"Don't get mad, get orange!"

Kinsella & Ontario Liberals insulting the intelligence of the electorate

One of the more nefarious aspects of the McGuinty Liberal government is its unabashed arrogance and sense of entitlement. This has been manifest, for instance, in this government's refusal to being held accountable for the numerous scandals, backpedalling, broken promises, improprieties etc. in which it has found itself. One does wonder about what this government managed to successfully keep under wraps.

This was, ironically, a government elected out of protest and given an overwhelming majority to change the course of politics and governance in this province. It ran on principles like transparency, accountability, fairness. Out of arrogance and entitlement this government defiled each of these principles. So much so, that the Ontario Liberal election platform for 2007 is very straight forward. No mention of principles! Instead, go ruthlessly negative on the closest competition (John Tory), make sure you have the Toronto Star fully on board, go on a ridiculously obvious electioneering spree to buy as many votes as possible (from funding promises, to Highways of Heroes, to Family Day holiday promises), and finally ask voters to reward you because you haven't been that horribly bad a government.

The arrogance of the Ontario Liberals, however, is also increasingly manifesting itself in the reckless disregard for the intelligence of the electorate. First, we must recognize that there is a self-serving complicity of governments in general in attempting to create a docile, uncritical citizen. In fact, this may well be one of the insidious functions performed unwittingly by our educational systems. Thus, to the extent that there is voter apathy in young voters, I'm sure the Ontario Liberals are not too troubled, since the non-participation of young voters only helps to ensure the continuation of the status quo. 

Secondly, the Ontario Liberals have, like their federal counterparts, completely taken for granted the continued support of new Canadians, and, as we saw in SlushGate, were willing to bribe immigrant groups when they felt such support needed to be cemented.

Relying on voter cynicism and apathy, on traditional Liberal party identification in immigrant communities, and on vacuous electioneering may possibly yield results for the Liberals in the coming election, but it doesn't change the fact that the electorate is being thoroughly scandalized by this government. Anyone who hasn't become disengaged and alienated by the political system and who has the will and the luxury of time to follow these machinations can see how transparent and scurrilous are these manipulations of the electorate. A cautionary note: this does not always work. Think of Parkdale-High Park by-election 2006. Voters did not appreciate having their intelligence demeaned by gutter politics and bottom of the barrel smear tactics and they let Dalton McGuinty know that.

This leads me to the so thinly veiled manipulation of the electorate happening on Warren Kinsella's blog. Truthfully, I have never understood why he has garnered the reputation he has. If there has ever been an overhyped pundit who has received way more credit than deserved, it is Warren Kinsella. He clearly is incapable of appealing  to the intelligence of readers and thus focuses on the vulgar and emotional. But even as a political thug and an apologist of smear, he's no Karl Rove. 

Kinsella's spin is transparent and obvious. His moves easy to anticipate. His disingenuousness insulting. For example, having engaged in a thorough attempt to discredit John Tory by attacking his character, by making fun of him, by maliciously misrepresenting him (not without the help of the media who seemed to enjoy a little too much ridiculing John Tory's blunders) what could possibly happen next? You'd never have seen it coming: conservatives are frantically jumping ship.  Not only are Red Tories joining the legions of McGuinty supporters but even the staunch right flank of the conservative party is so disillusioned that it's willing to disavow their long held allegiance to the party and follow the Liberals. 

How do we know all this? Because of two emails proudly displayed on Kinsella's blog from lifelong conservative supporters who have been won over by McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals. Incidentally one of the emails refers to the guile of the great Warren Kinsella who is again single handedly taking down another party leader. Mr. Kinsella if you were truly too humble to want to take credit for that flattery or shamelessly promote yourself, why didn't you just not include the compliment in your post? And why does this have the stench of the thinly veiled Liberal plants often seen at all candidates meetings asking contrived questions to slant the debate one way or the other? This way of doing politics I find not only reprehensible but insulting. Insulting to the electorate at large, to intelligent Liberals, and to politics itself.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Piggying on the back of Iggy: Love the Loon

Now that the Ontario Liberals have spent untold public dollars on redesigning the Ontario trillium logo on letterhead, stationery, vehicle decals, ministry signs etc, they can turn their attention to another logo.

Can it be long before Dalton emerges from the Gatineau Hills proclaiming his reverence and admiration for a bird that very much embodies Liberal values? This guy seems like a good candidate. 

The feet of the loon are recessed far back in its body making it an excellent swimmer, but not very adaptable on land. Liberals similarly are well suited to navigating in the fluidity and potentiality known as "promises". Moreover, their unique ability to speak simultaneously out of both sides of their mouth makes it easier to promise something to everyone. However, this does tend to make Liberals ill-adapted to carrying out those promises or taking firm principled stands. They are very good at electioneering, not so good at governing.

Loon chicks are precocial (able to swim on their own at birth) but they are often seen riding on the backs of the parents to conserve energy and for greater protection.  Liberals too believe that newly arrived Canadians and immigration groups are precocial but often for good measure friends of Liberals can be seen riding on their backs with the help of  a tool called "a slush fund". It is believed that Loon parents also expect their chicks to vote for them at election time.

Ontario Liberals can't tell difference between governing and electioneering

From today's Toronto Sun:

September 2, 2007 
Dalton, this is not governing
By Rob Granatstein

Who do the Ontario Liberals think they're fooling?

Everywhere you look, there's the smiling puss of Premier Dalton McGuinty -- or is it just -- in full election mode.

He's rolling out a $12-billion transit plan. He's planting $79 million worth of trees for a greener Ontario. He's tossing $182 million into the education system. He's hiring an additional 200 police officers. He's equipping the OPP with a new plane. He's throwing $700 million at seniors. He's bowling $1 million into the kitty for cricket.

Oops, strike that last one from the record.

Still, any way you look at it, McGuinty and the Liberals are into their finest hour of governing. That hour where they get to spend money like water, buying votes, tossing dreams and ideas around like pixie dust.

Where's yours? Oh, it's coming. The Liberals have a big surplus and they're not afraid to spend it. The Tories peg this pre-election spending spree at $26 billion.

But enough with the charade. This is not governing, Dalton. Stop making like it is.

Proclaiming that these mega-bucks have gone through the Treasury Board and have been approved by cabinet just adds to the farce. We don't recall seeing any of these gifts wrapped into the last budget.

Let's call it what it is -- electioneering.

Why? Look at the so-called uploading of costs from the cities, announced recently. There's about $200 million for 2008. McGuinty announced it at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario meeting this past month, calling it government policy, and not a campaign promise.

Unless, of course, the Liberals don't get re-elected.

In the past there's been a little cloud cover over this tactic. With a fixed election date, the spending is nothing but a crystal clear vote buy.

But wait, there's more. Go to any Ontario ministry's website and you'll see Dalton's smiling face, with the tagline "Getting results." Aren't ministries supposed to be non-partisan?

The only shock is clicking on McGuinty's mug doesn't throw you directly to the Liberal campaign site, or the aforementioned

The Ontario ministry of health has dapper Dalton next to headlines about reducing wait times, getting better access to doctors and nurses, and how the governing party is keeping Ontarians healthy.

Funny, no mention of how we're paying more with the Health Premium -- the broken promise tax. We say "so called" because it sure doesn't seem like we're waiting less for care. In fact, Ontario's auditor called the wait times claims by the government "a bit misleading."

That wording has quite a ring to it.

Well, we're ready for the governing to end. We are ready for the real campaign to begin. For the Liberals to promise -- like the party did with such gusto in the last election -- rather than govern. With one week until the writ drops, it's time for Dalton to put the power stick away.

Or it's time for Ontarians to stick it to him.