Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Burlington’s budget increase for 2013 an outrage

The approval of a 4.5 per cent increase in the City of Burlington’s 2013 budget is an outrage and an insult to taxpayers, especially those on fixed incomes, of which there are many residing in the city. By blending the increase—which is several times the current inflation rate—with other portions (regional and education) of the property tax bill, the city’s council is trying to give residents the false impression that the increase was only 2.1 per cent, itself about twice the current inflation rate.

To top it off, the city council kept the increase to a mind-numbing 4.5 per cent by drawing down reserves by $2-million! And one of the more egregious items in the budget is a subsidy for the new Performing Arts Centre amounting to about a half-million dollars. This is outrageous by any measure, especially when the city projects it will spend a bit more than $9-million in total for the 2013 fiscal year.

Ward 2 City Councillor Marianne Meed Ward proposed $2.2-million in cuts, but these were mostly rejected by the spend-happy group we have at City Hall. Thanks to her for trying, though.

The Burlington Arts Centre has the earmarks of a white elephant, not unlike the unfinished, overdue, money-sink-hole Brant Street Pier.

Let’s hope we get some fresh blood running in the next election so we can show these inept politicians the door. With a couple of exceptions, we can safely vote blindly for any non-incumbent, he or she couldn’t be much worse than the gang we have now, and that goes double for the mayor.

Perhaps Meed Ward will run for mayor and introduce some much needed fiscal responsibility.

Federal Grits learning the difference between being involved and being committed

I think we are all familiar with the breakfast dish: bacon and eggs, and with the chicken’s involvement and the pig’s commitment to the popular dish. So too must the federal Liberals be agonizing over the involvement level of their so-called registered supporters versus the commitment of their party members.

Here we have a political party that is struggling to remain relevant to Canadian voters at the national level, and now their leadership campaign seems to be falling flat on its face. The Grits have had to water down their voting requirements to the point that anyone and everyone seems to qualify, yet they are unlikely to garner enough eligible voters to even match the NDP, which restricted its 2012 leadership election to party members only.

According to The Hill Times, “One of the [Liberal leadership] campaigns told The Hill Times that as of Tuesday morning this week a total of 115,090 party members and Liberal [party] supporters … had gone through the registration process.” In last year’s vote for its leader, the federal NDP had about 131,000 eligible voters (party members)—though only 65,108 bothered to vote in the first ballot.

At this rate, the Liberals will be hard-pressed to reach 130,000 eligible voters by tomorrow’s deadline for registration. This despite a one-week extension of the registration deadline and the Grits’ crowing over an announced total of 294,002 members and party supporters signed up as of March 4. Further indication the Grits have indeed fallen to third-party status in more ways than one.

The whole faux leadership race has become somewhat of a joke.

Justin Trudeau’s huge Twitter following apparently chased off, at least, a couple of strong challengers even before the leadership race began officially. Then we had the spectacle of Marc Garneau bailing out to support the Dauphin, who he’d spent months trying to discredit, telling Liberals that Trudeau’s leadership is little more than a pretty face and empty platitudes. So the apparent runner up folds and genuflects to the Dauphin, in hope, I suppose, of securing favour with the eventual winner.

But the former astronaut may have miscalculated. There seems some evidence to suggest Vancouver MP Joyce Murray has been signing up more committed voters with her emphasis on the environment and a scheme (described as “electoral cooperation”) to unite the left in an attempt to defeat Stephen Harper’s Tories. She seems popular with David Suzuki and his crowd and those who would like to see Canada’s first-past-the post electoral system replaced with some kind of proportional representation system.

If Murray can get enough momentum going, more of these supporters might follow through by registering and voting for her than will many of Trudeau’s Twitter followers, and we still could see a real race to the finish.

But, perhaps, I engage too much in wishful thinking. The more likely outcome when voting ends April 14 (it begins on April 6) is a Trudeau coronation as most envisioned at the start of the contest.

I’d never want to underestimate Justin Trudeau, but nothing he has done or said so far in the contest leads me to believe he’s a gifted leader. Still, one never knows. I voted for Michael Harris as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives while believing he’d struggle to do justice to the job, and he grew into the job and became Ontario’s best premier since William Davis. Perhaps Trudeau can also rise to the occasion and reclaim second place from the socialist-Quebec souvernist NDP.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tom Flanagan explains

The National Post newspaper has published a piece in which Dr. Tom Flanagan explains his comments regarding the penalty for “people who are pornography voyeurs, but not child molesters.” (h/t Blue Like You blog.)

I’ve had my say about the professor’s comments, and won’t repeat myself here. I notice, though, there is more push-back now from those who believe the professor has been shabbily treated by those who have not been content with condemning his comments, but who are attacking him personally and even firing him from various jobs.

I believe the motive behind much of the attacks on Dr. Flanagan is to tarnish Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s reputation through association with his former chief of staff and political advisor. Too bad some need to stoop so low.

Push-back I’ve seen comes, notably, from academia and from Jonathan Kay, comment pages editor of the National Post, who was quick to write:

At the very least, Mr. Flanagan’s many years as a respected public intellectual have earned him the right to be given the benefit of the doubt about the meaning of his remarks. But no one seems willing to give him that benefit. That is more than just wrong. It is a species of mob cruelty.”

I echo Mr. Kay’s sentiment. Bravo! to him and others who have the intellectual integrity to allow this well-respected political scientist to express an opinion. Please read Dr. Flanagan’s explanation, before reaching any final conclusion.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tom Flanagan and piling on

Tom Flanagan—conservative activist and pundit, newspaper columnist and university professor—has questioned the validity of jailing viewers of child pornography and been roundly rebuked by all and sundry, and rightly so.

Dr. Flanagan seems to have based his opinion on the mistaken belief that viewing child pornography does not directly victimize children. A repugnant opinion, of course, and not one with which I would ever want to associate myself or ever try to defend in any way. Viewing child porn ranks right up there with any of the other areas of this despicable criminal activity.

This is not the first time Dr. Flanagan has courted controversy. Readers may remember that in 2010, he commented—while appearing on the CBC television program Power & Politics with Evan Solomon—that he thought “[Julian] Assange should be assassinated.” Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks which was much in the news at that time. Dr. Flanagan apologized for the remarks soon after making them, acknowledging that his words were “glib and thoughtless.”

But except for the few diehard anti-conservatives like Vancouver attorney Gail Davidson, who filed a police complaint against Flanagan, the matter was over and done with in a matter of days and the professor suffered—at least as far as I know—no permanent damage to his reputation. Most thoughtful persons seemed to understand his ill conceived words were said with a laugh and meant tongue-in-cheek. I saw his exchange with the show’s host, Evan Solomon, and not for a second did I believe Dr. Flanagan was suggesting his words be taken seriously or literally or that he wished anyone’s life be put at risk.

In this latest incident, however, negative reactions to Dr. Flanagan’s comments were swift and he seems to have lost his jobs at the University of Calgary, the CBC and with Alberta’s Wildrose Party. In other words, his career and reputation are pretty much in tatters.

I’ve had a lot of time for Tom Flanagan and looked forward to hearing his views on a wide variety of subjects. I agree with Gerry Caplan—well known for his support of the NDP and one of Flanagan’s co-panellists on Power & Politics—who characterized Tom Flanagan as a “mensch”, notwithstanding his condemnation of his co-panellist’s ill conceived words.

Clearly, child pornography is not a victimless crime, and I find it repugnant to suggest that it is. I do wonder, however, just how much punishment should be meted out to someone merely for offering his opinion on the subject.

Using illegal drugs is far from a victimless crime—demand fuels supply the process of which has many, many victims. Yet many are able to express opinions regarding decriminalising or even legalising some recreational drugs, and they do so with little or no negative consequences to their careers or reputations.

While organizations and associates with which Dr. Flanagan was affiliated obviously have the right to handle the PR consequences any way they see fit, I am inclined to wait to hear what the man really meant by his “badly chosen” (Flanagan’s own description) remarks. Until then I’ll not be piling on.

I want to Dr. Flanagan to know that, though I disagree with what he seems to have been saying in this instance, I continue to value his opinions and hope he will continue to offer them.