New PC candidate: Mark DeMontis

The Progressive Conservatives have long been total also-rans in York South–Weston, but that looks about to change. Mark DeMontis has announced his candidacy for the PC nomination.

DeMontis, a Westonian, is well known for rollerblading across Canada to raise money for Courage Canada, a charity that helps blind and low-vision people get into hockey. DeMontis was a promising hockey player himself before losing much of his sight in early adulthood.

Past PC candidates have been total duds, and have barely campaigned. DeMontis, by contrast, has been present in the community and has been increasing his presence on Twitter for several months. He may prove a challenge in this traditionally centre-left community.

Liberals do not show up to debate

The Liberal candidate, Ahmed Hussen, seems to think that we are not worth campaigning for. He did not show up to the all-candidates debate tonight, which was organized by five local groups.¹

About 100 people were at the York Civic Centre tonight to hear the candidates speak. Ahmed Hussen, the Liberal candidate, declined the invitation to attend. The Conservative candidate, James Robinson, who nobody expected to show up, fufilled those low expectations.

The debate was an exceedingly cordial affair; far from sparring, John Johnson and Mike Sullivan seemed to support each other. Johnson made no concerted effort to separate himself from the other left-leaning candidate, and once or twice Sullivan reached out, both figuratively and literally, to the man beside him. There was some laughing and no jabbing.

Sullivan was polished and stuck to the party platform: pro-transit, anti-war, pro-niqab, anti-Conservative and pro-environment (with the disappointing exception of pipelines). He was genuine though, and he was relaxed and charming. He seemed most passionate when speaking about Weston and his decision to run here.

Johnson may have been a bit less polished and a little less schooled in the doctrines of the Greens. He never had the inclination (or the occasion) to bang the table, and seemed content to answer questions with his own ideas and to improvise. I respect him very much for putting himself forward. I do regret, however, that he did not hold Sullivan more to account.

Of course, that is not really his job. He is a fringe candidate. The other parties–and especially the Liberals–should have been here, testing their own ideas and those of their opponents.

And in this, they have let us down. No. That doesn’t do this situation justice. Allow me to take off my thin veneer of objectivity and put it aside for a moment.

Ahmed Hussen and James Robinson want the fame, feeling, and fortune of political candidacy, but they do not deserve a vote, let alone a job. They refuse to stand before you and your neighbours and answer your questions. They refuse to explain. They will not say how their party’s platforms will affect you and your riding.

You wouldn’t hire a plumber who wouldn’t meet you, but this is much worse. Politics is war by other means. It makes winners and losers, and Hussen and Robinson owe it to you to explain their doctrines—after all, you might be one of the losers. They should have the guts.

Worse, much worse, they missed their chance to challenge the incumbent, Mike Sullivan. They would not face him, test him, and hold him and his record to account. Even if they think they will lose (and they are ensuring that) they owe us their expertise. Democracy, like capitalism, works only with competition. Gerrymandering and vote suppression are evil because they prevent that battle of ideas. Refusing to engage your opponent is no better: it makes a clash of ideas into a contest of advertising.

So shame on these gutless cowards who want much and give little. Shame on Ahmed Hussen, in particular, whose put himself forward in a competitive riding and refused to compete.

Ahmed Hussen did York South–Weston a terrible disservice. He asked to be elected but not accountable, and, worse, he abetted Mike Sullivan in being the same.

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¹ The 12 Community Alliance, the Rockcliffe-Smythe Community Association, The Weston Village Residents’ Association, the Mount Dennis Community Association, and the Greenhills Community Association deserve your thanks and support.

Conservatives nominate forehead

The  Conservative Party of Canada has put James Robinson forward as its next candidate in York South—Weston. It seems that the party has abandoned any pretense that they might actually win.

If the candidate’s website is to be believed,

Whether fighting for the disenfrachised [sic] or mentoring our leaders of tomorrow, James Robinson is the right choice for York South-[sic]Weston …. James is a long time [sic] advocate for all the people of York South-Weston, tirelessly working for all citizens no matter what concerns them or what effects [sic] York South-Weston. James has worked intensely with youth and has counseled [sic] many residents on a broad range of subjects and problems, always treating people with the respect they deserve.

Ohdear

 

The party cannot, it seems, afford a copy editor (to advocate for longer time is an unusual position even for the PCs, and, really, could they not put forward someone who can spell the name of the riding right? It’s an em-dash, not two hyphens, and certainly not one). Nor is a photographer or web designer within reach—the most prominent part of the page is a photograph of of the candidate’s forehead.

Your humble correspondent has not heard of Robinson, perhaps because Robinson lives in Whitby. I’m not saying that the bit about him being a local advocate is untrue—I have no parliamentary privilege, after all—but I will say that I’ve been paying pretty close attention riding news for close to five years, and we’ve not yet crossed paths.

Modi2?The riding association also posted some pictures of him that said he was at a meeting Indian Prime Minister Modi, the effect of which was to show just how far Robinson was from actually meeting him. There are lots of pictures of hands, crowds, and people who are emphatically not Modi.

YHC is not pleased. I am allergic to every political party, and the Conservatives give me anaphylaxis. But I am doubly displeased by lame-Modiduck, half-assed efforts. The Conservative candidate in the last election did not even campaign. The sum of her efforts was to put a sign on an abandoned house on Weston Road. She did not even collect the sign, and it remains.

This does us all a disservice. It wastes time, and money, and votes. But those are nearly irrelevant compared to the true cost: accountability. Conservatives are not (always) fools, so when they do not mount a credible candidate we all lose the chance to hear our aspiring leaders held to account from the perspective of the right.

Should you wish to meet the aspirant in person, James Robinson will be having a meet and greet on April 24 at 30 Gordon MacKay Rd. He will address the audience at 8 pm.

Mike Sullivan may have misused office space for partisan rally

Conservatives and Liberals are attacking the NDP MPs, including Mike Sullivan, for misusing their community offices as staging grounds for political events such as door-to-door blitzes. This would violate the rules about spending government money.

Sullivan comes under particular scrutiny in a CBC story, which says,

But at least one NDP MP has used his constituency office as a gathering place for a more overtly partisan event.

Mike Sullivan used his Toronto office earlier this month to gather supporters for a bus ride to a downtown rally with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

 

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The rules governing the use of government resources—including MPs offices—are uncommonly clear: MPs are not allowed to use offices for

 the administration, organization and internal communications of a political party [or] activities designed, in the context of a federal, provincial, or municipal election, or any other local election, to support or oppose a political party or an individual candidate

And that is the nub of the issue. Was Mulcair’s rally an election rally?

I think so. Sullivan himself tagged his tweets #NDP, and wrote in a Facebook post

This past Sunday, Thomas Mulcair spoke to our wonderful city of Toronto. His message was one of hope not fear and optimism not despair….  It’s time to build a more progressive and generous Canada. In the next election say no to the same old kind of politics, turn away from the talking points of cynicism and negativity, and vote for the change you want – and actually get it.

However, in response to the CBC story, Sullivan said:

My constituency office was not used for partisan purposes – it happened to be a convenient location for folks to meet before getting on a bus, near parking and 11 bus routes. As far as I know, the freedom to assemble is still in the Charter of Rights & Freedoms.

It is true; we still have the right to assemble. Next time, though, Sullivan supporters might consider exercising those rights in the Tim Horton’s just down the street.

 

Sullivan calls for rail safety. The Conservatives lie.

Mike Sullivan spoke in the House last week to draw attention the dangerous state of railway operations in Canada even after the Lac Mégantic disaster.

Sullivan said, poignantly, that railways were once the drivers of growth. “That economic driver has long since left my community”, he said “but the railroad tracks remain, and they are perilously close.”

Railways, he says, only began shipping crude oil in 2009, and it  has increased “500 fold” since then. In the space of five years there have been three explosive crashes in North America and 47 people killed. The dangerous DOT-111 railcars involved in that disaster remain in service and unimproved, despite almost 25 years of warnings about their safety. So while much has changed in the business, little has changed in regulation.

That makes me worry.

Do the DOT-111 cars, which are prone to rupture and derailment, carry crude? Dangerous chemicals? Poisons? Nobody’s talking. The Conservatives have protected the rail companies, who release information to the city only every three months. Even then, the city is forbidden to share that information with residents. We simply don’t know–can’t know—how dangerous the railway is.

But since Lac Mégantic disaster, there have been two other explosions and one near-miss. The cars, which have a “high incidence of tank integrity failure” (according to the TSB), remain unimproved because doing so would cost $3000 per car. (CN’s stock price, mind, has quadrupled since the disaster, and their dividend has doubled. Had they waited just three months to double their dividend, they could have paid cash to fix all their railcars.)

The cars are dangerous. The companies won’t fix them. The government is not just asleep at the switch–it’s passed out on CN’s rye.

So yes, we should worry a lot.

But it gets worse.

Sullivan raised a number of reasonable questions about sensible, changeable things. Why won’t Transport Canada answer the questions of parliamentarians? Who screwed that up? Why can’t ordinary people know about the chemicals being pulled through their neighbourhood? These are the sort of questions a populist Conservative government would get behind, from a philosophy that Conservatives love: civil servants must be brought to heel and the little guy knows best.

So Jeff Watson’s answer was particularly disappointing. Of course, he ignored the questions. Politicians do that, and it’s despicable but the custom. But then Watson lied. He said

the cause of the accident in Lac-Mégantic was that an employee did not follow the established rules… with respect to the application of hand brakes.

This vile. This is depraved. This is an insult to the tormented engineer and to the dead. The crash was caused by 18 different things ranging from money-grubbing to government failure. Those causes are only a Wiki away.

Had Watson wikied the answer, he would have seen that much of the blame is on Transport Canada. the same Transport Canada that Watson is now shading from any examiner’s light.

You have to ask why he’s trying to protect the guilty.

Mike Sullivan presents petition for better sewers

Let’s be honest: Sewers are not a sexy issue. But did you know that strong storms in 20 years will dump three times as much rainfall in Toronto as they did in the past? That incredible storm we had this year was a spring shower compared to what’s coming. In future, we can expect a third more rain than that diluvian drenching—166mm of rain will be the new normal. This summer we got 126 mm.

Canadian Underwriter magazine has an excellent article on the petition our MP, Mike Sullivan, presented to the House of Parliament asking for federal funding for improved sewers.

The petition, the article says, has been signed by more than 1000 people, and asks the feds to “immediately take action necessary to fund urgent municipal infrastructure projects to prevent property damage such as that suffered by the residents of the City of Toronto on July 8th 2013.”

It’s a shame the feds will flush it.

 

Noise wall designs complete

Metrolinx has released the final designs for the noise walls that will cut through Weston.

Almost all of northern Weston, from St Phillips to Coulter, will have concrete walls.  At Coulter, there will be a small art wall.

7stphillipstocoulter6Artatcoulter

From King, where the tunnel emerges, to Lawrence, the east side will be mostly ‘film strip’. The west side of the tracks will be the uglier concrete, except at the John Street crossing, which will be transparent, and the Farmers’ Market, which will have art.

4Around parking lot

3asouthsidearoundjohn1Around south station st

Around the GO train parking lot south of Lawrence, Metrolinx will be building  art and film strip walls. These are the last nice walls for some distance.

Through south Weston and Mount Dennis, they will be building precast concrete walls—starting at Victoria and going all the way to Black Creek Drive, with only a brief glass reprieve at Eglinton.

mtdennis

Your humble correspondent cannot help but believe that GO gave the squeaky wheel grease. While Mount Dennis gets concrete, The Junction—which had been vociferously opposed to the walls—appears to get mostly glass and filmstrip.