Quotulatiousness

July 14, 2014

“Canada’s true sesquicentennial is happening right now”

Filed under: Cancon, History — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:12

In the Winnipeg Free Press, Allan Levine reminds us that not only is Canada’s 150th birthday coming up in 2017, but that the meetings that led to Confederation were being held 150 years ago and much of the success was due to a “forgotten father of Confederation”:

BOLSTERED by generous federal funding, the 150th anniversary of Confederation will be celebrated on July 1, 2017 with the great hoopla the birth of this country deserves.

Yet the hard work, political compromises, backroom negotiations and constitutional debates that made Confederation — a more remarkable development than we appreciate today — possible occurred during a five-month period from June to October in 1864.

In short, Canada’s true sesquicentennial is happening right now.

The two most notable events of 1864 were conferences in Charlottetown, in early September, followed by a more extensive one held in Quebec City for much of October. At the gathering in Charlottetown, delegates from the Province of Canada — divided into two regions, Canada West (Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec) — led by John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier, respectively, convinced politicians from the Maritimes a federation of all of British North America made sense. The fundamentals of this new constitutional entity were then hammered out in Quebec City, producing a comprehensive plan for a new country outlined in the 72 Resolutions, which became the basis for the British North America Act proclaimed on July 1, 1867.

Apart from Macdonald and Cartier, the other key political personality in Charlottetown and Quebec City involved in making Confederation a reality was George Brown, the publisher of the Toronto Globe. Born in Scotland, Brown had arrived in Toronto via New York City at the age of 24 in 1843 and a year later established the Globe. A large man, he was over six feet tall and powerfully built. Brown was hard and dogmatic, but also an energetic and passionate man with strong convictions about free speech, civil liberties and the separation of church and state.

Brown became a leader of the Reform movement in Canada West and rallied around him left-leaning Reformers in Toronto and western farmers he dubbed “Clear Grits” (this faction only wanted men of true grit). He was eventually elected to the Province of Canada assembly in 1851, the beginning of a journey that would culminate with his role as a leading Father of Confederation and a founder of the Liberal party.

Update, 15 July. Richard Anderson has more on George Brown, and neatly explains why of all the Fathers of Confederation, only Sir John A. sticks in anyone’s memory. Poor George founded the Liberal party, but wouldn’t recognize the party in its modern incarnation.

George Brown certainly founded the Liberal Party, The Globe and Canada as a viable nation state. The Liberal Party, however, would prefer if you not remember all that stuff. Like an unpleasant uncle whose Thanksgiving Day antics you have suppressed from conscious memory, Brown is an embarrassment to modern Grits. To understand that you only have to give glancing attention to the man himself.

Brown of the Globe was a classical liberal, or to put it another way he was real liberal, one who understood very well the root meaning of the word: Liberty. He denounced crony capitalism (see the Grand Trunk Railway), fought for the separation of church and state (see his attacks upon ultramonte Catholicism) and advocated for free trade. This fierce tempered, no-nonsense Scots-Presbyterian would have made mince-meat out of Pierre Trudeau and his dimwitted spawn. When the Liberal Party of Canada stopped believing in liberty they had no use for Canadian classical liberalism’s greatest exponent.

George Brown is more than forgotten, he is an orphan in our statist politics. We are much the poorer for it.

June 19, 2014

Declined and spoiled ballots in the recent Ontario provincial election

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:08

A few Twitter updates from @308dotcom shows that the steady interest in my old post about declining your ballot was real:

June 12, 2014

Wynne, Hudak, Horwath … or none of the above?

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:37

I live in an unusual riding this election: my local MP died recently and my MPP is his widow. This may be why I have seen almost no activity in the riding by the NDP and Liberal candidates: there are a few signs in my part of the riding, but I have not been contacted by either party in person or by handbill/flyer/telephone. A canvasser for Christine Elliot showed up on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago. Aside from that, you might not think an election was happening.

In the neighbouring ridings, there seem to be more signs for all parties, but it’s the most low-key election I’ve seen in many years. Perhaps that’s because of the choices on offer. In the last couple of federal elections, the choices were the crooks (Papa Jean’s scandal-tainted Liberals, under whoever was left standing after the music stopped at the last leadership convention), the fascists (Obergruppenfuhrer Harper and his neo-nazi marching band and glee club), and the commies (the last crusade of Saint Jack, and the Quebec Children’s Crusade that followed). At least there were compelling stories there. The Ontario election, on the other hand, has much less interest for anyone who isn’t a political junkie.

The Liberals are still the crooks, but they boast the first lesbian premier (which still gives them a great deal of media credit, even if the actual voters aren’t as swayed by this as the journalists are). The NDP are riven by an open revolt on the part of the doctrinaire old guard, who loudly disagree with the rhetoric and tactics of their current leader and sound as if they’re determined that she loses. The Progressive Conservatives … well, here’s how Richard Anderson describes their leader:

Where was I? Oh yes I was talking about Timmy. He seems to be a swell guy. I think. A running joke shortly after the leadership convention was that if Tim Hudak were any more wooden he’d be liable to get Dutch Elm Disease. Which is terribly untrue and based on nothing but smears and innuendos. Termites are far more of a problem in Ontario than Dutch Elm Disease. During this most recent campaign he was able, albeit briefly, to display genuine emotion. He seemed kind of annoyed at Kathleen Wynne during the debate.

OK I’m lying. I didn’t see the debate. I’m a political junkie but Ontario politics these last few years has been a gruesome spectator sport. I can’t take it anymore. Please, please make them all stop.

[...]

Sorry. This post is about Tim. It’s about why Tiny Tim needs your support tomorrow to win the election, otherwise he won’t be able to get the operation he desperately needs to become a real boy. Sorry again. Mixing my Disney stories again. No wait wasn’t one of those stories Dickens? Ah heck, Disney did it better. Bless you Scrooge McDuck!

And that’s in a post recommending a vote for Tim and his merry band in the forward-backward party. Just imagine what he’d say if he was against Tim.

Me? I’ve already said I’m voting for the splitters this time around.

If you don’t know who to vote for, but still want to be counted you can decline your ballot. My 2011 post on how to decline your ballot has been racking up thousands of hits since the election was called (much more attention than it got in the previous election).

Main page and decline your ballot stats

I’ve no idea if there will actually be a significant number of refused ballots tonight, but it might be a minor news story in the aftermath.

Update I just got back from voting, and I picked up the mail from our “Super” mailbox on the way back. There were cards from both the NDP and Liberal candidates in with the usual mix of bills, real estate agent flyers, and local ads.

Repost: Ballot Box Irregularities

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 06:54

I first posted this article in 2004. I repost it every election:

Ballot Box Irregularities, Canadian Style

This article in Reason Hit and Run talks about the recent decision to allow partisan ballot-challengers to monitor the voting in Ohio. In Canada, these people are called “scrutineers” and they have a vital job.

No, I’m not kidding about the vital part. Each candidate has the right to appoint a scrutineer for every poll in the riding (usually only the Liberal, NDP, and Conservative parties can manage to field that much manpower). I was a scrutineer during a federal byelection in the mid-1980′s in a Toronto-area riding, but I had five polls to monitor (all were in the same school gymnasium). This was my first real experience of how dirty the political system can be.

The scrutineers have the right to challenge voters — although I don’t remember any challenges being issued at any of my polls — similar to the Ohio situation, I believe. They also have the right to be present during the vote count and to challenge the validity of individual ballots. Their job is to maximize the vote for their candidate and minimize the vote for their opponents.

Canadian ballots are pretty straightforward items: they are small, folded slips of paper with each candidate’s name listed alphabetically and a circle to indicate a vote for that candidate. A valid vote will have only one mark inside one of the circles (an X is the preferred mark). An invalid vote might have:

  • No markings at all (a blank ballot)
  • More than one circle marked (a spoiled ballot)
  • Some mark other than an X (this is where the scrutineers become important).

After the polls close, the poll clerk and the Deputy Returning Officer (DRO) secure the unused ballots and then open the ballot box in the presence of any accredited scrutineers. The clerk and DRO then count all the ballots, indicating valid votes for candidates and invalid ballots. The scrutineers can challenge any ballot and it must be set aside and reconsidered after the rest of the ballots are counted.

A challenged ballot must be defended by one of the scrutineers or it is considered to be invalid and the vote is not counted. The clerk and DRO have the power to make the decision, but in practice a noisy scrutineer can usually bully the DRO into accepting all their challenges. I didn’t realize just how easy it was to screw with the system until I’d been a scrutineer and watched it happen over and over again.

This is the key reason why minor party candidates poll so badly in Canadian elections: they don’t have enough (or, in many cases, any) scrutineers to defend their votes. In my experience in that Toronto-area byelection, I personally saved nearly 4% of the total vote my candidate received (in the entire riding) by counter-challenging challenged ballots. We totalled just over 400 votes in the riding (in just about 100 polls) — 21 of them in my polls. I got 15 of those votes allowed, when they would otherwise have been disallowed by the DRO.

There was no legal reason to disallow those votes: they were clearly marked with an X and had no other marks on them; they were challenged because they were votes for a minor candidate. As it was, I had a heck of a time running from poll to poll in order to get my counter-challenges in (I probably missed a few votes by not being able to get back to a poll in time).

The Libertarians only had six or seven scrutineers, covering less than a third of the polls in this riding. If the challenge rate was typical in my poll, then instead of the 400-odd votes, we actually received nearly 2000 votes — but most of them were not counted.

Yes, even 2000 votes would not have swung the election, but 2000 people willing to vote for a “fringe” party would be a good argument against those “throwing away your vote” criticisms. Voters are weird creatures in some ways: they like to feel that their votes actually matter. Voting for someone who espouses views you like, then discovering that only a few others feel the same way will discourage most voters from voting that way again in future.

Another reason that minor party votes matter (that I neglected to mention in the original post) is that parties receive funding based on their vote totals in the previous election. Disallowing minor party votes also deprives those parties of the funding they would otherwise be entitled to next time around. For the bigger parties, this is trivial, but for minor parties, this may be critical to them being able to stay active — and visible to voters — between elections.

June 11, 2014

Winter damage to vineyards in Niagara and on the Bench

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Wine — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:20

The first — and probably not the last — definite sign of how bad this winter was for the wineries comes from today’s newsletter from Featherstone, where Louise Engel says they’ve suffered severe damage to some of the vines:

Every season is an adventure in weather here in Niagara. Every year since we bought the vineyard fifteen years ago, Dave and I have looked at each other at some point during the grape growing season, sighed deeply, and said:

“Hmm … well, never seen that before.”

This past year we added ‘polar vortex’ to our table talk. However, we were optimistic that the vines would come through relatively unscathed from the punishing winter temperatures. Our optimism was misplaced. Both the Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc vines have been badly damaged and will need extensive re-planting.

The Gewürztraminer has been virtually wiped out. We are considering replanting that entire field with a hardier variety, like Riesling. The Riesling field that was planted in 1998 is sixteen, going on seventeen, and still thrives. So it may be so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye Gewürztraminer.

Does this mean that prices will increase? No, it doesn’t. But if you are a fan of our Gewürztraminer, I suggest you climb ev’ry mountain to get here before it’s all gone. Forever.

If you’re not familiar with the Niagara Escarpment sub-appellations, Featherstone is in the Twenty Mile Bench: most of my favourite wineries are in this sub-appellation.

June 10, 2014

Andrew Echevarria uses Tinder to connect with Trinity-Spadina voters

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 06:45

Liam asked if I’d covered the innovative voter reach-out campaign being conducted by Libertarian candidate Andrew Echevarria in the Trinity-Spadina riding:

Andrew Echevarria Libertarian Tinder postMuch like love, wooing voters sometimes requires dabbling in the art of seduction.

That’s how MPP hopeful Andrew Echevarria sees it. The Ontario Libertarian Party candidate for Trinity-Spadina is using Tinder to connect with young people in the downtown riding, hoping to score votes the same way others score dates.

“I catch their eye,” said Echevarria, who joined the online dating app recently. “Tinder is a great moment to catch someone when they’re just hanging out.”

Toronto Tinder users may recognize the dark-haired, well-suited Echevarria as they swipe left and right through the app’s GPS-enabled library of potential romances. He set his search limit to the scope of the riding and has already been inundated with love connections.

However, he keeps his intentions up front.

“Tired of dating the same old politicians who lie just to get your ballot? Hook up with Liberty!” he teases, listing his age as 24. Those interested can “swipe right to debate or learn more.”

About 50 people — 60 per cent men, 40 per cent women, Echevarria guesses — have swiped right.

While it might sound like a gimmick, the neuroscience grad from the University of Toronto said he genuinely believes Tinder is an effective way of enticing students and young professionals who are unfamiliar with libertarian politics, which he says are defined by “the protection of individual rights and freedoms.”

May 29, 2014

The “Pairs Perfectly” campaign

Filed under: Cancon, Wine — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:03

Just as the Ontario election writ was dropped, the small wineries of Ontario started pushing the Pairs Perfectly campaign, to move the province toward a more mature wine retailing model (like British Columbia’s). While I’d prefer a full privatization model (like Alberta’s), at least the move to allowing some private wine stores would be an improvement. Despite the quick work to launch the campaign, Michael Pinkus says it’s already being forgotten on the hustings:

Ontario is deep into an election campaign and the best thing done so far is a little initiative from the Wine Council called “Pairs Perfectly”. They’ve backed it with radio and television promos and in truth they make a lot of sense. Ontario is one of the only provinces not to have some sort of private system in place, either along with their provincial monopoly (a la British Columbia) or fully privatized (a la Alberta). This initiative seemed to be already formed and waiting in the wings: no sooner had an election been called than the “Pairs Perfectly” slogan was in my inbox (with its twitter handle @PairsPerfectly, hashtag #PairsPerfectly and website PairsPerfectly.com), articles were written to explain the notion, social media seemed abuzz from wineries to writers to the average-Joe, all were tweeting, re-tweeting, blogging, tumbling, gramming, hooting, hollering, casting, accosting and I initially thought, “Wow, the buzz is really out there, this just might have legs, or at least more legs that that ‘My Wine Shop’ that seemed to go nowhere.”

But 6 weeks is a long time in the political realm, just ask Rob Ford, so much can happen over the course of 6 weeks that can turn the tide on a well-thought-out, well-organized plan of attack. Instead of the Ontario booze media jumping whole hog onto the initiative and writing piece after piece after piece about the benefits of privatization to keep the idea in our collective consciousness, a new issue has come along to polarize: the VQA, which I have repeatedly said is a sham of a system, most notably because of its tasting panel. Now there’s a new horse to ride, a newer and shinier issue to get all worked up about. The VQA is easy pickings because it is so wrong, crushes creativity and stymies’ our winemakers making them think “will this pass VQA”. Every winery has come into conflict with it at least once in its existence and it needs an overhaul (radical? Maybe not, but definitely a big tweak).

[...]

I believe this: Ontario is a mess and is destined to remain that way long after this election season has been put to bed. We already know the Liberals position on privatization of any sort (over their dead body); the NDP seem in lockstep with the Liberals train of thought because it would disrupt union jobs. And the Conservatives, before the campaign the only party willing to talk privatization, have somehow gone mute about the whole issue – as if someone told them not to rock the boat; which makes them the wild card. But if history shows us anything it’s doubtful it’ll get past committee if it ever does come up.

And don’t even get me started on the asinine things happening on the beer side of the ledger. The Beer Store’s cockamamie campaign against corner stores carrying the product that they have a duopoly to sell (with the LCBO), is as misguided and ill-conceived as any I can think of. Does beer not also get sold in corner stores in other provinces? Are all those owners corrupt-minor-sellers? It seems to have galvanized the public against them; especially when people find out they aren’t government controlled; which a vast majority of the province was under the false notion it was. This also took focus away from the larger issue of an open and freer market for all in the alcohol industry (craft brewers, craft winemakers, etc.)

May 28, 2014

Ontario election 2014 – the local front

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:28

Click to download full-size PDF

Click to download full-size PDF

So far, the local candidates have been almost invisible here in Whitby-Oshawa. Last week, we had a canvasser show up for Progressive Conservative candidate Christine Elliot (the incumbent MPP), but that’s literally it. As far as I know, this is the complete list of registered candidates for the riding:

  • Christine Elliott, Progressive Conservative
  • Ryan Kelly, NDP
  • Ajay Krishnan, Liberal
  • Stacey Leadbetter, Green
  • Douglas Thom, Freedom Party

The Ontario Libertarian Party issued a press release the other day, boasting that they were “in a position to form a majority government”. Which sounds great, but all it really means is they’re finally running enough candidates that, should they all be elected, the OLP would have enough seats to form a majority. A subtle distinction, I’m sure you’d agree.

However, despite the massed ranks of OLP sacrificial lambs candidates, they don’t have one in Whitby-Oshawa. This means that instead of wasting my vote by voting Libertarian, I’ll waste my ballot on Douglas Thom of the Freedom Party (“Splitters!“).

CBC News has a profile of the riding here. For other Ontario ridings, you can look them up here.

Ontario NDP manifesto “reads like it was written at an Annex dinner party that went one bottle of red over the line”

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:15

The NDP is having some internal ructions during the ongoing Ontario election campaign, as federal NDP supporters are critical of the provincial party’s approach (and leaking that discontent to the media). The Toronto Star‘s Tim Harper reports:

Tom Mulcair and Andrea Horwath will share a stage next week at the provincial party’s spring gala in Toronto.

Publicly, it will be smiles and camaraderie. Privately, some members of the federal leader’s Ontario caucus and his inner circle are looking at the Horwath campaign with anxiety.

While Mulcair has praised Horwath’s “positive, optimistic” vision, there are concerns here about the messaging in the provincial campaign, the decision to force a vote at this time and the landscape the federal party might be traversing in the politically-key southern Ontario ridings in next year’s federal vote.

There are those who believe Horwath brought down the Liberals a year too late and is now not pushing back strongly enough against a budget that is a political document that cannot be delivered. Others wonder why the campaign lacks any big, fresh ideas.

[...]

Specifically, federal New Democrats are watching an attempt by the party to tack toward the middle where the votes lie, while fighting off backbiting from within for allegedly giving up on progressive voters and the causes they hold dear.

Mulcair is expected to steer the party in the same direction next year.

He will go to the polls with the NDP’s best chance for power in its history, campaigning with a mix of “small ball” policies, packaged around expected bold policies on the environment and sustainable development. Federal NDP strategists dismiss the tag of “small ball.” They call issues such as bank fees, gas prices and fees for paper bills “consumer issues” and they believe they engage voters who don’t think of politics in old right-left terms.

They dismiss a critical letter to Horwath from self-described NDP stalwarts — a manifesto that reads like it was written at an Annex dinner party that went one bottle of red over the line — as an attempt to drag the party back to what one called the “Audrey McLaughlin” days, a reference to a campaign two decades ago when the party remained ideologically pure and lost official party status.

May 21, 2014

Society, socialism, and statism

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:07

At Gods of the Copybook Headings, Richard Anderson refutes the imported “you didn’t build that” notion being pushed by Kathleen Wynne on the campaign trail the other day:

… individual men, women and families are society. So are NGO, private corporations, small businesses and local community groups. All combined are a society. It was the height of intellectual impertinence by the Left to adopt the word socialism. The Left doesn’t believe in society, it believes in the State. It is Statism not Socialism that is their true creed. If you believe in strengthening society then you should believe in freedom because it is freedom that makes a society possible. True socialists are believers in free markets, free minds and free association. Statism is the enemy of society.

Too often the argument is made that either we must be rugged individualists or harmonious collectivists. This is a false dichotomy. One can be perfectly individualistic living in a family and in a community. Individualism is not the same thing as being aloof or standoffish. An individualist can work in a soup kitchen, a corporate office or mowing a lawn. It depends on what values that individual chooses to hold and the abilities he possesses.

By way of contrast there is nothing so inharmonious as collectivism. By denying man’s basic individuality it creates a never ending civil war of all against all. This is why the most collectivist societies are the most violent and repressive. They are fighting a war against human nature and losing all the while. The most peaceful societies are the most individualistic. In these societies individuals choose their partners, employers and friends. Violence is largely unnecessary in a society built on consent. It is necessary only against those who reject the principle of consent.

It’s true that no one makes it completely on their own. That doesn’t diminish their accomplishment, their essential independence or the conceit of those seeking to profit from their success. An individual may live in a society, but that does not make him a slave of the state.

Update: Kevin Williamson hits some of the same notes in this article:

It seems to me that Nozick, like some conservatives and most thinkers on the left, errs by conflating “society” and “state.” He is correct about our obligations to society: We have a positive moral duty to, among other things, care for those who cannot care for themselves. But this tells us very little — and maybe nothing at all — about our relationship to the state. The state is not society, and society is not the state. Society is much larger than the state, much richer, much more complex, much more intelligent, much more humane, and much older. Society, like trade, precedes the state. Government is a piece, but so are individuals, families, churches, businesses, professional associations, newspapers — even Kim Kardashian’s Twitter following plays its role.

[...]

Where those who see the world the way Nozick eventually did go wrong is in failing to appreciate that, absent official coercion, we do not have to take turns expressing those items of importance: The pope can think as he likes about this or that, Stephen Hawking can agree or disagree, and all are free to choose their own adventure. It is only in matters of politics that one set of preferences becomes mandatory.

But mandatoriness seems to be the attraction for many. The most enthusiastic support for the Affordable Care Act, to take one obvious example, never came from those whose main concern was its policy architecture; well-informed and intellectually honest critics left and right both knew that it was a mess. People supported the ACA as an expression of our national priorities, that we were coming to regard health insurance as something akin to a right, that we were becoming more like the European welfare states that our remarkably illiberal so-called liberals admire, that we regarded insurance companies and insurance-company profits as a nastiness to be scrubbed away or at least disinfected. The policy has been revealed as a mess, but the same people support it for the same reason. Similarly, prosecuting as civil-rights criminals those who do not wish to bake cakes for gay weddings is mainly an act of communication, that one is no longer free to hold certain opinions about homosexuals. The new enlightenment is mandatory.

[...]

The mysticism surrounding the state — its near-deification — is a source of corruption, to say nothing of boneheadedness. If the state is to be an instrument for expressing our deepest longings, values, and moral sentiments, then there can be no peace — our values are, as Nozick noted, frequently irreconcilable, and only a philosopher could believe that we can take turns when it comes to abortion or wealth confiscation. That is not how things work. If, on the other hand, the state is a machine for protecting property — from thieves, invaders, and possibly the more energetic members of the American Bar Association — then we can have peace, at least a measure of it. Outside of certain very well-defined parameters, nobody’s values need be mandatory.

May 11, 2014

Ontario politics: “Insular, petty and involves a cast of characters you wouldn’t want to meet wandering down a dark alley”

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:02

It’s election season once again in Ontario, and Richard Anderson looks at the current state of play:

I know most of you can’t stand Ontario politics.

Especially those of us who live here…

It’s insular, petty and involves a cast of characters you wouldn’t want to meet wandering down a dark alley. Still it’s the largest province in Confederation so attention must be paid, however grudgingly.

The last decade of provincial politics has revolved around the astonishing acrobatics of the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals. They have lied, overspent and borrowed to an extent without precedent in English speaking Canada. Those of us who remember the Bob Rae years had assumed that they had seen the worst. Apparently it wasn’t. After a brief house cleaning under Harris-Eves we were returned to spendthrift form. The provincial debt has doubled in ten years. Nothing else in Ontario has grown anywhere near as fast.

A political party that was this incompetent, this obviously corrupt, would you think be headed for certain defeat at the polls. Transforming the engine of the Canadian economy into its busted leg took some doing. A treasure trove of natural resources, close proximity to the largest American markets and a highly skilled workforce. Ontario has, what seemed until recently, to be nearly indestructible advantages. A pack of Gibbonese monkeys could be running the show at Queen’s Park and the economy, somehow, would still keep moving along.

But no one saw Dalton McGuinty coming. How could they? With the personality of a mediocre non-entity and the political cunning of a dishonest child, he won two majority governments and narrowly missed a third. How has been something of a mystery. The Dalt had certain inborn advantages. His sheer nebbishness made him seem unthreatening. Yet here we stand at the bottom of a deep hole he himself dug. There were, of course, his weak and bungling rivals. Ernie Eves looked and sounded like an unenthusiatic version of Gordon Gekko. John Tory’s ability to self-destruct is near legend. Tim Hudak isn’t a real boy at all.

Yet the greatest advantage that Dalton McGuinty had, and which Kathleen Wynne retains, is the electorate. There is no greater advantage to a scheming and incompetent politician than a disengaged and misinformed electorate. That describes the voters of Ontario almost perfectly. This might seem a tad puzzling to some. Generations of Canadian voters have been been able to hold their governments to rough account. Semi-literate frontier farmers were able to follow the twists and turns of the Pacific Scandal and send John A, temporarily, packing. Today the ordinary voter sees greater crimes and follies with nary a batted eye.

May 10, 2014

Former head of the LCBO at the Ontario Wine Awards

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Humour, Wine — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:17

Michael Pinkus attended last night’s award ceremony and found the star of the proceedings was the master of ceremonies, former LCBO head Andy Brandt:

The 20th Annual Ontario Wine Awards were held Friday night at the Queen’s Landing Inn in Niagara-on-the-Lake hosted by former head of the LCBO Andy Brandt; who had to be one of the unintentionally funny MC I’ve ever experienced. Between the butchering of words (Pinot “Griss”, Cabernet “Frank”, “Sara” for Syrah, “Ca-lom-us” for Calamus and “Toss-e” for Tawse) and the total omission of names he did not want to pronounce like Musque and Viognier during the presentation — he seemed uncomfortable giving out the awards, but was good at puns and for a few stories. All-in-all Brandt was a train-wreck, but at least you knew the room was listening for his next faux-pas and he was the talk of the room over beers and desserts at the after-party (the most talked about host I can remember). One person commented to me, “He’s my favourite MC at [The Ontario Wine Awards] ever, I just never knew what was going to come out of his mouth from one moment to the next. Obviously pronunciation has gone out the window tonight, it’s a free-for-all.” Others could not believe that the once head of the LCBO could not pronounce grape varieties correctly.

May 5, 2014

“[M]ost Canadian law societies report members to police. The [LSUC] does not.”

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:17

The Toronto Star‘s Kenyon Wallace, Rachel Mendleson and Dale Brazao investigate the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) and find it does not report members for criminal activity to the police:

They treat client trust accounts as their personal piggy banks, facilitate multi-million-dollar frauds and drain retirement savings of the elderly.

While most lawyers caught stealing from their clients are reprimanded, suspended or disbarred by the profession’s regulator, the vast majority avoid criminal charges, a Star investigation reveals.

The Star found that more than 230 lawyers sanctioned for criminal-like activity by the Law Society of Upper Canada in the last decade, stole, defrauded or diverted some $61 million held in trust funds for clients.

Fewer than one in five were charged criminally. Most avoided jail.

“I truly believe there are two laws — a set of rules and regulations for lawyers and a different set for everyone else,” said Richard Bikowski, who was fleeced out of $87,500 by now-disbarred Toronto lawyer Lawrence Burns.

Unlike the law societies in most other provinces, the Law Society of Upper Canada does not, as a rule, report suspected criminal acts by its members to police, no matter how much money lawyers steal.

[...]

Of the more than 1,000 discipline decisions made by the law society in the last 10 years, the Star identified 236 cases in which lawyers were sanctioned for offences that were characterized by our analysis as criminal, including theft, fraud, breach of trust, forgery and perjury.

The Star could find criminal charges for only 41 of these lawyers. In more than half of cases where criminal charges were laid, the law society sanction came after. Of those bad lawyers sentenced criminally, the punishments were generally lenient, ranging from house arrest to community service. The Star found that only 12 went to jail.

Why do so many lawyers who steal from their clients avoid criminal justice?

A big reason is that the law society in practice does not report alleged criminal offences by its members to police.

May 2, 2014

Calling BS on the Beer Store ad campaign

Filed under: Business, Cancon — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:09

Michael Pinkus takes a short pause from his usual wine reviews (and decrying the LCBO for their stone-age approach to selling wine) to throw some scorn at the foreign-owned multinational oligopoly that runs our beer retail business in Ontario:

Not sure which [of the two TV ads] I object to more, the lies of the first or the total misrepresentation of variety store owners in the second. The biggest lie to me in #1 is the implication of impeccable customer service: the visual of a beer store employee (Glenn Howard) showing a customer to her beer selection (can woman not find the beer they are bringing home to their man on their own? Is that another implication here?) or is he giving a recommendation of what beer to serve? Either way it’s a complete falsehood: I have been to plenty of Beer Stores in my day and NO ONE HAS EVER ‘showed me’ to the beer I was looking for, in fact, Beer Store employees are some of the surliest bunch in the customer service world, second only to LCBO and Home Depot staff for the most un-helpful in retail.

Ad #2 makes variety store owners look complacent in the act of minors buying alcohol in their stores, the only thing the Beer Store did not do was put an ethnic minority behind the counter (that should be your first clue that the Beer Store is out of touch with corner stores) … But seriously what a load of absolute garbage that ad is. I was thinking that a good acronym for the Beer Store is “The B.S.” which is exactly what they are peddling to the public with their ads and “beer facts” campaign … hopefully you see right through it: all they are trying to do is protect their bottom line through the guise of social responsibility. Heck the LCBO has been using that excuse for years and look at the monopoly they’ve built.

When it comes to the illegal sale of booze to minors, no one is protected more than the liquor store employees of this province. First, both LCBO and Beer Store employees are protected by unions, so if they were to sell to minors that employee would continue to keep their job. A sting by reporter David Menzies for SunMedia proved that not only can minors get alcohol at the LCBO but nothing befell the employees who sold to that minor.

On the other hand, a variety / corner store would face harsh penalties, stiff fines and I am sure the loss of their license to sell booze and quite possibly lose their store, their livelihood, everything they’ve worked for – not to mention the civil lawsuit that might be a consequence of their actions. Most variety store owners are hardworking, law abiding people who work long hours in their own stores, and usually rely on their family members to help out. They aren’t about to give up their way to make a living to sell a couple extra bottles of Blue to 15-year-old Joey Ripkin. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t any rotten eggs in the basket, but you’ve had LCBO workers sell booze out the back door of stores and warehouses and clerks sell to friends – there’s always someone who takes advantage of the system, but to paint them all with this absurd brush is clearly ridiculous. The BS the Beer Store is pushing is practically see-through.

The loss of one’s business and livelihood is a bigger price to pay than the slap on the wrist a Beer / LCBO store employee would see.

April 14, 2014

Queen’s student goes looking for racism, doesn’t find it, declares it’s happening anyway

Filed under: Cancon, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:44

Your source of all sorts of odd news, the Daily Mail has this little gem from up the lake in Kingston, Ontario:

A Canadian college student recently conducted a social experiment to see if people treated her differently if she wore a hijab — a traditional Muslim veil that covers a woman’s head and chest — and what she discovered was a bit unexpected.

Anisa Rawhani, a third-year student at Queens University in Ontario, wore the traditional Muslim garb for 18 days in January as she worked at the university’s library, visited stores and restaurants near the campus and as she did volunteer work with local children.

According to Rawhani — who conducted the experiment to see if people in her community were racist towards minority groups — she noticed that people actually treated her more kindly and with more respect than when she didn’t wear the hijab.

Rawhani, who is not Muslim, wrote about her experience wearing traditional Muslim clothing in the March edition of the Queen’s Journal, where she works as a copy editor — the article is titled ‘Overt to Covert.’

Fortunately, as the Queen’s Journal account makes clear, she was able to get a clear explanation of the phenomenon from a professor:

Leandre Fabrigar, an associate professor in the department of psychology at Queen’s, cited “impression management” as a possible explanation for my experience.

He explained that often individuals who harbour biases, but fear social disapproval, will publicly act respectfully towards minorities. “Impression management is when [someone] very strategically, and usually quite deliberatively, tries to manage the impressions that others have of [them],” he said.

Impression management is focused on manipulating others’ perception of the self, but there are more genuine reasons why someone would be kinder towards minorities. Fabrigar said that sometimes individuals realize that they harbour biases, or other unwanted influences on their behaviour. Then, when interacting with members of minority groups, they experience an internal conflict between their negative biases and the egalitarian values that they believe in.

So the fact that Rawhani didn’t encounter overt forms of discrimination actually proves that the people she was interacting with in her Islamic disguise are hugely bigoted, hate-filled wretches who just don’t want to show it. Cool, got it, thanks.

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