Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Still Waiting for the Shovels: Halton Update

When I wrote about the status of Halton's various infrastructure stimulus projects earlier this month, my list was somewhat incomplete and I wasn't entirely sure which projects were actually in the riding of Halton (as opposed to Halton Region, which is larger). Happily, the Conservatives have a handy map widget on their website showing exactly where everything is, enabling me to visit more sites and see what's going on.

I wanted a more thorough inventory in order to respond to a flurry of communications from Lisa Raitt in the form of nearly identical op-eds published in the Oakville Beaver and the Burlington Post. There was a third in the Milton Champion, but it was quite rightly classified as an advertisement and is therefore not available online.

The only difference between these missives is the lists of infrastructure projects she names. Of the five she mentions for Burlington, one is region-wide (the GO Transit improvements), one isn't actually in her riding, and two of the remaining three haven't broken ground yet. For Oakville the story is much the same. In fact, one of the projects she mentions there - the Sheridan College funding - is actually for a new campus completely outside the Region in Mississauga.

I recently contacted our Regional Councillor Colin Best to find out more about when some of these projects are expected to break ground, and clarification on the question of whether the money is "flowing" or not. He's looking into the first issue and will get back to me when he finds out. As for the second, his response actually explains the discrepancy between what the Conservatives and the Liberals are saying.

The deal is this: when a project is announced and the giant cheque is presented, it isn't really a cheque. Nor is it a guarantee of a cheque. What actually happens is that the municipalities get a small up-front cash amount, but after that are required to pay the contractors themselves and then submit their expense invoices each month for reimbursement.

In other words, money doesn't actually 'flow' until ground is broken.

So. Being a thorough sort of person and anxious to help Ms. Raitt sort out which projects are for Halton Riding and which are not, and which have broken ground and which have not, here's the complete list:

1) Milton Library and Arts Centre
Announced: June 12, 2009
Location: Southeast corner of Main and Thompson.
Status: Still not started - waiting for Milton Hydro to vacate

2) Milton Sports Centre Expansion
Announced: June 12, 2009
Location: Derry Road at Santa Maria Blvd.
Status: Still not started

3) Tremaine Road Widening
Announced: June 12, 2009
Location: From Derry to Main
Status: Still not started

4) Tonelli Arena Refurbishment
Announced: July 15, 2009
Location: Laurier at Farmstead
Status: Still not started

5) Nassagaweya Tennis Club
Announced: July 15, 2009
Location: Guelph Line, north of the 401
Status: Still not started

6) New Fire Station in NE Burlington
Location: Upper Middle Rd. and Walkers Line
Status: Not started - design process underway

7) New City Park
Location: Hwy.5 between Guelph Line and Walkers Line
Status: Not started - estimates coming in

8) Halton Conservation Authority Trails Upgrade
Status: Unknown

9) North Park Sports Fields
Announced: July 15
Location: Hwy.5 and Neyagawa Blvd.
Status: Not Started (the sports centre has been under construction for over a year, but the actual stimulus funding is only for the outdoor sports fields)

10) Orchard Community Park Sports Field
Announced: July 2
Location: near Upper Middle Rd. and Appleby Line
Status: Not started

11) Appleby Ice Centre
Announced: July 2
Location: Appleby Line south of Upper Middle Rd.
Status: Started mid-August!

That's one. Out of eleven. Which makes... 9.1%.

Sounds about right.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thoughts on the Milton Town Hall Forum

Last Wednesday marked our first post-Garth Turner Town Hall meeting in Milton. It was hosted by our new Liberal candidate Deborah Gillis, and featured two eminent guest speakers: MPs Michael Savage and Dr. Carolyn Bennett.

As one of the organizers, I was very pleased at how well the event went off given that we only had two weeks to pull it all together. The hall got booked, the ad got into the paper on time, the flyers got handed out at the Farmers' Market the Saturday before, and despite my fears of an empty house we actually had about thirty people show up.

Given that our two guests were the Opposition critics for Human Resources and Health, respectively, we tried to come up with a theme and a title that would reflect their areas of expertise as they applied to local concerns while leaving things open to a broader discussion. Various ideas got bandied about until we finally ended up with "Building Canada's Health and Social Infrastructure".

I did mention we only had two weeks to do this, right?

Deb introduced our guests, everyone gave their opening remarks, and then we opened things up to questions from the floor. There had been some concern that some people would try to disrupt things with endless questions about Ignatieff and why the Liberals are trying to force an election, but it all turned out to be very civilized. I wasn't surprised. I had told Deb that even during the worst of the Garth Turner town halls, the disrupters usually restricted themselves to standing glowering against the back wall.

Of course, the discussion wasn't restricted to just the theme at hand. All kinds of issues came up, from the environment to civic engagement to election strategy in the riding of Halton. We talked about Aboriginal issues and the Kelowna Accord. We talked about engaging youth in the political process. We talked about the problems of promoting Liberal social policy in one of the richest ridings in the country.

Carolyn Bennett is a firecracker. She's one of those intense, passionate, socially conscious politicians that I've always been especially fond of. In fact, when she was talking about grassroots democracy and the ability of MPs to effectively represent their constituents, it was almost like listening to Garth again. Mike Savage is very much the same, although he seemed to have trouble getting a word in edgewise. And just the fact that Deb Gillis was willing and anxious to engage in this sort of public forum only six weeks after her nomination tells me that she is of the same mind.

Watching and listening to these three remarkable people, and having met and spoken to a growing number of other Liberal MPs over the past two years, it occurs to me that whatever the problems are with this party and this country, they are not primarily because of the men and women we have elected to the House of Commons. Maybe I'm self-selecting, but every one that I've met is just as passionate. Every one believes that their responsibility is to represent their constituents and not their party. Every one believes in social justice, and the idea that helping those in need raises us all up.

Beyond that, every one of them has specific, practical ideas for making these abstract values into functioning social policy.

I have no illusions that every single Liberal MP in the House of Commons is as intelligent and as socially committed as the dozen or so that I have personally met, or that every one of them is completely sincere. But nor do I doubt that there are many fine, committed Conservative and New Democrat Members who, while they might have different solutions, care deeply about democracy and social justice and want to see all Canadians live better lives.

So what's the problem? How is it that these intelligent, committed people are all reduced to children throwing spitballs during Question Period and, to a lesser extent, in committees and in the public media?

It's easy to blame it all on the Conservatives, and easier still to blame it all on Stephen Harper. But let's face it - if even half the MPs simply refused to engage in these ridiculous games, it couldn't go on.

Take Question Period. QP and the preparation for it occupies an inordinate number of hours out of the working day for each and every one of our MPs, and there is overwhelming agreement in every party that the whole process is a frustrating, humiliating, and utterly pointless show put on for a public that finds the whole thing disgusting.

Mike Savage colourfully described it as a "putrid, fetid, pus-filled swamp between two fifteen and three o'clock".

So why does it go on? Why isn't there a mass movement in all four caucuses to have QP moved to the morning, have rules of decorum imposed and enforced, and make other changes to turn it from being a circus into an actual exercise in holding government accountable?

Or take the mess that is internal party politics - particularly in the Liberal Party. Every single Liberal MP from Michael Ignatieff down to the lowliest backbencher will happily extol the virtues of "grassroots democracy". And yet we continue to have a system which allows the party leader to bypass the will of local members and arbitrarily appoint candidates.

I have been a Liberal Party member for about three years now, and I have yet to be allowed to vote for either the leader or the candidate of my choice.

Nobody likes this - not the MPs, not the riding executive, not the members - and it never, ever ends well. The squabbling over Outremont this past week is an extreme example, but even here in Halton where most riding members seem more or less content with the way things worked out, we still lost people who really wanted Garth back and were appalled at the way the whole thing went down. And that's not just bad for democracy - it's bad political strategy.

So why does it continue? What's the up side to allowing candidate appointments? It can't just be about getting more women elected - that's easy enough to fix through active recruitment. Is it really just a power thing, getting MPs in who are beholden to the party leader? 'Cause I really don't see someone like Deb Gillis kissing anyone's ring no matter how she got here.

It's puzzling to me. I'm sure that a large part of the answer lies in the power wielded by those unelected advisers, strategists and party officials whose roles seem so arcane and yet whose names keep cropping up whenever these issues arise. But who gave them that power in the first place?

Maybe it's all just David Smith's fault.

As depressing as all this seems, that town hall meeting actually gave me hope for my party and for my country. Because I am convinced now more than ever that there are a lot of good, good people representing us in Parliament, and even more working on the local level to get them elected. I know. I've met them.

We just need to figure out how to clear the way to let them do their jobs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why Didn't I Say That?

I just got back from the Milton Town Hall Forum which I helped to organize, and which I'm happy to say went swimmingly. It was hosted by our new Liberal candidate Deborah Gillis, with special guest MPs Carolyn Bennett and Michael Savage.

They were all great, and I'll get more into what was said later. But after all my fumbling through that recent blog post on the difficulties the Liberals seem to have distilling their policies into digestible form, I was amazed to hear Dr. Bennett state the problem perfectly:
Liberals believe that for every complex problem, there is an equally complex solution."

Man, I wish I'd said that.

Further on Civic Disengagement

One theme embedded in the somewhat rambling musings of my previous post was the question of voter apathy as it relates to party politics. So it was a nice bit of serendipity when I ran across this article in the Regina Leader-Post concerning this very issue, in which the author posits the following:

"...the Age of Distraction in which we now live surely hasn't made life easier for our political leadership, which has traditionally preferred an engaged, mobilized electorate."

I disagree, sir.

I am influenced here by Al Gore's excellent "The Assault on Reason", but after spending no small amount of time amongst politicos of every stripe I can tell you from personal experience that political strategists COUNT ON having a disengaged electorate.

Think about it. What's easier? Developing and communicating a policy platform that would actually provide a coherent, long-term plan for the nation that (God forbid) some subsequent government might take credit for and which benefits the vast majority of largely middle-class and poor voters? Or just play to the base, push their buttons through disinformation, bigotry and fear, sell them on some placebo that you have no intention of following through on, and then bus them en masse into the polling stations on election day from whatever church, union hall or mosque they happen to be gathered in while those fussy undecided voters just get fed up and stay home?

This is what they want. They don't want you to pay attention. They don't want you to inform yourself. They don't want you to notice anything they do except when they're jumping up and down and clamouring for your attention. They don't even want you to vote unless your one of the unthinking Party Faithful - for their party, of course. And I'm not exempting anyone here. I can guarantee that these calculations are as much a part of the NDP's strategy as that of the Conservatives and Liberals.

So. To the question posed at the beginning of the Leader-Post article, "Did voters become uninterested because of today's duplicitous, self-interested politicians or did uninterested voters create today's duplicitous, self-interested politicians?"

The answer, for the most part, is B. Although, for the most part, it isn't the politicians themselves who are the biggest problem.

The solution? Get informed. Get involved. Get active. Then get in your friends' faces with it. I don't even care which party you pick - just do it for the right reasons.

Imagine if even a third of the voting public did that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Liberal Policy for Dummies

Like many Liberal bloggers, I watched Ignatieff's speech to the Toronto Board of Trade with interest yesterday, hoping to hear a few planks of the Liberals' much anticipated economic platform.

My heart sank a little when he opened with an apology for how long and detailed the speech was about to be.

The details are there alright: taking a pro-active approach to accelerating economic growth rather than just letting it happen, defending Canadian industry and technology from foreign takeovers, instituting a permanent increase in the gas tax transfers to municipalities, greater investment in renewable energy and green technologies, bring back the 'Team Canada' trade missions, making the PBO truly independent, and on and on.

I can't say I agree with everything he's proposing. His 'tearing down the borders' theme scares me, and while the U.S. 'Country of Origin' labelling laws might be hurting Canadian pork producers for the moment, I'd much rather spend some money on PR for them than allow food companies to omit such information on Canadian packaging.

Overall, though, I approve of the direction he wants to go. He's committed himself to a reversal of Harper's 'hands-off' approach to government, which is a good start in drawing the contrast between the Conservatives and the Liberals.

Now it's time for the marketing guys to go to work. Because while I find all this stuff fascinating - as I'm sure you do, oh faithful reader - the sad fact is that most voters only digest policy in bites of six words or less. It's not that they're stupid... ok, maybe some of them. It's that most of them are just too disinterested / disengaged / busy to bother investigating political policy positions beyond what they get through thirty second TV commercials.

Oh, they'll complain about it alright, saying "So-and-so doesn't have any clear policies", or "There's no real difference between this party's policies and those", when what they really mean is, "Nobody has distilled all this into bullet-point form for me to compare and contrast".

The problem, of course, is that most good, comprehensive, well thought-out, balanced policy is quite often highly resistant to distillation. Bad policy, on the other hand, is very easy to summarize because it is so often oversimplified to begin with. The Republicans are masters at it: "Tough on Crime". "Trickle-Down Economics". "The War on Terror". "Just Say No".

There may be no better example of this phenomenon than Dion's failed 'Green Shift' policy. Despite the catchy name, the detailed presentation and the positively elegant use of market incentives to create a self-funding emissions reduction program, it resisted all efforts to 'sloganize' it. And once the Conservatives saddled it with their own 'Carbon Tax' label it instantly became anathema to a great many of Canadians. The financial benefits to average Canadians were easy enough to understand with maybe five minutes of reading - but everyone already knew what a tax was, so hardly any of them bothered to investigate further.

As with the opposition to Obama's health reform proposals, some of those who railed against the Green Shift actually had rational arguments based on a reasonable understanding of the issue. Sadly, they were - and are - in the minority. The rest... well, anyone who has ever perused the comments section of any given newspaper website knows the sort. But even those reactionary types are a minority. The real majority of the electorate in both Canada and the U.S. Just. Don't. Care.

None of this is news, of course. It's been well known for decades that the reasons people vote one way or another almost never have anything to do with their understanding of or agreement with a candidate's policies. Far more often, they are influenced by what others think about about these policies - friends, relatives, and always, the media.

What is interesting in the case of yesterday's speech is that the media seems, at least temporarily, to have been knocked off of their "Liberals have no policies" narrative (except for the National Post, of course).

The speech itself didn't really say much that Ignatieff and the Party haven't been saying all along, and there likely won't be any more average voters examining this speech especially closely or rushing over to Liberal.ca for more details. But now that the media's line has started to change from "Liberals have no policies" to "Ignatieff talked about his party's economic policies", we might begin to see a few rays of light penetrating down to ground level.

We just need to make the slogans small enough.

(BTW, do go and read the New Yorker article on 'The Unpolitical Animal'. If that doesn't put you off politics altogether, you know you're really hooked.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ha ha! I just got a call from Lisa Raitt!

Actually it was a robo-call from Lisa Raitt (my ear is still ringing), talking about that nasty Michael Ignatieff and his "coalition partners" wanting to "defeat your government" and bring about an "unnecessary election" when we should be focusing on the economy and jobs.

There was even a poll at the end: "Do you agree with Michael Ignatieff and his coalition partners that we need an election now? Press 1 for Yes, press 2 for No." I pressed '1' of course.

Nice timing, Lisa :)

Man! I step away from the computer for TEN MINUTES...

... and someone comes up with Scenario #4.

All I can say is, Jack Layton owes Gilles Duceppe a case of beer.

Monday, September 14, 2009

We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Apologies to anyone who has been having problems with my new comments system. I recently switched to JS-Kit, which worked great for about a week until they changed the whole thing over to something called Echo.

Let's just say they're still working out the bugs.

If you have any problems leaving a comment, please email me and let me know.

It's a Win, Win, Win Situation!

With everyone on pins and needles over what's going to happen in Parliament this week, I am feeling surprisingly calm and content. Maybe it's that I'm old enough to know that this too shall pass, or maybe it's because my glass-half-full mind is seeing the up side to just about any potential scenario:
1) The government falls and there's an election. The Liberals win. The Liberals WIN!

2) The government falls and there's an election. The Liberals lose. Ignatieff resigns as leader, and we get to actually elect a new one. One I like better. Go Gerard!

3) The government survives, propped up by the NDP. The NDP loses it's last shred of credibility. And we will laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Liberal Purity Test

Now that Deb Gillis has become our Liberal candidate here in Halton, many of those in the riding with long-held reservations about Garth Turner now apparently feel free to voice those opinions - rather loudly in some cases.

Fair enough. I know not everyone liked Garth, and there were legitimate criticisms to be made about how he conducted himself during the last campaign, although I remain convinced that his assets outweighed his flaws and that Lisa Raitt would have won regardless of who we had running against her.

There is, however, one rather disturbing criticism I've heard against Garth that is most often expressed in the form of praise for Deb:
"At least she's a Real Liberal!"

They are referring, of course, to the fact that Garth Turner had spent most of his political career as a Progressive Conservative and later a Conservative. But in some cases it also expresses a lingering resentment towards Gary Carr, another apostate who ran here federally as a Liberal after having served on the provincial level as a Progressive Conservative.

I find this upsetting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it makes me wonder what these people would think of me if they took a look at my voting record over the years. But in more general terms, it makes me wonder what it is exactly that these people think a "Real Liberal" is.

Garth Turner has never made any secret about what he believes. Even as a Conservative he described himself as socially liberal, and has always embraced environmentalism as a cause. In fact, the first mailing I ever got from him as my MP - my Conservative MP - was a booklet on energy conservation and reducing waste and chemical use in the home.

His ideas on economics have always been far too conservative for my taste, but then again so were many of Paul Martin's. So are many of Michael Ignatieff's. So I can only conclude that the people dismissing Garth Turner as "not a Real Liberal" are talking about something other than his policy positions.

I think they're talking about tribalism.

It sounds funny, but when I hear someone boast about being a "life-long Liberal" and how they were a youth delegate for Trudeau and how their daddy was a party bigwig back in the day, I start to hear echoes of the people who describe themselves as "Real Canadians" - implying, of course, that certain others are not.

This sort of exclusivity is nothing new to partisan politics, and certainly not to the Liberal Party of Canada. I always loved that old joke about the heckler at the political rally boasting that "My grandfather was a Democrat, my father was a Democrat, and I'm a Democrat!", to which the candidate responds, "Well sir, if your grandfather was a jackass and your father was a jackass, what would that make you?"

"Why, a Republican of course!"

Reverse the parties or substitute your own, it's the same old joke. But it's such an old joke that one would have hoped that sort of attitude had died out a generation ago. And while political heredity isn't nearly as important as it once was to the electorate (although it's always a nice added bonus), there are some people who still believe that unswerving loyalty to a single political party over an entire lifetime or even multiple generations is actually a good thing.

Are these people really so immutable, so resolute in their convictions that they have never once changed their minds about anything? And what about the political parties themselves? Surely they have all so completely transformed themselves so many times over the past fifty, or twenty, or ten years, that they no longer even remotely resemble the party these people once campaigned for in their youth.

Personally, I admire people who have changed their minds about significant issues, or have abandoned a once-loved party because they no longer believe in what it stands for. To me, that sort of transformation requires far more humility, courage and strength of character than simply sticking with something because you always have.

In fact, many of the Liberals I admire the most came to it from another party. Bob Rae, Scott Brison, Ujjal Dosanjh, Belinda Stronach, David Orchard - and those are just the ones who made the switch after entering public life. Who knows how often Gerard Kennedy might have voted NDP in his youth, or what Frank Valeriote might have thought of the PCs before they were assimilated? And of course Trudeau famously supported the CCF before joining the Liberals.*

To our opponents (and apparently some of our supporters), that sort of intellectual and political flexibility is a sign of weakness and perhaps traitorous inclination. To me, it implies a willingness to truly respect other points of view, and to change one's mind if a better idea is presented or a convincing argument is made. I have always found that people with those qualities also tend to be better at cooperation, negotiation and collaborative problem solving, and are more accepting of diverse attitudes and opinions.

What could be more essentially Liberal than that?

*(NOTE: Before you say it - yes, I know Stephen Harper was a Liberal before he was a Conservative and a Reformer. Unlike him, however, the people I've mentioned incorporated many of their old political views into their new allegiance, whereas Harper quite consciously rejected everything associated with his former party over what was essentially a single issue.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Come Meet Deborah Gillis!

Halton's Liberals are holding a Meet & Greet tonight at O’Finn’s Irish Temper, 136 Church Street in Oakville. C'mon down, meet our new candidate, hang out with some great people, and maybe even sign up as a volunteer!

Festivities start at 7:00 pm. See you there!

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The "Fourth Election in Five Years" Retort

If I might make a suggestion to all you Liberals out there taking flack for causing the dreaded "Fourth Election in Five Years", you might consider pointing out that:
a) It's actually going to be closer to five and a half years,

b) If Harper had stuck to his own election law, we'd be having an election right now anyway, and

c) The last two out of three elections were brought about (rather unnecessarily) by Stephen Harper.

This has been today's talking points memo. You're welcome.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Waiting for the Shovels in Halton

During the last election, Lisa Raitt dropped some not so subtle hints that having an MP who was "part of the government" would ultimately be advantageous to Halton in terms of getting.... stuff. Some might call that pork-barrelling, but hey - never look a gift horse in the mouth, right?

It took a while, but after the opposition convinced Stephen Harper that he had to do something - anything - to help stimulate our economy, the projects started to be identified and the funding announcements started to be made in all those Conservative ridings, of which Halton was now one.

Recently, however, questions have been raised about how few of these projects are actually underway and creating jobs. I even received a spreadsheet from Party Central detailing all of the projects that had been announced for Halton and what their status was. Of the projects that are actually within the Town of Milton, three were missing from the list and another two were listed as "unknown".

Enter Jennifer Smith, Girl Detective.

1) Milton Library and Arts Centre
Announced: June 12, 2009
Location: Southeast corner of Main and Thompson.
Status: Not started
This is phase one of a larger project that will eventually include a performing arts theatre, but for now is just going to be a library and gallery. The site is currently the home of Milton Hydro, which is still open and operating and waiting to find a new home. Apparently the arrangement was for them to be out of there within four months of the funding announcement, which gives them one more month.

2) Milton Sports Centre Expansion
Announced: June 12, 2009
Location: Derry Road at Santa Maria Blvd.
Status: Not started
As far as I am aware, this was planned and designed from when the sports centre was first built, so I don't know what the hold up is.

3) Tremaine Road Widening
Announced: June 12, 2009
Location: From Derry to Main
Status: Not started
This isn't even a hard one. No architectural designs, minimal environmental assessments - it's a road widening. The project was originally planned as part of the scheme for a new interchange at Tremaine and the 401, which will allow residents in the rapidly expanding western housing developments to access the highway without having to fight their way through the middle of town. Trouble is, the interchange still hasn't been approved, which means commuters will likely be using it to get to the west end of Main Street and tie up traffic there instead.

4) Tonelli Arena Refurbishment
Announced: July 15, 2009
Location: Laurier at Farmstead
Status: Not started
Actually, I haven't been inside to verify this, but when I drove by there today there were no trucks or signs of construction materials.

5) Nassagaweya Tennis Club
Announced: July 15, 2009
Location: Guelph Line, north of the 401
Status: Not started
The tennis clubhouse shares a dilapidated old building with the Town of Milton. The plan is to tear it down, build a new one, and 're-orient' the tennis courts to cut down on sun glare. The total cost of this project is going to be $3 million. The total membership of the Nassagaweya Tennis Club is 200. You do the math.

So what exactly is the hold-up? In most cases, it seems the municipalities have receives announcements and promises, but no formal agreements in writing, and most are unwilling to spend the money without those guarantees.
Municipalities were given just three weeks in April to propose projects they couldn't complete without help from the senior governments. They were also expected to pick up one-third of the tab.

Since then, politicians have turned out across the GTA for a spate of funding announcements.

But many regions and municipalities report they have not received any formal contribution agreements from the province, which is responsible for distributing the federal cash.

York, Halton, Durham and Peel regions say they are in limbo, along with the municipalities of Mississauga, Brampton, Markham, Richmond Hill, Oakville and Whitby.

(Which projects will be funded in Toronto are still under discussion.)

"Expecting municipalities to start projects without these signed agreements, in my opinion, ... puts us at risk because we don't really know the full rules of the program," said Patti Elliott-Spencer, Oakville's treasurer and director of finance.

On the bright side, at least one federal stimulus project in the region has been started: the replacement of the Oakville Transit Facility, where demolition started this month. Apparently Oakville's council decided to take the plunge despite the uncertainty. Hopefully they won't come to regret their trust in higher levels of government.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Day in Milton with Deb Gillis

Anyone who lives in Milton will tell you that two of the biggest social and cultural events in town are the weekly Farmers' Market, and the annual Steam Era festival. Yesterday I got to help introduce our new Liberal candidate to both.

We had a lot of fun, and Deb got to meet a whole bunch of people - local leaders, merchants, farmers, and just plain folks. Deb seemed completely relaxed, and spent far more time listening than talking.

Imagine that.

Here are few shots of Deb watching the parade with former MPP Walt Elliott, who had kindly offered to serve as her guide at Steam Era.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Halton '09: Let the Games Begin!

Liberal candidate Deborah Gillis squares off against Lisa Raitt in today's Milton Champion over the seeming inevitability of a fall election.

Halton’s Liberal candidate Deborah Gillis, a non-profit executive appointed by Ignatieff, said an election is necessary because of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s lack of leadership on a number of important issues. As examples, she cited what she called the Conservative government’s management of the isotope crisis, assistance to Canadians “stranded abroad,” and lack of progress made on environmental issues.

“Liberals share the disappointment of Canadians on the lack of leadership on these issues,” said Gillis.

(I think they meant to say 'mis-management' of the isotope crisis.)

“Canadians neither want nor need an election that needlessly jeopardizes our fragile recovery,” current Halton Conservative MP Lisa Raitt stated in a written release Wednesday. “We are just beginning to see signs of a recovery on the horizon; a recovery that must not be put at risk by (Liberal leader) Michael Ignatieff’s political opportunism.”

Funny - the Japanese managed to have an election just recently without any noticeably ill effects on their economic recovery. The Germans are having an election in a few weeks, as are the Portuguese, the Norwegians and the Swiss - and those are just the European ones.

Tell you what. Let's just put democracy on hiatus until the recession is over, what do you say?

Meanwhile, if you would like to come and meet Deb Gillis, she's going to be in town taking in the Milton Farmers' Market tomorrow morning and checking out 'Steam Era' at the Fairgrounds in the afternoon. I'll be showing her the sights along with a bunch of other Halton Liberals, so don't be shy about coming up and introducing yourself.

Later this month we're having a Meet & Greet on September 10th at O'Finn's Irish Temper in Oakville starting at 7 pm. And then there's our fabulous Golf Tournament fundraiser on the 22nd at Hornby Glen.

Hope to see you there!

Inglourious Basterds

Anyone familiar with the work of Quentin Tarantino will expect three things from his films: black humour, brutal violence, and a great deal of brilliant, often long-winded dialogue. Sometimes the combination works (Pulp Fiction), sometimes it doesn't (Deathproof). This time, it works.

'Inglourious Basterds' is a great guilty pleasure of a film that completely reinvents the war movie. There's no heroism or higher purpose here - there's just the biggest bad guys of all time getting their comeuppance. Tarantino even re-writes history to give World War II a more satisfactory ending.

From the sounds they were making, I suspect the two older ladies seated behind me had never heard of Quentin Tarantino. If you are as squeamish as they, I'd give this one a pass. But if you want a big, rolicking story with some of the most memorable cinematic characters of the past decade, go and enjoy. Guilt free. Four and a half stars out of five.

(Murray loved it too! And yet he still manages to complain about how long it was.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Kiefer Speaks! or... Spoke!

Yesss!! Tommy Douglas' grandson has finally done a PSA for U.S. health care reform!

I've said all along (although not, apparently, on my own blog) that Kiefer Sutherland would be the perfect spokesperson for U.S. health care reform - not only because of his family, but because Jack Bauer is the ultimate ass-kicking, terrorist-torturing hero of the right-wing. If they're going to listen to anyone, they've GOT to listen to Jack, right?

But wait a minute... I went looking for the full ad and ran across the original video - which was recorded three years ago as part of a Tommy Douglas tribute at the 2006 NDP Convention.

But no matter. It's too late. Kiefer Sutherland has been outed as (gasp) a Health Care-Loving Canadian Socialist! Now he'll HAVE to start speaking out.

Please. Kiefer. Call Rachel Maddow.

(H/T to Dammit Janet!)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Gazette on Jacques Demers

Don MacPherson manages to remain respectful while expressing bafflement at the appointment of a marginally literate former hockey coach who knows nothing about politics or government to Canada's Senate.

And gets the prize for Best Historical Analogy of the Day:
According to legend, the Roman emperor Caligula appointed his horse Incitatus to the Senate to show his contempt for that body.

Heh. Indeed.