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Allan's Perspective

407 – ‘Common Sense Revolution’ in action!

Posted July 9, 2014 by Allan W Janssen

Dear Readers, we got this in the mail today:: A lot of talk lately about what the provincial Liberals are going to do to Ontario now that they have a majority, but it can’t be any worse than what Mike Harris did to us back in may of 1999! The Common Sense Revolution in action: […]

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Allan's Perspective

We got trouble in River City Folks!

Posted June 12, 2014 by Allan W Janssen

Folks, this is wrong on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin! Why this wasn’t one of the main election issues is totally beyond me, but then again, people just seem naturally reticent about asking for my opinion about stuff………, and that’s why I started this “Blog!” SO! How do I begin? […]

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General

Keeping Ontario’s Roads Safe Act an important piece of legislation

Posted April 26, 2014 by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
Let’s see if we can avoid this.
Although a spring election is expected in Ontario, it hasn’t been called yet, so the business of the Legislature goes on. One piece of business is Bill 173, also known as the Keeping Ontario’s Roads Safe Act. This bill, introduced by Infrastructure Minster Glen Murray, contains a number of measures specifically addressing the safety of active transportation. Some of these, in turn, are drawn from at least 4 separate private member’s billsthat were introduced by members of all parties.
From Parkdale – High Park NDP MPP Cheri Dinovo comes a requirement that vehicles passing a bicycle leave at least a full meter of clearance. When I am cycling, I certainly don’t feel comfortable when a vehicle gets closer than that, so I think this change would be appreciated. It will also give drivers clear guidance as to how much room they should leave when passing.

Another improvement comes from a bill from Muskoka – Parry Sound PC MPP Norm Miller. It creates an explicit allowance to ride bikes on the paved shoulder of a divided roadway, as well as prohibiting vehicles (other than emergency responders or tow trucks) from driving there. This sort of has the effect of turning paved shoulders into de facto bike lanes, although a marked and signed bike lane, where possible, is even better.

There are also measures to require drivers to change lanes to pass a tow truck with lights on, suggested by Simcoe North PC MPP Garfield Dunlop, and increased fines for distracted driving, from Scarborough – Rouge River Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon.

Another change for bikes is to explicitly allow a flashing red light at the rear, something that is cheap and effective but wasn’t anticipated when the old rules were written.

All in all, it seems like the measures in this act are sensible and warranted. Having lost my cousin Sam when his bike was struck by a vehicle in 2008, I heartily approve measures to prevent such tragedies in future. Unfortunately, politics too often get in the way.

In this case, it’s the politics of timing. Although an election is anticipated, the government has introduced a slew of new bills recently, and the Legislature simply won’t have time to study each in committee and go through all three required votes and associated debates. Some of them will certainly die on the order paper if we have a spring election. Even if we don’t, it’s not clear how many could get through the system before the Legislature rises for the summer.

Therefore, if you agree that improving road safety is a laudable goal and that this bill will help, I strongly urge you to contact your Member of Provincial Parliament, and the party leaders, and tell them to prioritize this bill. Urge them to vote for it rather than against, and not to delay it or play politics with it. Any sincere concerns should be addressed, but political gamesmanship is unacceptable. I expect the MPPs whose own measures were rolled into this will support it, but as Ms. Dinovo explained to me, they may not even get the chance if the government doesn’t keep this on the front burner.

So hold their feet to the fire! Given the ongoing low-level carnage associated with our roads, our own lives and those of our children are clearly at stake.

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.
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General

The question of leadership

Posted February 27, 2014 by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
Now that’s my kind of Leader!

Much ado was made this week about Liberal Party leader and (perhaps) Prime-Minister-in-waiting Justin Trudeau’s gaffe of a failed Olympic hockey joke in reference to the ongoing civil unrest in Ukraine. Of course other parties jumped all over it, turning an insensitive remark into major fodder for domestic attack politics, completely divorced from any actual concern for the Ukrainian plight which continues unnoticed among our own recriminations.

The narrative is that if Trudeau can say something so offensive, then clearly he isn’t fit to lead the country. Because a true leader must always say the right thing and make the right decisions, and quickly, too, or we all suffer. Right?

Well, I guess that’s the case, if your model of leadership is a single person who makes all the key decisions himself and does all the talking for us. But is that what we really want or need in a leader? Do we want to put all our eggs in one basket, and leave everyone else out? Not me. I live in a nation growing in size and diversity. As we do, it becomes less possible for any single person to represent us all at once, to take into consideration all our many and diverse needs and interests and decide our course for us. Good decisions are group decisions.

We truly do need better leadership than is on offer, but not in the one-for-all fashion these narratives suggest. The best decisions aren’t made by the single wisest, most mature, most experienced, or most charismatic leader; they are made when many of us share concerns and find consensus together. Our political system is actually designed for this, with each far-flung community electing their own local spokesperson to take their concerns to Ottawa, to gather with over three hundred other such local spokespersons and find, together, the solution that works best for all of us. This isn’t supposed to be lightning-round, either; laws are meant to take days, weeks, months or even in some cases years of careful deliberation and revision before being imposed, sufficient time for these hundreds of local representatives to examine all sides, see all views incorporated, correct mistakes and redress omissions. To talk until everything has been said, then decide.

I don’t want one person to make the one, right decision in every situation and then tell me what it is. That’s not a leader, that’s a dictator. I want someone to listen to my concerns, and your concerns, make sure all stakeholders are part of the process, and help us make the best decisions together. The leader’s job isn’t to decide, but to make us decide. Ensure that important issues (like, for instance, the climate crisis) are discussed and dealt with, not ignored or left for future generations. Make sure experts, taxpayers, citizens, victims, benefactors, and all other stakeholders take part in deciding. Then the leader carries out that decision.

With that vision of leadership, what matters most isn’t experience or knowledge or a confident voice to drown out the rest, but a commitment to process and an ability to listen and ensure everyone is heard.

Sadly, this kind of leadership is neither supported nor rewarded in our current hyper-partisan winner-takes-all approach to politics, so none of the major parties currently offer that kind of leader, nor does it look like they will any time soon. And that’s the real leadership failure: the kind we need most of all is the kind we’re least likely to get.

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as “None of the major parties offer ideal leadership
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
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General

Liberal reformers

Posted January 29, 2014 by Nancy Leblanc

A few thoughts here on today’s announcement by Justin Trudeau that Liberal Senators will no longer be part of the Liberal caucus and are now to sit independently.

One of Trudeau’s lines that stood out for me was this one: “At our best, Liberals are relentless reformers.” Recently, on the death of Jim Coutts, an opinion piece he wrote in 2004 was circulated, and in it, we found this:

“The current policy markers of the Liberal party have evolved over time and are fairly familiar to many Canadians. The most crucial Liberal markers are these:
  1. Reform, which is so central to Liberal identity that it was the party’s name up to and during the leadership of George Brown. The marker has stood for political reform, ranging from the introduc- tion of responsible government under Baldwin and Lafontaine, to battling ruling-class power and patronage abuse at the time of Brown, Mackenzie and Blake, to entrenching a constitutional Charter of Rights under Trudeau. Since the 1920s, the Liberal reform marker has most importantly sig- nified social reform, or the cre- ation and improvement of a modern welfare state.”

Today we saw a big bout of reform in the form of a Senate that would be independent, in Trudeau’s words:

That is why I have come to believe that the Senate must be non-partisan. Composed merely of thoughtful individuals representing the varied values, perspectives and identities of this great country. Independent from any particular political brand.

Trudeau’s reform will likely come off as reasonable to many Canadians. It is not the radical abolitionist approach of the NDP which would require constitutional reform. It is not the Conservative supposed pro-reform approach that has gone nowhere for their seven years in power and that would also likely require constitutional reform.

Trudeau’s reform looks at the Senate, and proposes an approach that will not tear it down, but make fair use of a second chamber. In the Westminster system, it would be anomalous not to have a second chamber. The direction suggested, a more merit-based approach is a good one that speaks to the times. This reform, as Trudeau is suggesting, could be infused with principles of merit, competency, and transparency, to bolster the credibility of the Liberal proposals. And this Liberal would suggest ensuring that the appointment process be free from an elite-based orientation.

To be sure, there will be wrinkles to iron out. Senator Campbell spoke to some of these today: He also questioned how the Senate will function in terms of their role in scrutinizing government legislation. He questioned, for instance, who will sit on committees and who will be named critics of which bills. 

Ensuring that the elected representatives’ will is carried out and without blockage, is another consideration to be grappled with. And perhaps with that consideration in mind, note Trudeau’s last line in his remarks today:

We want to build public institutions that Canadians can trust, and that serve Canadians. This requires real, positive change. These proposals are the next step in our Open Parliament plan to do just that.

They won’t be the last.

This may be a nod to the democratic reform resolution that the federal Liberal MP caucus has proposed as one of its priority resolutions to be voted upon at the upcoming February biennial policy convention in Montreal, less than a month away now. That resolution, Bolstering Canada’s Democracy, contains this operative proposal:

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT immediately after the next election, the Liberal Party of Canada institute an all-Party process, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with analysis and recommendations for an electoral system including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent all Canadians more fairly and to allow Parliament to serve Canada better.

Senate reform without reform of our House of Commons would be incongruent. The above proposed resolution would be the beginning of addressing the imbalance that would result if the Senate were reformed without a similar effort being made in respect of the House of Commons. As bad as some of the practices and appointments connected to the Senate have been, the pressing need for reform lies in the House of Commons. Electoral reform to change the system in which we operate is one route. Michael Chong’s reform which accepts the system yet changes the rules is another. The good news is that reform in a big way is on the agenda for Canada.

Liberals are re-embracing reform as a mantle. All in all, a positive development today.

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