Ontario, Canada is Populist Battleground in Coming Elections

Toronto     The late Rob Ford gave steady and staid Toronto an international profile as mayor that wasn’t at the top of the local tourist board’s wish list.  He had ridden into office on a wave of populist discontent from the outer, working and middle-income districts of the city of Toronto, and he rode out on scandals involving not only his pronouncements and policies, some of which were acceptable to ACORN Canada, but also on his stays in drug rehab and videos of him buying crack on the streets, while mayor.  His excuse is a political classic.  He simply shrugged and said he “was hammered.”  His most consistent defender was his brother, an elected member of the Toronto city council at that time.

Now, it’s brother, Doug Ford who has them shaking in their snow boots with his upset win as leader for the Progressive Conservatives (whatever that oxymoron means as a name for a political party) making him a surprise, dark horse candidate for Premier of Ontario, the Canadian province containing more than a quarter of the country’s population as well as the cosmopolitan city of Toronto.  Pundits and opponents are quickly trying to brand Ford as the “Trump of the North,” and though the comparison is not exact, there are some likely similarities.   He has raised the question of revisiting abortion laws for example and his positions on climate change are questionable, but he is no Trump when it comes to immigrants and immigration, enjoying strong support in his races from the recently arrived, known as “new” Canadians in the north.  Observers believe his success in the party primary indicates that he may be able to tap into the feelings of anger and alienation in deindustrialized sections of Ontario where factories have closed and jobs have disappeared.  His record on issues effecting suburban women would not make him their first choice though nor would his tendency to move political closer to the bullying part of the spectrum.  Whatever might be the case, at the least his name on the list guarantees a very different election in the coming months.

The race is set to determine whether the longstanding government of the Liberals will be allowed to continue.  Polls indicate that there is a lot of voter fatigue with their government, although the current premier had been trying to recast herself as a candidate of change, Ford’s presence in the race is likely to disrupt that strategy.  Whether the more progressive, minority New Democrats can take advantage is also an open question.

The Ontario election seems to be worth following as part of the global contest over populism.  There is no question the election is shaping up as perhaps the least Canadian in terms of classic norms and sensibilities that has been seen in the great north in many decades.


Please enjoy Led Zeppelin’s Immigration Song.

And celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Otis Redding’s Sittin On the Dock of the Bay.

Thanks to KABF.


Discrimination is Running Rampant in Bank Lending

New Orleans        One of the toughest questions I got on my road tour of six countries was essentially, “how does it feel to have to keep fighting to hold on to every victory against constant opposition,” or in other words how do we do the work when every victory involves constant struggle.  My answer, most simply put, was that constant struggle is the nature of the work and relentless opposition to our demands, defines the necessity of building powerful, mass-based organizations.

At the same time the example I often gave was the significant accomplishment over thirty years from the 1977 to 2007 in home ownership in American by lower income families, African-Americans, and Latinos from the passage of the Community Reinvestment Act, joined aggressively by ACORN and many other community organizations, to the housing bubble crash at the leading edge of the Great Recession.  Now most of those home ownership gains have been erased in the last decade of foreclosures and the widening expanse of the credit desert.

It turns out there is even an uglier story underneath that disaster.  Reveal, the online publication of the Center for Investigative Reporting, picked up a task that used to be ACORN’s annual labor for thirty years through 2008 and examined 31 million mortgage records to understand current banking practices in making loans.  They found that the odds of African-Americans and Latinos being denied conventional mortgages compared to whites of equivalent income, loan size, and other factors were worse in sixty-one metropolitan areas.  The list of cities suffering that infamy included Atlanta, Denver, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and San Antonio.  African-Americans bore the worst brunt of discrimination in the South, unsurprisingly, in cities like Mobile, Alabama, Greenville, South Carolina, and Gainesville, Florida.  Latinos took the worst beating in Iowa City, Iowa.

The litany of discrimination by banks and heartbreak for families trying to build citizen wealth is relentless.  Blacks were turned down more often in 48 metro areas, while Latinos experienced the same in 25, Asian-Americans in nine, and native Americans in three.  Take a bet with me that these are areas where each group is significant in the overall population.  In Philly, African-Americans received ten times fewer loans than whites even though their numbers are about equal.  In Washington, D.C, all minority groups faced discrimination compared to whites, so welcome to the nation’s capital where banks discriminate across the board.

Banks have been hiding behind their errors, compounded with multi-billion-dollar settlements, for the last decade, just as they have hidden their discrimination behind the  confidentiality of credit scores, that often have the reliability of lie detector tests.

Can we count on the Federal Reserve to step up as the regulator here?  Not likely.  How about Congress, where campaign contributions are king?  Not likely.

As I answered in Brighton, struggle is constant, and this example is a reminder that the battle needs to be engaged again on the housing front with new tactics and new demands now that banks have reverted to newer and more subtle systems of discrimination.