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.


When Every Vote Counts, Suppression and Stay-at-Homes Count, Too

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ben Finley/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9298103a)
Election officials in Newport News, Va., examine ballots that a computer failed to scan during a recount for a House of Delegates race
Virginia Election Recount, Newport News, USA – 19 Dec 2017

Gulfport   A lot of attention has fallen on a single district in the Virginia legislature that sheds a bright light on the old civics motto that “every vote counts.” In this case District 94 of the Virginia House of Delegates has been a see-saw race that is still not finalized as the winner has teetered back and forth between a one-vote margin of victory and an absolute tie.

National attention has been strong because the House of Delegates, somewhat like the US Senate, currently has a 51-49 majority, Republicans to Democrats, giving the Republicans control of the body with a newly elected Democratic Governor. If the race goes to the Democrat, the bottleneck in the legislature improves the chances that Virginians will finally take advantage of the Affordable Care Act and other more progressive measures that have been stalled in the current arrangement.

There are many current themes that add spice to the drama in Virginia. The Republican incumbent in this Newport News’ district, David Yancey, has won a couple of terms with solid margins. The Democrat, Shelly Simonds, is currently a school board member trying to move up to the state level.

In another sign of Republican peril in the Age of Trump, Yancey had clobbered Simonds only two years ago at the ballot box. In 2015, he won by 57.6% polling 8140 votes to her 42.4% and 6002 votes. In 2013, he had beaten another Democratic challenger who gave him a somewhat closer race, polling a bit over 11000 votes. The current tie vote is at 11608 to 11608 with the challenged vote that pulled Yancey to even now contested in court preventing the Board of Elections from drawing lots to determine the winner. But, look at what Simonds accomplished to get to this point: she almost doubled her vote in two years! Yancey simply edged a bit more than he had polled in 2013. Republicans throughout Virginia, and likely nationally, must feel the surge of voters coming behind them now.

Newport News is indeed a city of sorts, but it’s hardly a bastion of liberalism, located at the heart of one military installation after another. The district is only 23% African-American. This is another sign of a political climate change.

But, this district election shows some other warning signs beneath the headlines. Republicans can’t be happy that the Libertarians were a spoiler for them, polling 675 votes. You can bet they’ll be talking before the next election!

Furthermore, when the lessons of “every vote counts” are taught, and we look at turnout and suppression, note that in November there were 47604 eligible voters in district 94. As close, exciting, and important as this election is, that means only about 50.2% voted, so half of district 94 voters sat it our or slept through the whole election.

I once lost an election by one vote, even if it was only to be my high school’s student council president. The apologies from friends and associates who didn’t vote were legion. I can imagine Yancey and Simonds are witnessing a lot of hand wringing as well, but the bottom line is at the heart of democratic practice. There’s no sense in shaming or apologizing when the answer is improving access and participation in elections in addition to everyone doing the work to make sure eligible voters get to the polling booths.

There are a lot of lessons for all of us in Virginia’s 94th, and there are more to come.