Sunday, September 30, 2007

I've cancelled my subscription to the Toronto Star because of its biased referendum coverage

This is a copy of a letter to the editor I sent this morning to the Toronto Star. Enough is enough.

Dear Editor,

re: Electoral reform a backward step

I've been disgusted by the Toronto Star's unfair, biased coverage of the Citizens' Assembly referendum for weeks.

You've misinformed your readers by frequently referring to new province-wide MPPs under the new system as "appointed" or "selected."

In fact, all MPPs under the new system will be elected directly by voters. Voters will have two ballots, one for their local representative like now and one vote that will count right across the province and directly elect 39 new province-wide MPPs. Those 39 new province-wide MPPs will be accountable to voters, giving voters much more representation at Queen's Park than they have now. Those new MPPs will ensure that party representation in the legislature matches the party vote overall.

The Star's analysis around the need to reform our antiquated system has been willfully ignorant. Other jurisdictions with MMP have governments that are very stable and effective. Fringe parties almost never hold the balance of power.

For a paper that purports to support the little guy, the disenfranchised and the weak, your opposition to a voting system that would ensure all Ontarians have a voice in the legislature and that voters' wishes at election time aren't distorted by an archaic system is truly disappointing.

As such, I have cancelled my subscription to your paper. I will no longer give money to a newspaper that's willing to misinform readers on crucial public issues.

Sincerely,
Matt Guerin

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Modernized voting system has deck stacked against it

Capital Xtra, serving Ottawa's LGBT community, published this article by reporter Laura Mueller this week on the referendum debate.

Here's an excerpt:

"Despite the doom and gloom perspective extolled by critics of MMP, history has shown that minority governments have been good for queer rights — a Liberal-NDP coalition added sexual orientation to the Ontario Human Rights Code in 1986. And let's not forget that minority governments at the federal level gave us universal health care, old-age pensions, and unemployment insurance among other popular legislation.

"Nathan Hauch, longtime political activist, says that minority governments limit the ability of social conservatives to scale back gay rights.

"The politics of divide and conquer, which can have very negative ramifications for [queer] voters, will be far less attractive for political elites" in minority governments, says Hauch."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tequila

A hilarious spoof produced in the same vein as American drug commercials. Thankfully, such commercials are banned in Canada. I found Tequila very helpful getting over Outremont last week (just kidding ;-))

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dion will learn from Outremont and come back stronger

Yes I was very disappointed by the by-election losses in Quebec on Monday. Congrats to the NDP on their second-ever Quebec win. We'll see if it holds in the general election (the last Quebec NDP by-election victory in 1990 didn't exactly translate into new Quebec support in the subsequent federal election.)

No doubt, the loss in Outremont will serve as a wake-up call to both Liberal leader Stephane Dion and the party as a whole. I don't buy the allegations that supporters of other failed leadership candidates deliberately sabotaged efforts in Outremont.

But the badly run campaign (apparently Liberal signs didn't show up in Outremont until September, almost a month after NDP signs went up) shows much work needs to be done to get the party's organizational structure fixed. I'm sure Dion knows that now.

Stephane Dion was never a natural politician. His areas of strength have always been in policy and driving the country forward in government, not organizing a well-oiled by-election effort. But Dion has also shown a remarkable ability to adapt, to take on new challenges and re-invent himself. Leadership of the party is the greatest challenge he will ever face, and I'm confident that Dion will view the losses as a chance to improve.

Even the conservative media is coming to the defence of Dion, which says a lot. Check out today's columns by Greg Weston in the Sun and John Moore in the National Post.

And while you're at it, check out this letter in the Montreal Gazette from a voter in Outremont. Very revealing.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sheila Copps isn't naive, so I guess she must be nuts!

Sheila Copps today called anyone who supports the Citizens' Assembly recommendation for change in the October 10th referendum "naive or nuts."

That's right - the 103 randomly selected, ordinary citizens who studied the issue for months and put forth a moderate, reasonable proposal that balances the best of our current system with fairer results are "nuts" and "naive."

Remind me again why this woman was chased out of federal politics?

So I'm happy to be called naive or nuts by Sheila Copps, I guess lol. Granted, I don't buy Copps' analysis at all.

Copps engages in some unoriginal scaremongering in her over-the-top attacks on the proposed Mixed Member Proportional system.

She spends most of her column fretting how so-called extremists could gain control of the Ontario legislature under MMP with only 2% or 3% per cent of the seats. This scenario is highly unlikely as tiny parties (which don't yet even exist) wouldn't hold the balance of power. A party with 43% of the seats will need more than 1% or 2% to get over 50% of the votes after all.

Ontario has no history of extremist movements garnering significant amounts of public support anyway. That won't change just because our voting system changes. The 3% threshold in the MMP proposal is high enough to keep out such extremists, in my opinion.

Why isn't Copps just as frightened by the very real horrors we see under our current voting system?

Under First-Past-The-Post, the separatist PQ won a majority government in Quebec in 1998 with fewer votes than the federalist Liberals!

In recent decades, our current voting system has handed the second-place party a victory in 6 out of 10 provinces, including Ontario in 1985. Now that's scary.

The only way to change our voting system is to take it out of the hands of politicians like Copps and give it to the citizens. The Citizens' Assembly is proposing a fair, modest recommendation that will give us stable, representative government that reflects the will of the people.

Rick Anderson: CBC Newsworld

The Chair of the Vote For MMP campaign in Ontario, Rick Anderson, appeared last week on CBC's Politics. Anderson speaks eloquently about the referendum campaign and why Ontario voters should choose the Citizens' Assembly's recommendation for change on October 10th.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Filipino prisoners exercise/dance/re-enact Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video

One of the strangest, most interesting things I've ever seen on Youtube. There are other videos of these prisoners doing other routines, including "I Will Follow Him," from Sister Act.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Queer Issues in the 2007 Ontario Election

The Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO) has released its list of questions that LGBT voters should consider asking local candidates on the hustings before the Ontario election on October 10th. I agree with CLGRO on all four issues.

Here is the link.

No tax funding for faith-based schools

The Progressive Conservative Party proposes to provide tax funding for non-Catholic faith-based schools. They say it's an issue of fairness and will help to integrate Ontario's increasingly diverse student population into the mainstream. We say it will provide tax money, including the taxes paid by queer people in Ontario, to finance the perpetuation of homophobia by schools controlled by the religious right. Many of the denominations that run faith-based schools view homosexuality as sinful, evil and abnormal and promote life-long celibacy for queer people who refuse to be cured. It's bad enough that tax funding is already provided to Catholic schools, when Catholicism also promotes these views. Fairness does not require that more tax money be provided to promote homophobia and intolerance. Fairness requires that no tax funding of any amount be provided to faith-based schools, whether Catholic, other Christian denominations or other faiths.

More proactive measures to eliminate homophobia and create queer-positive environments in all schools

The provincial government must make it a priority of the Ministry of Education to ensure that all schools are free from homophobia - whether expressed in attitudes and beliefs, systemic biases or as acts of harassment and violence - and are safe and welcoming for queer students, teachers and staff. School safety and anti-violence programs must specifically include anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia initiatives. There must be a requirement for ensuring mandatory responses to reported incidents of harassment and violence and effective provisions for enforcement and disciplinary action. School equity policies and programs that specifically prohibit the inequitable treatment of queer students, teachers and staff must be mandatory and must include effective measures for monitoring and ensuring compliance.

Reinstate sex reassignment surgery for coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan

Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage for sex reassignment surgery was eliminated in 1998 under the former Progressive Conservative government and has not been reinstated under the Liberals. As a result, a fundamental health need is inaccessible to a majority of trans people who seek to have sex reassignment surgery because of prohibitive costs. The Ontario government must publicly fund sex reassignment surgery and related medical procedures, including access to hormones, electrolysis, and counseling, and whenever possible, ensure that these services are delivered in community-based settings.

Amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination

Trans people in Ontario have no explicit legislative human rights protections. In 2000, the Ontario Human Rights Commission recommended the inclusion of gender identity in the Ontario Human Rights Code to ensure that trans people have the same protections in respect of employment, housing and access to services as do other Ontarians. The failure of the Government of Ontario to act on this recommendation is unacceptable. The next government must commit to immediately amending the Code to include gender identity.

Make Your Voice Heard and Your Vote Count!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Chaser's War on Everything - Terrorist security response


I'm really beginning to wish we had this Australian show available on regular cable in Canada. These guys are funny. Here is a segment which examines how security responds to an American tourist recording a video as opposed to someone dressed "slightly differently". They pulled off a similar stunt today in Sydney at the summit of leaders from Pacific Rim countries with a motorcade using Canadian flags (we're flattered) and someone dressed up as Osama bin Laden. I'll post a video of that when it becomes available.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

John Tory digs himself in deeper

John Tory's ill-conceived private religious schools promise continues to dominate pre-campaign coverage. This admission today will only make things worse for the rookie leader. It illustrates clearly the can of worms Tory has opened, and it's likely going to get worse.

Many new leaders in their maiden campaigns make mistakes on the campaign trail. For the lucky ones, they still find success and power. But John Tory doesn't look lucky to me.

Poll results show the Liberals moving ahead of Tory's Tories, enough to possibly win a majority government. If this keeps up for John Tory, we can safely predict a comfortable Liberal majority on October 10th. My fingers are crossed.

************UPDATE*************

More damage control Thursday from Tory on this subject: Creationism in science class would disqualify schools for funding: Conservatives. A can of worms, indeed.