|Posted on December 21, 2014 at 1:45 PM|
Maybe it’s because of the Ontario PC leadership race, or perhaps the meltdown of Danielle Smith in Alberta, but I’ve been pondering about the importance of great leadership. In my previous post about the Wild Rose Party of Alberta, I used football to illustrate a point.
Venerable organizations need to do soul searching to ensure that candidates for leadership possess the experience and attributes required to face the challenges of tomorrow.
And since politics and sports go hand in hand, I’m going to weigh in on the latter.
With the announcement that Mark Cohon will be leaving as the Commissioner of the Canadian Football League once his contract expires in April 2015, the CFL is undertaking a search for his replacement.
On paper, the CFL appears to be in great shape. New stadiums have debuted in Winnipeg, Hamilton and Ottawa - along with an expansion of Montreal’s stadium. Ottawa’s expansion in fact, has gone extremely well off the field and at the gate. The CFL has been able to work out solid television deals with TSN and ESPN. And most importantly, attendance at an average CFL game is third highest amongst professional sports in North America.
But there are serious challenges that lay ahead too:
1) The Toronto Argonauts need a new owner and a new stadium. A move to the BMO Field would be disastrous for the team.
2) With the Buffalo Bills staying in Buffalo, the time has come for CFL to return to the bargaining table with the NFL.
3) The CFL needs to plan for the renewal of their television contracts as well as explore other media opportunities.
4) Merchandising needs to be stronger.
I’m not on the search committee.
But that won’t stop me from proposing a name of someone who I think would make a brilliant CFL Commissioner.
He’s American, but we’ve had Americans lead the CFL before. Nobody comes with a better resume for building a sports event into a must see spectacle, or with his experience in television and media.
When Bischoff lead the World Championship Wrestling during it’s rivalry with the WWE, his company was initially seen as “second-rate” to Vince McMahon’s product. Yet Bischoff didn’t shy away from the challenge. By capitalizing on the strengths of his company, he had garnered a higher gate and television viewership for WCW events.
Imagine if we had a Commissioner who also capitalized on the strengths of the CFL game and sold the excitement of 3-down football to outsell the NFL.
It’s been done before and it can be done again.
The CFL game needs to be re-introduced in Vancouver and Toronto especially to young fans. A reinvigorated CFL fan base in Toronto and Vancouver will go a long way to bolstering the CFL brand across North America.
Many markets in the CFL cannot support a 50,000 seat stadium; but if there are two that can, it’s Toronto and Vancouver.
With Eric Bischoff of the helm, with his marketing savvy and his television production experience, the CFL can return to the glory days of the past.
We just need the owners of the CFL to make the right hiring decision.
Like politics, sports are all about getting people’s attention.
The CFL needs the right person to do just that.
|Posted on December 16, 2014 at 6:00 PM|
I never thought I’d see this day.
In Alberta, it’s becoming clear rumours of a Wild Rose Party/Progressive Conservative marriage of convenience are a reality, despite the party leader’s refusal to speak to it’s members.
And though some Albertans might tell us Ontarians to mind their own business, I for one won’t. Like many Ontarians, I have been jealous of Albertans having the option of voting Wildrose .
That’s because in our sleepy little province, run by a government who is nothing short of blatantly corrupt, we looked up to the spunk and passion the Wildrose represented.
You gave us hope.
I call Wildrose leader Danielle Smith’s choice a marriage of convenience, rather than a merger, because I continue to believe in the principles that led to the creation of the WRP. Unlike the PC’s, who have grown elitist and self-important after decades in power, the WRP membership held loyal to the principles of grassroots democracy. I see it nothing short of a betrayal to those grassroots members for any WRP caucus member who decides to cross the floor.
When Stephen Harper and Peter McKay united the Conservatives federally, it was for a noble cause; for the purpose of forming a party that would eventually govern and lead Canada back to prosperity. The merger of the WRP and PC’s is not about governing. It’s being proposed to advance the personal ambitions of Jim Prentice, Danielle Smith and others. Their excuse about concerns over how Alberta deals with falling oil prices is nonsense. All parties in the Alberta legislature are concerned about oil prices.
The WRP caucus seems to have forgotten that they were given the privilege of representing their riding via the support of their local membership and the votes of the people. The people of Alberta elected a legislature that was to have the PC’s govern and the WRP act as the Official Opposition. Did voters get it wrong? Of course not. Nobody sees the provincial Liberals as worthy or capable of fulfilling the duties of the Official Opposition. The WRP has done a brilliant job of keeping the government accountable and on track. Has Alberta forgotten this is the party that removed two premieres from office?
That’s an outstanding achievement.
Unlike many other pundits, I personally know what it means to sit in opposition. I know that it can be very hard work and for very little reward, or even recognition in the media. I understand how it feels to be told by constituents that I am always too negative and too aggressive in my criticism. I also understand how it stings to lose an election.
Being on the government side is a whole lot easier and, frankly more enjoyable. To use a sports analogy, the linemen do all the hard work while the quarterback gets to date the head cheerleader.
Yet, when the WRP caucus was elected, they were given a great privilege by the voters of Alberta to do the toughest job in the legislature. Is it tough to be in opposition? Absolutely. But is it important work? Without a doubt it is. The legislature does not function properly without a strong, principled, and loyal Official Opposition.
There’s no shame in sitting across the aisle from government either. Holding governments to account is one of the most noble of tasks. It can take decades to build a party and win over people. The Wildrose just shot themselves in the foot.
In Canada, the true north strong and free, opposition in government is the fundamental principle behind democracy.
If you think opposition is beneath you, then elected office might not be such a good vocation for you after all.
It’s a simple tenet of free market economics that competition makes us all improve and thrive. By being an effective Official Opposition, the WRP made the PC’s become a better government with all Albertans benefitting.
If the merger goes through, although some current WRP MLA’s may find themselves enjoying their career more, Albertans will see an end to effective debate, as they see themselves suddenly left with ineffective opposition lead by the 5-member Liberal Party.
What a disaster.
It’s my hope that WRP MLA’s will forego their personal ambitions and re-commit to fulfilling the jobs they were elected to do until the next election.
If at the time of the next general election they wish to change colours and run for the PC’s, they are free to seek a mandate from the voters.
And from a party that is known for it's common sense, transparency and grassroots respect, this makes complete sense to me.
|Posted on December 14, 2014 at 1:50 PM|
Ask any Wynne Liberal what they think of allowing two-tier medi-care in Ontario and the response will be swift and predictable.
“We can’t allow corporations to make a profit as a result of Ontarians who get sick.”
“Free healthcare is part of Ontario’s culture.”
We are proud of our healthcare system, and in some ways we can boast that Ontario healthcare is among the world’s best. In other areas through, such as mental health or drug addiction, the level of care provided to Ontarians falls well below standards of other developed nations. But to Wynne's Liberals - with a choice between improving levels of healthcare versus losing the government’s monopoly over ineffective service to Ontarians - they will choose to preserve the monopoly.
The risk to our public health care system has never been greater.
Under the Ontario Liberal regime, our public debt levels (provincially and municipally) have risen dramatically. After the June 12th election, the Province of Ontario’s debt burden had exceeded California’s at $267 Billion. This past week, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk warned that the debt was ballooning to $325 Billion. This rapid increase in debt eclipses economic growth in our province.
Almost 10% of all revenues collected by the province go towards paying the interest on this debt - to the tune of approximately $11 Billion annually.
To say that large corporations aren’t already profiting from government services is misleading. They are making huge profits by lending the money our government needs to operate hospitals, schools, highways, and universities.
The rich get richer from government overspending. The rest of us just pay more taxes to pay the interest on these loans.
At some point, even those on the left who like to argue that the debt will take care of itself, we'll need to admit that interest payments are taking too large of a share of public revenues. We need to tackle the debt monster now or risk a collapse in the government services we currently provide.
As a former elected representative, I know that there are very few options that the Wynne government can take to reduce public debt. It must start by balancing its budget. It must reduce the size of its workforce. It must invest in projects (like the Ring of Fire) that will create revenue for the province (through mineral rights) and pass up on vanity projects (like the Pan Am Games) that only serve as a sinkhole of public funds.
|Posted on December 13, 2014 at 11:25 AM|
The following is a guest blog I wrote for The Society for Quality Education on our current education system in Ontario. I've re-posted the original here. For more information, please visit: http://www.societyforqualityeducation.org/index.php/blog/read/school-choice-1011
Choice is the foundation of a free society. Everywhere you look, you are allowed choices.
Our shopping malls are filled with retailers offering different colours, styles, textures, and sizes.
When you go to a restaurant, the menu is filled with dozens of different options to satisfy almost any palette.
Even the government is decided by the choices we make at the ballot boxes.
But when it comes to educating our children, the choice of learning is a luxury afforded mainly to those who can afford to pay private school tuitions.
The Society for Quality Education is an organization that promotes a different system of education than the one we see in Ontario. It’s called School Choice.
A school choice system of education is created through charter schools. Similar to public schools, charter schools are publicly funded but with two major differences: they operate autonomously (such as through a parent, teacher, or an administrative board); and they cater to the specific needs and uniqueness of your child.
For example, your son or daughter may have an aptitude towards the arts. A charter school will cater to subjects such as music while implementing the standard curriculum. Charter schools focus on the individual child’s strengths, thus enabling a child to reach their potential in learning. These schools may specialize in subjects such as maths and sciences or fine arts. They may be academically oriented or athletically oriented. Schools for gifted students or schools for children who require special learning thrive under the charter system.
Imagine the possibilities. Imagine being able to offer your child a possibility to reach their potential.
Charter schools have already been implemented in many US states and in the province of Alberta, Canada. Dozens of studies continuously indicate that when compared to the public school model, charter schools always come out on top. This recent study, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, received partial funding from The Society for Quality Education and reveals fascinating information on how charter schools compare to public schools in the province of Alberta: http://societyforqualityeducation.org/reports/taleoftwocities.pdf
School choice doesn’t increase the taxpayer’s cost of educating a child but it does generally increase the level of satisfaction that parent’s have in their child’s education. And most importantly, it develops happier, better educated children.
When choice is offered, it creates competition. And the end result of competition is almost always a better product.
As a mother of three boys, I have come to appreciate how different each child can be despite the fact that they share the same genes, grew up in the same household, and eat the same diet. Despite their DNA and similar life experiences, they somehow developed into very unique, distinct individuals.
I don’t need to tell parents with more than one kid that children learn differently. What sparks each of their curiosity is distinctive. Subjects that seem like a chore to my eldest son, such as mathematics, are thoroughly fascinating to my youngest child; and vice-versa.
In Ontario, those families who can afford it are allowed to opt out of the one-size-fits-all public school system in order to educate their children in an environment that they believe works best via private schools.
But if we allow wealthy Ontarians access to a school that they believe best suits their children’s educational needs, why not extend the same freedom to the rest of us?
Here’s one of the most important arguments in favour of school choice.
Think about the impact school choice will have for Ontario’s future. The primary goal of investing in publicly funded education for children has to be to develop our youth into global leaders for the next generation. We want the best health care, the best legal system, the best engineering, the best artists, and so on. Every child has so much potential to become almost anything they wanted to and our schools have the ability to inspire those goals. Our public education system shouldn’t be what prevents them from achieving their ultimate potential. By allowing parents to choose which school or education system best suits their children, we can give the next generation the advantages they need to make Ontario even better.
The best person to decide what would benefit a child’s uniqueness and potential are their parents.
It’s essential for parents in Ontario to start this discussion and push our elected representatives to have it on our behalf.
In the meantime, the Society for Quality Education promotes learning tools designed for the thousands of children who are struggling in our current Ontario education system.
Children are the foundation of our future. Help them realize their potential by offering it to them through school choice.
|Posted on December 12, 2014 at 8:15 PM|
Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne has made it very public that Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to meet with her.
The Premier and the Prime Minister really have nothing in common.
What would they talk about?
Stephen Harper has been working diligently over the past four years to balance the federal budget. He has made cuts including laying off civil servants. His main focus has been on the economy.
And the economy has improved almost everywhere in Canada. Except Ontario.
Ontario continues to lag because we have a government here that continues to spend, increasing red tape, and making the cost of living in this province more expensive.
When the Ontario Auditor General released her report showing billions of dollars wasted by the Wynne Government, the Premier does what she always does, she blamed the federal government.
I am calling the Premier’s bluff. I say she doesn’t actually want to meet with the Prime Minister. What she wants is the feigned outrage from left wing columnists to distract from the mess she has made of things at Queen’s Park.
This is nothing more than a tempest in a tea pot. It’s all done for show.
No wonder people are cynical about politics these days.
How about the Premier owning up to Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk's report and demanding her Ministers do a better job of managing their portfolios?
How about firing the Ministers who showed their incompetence? Bob Chiarelli’s name should be on the top of that list. He said that the overspending by hundreds of millions on Smart Meters was too complex of an issue for Bonnie Lysyk to understand.
Wynne didn’t do any of those things. But had she done so, I’m sure that she would have scored some respect from the Prime Minister.
And rather than being accountable for the shortcomings of her own government, she “demands” a meeting with the Prime Minister?
|Posted on November 21, 2014 at 11:10 AM|
Last Monday, in council chambers, when I was thanking those who inspired me in my term, I mentioned my father's experiences in a Stasi prison and how he helped me understand the importance of fighting on behalf of the rights of others.
The local paper wrote about my speech but the article failed to provide context as to why my father was in an East German Stasi prison. He was not in prison due to anything that would be considered “criminal” by today’s standards. He was arrested for his involvement while trying to re-unite a family separated by the Berlin Wall.
Others with whom he served time with included university professors, priests, and hundreds of conscientious objectors to the soviet regime. The Stasis were brutal oppressors, particularly when suppressing basic human rights.
My father has since received an apology from the German government and I'm disappointed the paper has spun him being portrayed as a common criminal.
This isn't the first time the local paper, the Era, has attacked the integrity of my family. In one column, they printed an article portraying me as a criminal and were ordered to correct the record by the Ontario Press Council through mediation. In others, they questioned the integrity of my husband when he ran as a municipal candidate.
My father was a crusader for human rights and this is what led him to his stint in prison. The paper omitted that important detail in their story and have failed to respond to my request correcting the record.
|Posted on November 14, 2014 at 4:00 PM|
The last time I went in to see my Member of Parliament (then Frank Klees) my conversation made front page news in the local paper. With Frank Klees, every issue had a political end and he used each opportunity as such.
What a breath of fresh air it was for me to visit with the new MPP Chris Ballard.
My husband John Blommesteyn and I visited Chris and his staff at the new constituency office, located at 238 Wellington St. East, to discuss the attack ads against my husband that a Newmarket Service Ontario office employee was handing out to her customers on October 21st.
To be honest, I had prejudged MPP Chris Ballard. After all, his political stripes line up with my husband’s Ward 7 opponent, Christina Bisanz, former candidate for the Liberal party of Ontario. Bisanz is a veteran campaigner whose history of campaigns are shrouded with defaming, anonymous attack ads against her opponents. I thought the MPP would try to downplay the incident.
To my surprise, Chris was strong and unequivocal.
If the Newmarket Service Ontario office was distributing attack ads, Chris said, the franchise owner should lose his contract. MPP Chris Ballard is the Parliamentary Assistant for the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (under which Service Ontario falls); and he left no doubt that he was in the right position to make sure that there would be consequences for those who broke the rules.
MPP Chris Ballard said those responsible for the attack ad against me and my husband were no friends of his.
We were further made aware by his office that others have stepped up and reported a similar experience on the same day.
He also told us that he was steadfastly opposed to anonymous attack ads (in our case, it targeted our family) in municipal campaigns and advised us that he wanted to see a prohibition against them when the Ontario Government revises the Municipal Act to allow ranked balloting. He had already advised the Minister as such.
I'm glad to see Mr. Ballard take this offense very seriously and I look forward to his promise of getting answers.
I might disagree with MPP Ballard on matters of policy but I can’t disagree with how well I felt he handled our complaint. Based on our meeting, I expect that Chris will get to the bottom of this Service Ontario matter and will ensure that those who benefited from bending the rules are held to account.
|Posted on November 8, 2014 at 12:30 AM|
Below is a copy of my speech at a Remembrance Day service in Newmarket arranged by the Legion:
On November 11, 1919 Canada marked the first anniversary of Armistice with a day of Remembrance.
Ninety five years later, Canada still remembers.
We recognize the men and women who answered the call to serve. We honour those who were wounded and we remember those who fell.
The benefits of our freedoms are many. We have the right to live our lives peacefully, without oppression and pursue our own happiness. But there is a cost to all of what Canada offers. And our nation is fortunate to have those who bravely took up arms against evil doers who would see our freedoms taken from us.
World War One and Two, the Korean War, and the War in Afghanistan. Canadians have fought in great wars with honour and distinction.
And in peacekeeping missions around the world, Canadian troops have served to end violence between people and help nations rebuild afterward.
In troubled regions, such as the former Yugoslavia conflict, in Libya, and even now while we oppose the insurgents known as ISIS, Canadian military personnel rush in to stop the spread of violence and oppression.
I wish that I could say that we will never know war again and that our soldiers who sacrificed so much have already succeeded in putting an end, once and for all, to oppression and genocide. Unfortunately, I know that isn’t true. War remains a fact of life for many regions of our planet.
But I also know that where injustice, tyranny, and violence exist, Canadian men and women are willing to bravely intervene in order to make our world more peaceful.
While we remember the young men and women who have served and sacrificed, let us also remember those who remained at home too. Every soldier has a mother and a father who worried for them. Many had spouses and children who waited anxiously for them to return home. These are people who loved our soldiers as they fought overseas, and supported our brave troops as they served our country.
They too deserve our honour.
On November 11th, we mourn those we lost. We play the Last Post and lower the flag to half mast. We take a moment of silence and we remember.
Then we raise our flag again. We lift our heads high with pride and think about the freedoms we cherish. We express our gratitude to those who fought for those freedoms and we make a vow to them. We promise to repeat this act of remembrance next year, on November 11th, and to continue to do so every year for as long as we live.
Lest we forget.
|Posted on October 30, 2014 at 11:55 AM|
The similarities are startling.
Two conservative parties languishing in opposition. Both parties are struggling to gain a foothold within the urban centres of their respective provinces. A series of by-elections and winnable seats are lost. Questions about the leadership of the party.
This was the situation in 2013 for Tim Hudak on the heels of losing 4 out of 5 seats on August 1st, 2013. The winning seat, Doug Holyday’s, was more attributable to Rob and Doug Ford’s activism in campaigning for their candidate than Hudak’s leadership. The Ontario PC’s lost winnable seats in Scarborough Guildwood, Ottawa South and London West.
At the time, I wrote in the Toronto Sun that it was imperative Hudak face the membership on the leadership question at the upcoming September 2013 policy convention. There was nothing in the party rules that required Hudak to do so - but if he would have taken my advice, then he could have put the leadership question to rest: http://www.torontosun.com/2013/06/07/ontario-pcs-need-a-leadership-review
Instead, Hudak got defensive.
He surrounded himself with only his closest loyalists and he stopped listening to anyone else. This “Hudak Bunker” mentality ultimately lead to his disastrous springtime campaign, where he didn't share the party’s platform with even his own MPPs. Just ask former Barrie MPP Rod Jackson what if felt like to be as shocked as everyone else in the room full of media as Hudak surprised everyone with news of his plans to cut 100,000 civil servant jobs.
The end results – a Kathleen Wynne Liberal majority – could have been avoided only if the leader was someone other than Tim Hudak.
Fast forward to the by-elections in Alberta held earlier this week. The Wild Rose Party was desperate to win at least one seat of the four contests, but didn't succeed in any - and some insiders doubt whether party leader, Danielle Smith, can ever win in urban Alberta.
Instead of following Hudak’s example, Smith has taken the fight to the doubters. She's asked that a leadership review be included in next month’s Wild Rose Party’s convention, explaining that she needs to exceed 77% approval or she’ll walk.
It’s a bold, smart move.
It puts the question forward and ensures all doubts will be settled before the province heads to the polls in 2015.
It’s a savvy and fine example of what a leader should do after a serious set back. Smith has taken the bad news and used it to her advantage instead to show strength and integrity.
I have to admit my bias and say that I personally have admired and respected the Wild Rose Party Leader for many years. Looking into my crystal ball, I expect that Danielle Smith will receive resounding approval from her members and will see a similar bump in the opinion polls for accepting responsibility for the outcomes of the by-elections and putting her job on the line.
|Posted on October 26, 2014 at 9:15 PM|
I was thrilled last month when conservative MP Brad Butt joined us in Newmarket, along with ward 6 and 7 residents, to endorse us as candidates. Here's part of that video: