Thoughts on the upcoming provincial election in Ontario

You would know from reading this blog or searching its archives I’ve not exactly been overflowing in my praise for the Ontario Liberal government the past several years. I had issues with Dalton Mcguinty on environmental issues as well as omnibus Budget bills presented in the same fashion that Stephen Harper did, which is what caused me to not renew my Ontario Liberal membership 3 years ago or so. (It was also a fact that the OLP’s social media relationship with its netroots was non-existent, which didn’t help matters).

When Kathleen Wynne was chosen as the new leader of the party and Premier, I liked her enthusiasm and gusto, and she seemed willing to engage with her net/grassroots, but that took a rather big hit over their AGM a couple of months back, where inquiries on blogger accreditation were outright ignored.

Fast forward to this past Saturday, where an informal Progressive Blogger meetup was held in Toronto. A couple of the Ontario Liberal Party’s new folks were there who will be handling online and social media strategy. We were purposely sought out and some of us in the Liberal blogging fold were sought out and there was a frank discussion of ideas. At the conclusion of that meetup and that frank talk, I am willing to give these new folks a chance to prove that things will be different under them and their relationship with the Liberal netroots, regardless of how the Ontario election ends up.

As for myself, I’ve already stated in my prior blogpost that the Ontario NDP had as NDP a budget as they were going to get, and that failure to accept that budget meant such worthy things as Bill 166, the Ranked Ballot Initative For Toronto, would die and face real danger of not being resurrected. They decided to throw that Budget away, presumably because they felt they could campaign their way into government. It was/is a risky gamble, and one that is rather regrettable for someone like me- a social Liberal – that supports such things as the proposed new Ontario Pension Plan.

The so-called “Progressive” Conservatives under Tim Hudak are anything but – their ascendance to power means a return to Mike Harris style government, with austerity measures and no doubt 24/7 confrontations with groups in society they dislike. We do not need another Mike Harris/Stephen Harper clone in government here in Ontario.

The Ontario Liberals have their warts, as do all parties who have been in power for a decade, but I think Kathleen Wynne has a chance to renew the Ontario Liberal Party, and has a chance with a mandate to implement some of these more progressive policies, as the pension plan and as the Ranked Ballot measure. I still do not support everything this government does for policy (ie the environment), and I’m not going to immediately rush out and re-get my OLP membership card, but this is the party and government I hope will be (re) elected when the election comes around in June.

My particular candidate in Oxford County is Dan Moulton. He’s a young fresh face in Oxford Liberal circles. He faces a very tough field to hoe here in Oxford at the best of times, but he has enthusiasm. He also reached out to me prior to our Saturday meeting on his own initiative, as he knew about this blog. I’ve til now politely declined actively supporting him, due to my past issues with the OLP, but that convo on Saturday means I’m now willing to give him what support I can.

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Disappointment with the Ontario Liberal Party lack of social media communication

The OLP has a convention next week, if you weren’t aware. It’s their annual general meeting – the one that was originally going to be held in London, but got moved to Toronto due to speculated Spring Election concerns.

Several bloggers (myself included) of the Liberal persuasion (Ontario or Federal) have been inquiring for awhile since last year before Christmas to some of our contacts within the OLP hierarchy about the possibility of being present at this to live-blog or live-tweet it or social media it in general.. you get the idea – as we did for the OLP’s leadership convention. We’ve had various contacts who’ve told us they’ve supported that, but nothing official has ever come back.

When the official notice of it was released (see the link) We noticed media-related inquires were to be directed to Christine Mcmillan (Ontario Liberal Party Vice-President Communications). I (and possibly others, though I’m not sure on that yet) sent some email to her, asking about the possibility of blogger accreditation. I did so a week and a half or 2 weeks ago. I’ve still not received even an acknowledgement, much less an explanation or an answer.

Since then, one of my Liberal blogger friends who is going as a delegate forwarded along an official program to me, showing that 99% of what is going on appears to be workshops and such for potential candidates and election strategy that any media (or bloggers) would not be allowed to witness.. this meeting will not have the open sessions that was available at the LPC Biennial last month in Montreal to bloggers/media. The only event apparently available to the public/media would be Premier Wynne’s speech on the Sunday afternoon.

My beef is not so much with being excluded or the format of this (to be honest, if the Wynne speech was the only thing available, it wouldnt be worth my time to go to it even if we were allowed/accredited, and my fellow bloggers who arent delegates have said as much to me in private as well). My beef is that email inquiries and inquires to the OLP account on Twitter haven’t been replied to – and specifically by Ms Mcmillan, the person all inquiries were to be forwarded to.

If the OLP or she didn’t feel they wanted to accredit bloggers because of the format, I get that, but I’m more disappointed that she and the OLP persons in general we contacted couldn’t be bothered to at least give us a courtesy email reply to us to say that. (I exclude my contacts who are in the OLP who were in the hierarchy; they did their best to get answers.. but didnt seem to get much answers from the higher-ups in the political food chain).

When the OLP leadership race was going on, Liberal bloggers were invited to and had a conference call, pre-convention, with then-candidate Kathleen Wynne, explaining her position and asking for our support, and indicating she would be social media friendly if/when she was Premier, and hopefully have more discussions with us in the future.

I’m sorry to say I see little evidence of that in this particular case, and we’ve yet to get anything on the latter point. It’s no skin off our collective blogging noses, but you’d think a party that is going to have difficulty retaining power in the next election would like all the help it can get, no matter how small it perceives that to be.

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A disquieting rumor on the Ontario Liberal Convention blogging front

I’m still away on Christmas/New Years vacation, hence my absence from here… so Happy New Year to everyone.

Secondly, just a little update on the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention and whether or not they will be accrediting bloggers to cover the convention as social/new media. Nothing official has come yet either way. I would send a friendly suggestion to those at the OLP organizing this that they should be making a decision sooner rather then later, and if your decision is to have bloggers attending to cover you as new media/social media journalists, you need to set some time for yourself to send out applications for accreditation, check the applications out, presumably set up an area for bloggers to be based out of to monitor/cover the proceeding, etc.

While there has been no official word yet, there has been some rumours. One particular one I do not like (and which I hope is either not true or will be scuttled) is that they might pull the move the Federal Liberals tried a year ago, which is to say bloggers can come, but only if bloggers pay a 1000$ fee for the right to be an “observer”, and not given the accreditation as regular Mainstream media journalists are.

Needless to say, that would not be received very well here, or elsewhere. If the media who are attending and/or who apply for accreditation are also charged the same 1000$ fee, then I’d understand the logic, even though that would mean few or none of us would be attending due to that cost, but if we’re being shoved into that observer category (which is where for example those attending as observers from another political party would be slotted in), it would show the OLP, like the federal wing (which has really regressed since their open door policy at Montreal in 2006 at their leadership convention) either doesn’t “get” social/new media, or could care less.

Personally, I’d prefer to give them good publicity (such as what the Federal NDP got from bloggers for how well they treated us at their leadership convention, and the majority of bloggers covering that were Liberal-aligned bloggers) but we’ll see the route the OLP decide to take.

UPDATE on 1/4/13, 1:06 pm – Nice to see some other folks agree with me. I’ll emphasize again; this was just a rumour passed on to me – still nothing official that says what their stance on this will be.

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Charles Sousa’s replies to my 5 questions

Well, a bit of a mini-flood, as on the heels of Eric Hoskins replies to me yesterday, Charles Sousa and his team have sent in their responses to my 5 questions for the Ontario Liberal leadership candidates (Again, here are Eric’s, Kathleen Wynne, and Sandra Pupatello’s answers/responses for comparison).

As usual, no commentary from me on the answers til I’ve given the other candidates every chance to reply. The Kennedy team had promised me something, no indication from Glen Murray, and I havent had the opportunity to try sending these to the late candidate into the race, Harinder Takhar, because I frankly don’t know who I should be sending the request to for his team

The answers are posted verbatim as I received them. I thank Mr. Sousa and his team for replying.
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1) There are many candidates running to be the Ontario Liberal Party leader. What do you feel makes you best qualified to be the leader/Premier?

I am seeking the Leadership because I believe that we need to be focused on creating jobs. We need to take decisive action to get that done. With 25 years in financial sector, I understand business. And with five years in public service, I understand government. I want to put that experience to work for all Ontarians and create conditions and incentives to foster more jobs.

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Eric Hoskins – next to respond to my 5 questions for the OLP leadership candidates

I received these answers from Eric and his campaign staff this afternoon to the questions I submittted to him and the other candidates (you can see Kathleen Wynne’s and Sandra Pupatello’s for comparing answers). As with the others, I’ve reposted these answers verbatim as I received them, and will be withholding comment on these and the others till all answers are received (or when I decide I’m not getting any from the other candidates)

I thank Eric and his campaign for taking the time to answer these questions

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(1) There are many candidates running to be the Ontario Liberal Party leader. What do you feel makes you best qualified to be the leader/Premier?

I believe that experience both inside and outside politics is important, and my experience will help me re-connect and re-engage with Ontarians and win back their trust when I am leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. As a family doctor, I know the importance of listening. And as the co-founder and Chief Financial Officer of a multi-million dollar organization that helps children in war zones around the world, I know how to stretch every dollar and to do more with less. I know how to make tough decisions even in the most difficult circumstances

My experience makes me who I am. It makes me a leader who represents a break from politics as usual, and the candidate best suited to bring renewal to the Ontario Liberal Party and our government.

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Kathleen Wynne’s responses to my questions

Kathleen Wynne and her team have sent in their responses to my questions for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership, and again, I will re-post them verbatim (and just a note: I’m not going to be passing along any commentary on any of these until I receive all of them – or all that I get. I’ll leave the commentary to you folks and then perhaps sum up my thoughts once they are all in and I get a chance to compare them). I thank Ms. Wynne for sending these in.

There are many candidates running to be the Ontario Liberal Party leader. What do you feel makes you best qualified to be the leader/Premier?
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Sandra Pupatello replies first to my set of questions

The first of the Ontario Liberal candidates to respond to the questions I sent off to them/their campaigns has responded; that honour goes to Sandra Pupatello. I was actually sent these answers to me on Saturday, but they sent it to an outdated Progressive Bloggers email account, else I’d have posted it last evening. I’ve learned however their campaign also does due diligence, as I was asked today (out of the blue) if I’d seen them yet, and when I explained I hadn’t, the campaign immediately forwarded the replies to my proper email address.. so bonus marks for that.

I submitted these questions to Ms. Pupatello in written format (as I did with the other campaigns, I feel writing questions and answers prevents any misunderstanding of a response); I have re-posted these answers verbatim as they were given to me. I’d like to thank her for responding so promptly.

1) There are many candidates running to be the Ontario Liberal Party leader. What do you feel makes you best qualified to be the leader/Premier?

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There are now 2000 candidates for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership.. what are their policies?

Ok.. so I’m exaggerating.. but it sure seems that way. It also seems like the entire provincial cabinet has resigned so they can enter the race. Two more have entered today, or are about to enter – Charles Sousa – Former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Eric Hoskins, former Children and Youth Services. I’ve also seen reports on Twitter that Gerard Kennedy, who has been involved in Ontario politics before and of course was a federal Liberal MP, is now going to be entering the race on Monday. Glen Murray and Kathleen Wynne are already in the race as is Sandra Pupatello (the apparent front-runner, according to the Toronto Star, though I’m not sure what exactly has caused that declaration – rather early to be declaring front-runners). More may be entering as well.

I’ve not got a horse in this race yet, tho with all these high profile names going all-in, it makes for an extremely more interesting race so far to watch then the Federal Liberal race. However, with all these candidates, it might get a tad confusing for people who stands for what with these folks. Kathleen Wynne has mentioned she’d take a more conciliatory role with Ontario teachers, and hinted she disagreed with the Dalton Mcguinty prorogation. That’s about the most noteworthy thing I’ve seen.

I would hope that these candidates will take a proactive role in explaining what they’d do if they were elected Ontario Liberal leader (and initially become Premier of course). I hope they include social media types as part of that vehicle for explaining.. there are a fair number of Liberal bloggers on Liblogs and Progressive Bloggers and those not part of either affiliation who are willing to give them a sounding board to explain what they’d do as the Ontario Liberal leader/premier and why someone should vote for them over the other candidates (and why voters in Ontario should or would).

I’m one of those willing to volunteer to give them some space, if they will answer questions.

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A specific example of why I’m lukewarm at best with the Ontario Liberal government.

Many folks know I’m a federal Liberal supporter and have been for a few years. Many people don’t know I’m not a provincial Liberal member. I do vote for them at elections, but only because the choices/alternatives presented to me haven’t been palatable. I am no big cheerleader of Dalton Mcguinty or his style: I find him far too conservative for my liking.

My disdain for the provincial Liberal government¬† is not helped by the news they passed a secret law giving the Toronto police extraordinary powers for the G8/G20 – perhaps even unconstitutional, as I don’t see how this is compatible with the Charter. This is the sort of thing I expect a Conservative government to do – such as Mike Harris in Ontario, or yes, Stephen Harper – not a Liberal government to do.¬† And this is why while Mcguinty is Premier, I’ll probably continue to vote for them, but I certainly won’t go out of my way to actively support them.

Who knows – if Andrea Horwath impresses me during an election campaign, perhaps I’ll vote for her and the provincial NDP.

UPDATE: My fellow (federal) Liberal blogger Impolitical isn’t exactly enamoured with what our provincial Liberal cousins have done either with this law.

UPDATE 2: And yet another fellow federal Liberal supporter blogger isn’t pleased either that the provincial Liberals and Mcguinty are doing their best imitation of a Conservative government.

UPDATE 3 @ 9:32 pm: Well, we now have a Charter of Rights challenge from the first protester arrested under these extraordinary sweeping powers. Of course, this won’t affect the Act during the G8/G20 summit, but it’s important to challenge it in case a future government or governments is tempted to use it.

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Petty politics in Ontario from the OLP’s staff.

I don’t know if John Laforet is over-reacting here or not, but Dean Rivando, a provincial Liberal staffer at Queen’s Park, should have known better then to have said what he did to John – it could easily come off as a threat, and I don’t blame John for interpreting it as such. (I asked John, by the way, what his federal affiliation was, and he’s still a member in good standing with the federal Liberal Party).

One other note: I applaud John’s coverage of the Ontario NDP and Conservative leadership conventions, though others in the Facebook message thread he quotes over there (including Mr. Rivando) seem to have an issue with him doing that. I feel trying to use that against him is equally as dumb as seeming to infer the provincial Liberals would get involved in taking him out if he tried to run in a municipal election (personally, I’d recommend to John to think federal).

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