All-candidates meeting summary

I’m back from the all-candidates meeting with fresh impressions still on my mind.  I wish there had been more opportunity to articulate some of the strongest parts of the Green platform.  But my dominant impression had nothing to do with policy and everything to do with smug power.

I found Joyce Rowlands’s introduction irksome.  The blatant and silly lies bothered me, like the promise to reduce emissions by 90% and vastly overreach Kyoto simply by closing down the coal plants in 2014.  Even more jarring was the refrain that “We deserve an MPP in the ruling party here in Toronto-Danforth”.  This is the backhanded way of admitting that we’re gonna get screwed here until we smarten up and vote Liberal.  What kind of thing is that for a Liberal to say?  Shouldn’t the Liberals at least be maintaining a thin facade of accountability to all Ontario’s citizens?  And think what the logical extension of her argument would mean — “Decide at the beginning of the election which party will win, and vote for the candidate from that party no matter how incompetent or morally repugnant because otherwise you’ll be punished.”  It is a subtle threat.

And it’s a stupid one, too.  It was abundantly clear to me that the people of Toronto-Danforth were firmly opposed to a power plant on the Portlands.  Both Joyce and Ben Chin, the previous Liberal candidate, were wholly in favour of the power plant.  So you can vote for one of them and get the power plant anyway.  They can then say that “the people voted for this”.  What kind of progress is that?  I’m afraid Joyce just doesn’t get it.  People don’t vote Liberal in Toronto-Danforth because what she’s offering isn’t what we want even if she can deliver it.

In the middle of the debate, she made the argument that the choice was between the regression of the Harris Tories and the progress made under McGuinty.  The implication is that a vote for anyone else is a wasted vote.

Robert Bisbicis formed the counterpart to this particular smugness.  Near the end of the debate, when forced to step closer to the centre due to speaker interference with his microphone, he joked that he was mimicking the motion of the Tory Conservatives, and made a point of distancing himself from Mike Harris.

But he also argued that the choice was between the corrupt Liberals and the fine upstanding Conservatives, now reformed under Tory.  Again the implication was that it was completely pointless to vote for anyone else.

So it’s interesting that when all the candidates were asked point blank about their position on MMP, these two candidates who thought that anything but Liberal or Conservative was a wasted vote, also believed that the current system was fine and we should just keep on wasting our votes.  Or rather, that we should maintain a system where they were the only parties that counted.

How do they justify such hubris?  Oh, a lot of handwaving, unspecified doubts, some vague worry about lack of accountability among the list candidates.

The citizens assembly that recommended MMP for Ontario looked at examples in New Zealand, Germany, Wales and Bolivia, where the system works.  Parties work better together and accountability is increased.  The real reason the Liberals and Conservatives oppose it is because it challenges the rules of the game they’ve always excelled at.  Good government is beside the point.

Peter Tabuns spoke with confidence and not without a certain smugness, too.  After all, he’s the sitting MPP with a lot of local popularity.  But it’s more difficult for me to deny him his smugness.  He is familiar with policy and articulates it well.  He was also unfailingly polite to everyone.

Besides Andrew James, who spoke on behalf of Patrick Kraemer and the Greens, the remaining candidates were Mark Scott for Libertarians and Shona Bracken for the Communists.

It was clear that much of the audience was a cheering section for one party or another.  A gentleman in front of me cheered the Libertarians and no one else.  Several people were handing out party literature.  Joyce Rowlands brought the largest cheering section, pointedly cheering only for her.  I had heard that the NDP made a habit of bringing in supports, but that wasn’t clear here.  The meeting was organized by the South Riverdale Community Health Centre, the Ralph Thornton Centre and the South Riverdale Child Care Centre.  This is the sort of community that demands strong social, health and environmental programs, and where both the Greens and NDP were generally warmly received.  Andrew’s promise to eliminate the OMB was as enthusiastically applauded as anything Peter said.

One of Joyce’s plants asked only the NDP and Greens to respond to how they would close the gap between what renewables could produce and what would be lost by closing coal and nuclear plants.  He clearly pushed for nuclear.  Both Andrew and Peter denied a deficit.  At this point Joyce became adamant that she needed the last word on this issue and got into an argument with the moderator, who finally relented.

What she said was that nuclear was needed in the short term.  At this point I couldn’t take it any more and stood up and pointed out that nuclear took 10 years to build and by definition could not be a short term solution.

I was being generous.  Nuclear plants have historically been over budget, behind schedule and shorter lived than planned.  So while the projections call for 10 years of building and 40 years of operation, the more realistic estimate might be closer to 20 years of building and 25 of operations, with costs double those planned.  We still haven’t paid off the last batch of nuclear plants.  It’s no time to be building more.

Nonetheless, I approached Joyce after the debate and apologized for my outburst.  She was magnanimous, and explained that a lot of environmentalists were embracing nuclear.  I agreed there were some, but said they were very few.  I expected her to bring up Tim Flannery and James Lovelock (two environmentalists ready to contemplate nuclear power).  Instead, the only one of these “lots of environmentalists” that she could name was Patrick Moore (a former Greenpeace founder who now asserts that all environmental problems have been solved) as if that would convince me.  She seemed unaware of the fact that Patrick Moore has no credibility.  She insisted on his environmental credentials even as I attempted to explain.  Anyone who sees Patrick Moore as an environmental advocate has been talking to too many nuclear engineers.

Then she introduced me to the gentleman who had asked the nuclear question.  A supporter of hers.  He was a power engineer who was advising her on energy policy, and he was unequivocal that Ontario simply could not meet its needs without nuclear.  She smugly referred to his authority and pooh-poohed any discussion.  She accepted a “Renewable is Doable” flyer with an air of “Sure I’d love to see what these featherheaded environmentalists propose”.  But her engineer friend was the most smug person in the room, comfortable in the sure knowledge that no matter which of the only two parties that count will win, there will be a sure opening for his nuclear pet.

So my summary of the meeting goes like this:  The nuclear lobby has already bought up both of the only two parties that count.  We have a very large battle ahead of us.

4 responses to “All-candidates meeting summary”

  1. Brian writes:

    I wasn’t able to attend the meeting and have since heard mixed reports. I am glad to hear Patrick’s replacement was allowed to take his place without any problems. That said, I was disappointed to learn that a proposed NDP replacement at today’s Don Valley debate was rejected by the local Greens. After the precedent was set in Toronto-Danforth was set today’s development hardly seems fair.

  2. Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu writes:

    Hi Brian,
    I’m not aware of what happened in Don Valley. I’m in favour of giving as much opportunity as possible to all candidates, and substitutes if necessary.

  3. Brian writes:

    Hi Adrianna, I know of your sense of fairplay and believe things would have been different had it been your call. Just wish the DV greens shared your enthusiasm. Water under the bridge. B

  4. Gab writes:

    Where will Patrick Kraemer be canvassing on Tuesday October 9? I would like to hear his views.

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