Month: March 2014

Good Day Sunshine

Much as I wish the title of this post referred to the weather it doesn’t. Spring remains as elusive in Toronto as a straight answer from our Mayor.

No, the sunshine I’m referring to is the annual “Sunshine” list released by the provincial government today. The list discloses the names, positions, and salaries of anyone in the province making over $100,000 while working for an organization which receives public funds. According to the provincial Ministry of Finance this is all done in the name of making the public sector more open and accountable to taxpayers. It also may well be one of the more useless things done in the name of taxpayers, which is saying something.

I say that the list is effectively useless for a few reasons. First off it has been in existence since 1996, and in that time the salary cut off has not changed. Now, I’m not going to sit here and try to argue that $100,000 is not a lot of money. It is, it’s more than I make, and I would imagine most people who make that much are better off than a great many.

That said if you are going to release a list every year, and violate people’s privacy should it not at least be indexed to inflation? Otherwise isn’t how many people are on it some what arbitrary? People are outraged if their taxes go up by more than inflation, or at all in some cases. Is it not at least fair to judge how those taxes are spent against the same yardstick?

Fun fact, if inflation had been factored in this year’s cut off would have been a little more than $146,000. That’s about $20,000 higher than the average salary on this year’s list. In other words, if inflation is factored in the average person on this year’s list wouldn’t be.

The list’s other obvious flaw involves math which is less complicated. It doesn’t exclude people based on overtime. If you work more than you were supposed to, and get paid more as a result you could be on the list too. Not sure how we get around paying people more when they work more, so maybe the math is complicated after all.

This is the public’s money, and being open and transparent about how it is spent is important. There are better ways to accomplish this in terms of salaries though. Want to list how many employees an organization has on the list without names? Sure. What percent of an organization’s budget goes to salaries over a certain amount? Go for it.

Using a list of hard working people as an exercise in public shaming all while accomplishing nothing? Try again, sunshine.

Metro Morning & Baby Robbie

CBC’s Metro Morning hosted Rob Ford earlier today. Host Matt Galloway received a lot of praise on social media, and rightly so, for asking Ford tougher questions and challenging his answers. If you heard it you don’t need me to tell you Matt was excellent. If you didn’t hear it you can listen to it here along with interviews of the other candidates from earlier this week.

I’ll just say this. Listening, it struck me that trying to debate Ford either as a candidate or journalist, is like trying to debate a small child.

“Why did you take a cookie without asking?”

“I didn’t”

“There’s chocolate on your shirt and I saw you do it.”

“No you didn’t”

Sound familiar Toronto?

When someone refuses to acknowledge any truth but that of their own invention, reasonable debate or discussion becomes impossible. Matt made probably the most valiant effort so far, but all it proved was the impossibility of Ford ever accepting any of the realities the rest of us do. You’d learn more asking him what colour the sky is in his world.

Regardless of who you support in this race let’s remember that Robbie needs a time out, and make sure come October he gets one.

Rob Ford’s Bluffing, Badly

Ok, everyone relax. Rob Ford did not win last night’s debate. He may not have lost it, but that’s not the same as winning it, and never will be. Even if he had won the debate, he stands exactly a zero chance of winning the election. Zero.

There are a lot of reasons I feel confident saying that. Edward Keenan in this excellent piece on Ford’s campaign, or lack there of, has already covered many of them. Last night changed none of them. I’m a Leafs fan, so I get panic as a natural reaction but in this case there really is no need.

On to why he didn’t win the debate though. I will concede he came across better than a lot of people, including myself, thought he would. That was a pretty low bar though which mostly included arriving on time, appearing sober, and managing not to punch anyone on camera. Check, check, and check. Nice work there Robbie.

The format, using a term as loosely as is possible, also lent itself to making him look good. The moderator like the Mayor himself, was in name only. As a result, a free for all melee ensued which suits Rob just fine. Rob genuinely seems to enjoy chaos so it’s no surprise he seemed comfortable in the middle of it.

While some of his opponents made brave efforts, there was no attempt by the “moderator” to correct Ford on any of the numerous lies he told either. Which is exactly why he didn’t win this debate.

All Ford did last night was tip his hand. He showed what most of us and surely his opponents’ campaigns knew. He is going to repeat the same lies over and over again. Ford didn’t win, because he has shown that all he has to run on are lies. Any voter who thinks he was telling the truth about saving a billion dollars, is unlikely to vote for anyone else. All he can do his bluff, the other campaigns know it for sure now and will adjust. The have 213 days remember.

A lot of reaction online questioned why the other candidates didn’t come after him harder for being a crack smoking liar who consorts with criminals. I’ll confess, I wondered that myself. At the same time, if everyone likely to vote for you knows he is and knows his response will be a lie, what is there to gain?

Warren Kinsella, a strong Olivia Chow supporter and important volunteer on her campaign, summed it up even better. If a man who proudly wears the nickname “Prince of Darkness” gets why no one went after Ford about crack, perhaps the rest of us should.

Ford didn’t win last night. Striking a more conciliatory tone, keeping people guessing, even coming clean entirely all could have amounted to win for him last night. Instead he showed us what cards he’s holding. He let us know he’s going to play a hand he should have folded, and play it to the end. That’s no way to win a card game, and it wasn’t a win last night either.