Sat, May
26
2012

The Man I Was - III

Sat, May 26, 2012

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Before I begin, I should note that my latest column for The Kitchener Post is now up and you can read it here

Ten years ago this month, my blog was starting to take off. I posted 24 times, not quite a one-a-day pace, but getting there. I was finding an outlet for the things I had to say and, by golly, I was going to use it.

And the first post that month talked about my proposal for The Green Democrats. I’d have to call that one perhaps one of my most politically naive political posts in the history of this blog. My argument was, with recent Ontario by-elections showing the Liberals nipping at the Harris Conservatives’ heels, and the NDP down and out — so down and out that the Green Party looked set to pass them in popularity — that perhaps the NDP and the Greens should consider a merger. After all, the NDP was a left-wing party, and the Greens cared about the environment, and that was left wing, so shouldn’t they just get along?

Let’s count the assumptions, shall we? Very soon after, Jim Harris brought the Greens to the edge of the political mainstream. A former red Tory, he argued that the Greens’ policy of environmental conservation was something that could appeal to conservatives as well as liberals or socialists. There were a number of free market tools that could be applied to bring concern for the environment and sustainability into the capitalist equation. He had no problem with companies making money “hand over fist” if they did so in an ethical, environmentally sustainable way.

As the Greens matured under Jim Harris and David Chernuschenko, I believe their policies started to resonate with my red Tory roots. I voted for the Green Party in the following provincial election, and in federal elections following. Though the Greens have taken a bit of a step to the left under Elizabeth May, the bulk of the party’s policies is still a bit off the well-beaten track of left-right politics, in my opinion.

And as for the NDP, how times have changed. The party was in a bad way ten years ago, barely holding official party status federally, perennial also rans in Ontario. Now? Nipping at the heels of government in Ottawa and in a competitive three-way race in Queen’s Park. I guess it goes to show that one should never count anybody out, ever.

Ten years ago, I was cheering the Toronto Maple Leafs as they got surprisingly far in the NHL playoffs. At the time, I claimed that I didn’t care about sports, only to get involved when the Canadians won the gold medal for hockey at the 2002 Olympics or the Leafs or the Senators got achingly close to the Stanley Cup. And I had to admit that, not long before, I’d cared a lot more about sports, and one reason for my disengaging in sports was what I saw as unhealthy aspects of my obsession (I hated losing).

I still hate losing. Ten years on, though, sports really do mean less to me than ever. I guess after I’ve spent a decade largely ignoring the NHL, and paying only cursory attention to baseball, you start to lose touch. The allegiances rust, and you look back on your younger self and wonder how you could ever have gotten so involved. And it doesn’t help when, in this age of fiscal austerity, you hear team owners demanding millions of dollars of taxpayers money to pay for their posh new stadiums (if you want it, build it your own damn self!). I have other things to occupy my time, thankyouverymuch. Sports is probably dead to me. At least until the Leafs make another run for the cup. Which means that sports is probably DEFINITELY dead to me.

Ten years ago yesterday was the day the furniture turned upside down. That was one of the weirder moments of our lives, but it hasn’t happened since, so we’ve put it past us and moved on. Ten years ago, I was celebrating dumping Internet Explorer for Mozilla and singing the praises of OpenOffice 1.0. It’s safe to say that I hated Microsoft a lot more then than I do now. Back then, I was still using a PC and struggling with Windows Millennium edition. It would be another three years before I abandoned Windows completely for the joys of Apple, and I admit that I’ve become quite an Apple fanboy. However, despite supporting OpenOffice through the years, I’ve come back to Microsoft Office. It’s actually a decent program, and its Home, Student and Teacher edition is actually quite reasonably priced. And it doesn’t lose my headers the way OpenOffice did a couple of times too often.

Finally, at the end of the month ten years ago, I discussed my idea that the Greater Toronto Area should separate from Ontario and become Canada’s eleventh province. That’s a pretty old idea on my part. It was part of my senior thesis at university back in 1994 (18 years ago!) and not much has changed since then. The Greater Toronto Area is growing as an interdependent region. People and business are crossing back and forth across the cities’ boundaries with impunity. There needs to be a single, accountable coordinating authority to manage the growth and development of the region, now and into the future, while still allowing the existence of local governments to minister to local community concerns. To date, much of this regional task has been left to unelected at-large service bodies, or to Queen’s Park itself, much to the chagrin of the regions of Ontario outside of the GTA. Really, this issue demands provincial powers in order to manage properly, so that alone should make Ontario push the GTA into forming its own province.

Of course, it’s not going to happen. I knew this at the time, but that didn’t stop me from seeing this as necessary. However, I did shift when [I realized there might be other ways to accord provincial-like powers to a GTA authority without unbalancing the power relationships at Queen’s Park. If we could create regional parliaments based on the Scottish model, replacing our county-level and regional-level governments, that might do the trick. Also, this model could be applied to the other regions of Ontario, so they don’t feel like the political power of the province is unbalanced. It’s still pretty unrealistic to believe that Queen’s Park could willingly divest a number of its powers (including taxation powers) to a set of regional parliaments, but it is far less unrealistic than expecting that this province could divide itself, or that the other provinces of Canada would allow the formation of a ‘Mini-Me’ version of Ontario.


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