Category Archives: Ontario

Thank you Minister Bentley

Just under a year ago I was co-presenting with Theresa Lubowitz at the LPC(O) AGM. Our presentation was on social media and politics but we put a large emphasis on how both of us actually got involved in politics.

After one of our panels finished I was approached by a tall, mild-mannered man who introduced himself, Chris Bentley was his name. His questions were thoughtful. My answers are a blur in my head, I was already a fan of the Minister and I didn’t think he needed to learn anything on the social media front.

A few weeks later, Minister Bentley gave an engaging speech at the Ontario Young Liberals’ AGM. Almost everyone in attendance was focused on the 2 slates battling in the OYL Executive Election, but I knew this would be worth my full attention. The Minister talked about the fantastic record of the Ontario Liberal government and the need to get more engineers, mathematicians and scientists involved in politics. Though Chris Bentley is an accomplished lawyer himself, he stressed that evidence-based policy needs experts not just acting as policy advisers but helping to write policy (which the OLP has with a diverse caucus from many different fields.)

I have learned a lot from Minister Bentley over the last few months. He has given a lot to the people of Ontario. His hard work and attention to his constituents is a model for public servants at all levels of government.

Thank you Minister Bentley.

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(Here I am giving Minister Bentley a cupcake that I baked, at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.)

Kathleen Wynne’s Speech & Some Thoughts on the 2013 OLP Leadership Convention

I want to put something on the table: Is Ontario ready for a gay premier? You’ve heard that question. You’ve all heard that question but let’s say what that actually means: Can a gay woman win? That’s what it means. So, not surprisingly, I have an answer to that question. When I ran in 2003, I was told that the people of North Toronto and the people of Thorncliffe Park weren’t ready to elect a gay woman. Well, apparently they were.

You know, there was a time, not that long ago when most of us in this leadership race would have been deemed unsuitable. We would have been deemed unsuitable. A Portugese-Canadian, an Indo-Canadian, an Italian-Canadian, female, gay, Catholic. Most of us could not have hoped to stand on this stage, but the province has changed. Our party has changed.

I don’t believe the people of Ontario judge their leaders on the basis of race, sexual orientation, colour or religion. I don’t believe they hold that prejudice in their hearts. They judge us, on our merits. On our abilities, on our expertise, on our ideas. Because that is the way everyone deserves to be judged. That is how we want our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews to be judged. All of us want to be judged on those things. So, when it is time for me to take us into the next general election, I will do it on the basis of our merits. I will do it on the basis of our success.”

- Kathleen Wynne

Some thoughts on the Ontario Liberal leadership convention:

I attended the OLP convention as a neutral observer (though my father was a delegate for Kathleen Wynne.)

joseph and andrew olpldr

The energy from each of the delegations was really refreshing. I was on the floor for a good portion of the convention. During Dr. Hoskins’ speech the whole room seemed to explode when he said the following:

“As Liberals we’ve got a lot to be proud of but now it’s time to write the next chapter for our future under our new leader, whoever she may be!”

The Ontario Women Liberals’ Commission was giving out buttons at the beginning of the convention with the same sentiment:

congratulations madame premier

This was my first leadership convention ever. I engaged in and overheard many conversations about how this was probably the last delegated convention in Canadian political history. Yes, it was an exciting convention. Yes, the convention’s structure helped an underdog with a well-run campaign, Wynne, to become Premier. We all learned that a great speech can help win an election. It was also confirmed, once again the fact that good political organization matched with what Wilfrid Laurier called “the sunny way” is a powerful political combination.

joseph convention floor

Paul Donofrio: NDP Candidate. Rob Ford Supporter. Social Media Cautionary Tale.

Yesterday, I wrote about how the PC candidate in Kitchener-Waterloo, Tracey Weiler, has been running away from the PC leader Tim Hudak. In the riding of Vaughan, the ONDP and their leader Andrea Horwath, the opposite has been the case. Paul Donofrio, the ONDP candidate, has been completely ignored by his party. When he was nominated on August 10th the ONDP did a short, boilerplate press release. Since then, there has been hardly a peep about Mr. Donofrio out of the ONDP.

Paul Donofrio is a classic perennial candidate. He ran for City Council, and lost. He ran for mayor of Vaughan, and lost. And he ran in Vaughan during the 2011 election, and lost.

The point I want to make is not only that the NDP are not competitive in both by-elections (the PCs aren’t either, the Ontario Liberals are the only party competitive in both Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan.) Donofrio offers an important political social media lesson for us all. His twitter account is effectively inactive (he has tweeted 4 times since the 2011 election.) His tweets from over the last 2-and-a-bit years include non sequiturs, lots of ALL CAPS, dead links and some interesting opinions (see below.) When a candidate signs up for twitter (or any social media platform) and doesn’t know what they are doing/has no social media communications team behind them, their dead account will linger online forever. The lesson: you don’t have to get twitter just because other people have twitter. If a candidate gets twitter, make sure that they have a good team behind them and take down the account after the election if the candidate is planning on running again.

Getting back to Mr. Donofrio. Perhaps the NDP doesn’t want to draw attention to some of Mr. Donofrio’s previously held political positions. The website from his mayoral run is still up: http://www.pauldonofrio.com/ and his endorsement of Toronto Mayoral candidate Rob Ford on twitter is still up:

The next day he retweeted a Rob Ford GOTV tweet*:

“WAIT, WHAT?” you may ask. An NDP candidate endorsed Toronto’s regressive mayor? He most certainly did. Now, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. Andrea Horwarth and the Ontario NDP regularly take regressive positions because they have populist appeal (just like Rob Ford.) Andrea Horwath voted against the Clear Energy Act, the Clean Water Act and the Cosmetic Pesticides Ban.** The ONDP’s HST policy would lead to a large tax cut for big polluters. Since the 2011 election the ONDP have advocated an auto insurance scheme that would raise rates for safe drivers and lower them for dangerous drivers.***

This does raise some serious questions for Andrea Horwath and the ONDP:

Does Paul Donofrio still support Mayor Ford? How would Mr. Donofrio have voted on the PC’s motion in support of subways in Ontario? How does the ONDP reconcile their candidate’s views with the views of the ONDP?

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* Click on each picture for a link to each tweet. You can visit Paul Donofrio’s twitter page here: https://twitter.com/PAULDONOFRIONDP
** I am a big fan of bees. They gives us all of our non-wheat/rice/corn food with their pollination. The Cosmetic Pesticides Ban is a great piece of pro-bee public policy.
*** It was denounced by Andrew W. Murie, Ceo of MADD Canada: “[T]he Bill will force responsible drivers to subsidize the insurance premiums of dangerous drivers… In our view, the Bill sends all the wrong messages, punishes responsible drivers, rewards dangerous drivers, and will increase the risk to Ontario road-users.”

Joseph Uranowski and Liam Nichols Endorse Parker Mackay for Riding Director of the Ontario Young Liberals

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Parker on the 2012 provincial election campaign. As founding members of the Whitby-Oshawa Young Liberals, we have worked closely together over the last number of months to build a strong Young Liberal club in Whitby-Oshawa. Parker is a fantastic choice for Riding Director. He has experience as the president of the WOYL and the Glendon Young Liberals. Parker Mackay is intelligent and approachable. He is a great campaigner and organizer. Having knocked on a countless number of doors with him and stayed up into the wee hours of the night putting up signs together, I am proud and happy for the WOYL to share <a href=”http://oylunited.ca/team/riding-director/”>Parker Mackay</a> with the rest of Ontario’s Young Liberals.” – Joseph Uranowski

The Ontario NDP Skips the Budget Vote.

“You know, most Canadians, if they don’t show up for work, they don’t get a promotion.” – Jack Layton

On Tuesday, April 24th the 17 MPPs in the Ontario NDP caucus (led by Andea Howarth) skipped out on voting on Ontario’s 2012 budget. This action is confusing. It looks like a huge strategic blunder for the ONDP. After Tim Hudak took himself out of the debate by saying he’d vote against the budget before any details were put on the negotiation table, I was pleased to see Ms. Howarth and Premier McGuinty negotiating over the budget. Now that the NDP joined the PCs in abdicating their responsibilities as MPPs, the Liberals are the only party actually working for Canadians. During the budgetary process, Ms. Howarth abandonded her faux-populist energy HST cut (which is a tacit admission that she knows that it is cutting taxes for big polluters.) So after lengthy negotiations the ONDP let Premier McGuinty put forward a solid piece of policy (the 2% surtax on incomes over $500 000) then proceeded to give him all the credit for that policy and all the other spending in the budget. The Federal NDP has been taking credit for the universal health care system that Prime Minister Pearson created for decades. Now the ONDP can’t really take credit for Premier McGuinty/Dwight Duncan’s 2012 budget and they can (and should) be called out for not doing their jobs.

5 Questions: Omar Alghabra

Omar Alghabra was the Member of Parliament for Mississauga—Erindale from 2006–2008. He ran again in 2011 and parliament is a worse place without him in it. Omar is a strong progressive voice and his positive attitude is infectious. He was nice enough to answers my questions:
1. Why are you a Liberal?
There are 4 fundamental reasons as to why I am a Liberal philosophically:
  • I believe in individual liberty; that every person has an inalienable right to choose how to live their life as long as it doesn’t infringe on others
  • I believe the role of government is to facilitate individual liberty and to ensure that people have equal opportunity to reach their own optimal potential
  • I believe in brokerage politics instead of divisive or polarizing politics. Instead of dividing people into with or against us camps, I’d rather bring people together, empathizing not vilifying their point of view while remaining faithful to my values/principles
  • I believe that Canadian identity is an evolving and inclusive identity not a static one. Canada is the sum of its history, present and future
2. What was the highlight of the biennial convention for you?
In addition to the amazing turnout, the highlight for me was the fact that the convention was unscripted. Most conventions tend to be dominated by a certain narrative or campaign that is promoted by the “centre” of the Party. During this last one, most delegates were genuinely open-minded and freely debating their choices and reaching their own conclusion
3. What  policy issue are you passionate about and why?
There are many issues that I’m passionate about, but if I were to reduce it to one overarching subject, I would say it is the role of government in our society. Governments need to find a balance between being a facilitator and defender of the interest of its citizens. For example, I believe in free markets and competition but also the responsibility of government to ensure fairness, transparency and that the long term interest of its citizens are not trumped by short-term market forces
4. You are very effective at using various forms of social media. What advice would you give to Liberal candidates and activists on utilizing social media?
I would say that you need to first identify your target audience. Do you want to reach out to partisan Liberals? Specialized activists? Neighbours? etc. Then talk about subjects that are relevant to them in a meaningful and fresh way. Try to stand out with your message or ideas. Maybe tackle controversial topics. Avoid repeating standard talking points (unless you want to focus on the partisan crowd who may enjoy a reinforcement of their message). Use humor or entertainment. No need to be serious all the time. Remain respectful and civil. Even though sometimes using foul language can generate buzz but it will undermine your credibility.
5. Who is your favourite Prime Minister and why?
That’s a tough question to answer only because I believe one has to experience first hand the leadership style if they are to offer an accurate assessment. I always consider PM Trudeau to be an exceptional PM given his record, his statements and his values. Unfortunately I immigrated to Canada after his tenure. I am an admirer of all former PMs not withstanding their partisan colours. All of them have been very intelligent and highly driven and each of them provided their own flavour of leadership style. The only PM I had the privilege to work closely with was Paul Martin. I have deep respect and affection for him having seen first hand his work ethics and his determination.

5 Questions: Adam Exton


Adam Exton does communications for the Barrie Young Liberals. If you don’t like Adam Exton I’d like you to leave this blog, turn off your computer, and find a quiet place to reevaluate your life. The Barrie Young Liberals should serve as a model to young liberals across the country. Their focus on community service and real community-based engagement and activism has been an inspiration to the Whitby-Oshawa Young Liberals.

1. Why are you a Liberal?

The short answer is that the positions of LPC and OLP match closest with my own values. The longer answer deals with my belief that big Canadian brokerage parties are essential nation-builders that lead to a better democratic process. The Liberal Party of Canada is different than the Conservative Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party. LPC is a party that traditionally brokers different interests by building a coalition of regions. It’s the big tent party. With a regional country like Canada, where Albertans may have very little in common with Quebecers, it’s essential to have a party that’s aim is to bring Canadians together.

2. What lessons have you learned from campaigning in a rural riding like Barrie?

Compared to Toronto-Danforth, Barrie is definitely more rural. However, it’s no Simcoe-Grey or Parry Sound-Muskoka. We’re lucky that the riding is just one city, rather than a collection of towns separated by kilometers of country road. So while canvassing can take longer than in the dense streets of Toronto, a poll usually takes just an hour with two or three energetic volunteers.

I also find that the policies at the door tend to be more local. During the Grant Gordon campaign, the ballot questions seemed to revolve around the environment and sending an effective MP to parliament to help hold the government to account. In Barrie, I’ll often hear people at the door express concern over the cleaning up of Lake Simcoe or over urban sprawl as Barrie continues to grow.

3. What method is most effective for turning online activism into real life
engagement?

The Barrie Young Liberals have tried to be a community-based association with a significant online presence. Online activism isn’t necessarily easy. You need to have a clear message and present it in a clean and effective way. That being said, I think that the real challenge is in motivating your members to also make a difference in the real world.

Something that we’ve had success with in Barrie is taking lots of photos and sharing our experiences online. Photos help give credit to all the members that come out to events. They also provide an online movement with a sort of legitimacy insofar that they prove that the association is also making a difference beyond the online. Photos also make excellent content and great additions to press releases to help get media attention. I think that attention is so important with activism because it is a sort of currency that helps motivate people to stay engaged.

4. What policy issue are you passionate about?

I have two—one federal and one provincial—and they’re both connected. They are universal daycare and all day kindergarten. During the 2006 federal election, I really got excited about universal daycare. Daycare can be such a prohibitive expense for families raising young children that it seems counter intuitive. Having a single infant in daycare can cost over $900 a month. That seems crazy since for so many young families, one partner staying home just isn’t an option. In Quebec, there are spots available for $7 a day. Of course not all families are going to use daycare. Some families can afford having a stay-at-home parent. But for those that need to use daycare, surely the cost shouldn’t be so prohibitively high.

The results from students enrolled in all-day kindergarten speak for themselves.
Students develop more advanced reading, math and drawing skills at a younger age. Also, it’s financial relief for parents that don’t have to enroll their 4-6 year olds in private daycare.

5. What was the high light of the biennial convention for you?

This is a difficult question because there were so many highlights for me; however, two stand out in my mind. The first was the election results on Sunday morning. So many talented people were elected to LPC executive positions and I remember feeling elated for all of them. In Barrie, we had all the National Policy Chair candidates speak to our members and they were all excellent candidates. I ended up supporting Maryanne Kampouris, however, and was overly thrilled when she was elected to NPC. I was also a huge Mike Crawley supporter.

The second highlight was on Saturday night during the constitution plenary. I was really excited to be voting on how the LPC was going to change. It’s no small feat that we opened up our party to supporters. I think that that’s a huge advancement that really helps us become an even more inclusive and bold party. I was also proud to vote in favour of a number of motions from Central Region presented by Jason Cherniak. As an aside, I was also one of the many members that voted in favour of continuing the plenary into the late hours on Saturday. My only disappointment during the Biennial was that the motion failed and we had to call it a night.

5 Questions: Paulina O’Neill

I met Paulina O’Neill while canvassing for Grant Gordon in Toronto-Danforth (though I have been receiving e-mails from her for the past year on the UofT Young Liberals listserv.) She was a delight to canvass with and I am proud to support her for the position of Communications Director for the Ontario Young Liberals. Her organizational experience and communication skills will be crucial to helping turn the OYL into a effective activist organization during and between elections. She was nice enough to take the time to answer my questions:

1. Why are you a Liberal?

I am a Liberal because I like the balance between innovative but fiscally responsible policies that the Liberal Party has developed. I also believe the Liberal Party has implemented core elements of our country: national universal health care, peacekeeping, bilingualism and multiculturalism, our national flag and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To me, being part of the Liberal Party is more than just a political affiliation, it is the party that has defined for me what it means to be a Canadian and I want to continue to expand on what we have built for our country.

2. What was the highlight of the convention for you?

The highlight of the Biennial convention was when Mike Crawley won as President of the Liberal Party of Canada. I volunteered for his campaign while I was at the convention, reaching out to as many delegates as possible for their support. It was a rewarding experience and I am glad the hard work paid off! I also loved Dalton McGuinty’s speech. I thought it was very inspiring and gave hope to all delegates that the Liberal Party of Canada can work together to rebuild our party and have a strong presence once again.

3. What is one policy issue that you are passionate about?

One policy issue that I am currently passionate about is the funding cuts to Katimavik by the Harper government. It is important to act to try and make a difference; I’m passionate about it. To help restore funding for Katimavik I have been assisting Bismah Haq with her initiative “Pennies 4 Katimavik” to try and raise awareness about the program and raise funds to help Katimavik continue as a program even if it is scaled-down. I believe Katimavik is a valuable program that not only helps youth become strong leaders but also benefits communities across Canada.

4. What is the most important lesson you have learned on the many election campaigns you have worked/volunteered on?

To reach out to everyone. It is important to reach out to volunteers and make them feel like their work and time given to a campaign is appreciated. This is especially true for new volunteers, it is important to make every person on a campaign feel comfortable and confident while canvassing or doing other tasks on a campaign. It is also important to talk to as many constituents as possible and reach out to them as well. By talking to as many people as possible in a community it helps to tie people to their elected representative. People generally appreciate the time you spend talking to them about their interests and concerns despite differing political stripes. The main reason I am involved in politics is to improve our communities and by reaching out to each individual it helps build a strong community that can work together outside of political affiliation.

5. How can the Young Liberals and the Liberal Party better engage young women like yourself to become involved in politics?

I think we should focus on mentorship (rather than quotas) to ensure that women who become involved in politics do not feel that their gender harms their ability to advance in politics. There should be more joint events with political staffers, past candidates and members of Parliament involved in the Liberal Party and female young liberals to help us understand the challenges they have faced in politics and how they overcame those challenges. I believe it would help engage more Canadian young women like myself.

“Pennies 4 Katimavik” Launches Today!

Pennies 4 Katimavik* (a campaign spearheaded by Bismah Haq) is officially launching today in Ottawa at 2:30pm (click here for the facebook event.)

When I heard about this campaign I was very excited. Axing the program was one of the Harper government’s most maliciously-arbitrary decisions in the 2012 budget. I talked to Bismah about what inspired her to start up this campaign and what she hopes to accomplish. Here is what she
told me:

“I originally came up with the idea while watching an analysis about the budget on CBC at Hedy Fry’s office (I volunteer there) the day the budget was released. I didn’t think much of it at first, but last week some friends urged me to act on the idea. So along with other members from the OYL United team who committed to launching this in their cities and towns, some Young Liberals in BC and some Katimavik alumni I know, we will be starting our penny drives and online launch this weekend.

Here is some additional information on “Pennies 4 Katimavik” that was provided to me from the campaign:

Project Idea: According to the 2012 Federal Budget, as of fall 2012, the Canadian penny will not be in circulation anymore, and the youth volunteerism program called Katimavik has lost its funding. Pennies for Katimavik, quite literally, is a penny drive/small change drive to fundraise to support Katimavik to continue to serve our nation through youth community service, as well
as to raise awareness about the positive impact Katimavik has had on our communities.

Background: The Canadian federal government has decided to phase the penny out of existence starting this fall, when the Royal Canadian Mint will stop distributing the one-cent coin to financial institutions. Pennies themselves will continue to hold their inherent cash value, so Canadians can always trade them in at financial institutions. Banks can then return those pennies to the mint for recycling into their base materials. Which means before too long, the penny will
be mostly removed from the Canadian economy — except for the jars i Canadians’ closets.

We will be collecting the change and money that we raise,rolling the coins and exchanging them at a bank for cash, and then sending the money to Katimavik’s National Office.

Our short term goal is $5000(500,000 pennies) but we hope to exceed that by approaching organizations, businesses and individuals( Liberal and non-Liberal) to match our fundraising or to make larger donations.

This is a Young Liberal initiative but we hope to make this as non-partisan as possible in order to engage with Katimavik alumni and the general public.

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Please “like” the “Pennies 4 Katimavik” facebook page: here. This isn’t merely a fundraising operation. They provide a backgrounder of facts on the Katimavik program (here) and they have set up an excellent Katimavik Advocacy Kit (here.) If you are in Ottawa please attend the launch party. If you cannot attend (or are living outside Ottawa, like me) then check the facebook page regularly for details on upcoming events.

*Pennies 4 Katimavik is not officially affiliated with Katimavik.

5 Questions: Parker Mackay

I first met Parker shortly after the 2011 federal election (specifically on May 17th when  we attended the “Liberal Renewal Dinner” in Toronto hosted by the Edward Blake Society.) Parker and I had a great conversation about our Liberalism and we made plans to start-up a Whitby-Oshawa Young Liberals (which we did end up doing, I am now V.P. Federal for the group and Parker Mackay is President.)

Parker is also a candidate on the OYL United Slate for the position of Riding Director. He is currently President of TWO (count ‘em two) OYL Clubs (the Glendon Young Liberals & the WOYL.) His experience with a campus club (Glendon) and a riding club (Whitby-Oshawa) make him quite qualified for the position. Parker is personally responsible for me getting as involved with the Ontario Young Liberals as I have this past year (specifically encouraging me to attend Ontario Model Parliament, OYL on Ice, and campaigning in Toronto-Danforth.) He is a strong/intelligent progressive voice and his thoughtful and empathetic demeanor make me proud to support him in the upcoming OYL election.

Here are his answers to my questions:

1. Why are you a Liberal?

One of my first significant political memories was of my Dad celebrating Chretien’s victory in 1999. I had wondered why it was important at all. I grew a little bit older and started to have an understanding of what politics mean. I held some socially conservative views at that time, but as I started reading more and more on politics, religion, and spirituality, I found that I appreciated the Liberal Party’s values. I’m a Liberal because I believe that a strong social safety net benefits everyone, and that the government can be a trusted and competent manager of our most prized resources and services; I believe that taxes are inherently helpful, and that by helping each of us succeed, including the wealthy and the impoverished, we all succeed; I believe that businesses are the best creators of jobs and should be respected and appreciated by governments; and I believe that society should continue to progress and that we should not fear change simply for the sake of tradition.

2. What was the highlight of the convention for you?

After myself and countless Young Liberals poured our hearts into Mike Crawley’s campaign, seeing him win was the highlight of the convention. From attending events, to blogging, to sharing links and talking to people on facebook, to handing out lit and working on a youth platform, there was a lot of hard work done to get Mike elected, and while originally viewed as an underdog, Mike emerged victorious. Another highlight was Zach Paikin’s speech shortly before voting began–it was rousing and easily one of the best oratory performances of the weekend.

3. What have you learned from campaigning in a very conservative riding (Whitby-Oshawa)?

I’ve come to appreciate how hard Liberals need to work to change hearts and minds door-by-door. It’s difficult to get to people when they slam the door in your face because the pamphlet you’re holding is the wrong colour for them. Fundraising is hard, recruiting is hard, getting noticed is hard, and staying relevant is hard. It’s an uphill battle, but incredibly satisfying to see your hard work pay off.

4. What policy issue are you most passionate about?

Anything related to crime policy. Our laws affect each and every citizen every day, both socially and fiscally. Unjust legislation can rob citizens of their freedom while providing no major benefit to our society. Mandatory minimum sentences and the war on drugs are two failed ideas that cost us billions of dollars each year while failing to solve the problems that they are supposed to address. I am worried that we are walking down a path toward a system focused more on ineffective and vindictive incarceration than helpful rehabilitation.

5. Who is your favourite Prime Minister?

Lester B. Pearson, because he was a true statesman, a noble man, decent human being, and a tremendously capable politician. Pearson accomplished more in his two minority governments than some Prime Ministers did with majority governments. Pearson has left a legacy that almost every Canadian will remember. Many of our strongest, most respected social services are thanks to his hard work and cooperation with the other political Parties in our House of Commons. He showed that even when facing down a hostile majority across the aisle, the word ‘adversity’ is not synonymous with ‘impossible.’