Trudeau’s First Cabinet

In which the author responds to random people on the internet as though they were one huge, multi-headed, flame breathing goblin.

Depending on how stupid you are, you have may have spent some part of today wondering how many of the women in Justin Trudeau’s newly appointed Cabinet were put in their positions simply to fill his much-discussed quota.

In the days leading up to today’s swearing-in, you may have reasoned that Trudeau and his team must have faced at least one choice between a guy they really wanted to appoint and their to create gender parity at the ministerial level. Was it Adam Vaughan or Andrew Leslie who got the boot? Was Bill Blair left aside in favour of a woman? And which of the women that were appointed got their jobs because they were really the best? Who was Male Choice #1 and who was the Female Quota Filler #10?

Have you considered that Trudeau may have started his process by selecting from the women in caucus? “Hey, Gerry,” he might have said, “why don’t we find 15 well-suited roles for the women in caucus and then fill the rest of the positions with the men? Y’know, instead of doing it the other way around like always.”

Or, maybe the choices were more obvious than that. Maybe Trudeau had 20 women in mind, or more, but had to pare it down to leave enough room for the guys. Maybe he’d have intended to appoint 25 women to Cabinet, but some of his picks failed to win a seat in the general election.

You’re no more likely to know Trudeau motivations or reasoning than you were Harper’s, Martin’s, Chretien’s or any previous Prime Minister. Maybe all the choices, male and female, were made to fill quotas. Can you envision Justin, Gerry and Katie sitting on the plane sketching out such a list? “We’ve should have two Sikhs, two indigenous persons, two people with Montreal accents, one from Montreal, but with a non-distinct accent…”

Just because Trudeau made a promise for gender parity doesn’t mean it was hard to keep and presuming otherwise is where you find the real sexism and misogyny in this debate; that finding 15 women for Cabinet posts was a big challenge, especially when you have to pick them from amidst all those fine men. Conceivably, Trudeau was so comfortable making the promise because he knew it would be easy to keep.

This could be a cynical political play, but if so, it’s a very short game. The bump he gets from good feelings will be gone by the time the Speech from the Throne is read a month from now and any points he may have scored with women voters don’t have much value on the first day of a 4 year mandate.

(Also, his purely political plays, like support for C-51, are usually accompanied by a long, loud farting sound, and no such emissions was heard on the grounds of Rideau Hall today.)

Maybe Trudeau really does encapsulate the best of the his mother and father. The reason with the rebellion. Compassion with will. Or maybe he’s a simple guy who decided to make a simple gesture. Or maybe he’s Gerry Butts’ puppet. Or maybe he’s playing a game so long only he can see the outcomes. Or. Or. Or.

Or perhaps it’s time to stop expecting women to prove themselves to men in traditionally male-dominated sectors, like politics. And yes, the road to equality of any kind, gender-based, racial, sexual, etc., may be paved with quotas but it’s only because white men have such a hard time getting the fuck out of the way.

Your concerns about Trudeau and the sad, male caucus members left out in the cold says more about your attitudes toward women than it does about Trudeau’s politics. Deal with that, already.

A Very Late Election Wrap-Up

Inequality and problems with governance ensure Ford Nation's longterm survival, despite Rob's "loss" of power.


Credit: Spacing Magazine

In December of 2013, in a piece on this blog, I wrote quite pessimistically about how our crap candidates and the cynical elections they sire. John Tory was painted as a hero Toronto needs right now, if only he’d run. Karen Stintz chose to run because she saw it as the next logical step. To where? Who knows? And Olivia Chow, so reticent to run you wondered why she needed so much convincing. With a field including a drug addict, a career also-ran, Council’s most ambitious member and a seemingly decent candidate who couldn’t make up her mind, I tempered my hopes that the 2014 campaign might provide a renewing fire, burning off deadfall from the Ford years.

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Measuring Failure in Measurable Terms

Analyzing the NDP's long-term potential might be the key to determining its leader's future.

“I can fit the NDP’s increase in vote share in the palm of my hand.”

On Twitter yesterday, after going on a long-ish tear about a piece Neil MacDonald wrote about rape culture for the CBC and my distaste for the intellectually crippling effects of nostalgia on baby boomers, I switched gears and starting talking about the NDP’s fortunes, or possible lack thereof.

The prevailing wisdom among journalists and columnists is that the NDP lost very badly. Not only did the (once and future) 3rd party, which held the balance of power in the 40th Parliament of Ontario, trigger an election by rejecting a bespoke budget, they also apparently pivoted to the right, bungled the campaign, alienated good chunks of their base and transformed themselves from power brokers to has-beens.

Some of these points are more debatable than others. Yes, the NDP did trigger an election the electorate didn’t (at the time) seem to want, and yes they rejected a budget that was essentially written on orange paper. But sparingly discussed is the cost to the NDP of being a power broker too long, when people may eventually only see them as kickstand, and kickstands don’t become governments.

As to the bungling of the campaign, I think all 3 parties ran pretty lacklustre, amateurish campaigns. Who thought “What Leadership Is” was a killer slogan? Who thought repeating “Makes Sense” a zillion times could make up for the absence of a platform, sensible or otherwise? And the Million Jobs fiasco? More that enough has been said about its cynical lunacy.

But what about the contention that the NDP lost a good chunk of their base and that the loss of those votes might banish the NDP to the hinterland? Does that prove out? I wondered about that…

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Ford, the Press, and the 12th Man

The news business is a business, and businesses have to find ways to make money. Obvious as that may be, I regularly have to remind myself that as honest, intrepid and incorruptible as the members of the City Hall Press Gallery may be, they are, in the summation, agents of competing, for-profit businesses.

And those businesses are, inarguably, having a rough go. Every month we’re told that readership is down, ads are down, jerks on the internet won’t pay, and the end is nigh. All of that is probably true, which is why Rob Ford is, for people in news, especially print news, manna from Heaven. Ford is, without a doubt, the best thing to happen to the news business in Toronto, ever. Ever.

It’s no wonder the press wants to keep Ford in office. The Mayor is a one-man headline-writing machine. Even in the pre-crack days, he was always saying or doing something newsworthy. Remember when the silliest thing Rob did was flip the bird at other drivers? How about the time he was reading documents while plowing down the Gardiner? Oh, the good old days. Of course we know now he was probably either stoned off his ass or drunk as fuck in those incidents, but we were more innocent then. They Mayor was just a dangerous lunatic, not a dangerous drug-addled, drunken lunatic. Simpler times.

Now that we’ve been dropped into the crater of a post-crack world, Ford has gone from being good for the news business to being the news business. Policy? What’s that? Votes at Council? Only important in the context of Rob and/or Doug’s looney position on a given matter. For the last 2 years, at least, the daily schedule at City Hall has broken down, roughly, like this:

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Giambrone, Paikin and responding to responses…

There’s something about Adam Giambrone’s last second run for the NDP nomination in Scarborough-Guildwood that really bothers me. In a post that’s rightfully received a lot of traction on social media, Audra Williams (@audrawilliams) does the heavy lifting of describing why Giambrone’s surprise appearance in Scarborough feels so greasy. Williams spreads a wide net, highlighting Giambrone’s personal failings, his ethnicity (or lack thereof) and the failings of the nomination process. But for me, it’s all about a process that seems at best to have been gamed, and a worst, rigged.

Zach Paikin, a person who fits both the old (money) and new (sex/race) definitions of privilege wasn’t comfortable seeing his Giambrone besmirched in this way and took to the Huffington Post to respond. His response, which I’ll pick apart in this post, is an object study in how not to defend someone.

First, why are we talking about Adam Giambrone at all.

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You Know Who…

I had a thought the other day when pondering the totality of the mess that is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Moreover, I was thinking about the massive amount of media resources dedicated to covering Toronto’s embattled chief bottle-washer and the fatigue that both the press and the electorate might be feeling come election time, next year. Will anyone have any energy left to care about the election? Will voter fatigue help or hurt Ford’s ambitions for re-election? Will the media still be able to cover the Mayor effectively when he’s done such a good job of setting the pace of coverage over his term?

While considering that, my mind drifted to Harry Potter. Specifically, Harry’s arch-nemesis, Voldemort.

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The BIG #ndpldr Roundtable

From the February 10th edition of the Friday Morning After on CKUT 90.3FM in Montreal and worldwide at

4 campaign reps from 4 different NDP leadership campaigns sit down to discuss their campaigns and why they think their candidate has the best vision for the party and the country.

For general info on the NDP Leadership campaign, go to

For more info on the Morning After, go to

To download, right click and choose “Save Link As”:

The Art of the Possible

Politics is the art of the possible.

  • Otto von Bismarck

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

  • Winston Churchill

I’m not a giddy person by nature. Sure, I’m happy enough. Well, happy enough for someone with my particular temperament. Which is not to say that I’m unhappy, but rather to say that I’m not terribly demonstrative or given to…well…giddiness.

But today’s news that the Federal New Democrats are planning to step up to the plate and defeat the government had me on cloud nine. Not only had the party I’d once supported and have recently maligned risen to its promise and refused to offer any further assistance to the corrupt and contemptible (both objectively and legally) Conservatives, but they’ve also presented us with an opportunity to reverse 10 years of political ennui in a mere 30 days.

Like so many others, I immediately took to the facebook-twitter-blogosphere to express my joy over our likely election. Not surprisingly, my happiness was met with the usual Conservative memes: namely, “elections don’t change anything”, “elections are too costly” and the crème de la crème; “elections are too risky”.

If you feel like you’ve been addressing these arguments for a long time, you have. Cynicism has become the predominant symptom of our current governmental reality. And rather than rise above it, we’ve not only allowed it to fester, but we’ve also allowed our representatives to use it against us. The Conservatives haven’t been in power for 5 years because their better, they’ve been in power for 5 years because they convinced us to stop worrying about who’s in power. Through endless media assaults, the Harperites have convinced a great number of us to believe that as long as everything is mostly OK, why should we bother worrying about who’s in office?

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VoteTO: The Home Stretch to Nowhere

So here we are in the final week of the campaign. In 6 long days, this campaign of 2010 will become our 4yr. hangover when whichever of these dopes we elect will take their turn fucking over one part of the city or another. Probably several at a time. Bumbling, blustering Rob Ford will take great pride in teaching downtown residents a lesson in much the same way Joe Pantalone will ignore the 50% of the city or so who evidently don’t give a shit about public transit or bike lanes. Smitherman…well, he’ll piss off everyone equally. The left will self-righteously attack him for lying about being a progressive. And because he’s a Liberal, he’ll inevitably infuriate the right with a graft scandal or two.

You wish we had a 4th option? Well, so do I. But the job of Mayor of Toronto is a sucker gig and the really smart people don’t fall for a sucker gig. And no amount of bullshit ballot ranking systems are going to fix that. You want to attract talent, you have to make the job worth having.

While pondering my unenthusiastic support of George Smitherman (read my quasi-endorsement) I’ve come upon a few revelations that I’d like to share with you tonight.

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VoteTO: A No Humble Opinions Endorsement

No matter where I go, my heart is always in Parkdale.

In some ways, this election has been the easiest ever for downtown, progressive types like me. Not only has there been an obvious target for our righteous rage, the apparent lack of a clear alternative has allowed liberal progressives to lazily wallow in depression and negativity while avoiding the difficult work of supporting a particular idea and by extension, a candidate as well as the painstaking work of defending their choice to others.  This campaign is all negativity; from the leading candidate on down to his most ardent detractors. Negativity is so very simple because it’s purely reactive. Your opponent says or does something and you react. And thanks to Twitter and Facebook, you don’t even have to leave the house to be on the reactionary bandwagon.

To be fair, I’ve not only been on the Anti-Rob Ford bandwagon, at times I’ve been pulling it forward with my teeth. I’ve taken pot shots, at various times I’ve wished violence upon Rob Ford and/or his supporters and I’ve engaged in brutal arguments with good friends about the mental capacity of Ford’s supporters. And to be clear, in general it’s been great sport. Ford is not only an easy target, he constantly provides you with new material. A fact which makes attacking Ford a very hard habit to break. Truly, were I not deeply concerned about Ford’s chances of winning and the untold damage his mayoralty would do to our city, I might be inclined to keep the blinders on and hammer away on Ford until judgement day…or the election.

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