Monday, November 14, 2016

Hamilton Politics

Boundary Making*

                     Sixteen blinkered decision makers in the city of ambitions

                                                  Advised by experts to create more democratic conditions

                                                   Know, of course, what`s best for the municipality

                                                   Yet their views are fraught with illogicality

                                                   We need leadership not colouring competitions.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Canadians Need Access to Reasonably Priced Financial Services

(Here is a letter to the editor I sent recently to a number of newspapers .)

Dear Editor,

Good communities provide residents and businesses with easy access to reasonably priced financial services.

Such access is eroding in Canada.

The big five chartered banks have been exiting downtown cores of major Canadian cities for years.

Many small communities, have no banks or credit unions at all.

Moreover, fees are an issue. Only thirty years ago, banks did not charge fees but now these charges are amongst the highest in the world.

“Fringe” financial institutions like Money Mart and the Cash Store have stepped in to fill the void and make big bucks while charging exorbitant fees.

There is some regulation of these fringe institutions. In 2008, for example, the Ontario government, concerned about excessive charges, brought in regulations. These controls were inadequate so the government is in the process of setting new rules.

Meanwhile many Canadians don’t have bank accounts.

The solution to this problem (and others) is to bring back postal banking.

Canadians had access to Postal Banking for more than one hundred years. When the Post Office Savings Bank ceased operations in 1968, nearly 300,000 accounts closed down. At its peak in 1908, deposits in the bank totalled 47.5 million (equivalent to $1 billion in today’s money). Meanwhile postal banking is thriving in other parts of the world. Japan Post Bank, for example, has $2 trillion in assets.

The government is currently conducting a public review of Canada Post, Postal banking is an idea whose time has come again.

Bob Wood
Port Rowan

Interested readers can learn more at

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Six Council Votes that Show why Hamilton Ward Boundaries Need to Change*

(This story appeared originally in August at 

Here is some history most of you will know.

In 2001 amalgamation of the City of Hamilton with Ancaster, Dundas Flamborough, Glanbrook and Stoney Creek took place. The amalgamation resulted in eight council seats for the 70% of residents living in old Hamilton. Seven council seats were set up for the 30% percent in the five former suburbs. Sixteen years later it seems that important council votes support the minority (30%) over the majority (70%).  For example:

*Households in the former suburbs continue to pay only about a third of the transit taxes that residents of the old city pay.

*Harbour cleanup has been delayed. Suburban Councillors (and then Mayor Bratina) did not support speeding up the cleanup of the Randle Reef. A proposed meeting with federal and provincial politicians might have done that.
*Nearly all suburban councillors voted in May to defer a decision on whether Hamilton wants the billion-dollar provincial investment for Light Rapid Transit (LRT).
*Suburban councillors (and Terry Whitehead) voted against looking at the possibility of tolls for “out-of-town” truck traffic on the Red Hill and Linc expressways.
*The King Street bus-only lane was killed by suburban councillors and three Hamilton mountain councillors.
*In April 2015 those 7 suburban councillors (along with Councillor Whitehead) voted to postpone the often delayed ward boundary review.  Fortunately, this vote lost on a tie.
That tie vote means that there is now an opportunity to change ward boundaries.  Contact your elected municipal officials to Make Change.  Tell them those boundaries must respect the important democratic principle of fair representation by population.
*CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) is a volunteer community group that encourages civic participation in Hamilton.  Their articles which were the prime source for the above can be found at

Monday, August 01, 2016

Ontario Government to Help Tenants - But Hold on a Minute

(This story originally appeared in July at

This looks like a classic case of government responding to an interest group at the expense of the broader public interest.

We are talking about the consultation paper recently put out by the provincial government.  The paper is called Consultation Paper on Proposals to Encourage Small Landlords to Provide Rental Housing.

This paper purports to be looking for input to improve the Ontario Government’s Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy (LTAHS).

The government has floated a bunch of ideas.  They claim these changes would help small landlords create more housing and address barriers that these potential affordable housing creators face.

Unfortunately, these ideas, if implemented, would “contribute to further homelessness and erode hard-won tenant protections.”

That is the opinion expressed by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants of Ontario (ACTO.)  ACTO is a legal clinic which works to better the housing situation of Ontario residents who have low incomes including tenants, co-op members and people who are homeless.  ACTO put together a forceful submission to the Ministry of Housing. A few examples of the kind of ideas floated in the paper and ACTO’s responses follows.

Ministry Idea:      
Require tenants to disclose any issues that they intend to raise at rental eviction hearings prior to the hearing.

ACTO Response:  
This proposal would bring back procedural barriers to justice for tenants.

Ministry Idea:      
Allow landlords and tenants to file the unsworn statements in support of  applications and motions, rather than affidavits.                                  

ACTO Response:
Clearly the impetus for this proposal is a desire to expedite landlords’ eviction applications.              

Ministry Idea:  
Explore whether any changes should be made to the process for appealing  decisions of the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) to Divisional Court.

ACTO Response:
Based on the widely–reported actions of a few criminals, landlord organizations are attempting to limit the effectiveness of the Superior Court’s supervision of the LTB by making it even more difficult than it already is for tenants to exercise these important and rarely-used appeal rights.                                                            

So, you’ll get the idea from these brief excerpts that the government’s proposals will be of no help to tenants.  And one other thing we should mention is this.  By and large the proposed changes would apply to most tenants not just those renting from small landlords.  

You can read ACTO’s full submission at!AvRzOEPfSVfDk3a5u5WgjoU8Rgff

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

City of Hamilton Moves Forward with Poverty Initiative

Earlier this month Hamilton City Council supported Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s motion to commit $50M towards poverty reduction.  Eisenberger (right) had brought the motion to the City's General Issues Committee in April.

Among other things Council approved:

  • A $20 million allocation to increase affordable housing and improve the state of good repair of housing.
  • $3 million a year over 10 years for poverty reduction with the funds coming from the merger of Horizon Utilities Corporation and several other local utilities.
  • Engagement with partners to help develop a strategy.                                                                                 
  • Leveraging of funding commitments. Loans and grants from senior levels of government, school boards, and foundations as well as other potential contributors from the private sector will be sought.

City staff have been directed to develop a detailed 10-year integrated poverty reduction plan by October.

Mayor Eisenberger attended a conference in Edmonton recently. The conference, called Cities Reducing Poverty - When Mayors Lead, obviously inspired Eisenberger to do just that.

(Here are some reflections from Danielle Klooster of the Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance on the conference

Back to Hamilton, where there was some opposition in the community and from two members of Council to the city taking some leadership.  Predictably, such opposition is based on myths and misunderstanding and/or just plan ignorance about poverty.

You’ve heard them.

These problems are the responsibility of senior governments.

You are encouraging more generational welfare and poverty by making more money available.

It will duplicate services.
 Howard Elliott did a fine job of addressing these myths and others in an editorial in the Hamilton Spectator.

You can read it at

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

London Ontario Endorses Poverty Plan

 (This post originally appeared at 

Earlier this month Last night City Council in London Ontario gave unanimous support to a report called London for All – A Roadmap to End Poverty.

An eight member panel including former Hamilton Deputy Medical Officer of Health Chris Mackie (pictured to the right) produced the report after six months of consultation. It contains 112 recommendations.  

Remarkably, many of these recommendations are intended to be acted upon within twelve months.

Here is a sampling of the recommendations.

Eight Recommendations from the (London Ontario) Mayor’s Advisory Panel on Poverty that Impressed Us

**Increase the number of organizations providing Indigenous Cultural Safety training.
**Become a Basic Income Guarantee pilot site.
**Engage landlords in keeping more people housed.
**Allow children under 12 to ride public transit free.
**Leverage funding and invest in the regeneration of existing London and Middlesex Housing   Corporation (LMHC) properties.
**Increase the number of licensed childcare spaces.
**Reduce the wait time to receive childcare subsidy
**Engage people with lived experience in democratic processes and institutions.

You can read the full report at

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Local Leaders Talking about Reducing Poverty

It is encouraging to see that the Tamarack Institute is running a conference in Edmonton this week dedicated to looking at how municipal governments can and should make poverty reduction a major priority.

The Event is called Cities Reducing Poverty: When Mayors Lead.  Organizers are billing the conference is as a milestone event. I’m watching it from afar on twitter (#MayorsPovertySummit) and can say that the billing seems on the mark. It began yesterday and wraps up tomorrow (April 7th).

Pam McConnell
Participants in the Conference include Mayors of major cities like Don Iveson of Edmonton, Brian Bowman, Winnipeg’s first Aboriginal Mayor, Fred Eisenberger of Hamilton and others. 

Pam McConnell, Deputy Mayor of Toronto who leads Toronto's Poverty Reduction Strategy, is a presenter.

I’m hoping the conference will get the wheels turning faster to tackle problems like the impacts on gentrification on communities (and particularly on people with lower incomes) and also look at human rights issues.  We’ve written about the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living before  Municipalities undoubtedly have a role to play here.

Calgary's Mayor Nenshi
The Calgary Herald ran a story yesterday talking about Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s involvement in the conference and his call for a guaranteed annual income.  You can read that story at

Following this event on twitter yesterday it was encouraging that when speaking about poverty participants were going beyond the idea of reduction and actually talking about the “elimination” of poverty.  Good to see.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Finding a Way to Fight Big Mac at the OMB (A bit of Burlington Community History)

Do we need the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB)? 

Citizens, developers and many municipalities have called for it to be dismantled.

The Ontario government has given a big “No” to that notion. 

Ted McMeekin, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, told CBC last week that "we need a body like the OMB because sometimes people break the rules."

So, McMeekin’s Ministry is going to review the OMB with an eye to reform it by foiling those rule breakers.  McMeekin is looking for ideas.

He’ll get no help from me. I ought to have an opinion but my views are a bit muddled.

That’s likely because I’ve become far too familiar with a long ago OMB hearing.  That hearing dealt with an attempt by a developer to put a McDonald’s restaurant in Parkwood Plaza at the corner of Kenwood and Lakeshore in south east Burlington.  In fact, not just one, but three OMB hearings were held.  At the end of the third one a resident’s group was successful in blocking this inappropriate use of a small plaza.  Their success came thirty-six years ago this Friday (April 1, 1980).

Using accounts from local and national papers, I’ve been slowly putting together a bit of a community history of this seven year battle.  Following is a small excerpt from that work in progress.  The excerpt deals with some of the barriers residents faced in trying to cover the costs of an OMB appeal.  The difficulty for residents and municipalities in mounting a case at the OMB remains a concern. Something, perhaps, for McMeekin to consider.
Some of the Cast of Characters

*Jim Ryan - east end resident and frequent spokesperson for residents. Later elected as City Alderman for Ward 8.
*The Committee Against The Establishment of a Restaurant in Parkwood Plaza (CAERPP) - residents' group.
*Herman Turkstra - well known lawyer and former Member of the City of Hamilton Board of Control.
*Doug Brown - Solicitor for the City of Burlington.
*Joan Allingham - Chair of Council’s Development.  Perhaps better known now as Joan Little, columnist for the Hamilton Spectator.
*Dalewest Construction - Owner of Parkwood Plaza.

For many years the City of Burlington’s Community Services Committee had convened a January meeting to consider funding requests.  Typically, the requests came from recreational, sports or cultural groups.
Parkwood Plaza in the '70's- Burlington Post

Three sessions of the committee would be held in 1979 to look at 35 requests totalling $386,164.

But January’s meeting would consider a request from a resident’s group.  The Committee Against
The Establishment of a Restaurant in Parkwood Plaza (CAERPP) wanted help to foot a portion of their legal bills.

Committee Chair Jim Grieve expressed concern.
“This is a whole new thing.  We could end up financing someone who is suing us.”

At Saturday’s third meeting of the Committee Grieve ruled that the request should go to the Administrative Committee for consideration on the following Tuesday. That body met in camera for half an hour and when they convened in a public session determined in a 3-2 vote that CAERPP should receive $7,500 for their legal costs.

This was a first – a request from a citizen’s group fighting a development proposal.

Recently elected Mayor Roly Bird defended the decision.
“We have been given to understand that the city’s case will be greatly enhanced by their continued participation.”

Bird proposed a $7,500 grant as a compromise after an earlier motion for more money by Alderman Linda Pugsley had failed receiving support of only one other member of the committee, Walter Mulkewich of Ward One.

Mayor Bird was known as a man of strong opinions.  So there must have been many surprised citizens when 6 days later he had a different one.

Bird told Council that “a number of advisers” he had in the in the city told him they did not support paying the residents’ lawyer.
“I don’t feel the city’s case and the residents’ case will be that much jeopardized by the non-participation of their legal person.”

A strange statement indeed.  Bird continued: 
“We have to ask is this the City’s fight.”

With that Council rejected the position of its Administration Committee.

Ward 8 City Alderman Bill O’Connell called Council’s position “pitiful.” 

Other Council members claimed that if the City joined with CAERPP they could expose the city to legal action.
“The City could have been liable for many thousands of dollars for last revenues by Dalewest and McDonald’s," Jim Grieve claimed.

Grieve, a realtor, said this legal advice was received last year.

Others, like Joan Allingham and Rob Forbes disagreed that such an opinion had been offered.
Joan Allingham Little

On becoming aware of the City’s rejection of financial support for his group, Jim Ryan had sharp words.
“The mayor indicated that the city is well qualified to handle the situation.  Maybe we’ll just let them handle it.”
Ryan went on.
“I wish I had as much confidence in them.  They blew it last time and they’ll blow it again.  They don’t have the specialized expertise McDonald’s and Dalewest have.”

What now? Alderman O’Connell thought that the residents would end their fight.

Doing the City’s Job

The residents convened the night after Council’s decision.
“It was a hell of a blow,” Ryan told the Spectator.

The committee had already accumulated $13,000 in legal bills and the meter was still running.  What fundraising opportunities were still open to them?  More garage sales, dances?
That’s a hell of a lot of dancing and garage sales,” said Ryan to the idea of raising $8,000 more.

The group decided that a lottery could bring in money and be an indication of broader community support. CAERPP members began to sell tickets for a Valentine’s Day draw.  First prize would be $500.

The Committee knows they need lawyer Herman Turkstra, who they had engaged a year earlier.
While the City’s position was similar to the residents, the city’s lawyer can’t really represent the residents’ interests.
“We need our own solicitor.  To be successful, the city needs our lawyer,” Ryan asserted. It wasn’t just Ryan who felt this way.
East End Resident Jim Ryan addressing City Council in 1978-
Burlington Post Photo 

Alderman O’Connell talked to city solicitor Doug Brown and came away feeling the City has little hope. “If the residents pull out we might as well forget it.”

As lottery tickets were being sold speculation continued as to what the City should do.

The Burlington Post editorialized that if sufficient funds were not raised in the lottery the city had to make a choice. 

Would they mount an effective opposition to McDonald’s/Dalewest and could it present the necessary arguments “without leaving itself open to future confrontation?"

The Post seemed to think that this was about property values.  In their view, the city would put itself in a bad spot if it argued that putting a McDonald’s in the plaza would lower property values.  The Post misunderstood the issue as did many citizens then and now.  While residents are concerned about such things as property values, the OMB and municipal planning in general are not.

But the residents had no intention of giving up. Perhaps other Burlington observers thought as much.
“There was no intimation we’d drop out, even if we had to go without our solicitor,” said Ryan.

Advertisements for the continuation of the hearing ran in the Post on the same day that another story broke.  Now the province was going to review the legality of CAERPP’s lottery. Lawyers for Dalewest Construction had written the Ontario Lottery Corporation (OLC) claiming that the lottery had contravened Ontario’s regulations.

Don Speight, assistant to the director of the OLC, said that a lottery must be for charitable purposes. It must go for relief of the poor, the advancement of education or religion or “any purpose that is of benefit to the community.”

While the OLC’s investigation was going on, lottery organizers were told not to spend any of the lottery’s proceeds.  CAERPP had put down $14 for the licence in November although there were some questions about it at the time. 
“When they first came to me I was not prepared to issue a licence,” claimed City Clerk Don Briault.

But City Solicitor Doug Brown said it was legal.
Doug Brown, City Solicitor

Three thousand, two hundred and thirty-two (3,232) one dollar tickets had been sold to people who, Ryan said, bought the tickets to help with the legal bills.  From Ryan’s perspective the draw was legal because the city had licensed it, Dalewest’s complaint could result in the money being handed over to a charity.  People would be angry.
They did not donate to a charity or a religious organization, they donated to cover our legal expenses,” said Ryan.

With the OLC studying the matter one might have expected silence from government officials.  Not so. 
A spokesman for the Ministry of Consumer and Corporate Relations told the Burlington Post that the lottery was probably illegal.
“Let’s face it. I’ve never heard of a lottery licence being issued to a group espousing a political viewpoint,” said Ed Ciemigap whose department was apparently exploring legal precedents.

Turkstra was incredulous that none of the parties involved in the determination of the lottery issue had contacted the residents.
The Ministry seem to have the idea the (citizens) group is engaged in a political process.  What they are doing is supporting the position of the City.”

Soon (March 21st) the Attorney General’s office told the Post that the chances of CAERPP being charged were fairly remote.
“Presumably Turkstra and his clients have nothing to worry about," Julian Polika ventured.
Bob Wood grew up not far from the Parkwood Plaza.  He hopes to have the whole story complete later in the spring. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

What is Gentrification and What can we do about it?

(This story originally appeared in The Anvil Hamilton`s Topical News Quarterly - December 2015. House prices in the Hamilton area jumped more than any other real estate market in Canada in the past year.)

Good news for some. But on balance this development is something we should be concerned about.

Tenants living in Hamilton's downtown core are being displaced from their homes and communities as an influx of new development and investment continues to reduce the city's affordable housing stock.  Displacement affects tenants' health, access to education, and employment -- resources that tenants need to thrive.  It is called gentrification.

Geography Professor David Ley, writing in the book the Canadian City, had this to say about gentrification.

“Gentrification deserves considerably more attention than it has received in Canada, if for one significant reason.  One of the most serious policy concerns in Canadian cities over the past 15 years has been the non-availability of affordable housing (especially rental units).”

Ley wrote these words nearly thirty years ago (in 1986) regarding a trend that had already been in motion for 15 years. 

What is gentrification?

The term became popular in the 1960’s. British sociologist Ruth Glass used it to describe the phenomenon of young “bohemians” moving into a rundown part of London England.  The bohemians were taking the place of long-standing, blue-collar communities who could no longer afford to live there. Glass saw this as a problem.  However, over time the term gentrification has been replaced by a kinder word “regeneration”   Regeneration seems to suggest that communities are being improved.

We’ll call it gentrification - “the fin is above the water. Below is the rest of the shark." That is how
American writer Rebecca Solnit refers to what has happened in her hometown of San Francisco.  It is now a “hollow city” with an economy where "most of us will be poorer, a few will be far richer, and everything will be faster, more homogenous and more controlled or controllable". (Robert Bevan in the Guardian, February 27, 2014)

The City of Hamilton is somewhat unique as far as gentrification goes. Research that was released earlier this year is illustrative. (A City on the Cusp: Neighbourhood Change in Hamilton since 1970 -
Professor Richard Harris
Richard Harris Jim Dunn, Sarah Wakefield)

Most of us will be familiar with how the decline in manufacturing has impacted our city.  This research takes a look at what deindustrialization and other trends (growth of the service industry, deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, etc.. ) has done to neighbourhoods.

Here is the thrust of their argument.

Historically, Hamilton has been fairly unique in that there has been relative income equality across all its neighbourhoods.  That has changed.  We now have “a marked segregation of the poor and a steady polarization of neighbourhoods.”

Using a measure of income inequality called the Gini coefficient, the authors argue that income inequality has increased in Hamilton more rapidly than any other city in Canada.  The rates of housing poverty (where households spend excessive amounts of income on housing) rival that of cities like Vancouver and Toronto where housing is much more expensive.  With downtown neighbourhoods being gentrified, residents and problems associated with income disparities are moving to Mountain neighbourhoods.

What Can be Done?

Professor Ley’s article cited above hit on some of the policy approaches that can be taken to tackle the problems caused by gentrification. 

Building more affordable housing is one approach.  Government, particularly at the federal level, has shown little interest in this strategy of late. 

Some municipalities, including Hamilton, have tried to retain existing housing through local regulations like demolition controls and restrictions on condominium conversions.   This doesn’t seem to be making much difference. 

Government programs in the seventies designed to preserve and enhance properties like the Neighbourhood Improvement Program (NIP) worked.  Neighbourhood decay may be too far advanced for such initiatives to succeed.

Right to the City ( and other groups in the United States have put forward the argument that gentrification violates the rights of people who are displaced because they can’t afford increased rents.  The argument is that those rights are guaranteed under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Article 25 of this Declaration asserts that everyone has a right to housing.  Other rights are spelled out.  The Declaration was ratified in 1948 before gentrification was identified.  It will be interesting to see how this human rights approach proceeds.

In addition though, Right to the City and other American groups have developed programs and toolkits for those who are trying to halt the displacement of poor and disadvantaged individuals and families.

Perhaps we can look to these approaches for solutions to the problems gentrification is creating in Hamilton.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Police Budgets and Driving Slowly

(Here is a bit of a rewrite of a story published three years ago.  It appeared as a Bob’s Blog piece i
Lately there has been a lot in the media about police budgets. Unlike most people’s, police budgets keep getting bigger.

In December 2014, criminologist Michael Kempa wrote about the issue in a piece in the Toronto Star (

He cited “leapfrogging” contracts and the ever-increasing complexity of social problems that police deal with as two reasons for the increases.

Kempa thinks we need to get police services back to their “core functions.”

This is, of course, not a new idea. Long-time police critic and former Toronto mayor John Sewell reiterated his long-held view that “police should go back to the fundamentals.”

“Get out of the car instead of using the drive-through lane,” he told the London Free Press (

This week in Toronto (February 15-21, 2016) there is a budget battle in the works with some Councillors determined to make some change to the police budget.  Good luck to them.  We’ll need courageous municipal politicians to step to the plate, draw a line in the budget sand and force police services to explore these or any new ideas.    

I was once such a courageous municipal politician. That’s my story anyway.

Simple, Definitely not
and a Slow Driver
There was a day when, through a procedural quirk, I, a simple Ward Councillor, was poised to freeze the police budget. This was when I was Regional Councillor and had for a year ascended to the lofty heights of budget committee member. There were only four on the committee and one member was absent that day. Following my persuasive presentation I believed I had convinced a second member to vote for a freeze to the police budget. We would win the day with a 2-1 majority. Long story short: I had, of course, overrated my procedural and oratorical prowess and the police got their money as they always do. I don’t remember any members of the public or media present that day. All the senior police brass were there though.

I drove like an undertaker for some time after my 15 minutes of oppositional fame. To this day, I bet there is no one who does the textbook-perfect lane changes that I do. 


Monday, February 15, 2016

The Right to an Adequate Standard of Living - Something to Consider for Municipalities

(The story that follows is an edited version of one that originally appeared at

Ten years ago, Craig Foye a lawyer at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic presented to the United Nations in Geneva Switzerland on the growing levels of poverty in Hamilton. That presentation also talked about the failure of senior levels of government to provide an adequate standard of living for those experiencing poverty. *

Craig Foye, Lead author of Update

Foye’s report started an important conversation about the adequacy of social assistance rates.

Recently, Foye updated that report and forwarded it to the the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). **  Earlier this month, Foye spoke to the City of Hamilton’s Emergency and Community Services Committee about the update.

This updated report authored by Foye in collaboration with Laura Cattari and Tom Cooper of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and Sara Mayo of the Social Planning & Research Council of Hamilton is intended to assist the CESCR in assessing the degree to which Canada is conforming to its obligations under the Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights.

Request of Hamilton City Council

On behalf of the Clinic, the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and the Social Planning and Research Council, Foye made two requests.

First, he asked that Hamilton City Council endorse “The Right to an Adequate Standard of Living: An Update to the 2006 Report”, and write to the United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights to confirm that endorsement to the UN Committee.

Secondly, he requested that Council direct staff to research the possibility of Hamilton becoming a Human Rights City. ***

An edited version of Craig Foye’s presentation follows.

The Presentation

I propose to speak briefly regarding the follow-up report to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights regarding the Government of Canada's non-compliance with Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
Article 11 of the Covenant guarantees the right to an adequate standard of living. Paragraph 1 of

Article 11 reads:

The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent.

Unfortunately, as both reports show, the right to an adequate standard of living is not being acknowledged or protected by either the Provincial or Federal Governments.

We continue to have social assistance rates that fall far below subsistence levels of income, and those rates remain arbitrary numbers with no relation to the actual cost of basic necessities; although efforts have been made in this area by the Provincial government, the situation continues to gets worse as rates fail to keep pace with the increase in the costs of basic necessities such as rent and food.

While efforts have been made to respond locally to the homelessness crisis, we are nowhere close to providing the numbers of housing subsidies required, and the Landlord and Tenant Board of Ontario (like the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal before it) continues to evict many thousands of tenants for arrears of rent. The number of unemployed workers who qualify for employment insurance benefits locally remains at alarming levels, particularly for women. The minimum wage remains below poverty levels, meaning that even those workers working full-time or more may not be able to pull their family out of poverty. Not surprisingly, we continue to see local individuals and families who cannot afford to feed themselves turning to food-banks and meal programs in unprecedented numbers.

Unfortunately, this poverty is being experienced disproportionately by many already vulnerable groups, including, but not limited to: women, seniors, newcomers, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, and visible minorities.

Action Taken

After hearing the presentation, the Committee has agreed to recommend that City Council endorse the UN report. Councillor Merulla added an amendment that the letter refer to the unfairness of the tax system in Canada as it applies to municipalities.

The Committee also recommended that Council direct staff to research and report back regarding Hamilton becoming a Human Rights City.


*Craig recorded some of his observations from his 2006 trip to Geneva at

**The Right to An Adequate Standard of Living in Hamilton

**Learn more about Human Rights Cities at

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

We Went South

Last week we alerted you to the fact When the Mayor Smiles was going south.  All politics are local politics we said, not very originally. (American Democrat politician Tip O’Neill apparently first coined the phrase in 1932.)

Friend and colleague Andrew Bome was heading to New Hampshire as a “political tourist.”  He had done this before (in 2008).  At that time, he reported back to Hamilton’s Raise the Hammer.  We asked him if he’d do it for us this time.  Andrew agreed.

Starting last Friday and ending this morning Andrew sent us six stories. We did our best to post in a timely fashion.
Snowy Saturday in New Hampshire

You can find all the posts by scrolling down on this page.

You can find those 2008 Raise the Hammer posts at

Primary Day and Reflections

(Andrew C. Bome is heading home today.  Here are some of his observations from yesterday and reflections on what last night's results may mean for the US Presidential race.)

Tuesday morning was the day of the primary.  Our only real plans were to check out some polling places to see some candidates; we hadn’t seen either Ben Carson or John Kasich and had to check them off our list.  Ben Carson was having an event at a diner; we went, had breakfast and saw the back of Ben Carson’s head.  He teleported out of the diner before I was able to take his picture; at least breakfast was nice.  We did manage to get to a polling place where Kasich was still speaking to the media; it included someone from the Russian media.

Nuggets of Wisdom for Denmark

The evening was taken up by the Clinton victory party.  The doors opened after we got their, so we ended up in a queue in the cold.  I overheard someone at the lineup saying that she hadn’t volunteered yet for Hillary; I am thinking she is a little late.

Hillary Concedes
We were able to manage to get seats in the bleachers with a good view of the podium; being middle aged I prefer sitting to standing. 

Sadly, there was no wifi at the auditorium, the phone coverage was terrible and no-one at the event set up a television to broadcast the result.    Effectively during the first hour after the polls closed Alan and I were effectively in radio silence.    Someone nearby was able to connect to the outside world, so we knew that Hillary had lost on Democratic side and that Trump won on the Republican side.  Neither of the results was surprising, but many, myself included, wanted something different.

The concession speech was good.  She was defiant and she promised to continue on; she said she was knocked down, but she will get up again (but she never said anything about being left down).  The audience was excited and cheering her on.  The next stop for Hillary is Nevada and South Carolina; she has to win those.

On the way out, we got an illustration of how much media there is in New Hampshire during primary time.  Some roving reporter with a camera got an interview with Alan; he was from Danish television.   I’m guessing that Danes will be getting some nuggets of wisdom about New Hampshire from some random Canadian dude.

What it all Means

The results were interesting.  Trump won and won big; that size of his win was a bit of a surprise.  Kashich’s second place wasn’t surprising; he did well in the debate and had been covering the state a lot.  Rubio’s bad debate performance mattered; he came in 5th place right below Bush.   Cruz eked out third place.  Christie came in 6th; he destroyed Marco Rubio in the debate, but it did not help him.  He says he is going to South Carolina today, but if his flight connects through Newark, he might deplane.
Bernie at a Campaign  Event on the Weekend

The Democratic results were a bit of a shock.  Bernie was always going to win, but the polls were narrowing.  But the actual results had Bernie 22% ahead of Hillary.  No amount of spin can make that result look good.  I still think that Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States; I am just less sure of that now than I was yesterday.   On the Republican side we know that Christie is going home; news is that he is stopping in New Jersey.  Fiorina and Carson may claim that they are continuing; they won’t be getting any coverage, won’t be getting debate spots and won’t be able to raise any more money.  Rubio is in deep trouble; he will not be able to fund raise off his New Hampshire result and for people not named Trump, campaigns run on other people’s money.  Kasich is out of money, but his result will let him raise lots to let him continue.  As for Cruz, 3rd is a great result; he wasn’t expecting to do well and came out in a respectable 3rd place.  His campaign may have legs in the south.   Bush has money and he did somewhat better than expected.  Given that Graham has endorsed him, my guess is that his plan is to put lots of resources in South Carolina and that his plan depends on him winning there.  If Bush does, he will be the candidate; if Bush doesn’t, I have no clue what will happen.

We leave today to head back home.  Both Alan and I had fun, and we may do it again in 4 years.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Dy 3 & 4 - more candidates; and Trump!!!

(Andrew C. Bome brings a critical Canadian perspective to the New Hampshire Primary.) 

Plan for Sunday was to go to a Fiorina event before the Super Bowl and then go to the Rubio Super Bowl party.  At some point during the day, we also made plans to attend a Jim Gilmore event; Governor Gilmore is low keyed, and we thought it would be the only chance at a sighting.

Carly Fiorina is an odd candidate.  Her only run for public office was a failed Senate bid in California.  Her big claim to fame is that the was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard; that sounds like a really impressive accomplishment, until you realize that at Hewlett-Packard she bet the company on a takeover of Compaq and almost lost it.  By the time the Board fired her she had destroyed a huge chunk of the value of Hewlett-Packard. Despite her incompetence, she got a massive severance to leave (depending on who you ask she either got $21 million or $42 million).  She really represents everything that is wrong with modern capitalism.  She was an executive that made a huge bet with other people’s money.  Had it worked out, she would have been a hero and paid a fortune; it didn’t work out and she got a fortune anyways.  I am guessing that I am not the only person who is unimpressed by Ms. Fiorina; she is at 5% in the polls or less.

We arrived at the Carly event just as she was leaving.  We had some wings and nachos, courtesy of the Carly campaign, and some tea that was a tepid as her campaign.  She left shortly after we arrived.  In my view, the perfect candidate meeting.

We then headed out to the Marco Rubio Super Bowl watch party.  It was at a sports complex that look more like an astroturfed warehouse than anything sporting related.    There were no Koch brother wings, but we were able to have pizza on the candidate; sweet, dinner was free.  We met a lady from North Carolina; she was a political tourist like we were.  She likes meeting candidates and being in a state that is neither an early primary state nor usually a swing state, they rarely come to her state.  So every four years she goes to New Hampshire; she told tales of being served CanapĂ©’s by waiters in tuxedos at a Forbes event in 1992.    She beats us at any of our political tourism.

Marco spoke to the crowd.  His views are somewhat odd.  His main claim about what is wrong with Obama is that he is trying to make America more like the rest of the world and taking away what makes America special.  Apparently Obama is clever that way.  Speaking as someone from the rest of the world, I actually welcome the United States becoming more like the rest of us.  The rest of his speech was just going through a laundry list of conservative talking points; he even name checked Benghazi. I had so much red meat thrown at me that I seriously considered becoming a vegetarian.  Two amusing lines; first, Marco hates disco.  Second, he claimed he would be President for everyone; after last night’s debate I am not sure that would include Chris Christie.

Jim Gilmore had an event in Windham.  It was the same school that Alan and I had chowder with Chuck Norris and Mike Huckabee in 2008.  This time things were different.  Jim Gilmore is a former governor of Virginia and was governor during 9/11; he has some credibility as a candidate.  However, during the Iowa caucuses he came dead last and polled below “other” on the Republican side.    At first I was really impressed; there were 100 people waiting for him to speak and this was in the midst of the Super Bowl.  I thought this was what made New Hampshire great; they take their responsibilities seriously and will listen to even the least credible candidates. 

I was wrong.  Alan noticed that almost all of the crowd were really young and he wondered if this was a bunch of students on a field trip.  Alan nailed it; it turns out that most of the people in the crowd were students from Hofstra University in Long Island on a field trip to New Hampshire.  Beside these students, there was me and Alan, one 9/11 truther and precisely 1 New Hampshire voter.    The voter did not stay for the whole thing.  I think at that point he stopped being a candidate for President, but was playing one for the benefit of some Hofstra students.  I could talk about what he thought, but he wasn’t all that impressive and did not seem prepared; I know being able to think fast on your feet is important in a President, but you still have to be prepared. 

We chatted with one of the students afterwards; she was a student journalist at Hofstra.  She was not impressed with Governor Gilmore.

The big news of the night: Denver won the Super Bowl. 

Monday was a planned busy day.  Our plan was to see Christie in the morning, Hillary at noon, Cruz at 3:00 and Trump in the evening.  The day was long, but we were able to make it to all of the events.

Chris Christie- On his Knee
Chris Christie - Retail Politics

First up was a Christie event.  It is in a warehouse of a machine shop (Gilchrist machinery).  I have never been to a rally at an industrial plant before.  This being a Christie event, when the Governor came in, the sound track was Bon Jovi; he is from New Jersey and it is appropriate.  He came right by me and I got to shake his hand.  Woot! I checked that off the box.

Christie had the first celebrity endorsement.  This guy called “the cake boss introduced Christie; he is food network dud and he looks like he is from Jersey. One interesting sartorial note; Christie was wearing French Cuffs.  Elegant, but you don’t expect a Republican doing that.  Christie was a very good speaker.  He makes eye contact with a lot of people and caught my eye twice.  He is also a lot heavier than I expected; he is a bit shorter than I am, but significantly heavier. 

He said nothing surprising.  He is a conservative; he makes stuff up about perceived problems (times are perilous, Social Security is insolvent.) and then says not surprising conservative talking points about them (keep Guantanamo open, means test social security and raise the retirement age).  But the way he said it was engaging.  He had one bit of great retail politics.  A New Hampshire voter said she was undecided; he went to to her and got on his knee in front of her and took her question.  Very cool and very smooth; he probably got her vote.

Hillary Clinton - Learned to Speak

On to the Hillary event.  It is at Manchester community college and our first task was queuing.  The line was long and Alan had little faith that we would get in.  I was more optimistic.  Of course, this is our second attempt at getting into a Clinton event.  We tried to get into a Clinton event on Saturday but we were too late, and they were not letting anyone else in.  That was not necessarily a bad thing as Bill was not in the state; he was in Pahrump Nevada.  I didn’t think there was anything else in Pahrump.

Lots of media was at this event.  We saw a roving reporter from Swedish public radio.  I also saw both Rachel Maddow and Tucker Carlson.

Celebrity sightings: Rachel Maddow and Tucker Carlson.

We got in; this is our second attempt at seeing Hillary live and our first success.  The success was temporary though.  I went to the washroom and when I returned, the secret service wouldn’t let me back in.  I spent the rest of the rally standing behind the plexi-glass walls; I saw everything and heard everything, but it would have been nice to snark with Alan.
No Room in the Gym 
Chelsea and Bill Clinton were introduced by Senator Jean Shaheen and Governor Maggie Hassan.   Chelsea gave a warm introduction to both her Dad and her Mum.  She talked about her daughter and the child that she is pregnant with.  She said that the 2016 election is significant because it was her first as a Mom.

Bill then spoke; he looked relaxed after his day in Pahrump.  Bill framed the quest as both who has the best ideas and who is the best change maker.  For Bill Clinton having good Ideas are not enough, you have to be able to make the idea real because change is hard.  He then talked about both her bipartisan successes as a Senator and her successes as Secretary of State.  The latter was a bit weird as he quoted Henry Kissinger’s comments about Hillary’s success at state: don’t know how I feel about that because, Kissinger!

He also talked about her bipartisan successes; curious that.  Everyone claims they want to be bipartisan, but it never really works.

Hillary came on and she began her speech by talking to Bernie supporters.  They may not support her, but she supports them and will always have their backs.

She then moved to attack George W. Bush. Her criticism may have been valid, but that was eight years ago and she may have missed a limitation date on her criticism.

Throughout her speech she would use the term imagine; for example she would say “try to imagine combating climate change by developing clean energy.”  All of her policy proposals were framed that way and that was neat.  She was asking the voters to engage their imagination to see a better world.  This could be a very effective rhetorical device and could be the equivalent of Obama’s 2008 slogan “Hope.”

She finished her speech comparing herself to Bernie Sanders.  She said doesn’t just talk; she introduces legislation and gets things done.  Nifty; she starting talking directly to Sanders supporters and the finished by talking about Bernie.

I saw Ms. Clinton speak in 2008.  She is a smart lady, who would have made a good President and her campaign was historic. Her speaking style did not reflect any of this.  In the eight years since, she has learned to speak; while she may never be an orator like Barack Obama, her oratory can excite and when she is President, I want to hear her inaugural address.

We had a very democratic lunch; it was free.  We went to a diner called the “Red Arrow diner.” It is a diner of note in the Manchester area.  Lunch was on the folks at Sirius XM.  It was a large lunch.  I had this burger that included fried Mac & Cheese and has grilled sandwiches as the buns.  Lots of calories and it kept me fueled for the day.

Ted Cruz - Seriously Deranged Understanding of Second Amendment

The next stop was a Cruz rally at a VFW Hall.
Cruz - Nobody Likes Him

Ted Cruz was introduced by a tea party nation dude; says it all.  He called Cruz the Reagan of today.   I am not sure how Reagan would take that as he made deals with Democrats. This tea party dude focussed on the second amendment as said that it was the most important amendment.  He explained that the second amendment is there to protect the constitution.  It is about the ability of the citizenry to fight a tyrannical government.  This is seriously deranged.  I don’t think the framers of the constitution were famous for their love of the masses of citizenry; many of the checks and balances are to keep rule away from the rabble.  Somehow the notion that they would have an amendment that was there to allow the citizenry to revolt is unhinged.  Also if there were an armed revolt against tyranny, what happens would depend on what the army does; it either supports the revolution, in which case we call it a coup d’etat, or it quashes the revolution in which we call it a massacre.  Or the army could fracture and you have a civil war.

This view of the second amendment is widely held amongst conservatives.  Jim Gilmore also made reference to it.  He ought to know as he is on the Board of Directors of the National Rifle association.

One of the folks introducing Cruz was a state senator.  He tried to convince us that Cruz would unite people.  I guess they have to say that, but Cruz?

Cruz came out and started talking about the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution and he set out his constitutional theory.  It is an Interesting starting point but a tea party crowd is the crowd for it.

Ted Cruz’ speech was curious.  He divided the world into “us” and “them”; not unusual in a politician, but the “them” were not Liberals or Democrats.  He set himself apart from all other Republicans.  In his entire speech, he only attacked Obama near the end of his speech.  The rest of his speech was an attack on all other Republicans.  He called them moderate squishes and thought that compromise was evil.  Also the answer to almost every question (the economy, immigration, drug policy) was securing the border.  I am surprised that his answer to a foreign policy question wasn’t “secure the border”. 

The knock on Cruz is that no-one likes him; this is unsurprising since he doesn’t actually appear to like anybody.

Donald Trump – A Rambling Mess

We ended the evening with the Donald Trump rally.  The folks who introduced him were mildly offensive. The vet who started the pledge of allegiance said he was looking forward to having a President who loves his country.  That is offensive; no one ideology has a lock on patriotism.  Liberals are just as patriotic as conservatives.

A local talk radio guy gave an apocalyptic rant.  It's premised on the political class driving the country into the ground; not much evidence of that, but the fans ate it up.  He also said that Trump’s fans are an army; for Liberty!  Not brown shirty at all.

Trumps musical introduction was an interesting choice.  The first is Nessun Dorma from Turdandot sung by the Three Tenors; the last line is Italian for “I will win”.  He then comes out to the Beatles “Revolution”. 
Trump - Rambling Man

His speech was a rambling mess.  He just talks, and talks and talks, and says nothing.  Occasionally a sound bite goes out to applause.  He may also just be making stuff up (health care costs are going out 50%).   He also whines; he whined about "really winning" Iowa; He also whined about the debate and not getting tickets because they all go to donors.  He sounds whiny.  And Eisenhower; he really likes Ike.  Listening to Donald Trump running for President is how I would imagine Grandpa Simpson would sound like running for president; and I would rather vote for Grandpa Simpson.

Day 3 – Sunday with Jeb!

(Andrew C. Bome continues with his posts from New Hampshire with some interesting insights and praise for Jeb!)
Sunday and Monday were very busy days catching a bunch of rallies.  One of the downside of the Republican clown car of candidates is that there are a whole lot of Republican candidates that are having rallies.  We saw most of them.
Sunday morning was our chance to see Jeb!.  I use Jeb! Because he does; he doesn’t want to use his last name, and I will respect that.  At least it is not an unpronounceable symbol.    The event was in a grade  school gym; the event was full, but  Alan and I made it in time to get some seats. 
Before the rally we were chatting with some of the “no labels” people.  That is the movement founded by Jon Huntsman and Joe Lieberman; somehow they feel that partisanship in the US is destructive and that people should just compromise and sacrifice to get things done.  Sounds nice in theory, but given Lieberman’s (and folks like Lieberman) participation in the “no labels” group, compromise seems to mean that Democrats should just act like Republicans and the world would be a better place.  They wanted to extract a promise from Jeb! That he would convene a meeting of congressional leaders of both parties within 30 days of being elected president.  They never did get to ask their question, mostly because they never put up their hand.
A somewhat concerning moment:  At the beginning (after the roadie sound check) we were asked to turn off our phones; I was afraid that we might see a repeat of “Harperdammerung”, but that never happened.
The Jeb! Rally was the best of the lot.  First, he had endorsement from Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham.  Graham’s endorsement is significant because it tells us that Jeb! Is in the campaign at least until South Carolina; Jeb! Is probably counting on a credible showing in New Hampshire and a win in South Carolina.  Senator Graham will help with that.

Graham was a good speaker.  He was warm and funny and delivered his lines well; I don’t think he should give his day job to go into comedy, but he is funnier than most politicians when he delivers bits.   He talked about the debate and commented on how Cruz made Ben Carson angry, and how difficult it is to make Carson angry; he also said he learned that you never want to make Chris Christie angry at you.   He finished on a serious note and talked about the sacrifice of veterans and their families; he asked the audience to pick a commander-and-chief that is worthy of the sacrifice. 
Susan Collins spoke next.  She was less memorable than Senator Graham, but she did talk about Jeb!’s compassion.  Maybe she is saying that Jeb! Is a compassionate conservative.  She also said that Jeb! Was the best president for perilous times. 
Jeb! Then came on.  He impressed.  While he was critical of the Democrats (he specifically said Obama & Clinton)  he talked of the importance of solving problems and serving constituents.  He said that is why people go into public service. It is what is done and it is what should be done in Washington.
His first promise was to move the embassy to Jerusalem.  

He also made another promise.  He said that he would not blame Obama for anything.  He said that he got sick and tired of Obama blaming his brother for everything and Jeb! would not be doing that.  This was the biggest applause line of the day.  This will probably be the first promise he breaks; blaming the last guy is a time honoured tradition in politics.

Trump Campaign Material
He then spent some time attacking Trump.  He talked how he attacked women, Latinos, Muslims and the disabled and said that you don’t want that kind of man as a president.  He also attacked Trump’s intelligence; not knowing what the Nuclear Triad is, is not a good thing in a presidential candidate.
Jeb! Had one of the best lines I heard.  He is behind in the polls and the media has not been taking him seriously as a candidate.  He talked about the media convening a “secret squirrel meeting” in Washington and anointing a candidate.  It is a line that is worth using and I might use in future.
He went on to questions and answers.  The only thing that was memorable was that someone asked him about global warming.  He did say that Global Warming is a thing and that it is caused by human activity; his solution is that we should learn to adapt.  While that is not a good answer, this is the first time I have heard a major Republican admitting that Global Warming is a thing.
Overall, I was impressed by Jeb!.  He is smart, he is thoughtful and is a good speaker.  He was obviously energized by a good debate performance on Saturday night.  If I was a voter and an independent, I would vote on the Republican side and vote for Jeb!.  Not because I think that he should be president; I am a liberal and I would vote Democrat in the general.  But I think it is important that a democracy has at least two functioning parties.  Jeb! Is one of the few of the republicans who is not a clown; the republicans deserve and need a candidate that would make a credible president.  Jeb! Is credible.
The Next President of the United States?