I do not go to so many political meetings anymore. I think there are less of them in Toronto anyway that are open. Politics in the city is ever more siloed. You have all these front organizations connected to interest group networks. They do make these attempts at creating coalitions around various issues but they generally do not work well.
This was what the anti privatization coalition meeting on February 21st was all about. Various groups, mostly unions, are fighting the wave of privatizations, selloffs, and "P3s" that the Wynne government have started. They had four themes, hydro, health care, transit, and housing.
As usual, they do not get it that the interests of unions do not necessarily comport with the general public. They have to make it much clearer to ordinary people what their own interest is in the issues. Otherwise, they are as my friend R said, preaching to the choir.
They have their best chance of success with the attempt to sell off hydro; a completely stupid and inexplicable move from auntie Wynnie. It really does not make any kind of sense. Just what motivates her is not sure; it is a real "big pain for no gain" proposition for her, but she is said to be extremely set on it.
Rosario Marchese is a coordinator of the fight against the hydro selloff. He is a long time NDP MPP who was defeated in the last election, in the general slaughter of NDP in Toronto. For a little while, a very long time a go, he was my MPP, before the Harris government drastically redrew the electoral boundaries. He is also married to Evelyn Murialdo, the former tenant affairs chief of TCHC, who helped me when I was under attack from the "housing cult" who were trying to evict me.
He says his spies within the liberal caucus tell him that there is a lot of unease about the hydro selloff. There are a couple of ministers who might lead a revolt. The selloff is hugely unpopular and could bring down the Liberals in the next elections. Especially, as it certainly will, when it leads to a great increase in already too high hydro rates.
I talked with Rosario briefly. I told him the reason the NDP never gets anywhere is because they are always so out of touch with their natural constituency. But in Toronto especially, the behavior of NDP aligned cadres really antagonizes people. That includes me. I was disappointed that even Rosie, who I really do like and who is such a straightforward person, got defensive about that.
I said that the party has long ago lost any purpose and should be replaced by a serious democratic socialist party. It will be easier to bring such a critter into being if we can get proportional representation. " A new New Democrats?'", he mused.
I have had similar truncated conversations with Linda McQuaig at my door when she was running, and some other failed candidate at the NDP christmas party I got invited to even though I hate their guts because some of them hate me, and I do not even live in T.O. center anymore with redistribution. They just do not want to know why so many politically active, intuitively left, people feel that way.
Getting to strategy about stopping hydro, most people present could see that the best thing was to get riding groups together to go after Liberal MPPs. Hey, I really would like to do that. My MPP is Glen Murray, the technical innovation something or other minister. I could not seem to find out how to sign up for that project.
That is partly because the ringmaster had to spend so much time with the inevitable core of negativists who insist that the solution to the hydro problem, like with everything else, is to "engage" with the Liberals, persuade by "reason' and so on. There is no getting through to them that there has been no getting through to Wynne, but there is no need to convince almost everybody else in Ontario; they are already convinced. The argument is over, it is now about finding the way to block the selloff.
Next up was health care. Here was Natalie Mehra again, whom I have had some run-ins with about the object of health care reform. She is the poster girl for an obnoxious "left" cadre. She has a fast and pat answer for everything but which often does not comport with the question.
I once suggested to her that the reason health care is always under attack is because it has never moved beyond the interim arrangement made when it was first set up. What is really needed is to put doctors on salaries and put them in community clinics. This is of course, anathema to labor unions who need their people in big working units.
She blew me off with something about how one community clinic was turned into a 'for profit' clinic which then grew into a major private health corporation. So this was the rationale for why we can never have community clinics. She contemptuously waved me off and started talking to someone else. I am sure she is the type who would try to get some toadies to start a fight with me to get me thrown out, if she was in a venue where she could get away with that.
On this occasion, I had a bright idea. The reason governments are doing these P3 things is because they have stupidly cut their revenues because they are told they have to, and now have no money with which to fund things like building, rebuilding, and maintaining hospitals. Why not focus on forcing them to maximize their revenues?
Nasty Natalie just said that the P3s cost more, not less money. I tried to get back in there with the point that this was not my point but she just repeated the same crap and then started talking to somebody else. Shortly after someone else stood up and pointed out, referring to me, that the reason governments are going to P3s is that they cannot borrow any more money, not because P3s are cheaper. Again, Mehra just repeated the same irrelevant line.
We got around to housing and this is the topic where the official left view is totally off. We do not need more instant slums in Toronto. Mixed housing developments, with market rent units covering the cost of rent geared to income units, is really the way to go. Here is a case where collaboration with private development companies makes sense. But it does not fit the agenda of big labor, which would be better off to shut up on this topic.
Finally, we got to transit. I have been a supporter of the TTC riders group, and I am glad they are finally getting it that there is more to it than just keeping fares down and getting free passes for seniors and the disabled. Most of the fare increases in recent years have been due to cost overruns on the various TTC maintenance and expansion projects.
Now, all these new "smart track" plan projects are about to start. Guess what; they are all funded through P3 arrangements, some with the Spanish company all southern Ontario loves to hate, which runs the 407 toll highway. Who is going to pay for the overruns these jokers will rack up? The good old red rocket riders, us!
So, one positive thing happened at this meeting. The TTC riders and the "Free transit" group finally agreed to start working together. Someone bothered to explain why P3s mattered to the poor shmook who has to ride the TTC.
Something else useful happened. I ran into Bob Levitt. I had just about given up on him. There he was, asking me if that character behind the pillar was Howard Tessler. We know he has lost a lot of weight, but he really did not look like humble Howard to me. But then he took off his hat and yes, despite the beard, it really was him.
This was confirmed when Levitt heard somebody come up and address him as Howard. I would have taken a picture to put up on the causepimps, oops! No, whistlefiles web site. However, my dumb smart phone forgot to remind me to charge it.
I wonder what Tessler was doing there. I wonder what Levitt was doing there. I had not communicated with him for about 4 years now, ever since he got off on another paranoia attack. He said he could not talk to me anymore after I joked about blowing the Bell building up because of the trouble I was having with them, making my new iphone a Bell phone.
I still have the same phone, but it became a Fido phone. Fido seems to want my business. I have not had to discuss blowing up their dog house.
And Levitt looks healthier than he has for a long time. I asked him if he is ever going to start updating his web site again. He said he is updating it. Sure enough, when I went home, I checked it and it is being kept up again.
He has started getting his advertising revenue from Google. Before, when he tried to sell revenue himself, Lehrer and company, trying to force him to turn over his web site to FMTA, harassed all his advertisers. Levitt says he is getting much less from Google than he could by himself, but it still gives him $300 a month, which is no doubt why he is looking so much healthier.
I wonder when he started doing this. Too bad I did not have more chance to talk with him. I wonder how much he is over his paranoia. He and I go back a very long way, and a couple of times before he has thrown a fit and stopped talking to me, and eventually started again.
I am probably looking a lot less healthier than the last time he saw me. I am walking with this damned cane now. We did not talk much about our common nemesis, Lehrer. He says Lehrer is still harassing him, but can't answer as to how he is sure it is Lehrer. That is important for when I eventually have to subpoena him.
R does not like cross talking at meetings, because it can annoy speakers, but we had some handwritten discussions going on, until we ran out of paper. She asked if most of this was preaching to the choir. I noted that these types will brook no heresies, like mine, which holds that they are part of the problem they presume to be trying to solve.
She noted that the word 'coalition' refers to a collection of groups, not just one group. Where is the coalition here? Exactly, thought I. These people have to control everything so it stays within their strictly maintained zone of 'political correctness'. Thus collaboration with anyone outside their zone is impossible.
R noted that someone from the teacher's union talked. Their separately managed pension fund has destroyed companies and thrown people out of work without pensions.
R scribbled that what was needed here was cultural change. I thought, more like cultural replacement. Then she scribbled out "existing structure?disruption?new structure?maintenance". As per Kurt Lewin, she noted. Ah, yes, good old Kurt, the behavioralist. However, those ideas are pretty much displaced now by cognitive science.
Three o'clock came around. We were supposed to end at that time, but some of the event's organizers-managers felt something had not yet been done, and wanted to stay longer. What they were trying to do, I missed. But I stayed awhile longer while half of the room got up and left.
They finally had a mike that worked and they started an 'everyone's ideas are useful' type of floating discussion. They even had a bit of play about whether the weather outside was cold or 'not bad'. They once again had to get into a dialogue with the deaf about how there was an almost universal agreement among the public that the hydro selloff was bad, that the debate was over, that the problem before them was how to stop it.
When some Joe Crow type got hold of the mike and started talking incoherently about how Ontario hydro and its dams had been doing something or other with indian land, I decided I'd had enough for the day. I grabbed my cane and tottered on out the door. Levitt and R had long ago left.
I wished I had brought my leaflets advertising my web site on Guaranteed Livable Income and planned events. I had found that these union people were uninterested but there were other sorts of people there too, who might have been. Even some union oriented people might have been tired enough of the ultra conformist behavior to consider involving themselves in something else.
But my take on it is that the best strategy for these antiprivatizers really would be to focus on compelling an increase in government revenues, to remove the incentive and arguments for the privatizations. How about making government legally required to raise a certain percentage of gdp based on calculations of excess wealth accumulation. In other words, of the dead money floating around.
I will have to sit down and develop this idea if I ever have some time, and put it out in cyberspace.
I attended one other political meeting last week that is also worth writing home about. This was the new 'tenant affairs' committee at city hall. Nothing much ever changes with Federation of Metro Tenants Associations (FMTA) and the shadowy forces behind them. They still have the same goals but never seem to achieve them.
This year they again failed to get another half million a year out of the city. Actually they were after $600 000 this time. They have never forced Levitt to turn his web site over to them. They have never got me sleeping under a bridge as threatened.
One long standing goal they may be about to achieve is the apartment license. What this is really about is a hidden tax on renters. As the boys from the Greater Toronto Apartment Association told the committee, there is nothing to be achieved by licensing landlords. The city already has all the power it needs to go after bad landlords if it had the will.
They noted, and I noticed, that the five witnesses they brought forth were all from the same building. FMTA will adopt a troubled building when they need some tenants to put on a show for some committee. These will be dropped when no longer needed. Of course, most of the time tenants having bad landlord troubles will get an FMTA 'organizer' to show up at their building to pitch giving FMTA $15 each in membership. That is all they will get.
Of course if they dare try to do something on their own they might get some further attention from FMTA. It will come in the form of working with their landlord to try to break up their tenant association if they have one, and get trouble tenants evicted. FMTA and the fake left political network it is embedded with are masters of intercepting and discrediting complaints about them.
But FMTA no longer has a monopoly on the tenant pimp business in Toronto. Plenty of fresh faced bubble heads in ACORN t-shirts were there too. They were also lobbying for the landlord license, but ACORN has a different approach. They are powerful enough that FMTA does not try to attack them directly.
I have no problem with the Greater Toronto Apartment Association. I do not take the Manichean approach that much of the left in Toronto does. GTAA are fairly sensible people. They were treated like shit by the committee chair, Josh Matlow. He rudely cut them off right at five minutes, when other presenters had been allowed to ramble on well over that limit.
I made no 'deputation' but I came up to Matlow after the meeting and introduced myself. I do not know if he recognized my name or knew what I was about, but I got vigorously glad handed. His tone changed when I asked him how much the landlord license would be, and then whether it would be 'per tenant'? The answers were, he did not know, and it was one of the options being discussed. In the end he was flinching away from me, but that was what I needed to know.
Of course, this is what the license is all about; a way of making the renters of Toronto pay the cost of regulating the rental housing industry in Toronto, and probably a lot more. There are about one million rental units in Toronto. An old dream of FMTA is to get money per month from every one of them. Imagine how much money would be raised from the less fortunate half of the population if they could get $10 a month from each door.
If I have any time at all, I should see about making a 'pute about stopping this tenant tax. If...