Wednesday, April 17, 2019

For the NDP, it's 1 Down and 1 To Go

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley's resounding defeat at the polls last night may just be the breakthrough that New Democrats need to get back into the game that the 2019 federal election is shaping up to be.  With Alberta's New Democrats being banished to the purgatory of the Opposition benches, where, for the next four years, they'll sit and watch a Conservative government dismantle the good work that they had been doing, Jagmeet Singh's federal New Democrats will finally be free of the shackles that Rachel Notley had put on him.

There will be no more talk of promoting pipelines from Singh or the NDP from here on in.  With Notley going down in flames last night, so too did the last remaining support in the New Democratic Party for the Trans Mountain pipeline.  Notley and the New Democrats are likely finished in Alberta for the conceivable future - similar to what happened to the NDP in Ontario after a single term in power under Bob Rae in the early 1990s.  The NDP's win in 2015 was a complete aberration anyway - ending 40 years of conservative rule in Alberta - and likely primarily because of a divided right and a scandal-plagued PC Party.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

Anyway, Notley is done - and good riddance to her, I say.  I suspect that it might still take some time for New Democrats to share my sentiment about her departure, but I am quite optimistic that in time they will.

Greens vs. Browns

It was Notley, after all, who famously opposed the surge of reformist 'green' New Democrats who gathered in Edmonton in 2016.  While the reformers won out over the old-guard browns on the question of whether Tom Mulcair should continue to lead their Party, thanks in part to Notley's vehement hate for the Leap Manifesto, the green reformers lost that more important battle (see: "Notley repudiates Leap Manifesto but Alberta NDP will stick with federal party," the Calgary Herald, April 11, 2016).  Instead of acceptance of Leap as a guide for policy, New Democrats walked away from Edmonton only with a promise to study it at the Electoral District level. 

Three years later, no one is talking about Leap any more - but everyone is talking about it still.  Leap has been embraced south of the border by green reformers in the Democratic Party led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (a.k.a. "AOC" - presumably because so many Republicans mangle her non-anglo name that it's not always clear just whom their speaking of when they're slagging her).  Leap has been rebranded as "the Green New Deal" and we can expect to hear a lot more about that as Democratic Presidential nominees battle it out continuously for the next year and a half.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ("AOC")


And in Canada, the Leap people might just finally get what they want: a New Democratic Party that is openly embracing Leap, er, the Green New Deal.  Putting partisanship over the planet, Avi Lewis - a dyed-in-the-wool New Democrat, and Naomi Klein have both been able to steer Leap away from the one political Party in Canada that supported Leap the day it came out (see: "2015 Green Party Platform Reflects Leap Manifesto Policy," Green Party of Canada, press release originally issued September 15, 2015, and have continued to pine away for a time when the New Democrats were ready to hop on board.  

Climate Hypocrisy

When it comes to taking action on climate change, the hypocrisy of Leap has been astounding - matched perhaps only by the New Democratic Party itself, which has tried to sell itself to Canadians as a positive force on the environmental front, but whose actions continue to contradict this point in a very serious way.  Notley's demands that the Trans Mountain pipeline get built - right the f now - were but the most obvious example.  The NDP has consistently fought against real action on climate change over the years.  In B.C., New Democrats opposed the Liberal Party's carbon tax (see: "NDP vote against carbon tax," the Globe and Mail, May 30, 2008).  And along with embracing Trans Mountain, the Alberta NDP devised a disingenuous "climate plan" that would see emissions double from  an expanded tar sands (see: "Alberta's climate plan stands in the way of Canada's," Gordon Laxer, the Edmonton Journal, December 3, 2015).

Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein

One might suggest that was all in the past.  But what's not in the past for New Democrats is B.C. Premier John Horgan's on-going support for creating a completely new massive fossil enterprise around fracked natural gas.  In what is being called a "generational sell-out," Horgan's NDP - along with Canada's Liberal government - are pouring billions of taxpayer's dollars into this new LNG initiative  (see: "Billions in subsidies undermine BC's ability to meet climate targets," the Sierra Club, March 25, 2019).
B.C. Premier John Horgan

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh presently supports Horgan and the climate-destroying LNG initiative - and initiative which some are calling worse than the tar sands when it comes to emissions (see: "LNG Industry Could Make B.C. Canada’s Worst Actor on Climate," the Narwhal, June 24, 2016). Only a small number of New Democrats have had the courage to speak out against their own Party's hypocrisy.  On the campaign trail with Jagmeet Singh in the recent Burnaby by-election, Svend Robinson came out of retirement with guns blazing, taking an opposing view to Singh on LNG and new fossil infrastructure (see: "NDP candidate doubles down on LNG opposition despite leader’s support," CTV, January 27, 2019).  After a week of headlines that made Singh and the NDP look like the climate hypocrites they are, Robinson hasn't been heard from again. 
Svend Robinson

But Robinson's silence isn't going to last - and you can bet that he's going to be joined by others now that Rachel Notley is out of the picture.  There has long been a nascent movement for reform in the New Democratic Party - one that has been thwarted by status quo-supporting browns (see: "Irreconcilible Differences: For the NDP, "Schism" Is The Word," Sudbury Steve May, April 16, 2016).  The browns have had the upper hand, but that's all starting to change.  

A New Opportunity for New Democrats

For federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, this poses both a challenge and an opportunity. Singh has never been a part of the NDP's status-quo power base.  When Singh ran to become Party leader, he had some rather progressive things to say about UNDRIP and climate change (see: "Jagmeet Singh unveils climate plan, takes stance against Kinder Morgan pipeline," CTV, June 18, 2017) - some of which he has since backed away from once the reality of dueling New Democratic Premiers in Alberta and B.C. to see who could be the biggest emitters, hit home.

Notley's departure means that Singh and the New Democrats can now boldly oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline in the federal election campaign in all parts of Canada.  There's no need to tip-toe around the issue in Alberta and parts of B.C.  That might not seem like much - as Singh has been publicly opposed to Trans Mountain since before he became leader.  But the general silence from the NDP on the issue - for fear of upsetting Notely and the Alberta NDP on the eve of a provincial election - has been telling.  Having the NDP join - loudly and proudly - the fight against Trans Mountain could create a positive difference for a few New Democratic candidates in B.C.'s lower mainland and in Quebec.  

NDP Must Make the Leap

Horgan, however, remains a problem for Singh.  Once Horgan's been taken out of the picture, the federal NDP will be free to reverse course on LNG - and finally get with the Leap program that green reformers within the Party have been pushing for.  As long as the NDP want to be a "Liberal-lite" party, there's little hope that they're going to continue to have much relevance in the 21st Century.  The NDP's base is shifting - and either the NDP moves with them, or they risk drifting towards irrelevancy (see: "The NDP's only hope is a Green New Deal for Canada," February 26, 2019).  And I see plenty of signs that the NDP, as presently constituted, are opting for irrelevancy.  But I'm certainly not going to count them out - yet.
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh

Despite my criticism of Leap leaders, I'm a big supporter of Leap, the Green New Deal and a Just Transition for fossil sector workers (for starters see: "Youth rising up on climate," the Sudbury Star, December 29, 2018, and "Climate change crisis will need a radical new approach," the Sudbury Star, January 27, 2019).  I've been hopeful that the NDP would, at some point, rally around the Leap Manifesto as a good way forward to address the climate crisis.  For me, saving the planet is far more important than blind partisanship.

What Colour Could Green and Orange Make?

But that said, it's also been my hope that if the NDP green reformers finally took control of the reigns of party power, and implemented a suite of policies that were in keeping with Leap - then what would be the reason to have both a Green Party and a green New Democratic Party?  Sure, there is some distance between the NDP and Greens on a few other issues (the NDP's support for the Atlantic Seal Hunt is a big problem for Greens, and likely so would be the Sherbrooke Declaration - but most of the NDP's problems with Greens are mythical - meaning that they're not real.  NDP partisans like to believe that Green policy is anti-labour and right-wing - but the reality is that the NDP itself has drifted to the right over the past several years, trying to occupy the position that Liberal Party used to occupy.  The NDP's support of the war in Libya, their silence on Israeli Apartheid, and their support of investor state provisions in the Canada-South Korea trade deal are simply things that a pre-Jack Layton NDP would likely have ever contemplated.  Now they are party dogma - yet the NDP continues to perpetuate the idea that their party is somehow the bastion of progressive policy options in Canada - and the Green Party occupies a point somewhere far to their right.

It's nonsense, of course - but that's what happens when unmitigated partisanship takes hold of a party.  And at the end of the day, it's that level of intolerant hyper-partisanship that the NDP displays that is (along with weak climate policy) the biggest turn-off for Greens.

All of that is to say I remain optimistic that there might one day be a rapprochement between New Democrats and Greens - once the NDP abandons their support for new and expanded fossil fuel infrastructure.  I've been hoping for a while that this might happen sooner rather than later (see: "Jagmeet Singh's Leadership Success Points the Way Forward for Electoral Co-Operation Between Greens, NDP," Sudbury Steve May, October 3, 2017).  But the NDP keeps leaping to be champions of yesterday's economy, when they should be looking ahead to where the puck's going.

Now with Notley gone, that's one down - and just John Horgan to go - before the NDP can reverse course on their fossil foolishness.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own, and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the Green Parties of Ontario and/or Canada)

Monday, April 8, 2019

There's No Place for Hate in Our Political Discourse

There’s no place for hate in our political discourse.  That seems like a fairly elementary statement – and yet, in 2019, I am profoundly saddened that we keep needing to revisit it.

This blog post isn’t about “free speech”.  That’s something that’s guaranteed individuals and organizations in our nation, as per the Charter.  What I’m writing about today is our level of tolerance for those who preach hate – be it messages of misogyny, homophobia/transphobia, or against people of an identifiable group based on ethnicity or religion.  Unfortunately (and that’s an understatement), this kind of hate has crept into our civil political discourse to such an extent now that it seems like it might be an impossible task to excise it.

But if we don’t stand up to combat hate, what does that say about us?  This isn’t something that we can remain silent about, even though speaking out can lead to be doxed and targeted by the people and groups who preach hate.  When we speak out against hate, we put ourselves and our families at risk.  All for what appears to be an impossible task.  

And yet, what other choice to we have?  If we remain silent, the haters win.
I refuse to remain silent.  And I am pleased to see so many others who have reached the same conclusion.  Hate has no place in our society.  And it has no place in our political discourse.  

Today, Facebook announced that it was removing pages and accounts belonging to known extremists like former Toronto Mayoral candidate Faith Goldy (see: "Facebook bans Faith Goldy and 'dangerous' alt-right groups," CBC News, April 8, 2019).  Extremists groups also being banned include the Soldiers of Odin – an organization that has received the support of at least two Greater Sudbury municipal councillors who have never apologized to citizens for supporting a hate group (see: "Promoting Bigotry, Racism and Misogyny in Greater Sudbury, Part 1: The Ever-Changing Public Realm," and "Promoting Bigotry, Racism and Misogyny in Greater Sudbury, Part 2: Time to Talk About Taxpayer-Subsidized Discrimination," Sudbury Steve May, September 13, 2017, and "Candidates at odds over Soldiers of Odin in Sudbury," the Sudbury Star, August 28, 2018).

Facebook is making a good start - one other online platforms like Twitter ought to be emulating.  That there remain leaders and followers in the world of social media illustrates the point: we can’t just rely on the efforts of corporate entities like Facebook to deny haters a podium from which to preach hate.  We all have a role to play.

Let's Start Here.

It’s with that in mind that I am directing this blog to organizers of political debates – not just here in Greater Sudbury, but throughout the nation.  That said, I will focus on the situation here in my community – where debate organizers have long provided a podium to all of the candidates, no matter what their track record for hate has been.  And oh boy, we have one perennial candidate here who has amassed quite the track record.

I first heard about David Popescu from my friend Gordon Harris, who was the Green Party’s candidate in Sudbury during the 2008 election.  Gordon had attended an all-candidate’s meeting at Sudbury Secondary School, and Popescu was there as well, as an independent candidate.  During the debate at the highschool, Popescu advocated for the execution of homosexuals – which caused a significant commotion among the students present, and an abrupt end to the debate.  Later in the same election campaign, while on a Toronto radio show for an interview about the Sudbury Sec debate, Popescu reiterated his earlier position on executing homosexuals in general, and pointed to radio show guest Helen Kennedy, Executive Director of EGALE Canada, and specifically called for her execution (see: "Sudbury candidate probed after 2nd anti-gay remark," CTV News, October 7, 2008).

After an investigation by Greater Sudbury Police, the Minister of the Attorney General charged Popescu with a hate crime.  Popescu was convicted in August, 2009 for having engaged in hate speech.  He received a suspended sentence, and was put on probation for an 18 month period.

In 2015, Popescu was charged with promoting genocide and the wilful promotion of hatred after leaving home-made compact discs and pamphlets on people’s cars parked in the downtown, outside of a venue where a CBC Radio debate for provincial by-election candidates was taking place.  Popescu had not been invited to the debate.  Charges were later dropped (see: "David Popescu hate crime charges dropped by Crown," CBC News, December 30, 2015).

In the 2018 municipal election, at an all-candidates meeting for Mayoral candidates hosted by Laurentian University Political Science Association, Popescu’s microphone was repeatedly cut off as he tried (and succeeded, but without audio assistance) in making hateful remarks about French-speaking peoples, LGBTQ and indigenous students at Laurentian.

After his disgusting display at Laurentian University, Greater Sudbury Mayor (and mayoral candidate) Brian Bigger called on the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce to not allow Popescu to participate in the Chamber’s upcoming debate (see: "Mayoral race: Bigger wants fellow candidate banned from campaign events over ‘hate’ speech," Sudbury dot com, October 1, 2018).
Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger


“Anyone who calls for the extermination of homosexuals and runs in elections time and time again to promote hatred in the name of religion needs to be shown the door and not given a microphone,” Bigger said in a release.

Bigger made it clear that his objection to Popescu had nothing whatsoever to do with free speech. “Obviously he has the right to pay $200 and run in the election, and he’s participated in every federal, provincial and municipal election that he could to get a podium and microphone in front of him. But this is not about free speech. This is saying we don’t have to listen to speeches about hatred.”

Other Greater Sudbury mayoral candidates rallied around Mayor Brian Bigger, and also called on the Chamber to….

Oh wait a minute.  No.  That didn’t actually happen.  To the collective shame of my community, not one single candidate for Mayor came out in support of Bigger’s call to the Chamber of Commerce to deny a podium to Popescu from which he could continue to preach hate (see: "Bid to ban controversial candidate in Sudbury fails," the Sudbury Star, October 2, 2018).

Free speech.  Fairness.  Democracy.  These were the reasons cited by Mayoral candidates who believed that - although odious in the extreme - Popescu, because he was a registered candidate in the election, had the right to participate in debates.  No one appears to have had the chance to point out to the candidates that there is no such right - and that debate organizers who are considering not inviting candidates who preach hate are under no obligation to do so.

"As a former journalist, freedom of speech is very important to me. I respect the debate organizers' right to choose the candidates they select to participate at their events," said candidate Patricia Mills.

"We have a democratic process and Mr. Popescu paid the fee, filled out all appropriate documents and had enough names to get nominated. He deserves a seat at the table," said candidate Jeff Huska (see: "Bigger finds no support in his bid to ban Popescu from campaign events," Sudbury dot com, October 2, 2018).

My good friend, Bill Crumplin, who was one of 11 people running for Mayor in the 2018 election, took a particularly misguided view on the matter, and called for police to be in attendance at public debates, so as not to put debate organizers in the position of having to police what’s said at debates (see: "Mayoral race: Not fair to ask debate organizers to ban Popescu, says Crumplin," Sudbury dot com, October 2 2018).  At the time, I told Bill that having police attend political forums to monitor speech might be counter-productive for everyone involved. 

Hate Speech is Like Toothpaste

Look, hate speech is like toothpaste.  Once it’s out, you can’t just cram it back into the tube.  I understand that police might be able to haul someone away from a public event based on the words that they say – but I’ll tell you this, if you’re concerned at all about free speech, I don’t think that’s a road that we want to go down.  

Anyway, hate speech has never been treated like an assault by the police – charges are usually only laid after a significant investigation, and often in consultation with provincial officials. Giving police the mandate to haul people away based on their singular interpretation of the Criminal Code as it relates to hate speech is, well, misguided.

Deplatform Haters

The only approach that appears to work is to not give those who preach hate a podium from which to preach hate.  Mayor Bigger had it right.  Just because someone can register to be a candidate, that’s not a reason for any community organization to give them a podium from which to preach hate. 

With Popescu, it’s a pretty obvious conclusion that one of the main reasons he seeks public office is to draw attention to the extremists and hateful views that he holds.  We would not be paying a single iota of attention to this man but for the prominence that he gains by running in elections. 

Popescu is not only a distraction, however.  He’s also quite dangerous in that he shows the limits – or more specifically, the lack of limits – that haters face when it comes to gaining a public podium during an election.  

I understand that the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and other local debate organizers believe that they are doing what’s best when they invite all registered candidates to participate in debates – but I think that the Chamber and other community groups like the Coalition for a Livable Sudbury need to rethink their positions on continuing to provide a public podium for those who have a known tendency to abuse our public political discourse during an election in order to advance their own hateful agendas.

I am calling on the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and all debate organizers to deny David Popescu and anyone else who has engaged in hateful discourse from participating in their public events.  I understand that this might be a difficult decision to make for community organizations.  It shouldn’t be.  It’s 2019.  It’s time we got our collective acts together and deplatform the hatred.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own, and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the Green Parties of Ontario and/or Canada)

Saturday, April 6, 2019

My Letter to Greater Sudbury Council Regarding Request for Decision on Ranked Ballots for 2022 Municipal Election

It was with significant concern that I read in the media this week that Council is going to be asked to decide next week on what form of ballot voters should be using in the 2022 municipal election (see: "Report: Combined paper, online ballot in 2022 will cost $600K more," Sudbury dot com, April 3, 2019).  I understand that there were issues with voting in the last municipal election that saw an extra day being added on to the voting period.  And I understand that Council had earlier asked Staff for a report on ballots - a report that has now been posted to the City's website.

Making any sort of decision at this time on ballots for the 2022 election is entirely premature.  At this point, the public has not been asked to share its opinion on the matter.  While I acknowledge that the public is expecting Council to ultimately take action to ensure a better voting outcome for citizens in the next election as compared to the last, Council has not been under any specific pressure to take action on this issue right now.  There is no rush to move forward with a decision on this matter right now - especially since the public has not been consulted.
Ranked Ballots are as easy as 1-2-3

I'm also very disturbed by the notion that Staff is recommending that the City not move to a Ranked ballot - a recommendation that appears to arise out of zero direction from this Council (the Report indicates that direction on this was given by previous Council in 2016 - something which Staff previously provided, and on which Council made an earlier decision not to used ranked ballots in the 2018 municipal election - a decision that was not informed by any public consultation or engagement).  

The issue with the last election appears to have had to do with the service provider selected by Council.  I understand too that some were upset about the lack of paper ballots.  But at no time has the question arisen regarding whether it would be appropriate to maintain a winner-take-all ballot vs. a ranked ballot.  That's a question that Council ought to decide on - but it should do so only after extensive public consultation with the public.  This matter does not need to be decided on until May 1, 2021, as per the legislation (and as referenced in the Report).

I urge all on municipal Council to defer these matters until after the City has reached out to the public to ascertain our feelings about the matter.  After all, municipal elections belong to all of us - we ought to be included in the decision-making process about how our votes are ultimately cast and counted.

Thank you for your time.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own, and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the Green Parties of Ontario and/or Canada)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Time is Now for Greater Sudbury to Declare a Climate Emergency

Earlier this month, the City of Kingston declared a climate emergency (see: “Why Kingston has declared a climate emergency — and what that really means,” TVO, March 7, 2019).  Kingston joins a growing group of over 300 Canadian municipalities, including Vancouver and Halifax, that have publicly stated the climate crisis deserves the utmost attention from all levels of government.  And there’s an initiative underway here in Greater Sudbury to add our municipality’s name to the list.

“We want to declare a climate emergency, essentially to give the city further impetus to act on climate as quickly and swiftly and efficiently as possible, because we know that climate change threatens our very way of life, economically, socially, environmentally," said Kingston Councillor Robert Kiley, who introduced the motion that was passed unanimously by his City’s municipal council (see: “Kingston council asked to declare climate emergency,” CBC News, March 5, 2019).

The Climate Mobilization Project defines our climate emergency as being a “cascading breakdown of the climate system due to unsustainable extractive economic and social forces, posing an existential risk to humanity and life on earth.” (see: “Climate Emergency,” The Climate Mobilization). Addressing the crisis will require vision, leadership and massive change – most of which have been missing from the global response to the crisis so far. 

The personification of the global cry for climate action is perhaps 16-year old Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg.  This Swedish high school student’s activism single-handedly gave rise to the young people’s global climate strike movement that saw thousands of Canadian school children take to the streets last week (see: “Quebec students take to streets as part of global marches against climate change,” Global News, March 15, 2019). With their very futures at stake, climate strikers around the world are demanding political leaders finally get serious about taking action to avert global catastrophe. 

“I want you to panic,” Thunberg told global economic leaders gathered in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year.  “I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.  And then I want you to act.” (see: “Greta Thunberg, schoolgirl climate change warrior: ‘Some people can let things go. I can’t’,” The Guardian, March 11, 2019)

Declaring a climate emergency isn’t just symbolic.  It signifies an acknowledgement by  a government to actually do things differently.  It’s not about being hopeful, optimistic and aspirational, or doing one or two pro-climate things – like swapping out lightbulbs.  It means using the lens of climate change as part of a comprehensive approach to making decisions. It means asking the tough question, “Is what we’re considering going to help the climate – or harm it?”

“The rational response to an emergency is to act like it is an emergency,” Colleen Gareau of Kingston’s Climate Hub told her municipal Council (see: “City council declares climate emergency in Kingston,” The Kingston Whig Standard, March 5, 2019).

“The crisis for the Titanic was not when it hit the iceberg, it was when there was still time to turn,” says Laruentian University Professor of Economics Dr. David Robinson, who has written extensively on some of the fiscal tools governments can use to rapidly transition our economy off of fossil fuels. “The disaster for the Titanic was the result of missing the crisis. There came a time when it was too late to turn. With climate change we face a series of disasters, each worse than the last. We have passed the crisis point for the first-level disaster and the second level, depending on how you define it. Maybe we should be discussing which disasters - like 8 meters of sea level rise - we can't avoid - and which - like a billion deaths of those currently living - that we can probably still avoid.” (see: “Crisis Means Decision Point,” Dr. David Robinson, Economics for Northern Ontario, March 21, 2019)

With the City of Greater Sudbury about to update to its Strategic Plan, there’s no better time for our community leaders to commit to using a climate change lens to evaluate decisions related to policy, programs and infrastructure. Citizens throughout the City are signing a petition calling on our municipal leaders to declare a climate emergency and commit to setting and meeting carbon reduction targets (see: “Sudbury letters: Declaring climate emergency; keep shelter open,” the Sudbury Star, March 16, 2019). Information about where you can sign the petition can be obtained by emailing the Coalition for a Livable Sudbury at info@liveablesudbury.org.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own, and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the Green Parties of Ontario and/or Canada)

Originally published online and in print as, "Sudbury should declare climate emergency now," at the Sudbury Star, Saturday March 23, 2019 - without hyperlinks.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

All Hands On Deck for Greens in Nanaimo-Ladysmith as New Democrats Abandon Ship

On Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a by-election for the British Columbia riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, which had been vacated by NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson.  Malcolmson, a well-known and capable parliamentarian, was first elected in 2015 when the NDP swept all ridings on Vancouver Island, save Elizabeth May's seat in Saanich-Gulf Islands.  The NDP's success on Vancouver Island was one of the few bright spots of the 2015 election for New Democrats - as 2015 saw a marked reduction in the number of MP's from the rest of Canada.  

Malcolmson resigned her seat earlier this year, after she was either called on by the BC NDP to help win a crucial provincial by-election on Vancouver Island - or she saw the writing on the wall for federal NDP and decided there was no better time to find something new.  Her seat was formally vacated on January 2, 2019 - although she spent months campaigning for the provincial NDP on the public dime prior to the by-election being officially called by NDP Premier John Horgan (see: "MP Malcolmson to run for provincial seat in Nanaimo by-election," CFAX 1070, October 24, 2018).  Malcolmson's by-election bid proved to be successful, and she replaced former NDP MLA Leonard Krog in the provincial Nanaimo seat that Krog had previously vacated to run for Mayor of Nanaimo (in which he was successful).
Paul Manly & Elizabeth May

Green candidate Paul Manly hopes to put an end to this game of 'musical New Democrats' by emerging from the May 4th by-election as the MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith - and the first Green at the federal level to win a by-election, and only the second federal Green ever to be elected, anywhere.

And all of the signs that I'm seeing are pointing to the significant possibility that he might just do that.

Manly has been campaigning in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding for some time now.  Manly, a well-known documentary filmmaker, is also the Green Party's shadow cabinet critic for International Trade.  He's made a significant commitment to the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding since he decided to challenge for the seat in the 2015 general election.

2015 General Election Results

The 2015 elections results are telling.  Remember that this was an election that saw Liberals across Canada swept to power - often with only marginal local name recognition.  But the NDP managed to take all of Vancouver Island.  And the Green Party was one of the clear losers in 2015, as anticipated support identified in pre-election polling bottomed out - likely due to voters making strategic decisions at the ballot box about the best way to stop the Conservatives from winning.  Or perhaps Trudeau's promise of reforming the electoral system and acting on climate change were enough to lure potential Greens away.  Whatever the reasons, the outcome of the 2015 general election was a huge disappointment for Greens, who had confidently been speaking about something called 'Fortress Vancouver Island' prior to writ being dropped (see: "2015 Election Aftermath: Hard Lessons for Greens," Sudbury Steve May, October 29, 2015).
Nanaimo-Ladysmith - General Election 2015 results

Although finishing 4th in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, Manly was still able to rack up an impressive 19.8% of the vote - improving on the Greens 2011 effort by over 12.5%.  Manly's made a clear commitment to Nanaimo-Ladysmith and to the Green Party.  And the results show that the Green Party has been a strong believer in Manly, too, given the significant financial investment made by the Manly campaign in 2015.  It's that investment that might start to pay off now as we get deeper into the 2019 by-election.  Green Leader Elizabeth May has said already that Manly has dusted off some of those 2015 signs for re-use - so that's one expense that he'll be able to minimize!

And of course the fact that the Party leader herself was in the riding the day that the by-election announced shows just how serious the Green Party is about winning this one. 

NDP Abandoning Ship

Besides Manly's lawn signs, there are plenty of other signs that suggest that the Greens are going to be strong contenders in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.  Malcolmson, who was a strong critic for the NDP on Parliament Hill, did her Party few favours by quitting before finishing off her term.  Her early departure is one of several made by NDP elected officials from that part of B.C. - a list which includes Leonard Krog as well as former Burnaby South MP Kennedy Stewart, who resigned from the party last year in order to run (successfully) for Mayor of Vancouver.  Stewart's seat was recently won by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh - a victory which put down what appeared to be an imminent caucus revolt.  It also ensures that the NDP will now head into the fall 2019 General Election under Singh's unpopular leadership.

And then there are the New Democrats who have resigned for other reasons.  Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen might be the best known in the rest of Canada, but it's Victoria MP's Murray Rankin's decision to sit out the general election that might have more of an impact in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.  Rankin, a former Law Professor, was a a rising star for the New Democrats.  He is also that Party's critic for Justice and the Attorney General - and the NDP certainly could have utilized a strong voice in that role with everything that's now going on in Parliament with LavScam - but shortly after Singh triumphed in Burnaby South, Rankin decided to call it quits (see: "NDP MP Murray Rankin won't run again," CBC News, February 28, 2019).

The perception is that, under Jagmeet Singh, the NDP is a sinking ship and their electoral fortunes are about to go down.  Certainly, just about every seat currently occupied by a New Democrat MP from Quebec is at serious risk.  Most people don't even know who Jagmeet Singh is - and those that do know him perceive him to be a bit of a political light-weight.  Personally, I'm a fan of Singh's - but I've been following his career since he accomplished what I thought to be an impossible task - being elected as a New Democratic MPP in my former home riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton.  That said, Singh has not connected with voters in the same way that he's connected with me.  And it's not that Singh has a particular problem with ethics (in the same way that Andrew Scheer or Justin Trudeau appear to) - it's just that voters don't know who he is (see: "Nanos survey finds Canadians believe Elizabeth May is most ethical party leader," CTV News, February 26, 2019).

Liberal Calculus

Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, too, believe that many of the currently-held NDP ridings will be in play this fall - and that many are ripe to fall to the Liberals.  Think about this for a moment.  In 2015, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was forced to call 3 by-elections to replace high-profile Conservatives that had deserted his sinking ship (and one by-election to replace a New Democrat who had left federal politics to run for the Ontario Liberal Party right here in Sudbury).  All 4 of those by-elections were actually called in accordance with legal requirements - but they were never held.  Harper established a months long writ period for all 4 by-elections - and ultimately all 4 were cancelled when the General Election was called.

Trudeau could have done the same thing.  In fact, Malcolmson's resignation was only effective as of January 2 of this year, while Patrick Brown, Dean Del Mastro and John Baird all vacated their seats in October 2014 - effectively leaving those ridings without representation in parliament for almost an entire year.  So why did Trudeau opt to call a by-election where the result will see someone sent to Ottawa for just a few months (and maybe only a couple of weeks of actually sitting in the House of Commons), only to have to turn around and face a general election?

Narratives for the General Election

To me, Trudeau's decision is yet another sign that the NDP aren't likely going to hold the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding.  It's actually a brilliant political move on the part of the Liberals - who, despite the ignominies of LavScam, continue to show that they know a thing or two about self-preservation.  Think about it.  If the NDP go down in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, how might that play into the Liberal narrative that they are the only party that can possibly hold back the regressive tide of Andrew Scheer's Conservatives?

And the thing is, this narrative doesn't even need the Liberals to win - it just needs the NDP to lose.  Preferably to the Liberals, for sure.  Then Trudeau can try to reclaim the mantle of the leader of the party best poised to champion a progressive agenda (despite the considerable evidence to the contrary - but election campaigns aren't really about 'evidence' now, are they?).  If the Conservatives win, the Liberals will simply say, "See?  This is what happens when progressive voters don't get behind Liberal candidates.").  It's probably the second least-desirable outcome for the Liberals, but it would still be better than an NDP victory in Nanaimo-Ladysmith - as an NDP victory will surely tell the public that the NDP remains competitive and should not be written-off by voters.

But what if the Green Party wins?  That, too, will be a victory of a sort for the Liberals.  You can bet that a Green victory in Nanaimo-Ladysmith will be used by the Green Party as evidence that the Greens are going to be serious contenders in the fall general election - and maybe even replace the NDP as Canada's 3rd Party.  That might seem a stretch now, but if the "NDP is collapsing" narrative really gets going, strange things could happen.  And with an NDP loss in Nanaimo-Ladysmith - hot on the heels of an NDP loss in former NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's riding of Outremount - you can bet that's the narrative that both the Greens and the Liberals will be trying to advance.  

And Greens, let's not kid ourselves here.  The Liberals would very much like to use our Party as a counter-weight to the NDP.  The rise of another progressive party will only split the progressive vote further - allowing the Liberals to campaign for the votes of centrists and those on the right who may be growing uncomfortable with the Conservatives' embrace of white nationalism.  Who can forget when the B.C. Liberals told voters to vote for the B.C. Greens - so as to avoid a provincial NDP government (see: "Smyth: Why Christy Clark loves the Green Party," the Vancouver Sun, April 6, 2016).  It's because the Liberals firmly believe that the NDP and Greens are fishing for votes almost exclusively in each other's ponds that has led the Liberals to discount the Greens as an electoral sideshow, or a foil to be used against New Democrats.  After all, isn't that what happened on the Island in 2015 - and again just recently in the provincial Nanaimo by-election that saw Sheila Malcolmson emerge victorious after a collapse of the B.C. Green Party's vote? (see: "Nanaimo results have positives for BC Liberals, disaster for Greens," February 4, 2019).

Manly is the Strategic Choice

Well, here's the thing: the evidence actually suggests that when Greens do well, they pull just as many or more votes from the Liberal Party than they do the NDP (and usually some from the Conservatives as well). It's not like a pendulum clock that swings back and forth between New Democrats and Greens - a strong Green campaign impacts all of the other parties.  In strategic scenarios like those facing voters on Vancouver Island in 2015 and in Nanaimo, provincially, in 2019 - voters are most likely to opt for the candidate seen as the most electable.  But most by-elections aren't based on those strategic scenarios (and the Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election certainly isn't).  And, perhaps more importantly, what if it's the Green Party candidate that actually appears to be "more electable"?

I argue that in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, Paul Manly is the more electable candidate.  And I think voters in Nanaimo-Ladysmith will see it that way too.  At this time, the NDP hasn't even nominated a candidate (although it looks like they'll be deciding between two well-qualified contestants - see: "Candidates hit the campaign trail as Nanaimo-Ladysmith byelection called," the Nanaimo Bulletin, March 24, 2019).  The Liberal candidate, Michelle Corfield, is going to have her work cut out for her to deliver in the riding in the way former Liberal candidate Tim Tessier did in 2015.  Tessier rode the crest of the Trudeau-tide and managed to improve the Liberals standing by almost 17% over 2011. But since then the Liberals have broken numerous promises and purchased a leaky pipeline for over $4 billion.  They're also presently mired in a scandal that could see the RCMP called in to investigate the Prime Minister's Office.

For Nanaimo-Ladysmith voters who don't want a Conservative or a Liberal, the strategic choice this time is Paul Manly.  And if progressives are afraid that a Conservative might win (which is unlikely for a few reasons - including the presence of the ultra-right-wing People's Party in this by-election), Manly is still the best choice.  And for those voters on the right that don't want a Liberal to get in and really, really don't want a New Democrat - guess what?  Manly is a strategic choice for them, too.

Crystal Ball Gazing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigning in Nanaimo-Ladysmith will be more for waving the flag than anything else.  As with Burnaby, the Liberals probably don't think they can win this one - but they'll still put in a decent effort (they've got the money to be able to do so), and if things come together and they do win, awesome for them. But if they don't, no biggee - especially if the NDP goes down.

But the NDP are going to put a lot of resources into holding Nanaimo-Ladysmith.  I expect that we're going to see a very nasty campaign on the ground there over the next month - and most of the nastiness will be directed at Paul Manly and the Green Party.  The NDP have a particular and peculiar hate on for the Green Party, and frequently go out of their way to spread false information about what the Green Party stands for.  I've seen everything from "The Conservative Party bankrolls the Greens" to "Greens are Liberal dupes" to "Greens are a one-issue party" - and that last one tends to have a little more resonance with voters.  Mostly, though, it's the only canard that a vote for a Green is a wasted vote.  If the NDP comes at Manly with that one, I fully expect voters to see through it.

But make no mistake - the NDP needs to hold Nanaimo-Ladysmith.  If they lose this by-election, like a house of cards, every single NDP riding on Vancouver Island will be put at risk.  No, that's not entirely true: every single NDP-held riding on Vancouver Island is already at risk. A Green victory in this by-election may just be evidence of the inevitable - and the inevitable in this case is the collapse of the NDP, nation-wide.  Even if the New Democrats manage to hold Nanaimo-Ladysmith, ridings like Victoria and Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke are still going to be in play for the Green Party in the general election.

Manly's message, though, can put him over the top.  He personally is committed to the riding, and he represents a political organization that is actually serious about doing politics differently - approaching decision-making from a values-based and ethical perspective.  And the Green Party really is the only national political party that has a serious plan to deal with the climate crisis.  And Manly will certainly let voters know that the Green Party also has a lot of really good ideas about other issues - including a national pharmacare program.  With the Greens, voters can get all of the NDP's good ideas, without the LNG (or the Sherbrooke Declaration - sorry, that's a personal aside - it won't play in Nanaimo-Ladysmith).

It's About Paul Manly

It's Manly, though, and the team he's been assembling that's going to help convince voters that this really is the right time to back the Green Party.  Make no mistake - a Green victory in Nanaimo-Ladysmith will really, really help Green fortunes in the upcoming General Election.  That's why Elizabeth May has called this an "all hands on deck" moment.  What? Did you think she was using a nautical reference, while tweeting from the ferry on its way to Gabriola Island, where she and Paul kicked off the by-election campaign on Sunday?  Or perhaps you thought the "all hands on deck" shout-out for Greens was made in contrast to the NDP's call to "Abandon Ship!"

And this brings us to the final sign that helps convince me Manly can win - Greens from across the nation are poised to help him do just that.  New Democrats?  Well, which ever candidate is eventually selected can expect some outside help, but a lot of the NDP's serious campaigners are tied up with the Alberta provincial election, where they'll be pushing for more bitumen and fracked gas pipelines.  In contrast, a lot of the Green Party's serious campaigners are already on the ground in Nanaimo-Ladysmith (or elsewhere in Southern Vancouver Island) and have been for some time.

So Greens - this one is important, and it is totally within reach. And you can help - with your time, or with your money - or both.  If you'd like to donate to Paul's campaign, just follow the link.  If you'd like to get involved (which is great experience for your own upcoming local campaigns), send an email to Green Party of Canada campaign manager Jonathan Dickie at: jonathan.dickie@greenparty.ca - and let him know you'd like to make some calls for Paul.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own, and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the Green Parties of Ontario and/or Canada)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 8: Derailed!

I've got some catching up to do.  It's March, 2019 - and between you and me, I was really enjoying my little blog-reprieve from writing about my experiences with the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) on a matter arising from a decision made by the City of Greater Sudbury to approve a zoning amendment for an arena/event centre on lands located on the Kingsway on the City's urban fringe.  

Let's face facts here: I've been living with all of this for almost two years now.  It was in February, 2017 that PricewaterhouseCoopers (pwc) released its first report to Council about an arena/events centre, “Proposed Sports and EntertainmentCentre Feasibility and Business Case Assessment”. In March of 2017 I first wrote about how a new events centre in Greater Sudbury should act as a catalyst for green economic development (see: "Sudbury Events Centre Should Drive Creative Class Economy," Sudbury Steve May, March 17, 2017).  Shortly thereafter, the PricewaterhouseCoopers (pwc) report about the arena was made available to the public.  
The KED

And later, in June 2017, City Council made a decision to build a new arena on the Kingsway - rather than in the downtown core (which would have been in keeping with the City's planning and economic development documents - and which was the first choice of pwc for a location, as per their “Greater Sudbury Event Centre Site Evaluation").  Prior to the meeting, I wrote a letter to my Councillor, urging him to support a downtown location (see: "An Open Letter to My Ward Councillor, Fern Cormier, Regarding the Events Centre," Sudbury Steve May, June 23, 2017) - which he did do on the night of June 27, 2017 when the matter came up for a vote - a vote that I predicted would be a defeat via a tie vote for the downtown in a post made earlier that day (see: "Crystal Ball Gazing: How Sudbury Gets a New Kingsway Event Centre - Not on Merit, but on a Technicality," Sudbury Steve May, June 27, 2017). 

I followed Council's decision up with two more posts about how I believed the City should now try to make the "Kingsway Entertainment District" work (see: "Mapping the Way Forward for a Kingsway Entertainment District," Sudbury Steve May, June 30, 2017; and, "An Open Letter to Greater Sudbury Council Regarding a Kingsway Entertainment District," Sudbury Steve May, July 11, 2017) despite my opposition to the inclusion of a motorsports facility at the KED (see: "Motorsports in a Time of Climate Crisis: Sustainability Must Be Our Focus," Sudbury Steve May, June 7, 2017).  My comments about process were ignored by the City.

I participated fully in the City's so-called public engagement around the "Integrated Site Plan" (remember the online survey that accompanied the whrilwind public sessions: "Are you excited about the future?") and called for transparency in the design process (see: "Site Design for the Kingsway Entertainment District Must be Unfettered by Constraints, Include Public Engagement," Sudbury Steve May, August 14, 2017; and, "Open Letter to Greater Sudbury Council re: Kingsway Entertainment District Site and Building Design and the Need for Public Engagement," Sudbury Steve May, August 15, 2017).  And I provided the City with my own thoughts about how the Kingsway site should be designed with climate change and sustainability in mind (see: "An Open Letter to Greater Sudbury Council Regarding the Draft Integrated Site Plan for the Kingsway Entertainment District," Sudbury Steve May, November 7, 2017), even though I was clearly not on board at that time with the direction that Council had chosen to take (see: "The Kingsway Entertainment District - How Council's Vision Fails Greater Sudburians," Sudbury Steve May, November 6, 2017). 

After development applications for an arena and a casino were filed by the landowner in December, 2017, I provided my written comments to the City on the arena rezoning (see: "My Comments to the City of Greater Sudbury re: Zoning Amendment to Permit an Arena/Events Centre on the Kingsway," Sudbury Steve May, March 15, 2018) and on the casino official plan amendment/rezoning (see: "A Casino is No 'Place of Amusement'," Sudbury Steve May, April 10, 2018).  These comments were not given any heed by the City prior to decisions being made by Council on April 10, 2018.

Throughout the public process between the time that applications were filed by the developer and the end of the appeal period for Council's decisions of April 10, 2018, I documented an  on-going smear campaign directed at members of the public by some municipal councillors (see: "Dangerous Myths and Public Intimidation – Where Greater Sudbury is at with the “Kingsway Entertainment District”," Sudbury Steve May, January 17, 2018; "Sudbury Councillor Threatens Punitive Measures Against the Downtown Over the Public's Participation in Planning Processes," Sudbury Steve May, January 18, 2018; "Standing Up for a Sustainable Long-Term Vision for Community Development," Sudbury Steve May, January 19, 2018; "More Public Intimidation and Misrepresentation of Facts from Greater Sudbury Councillor Kirwan Over Upcoming Arena & Casino Public Meeting," Sudbury Steve May, January 20, 2018; "Greater Sudbury Councillors Dismisses Public Participation in Land Use Process - Equates Public Participants with Saboteurs," Sudbury Steve May, March 26, 2018; and, "Councillor's Accusation that Downtown BIA is Engaging in 'Illegal' Activities Should be the Last Straw for Sudburians," Sudbury Steve May, May 1, 2018).

After Council made its decisions to approve the land use applications, I speculated about what might happen after that - and ended up having a lengthy conversation with myself regarding the new LPAT and the potential timelines for resolution to any appeals (see: "Council Made Its Decisions on the Kingsway Projects - What Happens Next?" Sudbury Steve May, April 11, 2018).  I realize now that it was here that I fell into a trap of my own making, as I rationalized to myself and to the few readers who stuck with that post until the very end that a first decision of the LPAT would likely be made in December, 2018 - and after the matter was returned to Council, appealed to the LPAT again, and went through a full hearing process, it would all wrap up by the end of December, 2019.  And that was the timeframe that I had in my own mind when I filed my appeal of the arena rezoning (see: "My Letter Appealing the City of Greater Sudbury's Decision to Adopt By-law 2018-63Z to Permit an Arena on the Kingsway," Sudbury Steve May, April 25, 2018).

I then started documenting my adventure at the LPAT - in part because I thought that it would be a good idea to provide residents of the City with "the other side" of the story - and partly because the LPAT process is very new, so I thought that others who might be entertaining filing their own appeals (especially unrepresented individuals, like me) might derive some benefit from this blogseries.  

And here's where I've taken the story so far.  I gave readers some background information about the KED decisions in "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 1: In the Beginning."  In "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 2: For the Record," I wrote about the appeals, and my experiences trying to obtain the "Enhanced Municipal Record" from the City.

I had a bit of fun with, "18 Whacky Things About the Kingsway Entertainment District Land Use Appeals – Number 12 Will Blow Your Mind!" where I explored a few under-appreciated elements of the KED decisions, and the LPAT.

In, "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 3: Valid Appeals and Municipal Contempt for a Public Process", I wrote about the how the LPAT determined the appeals to be valid - and their strange interpretation of the meaning of '10 days'.  I also updated readers on the on-going smear campaign and contempt for land use planning processes being demonstrated by some municipal council members. The topic of 'secret agreements' between the municipality and the land use developer also came up.

In "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 4: The Strong Case Against a Casino," I explored materials filed by Casino-Free Sudbury, the Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area, and Dr. Christopher Duncanson-Hales (the casino appellants) that they used to support their appeal.  I concluded that the casino appellants have a strong case - but questioned whether the new LPAT was equipped via legislation and its own Rules to hear some of the matters being raised.

In "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 5: Wasn't That a Party?" I considerably explored the question of just who can be a party to matters at the LPAT, after having received notice that both the developer and Gateway Casinos wanted to be added as a Party to the proceedings.  I realize now that a lot of what I observed and concluded has not held up to the test of time - so if you're going to skip any one of my posts, this might be the one to target!

I had a crisis of, well not sure what - when I wrote "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 6: The City Strikes Back!". I explored how the City's response to my Case Synopsis led me to question my own understanding of the issues.  But by writing this difficult piece, which included a serious analysis of one of the Big 3 issues I raised with my appeal, I learned that in fact my paradigm hadn't shifted, and ultimately concluded that the City's arguments against my appeal are actually very weak.

In "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 7: So Much for the Downtown," I continued with my analysis of another of the Big 3 issues I raised in my appeal - and concluded with a promise to write about the third of the Big 3 issues.  I wrote Part 7 back in October, 2018 - but I have not yet returned to that third big issue.  And I won't for some time yet - but the promise to do so remains.

I last wrote about the KED and the LPAT on December 12, 2018, in "More Misinformation About the KED Coming From City Hall," a piece that is not a part of this blogseries.  Rather it explores the on-going campaign of misinformation being now primarily waged by a single member of Council, Ward 5's Robert Kirwan.  I have to admit that Councillor Kirwan's on-going threats, denigration, humiliation, bullying and his pushing of information that is factually incorrect has made engaging in this appeal process rather tiresome.  When confronted with 17 incorrect items of information before breakfast every day, I suspect not even Douglas Adams would retain the willpower to correct the record on all of them. 

And perhaps that's why I've laid off writing about my experiences for the last little while.  But although this mental and emotional break might have been advantageous for me personally, the fact that I have been falling down on the job of providing my readers with the updates that I set out today when I first started writing this blogseries has weighed heavily on my mind.  Just not heavy enough to actually see me do anything - until now.

Fact is, there has been a fair bit happening with the appeals.  So let's see if I can start getting everyone caught up.

Case Management Conference

Back on November 6, 2018, the LPAT - comprised of 3 Tribunal members - held the first and only hearing event (so far) on the appeals.  It was the Case Management Conference that is prescribed by the LPAT's Rules.  And for the most part, it was an administrative affair.  Given the emotions in the public realm with regards to the matters being adjudicated, after the fact I found out that members of the media and others who were present at the CMC were a little let down that there weren't more fireworks, or that any of the issues were resolved.  But that's not the idea of a CMC - and I don't think any of the Parties were expecting more than what happened - with maybe one exception.

The 'Added Parties'

At the outset of the CMC, lawyers for both 1916596 Ontario Ltd. (the numbered company owned by developer Dario Zulich) and Gateway Casinos petitioned the LPAT to become 'parties'.  This was kind of interesting in that in the past, at the OMB, Zulich would have been accorded party status automatically as the landowner.  If you think about it, any decision ultimately made by the LPAT is going to impact the landowner - so why should the landowner have to approach LPAT on bended knee and request party status?

All of the parties (the 5 appellants and the City) seemed to feel the same way about Zulich's inclusion, and the request for party status was granted by the LPAT with no opposition from any of the other parties.

Gateway Casinos, however, is a bit of a different story.  They are not a landowner, but they have an expressed interest in part of the property.  And they have spent money as one of the 3 development partners (Zulich and the City being the other two) for the Integrated Site Plan - and, perhaps more importantly for this matter, on the Traffic Impact Study.  Originally I had indicated that I would oppose the inclusion of Gateway as a party - but once I learned that they really had engaged in the planning process via their financial commitment to the Traffic Impact Study, I decided not to oppose their inclusion.  Clearly, Gateway has a lot more at stake, financially speaking, than I do so.  So why not?

Taking Issues with the Issues List (or lack there-of)

What came as a bit of a surprise to the parties was the LPAT's admonishment to all of us for not getting together pre-CMC to develop an issues list (see paragraph 21 of the decision - but trust me, it was actually a lot worse in person. I seem to think all of the parties were staring at the floor during this 'discussion').  That was an awkward moment for us all - as I don't think that any of us had ever really given a thought to doing that before the LPAT put the idea in our head that it might have been something that we had taken the initiative to do on our own.  

In retrospect, I'm not sure that I agree with the LPAT's position on this.  Fact is, there were two parties who had just been added at the CMC - both of these parties are now in the process of making certain motions that ultimately might have bearing on any issues list that the appellants and the City might come up with.  I think that's important - and I think the LPAT overlooked it.

We were also asked about the possibility of mediation by the LPAT.  And that's another thing.  Had we all agreed to mediation, any mediation exercise would likely impact the issues list.  That said, though, there wasn't a lot of interest in mediation from any of the parties - at least not until motions have been disposed of.  But even then - the new LPAT process upfronts the adversarial-ness of the hearing.  At this point, there's not a lot of chance to find common ground - not when the serious parties are hundreds of thousands of dollars deep in the process (and that's where they are).

Playing in the Big Leagues

So again, LPAT, if you're reading this - consider these factors when it comes to issues lists.  And I know that you know that under the old OMB process, Issues Lists were usually developed until after a Pre-Hearing Conference (similar to a CMC, although not mandatory) - because it was at the PHC that new parties and participants would be added.  So cut us folks here in Sudbury some slack - we're participating in a brand new process and have only the milestones from the old process to go by.  We're doing the best we can to get all of this resolved.

And I guess that's the one last observation that I have about the CMC that I'll share here.  All of the people involved in the CMC are professionals - save for myself and the other unrepresented party, the Minnow Lake Restoration Group as represented by citizen John Lindsay.  And when professional are involved, no matter how adversarial things get, things do tend to remain calm.  And since John and I aren't known for our rabble-rousing (ok, maybe John is...), I don't expect that we're going to see any actual fireworks at the upcoming hearings.  

But there are sure to be plenty of procedural fireworks!

One of the things that the LPAT did do was allow for some of the parties to bring forward motions, within a certain specified timeframe.  All of those motions are filed, and I'll go through them in more detail in the next blogpost in this series.  Suffice it to say, though, the outcome of these motions is going to materially effect how the LPAT hears the appeals - and quite likely it's going to impact on the level of my own participation - which up until now has been significantly more involved than I thought it would be, to say the least.  I thought I could keep up with everyone, even though I'm unrepresented.  The truth is I'm falling behind, and if it was just me making my own case to the Tribunal, you can bet that I would be dead in the water.

All the more reason that anyone who is thinking of going to the LPAT should take my advice: If you want to win, hire a lawyer. 

Experts and Valid Appeals

Perhaps a little more surprisingly, the LPAT identified a list of 'experts' that it wants to hear from.  The LPAT indicated that the hearing will be an oral one, and the decision that issued identifies in paragraph 28 that there will be 8 experts called to give evidence.  Two are planners for Casino-Free Sudbury/DBIA/Duncanson-Hales appeal; three are municipal planners; one is the developer's planners.  There's also a traffic engineer in there and - here's the kicker - a man by the name of Alexander (Brad) Bowman whom the Minnow Lake Restoration Group identified as its in-house expert and who provided affidavit evidence to Minnow Lake's Case Synopsis.

At the CMC, the solicitor for Zulich indicated that he may bring forward a challenge to Mr. Bowman's participation in the hearing as an expert - or seek to have the appeal filed by Minnow Lake (John Lindsay) declared invalid.  The LPAT remained silent on this, as it seemed a little speculative at the time - but shortly after the CMC, John Lindsay was served with a notice of motion filed by 1916596 Ontario Ltd. to have the LPAT declare his appeal not to be valid on the grounds that the appeal did not disclose any planning reasons.

But instead of doing anything with the motion, the LPAT ruled that the motion itself was out of order.  As the January 4, 2019 decision indicates in paragraph 12, the LPAT gave its permission to hear only certain motions - the Minnow Lake excommunication wasn't one of them!  I hear from John that he spent a couple of sleepless nights trying to meet the tight timeframes for filing a motion response and had finally come up with a 15-page 75-paragraph response to the Zulich motion. 

So that's the kind of stuff you're in for, you Unrepresented Parties, if you want to play in the big leagues.  

Anyway, the LPAT will likely hear the motion orally at some point - and at least John has some notes now that he'll be able to read from.  But given a recent decision of the LPAT involving a motion to over-turn the LPAT's validity screening (Gravelle v Stone Mills (Town), 2018 CanLII 110126 (ON LPAT),) which is already being quoted by other appellants in validity determination matters (Weinhardt v Cambridge (City), 2019 CanLII 16510 (ON LPAT)), I think Zulich should just abandon the motion to remove John - and instead focus on whether it would be appropriate for the LPAT to hear from Bowman - even thought it was the LPAT that said specifically he was a person they wanted to hear from.

Hitting the Pause Button - Rail Deck

Finally, the LPAT advised all parties that they were stopping the hearings clock and putting everything on hold.  This didn't come as a surprise to the parties, who were all familiar with the Toronto Rail Deck Park matter - but it did appear to come as a bit of a shock to the media, who were looking for something tangible to report.  But the story the media took away from the CMC was that everything was going to be up in the air until such a time that the Divisional Court had to hear and rule on matters referred to the Court by the LPAT with permission of the parties in the Rail Deck matter.  

This stated case to the courts will resolve a fundamental matter of natural law that the LPAT's legislation and Rules appears to infringe on: whether witnesses can be cross-examined.  Clearly, the Divisional Court's ruling is going to have an impact on our hearing - and more specifically for me, on me!  Potentially, rather than just getting up and saying my piece about the appeal - which is what I signed up for - if the Divisional Court says that cross-examination can take place, I might be facing down three lawyers who are going to be looking at tearing holes in every bit of oral evidence that I can squeeze into my 75 minutes.  That's not what I expected to have to face when I filed the appeal - but I guess if that's what I've got to do, that's what I'll have to do.

Anyway, based on this column about a preliminary matter in the Rail Deck Park court case, it looks like the Court might also be wrestling with some of the same issues regarding jurisdiction that have arisen here in Greater Sudbury - specifically whether or not new evidence can be adduced or all parties have to rely on what was in front of Council at the time of a decision (see: "Coleman’s Notes: Watching the LPAT at Divisional Court to Figure Out How The LPAT Will Work," Joey Coleman, the Public Record, March 4, 2019).

In the next post in this blogseries, I'll explore the motions that have been filed.  And in the following post, I'll take a look at some of the other interesting matters that have been happening related to the KED appeals.

Thanks for reading.  I'll try not to be such a stranger!

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)