Rivers: Governments let this outbreak get as bad as it is: they are doing the right thing in keeping the money flowing

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 11th, 2020


“All countries will wake up after the global pandemic with much higher debt levels. Canada is fortunate because we are starting at a much lower net debt-to-GDP level,”..…”If low interest rates are maintained, there is no good policy case for rushing to austerity — either spending cuts or tax increases.” (former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page)

Isn’t it a rule that one is supposed to become more conservative as they age? So I’m looking at the ballooning federal deficit – and it’s a lot of money. This year’s red ink may well stretch into the three hundred billion dollar mark. Government revenue has dropped like a lead weight and these monstrous payouts are rising like hydrogen blimps.

720 billion

720 billion is what it would cost to pay out a Universal Basic Income annually.

Tory leader Scheer has grumbled that the $2000 a month in emergency funding (CERB) is discouraging folks from going to work, but CERB breezed through Parliament anyway. And he is wrong – it’s not the $2000 that is keeping folks at home – it’s the lockdown.

In fact Scheer should get on board with the other opposition parties, some voices within his own party, and even the Anglican Church, which are all calling for a permanent universal basic income (UBI). The COVID-19 health crisis landed on us with lightening speed and with it came the economic crisis, thanks to the necessary lockdown.

Since both crises will likely be with us, at least to the end of this year, those emergency funds will need to be extended. That sounds more and more like a UBI. Having already rejected implementing a proper UBI Mr. Trudeau needs a rethink. It is time for him to re-discover his social democratic roots and implement a permanent UBI or move aside for some one who will. There are those who once thought universal health care was impossible too.

UBI is not a new idea. There have been a number of pilot UBI projects around the world and the results have all been positive, even those in Ontario and Manitoba which were prematurely aborted. If mental health and income security mean anything to society UBI is a no-brainer. And there is no evidence that UBI provides a disincentive to work, so Mr. Scheer’s concern about ‘money for nothing’ turning us all into lazy bums is nonsense.

Justin Trudea flags beard

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to take to the idea of a Universal Basic Income.

Do the numbers. A UBI at the $2000 per month level for each of the 30 million Canadian adults might seem frighteningly high. But UBI would eliminate the need for old age security, unemployment insurance and a host of other federal and provincial income support programs in addition to the complex of welfare programs administered by all three levels of government. UBI would be taxable and possibly even clawed-back for high income earners at tax filing time. In the end the numbers should be, at a minimum, a wash.

UBI or not Canada is facing a record high deficit this year. But we’ve done this before. Does anyone remember that we were once heavily invested in the second world war? The federal government, unlike the provinces or municipalities is not constrained by debt, at least not in the short run. We print our own money and the Bank of Canada is buying up most of that debt. So we owe that money to ourselves.

But we should expect inflation when it is safe to reopen the economy. We’re already seeing some of that – especially hand sanitizers and meat products as the processing plants shut down. And inflation may affect our currency exchange rates, but even much of that is unlikely. After all, if there is an upside to this being the pandemic it is in that we are all in this together – a level playing field – this economic malaise is truly global. And inflation is an eventual pathway out of the debt, since today’s obligations will be smaller in tomorrow’s inflated dollars.

We can pay ourselves back once this is over. Canada ran sizeable deficits in the later Pierre Trudeau years, and right through the Mulroney near-decade. Yet after Jean Chretien balanced the budget both Harper and Trudeau inherited and grew one of the lowest debt-to-GDP economies in the G7. And even with a deficit of $300 billion our debt-to-GDP ratio will still be lower than when Chretien came into office, unless our economy really slips into the dark side.

Canadian paper money

The federal government can just print all the money they want to distribute.

Most economists and politicians agree with the current approach of keeping the fiscal taps running. But the truth is that UBI would be more efficient than what the PM is doing now. It would cost less, avoid duplication for some and inadvertent exclusion for others. It would also avoid the inevitable double-dipping and potential cheating inherent in the current mess of hastily developed income subsidy programs.

Still we shouldn’t be too worried about those deficit numbers even as we are getting more conservative in our golden years, at least not yet. We’re doing what we can – staying home, keeping our physical distance, washing our hands often and always wearing a mask in public. Governments may have been responsible for letting this outbreak get as bad as it is here in Canada. But they are doing the right thing in keeping the money flowing.

And they will need to do even more of that once we safely open up more economic activities. Already the federal minister of infrastructure, Catherine McKenna, is calling for shovel-ready projects to get us back to work sooner than later – but hopefully only when it is safe to do so. But even when we get back to full employment UBI makes for better social policy and sounder economic sense.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Deficit –   Biggest Deficit –    CERB

Wage Subsidy –    Who’s Missing –    UBI

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Do we know what is happening to us?

background graphic redBy Pepper Parr

May 5th, 2020



What’s happening to us?

We read that thousands have died – from something we don’t understand and nor do the scientists who are struggling to find a vaccine that will prevent the spread of the disease.

isolation - woman - window


We are asked to stay inside as much as possible and when we do go out we are asked not to congregate with people. Don’t stop to talk to people – if you do keep at least six feet of space between people.

Grandfather at window

No hug – not even a Hi – just a wave

Children don’t get to see their grand parents; some parents don’t get to see their parents because they are in a retirement home.

We are told to wash our hands often – at least every hour.

We can’t go to work and when we are able to get back to work we are warned it is going to be a much much different environment.

How did we get to this point ?

There is a delightful children’s bedtime story – short – that has a lot for adults – it may have been meant for us and not the children.

There is something to think about for all of us in that short clip. Part of the answer as to what is happening to us is in that story.

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We have unaccountable local decision-making being done by the Emergency Coordinating Group - time for some accountability and some transparency.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 29th, 2020



In normal times the administration of the city is in the hands of the City Manager who works at the will of council.

Council also issues Staff Directions which set out some very specific tasks they expect the City Manager to ensure gets done on time and within the budget.

But these are not normal times.

On March 21st, Mayor Marianne Meed Ward declared a State of Emergency and the role city council played going forward was severely diminished. When the province declared a State of Emergency that meant many of the instructions as to what a city had to do came from the province.

The City manager was, to a large degree bound by what the province was calling for.

So – what was a mere city councillor to do?

In Burlington several of the Councillors began to chafe a bit and worked on the city manager to get more in the way of information as to just what was happening day to day.

Commisso stare

City manager Tim Commisso: With most of the power over local decision making – there might be some reluctance to give it back to council.

As Chair of what is known as the Emergency Coordinating Group (ECG) the city manager takes the steps he thinks are necessary to ensure the safe operation of the city and while city hall is closed to the public there are some people working on tasks that can only be done from within city hall.

The ECG is made up of a large number of people. They meet twice a day on-line and make sure that what needs doing is done.

My understanding is that the City Manager is now giving the city Councillors an update once a week as to what was done and why.

That information however is not being shared.

If the Councillors do have a weekly report they aren’t sharing that information with their constituents. One wonders why.

One could also ask why the City Manager doesn’t share those reports with the public.

An opinion piece in the Toronto Star on April 27th raised some serious questions under the headline: “Use of municipal emergency powers has gone too far.”

Anneke Smit and Alexandra Flynn argue that “meaningful, participatory governance has been thrust aside” in the name of keeping people safe while a virus kills hundreds across the province.

“Municipalities have very weak powers in Canada’s constitutional framework, cities are subject to provincial whims when it comes to both stable funding and political structures. Local governments are overlooked in conversations about democracy and governance, yet they are responsible for many of the decisions that most directly affect our daily lives.

“Canadian municipalities have made big decisions from the start of the crisis, such as enforcing physical distancing; dealing with the functioning — or not — of public transit; access to parks; and deciding whether to dedicate extra space for pedestrians and cyclists to name a few.

“Canada’s municipalities are not governed by a “strong mayor” system. This means that city council as a whole makes decisions, not just mayors. Provincial state of emergency legislation changes this. In most provinces, municipalities have the power to declare their own state of emergency. In its survey of 65 of the largest Canadian municipalities, the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) counts 56 that have done so, in some cases for the first time in history, leaving mayors able to bypass city council votes and act unilaterally.

“While B.C.’s emergency legislation requires a mayor to consult the rest of council before they act, this is not the case in most Canadian provinces. CUI counts 10 of the surveyed cities having cancelled city council meetings during COVID-19 (including Toronto, Halifax, Windsor, Winnipeg and Edmonton). The cancellation or diminishment of council meetings means residents won’t know who made what decisions, which questions were asked, or hear staff advice, and decisions on many key issues not immediately related to the pandemic are simply being postponed.

“What is more, 28 of the municipalities have also cancelled committee meetings, and 34 have cancelled public consultations. These meetings are the backbone of local democracy. They give the public a chance to directly weigh in on issues that matter to them in their communities.

“In the early stages of the pandemic, decisions had to be made quickly. A single, authoritative voice on behalf of a government was arguably necessary. Five weeks later, much of the dust has settled, and we are left with unaccountable local decision-making in many communities and no immediate end in sight to states of emergency.”

That pretty well sets out what is taking place in Burlington.

It doesn’t have to be this way – the elected members of council can agitate and advocate for a more open process – and those with the courage to do so might better serve their constituents by being more vocal.

All seven were elected and they speak as the will of council.

The Gazette for one would like to hear that will expressed verbally.

Council ALL 2018

Elected less than two years ago – they have now let someone else make the decisions.

Related news stories:

Mayor declares State of Emergency

What does a State of Emergency mean?

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Free software; free apps - sure - you get the functionality - they get you and all your data

background graphic greenBy Christopher Boyd

April 23rd, 2020


The Gazette uses Malware to secure its web sites. There are any number of software applications that can be used – we found Malware to work well for us.
One of the added values is a newsletter they publish. In the most recent version they published a piece of just what “free” software is all about. Well worth reading.

It’s almost impossible not to rely on social networks in some way, whether for personal reasons or business. Sites such as LinkedIn continue to blur the line, increasing the amount of social function over time with features and services resembling less formal sites, such as Facebook. Can anyone imagine not relying on, of all things, Twitter to catch up on breaking coronavirus news around the world instantly? The trade off is your data, and how they profit from it.

Like it or not—and it’s entirely possibly it’s a big slab of “not”—these services are here to stay, and we may be “forced” to keep using them. Some of the privacy concerns that lead people to say, “Just stop using them” are well founded. The reality, however, is not quite so straightforward.

Malware article graphicFor example, in many remote regions, Facebook or Twitter might be the only free Internet access people have. And with pockets of restriction on free press, social media often represents the only outlet for “truth” for some users. There are some areas where people can receive unlimited Facebook access when they top up their mobiles. If they’re working, they’ll almost always use Facebook Messenger or another social media chat tool to stay in touch rather than drain their SMS allowance.

Many of us can afford to walk away from these services; but just as many of us simply can’t consider it when there’s nothing else to take its place.

Mining for data (money) has never been so profitable.

But how did this come to be? In the early days of Facebook, it was hard to envision the platform being used to spread disinformation, assist in genocide, or sell user data to third-parties. We walk users through the social media business model and show how the inevitable happens: when a product is free, the commodity is you and your data.

Setting up social media shop

Often, Venture Capital backing is how a social network springs into life. This is where VC firms invest lots of money for promising-looking services/technology with the expectation they’ll make big money and gain a return on investment in the form of ownership stakes. When the company is bought out or goes public, it’s massive sacks of cash for everybody. (Well, that’s the dream. The reality is usually quite a bit more complicated).

It’s not exactly common for these high-risk gambles to pay off, and what often happens is the company never quite pops. They underperform, or key staff leave, and they expand a little too rapidly with the knock-on effect that the CEO suddenly has this massive service with millions of users and no sensible way to turn that user base into profit (and no way to retain order on a service rife with chaos).

At that point, they either muddle along, or they look to profit in other ways. That “other way” is almost always via user data. I mean, it’s all there, so why not? Here are just some of the methods social networks deploy to turn bums on seats into massive piles of cash.

Advertising on social media

This is the most obvious one, and a primary driver for online revenue for many a year. Social media platforms tend to benefit in a way other more traditional publishers cannot, and revenue streams appear to be quite healthy in terms of user-revenue generation.

Advertising is a straight-forward way for social media networks to not only make money from the data they’ve collected, but also create chains where external parties potentially dip into the same pool, too.

social media ad tableau

That advertisement, beneath the headline, offering a free report is an example of an advertiser using the Google AdSense platform to put their advertisement in front of the audience they want. The Gazette earns a couple of pennies for each that someone clicks on.

At its most basic, platforms can offer ad space to advertisers. Unlike traditional publishing, social media ads can be tailored to personalized data the social network sees you searching for, talking about, or liking daily. If you thought hitting “like” (or its equivalent) on a portal was simply a helpful thumbs up in the general direction of someone providing content, think again. It’s quite likely feeding data into the big pot of “These are the ads we should show this person.”

Not only is everything you punch into the social network (and your browser) up for grabs, but everything your colleagues and associates do too, tying you up in a neat little bow of social media profiling. All of it can then be mined to make associations and estimations, which will also feed back to ad units and, ultimately, profit.

Guesstimates are based on the interests of you, your family, your friends, and your friends’ friends, plus other demographic-specific clues, such as your job title, pictures of your home, travel experiences, cars, and marriage status. Likely all of these data points help the social network neatly estimate your income, another way to figure out which specific adverts to send your way.

After all, if they send you the wrong ads, they lose. If you’re not clicking through and popping a promo page, the advertisers aren’t really winning. All that ad investment is essentially going to waste unless you’re compelled to make use of it in some way.

Even selling your data to advertisers or other marketing firms could be on the table. Depending on terms of service, it’s entirely possible the social platforms you use can anonymise their treasure trove and sell it for top dollar to third parties. Even in cases where the data isn’t sold, simply having it out there is always a bit risky.

There have been many unrelated, non-social media instances where it turned out supposedly anonymous data, wasn’t. There are always people who can come along afterwards and piece it all together, and they don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to do it. All this before you consider social media sites/platforms with social components aren’t immune to the perils of theft, leakage, and data scraping.

As any cursory glance of a security news source will tell you, there’s an awful lot of rogue advertisers out there to offset the perfectly legitimate ones. Whether by purchase or stumbling upon data leaked online, scammers are happy to take social media data and tie it up in email/phone scams and additional fake promos. At that point, even data generated through theoretically legitimate means is being (mis)used in some way by unscrupulous individuals, which only harms the ad industry further.

Apps and ads

Moving from desktop to mobile is a smart move for social networks, and if they’re able to have you install an app, then so much the better (for them). Depending on the mobile platform, they may be able to glean additional information about sites, apps, services, and preferred functionalities, which wouldn’t necessarily be available if you simply used a mobile web browser.

If you browse for any length of time on a mobile device, you’ll almost certainly be familiar with endless pop-ups and push notifications telling you how much cooler and awesome the app version of site X or Y will be. You may also have experienced the nagging sensation that websites seem to degrade in functionality over time on mobile browsers.

Suddenly, the UI is a little worse. The text is tiny. Somehow, you can no longer find previously overt menu options. Certain types of content no longer display correctly or easily, even when it’s something as basic as a jpeg. Did the “Do you want to view this in the app?” popup reverse the positions of the “Yes” and “No” buttons from the last time you saw it? Are they trying to trick you into clicking the wrong thing? It’s hard to remember, isn’t it?

A cynic would say this is all par for the course, but this is something you’ve almost certainly experienced when trying to do anything in social land on a mobile minus an app.

Once you’re locked into said app, a brave new world appears in terms of intimately-detailed data collection and a huge selection of adverts to choose from. Some of them may lead to sponsored affiliate links, opening the data harvesting net still further, or lead to additional third-party downloads. Some of these may be on official platform stores, while others may sit on unofficial third-party websites with all the implied risk such a thing carries.

Even the setup of how apps work on the website proper can drive revenue. Facebook caught some heat back in 2008 for their $375USD developer fee. Simply having a mass of developers making apps for the platform—whether verified or not—generates data that a social network platform can make use of, then tie it back to their users.

It’s all your data, wheeling around in a tumble drier of analytics.

Payment for access/features

Gating access to websites behind paywalls is not particularly popular for the general public. Therefore, most sites with a social networking component will usually charge only for additional services, and those services might not even be directly related to the social networking bit.

LinkedIn is a great example of this: the social networking part is there for anybody to use because it makes all those hilariously bad road warrior lifestyle posts incredibly sticky, and humorous replies are often the way people first land on a profile proper. However, what you’re paying for is increased core functionality unrelated to the “Is this even real?” comedy posts elsewhere.

In social networking land, a non-payment gated approach was required for certain platforms. Orkut, for example, required a login to access any content. Some of the thinking there was that a gated community could keep the bad things out. In reality, when data theft worms started to spread, it just meant the attacks were contained within the walls and hit the gated communities with full force.

The knock-on effect of this was security researchers’ ability to analyse and tackle these threats was delayed because many of these services were either niche or specific to certain regions only. As a result, finding out about these attacks was often at the mercy of simply being informed by random people that “X was happening over in Y.”

These days, access is much more granular, and it’s up to users to display what they want, with additional content requiring you to be logged in to view.

Counting the cost

Of the three approaches listed above, payment/gating is one of the least popular techniques to encourage a revenue stream. Straight up traditional advertising isn’t as fancy as app/site/service integration, but it’s something pretty much anybody can use, which is handy for devs without the mobile know-how or funds available to help make it happen.

Even so, nothing quite compares to the flexibility provided by mobile apps, integrated advertising, and the potential for additional third-party installs. With the added boost to sticky installs via the pulling power of social media influencers, it’s possibly never been harder to resist clicking install for key demographics.

The most important question, then, turns out to be one of the most common: What are you getting in return for loading an app onto your phone?

It’s always been true for apps generally, and it’ll continue to be a key factor in social media mobile data mining for the foreseeable future. “You are the product” might be a bit long in the tooth at this point, but where social media is concerned, it’s absolutely accurate. How could the billions of people worldwide creating the entirety of the content posted be anything else?

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Scheer wanted the House to sit more often; Peter MacKay wanted to be in the House to serve as leader of the Opposition;neither got what they wanted this week.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 22, 2020



Peter Mackay mouth open - shouting

Peter Mackay – at full bore.

Peter MacKay had a point – that the Conservatives needed to get a real leader to head their party. Though he may not have put it that way exactly.  And he was adamant the Tory leadership convention should proceed, coronavirus or not.

That would have been foolhardy and the party wasn’t having any of it. You just don’t assemble a thousand or more party members for that kind of passionate event in the midst of a deadly epidemic.

But if MacKay didn’t get the memo neither did Andrew Scheer. For him parliament was just another day’s work – and everyone should be there daily – business as usual. Perhaps he could be excused for his devotion to the highest political temple in the country. Working for government was the only real job he’d ever had.

Scheer pointing at self

Andrew Scheer

But hello, Mr. Scheer – there is a contagion raging throughout the land. Canada’s chief medical officer has told us that everyone’s health is important and MPs like everyone else need to exercise social distancing. As Britain’s PM, Boris Johnson, demonstrated, just because you’re an MP doesn’t mean you are immune from COVID-19.

But it’s pretty clear Scheer has trouble understanding what social distancing means. For example, when the government sent a nine person plane to pick up Scheer and two other MP’s, he insisted on bringing his whole family including all five of his children. Unmasked, they flew together sharing the same breathing space, and were packed-in like sardines in a can.

Unlike Scheer, the other three party leaders do get it. Green MP Elizabeth May believes they can hold the government to account without showing up in Ottawa. MPs from some provinces are required to quarantine after leaving their home province, making it difficult for them to attend. Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said the average person doesn’t care much about what MPs are up to in Ottawa [anyway].

So, stapled onto the first of a number of emergency funding bills was a request by the Liberals that they be given emergency authority to approve money bills without full parliamentary approval. That, they argued, would expedite the upcoming tranches of emergency funding bills to follow. Trudeau got royally hammered for trying that on.

House of Commons - chamber

The House of Commons Chamber that the members work in while the Centre Block undergoes a ten year re-build.

To be fair the government probably was just trying to be expeditious and avoid having MPs co-mingle as a group greater than five persons. In a minority situation the opposition could always work together to defeat the Liberals should they feel it necessary. And besides, as we all expected, the funding bills went through pretty much unchanged – so the debate was essentially a rubber stamp. But that was a war measure and this is not war – or is it?

And the funding did take longer to get in place as a result of having to follow due process – something Scheer later complained about, ironically. Though, in fairness, he wasn’t the only one to hold up the emergency response.

Peter O'Toole

Erin O’Toole

MacKay has been adamant that the Tories need a new leader. Of course he is currently the odds-on favourite, even though there is a rising tide for Erin O’Toole in western Canada. There are a lot of things wrong about Scheer but it was probably the mean spirited and miserable campaign last election that wrote his ticket.

Even though he had won the most seats in the House, everyone knew it was only because of western alienation. Some people prefer not to face the truth, even if it is in their best long term interest. Another pipeline or two are of no value if nobody is buying oil. And when the price of even West Texas oil falls so low that the oil companies are paying people to take the oil, it’s time to get out of Dodge…and your gas guzzling Dodge too. The future is clear.

Knowing Scheer had to go, the Tories must have been hopeful to pick amongst the wealth of potential candidates at their pleasure. But it didn’t turn out that way. Rona for personal reasons, Lisa because her neck wasn’t red enough. And Michael because he was just a nice guy – and we know where they finished.

And even Kevin was up to his ears after he and his wife got up to that nasty business with their yacht. Oh, if only Maxime was back in the game. Jason Kenny has his hands full at the moment. And Doug Ford… well….

So it’s Scheer for the interim and that’s a pity for all of us. He’s actually relented now and agreed to a new consensus plan, including virtual meetings. Still you’d think he’d get it. The only reason he’s still in that job is because COVID-19 postponed the Conservative leadership contest. But he still doesn’t take social distancing seriously. I wonder what Peter MacKay thinks about all that.

Leadership – it means walking the talk. That is another reason why the Tories need a new leader.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Scheer on COVID 19 –   COVID Emergency Bill –    Scheer Flight

Economic Response Plan –   Who Held Up Government

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The weak link turned out to be at the nursing homes where more than half the COVID19 deaths in Ontario took place

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 17th, 2020



It’s a mess.

Long term care homes are host to about half of all of Canada’s COVID-19 fatalities. Ontario has 626 nursing homes, a little over half are privately operated, a quarter non-profit, and the rest municipal. There are close to 80,000 beds in use and there is a waiting list almost half as long again.

The costs of long term care are co-funded between the province and the patient. In 2018 provincial funding totalled $4.28 billion, less that a tenth of the provincial health budget, which amounts to about $150 per resident a day. That is board, room, cleaning and care for a little over $50,000 per patient per year plus the patient’s co-fund.

There was this idea once that for that kind of money, one could book a year-long ocean cruise, and get everything except the medical care. But nobody ever thought that they might also get stuck, like the 4000 Canadians on some 70 cruise ships, as of late March this year, who can’t get off because of COVID 19.

Star quote For seniorsQuebec has called on the federal government to bring in the army’s medical corps to help with their lack of health care at long term facilities But Ontario is putting an ‘iron ring’ around its institutions according to its premier, who has promised to leave no stone unturned, spare no expense.…

Next week he finally will ban support staff from working in more than one long term facility, thereby eliminating a potential source of spread. But B.C. had brought in a similar regulation almost a month ago and Ontario had enacted a similar rule back during the SARS crisis. So why has it taken this long for Ford to act? Perhaps he empathized with the long term support staff, having to take on extra employment to make up for their miserable pay levels.

It’s not Ford’s fault that COVID 19 came to Canada and Ontario. The virus arrived here with travellers arriving first from China, then from other places. As the contagion got a foothold and spread, we remained calm on the advice of Canada’s chief medical officer.

Tam Teresa

Dr. Teresa Tam: Chief Medical Officer of Health

Dr. Tam told us that the risk to Canadians was minimal and there was no need for travel restrictions, quarantine or protective masks to reduce the risk of exposure. So today Ontario has had over 500 deaths and over half of those are in long term care.

But Ford’s record in this is anything but spotty clean. Jurisdictions, like South Korea, which have minimized the coronavirus casualties, have used extensive testing to identify, isolate and treat the infected. Ontario has the lowest record of testing in Canada, and that may explain why its infection numbers appear lower than they actually are – and why our death rate is so high.

Following the SARS crisis masks and other personal protection equipment (PPE) were stockpiled, but they got stale dated and eventually junked. But nobody, even in the previous administration, thought to rebuild the stockpile. So now Ford and his health minister are promising to fix this, even if late and too little.

Ford changed the labour laws in the province reducing sick leave days for employees and allowing employers to demand a medical certificate. In the early days of the epidemic this may have contributed to the virus spread, since sick employees would need to still go to their jobs to get paid, and those who didn’t needed to visit their doctor’s crowded offices for their medical certificate.

Bobcagen nursing home

A nursing home in Bobcaygen where 29 patients in a 65 bed facility died of COVID19

But perhaps worst of all, when it comes to long term care the Ford government had stopped inspecting health and safety conditions in nursing homes as a matter of policy. These annual inspections are the only way the province had to ensure that a nursing establishment was meeting it’s health, safety and licensing requirements.

Inspections went from 100% in 2017, under the previous Liberal government, to almost zero last year. Is it any wonder infection has spread so rapidly?

Instead of an annual snap Inspection for all homes conducted during the previous government only 9 of 626 were inspected in 2019.

Unfortunately this brings back memories of another Conservative premier who rolled the dice, deregulating water safety. That ended up with 7 people dying and half of a town’s people sickened. That policy, like Ford’s decision on inspections, was ideological, about cost cutting, eliminating red tape and promoting deregulation.

Australia has a different take on long term care. Their system is national and publicly run under strict rules and inspections. Australians saw where this virus might be heading before anyone called it a pandemic and responded much faster and more effectively than Canada, even though their first case arrived two days after ours.

And their long term deaths have been low, making them a model for us to emulate in this country. In fact there have been twice as many COVID 19 deaths in Ontario’s long term care homes than among Australia’s entire population of 25 million. Clearly they are doing something right.


The government of the day – Mike \Harries Tory’s failed the people of Walkerton.

Doug Ford has told us that his wife’s mother is a patient at a Toronto nursing home. One has to wonder what she thinks. After all, his is the kind of subtle negligence which eventually came back to haunt former PC premier Mike Harris. We’ll see eventually if this is really an iron ring or just Mr. Ford’s Walkerton.

Nobody wants to criticize a political leader during a time of an unprecedented health crisis. Doug Ford rose up in everyone’s expectations with his early daily briefings, closing the schools, declaring a state of emergency and gradually locking down the province’s economy. It was comforting to see someone in charge.

He could have moved faster and shut down more non-essential workplaces earlier, like construction. And public transit across the province should have been shut down as it has been in other places where social distancing is impossible. Ford’s people should have embraced masks earlier, instead of simply regurgitating the mis-truths from the World Health Organization and Canada’s own Dr. Tam.

And he could have left the provincial parks open. After a month of lockdown people need to get out for some exercise and fresh air. It would be easier to social distance on a park trail or open field than a crowded sidewalk, wouldn’t it?

Lately Ford has pretty much run out of ‘breaking news’ for his daily press conferences. They’ve started to morph into poorly staged political rallies, as the Premier and his beleaguer health minister tell us how they are there for us and doing all they can. And watching the two of them in action confirms for me that the PC’s did the right thing in nominating Ford for the top job.

Ford staring

Ontario Premier Doug Ford

Ford recently got angry complaining about Ontario’s pathetic rate of COVID 19 testing. But then seriously, isn’t he the premier? We want Ford to succeed in fighting this epidemic. It’s in all of our interests regardless of any political stripe.

But we need to have faith and believe in our premier. And that means some straight talk instead of hype and empty promises. Ford could begin by recognizing what has gone wrong and assuring us that he has learned from his mistakes.

Rivers hand to face

Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province.


Background links:
Long Term Care in Ontario –    Ford Didn’t Protect Them –    COVID 19 Spread in Ontario Nursing Homes

Masks Destroyed –   Long Term in Australia

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City Planning was in Crisis before the Crisis Struck

opinionred 100x100By Jim Young

April 16, 2020


I have lived on Silwell Court, which backs on to the controversial 2100 Brant Street Development, for 28 years. I know the neighbourhood and the people involved, they were my neighbours. I also know John Calvert; a quiet, capable former Mississauga city planner. He and I share notes on planning issues and I am always the wiser for his thoughts.

Like John, I worked for change at the last municipal election, hopeful that those changes would bring greater local resident input on city plans. Also, like John, while happy with much of our new council’s work on Transit, Climate Change and the recent Covid-19 crisis response, I am equally disappointed in their approach to land planning issues. His Op-ed piece on 2100 Brant Street and the Gazette picture juxtaposing the proposed 233 units with the 236 surrounding homes says all that needs to be said about over-intensification, poor planning and design.

National-Homes-766- 233

The blue area denotes the Havendale community with 236 homes. The orange area is the proposed National Homes development where 233 homes would be built.

But greater than any objection to that development is my fear that the process to approve it indicates how future planning applications will be handled and resolved by the city. A process that not only limits the public input electors demanded in the 2018 council rout, but leaves us wondering whether it is an unfortunate confluence of conflicting provincial / municipal planning ideologies or intentional city planning policy; forsaking local input for expediency.

First it is only fair to point out that, even with the best of intentions, municipal planners are severely limited by The Ontario Planning Act. Developer amendments to zoning bylaws and official plans, are assessed, not necessarily on the local impact or wishes but more on how they comply with provincial planning legislation and guidelines. Also, the time for city planners to assess those amendments is severely limited by the Planning Act. Even the much debated Official Plan, still in the works after so many years, must comply with The Act and subsequent provincial guidelines on density, transit and mobility.

The land use planning, amendment and appeals process was already complex and changes by two successive provincial governments and an ongoing Official Plan review by the city have made the whole process so complex as to be un-navigable by planners and unintelligible to us mere citizens.

The old process was: The city’s Official Plan regulates what may be built. Developers who wanted to deviate from that submitted amendment applications to the city are approved or disapproved. Prior to submitting the application, developers held a statutory public meeting to inform residents of the proposed changes. Cities had 120 days to respond to applications. Developers could appeal unfavourable planning decisions to the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board). Failure by the city to respond in time was also grounds for an appeal by the developer.

The first change, in early 2018, saw the OMB replaced by LPAT (Local Planning Appeals Tribunal), a supposedly more municipal and resident friendly body. It allowed 180 to 210 days for cities to respond to amendment applications and made it, theoretically, easier for local residents to contest developer proposals. Before any of this could be tested, the Provincial election that year changed the government.

Ground break - Oct Suz Hammel, +

Burlington MPP Jane McKenna at the ground breaking of The Gallery, the 23 storey tower going up opposite city hall. The provincial government delivered regulatory changes that kept developers smiling.

With that change, a more development friendly government cut amendment application response times to 90 or 110 days and changed much of the amending criteria in favour of development. In a city which still had no official plan in place and a large number of pending applications, this was an impossibly tight deadline to meet. Throwing further confusion into this was the Review of the Official Plan, demanded by the electorate and concentrating on the downtown.

In a bid to allow planners time to develop the new official plan free from ongoing amendment applications the city froze the planning process using an Interim Control Bylaw. (ICBL)

We can argue whether this was undertaken properly, if the (ICBL) was successful? If the Downtown Transit Hub should have been addressed first? If the revised downtown plan is any better? But those are arguments for another column.

The outcome has been that on top of all the in-process amendments, frozen by the ICBL, developers lodged a further thirty one appeals to LPAT opposing the new plan and the ICBL. Add to this a city and a province beset by a Covid 19 lockdown and the whole process has simply seized up. Applications are frozen again, LPAT appeals are suspended and there seems to be confusion about whether the application deadline clock is still ticking or not. An email from Heather MacDonald, Executive Director, Community Planning Regulation and Mobility suggests to me the clock is frozen too, an article in the Gazette, April 14 suggests the issue is being debated at the province but there is no decision as yet.

The debate now becomes: Is the city a victim of powerful and shifting provincial planning whims? Or is the city happy to hide behind a land planning regime it cannot win against and capitulates to quietly while still disingenuously proclaiming its defence of resident interests?

I am beginning to believe the latter. Reading John Calvert’s plea to our mayor, one might reasonably conclude that the city’s new approach to planning amendments is: Receive the application. Sit on it until the response time runs out. Let the developer appeal to LPAT, then negotiate a settlement agreement with the developer with almost no input from local residents.

I worry that, with the city’s planning in an unresolvable mess and aware that municipalities are virtually powerless anyway, our elected council has found a way to live with a pro developer provincial planning regime while shrugging off responsibility for the outcomes.

I further worry that in a “Covid Shutdown” political environment, what little resident or municipal input exists in the planning process will be further eroded by meetings in camera, with no traditional citizen delegation.

Related news articles:

Calvert letter to the Mayor on trust

The pain Calvert carries

Marianne Meed Ward on trust.

Jim Young 2Jim Young is an Aldershot resident who delegates at city council on transit and local development.  He is consistent in his mission to ensure local government is transparent and accountable to the people who elected them.

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Ontario has a Premier that is delivering

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 15th, 2020



You have to give credit where credit is due.

For the past month Ontario has had a Premier who has delivered.  Surprising to many, is the level of empathy we are seeing from the man.

Doug Ford - habd to head

Ontario Premier Doug Ford – being pressed at every level yet keeping it all together.

Doug Ford is there before the cameras every day of the week; answering the tough, but necessary, questions.

Yesterday he stepped away from the camera, took a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his brow.  He was sweating it literally.

There is nothing smooth or slick about Doug Ford; his oratory doesn’t soar but when he says he will “look into it” – he does.

Hearing a politician say that they will do whatever it takes and then having them deliver on that statement is certainly refreshing.

His response to the desperate situation in the long term care homes hit home for this man; his Mother-in-law is a resident in one.

He moved swiftly to make changes across the system – long term care and the people who provide the service will benefit from his ability to see the problem, accept the advice he was given and get the wheels moving.

There will come a time when the spending being done today will have to be recovered from the tax base and we will watch with interest on how the current government pulls that off.

But right now Doug Ford is leading in a way this writer didn’t expect.

Does anyone happen to know where the leader of the provincial Liberals is.  Has the New Democrat leader lost her tongue?

Many of us laughed when Doug Ford was basically hidden during the last federal election for fear that he would embarrass Andrew Scheer.

I may have issues with underlying philosophy that the Progressive Conservatives bring to the table but the man leading the government today is doing the job and I’m not embarrassed.

Listening to him say that he is a politician and he listens to the experts – and that it is his job to step aside and let the experts do their jobs is refreshing.

We didn’t see that from the federal Liberals during the SNC mess that occupied the minds of many trying to figure out just what the full story was behind the demotion of the then Minister of Justice Jodie Wilson Raybould.

Ford for the people

Doug Ford is likely to be a two term Premier.

Every political leader has people who do the longer term political thinking.  Were I Doug Ford, I would be asking my team to think about when to go back to the electorate.

When the COVID-19 crisis is behind us and things are getting back to, or close to, normal I would call a snap election – because when this is all over there is going to be a huge economic mess that may take as much as a decade to recover from and some very painful financial decision are going to have to be made.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.




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I heard a very distraught man who was deeply hurt

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 14th, 2020



I didn’t know John Calvert. I knew of him. He was Director of Planning in Mississauga at a time when Hazel McCallion was Mayor – and he survived – Hazel was one tough cookie.

I was sent a copy of the letter Calvert wrote to Mayor Marianne Meed Ward expressing his profound disappointment on how the National Homes development on Brant was proceeding.

John Calvert has lived in Burlington for more than 30 years.  Watching the shape, look, and feel of the city disintegrate has bothered him for some time.

John Calvert with model

John Calvert: Deeply hurt and disappointed

I had to ask a friend for contact information and see if Calvert would take a call from me.

He said he would and we had a ten minute talk.

I heard a very distraught man who was deeply hurt talk about the Due Process that he did not feel had taken place and the need for public input on planning decisions.

He agreed with me that people were excited when Marianne was elected Mayor – many believed that the development proposals on the table were going to ruin the city.

Calvert said he “likes Marianne” he just didn’t seem to like what she was doing.

“It took me some time to write the letter” said Calvert. “I showed it to my neighbour Ed Doer who was heavily involved in the opposition to the National Homes development; he said I had written what needed to be said.”

When Mayor Meed Ward went to France to take part in the 75th WWII anniversary she went with Calvert’s wife who was one of the Burlington residents who made the Juno Beach reception centre possible. Calvert told me that the two women travelled together and got along very well.

Calvert said he was asked to speak at one of Meed Ward’s campaign funding events. “I did so willingly” said Calvert
Calvert knows the ins and out of the planning profession. He told me that the communities we build today will determine the kind of society we will have a couple of decades later.

He talked about the lack of amenities in a community that was to have 233 homes – which may have been chiselled down to 215.

“The traffic problems will be horrendous.”

Calvert hopes that this Council decides to take a sober second look at what is being proposed.

The issue for Calvert is trust and quality in developments. By quality he doesn’t mean quartz counter tops and shiny high end stoves. He means space for people to live, back yards where there is room for one of those large Italian families and parks where children can play and enough room for a child to learn to ride a bicycle.

Calvert said he was excited when Meed Ward came along – mistakes that had been made were going to be corrected. Now it doesn’t look that way.

“Someone has to stop this” he said

Related news item:

The Calvert letter

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Easter is about more than chocolate and painted eggs - Palm Sunday ahead of us.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 4TH, 2020


Easter isn’t about coloured eggs and the Easter Bunny.

Starts with Palm Sunday, then Good Friday, then Easter Sunday.

This Sunday we remember when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the crowds waved branches and laid down coats and shouted “Hosanna!”

palm sunday kids

Children in churches around the world will take part in a Palm Sunday procession.

In many churches there is a procession with the children walking into the Sanctuary waving palm tree leaves and singing hymns.

Covid-19 has put a serious crimp on church attendance. My church, Hamilton Mennonite, sent out a note saying they “need help to do a different kind of Palm Sunday processional, and anyone of any age can participate! Here are the steps:

Palm Sunday1) Print the attached palm branch colouring page (as many as your household needs)
2) Colour (or otherwise decorate) it
3) Take a Picture of your artwork (horizontal is best). Include you holding it, if you want, or add your name to it.
4) Email it here or to Alissa at hmcpastor@cogeco.net by Friday night (or 1st thing Saturday morning if you must!)

Watch for the Photo Processional this Sunday morning in worship!

I’ll go on line to see how my Pastor handles the procession.

Think about what that procession was all about; the trial that took place, the decision to crucify a man named Jesus – that part is all fact – well documented.

The balance of the story, the Risen Lord – on the third day he rose – is pure faith – you either believe it or you don’t.

Much of our core social philosophy and fundamental social beliefs comes out of a Christian perspective. We now have many who bring a Muslim perspective to the way lives are lived.”

With parents struggling to keep their children active and at least a little entertained painting hard boiled eggs seems like a good idea and the hunt for the treats that are part of the secular Easter will keep the kids happy for a couple of hours.

You might give some thought to telling them what the season is really all about.

It isn’t the Easter Bunny is it?

On Sunday 9:45 – Join live here:

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.


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Rivers wonders why face masks are not mandatory in Ontario

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 2, 2020





Donald Trump regularly spouts so much misinformation that the American public has almost become immune to him. But almost a hundred thousand people have signed a petition calling for Trump to end his daily COVID-19 briefings, claiming he is politicizing the crisis and using the news pressers as just another partisan political rally.

Fortunately nobody is making that kind of complaint on this side of the border. As tedious as the PM and premier’s daily briefings have become, there is usually some newsworthy item to justify pre-empting our favourite day-time TV reruns. And unlike the combative Trump, our leaders appreciate the seriousness of the situation and have been careful to play nicely with each other.

Doug Ford, whose poll numbers were in the toilet only a few months ago, has almost overcome his bully-boy countenance, dutifully earned after attacking teachers and Toronto’s city council. His fight over the carbon tax with the federal government now seems like distant history, as he regularly heaps praise on the PM and his deputy PM.

doug-ford hard face

Doug Ford is coming across as a much more focused and stronger reader.

But his populist instincts of overreaching continue to get him into trouble, as for example when he advised workers to just walk off their jobs and promised not to let anyone get evicted for not paying their rents. But his past stumbles, most recently the illegible license plates, are forgotten and forgiven as this epidemic now interminably occupies our lives.

Compared to our southern neighbours, Canada is in a better place. But our numbers are still growing and there is no end in sight. And if there is a recovery strategy it has to be a best kept secret, as new numbers roll-in every day telling us that things are only getting worse – not better.

We’ve seen how China, despite bring hampered initially by its knee jerk denials, was finally able to lock down the virus only with a dramatic quarantine, exhaustive travel restrictions, a shuttering of virtually all business and the mandatory wearing of face masks in public. We’ve also seen how South Korea is claiming limited success by aggressive testing and tracking, isolation, travel bans, and… face masks.

But Canada is not following either of these models. Our first COVID-19 case arrived from China near the end of January, yet it took another month to restrict International travel. Arriving passengers were neither tested nor quarantined until enough infected people had arrived for the virus to become a self sustaining problem.

Trudeau welcoming

It was a different time: The Prime Minister was welcoming refugees into the country almost every day.

We just kept counting the infected and dead until, by early March, we had joined the rest of the world in suffering the consequences of this deadly and growing epidemic. So we started ratcheting down our economy by a series of half measures. Mr. Trudeau announced voluntary internal travel restrictions but not a ban, and only partially closed the US border. And Mr. Ford shuttered some, but not all, non-essential Ontario business.

Our chief medical officer of health keeps telling us that all we need to do is wash our hands and keep our social distances. Social distancing is a good idea but how is that even possible for those who need to make the daily commute to their job by subway or bus, for example. So what about the masks which worked so well in Asia?

The virus is respiratory. I’m not a medical doctor but even I know that means the pathway for the infection starts with the mouth or nose and moves out by a cough, sneeze or even talking. The virus apparently lasts a relatively long time on some surfaces (counters, doors and grab rails and grocery produce) but it gets there when an infected person coughs or sneezes near or onto those surfaces – or touches them after sneezing into their own hands.

Masks - crowd wearing

Masks were essential in China – Rivers wonders why they are not essential in Ontario

April 2 2020

World wide data on the morning of April 2, 2020

So the Chinese authorities believe wearing a mask reduces the contagion. But our Dr. Tam, the World Health Organization and the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) are still telling us not to wear a mask in public unless we are already infected and contagious. But couldn’t people be contagious and not display symptoms? And shouldn’t they stay at home if they are sick? And why do doctors and nurses wear masks?

Given the enormity of the epidemic spreading across the USA, the CDC is apparently on the cusp of recommending that everyone should start wearing a mask in public. Of course there aren’t nearly enough masks in America for all the people, so the CDC will likely offer a ‘how-to’ make and keep clean (for re-use) your very own cloth mask.

This would no doubt give Donald Trump something new to announce at one of his press availability sessions. But how will he explain why he didn’t do this sooner? Trump’s poll numbers have never been higher. This is amazing given how he has totally mismanaged the COVID-19 issue. Trump was aware of the epidemic when he banned commercial flights to China back in January.

But his administration fumbled terribly. Having decided to develop their own test kits they failed to get them done in a timely fashion. They failed to enforce social distancing. And their business as usual attitude allowed the virus to spread such that the US is now the global epicentre of the pandemic. And they don’t even have enough face masks to protect their own health care workers, let alone their population.

The US infection rate has been doubling every four days and is now 200,000 – more than twice China’s. The US chief medic has projected that the outbreak could rise to a million infections or more in that country alone. It is very likely that US deaths, already greater than those in China, could reach 100,000, even if they all start to wear masks tomorrow. That is twice as many fatalities as all those American soldiers who died in Vietnam.

Canada’s political leaders are also witnessing a rise in their approval ratings. That is a natural phenomena, particularly In the early stages of a crisis like this. We want to believe in our government and leaders in a time of uncertainty. For example, George W Bush, one of American’s worst presidents by almost any account, saw his approval rating skyrocket after 9/11 as the country looked to their president for leadership.

The approval we’re giving Mr Ford and Trudeau is unlikely to last if this epidemic continues too long or gets worse, however. And that approval will disappear if the public discovers that our governments have failed to protect us because of some kind of prejudice by our chief medical officer against wearing face masks – even if they have to be homemade ones.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.


Background links:

Trump Petition –    Ford Overreach    Ford Risen –     Mask Use

Trump Worst Leader –    South Korea –     US Death Toll –    More Masks

Dr. Tam–    Face Masks

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A little more transparency at the Emergency Coordination Group please

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 31st, 2020



I was surprised to learn that there isn’t always someone from city council at the Emergency Coordinating Group (ECG).

I knew that the Mayor and the City Manager were never in the room at the same time. Tim Commisso told me in a telephone interview that he is putting in 15 hour days and stick handling 200 + emails.  He has deep experience at the municipal level and has seen a city through a disaster.  But he is not a young man and he doesn’t have as much as he needs in the way of bench strength.

A State of Emergency does change the ground rules – but it shouldn’t dilute the level of on-the-ground democracy.

Running a city under a State of Emergency is not business as usual.

The politicians have to let the experts do what they do.

However, there isn’t a reason in the world why at least one member of Council cannot be in the room. They are not in the room to participate – they are in the room to witness, record and to serve as a hobble on bureaucrats that could go too far astray.

They are not there to ask questions. A good committee chair would ask the Councillor if there were any questions or suggestions at the end of a meeting.

Right now we have a Mayor saying everything is going just fine. That may well be the case.

We are not suggesting there is anything amiss. It is when the proceedings are transparent that things don’t go amiss.

Our Mayor would be serving her constituents’ interests well if she advocated for having at least one member of Council at that table or on-line.

Sharman was right to bring this to the attention of a very concerned public.

Related news story:

Councillor Sharman finds being elected means squat during an emergency.

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COVID-19: Some simple tips from the perspective of a motorcyclist.

opinionred 100x100By Pepper Parr

March 29th, 2020



This came to us from a Gazette reader:  Carol Gottlob has been with us from the very beginning.

I’ve never taken advantage of any opportunity to be a passenger on that bike; today she can put on her helmet and the rest of her safety gear and enjoy the freedom the road offers – and those roads will be close to empty today. Ride with the wind my friend!

Tips from a Road Warrior by Carol Gottlob:

Carol Gottlob March 29-20

Carol Gottlob with her 750 Honda Shadow.

In these times of new rules governing our lives to keep us safe in the time of CoVid, I would like to provide some simple tips from the perspective of a motorcyclist.

As a motorcyclist, I AM A RISK TAKER. This is pointed out to me at every opportunity when I tell people I ride a 750 Honda Shadow. I am well aware of the risks. They are calculated risks, and along with them, are some useful protocols to reduce those risks and improve my safety and the safety of those I share the road with. Here they are, and here is how you can apply them to your current self protection plan:

1. Keep your engine and brakes in good working condition. This equates to keeping yourself healthy by eating well, exercising and getting rest.

2. Wear protective gear. I don’t go on my bike without a helmet, gloves, and a safety jacket at the very least. You should not go out of the house without a mask, gloves or sanitizer if you are going to be in a grocery store, liquor store or gas station.

3. Ride at a safe distance. When we ride in formation, we are staggered, and the higher the speed, the further apart we are distanced to allow time for emergency braking. Remember to keep at least 6 feet apart when walking outdoors, shopping or talking to your neighbour on the front porch.

4. Ride defensively. Don’t assume everyone is going to follow the rules. Be watchful, especially at the intersections! But also remember to be polite if someone makes a mistake.

5. Know where you are going. Plan your route so there are no surprises, such as construction or a road closure. Likewise, plan your shopping trips efficiently so that you know which stores are open, get what you need and leave the stores quickly so others may enter.

6. Obey the traffic laws. Pull over and stop your engine when the cops pull you over. There’s a reason they’re pulling you over. It’s usually because you have been doing something unsafe, such as speeding. Listen to the authorities, for the same reasons.

7. Help others in distress. If you see a fellow rider by the side of the road, stop and ask if they need help. If you see a friend or a neighbour having trouble in these times, ask how you can help.

8. Enjoy the freedom and the journey. When you’re riding a motorcycle, it’s not because you want to or have to get somewhere, it’s because you enjoy the open road, the adventure and the friendly waves from other riders. In other words, make the best of this journey we are all on together. There will be lots of stories to swap when we stop our engines, take off our helmets, settle down with a beer and appreciate sharing the experience with other like-minded folk.

We are all risk takers on this blue green planet hurtling through space.

Ride safe, my friends.

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Is a Universal Basic Income an unintended consequence of COVID-19?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 27th, 2020



Cofins in Italy

This is what it has come to in Italy – and what we are probably going to see in New York city where the infection numbers are now higher than Italy.

There is no cure and there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best we can do is prevent human-to-human contact. It is a respiratory system disease much like the SARS epidemic we faced only a few years ago – but more contagious. And the only way we know to prevent its spread is to shut down the workplaces, shops and entertainment facilities and send everybody home.

No work, no income and that, for many of us, means no way to pay for food and rent. In fact a million Canadians have so far applied for employment insurance. So the federal government has responded with an emergency rescue package, the centre piece of which is a basic income of $2000 a month for those who apply.

That emergency package only runs for the next four months. The government had wanted to be given emergency taxation and spending power to extend the package, until the end of 2021. But the opposition called that a bridge too far. So Parliament will need to be recalled by this summer if an extension is required.

It is uncertain how long this epidemic will last but it’ll likely be beyond the summer and maybe up to a year. Chinese authorities are confidently sending Wuhan, where the virus started, back to business in early April. That will be about four months after the outbreak was first made public.

Street emplty - barren

Streets in Chinese city were emptied. No one was allowed out.

That sounds ambitious but then Wuhan’s lockdown was more complete and earlier than what is going on in the rest of the world. And the economic damage is substantial – estimates of 20% declines in retail. But even if all is well with the recovery, the export orders will be absent from the rest of the globe in its own lockdown.

It remains to be seen if the Wuhan virus will return, and with a vengeance. Even if Canada’s social distancing helps flatten the curve we are unlikely to be safe until those folks on the other side of the longest undefended border get their act together. For example, the recent alarming jump in Quebec’s virus numbers has been partly been attributed to travel – likely snowbirds returning from Florida.

Canada’s border is only partially shut down now and this virus is a persistent bug, so we will never be virus free as long as the US isn’t. The US is a basket case. Delayed and inadequate testing; a fractured health care system, short on public health; and an incompetent president in denial and determined to reopen the economy regardless how bad this gets, all work against an early recovery.

So given this scenario, the question is why the Trudeau government didn’t annualize the $2000 basic income provision, extending it to at least the end of the 2020. In fact why not just announce a permanent universal basic income.

UBI support

Public sentiment favours the idea of a Universal Basic Income – have we taken that first step in Canada?

The idea of universal basic income (UBI), also called a guaranteed annual income, has been around for ages and has been supported by economists and politicians on both sides of the political right/left divide. It is a natural cousin to our system of single payer health care and other social programs. Only corporate and political leaders, ignorant of facts, yet fretting that wages might have to increase, have kept UBI from becoming policy.

UBI involves a lot of cash outflow, but it can replace the costs of many lesser programs and it could, of course, be made taxable income. Employment insurance, welfare, and a host of other supplementary social income programs could be eliminated. Indeed, the efficiency of sending everyone one cheque a month instead of a couple must appeal to anyone who dislikes the breadth of our bureaucracy.

That partly explains why right-wing economist Milton Friedman was an early advocate. Progressive Conservative strategist Hugh Segal who designed Ontario’s now cancelled UBI pilot project was another. Former democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang had been offering Americans $1000 a month as his main campaign plank. And UBI also is nested the various versions of a Green New Deal.

UBI poster lady

The province had a UBI program – it was a pilot in three city’s – Hamilton was one. Doug Ford cancelled it.

Mr. Ford axed Ontario’s pilot UBI before it could demonstrate results, though early indications were positive on all fronts – consistent with other pilot experiments elsewhere. But then this is the premier whose first reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic was to front up $100 million dollars in emergency funding- roughly seven dollars per person.

The main thing about UBI is that, like a security blanket, it reduces uncertainty among families, and individuals, and small business owners – about keeping food on the table and a roof overhead. That is an essential piece of solace in times of crisis, and we are in the worst crisis in our lifetimes.

It is said that we should never let a good crisis go to waste. And that is exactly what will happen if we don’t act on this opportunity for a national and permanent UBI.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers



Background links:


Yang’s UBI –     70’s GAI –   Romney $1000

Canada’s GAi –    Ontario UBI –    Federal Power

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Troops on the border? Is he crazy? Probably

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 27th, 2020



With so much news coming at us from every direction – there are times when we might miss something or mis-interpret something.

From the left, John Norton, Sir Isaac Brock and John Brant at the LaSalle PArk Brant Day event. All three men played a very significant role in the War of 1812. while Brock lost his life t Queenston Height, Brant and Norton went on to play major roles in the growth of the native community.

Troops Canada might send to protect our border from Americans feeling COVID19 in New York

When I heard the piece about the President of the United States thinking of putting American troops along the border we share with the Americans my first thought was – that can’t be right.

Did Donald Trump think thousands of Canadians were going to head for the United States ?

If anyone wants to put troops on the border – it should be Canada.

Given what is in the process of hitting New York city – one can expect thousands to be getting in their cars with as much as they can pack in the trunk and heading for the border hoping we will let them in.

This is a crazy world. Hang tight.

Hold onSmileCouple of gems were sent to us yesterday.  Two residents, walking along Centennial Trail came across these painted stones.  Anyone know who put them there?

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Provincial government releases list of essential services exemptions from what has to be shut down to stop the spread of COVID19

opinionred 100x100By Andrew Drummond

March 24th, 2020


There are those that believe that in the current crisis there is no room for opposition to the government. I disagree. We need to dispense with political games, but it is even more critical now that we question our government to ensure that they are pressured into taking the correct action to protect us all.

Nothing in the below article is a personal attack, but it is an articulation of how the government on Monday failed to take adequate steps to protect Ontario.

Monday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford made what was possibly his most statesmanlike address to the province promising a total shutdown of non-essential businesses in Ontario for the next two weeks as we all desperately try and “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Ford - dumb thoughtful

Ontario Premier Doug Ford

He genuinely seemed to empathize with the Ontario public and promised strong action to slow the spread of the virus. After the announcement, it was made clear that a list would be provided of what was considered essential later Monday evening. As has been the case for a number of announcements from this government, the details do not match the headlines.

Ontarians know that this fight is important. There are medical experts who have made the case that it is critical to both the safety of our elderly population and to the health of our economy that we slow the spread as soon as possible. Those arguments do not need to be repeated here. What is important to know from Monday’s announcement is how little is covered by this “shutdown”.

The government has listed 74(!) different categories of businesses that qualify as essential, many of which are written in incredibly vague language so that nearly any business except a wedding dress store would qualify. Below are some of the worst examples of exemptions to the “shutdown”.

Exemption #1: Businesses that supply other essential businesses or essential services with the support, supplies, systems or services, including processing, packaging, distribution, delivery and maintenance necessary to operate. (This is so vague to include pretty much any business that sells product to a grocery store. Is a makeup supply store really essential?)

Exemption #9: Businesses that supply office products and services, including providing computer products and related repair and maintenance services, for individuals working from home and for essential businesses (So the computer paper supply store is allowed to stay open, noting that there is a separate exemption [#14] to cover IT professionals).

Exemption #47: Businesses that provide products and services that support research activities. (This would make “essential” any company that has ever sold a product to a university).

Exemption #67: Land registration services, and real estate agent services and moving services (Considering Realtors an essential service is possibly the biggest example of how little the government cares for shutting anything down at all).

Exemption #70: Businesses that support the safe operations of residences and essential businesses (A retailer of floor rugs could for example easily make the case that they are supporting the safe operation of homes).

The government either cares about letting people stay home and be safe or they do not. There is not a middle ground to this. The COVID-19 is the greatest threat to Ontario in at least a generation and it demands strong action to fight it. The action announced today in Ontario is not the strong action that is required, nor does it match the action the Premier promised Monday afternoon. The 74(!) exemptions show that the government is trying to ensure as much business remains open as possible while pretending to take a hard line.

The most dangerous aspect of COVID-19 is that an infected person is extremely contagious for up to an entire week before they show any symptoms. As a result of the actions taken today by the Ontario government, many Ontarians will be going to non-essential work while contagious. While there they will infect their colleagues. Those colleagues will then go on to infect others and the disease will spread much more rapidly.

If Ontario took COVID-19 seriously and legitimately shut down every non-essential business, it is possible that we could come through this in a “best case” period of time, even though no one at this point knows what that is. But if the government insists on taking half measures and making speeches for the sake of appearances while shirking from taking the necessary steps to combat this, Ontario is going to be suffering through this crisis MUCH longer than it had to.

The complete list of exemptions can be found here

Andrew Drummond was the NDP candidate during the last provincial election.

Get Gaz yellow

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Rivers masks up for a food run - gets mistaken for a Ninja

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 23, 2020



It is frustrating, feeling helpless as we watch the daily roll out of pandemic numbers continue to rise, with no apparent end in sight. The PM and our provincial and federal health officials conduct these daily press conferences if only to confirm that indeed, each day is worse than the day before. If only we could keep more social distance between us and wash our hands more often….

We act as if we are strangers to a pandemic, even though we’ve lived with some lesser viral epidemics, like SARS. And then there was the Spanish Flu back in 1918. My grandmother in Manitoba lost half of her children to that flu.


Apparently a “must see” movie – it’s available on line.

But if you really want to get depressed you can watch the 2011 movie Contagion, which is scarily similar to what we are experiencing today – life imitating art. It should have been required watching for our health officials. Then perhaps they would have sounded the alarm bell earlier.

On Thursday I finally did a grocery run. I had decided the crowds at Costco last week would jeopardize social distancing, so avoided that. Besides, I wasn’t sure I’d cope watching all those folks filling the back of their pick up trucks with hand sanitizer and whatever else they could get their un-sanitized hands on.

But I was bored with staying around the house and there was absolutely nothing worth watching on TV except those depressing press conferences and the re-runs of Contagion. It is a lot quieter out there in the city now.

The supermarket parking lot was half empty and customer traffic light. I had masked up before entering the store, making me only one of two customers who took that precaution. The store clerks were mostly wearing gloves and were keen to wipe down the cart handles as you entered. And some of them actually managed a smile, though nobody can be too happy these days.

This Wuhan Virus, COVID 19, is a respiratory disease so is most likely transmitted via one’s mouth or nose – sneezing, coughing or even the spray of moisture droplets as someone speaks to you. So I am always going to wear a mask when I go out to shop, especially where there are queues like in a supermarket.

When it came to pay I noticed that the cashier was easily within my one metre social space, and I couldn’t help thinking how much more comfortable I’d be if she was wearing a mask as she spat out “will that be debit or credit”. No doubt she probably would be more comfortable too. I was thankful for my mask, but wished I’d worn glasses as well.

At the height of the epidemic in Wuhan everyone in public had to wear a mask or they’d be arrested. And that, in concert with the quarantine, brought China’s epidemic to heel. Of course Asian populations are used to seeing people wearing masks. It protects them from the overwhelming pollution coming from cars and trucks and industry there.


Columnist Rivers in costume?

Western attitudes are rooted in stereotypes. Bank robbers, bandits, ninjas and storm troopers all wear masks to hide their identities. And while the courts are sorting out whether a Muslim woman can say her citizenship oath under cover of a niqāb, one pretty much has to go bare-faced to work in Quebec’s public sector. Medical, dental and industrial/construction trades mainly use face masks to protect themselves.

There is a lot of mixed messaging originating from our health experts about whether the public should be wearing face masks to help contain this new virus. They’ll tell you that it’s more important in public health for the infected person to wear one – which doesn’t explain the doctor’s mask. And some experts will tell you that an improperly fitting mask provides improper protection, which they imply is worse than no protection at all.

But more than likely they know there won’t enough masks to go around if we all start wearing them. Especially if we are all wanting to use the disposable single-use version. Ventilators, masks, gloves and hand sterilizer are all in short supply, so much so that doctors have been approaching veterinarians to raid the cupboards.

Why didn’t our health authorities anticipate this back in January, when we still had lots of time? Same reason they didn’t call for a travel ban until the virus started to be transmitted within the community, I’m guessing. Likely this is one of those compromises in public policy. Act too early and be called a panic artist or act too late and be labeled as dithering.

bus driver safe

Bus driver is protected from the passengers.

But it’s not too late to call for everyone who serves the public to be wearing face protection. Nobody should catch this virus from a store clerk or bus driver. And you can’t practice social distancing for two or even one metre on crowded subway or bus. Fortunately some stores are installing plexiglass cashier shields to protect their customers.

Still, everyone needs to ensure that they’re neither infecting nor being infected. I’ll be proudly sporting a mask every time I go out, even if it means sterilizing and re-using my limited supply. Even if a mask won’t stop me being infected, it would show that I care about the health of all the people prepared to serve in these difficult times.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking. Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington. He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject. Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa. Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Contagion –   Best and worst Cases –    Sleeping at the Switch

Masking –    Experts on Masks –    Supplies

More Supplies –    Dithering –     Better than a Mask?

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Our City Councillors seem to have parked themselves on the side lines, letting the Mayor do all the talking Do Something!

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 22, 2020



Premier Doug Ford has said time and again that he will do “Whatever it takes” and for the most part he has lived up to that statement.

As Premier he is looking pretty good. Confident, forthright; no flip flopping. Perhaps a little bragging about the province’s industrial might – but Ontario is the economic engine of the country. I can put up with Doug Ford’s briskness: no forced empathy from this guy.

We are in the midst of a crisis and Ford appears to be doing what needs to be done.

Meghani - Mar 19th

Regional Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Meghani – not a politician in sight as she addresses the public.

The Regional Medical Officer of Health (MoH) is learning to be less bureaucratic and explaining the decisions she has made. She is making the right decisions. She will be a stronger MoH when this crisis ends.

Burlington’s Mayor is doing her best – my own view is that her pleading for the public to be more sensible and responsible isn’t going to do the trick.

The Mayor declared a State of Emergency in the city. It isn’t clear to me just what kind of power she has to force people to do what needs to be done.

Large numbers of people were reported in Spencer Smith Park on Saturday, and at Mt Nemo – people who didn’t seem to know what “social distancing” is – if they did, they ignored the need to social distance.

Our City Councillors seem to have parked themselves on the side lines,  letting the Mayor do all the talking.

During the flood in 2013 then Councillors Sharman and Dennison went door to door asking people if they were all right. Hundreds had flooded basements.

sandwhich board person

Wearing sandwich boards might be a bit much for some of our Councillors – if they care about the people they represent they will get out there with them – at a socially acceptable distance of course

City Councillors can’t knock on doors with this crisis but surely they can summon some of the innovative ideas they used to get elected.

All we are seeing at this point is their repeating what the Mayor is saying – which is good as that keeps the message consistent.

The Mayor speaks for the city and to her credit she is doing a good job.

sandwhich board

How about each Councillor buying half a dozen signs – putting a clear message on them and setting them out in different places in their ward. Real Estate agents do it all the time.

The city Councillors represent the people in their wards and it is incumbent upon those Councillors to get out as much as they can – yes, at an acceptable social distance – and communicate.

They are basically sitting at home, collecting very good pay cheques and waiting this out.

Get out there and communicate. If they are stuck for ideas – try this: Spend some of the expense money you have and buy some sandwich boards – put a message on them and move them around the ward.

Do something!

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Rivers: social distancing sounds something an advertising executive would dream up

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 18, 2020



By any other name it’s a community mitigation strategy. But really, social distancing sounds something an advertising executive would dream up. Is it one or two or three meters, and does that mean we don’t need to wear a mask, not that there are any on the empty store shelves? How does one practice social distancing at the security check-in at the airport, or the checkout line at Costco, or at the dinner table in the nursing home?

The Chinese have suffered the onslaught of this COVID 19 coronavirus the most so far, shouldering the largest death rates and biggest blow to their economy, the second largest in the world. But their infection numbers have tumbled in recent days and now they claim most of the new cases are from people coming into China from somewhere else.

social distance - 4 sitting apart

This is what they mean by social distance – it works.

Was their apparent success in beating the virus into the ground due to social distancing? Well if that means forcing everyone, by law, to wear a mask in public. Or if all the cinemas and restaurants, etc. are to be shuttered. Or if all travel is banned as it was in Wuhan city and Hubei province.

wet market - dog

Those dogs are not being sold as a pets.

Wuhan was where the bug first appeared. It is believed to have mutated or skipped from some kind of disgusting piece of wildlife being sold in the ‘wet markets’ of Wuhan to those stupid enough to eat just about anything. It’s that archaic cultural thing. Rhino horn powder to get you excited and bat soup to help you find your way in the dark. But isn’t that what also gave us SARS a little over a decade ago.

The Chinese authorities have now permanently banned the sale of wildlife everywhere and they have expressed outrage that Mr. Trump has decided to name the disease after the place where it originated.

In apparent retaliation, one Chinese official has claimed that the US army had brought the disease to Wuhan. Russian trolls had also been making those claims, but the last time the American military was anywhere near Wuhan had to be just before Mao came to power. That would make it an incredibly long lived dormant virus.

wet market - meat

An example of cultural differences – this one just isn’t all that healthy.

Donald Trump has been accused of racism before and he is no stranger to the blame game. But for some reason China has just expelled some US journalists. Chinese authorities do have a nasty habit of hiding the truth so perhaps this is odious, and not just some kind of retaliation. They had muzzled their own scientists and social media during the early days of the outbreak, for example.

But back here in Canada we have finally done what our health experts said we shouldn’t ever do, that it would be counterproductive. We have banned travel, by airplanes anyway, and closed our borders to all but the Americans. Still it is worrisome that the degree of coronavirus infection in the US is not reliably known, and what numbers they do have are likely underestimates. So wait for it.

And now emergency laws are being enacted in each province to shut down any place anyone would want to go. That should keep us at home except for buying groceries and drugs, and maybe going to work. And then there is this social distancing.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking. Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington. He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject. Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa. Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Social Distancing Meaning –   Travel restrictions

Trump’s China Virus –    China Wet Market

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Rivers: Is the US presidential election going to be a replay of 2016 ?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 7th, 2020



Haven’t we seen this movie before? In the Tin Cup, Kevin Costner plays a talented golfer whose ego compels him to try the same impossible shot over and over again – until he loses. It’s a different game but the US Democratic Party appears headed for a replay of 2016, except this time with more of a duffer holding the club.

Barring an upswell of support for the lone democratic socialist in the race for president – it appears that the moderate Joe Biden has overtaken front running Bernie Sanders in delegates for the Democratic leadership convention in July and will become the standard bearer for that party. That could be an almost perfect repeat of 2016, where Bernie was summarily shown the door.

biden 2

Joe Biden – Thinking?

But at least Clinton, unlikeable as many found her, was cogent and could finish a sentence without stumbling into cognitive dissidence. Joe Biden has yet to prove that he can speak in anything resembling complete and coherent thoughts. Even the current president is, arguably, a better communicator. It will be so much entertainment watching these two statesmen of yesterday’s politics face-off in debate.

Bernie 1

Bernie Saunders: Doesn’t appear to be what the Democrats want.

Bernie calls himself a democratic socialist but his policies, like Canadian-style single payer health care are hardly revolutionary. Still, whether it is the language or just plain ignorance on the part of American voters, they can’t get their heads around government managed health insurance.

Perhaps they haven’t heard of Medicare, universal seniors’ health insurance, has been in place since the 60’s and spends $740 billion a year accounting for almost 4% of U.S. gross domestic product and over 15% of total US federal spending. They’d rather let the private insurance companies dictate how much medical care they get and where – and pay twice as much as the rest of the world for the privilege of having less accessible health care.

They don’t deserve Bernie, one might say – but it won’t matter anyway. He’s not likely to gain enough support from the party loyalists to become their standard bearer. They’ll never vote for a communist as Trump would, no doubt, have explained, given the chance.

Trump Donald

Donald Trump: He does manage stress well.

But he won’t have to since the odds are now that Biden will be the Dem’s candidate. And Trump might still likely win, despite his own record. He is the proverbial Mr. Teflon after all, and absolutely nothing he has done sticks to him, not even after being impeached. He learned long ago that the more outrageous you are the more people love you. And the bigger liar you can be the more they will believe you.

Almost half of Americans continue to support him, despite or perhaps, because of his antics. And his trump card will be Biden’s somewhat messy history in poor old ever-troubled Ukraine. Biden was implicated in the political maneuvering to remove a former prosecutor there. And his son bagged a whack of cash just to sit on the Board of a Ukrainian petroleum enterprise, a job for which he had no apparent qualification – other than being the US VP’s son.

It worked with Hillary – Benghazi and her improper emails – and Trump will ride this horse until nobody trusts Biden, despite his mostly impeccable political career. So if I were placing a bet today I’d put my money on Trump – as I did last time.

But eight months until November can be a long time in politics, especially in an era of the dreaded COVID 19. Already prognosticators are spouting dystopian scenarios, including a potential death toll in the millions and a dramatic economic crash. Tourism is already dying and those romantic ocean cruises are destined to become a quaint piece of ancient history.

Trump didn’t cause COVID-19, nor the recession which will accompany the pandemic. But his penchant for borrowing money to get tax cuts for the wealthy has led to a 50% increase in the size of the US deficit. And that will limit his ability to help finance any kind of recovery.

Joe with Barak golf

Joe Biden playing a game of golf with former President Barak Obama

Whether that nasty disease will register a difference in November, or even in July, when the Democrats stage their leadership convention, remains to be seen. But for the US president, who owns a couple of golf courses, he should appreciate that he is still in the rough and his second swing at winning the presidency may miss big time.

And as for the democrats, they’re looking for a mulligan, but may well be headed for the tin cup. They’re convinced they can hit a hole in one using the same swing as the last time – which ended up just getting them a big fat bogey.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking. Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington. He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject. Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa. Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links

Tin Cup –    Democrats –   Biden and Ukraine

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