Trinity's head tax storm
The Liberals have another scandal on their hands about alleged payouts to government cronies, but it's only getting really big play in the Chinese-language media.
It involves the $2.5 million lump sum the feds handed the National Congress of Chinese Canadians (NCCC) as redress for the head tax imposed on Chinese immigrants from 1885 to 1923.
The announcement was a welcome one for the NCCC, but not for the Chinese Canadian National Council or the Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers and Families, who've been pushing the government to apologize and negotiate directly with the 250 remaining survivors and their families.
The NCCC's ties to Minister of State for Multiculturalism Raymond Chan have now become the subject of controversy in the Chinese-language media.
"The whole picture gets murky," says Susan Eng, co-chair of the Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers and Families.
The payout to the NCCC may also help explain how Liberal Tony Ianno was able to wrest so many Chinatown votes from NDP candidate and favourite daughter Olivia Chow last time out.
"The NCCC have the most influence in Trinity-Spadina," says Eng. "They go to seniors homes, have brunch and convince seniors who to vote for and then drive them to the polls on election day."
Races that are hot, or not
What races are really hot? Most of the media are pumping some strange contests. Peter Kent against Grit incumbent Carolyn Bennett in St. Paul's? He's toast, even with the anchorman profile. Bennett blew away the PC competition by more than 20,000 votes last time.
The troubled candidacy of Michael Ignatieff in Etobicoke-Lakeshore would seem easy pickings for the Tories, especially since John Capobianco, who made in roads in 2004 running again for Harper's crew, has ties in the riding going back to former MP Patrick Boyer.
But he still lost by 10,000 votes last time, and you can bet the Libs will spend whatever it takes to make sure their star wins. That could all change, of course, if disgruntled Grit Bruce Davis decides to run as an independent. But don't bet on him throwing his hat in the ring.
It gets more interesting in multi-ethnic and working-class Davenport, where the NDP has the Toronto Environmental Alliance's Gord Perks running against Liberal Mario Silva, who didn't exactly coast to victory against a newcomer last time. Perks will have lots of local political help, but not Silva's money or organization. Still, should be interesting. Silva's no communicator and weak outside his Portuguese base.
NDPer Peggy Nash is taking another shot at it in Parkdale-High Park against Liberal Sarmite Bulte, who beat her by 3,500 votes last time. Nash doesn't have to contend with the Harper fear factor this time, and her CAW ties will help get votes out.
Bulte, however, acquitted herself well by standing up for public broadcasting during the CBC lockout. This one will more than likely turn on how many votes the PCs and Green party can siphon off Bulte's base. Combined, they took more than 10,000 of the 46,000-plus votes cast last time. No Grit cakewalk.
In the Beach, it's probably bye-bye for Grit incumbent Maria Minna, who's been on the brink for years and will have her work cut out for her against NDPer Marilyn Churley, who has advantages past contenders have lacked: a profile and a base next door in Toronto-Danforth. She has represented that area provincially for years. The Libs are worried. They flew in Deputy PM Anne McLellan this week. Some favour.
The race everyone's watching, Trinity-Spadina, will go down to the wire again between NDPer Olivia Chow and incumbent Lib Tony Ianno. Ianno has less to offer from his usual bag of tricks, since promised millions for the waterfront have failed to materialize. Voter fatigue will probably hurt him, too, while the Green party may spoil Chow's chances.
The wild card here is Paul Martin. If he stumbles, Ianno falls.
Making values a vote-getter
The ominous-sounding Institute for Canadian Values says its aim is not "to advance a religious agenda for Canada." We guess that's why the org invited former Christian Coalition head and Bush adviser Ralph Reed to a recent conference to offer pointers on mobilizing for the current election.
A peek at the Institute's website reveals that the "non-partisan, publicly spirited organization" is headed by Jewish community spokesperson Joseph Ben-Ami, and is dedicated to "advancing knowledge of public policy issues from Judeo-Christian intellectual and moral perspectives."
Contributors to the group's commentary page include the usual anti-gay, anti-pot, anti-abortion agitators on the right, among them, Canada Christian College president Charles McVety, a leading figure among the anti-gay marriage forces.
Trades on homelessness
The biz-minded Toronto Board of Trade has released its list of the top 10 election issues, and affordable housing ranks near the bottom at eighth, despite the absence of a national housing policy. Stranger still considering how the board regularly complains that homelessness is putting a damper on tourism. The board's number-one issue? Respect - as in T.O. doesn't get any from the feds. We're with that.