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Ten bold and boldface observations about Ontario politics

  1. Patrick Brown‘s entry into the PC leadership race meant chaos, controversy and Kathleen Wynne‘s likely re-election.  Now that’s he’s gone (again), an Ontario Liberal victory becomes a lot less certain.
  2. Eric Hoskins‘ sudden resignation is very bad news for Wynne, too.  He joins departing senior ministers like Brad Duguid, Liz Sandals and Deb Mathews, all of whom Wynne needed in a tough re-election battle – to help spread the Ontario Liberal gospel.
  3. That’s not to say that Hoskin’s riding is at risk.  Even if there is a grit-dammerung, and Ontario Liberals are wiped out province-wide, Hoskin’s old riding of St. Paul’s and Toronto Centre are safe. (Josh Matlow might put that prediction at risk, however.)
  4. Andrea Horwath is still in a witness protection program somewhere, and Wynne is still the main beneficiary.  As long as Horwath lets Wynne style herself as the only progressive choice in the race – just as Wynne did in 2014 – the Ontario Liberal leader remains competitive.
  5. Doug Ford continues to impress card-carrying PCs, and surprise journalists.  Everyone had expected that, by now, he would have pulled the pin on one or two verbal hand grenades, and swallowed them.  But he hasn’t. Ford’s been disciplined, genial and hard-working.  His smart campaign guru Michael Diamond deserves a lot of credit.
  6. Caroline Mulroney has greatly improved.  At the start of this abbreviated race, she was a political newbie, and it showed: she looked and sounded nervous and uncertain, and had a penchant for repeating talking points over and over.  In recent days, however, she’s stepped up her game – but many PCs are still saying (as party leadership partisans often do) “she’s my pick next time, not this time.”
  7. Christine Elliott has momentum.  Under the able guidance of Fred DeLorey, Elliott has acquired frontrunner status in this crazy-short campaign, and she’s showing a lot more energy than she did in 2009 and 2015’s PC races.  If Doug Ford doesn’t win on the first ballot – and that’s a tall, tall order for anyone – his support would mostly go to her.  She, I know, is the candidate the Ontario Grits fear the most.
  8. With the departure of Pat Sorbara, I’m told the infighting in the Ontario Liberal campaign team has stopped.  Under smart folks like Chad Walsh, Rebecca MacKenzie and Alexis Levine, Wynne’s campaign effort is looking stronger.  (The well-compensated Board members around her, meanwhile, are busily making quiet plans for their next political gigs – subtly burying Wynne prematurely, just as they did with Paul Martin.)
  9. Justin Trudeau presents a bit of a dilemma for Ontario Liberals.  A few short months ago, he would have been an asset to any provincial Grit campaign.  Now – following many months of controversies and missteps, most recently the Indian Imbroglio – the bloom is decidedly off the dauphin’s rose.  Expect to see him less on the hustings.
  10. The pollsters still say the Ontario PCs have the advantage – notwithstanding all the Patrick Brown-related scandal and controversy.  Personally, I think the PCs are well-advised to never, ever count out Kathleen Wynne – under that kindly, grandmotherly exterior, there is a spine of political steel.  Wynne, in my experience, will do whatever it takes to win.  PCs would be well-advised to avoid underestimating her yet again.

Column: the Ontario election is in 73 days. Who’s gonna win it?

The Patrick Clown Show continues to be the biggest political story in Canada – but the biggest provincial conservative party, the Ontario PCs, are still competitive.

How come?

The papers are brimming with stories about Patrick Brown. For instance: on Wednesday morning of last week, out of 13 provincial-politics-related clippings landing on staffers’ desks at Queen’s Park, fully 12 were about the man-boy who wants to lead a PC caucus that wants nothing to do with him.

There was a news story about Patrick, dating an intern in his office – and then taking her along on international trips, paid for by God-knows-who. There was another news story about Patrick, scheming to sell off some Aeroplan points and a miniscule share in a bar for a whopping $375,000 to a pal – and then said pal somehow thereafter winning a coveted PC nomination, uncontested. There’s social media stories Patrick, “liking” softcore porn shots, or drawing pictures of a woman’s breasts in the sand on a beach. Seriously.

You’d think that all that controversy would be taking a toll on Ontario Progressive Conservative fortunes, right? You’d think that – but you’d be wrong.

  • Ipsos: Notwithstanding the Patrick Clown Show, nearly 40 per cent of Ontarians still plan to vote PC – with the Liberals and NDP effectively tied, at 29 and 26 per cent respectively. Said Ipsos spox Darrell Bricker: “If [the PCs] are leading by that much, they’re poised to form a majority government.”
  • Forum: Despite all the Brown-related follies, almost 50 per cent of Ontario voters say they support the PCs – with the Liberals getting less than half that, at 24 per cent, and the NDP 19 per cent. Said Forum boss Lorne Bozinoff: “The Premier doesn’t seem to connect with the electorate…The constant stream of media attention and fervor surrounding the leadership race has done nothing but help the Progressive Conservatives.”
  • Campaign Research: Campaign Research (who my firm uses, full disclosure) had the Wynne-helmed Liberals competitive with the Brown-led PCs for months. As soon as the PC caucus dumped their libidinous leader, their party rocketed ahead – with 43 per cent support, and the Grits and the Dippers rounding out the bottom at 28 and 20 per cent, respectively. Said smart Campaign Research guy Eli Yufest: “When you’ve got the stark contrast between Patrick Brown and Kathleen Wynne people were on the fence – or at least tied between the two leaders. Now that people have been given more options – namely Doug Ford, Caroline Mulroney, and Christine Elliott – they’re giving the PCs a more serious second look.”

Amazing, no? Welcome to the Trump polling era, folks: wherein a party’s brand can be linked to sexual assault, corruption and appalling behaviour – and still be way ahead. Way, way ahead.

So what accounts for it? No less than three much-cited polling firms are confidently predicting that the Ontario Progressive Conservatives will win a majority if they pick Christine Elliott, Caroline Mulroney or Doug Ford (with Elliott providing the biggest electoral payoff). How can this be?

Two reasons, in this scribe’s opinion. (And neither have to do with corruption or scandal. Scandal stuff suppresses voters, sometimes. But it doesn’t motivate voters.)

One: change, versus more of the same.

That was the ballot question in 2003, when Dalton McGuinty scored a massive majority win – and helped to elect a newcomer named Kathleen Wynne: change. “Choose change” was the pithily brilliant slogan selected by Don Guy and Laura Miller in 2003, and it worked. Bigly.

It worked a decade before that, too, for Bill Clinton. Those words were affixed to the war room wall in Little Rock by the legendary James Carville: “change versus more of the same.” When that is the frame for an election, Carville later told me, the challenger will always beat the incumbent. Always.

That, increasingly, is the frame here in Ontario. That’s what the aforementioned polls clearly say, too.

Two: alternation.

This theory holds that Ontario voters prefer to have different teams occupying the government benches in Toronto and Ottawa. So, when the wonderful Liberal Pierre Trudeau ruled the roost in Ottawa, Progressive Conservative Bill Davis dominated here in Toronto. In the glorious, great Jean Chretien federal years, the NDP’s Bob Rae and the PC’s Mike Harris and Ernie Eves presided over the Ontario provincial scene. And, shortly after McGuinty commenced his near-decade-long hold on power, Stephen Harper would commence his near-decade-long hold on power, too.

Some pundits and prognosticators dispute the Kinsellian Alternation Theorem™, but none of them know what they’re talking about, as usual. The minute Justin Trudeau scored a huge win in 2015, Kathleen Wynne started to track ever-downwards. She is now (and has been for some time) the least-popular Premier in Canada.

Whether it’s alternation, or choose change, one thing can’t be disputed: the 2018 Ontario election is kicking off 73 days from today.

And, the Patrick Clown Show notwithstanding, the Ontario PCs are still the ones favoured to win it.

The night the pigs attacked a Muslim woman in a church

Here’s the scene:

We were in a church. There was a choir singing upstairs. People were sitting, quietly, with their kids.

And then the pigs got up on their hind legs and started squealing.

They started squealing and screeching, their little pig eyes all red, about “sharia law” and Muslims “raping” children and the need to “separate the races.”

The pigs looked human, but they weren’t. They were racists and anti-Semites and haters who roughly resembled humans, but weren’t human. They were pigs.

They started in when my wife Lisa stood up to talk about our efforts – along with many others – to fight the neo-Nazi Your Ward News. They started taunting her. She kept her cool, but I was getting a bit mad.

When it came time for Iqra Khalid to speak, the racist pigs started lunging forward. They were in a spit-flecked fury. She was everything they hated the most: a Muslim. A woman. And a Muslim woman with power.

And she wasn’t afraid of them.

We were concerned, however. So Lisa went and stood beside her, as did a young man with the Grant African Methodist Episcopal Church. And MPP Arthur Potts and me stood up, between the pigs and Iqra Khalid.

The Liberal MP said the cops had been called, but they never came in. I, and my pal Joe Warmington,, found that very odd (if you look at the video, you’ll see me taking my jacket off and “getting ready to go” as a Jewish friend said to me – and I was).

Anyway. It was bad. It was really, really bad. A woman being attacked by a bunch of pigs – because she’s a Muslim, and because she opposes bigotry.

In a church. That part I can’t get out of my head, I told her later.

When racist pigs are prepared to do that in a church, they’re prepared to do anything.

Our fight against that neo-Nazi hate rag

Story link is here, and a bit of it is below. Meanwhile, Lisa will be speaking tomorrow night at an anti-hate forum being led by a great leader in the fight against bigotry, Liberal MPP Arthur Potts – more details here.

They know it won’t be easy and expect to be in it for the long haul, but Beach residents Lisa and Warren Kinsella say they’re prepared to do everything they can to put a stop to an extremist newspaper published in the Upper Beach.

During a recent interview, Warren, a lawyer, political consultant, pundit and author who has written extensively about racism for more than three decades, called Your Ward News (YWN) the most hateful publication he’s come across. 

“(It’s) unprecedented and it’s right in our neighbourhood,” he said, adding no one should be subjected to it. 

“We’re doing everything we can to choke off the air for this neo-Nazi rag.”

His wife, Lisa, a prominent Liberal consultant and commentator, cannot believe the “blatant misogyny” in Your Ward News and how many women feel concerned for their personal safety because of what is written within its pages.

“Your Ward News is not free speech. It is hate propaganda,” she charged. “(Standing up) is the right thing to do.”

The couple, who have a blended family of six children and a grandson, first sprung into action in the spring of 2015 when a copy of the paper arrived at their home.

Patrick Brown in pictures

The collage is worth a thousand words, as they say.

There’s more of this sort of thing out there, I’m told.

After last night’s blockbuster Globe and Mail story – which suggested he had schemed to get a big payment from a man who would get a coveted PC nomination shortly thereafter – I don’t know how he can survive. His defence is that the deal never went through? Seriously?

In law, there’s something called a lesser included offence.

That may well apply here.

Did Patrick Brown scheme to sell off candidate spots?

And did he plot to put the resulting many thousands in his own pocket?

Check out this stunner Globe and Mail story. It is simply incredible. .

Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown was in talks to sell an interest in a restaurant he partially owns and some Aeroplan miles for $375,000 to a man who went on to become a Tory candidate, documents show.

An affidavit detailing a deal was sworn five months before Jass Johal was acclaimed as the candidate for the PC Party in a new riding in the suburban 905 region around Toronto. According to a copy of the affidavit shown to The Globe and Mail, Mr. Johal, a paralegal who lives in Brampton, says he agrees to purchase two million Aeroplan miles and an ownership interest in Hooligans restaurant from Mr. Brown for $375,000. “The amount is paid by certified draft from Bank of Nova Scotia,” says the affidavit dated June 11, 2016 and signed by Mr. Johal.

… Other documents The Globe has seen, including bank statements, show that Mr. Brown deposited $375,000 into his personal account at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce one month after the affidavit was signed, on July 11, 2016. Later that month, property records show he purchased a waterfront house on Lake Simcoe’s Shanty Bay for $2.3-million. He took out a mortgage of $1.72-million from Toronto-Dominion Bank, according to public mortgage documents.

…[Mr. Brown] declined to answer a question about why the amount agreed to in the sworn affidavit was exactly the same as the deposit a month later into his personal account.

Is Patrick Brown a crook?

We shall see. But I know there is one thing he isn’t, and should never be:

A member of the legislature.

Ten rules about #MeToo and crisis communications

There are lots of rules to remember about politics and public relations and the law. Here are ten.

  1.  Don’t brag about hiring private investigators. For example, in the middle of a #MeToo-type full-blown crisis, don’t have one of your people go on a radio program, and say you’ve hired private detectives to do a “forensic” investigation. Because that means you are admitting you are digging through the private lives of various people – your alleged victims, your caucus colleagues, your former staff who had the good sense to dump you – to dig up dirt. It means your strategy, basically, is to try and pull everyone down into muck with you.
  2. Don’t attack your alleged victims. In the #MeToo era, even Harvey Weinstein – the rutting pig who essentially started the movement – understood that you don’t victimize the victims twice. That is one the best things that have happened, post-Weinstein, in fact: in the court of public opinion, the balance of proof has shifted. More and more of us have a tendency to give women alleging sexual abuse the benefit of the doubt. You needed to remember that. You didn’t.
  3. After paying tribute to victims everywhere, don’t attack them. For instance, after reading off some talking points your lawyers prepared for you – like: “A safe and respectful society is what we expect and deserve. We need to move forward to eradicate sexual violence and harassment across the province – across the country. Everywhere.” – you shouldn’t then turn around, three weeks later, and disrespect your alleged victims. You shouldn’t do the polar opposite of what you exhorted everyone, “everywhere,” to do. Among other things, it makes you look like a liar.
  4. Don’t forget the reflection you see in the mirror. That is, guy whose face you shave every morning. In your essence, in your soul, you know who you are, and you know what people have been saying about you in the riding and elsewhere, for years – namely, that you have a zipper problem, and that you follow your little soldier into battle way too often. That you have been too reckless with too many young women. It’s public relations 101: don’t try and change, in 40 days, a perception that has built up over 40 years. It won’t work.
  5. Don’t attack the media who have told nothing but the truth. For instance, when the country’s biggest media organization has broadcast a story about you – and when you know they’ve been working on it for weeks, and when every word in it has been carefully lawyered, and when they have given you an opportunity to respond – it’s pretty dumb to come out, a full three weeks after you resigned, and call them names. One, they gave you a chance to respond. Two, if they were are as wrong as you claim, then why resign? If it was all a lie, like you say, why quit?
  6. Don’t be obvious. For example, don’t start bragging about how you are going to launch a public relations campaign with only select media – the ones you have been friendly with, say – and use it as a pretext to attack other media. At the end of the day, media folks will almost always stick together: when you unfairly attack one, they will see it as an unfair attack on all of them.
  7. Don’t treat a minor misstep like a major war crime. Are the media human? Yes, they are. Do they make mistakes? Yes, like all humans, they make mistakes. So, say, if one of your alleged victims gets wrong her age at the time of an alleged incident – and if that does absolutely nothing to alter the main allegation against you (to wit, acting inappropriately with a young woman) – don’t treat that like the P.R. equivalent of V Day. People understand that sexual harassment and sexual abuse are, for the victims, profoundly traumatic events: they don’t expect “forensic” clarity. When you do, you look even more like an asshole.
  8. Take advice; listen to others. Your staff and your colleagues defended you, day after day after day. They worked their tails off for you, and defended you against every criticism – including persistent allegations of inappropriate personal behaviour. When your staff all resign on you (on a matter of principle) or your caucus colleagues insist that you resign (ditto), it is bad, bad strategy to start attacking them post facto. Among other things, it’s unfair. And it says a lot more about you than it does about them.
  9. Pop culture has lessons to give, sometimes. Remember “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to?” Remember that, the big hit by Lesley Gore, way back in the Sixties? That’s what you are doing now, essentially. You are essentially saying that it was my party, and I’ll destroy it if I want to. That is your strategy: if you can’t raise yourself up, you will pull everyone else down. If you can’t be the winner, you’ll make sure no one else wins, either.
  10. Put up or shut up. It’s been more than three weeks. You’ve called the allegations against you “defamatory,” over and over and over. Well, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, big little man. Either issue a Libel Notice, or don’t. But if you don’t – and, so far, you haven’t – you are reminding everyone that, mostly, what was said about you was true.

There you go: ten PR tips, free of charge. Haven’t even mentioned your name.

Don’t have to.

The gun lobby are terrorists

Good morning, Your Honour. We appear before you this morning to argue for the proposition that the defendant, the National Rifle Association of America, hereafter referred to as the NRA, is properly classified as a terrorist organization. And, accordingly, that the NRA’s directors and officers have been engaged in a campaign of terror against civilian populations.

Our indictment of the NRA, as you know, arises out of section 802 of the USA Patriot Act, No. 107-52, which has expanded the definition of terrorism to cover “domestic,” as opposed to international, terrorism.

Therein, the Patriot Act, which was overwhelmingly supported and passed by all parties in Congress, sets out that a person has engaged in domestic terrorism if they do something that is “dangerous to human life,” which the NRA has in fact done since the earliest days of its 1871 charter in New York State.

To be successful in prosecuting a crime under the Patriot Act, it must be shown that the NRA, one, intimidated or coerced the civilian population — which they have done, ceaselessly, for generations.

Two, that they have influenced the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion — which they have done, with armies of millionaire gun lobbyists threatening elected representatives with defeat and disgrace if they do not do the NRA’s bidding.

And, three, most crucially, we must show the NRA has attempted to affect the conduct of our government by “mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.”

We cannot state for a fact, Your Honour, that the NRA has actively engaged in assassinations or kidnappings. We can state, however, that the NRA will be shown to have energetically advocated measures that are bound to lead to mass destruction, even in the wake of the killings of 20 children in Newtown.

One of their recent advertising campaigns even offers up the former president’s own children as rhetorical fodder, and is ample evidence of the NRA’s willingness — like any terrorist organization — to terrorize children and parents to achieve its political goals.

We also take the view that at the time Thomas Jefferson and other founders ratified the Second Amendment, they did not intend it to be applied to the mass murder of six-year-olds using assault weapons. It was to be applied to flintlocks, which were what existed at the time of the amendment’s promulgation.

We are aware that the definition of terrorism is broad, Your Honour, and there is a robust debate about when it applies.

But under section 802 of the Patriot Act, we remind you that this court need only find the NRA has — within the territorial confines of the United States — engaged in a campaign of intimidation or coercion of our government, and our citizens.

You need only find that the NRA seeks to affect the conduct of government by advocating “mass destruction.”

Lobbying for guns in schools is that, Your Honour. So is openly threatening members of Congress so that they will lift bans on assault weapons. So is helping teenagers to purchase AK-47 assault weapons at gun shows. So is calling law enforcement “jack-booted government thugs.”

So is suggesting the last same president of the United States facilitates murder. So, most of all, is assassinating minimal efforts to prevent something like Newtown from ever happening again.

All these things the NRA has done, Your Honour. All of these acts of intimidation and coercion are not dissimilar to the campaigns of the Taliban or al-Qaida.

They may wear expensive suits, Your Honour, but the NRA is not much different from the terrorists. They deserve to be treated as such by this court.