Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ontario Leadership - Now With More Takhar!

With the new year, and people presumably finally tuning in to feel the excitement that is the Ontario Liberal Leadership Race (capitalization mandated), I've decided to tune in myself. I'm going to lay out my (relatively quick) thoughts on each candidate - then may have some topical stuff to come later.

Last in, first on my list is Harinder Takhar.

They are really only a few data points that have to be touched on when it comes to Takhar. First, his pretty uniformly brutal press, led by the Star. Accusations that he's a purely "ethnic" politician, with "ethical challenges" (including questions about his last second announcement and the use of his ministerial office while everyone else was in the race), and not-so-nice things said about his personal charisma have all flown around - insofar as he's mentioned at all.

But I actually have some nice things to say. I've seen some policy pitches that I think are really solid, including:

  • Moving towards a fully integrated GTA transit system
This could not be more crucial. Someone who wants to step forward and whip the local narrow-sightedness out of transit is someone who's thinking about the future
  • "Pay what you see pricing"

This another great idea. Ever talked to one of those tourists we're supposed to be attracting, if they're not from the United States? They find our "add it at the cash register" sales taxes infuriating. Why shouldn't we see what we'll actually be paying? What if you're short on cash, either because you're struggling, or because you're counting out your Canadian bills because you're one of those visitors whose dineros we covet?

Plus, although it is right to make sure Ontarians are informed about what's coming off as taxes, that doesn't mean it's a good idea to make it as obnoxious as possible - especially not if you're an adult, pay-my-taxes-citizen.

As far as the negatives go... look, the rules say that whoever wants to be involved in the race and can raise the money is allowed to run. I don't know that we need the media as gatekeepers - Liberal members can do that when they cast their ballots.

One final thing that needs to be addressed is the persistent rumour (also helpfully mentioned by the media) that Takhar is actually a "stalking horse" for Sandra Pupatello (scare quotes on "stalking horse" included because that's not actually what the phrase "stalking horse" means - I looked it up). If true, this is pretty despicable. But if this campaign is about gaining support, and then maybe it moves somewhere else... I don't think we can rely on Martin Regg Cohn to make sure our politics are always clean as the driven snow. You can't stop people from running to raise their profiles, you can't stop people from running as long shots... and at the end of the day, there's no way to stop anyone from doing what's been alleged.

Other than opprobrium when discovered, which I'm sure will be fast and furious if it happens.

I think people are entitled to the benefit of the doubt (note that the actual ethical violations that are pointed to have absolutely nothing to do with the current claims, by the way), and wish Takhar well - he really does demonstrate that it's good to have a variety of voices in the race, with the good ideas I mentioned above.

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