We are still not convinced

votingmachineMonday night the Cobourg Council received a report from Staff about the last election and the efficiency of the voting system – online voting. Read the report here and it is a pretty standard one. But one aspect of the report did bother us here at the BR. Part of the report describes the demographic breakdown of the voters.

voterageAs paranoid as we are at the BR this breakdown did make us twitch a bit and wonder about privacy concerns. How did the Voting Company obtain the ages of all the voters?

So a phone call to the Company – Intellivote Systems Inc., was made. Phoning the 1-888 number we were astounded to be speaking to Dean Smith. Answering his own toll-free number he is obviously a hands-on kind of guy. The interview told us many things and he spent as much time as we wanted to answer all the questions.

In answer to the basic question – “how did he get the ages of the voters?” He told us that the information came from MPAC, the Provincial property assessment organisation. As well as having to assess the Province’s properties MPAC also has the responsibility to maintain the Voters’ Lists. In the gathering of the info for the Voters’ Lists essential information is collected. One piece of information is the Voter’s date of birth. This used to determine elegibility to vote. But as this information is specific each vote is now paired with the age of the voter. The accumulated information is now collected in age groups, each group being a decade. It is possible to produce such charts as the one in the report – reproduced above. Presumably Political Scientists and Politicians just love this stuff, we disagree on the methodology. This kind of information (DOBs) should be private and not become “tombstone info”. The gathering of such info should be voluntary, just add it to the box on the first screen, and if that renders the statistics unreliable because of insufficient data then so be it!

On another subject, it was revealed in the interview that Intellivote, and the Provinces, consider the voting machines so accurate they cannot be challenged for infallibility. The idea of printing a screen capture for a recount is easily possible but under Provincial rules, in Ontario a paper count is not allowed as the legislation states, “When recounts are mandated or requested then the recount shall take place in the same manner as the vote.” As Mr Smith told us, “There will always be people who don’t like the idea of machines and still like paper.” He did say that most of the problems the industry has encountered are with tabulators or scanning transfer machines, not the voting machines. Besides all of his machines and systems are subjected to rigourous Industry and Provincial audits, on a regular basis. All in all he is a man committed to his cause.

We just wish we could be so committed.

Time to think outside of the box!

imagesOn a daily basis, readers/watchers of any media are assailed by pundits, commentators or just opinion writers that tend to oppose most ideas they read about, and feel compelled to discuss.

This is a natural reaction, it is very easy to be negative and in some cases plays to the crowd. We at the BR have worked very hard to not only criticise, when we feel we have to, constructively, but in all cases of criticism offer alternatives to the proposal being discussed. It is not fair to the idea/proposal if one only says, “It doesn’t work”, or it is deficient without saying why and how to overcome the deficiency. We, at the BR also realise that not all of our alternatives are mainstream and therefore will be adopted holus bolus. There are alternatives that are viable, and can work only if certain conditions exist.

So for instance when we discuss the failings of not enough “affordable housing” we do so realising that not all of the Citizens think it is a good idea – “the Government should not be in the business of housing!” – is a response from Conservatives, usually accompanied by the refrain that such an idea is Communistic.

However in the light of current Provincial moves to control the housing market and the move to put more Federal money into housing infrastructure one has to question whether this is the best use of our public money.

On the Municipal level most Municipalities do not operate “social housing” complexes. These complexes are built and owned by Municipalities and offer housing units at a cheaper rate than usual rental units because the profit motive and margins have been removed from the operation. Financed by municipal bonds the cost of building is lower than industry rates. This probably why Conservatives and Developers dislike the idea of “social housing”, and try to offer alternatives. One such alternative is the mandate to local developers that a percentage of units in a plan be “affordable”. Presumably this means that the developer can build and sell units that are cheaper than the others in his plan. How do they do this? One of two ways: the builder can either reduce his margin on the unit, thereby sellng a cheaper unit, or by building a smaller unit and reducing overall costs. Either way this approach is doomed to fail after the first sale as the cheaper unit then becomes subject to ‘market forces’ and rapidly becomes unaffordable to the target audience.

So the choice is simple if you want “affordable housing” then only Government can provide it under the present schemes. But let’s think out of the box!!

There is another way – subsidise mortgages and rents. Take rents first. If we institute two principals – rent controls and subsidies to lower income people. Rent controls on units are essential otherwise the subsidies will go to landlords who have jacked up prices to negate the subsidies, and lower income people must have access to affordable housing in a progressive society. For instance we know that one solution to homelessness is a housing unit. Problem is  –  not enough of them.

So we advocate housing subsidies as opposed to a bricks and mortar operation. Cheaper by half and easier to administer.

Using the same idea we now look at Food Banks. Food banks are a large piece of the “Poverty Industry” a segment of the economy that services lower income people to help them get the help they need. We at the BR hate food banks, they are an abomination and a blight on civilised society. Rather like the work-houses and alms-houses of the past a pittance shovelled out by charity to keep the streets clean from beggars and petty criminals. Sometimes established by “Lady Bountifuls” – to make themselves feel good they are now usually staffed by overworked volunteers and paid administrators. A civilised society should be able to provide econmic succour for its Citizens by the generation of wealth shared by the managers and workers. An ideal long forgotten in this world of financiers and corporate interests dedicated to wringing the last penny from underpaid workers. The last thing on their minds is a well paid worker with money in their jeans.

But there is an alternative to the idea of food banks doling out cans of beans, food banks that collect food, food banks that sort and distribute the same food. All of this being a highly intensive and expensive (if you don’t have an army of volunteers) operation to sustain. The alternative is a card that is given to the food bank recipients, instead of a box of food. The card will buy food at the local market. It is financed by a donation from customers to the same markets as they purchase their own food, and usual funding sources.

This idea is naturally written off by the large food banks as being unrealistic but there is an operation in Woodstock, Ontario that has been making this idea work. To read about this programme click here. Of course it has its many critics but at least the concept is up and running, and can be compared to the traditional ways of doing things.

Hey folks it is 2017 – the 21st Century why are we still sticking to the last Century’s thinking?

A couple of jottings

brocanierThis week’s opinions are about the Mayor of Cobourg. Take them for what they are – observations about current issues.

First is the issue that has been buzzing around for a couple of weeks and that is the presentation that Jerry Ford was supposed to give to Council about the problems of accessible transit and how the Town has handled the situation in the past couple of years.

For those who haven’t been keeping up with the issue, here is a backgrounder contained in Jerry’s presentation to Council on April 3rd. Basically the service after hours and on the weekend is abysmal. Perhaps the best illustration, in a deliciously ironical way is that on April 3rd Jerry couldn’t be at Council to make his presentation because the accessible transportation was not available to take him home!

However the fact that Jerry couldn’t make the presentation himself morphed into another issue. At the conclusion of the reading of Jerry’s presentation by an advocate. They were told by the Mayor that “There will be no comment’ from Council on this issue tonight, as one of the Companies involved is in a legal situation in the courts.”

Hmm since when has a legal problem with a provider ever stopped the discussion about a service provided by the Town. If there are service issues with a provider does that mean that discussion of the standards to be performed by the provider are off limits and for how long? Surely one can separate the legal issues between the Town and one of the companies involved – which one is it; the one that used to be the provider (Van Taxi) or the present provider, and the fact that the Town only provides a minimal service after 5pm and on weekends.

All Mr Ford wants are answers to the allegations of pretty crappy service that the Town is paying for and improvements to it. To be fobbed off by the GrandDaddy of all copouts – “it’s before the courts” – does nothing to enhance the responsiveness of this Council and its leader Mayor Brocanier.

Another report to hit the public this week is the Report on yearly allowances produced by the Director of Finance, Mr Davey. This report is an annual one and mandated by the Province to show just how much public money, from all sources our local Council and committee members are paid. Transparency at its best.

Well to sum up our Mayor/ County Warden/ Police Services Board member/ LUSI Director/ Public Health Unit Director collected the grand sum of $99,439.00 for his efforts. Now we would be the first to congratulate him for putting in the time to fulfill his duties in all of these positions but surely it is time to debate the need for fulltime politicians. Surely when he, or any other Mayor, is ‘double-dipping’ as the County Warden what is the time split considering that the civil service hours are 37 per week. Can the two jobs co-exist with only half a week devoted to each?

But the upshot is; a few hundred dollars under the Sunshine List exposure is pretty good coin for a local politician!


Thanks for the Shoutout John

In this morning’s Cobourg news John updates his list of local blogs and what a blog is.

For those landing on my site as a result of clicking on John’s link you may not be aware of this site and deserve an explanation.

The year of the crab 2016 leads into what?

crabMany years ago – in a more genteel time, I heard the year of the time described as the year of the Crab. “People hide in their caves emerge to bite you and then go back in the cave.” Obviously an observation about attitudes towards Politicians. All people wanted to do was bite them on the arse. It hasn’t improved and in fact got worse in 2016.

Spit tests – an opinion from Port Hope

spitBeginning today, Toronto police will be asking motorists to ‘volunteer’ a saliva sample they intend to use in a new drug screening program. So new, as a matter of fact, that the method of testing hasn’t been invented yet. But the police seem to think unless they take it upon themselves to collect random samples from the public, research will slow to a crawl, victim of all that laboratory stuff like double-blind tests and placebos and paid subjects even.

A seasonal tale from DC in PH

15170899_10154694881042744_2760906960994341380_nI went to jail in 1976.

The old Don Jail at Gerrard and Broadview where the last hanging in Canada took place. I did three days for unpaid parking tickets -$1,700 worth. I was in a dormitory holding cell with about 30 other scoflaws -murderers, scam artists, dreadful types like me that felt it was their right to park wherever they wanted. The cell reeked of stale tobacco and body odour -but the food was good, made better even by the fact that a Kentucky Fried Chicken on the other side of Gerrard could be glimpsed through the bars and Don Jail chicken was better than KFC.

Light relief from our Pal in PH

As happens often, a young couple came to the door seeking my advice. They bore the furrowed brows of the confused, a hallmark of those living outside Facebook, always an encouraging sign.

“Mr. Christie, we’re confused -as you can probably tell from our furrowed brows.” the young man said.

It’s Monday so here’s a post

cccGet used to it folks, this place will soon be the only place for recreation programmes in the Town. Despite the fact that a lot of people prefer to use the Market Building and despite the fact that the CCC is not as accessible as the ‘crats believe, it is going to be the hub of activity as the Director of parks and Rec (and don’t forget Culture) as the department consolidates.

Finally a post!

You may have noticed that there has not been a post on this site since August 25th many weeks ago. I owe you, the faithful readers an explanation – ennui and a sense of “what’s the point” set in.

Another one from Port Hope

Listening last Sunday to CBC’s ‘The One-Eighty’ with Jim Brown, I again heard the voice of one Jason Shron, train enthusiast extrodinaire, tireless proponent of high speed rail, and owner of Rapido Trains -which, it should be made clear, is a manufacturer of model trains.