2021 Canadian election last-half log, I : After first French debate polls still say trouble for Trudeau

                              Posted: September 3rd, 2021 | No Comments »
                              First French Leaders Debate 2021. Canadian Press.

                              COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. FRIDAY 3 SEPTEMBER 2021. We have now just passed the halfway mark in the short (36-day) 2021 Canadian federal election campaign. And we are at the edge of the Labour Day weekend.

                              Starting this coming Tuesday, legend has it, the people of Canada will at last arise from their favourite islands, vacation lands of lakes and forests, sea-bound coasts, and beyond. They will start to realize that a federal election campaign is actually underway.

                              Then at least large numbers of us will decide we need to pay some attention, so we can vote wisely on September 20. (Voter turnout in the last four Canadian federal elections has ranged from a low of 58.8% in 2008 to a high of 68.3% in 2015.)

                              Last night (Thursday, September 2) also marked the first French language debate on TV, with the leaders of the Bloc Québécois, Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats. Campbell Clark in the Globe and Mail found that “Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole walks out of first debate in one piece.” On the big screen TV in our boardroom our sense was that (as best we could tell) the TVA commentator who said (in French of course) that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was a clear winner had the main dynamics right.

                              Continuing Liberal trouble in opinion polls

                              Former Progressive Premier of Manitoba John Bracken (left) and his wife and eldest son, just after he became leader of new Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 1942.

                              At the same time, the opinion polls today continue to show trouble for the Trudeau Liberals. Both Grenier’s CBC Poll Tracker and Fournier’s 338Canada poll-based projections show the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals in cross-Canada popular vote. (As does Nanos Daily Tracking for yesterday and today.)

                              The CBC Poll Tracker as of September 3 is still giving the Liberals a few more seats in the end — as a result of the wider geographic distribution of their vote. But 338 Canada now has the Conservatives with more seats as well as a greater popular vote — as do various other poll-based projections.

                              Right now, broadly, the polls seem to be saying we’re headed for a Conservative minority government under new Prime Minister Erin O’Toole — for as long as such a government can somehow construct parliamentary majorities for its budget and other key legislation.

                              Mr. O’Toole is trying to breathe new life into the old Canadian tradition of “Progressive Conservatism.” He is reviving political chords that in their most recent guise stretch back to 1942, when the Progressive premier of Manitoba became federal Conservative leader. In its most historic incarnation all this reaches back to the “Liberal Conservative” party of George-Etienne Cartier and John A. Macdonald, in the 1860s era of the Canadian confederation (and American Civil War). And the latest polls do suggest that “Everyman” Erin O’Toole’s revived progressive conservatism of the 2020s is somehow connecting with some current aspirations among the people of Canada.

                              Jagmeet Singh’s NDP and the “Influence of the latest rumblings of Democracy in America next door”

                              Young Ontario non-voter enjoys ice-cream from Kawartha Dairy in Citizen X’s new backyard.

                              At the same time again, the most striking feature of the first half of the campaign in the polls is in many ways the continuing strong performance of Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats.

                              Unless things change dramatically they have consigned the Trudeau Liberals’ earlier dreams of holding a snap election to win a parliamentary majority to the dustbin of history.

                              The best PM Justin Trudeau seems able to do now is a minority government. And the worst is some sojourn of indeterminate length as official opposition.

                              Meanwhile, as we wonder just what has changed since just before the election was called — when opinion polls did seem to suggest that the Liberals were at the edge of a majority government — we remember something our Kawartha wilderness colleague Citizen X was urging back on July 13, 2021, under the heading “Influence of the latest rumblings of Democracy in America next door.”

                              As X wrote back then, some seven and a half weeks ago :

                              Afghans crowd at the tarmac of Kabul airport on August 16, 2021, to flee the country as the Taliban take control of Afghanistan’ (Photo by AFP). Just the day before (August 15) Justin Trudeau had called a “snap election” for September 20.

                              “If there is a federal election in Canada sometime soon, in 2021, another big difference with the 2019 election concerns the federal government in the United States.” At that point President Biden was still broadly popular next door. And that was “another significant enough part of the explanation for both Fournier’s and Grenier’s latest 2021 seat projections, that show Conservatives losing seats over 2019 in Canada while both Liberals and New Democrats gain.”

                              Then along came the US departure at last from war-torn Afghanistan — and the (inevitably?) troubled efforts to get US citizens and supporters and those of other allies like Canada out of the place, before the Taliban’s second run at governing a very-hard-to-govern country settles in.

                              Deservedly or otherwise, all this has for the moment rather dramatically weakened President Biden’s popular approval (down to 43% on one recent measurement). And something similar seems to be hurting Prime Minister Trudeau as well.

                              But who really looks like the best PM of Canada today?

                              “Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Liberal candidate Pat Angnakak look on during a campaign stop in Iqaluit, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette.”

                              After some internal debate we have nonetheless concluded that Justin Trudeau was the most important winner of the first French debate last night.

                              As best we can tell his broad performance since October 21, 2019 also means that he should win at least another minority government on September 20, 2021.

                              We altogether agree that PM Trudeau did make a mistake calling this “snap election” right now. But that is not in our view a big enough mistake to make the better-than-we-thought but still far from convincing Erin O’Toole prime minister. Mr. O’Toole may have walked out of last night’s TV debate in one piece. But he still did not look like a Prime Minister of Canada to us.

                              Whatever else, Justin Trudeau did and still does and still will on September 20.

                              Is there a serious prospect of a Conservative minority government supported by the NDP??

                              Posted: August 28th, 2021 | No Comments »
                              Nicole Bogart : “Award winning journalist covering news/disinformation @CTVNews.”

                              CANADIAN ELECTION NOTEBOOK — RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO. AUGUST 28, 2021 [UPDATED AUGUST 31]. … So what’s happening in Campaign Canada 2021 now, with only 22 days left until the actual vote on Monday, September 20?

                              Writing from Edmonton this morning, the wily Nicole Bogart at CTV News reported : “The Conservatives have opened up an advantage as Liberal support declined over the past three days of the campaign, according to nightly tracking conducted by Nanos Research for CTV News and the Globe and Mail.”

                              In fact Conservative support is down somewhat from yesterday’s numbers (which were also down from the day before). The deeper truth according to “Nanos Daily Ballot Tracking” is that support for the New Democrats has risen steadily over the past three days. Or as Nik Nanos has also explained : “what we’re seeing is Liberal-New Democrat switchers right now. That can’t be good for Justin Trudeau, but it is good for Jagmeet Singh.”

                              Just to highlight the main Nanos numbers here, the Conservatives actually dropped from 34.4% on August 26 to 33.3% on August 28. The Liberals fell more precipitously from 33.6% to 30.8%. And the New Democrats rose dramatically enough from 18.9% to 21.7%

                              On being conflicted about the NDP surge

                              So far at least both the CBC Poll Tracker and 338Canada are still projecting that the Liberals will finish with more seats in the Canadian House of Commons. The Conservative vote is still too geographically concentrated in a few provinces. (Alberta and Saskatchewan, eg.)

                              On the other hand, the Conservative vote in Ontario and BC is also growing stronger in the opinion polls. Even éric Grenier’s CBC Poll Tracker has the Liberals losing seats and Conservatives (and NDP) gaining over the past three days. On these calculations Liberals dropped from 151 seats August 26 to 145 August 28 (in a parliamentary democracy where 170 seats is a bare majority). Conservatives rose from 120 to 126, and New Democrats were up slightly from 39 to 40.

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                              What’s behind early Conservative surge in the Canadian election campaign (and how long will it last …)?

                              Posted: August 25th, 2021 | No Comments »
                              Five Canadian party leaders 2021 — l to r : Erin O’Toole (CON), Justin Trudeau (LIB), Annamie Paul (GRN), Yves-Fran?ois Blanchet (BQ), Jagmeet Singh (NDP). Left out : Maxime Bernier (PPC). Photo : Globe and Mail, Canadian Press, and Reuters.

                              SPECIAL FROM THE DEMOCRATIC DESKTOP OF CITIZEN X, BUCKHORN, ON. K0L 0C1. COUNTERWEIGHTS ELECTION REPORT, II, 25 AUG 21. [UPDATED AUGUST 26]. What does one ordinary voter adrift in the multitude (and still half-immersed in summer at the lake) make of the 2021 Canadian federal election campaign, so far?

                              That is what the editors have asked me to grapple with, as Part II in the ongoing nada election report 2021. I preface my remarks by noting that the Nanos Daily Ballot Tracking (on the CTV News site) is just today showing a fresh % increase for LIB, alongside decreases for CON and NDP The current August 24 nightly numbers released 6:30 AM August 25 are LIB 35.9%, CON 32.7%, NDP 16.8%, BQ 5.6%, GRN 4.8%, PPC 3.7%.

                              (1) Like others I have been surprised by how effective Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and his party warriors have seemed in the campaign’s early days. As noted by former federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair on CTV News “O’Toole has come as a surprise to a lot of people.”

                              “Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (second from left) wearing dark glasses, arrives with members of his new cabinet for swearing in ceremonies at Government House in Ottawa, July 6, 1968. (Doug Ball/CP).”

                              (Though also note G.T. Lem on Twitter : “Former NDP Leader Tom Mulcair spends all his time making the round on QUEBEC radio telling listeners … Erin O’Toole was born in Montreal! … NEVER have I ever seen a former NDP Leader openly campaign for the Conservatives.”)

                              From my lakeside vantage point in front of my large-screen TV it has seemed to me as well that Erin O’Toole and his Conservative Party of Canada have come on more often and in stronger numbers than anyone or anything else in the early campaign.

                              This may have more than a little to do with a recent tweet from Canadian Resistance : “Most of Canada’s news media are Conservative propaganda machines.” And, some might add, once an election campaign officially begins the sudden surge in Conservative propaganda is finally reflected in a Conservative surge in opinion polls.

                              Even if there actually is some degree of truth in all this, however, the initial Conservative surge in opinion polls is impressive enough.

                              And so is the sudden new respect among Mr. Mulcair’s fellow politicos for Erin O’Toole (and his at least somewhat rhetorically left-leaning Conservative policy pronouncements — much more like the old Progressive Conservative legend John Diefenbaker than the much more recent and right-wing Stephen Harper, and his new Conservative Party of Canada!).

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                              Is Justin Trudeau’s summer snap election in Canada turning into a mistake? (&/or for Old Ontario residents will it just be Bland Bill Davis in 1977 all over again?)

                              Posted: August 21st, 2021 | No Comments »
                              “What the Walrus Said” by Michael Seward, August 2021.

                              COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS : 2021 CANADIAN ELECTION REPORT, I. SAT 21 AUG 2021, 7PM EDT. EAST BEACHES, TORONTO. [UPDATED AUGUST 22]. The first week of what amounts to a five-week campaign in the snap federal election Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called this past Sunday for Monday, September 20, 2021 is almost over.

                              It’s still early days and many voters will not start paying attention until after Labour Day, etc. But so far the latest available opinion polling numbers do suggest that PM Trudeau may finally have made the same mistake in 2021 that the recently sadly departed Ontario Premier William Grenville Davis made some 44 years ago, in 1977.

                              What’s Election 2021 really all about?

                              “Nightscape” by Michael Seward, August 2021.

                              The real political point of the September 20 election (as in the case of recent provincial elections won by Conservatives in New Brunswick and New Democrats in BC) is to give the current minority-governing Trudeau Liberals a majority of seats in parliament.

                              This majority, the argument goes, is needed to ensure the strong and effective government required to meet the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic, and whatever kind of accompanying broader social and economic recovery may be possible over the next four years.

                              Note as well that even with a majority government there will still be a so-called “fixed date” election four years hence. But with minority governments such fixed date elections can never be altogether final in Canada’s kind of “Westminster” parliamentary democracy (as in the Constitution Act, 1867).

                              More exactly, in our kind of parliamentary democratic minority government, the ability of the cabinet (or “executive council”) to manage effectively can be recurrently complicated by the fractious politics of winning enough opposition support to sustain a parliamentary majority for, just to start with, the government’s annual budget.

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                              Is surprise in August 17 Nova Scotia election unexpected harbinger of September 20 across Canada?

                              Posted: August 18th, 2021 | No Comments »

                              COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON, AUGUST 18, 2021. 3 AM EDT. The August 17 provincial election in Nova Scotia started out as a cakewalk for the provincial Liberals. Polls close to the end did show the race had tightened considerably. (See eg “Liberals slightly ahead on eve of Nova Scotia election”.) But 338Canada was suggesting that Tim Houston’s Progressive Conservatives still had only a 14% chance of winning the most seats, let alone a majority government!

                              According to the numbers reported by CBC News early this morning, in a 55-seat NS House of Assembly where 28 seats constitute a bare majority, the PCs have won 31 seats with 39% of the popular vote. The Liberals have 17 seats with 37% of the vote. The New Democrats have 6 seats with 21% of the vote, and there is one Independent. (The Greens won no seats with 2%. )

                              At 9:15 PM (EDT) on August 17 Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole understandably tweeted with some enthusiasm : “A great night in NS! Congratulations to … the next Premier of Nova Scotia, @TimHoustonNS, on an exciting election win!” Yet before jumping to any very big conclusions about last night’s sea-bound coast implications for the September 20 Canadian federal election, a few particular local circumstances are worth underlining.

                              Liberals, eg, had been governing modern Canada’s first provincial parliamentary democracy since October 8, 2013, as opposed to October 19, 2015 in the case of the Trudeau Liberals in Ottawa. They were somewhat longer in the tooth. In 2021 the NS Liberals also had a new leader in Premier Iain Rankin, unlike the Trudeau Liberals facing the people on September 20, 2021. (And just before the 2021 NS campaign began Mr. Rankin was confronting such headlines as “Nova Scotia premier on defensive over drunk driving charges he faced years ago.”)

                              As Michael Tutton at The Canadian Press has explained, during the 2021 provincial campaign in Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative “Leader Tim Houston unveiled a left-leaning platform that promised hundreds of millions of dollars in the first year of the party’s mandate to increase the number of family doctors, bolster the mental health system and create more nursing home beds.”

                              It could be said that, reading the same current Canadian room, Erin O’Toole’s Conservative Party of Canada has just started the 2021 federal campaign by unveiling its own version of a left-leaning platform for the times. Our progressive reporters on the spot in Nova Scotia, however, have been telling us for a while now that Tim Houston is a real old-school Red Tory “Progressive Conservative.” His PCs are “more progressive” than Iain Rankin’s Liberals. No Canadian progressives we know anywhere have ever said anything remotely similar about former Stephen Harper cabinet minister Erin O’Toole.

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                              Will Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats steal Trudeau Liberals’ majority government? (And/or does it really matter?)

                              Posted: August 12th, 2021 | No Comments »
                              “Predicting the Outcome” by Michael Seward, August 2021.

                              COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, EAST TORONTO OFFICE. AUGUST 12, 2021. Today’s news that “Canada PM Trudeau planning snap election, seeks approval for COVID response” bears out much of the particular prediction in Abbas Rana’s August 1 Hill Times piece : “Others are preparing for the writs to be issued on Aug. 15, with an election to take place on Sept. 13 or 20.”

                              As it happens now, on August 12, an election called this Sunday, August 15, for Monday, September 20 has been widely reported by, eg, CBC News, CTV News, Reuter’s, and Canadian Press. As summarized by David Ljunggren at Reuter’s : “Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning a snap election for Sept. 20 to seek voter approval for the government’s costly plans to combat COVID-19.”

                              “NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and spouse Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu. (Handout via Twitter/@theJagmeetSingh).” Just as reports of the election surfaced the happy couple announced — from Haliburton, ON — that they are expecting their first child.

                              One immediate question our small sample of Canadian federal election voters here has about Campaign 2021 is : Will NDP leader Jagmeet Singh ultimately live up to the heights of his current ranking as most popular party leader (not exactly a beauty contest, but …) ?? And — as already predicted in some quarters — will this mean that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has his majority government dream deferred in 2021 as in 2019? (And see eg Bland Bill Davis in Ontario 1975, 1977, who finally did win another majority in 1981!)

                              From at least one moderate progressive angle, in our various diverse books worse things could happen. Remember the Lester Pearson Liberal minority governments, dependent on Tommy Douglas’s legendary NDP, 1963–1968. They laid foundations for much of the public service democracy in Canada today. And the government of Pierre Trudeau in the early 1980s, in some kind of collaboration with NDP leader Ed Broadbent and his party’s seats in Western Canada, finally bequeathed the “free and democratic” Constitution Act, 1982, and its Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (And some questionable amending formulae that are at least modern Canada’s own at last … but set that aside … .)

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                              RIP William Grenville Davis — we’d have better democratic politics in Ontario today if we had more politicians like him

                              Posted: August 9th, 2021 | No Comments »
                              From Premier William Davis’s official portrait at Queen’s Park.

                              ONTARIO NOTEBOOK — RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO. AUGUST 9, 2021. Like so many others I was saddened to hear that the 18th premier of Ontario — bland Bill Davis from Brampton — died peacefully at his home yesterday morning, with his family by his side, some nine days after celebrating his 92nd birthday.

                              There are, just as examples, three good obituaries that nicely survey Mr. Davis’s life and times in the oldest newspapers of the Ontario capital city : a piece by Jim Coyle in the Toronto Star ; one by Sandra Martin in the Globe and Mail ; and an anonymous report from the Canadian Press in the Toronto Sun. I only want to offer a few hasty personal notes, ultimately from the vantage point of someone who has at least voted in every Ontario election since 1967.

                              I was a young and obscure ordinary worker in the Ontario public service when William Davis, MPP became leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party in February 1971. His party had a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly. So on March 1, 1971 he became premier of the vast Canadian province north of the Great Lakes, south of Hudson Bay, west of the Ottawa River, and east of the Lake of the Woods. And through happenstance unrelated to my history as a democratic voter (past, present, or future) I was present for a time at the old Maple Leaf Gardens PC convention that finally elected Davis party leader on the fourth ballot.

                              “Rainforest” by Michael Seward, August 6, 2021.

                              I worked for two different Ontario ministries (formerly departments) during Bill Davis’s long tenure as head of government. (In the end he served for 13 years and 344 days : the second-longest Ontario premier’s career after the 23 years and 270 days of grand old man Oliver Mowat in the later 19th century.) I never actually acquired any face-to-face acquaintance with Premier Davis. But at the height of my time at the front I did write one or two bureaucratic policy-wonk speeches for him, that I was told were well enough received. In any case as my experience working for the government he presided over deepened, my understanding, respect, and finally admiration for his leadership grew like a tree.

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                              “With politicos across the country caught in election fever” — is Canadian federal vote coming very soon .. or just sometime this fall .. or even spring 2022 ????

                              Posted: August 4th, 2021 | No Comments »
                              “Danger, Turn Back, Go the Other Way” by Michael Seward, July 2021.

                              COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, EAST TORONTO OFFICE. AUGUST 4, 2021. In the capital cities of both Canada and Ontario in the middle of the summer of 2021 — and who knows where else from coast to coast to coast — there have lately been rising rumours of a Canadian federal election very soon.

                              The mood as of August 1 was summarized by Abbas Rana at the Hill Times : “With politicos across the country caught in election fever, Liberal MPs, candidates, and campaign managers are preparing for an election campaign to get started on Aug. 8 or Aug. 15, with the election date set to be Sept. 13 or Sept. 20 … ‘Be ready for the writ to be dropped on Aug. 8’ is the message I’m getting from cabinet ministers and MPs,” said one Liberal source who spoke to The Hill Times … ”

                              Then on August 2 Glenda Luymes at the Vancouver Sun somewhat complicated the picture — and, it may be, wisely enough. (The current Prime Minister Trudeau from Montreal has closer personal ties to Vancouver than Toronto, etc.)

                              Ms Luymes reported on the views of “Hamish Telford, a political-science professor at the University of the Fraser Valley,” and “Richard Johnston, a political-science professor at UBC..” As she explained broadly : “The Liberals need to believe they can pick up about a dozen more seats in the 338-seat House of Commons to win a majority. If that calculation comes up short, they may abandon the idea of a snap election for now.”

                              She went on : “Telford said the Liberals may avoid calling the federal election before Aug. 17, when Nova Scotia holds its provincial election … The party may also face internal pressure to hold off until late October when MPs elected in 2015 will achieve six years of service and therefore be eligible for a government pension … Johnston said that an average of recent polls shows the Liberals with a substantial lead over their opponents, but he questioned whether the party is really as ahead as they suggest.”

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                              Indigenous peoples and Canadian democracy — and growing numbers of young people on First Nations reserves

                              Posted: July 27th, 2021 | No Comments »
                              “Bluersouac” by Michael Seward, July 2021.

                              NORTH AMERICAN NOTEBOOK — RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO. JULY 26, 2021. My TV set has confirmed that Mary Simon, Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General, is now properly installed in office.

                              My own related thoughts lately go back to June 11, when : “A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds that one-in-five Canadians (20%) now say Indigenous issues are among their top three federal concerns … This is more than double the number who said so in March (9%), or at any time over the past year and a half.”

                              These numbers followed the announcement that a “ground-penetrating radar (GPR)” survey on “the grounds at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School [in BC] indicate that the remains of 215 children could be buried at the site.” Similar surveys on other former residential school sites managed to keep “Indigenous issues” prominently in the Canadian news for a while at least.

                              Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s July 6 announcement that the Inuk leader Ms Simon from northern Quebec had been appointed Governor General no doubt helped bring down the political temperature of the residential school graves revelations somewhat.

                              Meanwhile, like many others, I have been quietly wondering whether these revelations may dramatically shift at least one branch of Canadian politics in some fundamentally new direction (as unlikely as this may be in a place where we hardly ever admit to anything fundamentally new).

                              As we approach the end-of-July mid-summer mark on the northern North American calendar, I seem to have two main thoughts about this question on my mind.

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                              Summer 2021 adventures of the Ontario flag reflect bigger issues .. how long can this keep going on?

                              Posted: July 20th, 2021 | No Comments »
                              “Time Zones” by Michael Seward, July 2021.

                              COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, EAST TORONTO OFFICE. Back on Canada Day 2021 Mano Majumdar, a lecturer at Western University’s Ivey Business School, started a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, “to replace the provincial flag with a more distinct and inclusive flag, chosen by democratic means.”

                              For those who may have forgotten (“You mean Ontario has a flag?”), the current provincial banner dates back to 1965. The Conservative premier John Robarts proposed adopting a version of the old federal red ensign (with a British Union Jack in the top left-hand corner) as a flag for Canada’s most populous province.

                              The ensign had been rendered obsolete by the new Canadian maple leaf flag adopted that year, against the protests of federal Conservatives. In the end, however, all but two Liberal members of the Legislative Assembly at Queen’s Park voted for the Robarts proposal — including 22 of 24 Liberals, and all seven New Democrats.

                              The more recent past

                              Current Ontario flag as depicted in Mano Majumdar’s 2021 petition for a new flag.

                              Mr. Majumdar’s petition for a new Ontario flag 56 years later is far from the first gesture of its sort in the more recent past. On the 50th anniversary of the Ontario red ensign in 2015 Roberto Martella, owner of Grano Restaurant on Yonge Street in Toronto, launched a campaign for a new flag. He wanted to better represent “the nearly 60 per cent of Ontarians who don’t describe their origins as either English or Scottish.”

                              The next year, 2016, Terry Miller at the Brampton Guardian took up the torch : “Over the past 50 years, Ontario has changed … the 2011 census showed only 42 per cent of Ontario’s population identified with the British connection.” The province needed a new flag to better reflect its new demographic realities.

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