The Year 2019 – Where Are We At?
As I sit down to write my annual newsletter – or as some of my readers refer to it as my “epistle” – I have seriously thought abought what has transpired this past year! As is my routine, I look out at the maple tree in the front and see there are still a number of leaves drained of colour hanging on! On Remembrance Day, I pause to remember those Canadians as well as the many Allied service men and women who fought to preserve our freedom and way of life – which to me envelops freedom of speech, thought, ability to practice our respective religions, ability to express our opinions freely and openly without being threatened by individuals who have different opinions than those of the “Silent Majority”. That is what those women and men fought for during World Wars I and II, and the on-going war against Terrorism.
However, today wars and battles continue in many parts of the World such as parts of Africa, Europe, the Far East, the Middle East, etc. We also are experiencing the war against terrorism throughout the world including our own backyard! The war in Canada is not restricted to the war against terrorism; it also includes the battle against all aspects of crime, attacks on religious freedom, hunger, the lack of proper shelter; i.e. the battle against homelessness, in other words the battle against poverty. We are also struggling with the lack of sufficient funds to provide for proper health care for Canadians.
When I read the newspapers, listen to both radio and television, the majority of the news in many parts of Canada is about crime, homelessness, hunger, lack of proper shelter, the effects of illegal drugs – namely the loss of lives, and the lack of respect amongst many younger Canadians towards their fellow countrymen. This is not what the men and women who went to war fought for! For milleniums Canadians have generally lived in harmony with their neighbours, and people have generally respected their neighbours’ freedom to follow their own beliefs. Canada is changing – new arrivals from certain backgrounds are imposing their own beliefs and practices on our country.
Why can we no longer call a Christmas Party celebration a “Christmas Party?” We now must call it a “Holiday Party!” Why is a “Christmas tree” referred to as a “Holiday tree?” Why do certain people insist that there be a separate gymnasium at schools for men and women? We are attempting to respect the equality of men and women; we do not want to revert to the discrimination of women being kept barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen and invisible! Maintain our social progress!
In looking back, it appears that many of the problems I have commented about have not improved – in fact in some instances we are in worse condition. Will 2020 result in a better world for mankind – we can only strive to make that happen!
Today’s World: Has it Changed?
As I review a number of my prior newsletters, in my mind the World has certainly not seen any significant improvement in any aspect. In fact, in some ways the World is in worse shape than it was years ago! We are seeing an acceleration of the effects of climate change; namely glaciers melting at a rapid pace, floods, heat, large scale fires, and drought conditions increasing many areas resulting in a lack of food to feed the exponential growth of the worlds’ population, increase in pollution, increase in conflict amongst many other issues and concerns.
On another front, the growing civil unrest, military uprisings, monetary issues, such as rampant inflation in an increasing number of South American counties continue to be front and centre. This is a rapidly evolving and growing situation which is taking on a life of its own in a number of South American countries.
The United Kingdom & England
There is significant political unrest and lack of direction in England’s political battleground arising from the Brexit issue. This has led to a change in Government and now another election. In turn this uncertainty is causing major economic issues; namely, the loss of certain financial institutions which have closed their business operations in England; the closure of some automotive manufacturing plants as well as other businesses leading to a significant increase in the number of job losses. Additionally, the discussions of political issues within the United Kingdom – including the possibility of separation talks in Scotland, Ireland and even Wales!
The Middle East
The Middle East continues to be an on-going boiling cauldron always spilling over! While the leaders in the countries change from time to time, the theme is the same; be it wars over oil, territory, religious strife, and/or egos! There is on-going social unrest in certain countries against the ruling Kings, Presidents, Military Leaders, terrorists, etc. Of course, the ongoing negative impact of the continuous strife on people; namely emotional and mental health issues, economic costs, poverty, religious warfare between different groups, and the list goes on.
Last but not least, there is the continuous rivalry between the United States and Russia as to who is involved and aligned with which Middle East countries. It appears as though Russia has filled some of the vacuum which arose as a result of President Trump’s actions. Additionally, there is the issue of Turkey and the Kurds in the region. This is a boiling cauldron which has escalated! Will they ever learn?
The United States – the Fiefdom of Donald Trump
When Donald Trump campaigned for election as President, there was some hope as evidenced by the results, that Trump would bring a different no nonsense approach to the Presidency and the White House. Unfortunately, as I have discussed previously, he has shown his true colours. He has abandoned a large number of America’s former Allies – leading to concerns about the future of NATO – which in my opinion lacks any significant affect. After all, where was NATO when Russia invaded and annexed part of Crimea? This is an example of where Trump failed to show any leadership in pressuring NATO to become involved in the battle against Russia.
While the USMCA Agreement has finally been signed, Trump has significantly increased some tariffs to protect American jobs and businesses. As we are all aware this has impacted negatively on a number of Canadian industries and businesses – such as the lumber, steel, agricultural and automotive industries amongst others.
One of the President’s objectives was to save, increase and bring back jobs to America. I firmly believe these goals are one of the root causes of the number of layoffs and cutbacks in Southern Ontario by the American automotive giants implementing Trump’s directions and programs. This course of has also resulted in job losses in many Canadian lumber, agricultural, steel and mining industries including manufacturers, their suppliers and ancillary industries. Trump has shown his distain and lack of respect for Prime Minister Trudeau – which is another issue unto itself. The recent behaviour of our Prime Minister in laughing with other politicians about Mr. Trump’s press conference triggered a reaction from the President as he abruptly left the NATO Conference in a huff. What will the long-term effects of this be? In short, Trump has not been good for Canada!
His unpredictable behaviour couple plus his narcissism is increasingly causing consternation and bewilderment amongst many of his former supporters, advisors, former political appointees including some Cabinet members. Every day brings a new surprise. With the movement to seek impeachment of the American President, the political horizon is not clear at all.
Russia, China, North and South Korea, Japan
In my opinion the “Trump Factor” has directly resulted in the enhanced and growing influence of, and bullying by Russia in world affairs. Similarly, the outward challenge by China daring President Trump to do something to China in its attempts to gain control of Hong Kong, to have more influence in the Far East and to be seen as a threat to Japan, and other Eastern allies who are losing faith in the United States as an ally. Finally, the show of force by North Korea in its attempts to intimidate and possibly achieve greater goals with respect to South Korea have resulted from the perceived lack of “back-bone” exhibited by Mr. Trump!
In conclusion, while I am not at all happy with my perception of the World as it is today, I believe in being honest with my clients and other readers of my newsletter. However, the World will continue turning on its axis!
CANADA – Above the 49th Parallel
Well, Mr. Trudeau is now the elected leader of a minority government. His “sunny days” certainly lost their shine during the course of his 1st term as Prime Minister. His many errors and gaffes in Foreign Policy, some aspects of his Domestic Policies, his policies concerning allowing immigrants into the country – without reasonable background and criminal checks of the applicants, especially those applying from counties where they are not at risk, leave a lot of Canadians who followed the correct process in seeking to come to Canada, upset, and frustrated. A significant number of Syrian refugees who came to Canada, were lodged in hotels, provided with Canada Goose winter coats, provided with economic and health services, and other essentials, including food, schooling, amongst other provisions, have now become economically dependent on our resources. How does this compare to the poor treatment suffered by many Canadians including our Indigenous citizens, our homeless, our handicapped and mentally challenged Canadians?
We are now experiencing shortages of certain drugs and medications because we are allowing Americans to come across the border to purchase drugs at a much cheaper price than they can buy these drugs in the U.S. – because they are told to do so by certain American politicians such as Bernie Sanders and the President. Why is our Federal Government not placing a prohibition on this type of activity? Why are Canadian citizens being told to bring their own medications to hospitals – because the hospitals cannot supply those medications. Ask your politicians. Is Prime Minister Trudeau afraid of the Americans and in particular Donald Trump? We need a leader with backbone to step up to the plate and do what is right for Canada. Look at our current relationship with China because Mr. Trudeau wanted to be a “good buddy” to President Trump by arresting a Chinese National! This has really stood us in good stead with “the Donald.”
What have we wound up with after the very boring election campaign – a Minority government which could fall at any time? The calibre of the Leaders of the different political parties, and their respective platforms was certainly lacking in imagination, sound economic proposals, and realistic goals. Do Canadians really believe everything can be provided for at no cost, or minimal cost? Who is going to pay the tax dollars which would be required to fund all these services so that the majority of Canadians would not have to pay anything or very little? We have lost and continue to lose a significant number of large Canadian businesses entities – look at the decreased number of Canadian companies which are no longer listed at the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Most recently following the election we are witnessing the growth of a Western Canada separation movement – “Wexit Canada.” The Premier of Quebec, now that the election is over, is finally expressing his real goals for Quebec – which is to think of Quebec of a separate entity within Canada – maybe it will occur!
Is the Prime Minister going to exhibit leadership and set the country on a path to where it should be, not where it is in the world’s eyes which is a follower – not a leader!
Ontario – and Premier Ford!
He came in like a firebrand with goals and a platform – realistic or not – and is now walking backwards – he is becoming a politician worried about the next election! The Premier must start “thinking outside of the box,” rather than trying to be a bulldozer running over roadblocks – he must learn about and acquire the skills of negotiation to be a successful leader! We have the teachers who have recently started working to rule and striking, which job action will definitely impact negatively on the students. This is where Ford should be a leader and pass legislation designating teachers as an essential service, through taking away their right to strike, walk out, or work to rule! The future of our children, and their children, is dependent on the education they receive both at home and at school. There is an old saying – “these that can do, and those that can’t teach”, maybe this is true?
The Provincial Government says it wants to reduce costs in the Civil Service area; then stop the featherbedding actions of the Civil Service unions. Introduce productivity goals for civil service employees and enforce them with economic consequences if they do not attain the productivity targets. Why are summer students told to do the minimum work and not to question the “bosses!” Why were we recently told that in an office of one of the Ministries, a fax machine has not worked for one week and nothing has been done to fix or replace the machine? It was as a result of this attitude one of our clients was almost unable to close their purchase of a home. Who is in control of the Civil Service?
As the Teachers Unions have instituted job actions, including striking leaving students “out in the cold”, and parents scrambling, why is the Government not bringing in “back-to-work” legislation? Teachers should be deemed to be an essential service! Who else has the salary, benefits package, and the amount of holiday time teachers do?
Toronto – the “Good” not Anymore!
Toronto is moving along as well as can be expected. Traffic gridlock, rising taxes and fees, increasing crime – no longer the Queen City. Friends from the United States are now inquiring, is Toronto still a safe city to visit? I advise them it is not like it once was.
Again, a bloated number of municipal employees – four men to patch a hole in the road – one person working and other people standing, watching, talking, and drinking coffee. A Mayor who talks about traffic gridlock contributed by the excessive number of Uber, Lyft, and other vehicles for hire which are clogging the streets of our City. As I have noted before, why did Mayor Tory permit Uber and Lyft to come to Toronto, hurt the Toronto taxi industry, not have to pay licensing fees, not require Uber drivers to have commercial vehicle insurance, not have to take specific instruction courses, pay a licence fee, nor require their vehicles to have regular mechanical inspection, etc. Why are fees earned here paid to Uber operations in the United States without payment of taxes in Canada? Mayor Tory has just announced the need for a significant property tax increase to raise more funds for infrastructure and affordable housing; however, a main plank of his previous election campaigns was not to increase property taxes above the rate of inflation! Why the change during his term in office? With approximately 90,000 Uber and Lyft vehicles on the roads in Toronto, they should be forced to pay a licensing fee, and inspection fee, and Canadian taxes! How does this benefit Toronto?
Where is the Police Chief? Do the police themselves have confidence in the Chief? Why has the amount of gang warfare continued to increase? The police were provided with the extra funds they requested earlier this year; this has done nothing to reduce the amount of crime in general nor shootings nor killings in particular. If the police cannot do the job, we should be exploring other remedies and sources of help before any more innocent people are hurt or killed. Part of the problem lies with the Judges and Crown Attorneys who are too soft on criminals in terms of bail conditions, sentencing, etc. People who have any previous criminal convictions should not be permitted to be out on bail!
As a Real Estate lawyer, I can see in the Toronto area why the cost of newly built home/condominium housing is so expensive. The various costs imposed by the City for levies, development charges, park levies, and many additional charges are passed onto the buyers. This is not at all helpful for people wanting to become homeowners.
Why does the construction of the LRT take so long and cost so much? Where are the cost controls? What about the number of small businesses which have had to close as a result of the loss of business?
What once made Toronto a world-class City is no longer working! We need leaders with a vision who think outside the box and are proactive not reactive – otherwise we will become a City which will be a shadow of itself.