Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Reader's Den - In The Company of Educated Men by Leonce Gaiter

In the Company of Educated Men is quick but interesting read. At 177 pages, it's an ideal read for those who want something new to read, but something not as voluminous as your average paperback or hardcover.

Author Leonece Gaiter takes us through the misadventure of three recent Harvard graduates who take to the open road as an escape of sorts from the world of the mundane in search for an undefined outlet or calling.

Instead, they find themselves entangled in a unexpected encounter, which leads to being on the run from police, with an armed thief and young girl who happens to sneak her way into their vehicle.

The stress and tensions that result, pull at loyalty, strain relationships and impact lives forever. 

Find this book by clicking here.

Are you a published author, or a publisher who would like your works considered for review in The Hamiltonian's Reader's Den? Contact us at admin@thehamiltonian.info with your request. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

From Democracy to Oligarchy? - Our Perspectives Virtual Panel Weighs In

The Hamiltonian posed the following questions to our Perspectives Virtual Panel. Their responses follow.

The following chart  represents the percentage of voters who voted the new city council, as per the October 27th 2014 city-reported election results. Click here to see chart.

The chart presents the candidates in order of lowest to highest percentage of voter support. For example, the Ward 9 candidate won with the lowest amount of % of Voter turn out, with 8.95% of the vote. Even the winner with the highest amount of voter turn out (Ward 14) only won with 28.53%.

Representative government rests on the concept that elected officials represent the people who elect them. The results suggest that the new council will in effect, not have a mandate supported by a healthy degree of people who they are to represent.

What do you believe led to the very poor voter turnout, what does this say about the state of affairs in Hamilton and how could this new council hope to be effective in a representative model, when the majority of people to be represented did not provide their support or endorsement?

Herman Turkstra wrote....

One solution is really simple. If one candidate does not get 51% or more, a run-off happens between the first and second place candidates. Premier Wynne has told Ted McMeekin, as Minister of Municipal Affairs to make that happen in 2018. It will make a big difference in turnout. I'm not sure it will make any difference in the depth of voter analysis.

M Adrian Brassington  wrote.....

1) What do you believe led to the very poor voter turnout?

A sense of futility. Anger, frustration, futility. But primarily a detachment from local governance. (No, term limits would not change this much.)

2) What does this say about the state of affairs in Hamilton?

No more than it says elsewhere in the province. Hamilton is not unique in this regard.


3) How could this new council hope to be effective in a representative model, when the majority of people to be represented did not provide their support or endorsement?

This is another topic entirely. Nevertheless, the optics here are muddied. Even if we had a stellar 50% turnout rate, you'd still have an abysmal approval rating when comparing the winning candidate's percentage to it. (I believe the most reasonable maximum turnout rate for Municipal elections is probably around 65%.)

The discussion here actually is 'Should we be pushing for ranked voting?'

As far as whether or not the new Council be effective, this comes down to changing the paradigm at City Hall where residents are concerned. (Yet another topic.)

Mark-Alan Whittle wrote...

The low voter turnout is not a new phenomenon, it has been declining for a decade. My suggestion is that since we have a voters list with voters names crossed out, we also have a list of registered voters who didn't bother to vote. Something my Dad Bert fought for during world war two. The city could send them a notice, and explain why it is important to be informed and vote. This initiative wouldn't cost much, just the price of a stamp, envelope and a piece of paper spelling it out to the people who didn't vote. Shame is a powerful motivator.

Larry DiIanni wrote...

Your premise that this council 'does not have a mandate' is faulty to the nth degree. True, the voter turnout is disappointing and the way we elect our representatives can be improved by having a ranked ballot system, for example. But to dismiss a duly elected body just because many people chose not to vote, is irresponsible and naive. Irresponsible because your conclusions lead to a diminshment of confidence in our representative democracy, encouraging a quasi-anarchic state. And naive because if we don't believe in our institutions of democratic government, what is left?

I would also make the point that a more robust voter turnout would not have changed the results of the races. Experience with polling, which predicts the outcome of elections based on the voter intentions of a handful of voters polled, is almost always accurate within an acceptable margin of error. If that is true, then a 39% turnout surely is a more accurate way of predicting outcomes. This logic would see the ratio of votes remain the same while the absolute number attributed to each candidate rise by the increase in ballots cast. In the mayoralty, Fred would have still been first, Brad second and Brian third etc. In the ward races, the same would likely have been true with an exception perhaps in a race won by fewer than 100 votes.

However, since we only had a 39% turnout of voters, we must accept and support the results as they have manifested themselves. Similarily for the ward races, we must validate the councillors who were democratically elected using the system we had all understood and agreed to before the election. To do otherwise is to turn us into a veritable banana republic where manipulation and 'mind-games' rule the day.

This reality, however, isn't to deny that we must find ways of getting more people to vote. The ranked ballot system would look after some of the concerns mentioned in your hypothesis. It would guarantee that any winning candidate would have a plurality of votes which the first past the post system does not guarantee.

As to why people choose not to vote, the reasons are multi faceted. There is no one overwhelming reason for all. Here are some:
1. Voter lists are not 100% accurate. Several of my children were listed even though they moved to another muncipality several years ago. They voted there, not here.
2. In some parts of the city (Flamborough) the voter turnout reflects the reality that some of the residents there still don't feel they are part of this city and not having a 'stake' in it (a foolish thought) they chose not to vote.
3.Socio-economic reasons keep people from voting in some of the needier parts of the city.
4. Students at McMaster are notorious non-voters as are younger people generally. Maybe online voting will help a bit.
5. People are cynical feeling that 'it really doesn't matter anyway' and choose not to vote.
6. The media engaged in uninteded voter suppression by telling us over and over again that the candidates were sub-par and uninspiring. This is an insult to the very good calibre of people who present themselves.
7. Finally, people are sometimes lazy and take the right to vote which is a huge privilege for granted.

There are probably more reasons too, but those are my hunche

Mahesh P. Butani wrote...

Low voter turnout in Hamilton may appear to be shocking, but given the city's political and bureaucratic culture such outcomes are inevitable. Can this change in the near future? I highly doubt it.

Our local culture is deeply ingrained and has been built to resist change. History has proven that any new politicians who manage to filter through the local system are destined to operate in the same culture, and as such are co-opted within the first year.

In such a scenario, any real sociocultural and economic progress we seek as a community can only be driven from the outside.

Marvin Ryder wrote....

While the chart presented is interesting, it is nothing new. The municipal election in 2000 had the greatest voter turnout at 43%. It could be argued that a candidate getting 100% of the votes cast still did not have the support of the majority of voters. And this feat of mathematics is not limited to municipal elections - provincial and federal elections have demonstrated this phenomenon for decades. In that sense, I think this analysis misdirects us from the core issue.

The question is basic - why are citizens not choosing to exercise their franchise to vote and how can this trend be reversed?

The answer to the first part is that citizens are not engaged in the democratic process at any level of government. Perhaps they feel that their vote will not matter. Perhaps they have voted for people in the past and then felt betrayed when those people did not do what they promised. Perhaps they do not see their concerns reflected in the platforms of candidates. Perhaps people are simply fatigued and are
not enthused about elections. Perhaps voters feel the solutions to their problems are beyond the capabilities of elected officials to fix!

Because there are likely many causes of the problem, there are likely many different cures needed. My first thought would be to make voting easier. Smartphones, tablets, and computers are ubiquitous so why make citizens go to a polling place. I'd like to see more Internet voting. (Note: Burlington had Internet voting in advance polls and saw greater participation in those polls but then less participation on election day.)

To make people feel like their vote will count, I'd like to see an attempt at ranked balloting. In that case, if one's first choice finished last in the polls, one's second choice would get the vote until one candidate had a majority of all votes cast.

I think the biggest effort has to made in the schools to teach people the value of exercising their franchise. As Canada relies more and more on immigration, I am not sure the value of voting is being shared with our newest citizens some of whom may have come from countries where the act of voting was quite dangerous or where elections might have been "rigged."

A final thought - I do not want to increase turnout just for the sake of turnout. An influx of voters who only come to get a free cup of Tim Horton's coffee or for a chance to win a new car are likely to choose any candidate to earn their reward. In one Hamilton school, a mock vote led to the election of Ejaz Butt as mayor. As qualified as he might be for the position, the cornerstone of the campaign in this school was a slogan of "We like Butt!"

We should not have to bribe voters to vote. It is truly a duty and a responsibility that we owe for living in a democratic society.

Your comments are welcome.

Do you wish to be a member of our Perspectives Virtual Panel? It's free. Click here to sign up.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Media Release- Preliminary report on The People’s Platform

Key Achievements

19 town halls were held
10 community partnerships were built
47 proposals for a better Hamilton were put forth
7 mayoral candidates endorsed the process
6 mayoral candidates went on record supporting citywide participatory budgeting
70 candidates completed the People’s Platform questionnaire
544 residents voted on the proposals
44 proposals were approved
9 of the 16 members of the newly elected Council endorse some or all of the 44 approved proposals
30 focused media impressions were made, including news articles, op-eds, radio interviews, and television spots

Campaign Overview

A kick-off event was held in July, four regional forums were held in August, and 15 ward forums

Friday, November 14, 2014

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Artisan Bread – Gluten Free?

Gluten-free Artisan Bread
Artisan Bread – Gluten Free? 

One of the pleasures of this gig is getting to see some neat cookbooks. Danielle Johnson, Senior Publicist At BC’s Raincoast Books very kindly sent me several titles recently, and I am looking forward to perusing, and sharing thoughts about, them with readers in the coming months.

The one that first caught my eye was “Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg (an MD), and Zoe Francois (a Pastry Chef). It seems more and more people say they can’t handle wheat or gluten, but their options for truly great fresh, crusty bread appear pretty limited. I’d also like guests at my table to be able to indulge in one of life’s pleasures, without concern

The front cover attracted me because of the beautiful loaves featured. The resident baker was instantly sceptical saying something to the effect “there is no way those are gluten-free”. After an expensive trip to the health food store to acquire the various ingredients (which are going to see us thru about ten loaves) the yeast is doing its magic and the dough is rising.

The aforementioned baker is an adept of the Jim Lahey, ‘no-knead’, method of making bread popularised in a seminal New York Times Article. She learned the techniques from Marc Albanese at Pane Fresco when he himself was still actually baking his fantastic breads in the Burlington Store. The method is close to foolproof and we immediately ditched our bread machine as our ‘no-knead’ bread proved far superior in taste and texture, and was not appreciably more work. (We also reduced the frequency of visits to Pane Fresco, except for a few items they excelled in, but which were beyond us!)

Hertzberg and Francois previously authored “Healthy Bread”, “Artisan Bread,” “the New Artisan Bread” and “Artisan Pizza and Flatbread” (all “in 5-minutes a day”), none of which I was previously familiar with. Point is they seem to know what they are about: The family baker found plenty to give her comfort as she read through the key bits before acknowledging gluten-free could well work, and heading out on her shopping expedition.

The results of the first experiment (a standard white made following the basic recipe) won’t be in till tomorrow and, after that is mastered, there are plenty of great-sounding recipes to try. (Pumpernickel, date and walnut for one.) I’m encouraged too, enough to share the details with readers who might wish to acquire the book without delay. I will report later on how things turned out and also point readers to a coming cookbook giveaway (including this one), in the winter edition of BCity Magazine, where I also get to write about food and drink.

For more pictures. click here.

To see all past columns please see (and “like”) the Food for Thought Archives

Alex (Alex can be reached at fft@thehamiltonian.info or on twitter @AlexBielak)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ontario Ombudsman Comments on The Hamiltonian's Question to Earl Basse

Double click on picture above to enlarge it. 

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin applauds Hamilton for having the position of Integrity Commissioner but wonders why  Hamilton Integrity Commissioner Earl Basse believes our question to Mr. Basse for stats related to how many investigations he has submitted late, was deemed by Mr. Basse to be an inappropriate question.

Thanks Mr. Marin for tweeting out your view on this! 


The Hamiltonian recently attempted to quantify some facts related to the work of Earl Basse, Hamilton's Integrity Commissioner.

We were interested in determining how many investigations he has undertaken to date, how much he has been paid to date and, of the investigations that he has received and deemed worthy of investigation, in how many of those has he missed the time frames that he was expected to deliver within.

By our contacting the city, we have been able to determine the following:

The number of complaints filed to date has been 17.

The total amount paid to Mr. Basse to date, has been $200,474.25

Our query about how many investigations were submitted late, was referred back to Mr. Basse. Mr. Basse advised us that he is preparing a report that he will be submitting to council; thus, in effect, not answering our question. The Hamiltonian contacted Mr. Basse reminding him that we have no affiliation to the relationship he has with council, and our questions are being asked of him independent of that.

Mr. Basse's final reply was as follows:

"My report to Council covers that area and it would be inappropriate to inform the media prior to Council."

As The Hamiltonian has not asked for any specific information pertaining to any cases that are or were investigated, and requested aggregate data only related to the number of cases that were submitted late, we see no reason why Mr. Basse saw this request as inappropriate. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Checking in with Mayor Bob Bratina

Prior to the new term of council commencing, we thought we would check in with Mayor Bob Bratina and ask him to share some thoughts with our readers. Enjoy the Mayor's comments.

My sincere thanks to the Hamiltonian for presenting a dignified and respectful forum in which city matters could be discussed in as neutral and non-partisan a manner as is possible. Had all such local forums approached the issues in a similar fashion we may well have had a much higher voter turnout in the recent municipal election. The “why bother” attitude came in part because of the four year long LRT debate, spurred by a very small advocacy group. The broader public and prominent business leaders had long ago dismissed the B-line proposal as an unnecessary waste of money. I know this because I asked people in scores of direct conversations in every part of the city and in every walk of life. This was not a “wedge” issue for the vast majority who demonstrated their indifference on October 27th.

My reluctant entry into the 2010 mayoral campaign was related to my indifference to the slate of candidates, and as in 2014, the failure of a galvanizing figure to step forward who was not associated

Chat with Ward 9's Doug Conley

Enjoy our chat with new Ward 9 Councillor -elect, Doug Conley.

As a new councillor, what will your focus be in the first 90 days of your term?

  • To get to know the staff and who is responsible for what.
  • Review the King street proposal and follow through with some of my concerns
  • Follow up on several issues in the ward
  • Be interactive with the other councillors

What impression do you hope to make at council and for Hamiltonians?

I am not trying to make any impression but do my job and ask the right questions at council.

How will you go about making this impression and what might Hamiltonians notice about your style and approach?