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Newsstand: June 10, 2014

Congratulations to Eugene Goostman from Odessa, Ukraine. He isn’t even a real person, but a chatterbot that maybe passed the Turing Test, proving (if you both put faith in the Turing Test and believe Eugene passed it) it is basically a human. Welcome to The Singularity. In the news: Elections Ontario says advance voter turnout is down 6 per cent, the OPP says gas plant scandal documents will not be ready until after the election, a union tells its media worker members not to vote for Tim Hudak, and fire hydrants.

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Elections Ontario says that 566,845 people voted during the seven days of advance polling last week, ahead of this Thursday’s Ontario general election. The number represents a 6 per cent drop from the 603,785 advance ballots that were cast before the 2011 provincial election. Granted, there were 10 days of advance polls in 2011, compared to just seven this year, but pollsters from Abacus Data say they are seeing patterns lately where more undecided voters are waiting to decide during this election campaign’s final days, which may explain the drop. Since we are already wearing our pessimist hats this morning, it could also signal more abysmal voter turnout. The 2011 election saw just 48.2 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot, and if the dip in advance polls is any indication of what overall voter participation will be like this Thursday, the downward trend will continue. Don’t let that happen, people! Have voting parties, and make it into a drinking game if you have to.

For any undecided voters who had hoped to get a glimpse of what is in the documents that the Ontario Provincial Police obtained from Queen’s Park staffers as part of their ongoing investigation into the gas plant cancellation email scandal before casting your ballot, you should be aware that isn’t going to happen. Media organizations that have been attempting to gain access to the information have been told that administrative hold-ups mean that the public will see them no earlier than June 19, a week after the election.

One thing is certain, though: Unifor Local 87-M—the union that represents 2,600 media workers at 35 workplaces in Ontario—does not want its members to vote for the Progressive Conservatives. In a controversial news release issued on Monday, the union says that PC Leader Tim Hudak’s support of American-style labour law reform is bad news for its membership. Unifor Local 87-M president Paul Morse realizes that it is a bold decision to enter into any political discussion, given the union’s strict policies against entering the election fray through candidate endorsements and financial support of election campaigns. The move has met with criticism on Twitter (where all modern public grievances are aired) by some Conservative MPs who lashed out. Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney tweeted “Journalists’ union picks sides in ON election, but we’re told to believe there’s no such thing as liberal media bias.” Even some journalist members of Unifor were upset over the move, with the Globe and Mail‘s Boyd Erman tweeting, “Absolutely appalled by journalist union (i.e. mine) taking a (any) political stand. We should be bigger than this.” Well, Erman actually had an entire Twitter-feed of things to say about it.

It isn’t all election news, all the time. Nope, there are also fire hydrants to discuss. A new fire hydrant called the Sigelock Spartan—which resembles the top of a periscope, or some strange alien device—is said to be the first innovation in fire hydrant design in a century. Apparently it will never freeze or require maintenance, and it could also be the future for Toronto, where some of the 44,000 hydrants in the city are pushing 80-years-old. According to Toronto Water, current hydrants across the city are designed to drain off water to prevent freezing, but each winter inspections reveal that between 100-150 hydrants freeze and stop working anyway.


  • torontothegreat

    If the PCs don’t want a “liberal biased media”, maybe they should have “labour positive viewpoints”. This just further proves how anti-social and out of touch the PCs are.

    • Notcleverguy

      While I agree with you 100%, and in no way would ever vote for the PC’s or Hudak, I think a union trying to sway who their members vote for is a cheap thing to do.

      • torontothegreat

        Normally I agree, but when you have a candidate who is willfully trying to tear apart the labour movement and shift the middle and working class down another notch, I’d say it’s in their best interest.

        I’ll give Unifor a pass on this one.

        • Notcleverguy

          I understand where you’re coming from, and no one want’s Hudak to run the province like a Wal-Mart. Pay people nothing, keep them close to poverty so they can’t afford to take time to look for a better job, (if there are any) and essentially make them endentured servants to the rich, so they can become more rich. He’s a pathetic character, but it still just doesn’t sit well with me.

          • Squintz

            It’s not like they’re going to kick people out of the union, its just a suggestion. I think it’s much ado about nothing. A union is already fairly political in that it is representing workers against owners/employers, is it really so unbelievable that they would have a preferred (or not) party that they would recommend members vote for?

          • Notcleverguy

            It borders on coercion and infringes on the idea of free elections.

            Again, I’m wouldn’t vote for the PC’s if you paid me, but I’d be calling for this Union guys resignation too.

          • Squintz

            Get out of here with that hyperbole, show me exactly how it is in anyway coercive. Giving a recommendation for a preferable (or not) candidate is no more coercive than an op-ed endorsing a candidate and telling an audience that is their preferred candidate.

          • rich1299

            Unions are some of the most democratic entities left in Canada. If their members so choose they will kick those behind this decision out of their position in the union. Besides I fail to see how its any more coercive than every newspaper endorsing a candidate.

          • OgtheDim

            If Union leaderships had terms limits, I would believe you on the democracy bit.

          • HotDang

            Are there term lengths? I think that there are. It’s not like you just win one election, then you’re head unioner for life.

          • torontothegreat

            Yes, there are term limits @OgtheDim:disqus is obviously anti-union.

          • torontothegreat

            There are term limits. For Unifor specifically they vote every 4 years on new leadership. Some unions actually have 1 year term limits.

            On the shop-floor level a steward or representative can be voted off the island at any given time.

            Bunch of hogwash you’re trying to push and as rich1299 pointed out “Unions are some of the most democratic entities left in Canada.”

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            If the paper is allowed to endorse a candidate or party, the employee body should be allowed to state their position as well, either an endorsement proper or divorcing itself from the endorsement of the editorial board and owners.

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        Is it? There’s nothing the union can do to force its members to vote a certain way, or check to see how they voted.

      • dsmithhfx

        I think they would be remiss if they failed to point out the potential impact of various candidates and platforms on their members’ fortunes.

      • Lynn Jasechko

        Once upon a time, almost every union advocated support for the NDP. It was the party of,the working man/woman. Unions did such a great job for,their members that unionized voters became middle class and started to vote accordingly. That is, NOT for the NDP. Of course, that was when we still had lots of good, lucrative, union jobs in Ontario and in fact in the country. Union support for a party is hardly new, or news beyond being an indicator for the outcome of the election.

  • Notcleverguy

    I was just about to link the exact same article. I asked a friend of mine that works at NASA, and he sent me the link.

    It’s interesting stuff.

  • bobloblawbloblawblah

    “Journalists’ union picks sides in ON election, but we’re told to believe there’s no such thing as liberal media bias.”

    As opposed to Conservative media bias. What is Kenney’s point? Does he really expect us to believe that media outlets that are favourable to the Tories are fair and balanced but any that may be critical are just “biased”. What nonsense.

    • OgtheDim

      The recent Walrus piece on Kenney got under his skin a bit.

      • Notcleverguy

        At least Kenney was the only Con to have the guts to call for Ford’s resignation.

      • TheSotSays

        Penguin is just as greasy as Walrus, why don’t you apply for a job?

    • rich1299

      For the Harper Cons and their supporters independent investigative reporting is always biased against them since the reporter and newspaper/TV news aren’t reporting the “news” the Harper Cons gave them in their press releases. Enough pathetic little newspapers (TV news is much worse for reading the Con’s press releases on air as if they were fact) simply reprint the Con’s, and once in a while other parties’, press releases without doing any investigation or fact checking of any sort. Those sorts of pathetic little newspapers are considered unbiased by cons and their supporters since they “report” the news exactly as the Cons gave it too them.

  • Not_Applicable

    The National Post and Globe and Mail (and likely Toronto Sun) all endorse Tim Hudak.
    Where is the media bias there? What’s the difference between a union suggesting their members vote one way vs. newspapers (journalists) suggesting people vote one way?