Month: May 2017

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Grits a lesson in bad government

For decades to come, former Premier Dalton McGuinty and Premier Kathleen Wynne will be a case study in political science and public administration university courses across Canada – but for the wrong reasons. Both will be studied for how to impoverish a provincial economy by making ideologically-driven electricity policies, devoid of any planning and logic.

Ontario used to be the manufacturing centre of Canada – a rich and prosperous province. Now we have to take handouts from other provinces and we are the most indebted sub-national jurisdiction in the world.

Proctor & Game’s move to shutter their Brockville plant, laying off nearly 500 employees is just the latest blow. While P&G didn’t point to the cost of electricity as the reason to move to West Virginia, I can’t imagine it wasn’t a factor. Perhaps they just didn’t want to burn bridges with the Ontario government. But according to Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clarke, the average price of electricity for industrial users in West Virginia was 8.8 cents per kilowatt/hour in 2016, compared to approximately 13 cents in Ontario. That has to have a huge impact on the bottom line.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper used to be vilified over his dogmatic policies. He was criticized for failing to account for science in his decision-making. But no two politicians have been more short-sighted and politically-driven by dogma than McGuinty, Wynne and the hydro file.

The un-dynamic McGuinty-Wynne duo have left our energy sector in shambles, not only creating current economic mayhem but plunging us into costly energy schemes which we will not be able to emerge from for the next 30 years. The Ontario liberals like to goad the opposition by challenging them to unveil their plan to fix the problems liberals created. To be honest, I’m glad the NDP and the PCs are not taking the bait. There is no solution to the conundrum the liberals have put us in. It’s as simple as that. We are basically screwed. No way out. Which is why the liberals deserve the boot in the next election.

The finding by the Financial Accountability Office that renegotiating our hydro debt will add $45 billion to our debt over the next 29 years is simply outrageous. Oddly, Wynne behaves as if it someone else’s fault that the electricity sector is ruined.

“You all read the newspaper, you listen to the radio and you watch television — you know the problems that families are having around the province paying for their electricity costs,” Wynne said, as if some external force was to blame.

Wynne misses the point when she says that “there were thousands of kilometres of line that needed to be rebuilt . . . that work hadn’t been done over those generations, so electricity costs were low over that period of time but the work wasn’t being done.”

The real culprit for the out-of-control electricity rates are the massive spending on green energy and government subsidies for solar panel.
Wynne can stick her head in the sand and pretend the mess is not her doing but in a year’s time, we’ll have a chance to remind her who’s to blame.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Giving away the kitchen sink

Free drugs if you’re under 25, free university, discounted hydro, rent control and the cherry on the sundae is a 30% increase in the minimum wage in one fell swoop. Premier Kathleen Wynne’s running government like a Giant Tiger – everything is priced to sell. It’s like Christmas in July, except were still just in May – and a little over a year from the provincial election.

But what do you do when only 11 percent of the population trusts you? Wynne’s giving away the kitchen sink, desperate to cling to power.

What’s particularly pernicious is what’s unfolding with your hydro bill. In January, the province cut the provincial portion of the GST out of your bill, saving you 8 percent, then plans to cut a further 17 percent on June 1. Wynne would have you believe it’s all magical. She waved her wand and zap, your hydro bill was cut by a quarter. That’s supposed to make you forget that you paid for massive green energy spending which we didn’t need leaving us on the hook for years, even decades, to come – and adding billions to our debt.

All Wynne did was to re-amortize our debt, shuffling it around so you get the illusion that it simply vanished.

But a cabinet document leaked to the Progressive Conservatives tells the real story. Between 2022 and 2027 we can expect 6.5% increases each year followed by a 10.5% increase in 2028. Given that we have set elections every four year, Wynne’s likely thinking she’ll win in 2018 and pack it in before the 2022 election, leaving the whole mess to be sorted out by whoever gets power after her.

Liberal Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault, in an explanation that strains credulity, said he couldn’t confirm the document or verify its numbers. Poor fella explained how he’s been swamped with “thousands of documents” and “hundreds of briefings.” “I’ve been in this position for 11 months,” Thibeault pleaded.

He then pivoted à la US President Donald Trump contradicting himself to say the numbers were off as the document was just a “draft.” But he refused to give us the supposedly updated numbers.

Thibeault said he’d disclose the numbers when he updates his long-term energy plan. Expect that to land in the lazy days of summer once the Legislature has recessed and when most are at their cottage and likely around 4pm on a Friday.

If Thibeault doesn’t have the financial projections available now, as the bill is set to pass, we have a serious problem. We’re sailing blindly into the abyss. Isn’t that what first got us into this hydro mess – a lack of planning and sheer negligence?

Both New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath and PC leader Patrick Brown’s parties will rightfully vote against the hydro bill. Horwath called it a “$40-billion attempt to buy an election” while Brown said “in no world can I support a plan that’s going to cause vast new amounts of debt.”

Of great concern is that the poll finding that 89 percent of people distrust Wynne was conducted after all the goodies were announced. The same poll also found PCs still lead in popular support with 41%, the Liberals have 28% support and the NDP trail with 23%. That’s only going to spur Wynne to continue spending your money like a drunken sailor. You’ve been warned.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Neither tough nor nice

Last March U.S. President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon warned of the imminent “deconstruction of the administrative state.” No one thought at the time that this code language for decapitating the F.B.I. while it was engaged in an investigation into the relationship between Trump and the Russians.

Which may explain why Trump’s beleaguered press secretary Sean Spicer was either hiding in the bushes or standing with his staff among the bushes later in the day, as was later reported as a correction. Either way, he was dumbstruck by the news, just like the rest of us.

Every week since Trump’s election in November has been a mix of reality show and politics, served with a high dose of drama, chaos and confusion. Last week, White House officials apparently called the Prime Minister’s office to invite Justin Trudeau to call Trump and beg that NAFTA be renegotiated instead of cancelled. Trudeau made the call and Trump backed down. Trump being Trump, a likelier scenario was that he told his officials to pretend they were calling out of their own volition. Everything is games and mirrors with Trump.

The day after Trump fired F.B.I. Director James B. Comey, he awkwardly appeared at a photo op in the Oval Office with former Nixonian-era Secretary of State Henri Kissinger, a reminder of another loose cannon president. Trump then cozied up with Russian foreign minister Sergey V. Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak. Trump banned American media and photographers from witnessing the gathering only to later find out that Russian state news outlets had made public photos of the beaming threesome.

Mainstream U.S. media outlets, like the New York Times and the Washington Post – those Trump call “fake news” – were reporting that Comey’s capital punishment-worthy offence was requesting additional resources for the F.B.I.’s Trump-Russia investigation.

Trump’s wildly vacillating version of why he fired Comey appeared to morph by the hour. Comey had lost the confidence of Americans or his own staff at the F.B.I., or Trump was always set on firing him for his misconduct during the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of emails, or the deputy Attorney General and the A.G. had both requested it, or that he was fired for either incompetence, being a “showboat” or a “grandstander.” Pot meet kettle.

The U.S. likes to think of itself as the leader of the Free World. With its powerful constitution and democratic institutions, there was a time where the superpower could well wrap itself around that notion. But with Trump the demagogue in charge of the White House, we can officially let go of that myth.

Trump likes to think of himself as brilliant and tough but with a kind heart. A misunderstood kind of guy. It’s the reason why he can’t stand Saturday Night Live’s Alec Baldwin impersonations of him. They portray him as too “mean.”

Apart from being a scheming, lying bully, Trump’s indeed a mean coward. Comey was meeting with F.B.I. staff in Los Angeles when his firing broke on a television. He thought he was being pranked. Red-faced Comey soon found out that it wasn’t a joke.

So much for Trump being a tough but nice guy. He’s neither.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Charging should be last resort

The Supreme Court of Canada’s Jordan case has caused ripples through our criminal justice system. The effect of the case has been to set rigid guidelines for trial within a reasonable time. If they’re not met, the accused is cut loose and charges are stayed.

In Ontario alone, it means that 11,000 criminal cases are at risk of being tossed. Already first-degree murder cases, robberies and sexual assault cases have been thrown out of court. And it’s only the beginning.

It’s not the first time that the SCC has sent a wake-up call to actors in our judicial system to take their constitutional obligations more seriously. In the early 1990s, the SCC’s Askov decision produced similar results.

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi sounded like a deer caught in the headlights when he attacked the SCC for acting as if they were changing the rules of a hockey game “in the third period.” This is nothing but bluster and a smokescreen to cover up his ineptitude and neglect of our legal system.

A wide range of solutions are being looked at from getting rid of the largely outdated preliminary inquiry to throwing more money at the problem: hiring more Crowns, appointing more judges and building more courthouses.

I have another solution. Let’s get back to the basics. Criminal court is not a vehicle for social engineering and political correctness. Criminal law is meant as society’s sledgehammer to go after and denounce the worst conduct. After all, a convicted person is known as a “criminal” with all the associated stigma and faces imprisonment for life in some cases.

Three recent cases illustrate how we’ve strayed from the traditional underpinnings of criminal prosecutions.

First, last Thursday, Anita Krajnc was acquitted of mischief. Her alleged crime? Giving water to thirsty pigs on their way to a slaughterhouse in Burlington. The trial, which garnered international attention (embarrassing!) took 7 days of court time turned into somewhat of a gong show as the accused tried to prove that pigs are “persons”. Straight shooting Justice David Harris threw out the charges and reigned in both sides. “By law in Canada, pigs are not persons. They are property,” he said. “Did Ms Krajnc obstruct, interrupt or interfere with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of the property? My simple answer to this question is: no. She did not,” he added. What a colossal and ridiculous waste of court time.

Second, the myriad of arrests and charges against cannabis shop owners in Ontario operating in the light of day is using a sledgehammer when a fly swat would suffice. No doubt they’re operating illegally but surely as pot legalizing is about a year away, it’s business for the bylaw enforcement officer not the cops armed with search warrants and battering rams as we recently saw in Toronto.

Finally, cops in Newfoundland recently charged a 27-year-old man with the criminal offence of causing a disturbance by yelling the sexually explicit phrase “FHRITP” at a female TV journalist. What he did is hideous, sexist and repulsive. But criminal? Not a chance. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, acting more like a thought and politically correct enforcement body than real cops, tweeted “disrespect can be the root of violence.” My first reaction was the Onion or The Beaverton had hacked the cops’ twitter account. Is that what police and criminal law are for? Policing disrespect?

Let’s bring back police officer discretion and more robust Crown vetting of what gets to trial. Weed out matters that don’t deserve our collective sledgehammer and let’s get back to prosecuting real crimes such as murders, sexual assaults and robberies.