Month: June 2017

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Stop Listening to Toadies

It didn’t have to be this way, Kathleen. You could have shown a bit of humility when you knew things were going south. You could have done like Dalton did when he realized not winning the next election was a no-brainer.

You could have quit months ago, paving the way for a leadership convention and maybe, just maybe, a fresh face, someone like the unctuous and vainglorious Yasir Naqvi could have won the leadership and created some distance from you and pulled off an election win and saved the great liberal party of Ontario.

But no, you even ignored the advice of former minister Greg Sorbara who’s career spanned 30 years in politics as finance minister, Ontario Liberal party president and campaign chair. He told you last month you were dead in the water. It’s not as if Sorbara had any animus towards you Kathleen. He lobbied for you to become leader and was on your transition team. You took the advice you wanted to hear, for example, from toady Deputy Premier Deb Matthews.

Another yes man, current Liberal campaign co-chair Tim Murphy said with a straight face that he talked with “lots of Liberals and not one of them wants her to go. Not a single one.” Right, drink the Kool-aid.

Look at yourself in the mirror, Kathleen. You have less than 1/3 of Donald Trump’s popular support. You’re sitting at 11%. And you think he’s a loser.

You’ve dragged your party down to 23% of decided and leaning voters. For months now you’ve been bribing the electorate with their own money in a spending frenzy. There’s been a ton of new vote-getting spending. Free drugs, discounted energy, a huge hike in minimum wage and the list goes on…The cupboard’s bare. And you keep insisting hubristically, Kathleen that all of this has nothing to do with the pending election.

Even firebrand OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas called the scope of the latest contract extension offer “unprecedented” and said he suspects it is related to the June 2018 election. “I’m kind of shocked the government actually made us any kind of an offer,” Thomas said. “It’s no secret that my union and myself, my executive board, we’re always in a battle with the government…We’re at odds with them on a lot of fronts.” Heck, just take it and run.

There’s an old legal expression that the “jury is never wrong.” In this case, I’d say the voters are never wrong. They saw through the stink of your orgy of spending. They might have taken the goodies you were throwing out, but they weren’t fooled by your cynical politics.

If an election were held today, the Liberals would be reduced to all of 9 seats. They’re even in trouble in Toronto and the GTA where popular mayor John Tory is waging war against what he sees are Liberals’ neglect of housing and transit.

I know you see yourself as some kind of rainmaker flying with the Gods and that you’ll pull a miracle and be back as Premier, Kathleen. But this time you’re going to have to be truly magical. Countless streams of puff pieces by the Star’s Liberal-in-residence columnist Martin Regg Cohn that you walk on water just won’t do it.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Theatrics matter to BLM

When my kids were in high school, I remember being asked to sign a petition to get rid of Wi-Fi, as according to these parent-agitators, it apparently caused a great health concern – all our kids would get cancer. No kidding. That’s how whacky it was.

An equally whacky bunch of agitators are at it again but this time they’re going after cops. In Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, Black Lives Matter have decided that we need to get rid of the School Resource Officer program, where for the last 9 years, uniform cops are assigned to work in schools. There are 36 cops in 75 Toronto schools. The issue emerged out of nowhere or out of no particular circumstance. But it did – likely because BLM got just got bored and needed to stir the pot a bit.

These cops are paid for by the police services and fulfil a multitude of tasks such as building trust between the police and students. All of Ottawa’s schools have SROs.

At Toronto area’s C.W. Jefferys, where a large population of racialized students go to school, for example, an alumni basketball tournament was recently held, partly set-up by the SRO including alumni, students, staff and police teams.

The school’s principal, Monday Gala, said: “If you come into Jefferys today and see the positivity that is going on organized by this partnership with the police, you can’t deny the fact that there is a place for the police in the school.”

At a Thursday Toronto Police Service Board meeting where the matter was to be discussed among 74 speakers all hell broke loose as the session began, courtesy of BLM’s bullying tactics. The meeting was abruptly put off.

From many angles, the SRO programme is a success, according to school principals, teachers and students from diverse racial backgrounds and neighbourhoods.

BLM’s objections to the SRO’s background appears to be on the flimsiest grounds. Don’t let evidence stand in the way of a good publicity stunt.

Their spokesman, Syrus Marcus Ware, said it had a negative impact on some vulnerable students afraid of speaking publicly. Responding to the chorus of those giving example of good deeds performed by cops, such as organizing basketball and barbeques, he said that’s all fine, but shouldn’t be done by cops.

And this is what the problem is with BLM. They are slowly turning themselves into perpetual police persecutors. Whether the police are doing something positive, like walking in support of the PRIDE parade or hanging out with students trying to bridge the gap and develop positive relationships, their role is to be rabble rousers and create mayhem, just for the fun of it. The more circus-like, the better. For example, at the beginning of the Board meeting in Toronto BLM unraveled a large scroll reading in part: “the police harass and brutalize people from our communities – and get away without being held to account for their actions. How can we accept police in our schools to “build relationships”.” Perhaps because building relationships could actually build trust between both parties?

Even when solutions are presented to reform the system, they pout and refuse to rationality contribute. Their critical reaction to the recently released report from Justice Michael Tulloch’s far-reaching police reforms is even more proof that BLM is interested more into the theatrics than solutions.

So let’s park the hysteria over school Wi-Fi and police rubbing shoulders in school hallways and get back to getting ready for the new school year.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Modern justice is the only way to keep pace with crime

To walk into a modern courthouse in 2017 is to realize that, well, there’s really not much modern about it. More security, more accessibility for people suffering from a disability and computer displays in courtrooms. That’s pretty much it.

The pace of justice is glacial. You can practicality feel it in the air. It’s that “culture of complacency” that the Supreme Court of Canada referred to in the recent Jordan case setting out a new framework for determining whether a criminal trial has been unreasonably delayed, thereby breaching the accused’s constitutional right to expeditious justice and having the charges stayed.

While it’s framed as the accused’s Charter right to be tried within a reasonable time, we all benefit. Victims certainly don’t want to be burdened with testifying many months or years after they were stolen from or assaulted. Witnesses also want to get it over with. And the sooner a case makes its way to trial, the fresher are the memories and the closer we’ll get to justice.

So why has the justice system been so indifferent to delays and for so long? As I said, this is nothing new. The day after I was called to the bar in 1991, I was prosecuting in a courtroom as an assistant Crown Attorney. I was hastily (but happily) appointed as an “Askov Crown”, the result of a case bearing the name Askov, which you might have guessed was the Jordan of 1990, leading to tens of thousands of criminal cases being thrown out for undue delay.

My boss at the time told me “all I require of you is a warm body in the courtroom on time and I’ll have your back.” There was a clear panic at playing catch-up to prevent courts from continuing to stay languishing cases.

So why are we back to square one, 26 years later? While investing in front line policing is sexy – think gang-fighting TAVIS units in Toronto and DART units in Ottawa, and those silly tank-like vehicles cops refer to as “rescue vehicles”, they are also vote-getting, as in “see what we’ll do to protect you.” But investing in court technology, hiring Crowns, appointing judges and providing resources for the proper administration of justice is not by any means a sexy, vote-getting scheme.

A Senate committee released a report Wednesday providing its recommendations to the problem. There are several recommendations listed as “priority” ones which make a lot of sense such as building a bank of readily appointable judges to fill vacancies as they become available, improving case management and creating a new category of judicial officers to free-up judges from handling pre-trial procedural matters.

But the committee also suggests a reference to the Supreme Court to decide on the constitutionality of reducing a sentence or awarding costs if trial is not in a reasonable time. First, just as you can’t be half pregnant, we shouldn’t have to settle for a partial remedy to a full breach. Second, awarding costs against the Crown means you and I have to reach into our pockets to pay off an accused who might well be guilty of a serious criminal offence. I don’t think so. Getting off should do just fine.

What’s my recommendation? How about a contempt proceeding for a derelict attorney general who has failed to live to his “judicial-like” and “guardian of the public interest” functions, as his role is described on the Ontario AG’s website. Now that would be a long-lasting message against complacency.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

What is next for Comey?

There was a moment during former FBI Director James B. Comey’s testimony before a Senate panel that brought jubilation to President Donald Trump and his croneys.

The apparent “gotcha moment” was when Comey testified that he passed on his typed-written statement prepared in his SUV to a “friend” while being whisked away from his meeting with Trump. Those notes were his recollection of a meeting with Trump where the president asked him to shut down an FBI investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Comey refused.

That friend, we later learned, was Prof. Daniel Richman, a lawyer and law professor with Columbia. Richman later passed it on to the media. “Aha!” proclaimed the Trump camp, Comey leaked confidential information, thus breaching executive privilege and guilty of some kind of malfeasance or even of breaking the law.

The president’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, originally even contemplated invoking executive privilege to prevent Comey from testifying in the first place. He ultimately allowed the proceedings to take place. Now he wants to complain, but to who is anyone’s guess as Comey’s got no boss anymore.

After Comey testified, Kasowitz also not so subtly suggested that Comey could face an investigation on the matter “along with all those others being investigated.”

Privileges are not always absolute. They can be waived directly, or indirectly by behaviour. The Comey memos were leaked a full week after Trump fired Comey on May 9. To be sure, they were not classified information of any kind, just a recollection of a conversation. Between May 9 and May 16 Trump and his gang were all over the map when trying to explain why he sacked Comey.

Consider the wildly varying reasons for getting rid of Comey. First, the firing was recommended by the Deputy Attorney General. Then in a tweetstorm Trump said he was just doing what the Democrats had long wanted to do. Later he said Comey wasn’t doing a good job. Trump staff accused Comey of committing “basic atrocities” during his Clinton investigation. (Brings up images of mass genocide.) Then came the excuse that the FBI had lost confidence in him. Trump also said that he would have fired Comey “regardless” of any recommendation.

The final straw came on May 15 when Trump said: “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won’.”

Would it come to any surprise that Comey finally decided to tell his side of the story? Clearly Trump waived his right to invoke privilege over his discussions with Comey by blabbing incoherently and almost non-stop about why he fired him. Going through a lawyer to get the information out to the public domain was also a clever way for Comey to insulate against any legal reprisals for leaking the information. Comey didn’t leak anything. His lawyer made public Comey’s notes.

Trump tweeted Friday morning that “WOW Comey is a leaker”.

One of the reasons Comey gave for passing on his notes was that it “might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.” It did just that and now we have a better chance of getting to the bottom of things.

If ever the ends justify the needs, this has to be the case.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Implications of raising the minimum wage so quickly

In her on-going quest to bribe voters with their own money, Premier Kathleen Wynne this past week made official that Ontario’s minimum wage will go up 32% to $15 an hour within the next 18 months.

Barely four months ago, Wynne was asked about raising the minimum wage and she poo-pooed on the idea. Sounding like a true stateswoman, she proclaimed with her head up high on Jan. 19, “we’ve got a really good process … that actually depoliticizes the increases to the minimum wage.”

What could possibly have changed her mind so quickly? Well, she wanted to politicize the increases to line herself up for the next election in a year by pandering to the unions and the low-income earners. Not to speak of stealing turf from the left and creating a wedge issue with the Progressive Conservatives.

And there’s much speculation in the air that Wynne will call a snap election this summer or fall and not wait until June 2018. After all, after an orgy of spending to buyoff voters, why wait a year before pulling the trigger?

A sharp increase in the minimum wage in such a short time could well serve Wynne’s cynical political objectives but will undoubtedly pose a huge headache to small business owners who have little heads-up to adjust. More worrisome is the escalating effect of the increase. Say an employee’s salary jumps to $15, guess what will happen to the one already making that wage? Salary relativity means that he’d likely see his hourly wage jump to $18 or $19. A similar jump of a few more dollars per hour will be seen for those already making $20. The domino effect will translate to significantly more costs for small business who will pass it on to consumers.

Expect, as well, jobs to be slashed. Many employers will no doubt relocate to provinces with lower minimum wages. Expect to see a push towards more automation that will require less employees. Been to a McDonald’s lately? You can order from a stand-up computer display and pick-up your order when your number comes up. All of which means less jobs. Expect more and more fast food restaurants to follow the lead. Tim Horton’s, Wendy’s, A&W certainly won’t be far behind.

Adding insult to injury, and more pressure on small business owners, are the changes to workplace laws that will make employers pay three hours of wages if they cancel a shift with fewer than 48 hours’ notice.

Let’s think this one through.

Say you operate a small snow plow company. Environment Canada forecasts a huge snowstorm in the next 3 days. You put your 30 plow operators on notice (because, of course, our weather predictions are always on the money. Not!). A day and a half later, the storm warning is cancelled (surprise!) and you call off your operators. Guess what? Everyone gets three hours of pay.
A local small snow operator in Ottawa noted last week that the minimum wage increases plus this new rule would add over $40,000 to his seasonal work. You and I will end up paying for it, of course.

There’s no end to Wynne’s power plays to get re-elected. She has no shame. Given that her popularity with voters is sitting at a near record low, maybe it’s time to bring on the election earlier than later.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Why not have a full public hearing?

How odd that on Monday morning, the Ottawa Police Services Board held a secret meeting to find out whether there was any preferential treatment given to senior officers by Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau.

The meeting was sparked by an op-ed by Ottawa Police Association Mat Skof alleging that Bordeleau has “shown a zeal for imposing suspensions or administrative transfers on rank-and-file officers. Many were imposed on the basis of mere allegations, others on the thinnest of evidence, well before investigations were commenced.” When it comes to senior officers, Skof maintained, Bordeleau displayed favouritism.

The Skof charges were serious and should have been cleared by a full public meeting. The Board has historically shown itself to be notoriously weak and to not take its oversight function seriously. They appear to be functioning with police brass on a buddy-buddy system. For example, when just about everyone in Ontario agreed that carding was wrong, even unconstitutional, Board chair Eli El-Chantiry bucked the prevailing thinking and disagreed.

Last year, the Ottawa Sun found itself in the strange position of having to make a Freedom of Information request to obtain “off the record” discussions among Ottawa Police board members ranging from public safety issues to budgetary issues to racial profiling. The Sun was forced to go this route as deliberations were not in the public domain.

The Board’s oversight by stealth has become a real problem. It also happens to be contrary to law. The Police Services Act prescribes that openness is supposed to be the default for how the Boards operate.

Monday morning’s questioning was held in camera following a public portion where the chief first made a public verbal address. No board member asked any questions publicly. Then all the good stuff presumably happened behind closed doors.

Bordeleau confirmed to me on Thursday that the Board asked him “some specific questions and I provided them a full briefing in camera.” The chief also stressed that it would be “unfair” to speak about individual cases. He misses the point.

Surely this is not a case of “all or nothing.” The optics of the chief publicly lecturing his Board, ultimately his oversight body, when they sit on their hands while mum, just like the three monkeys’ “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is awful. It certainly doesn’t pass the smell test. I’m not concerned with knowing personal information about cops but I sure am interested on knowing more on the criteria used for suspension and what the chief’s thought processes are for making those decisions. And I would have liked to see what questions the Board had for him. They are, after all, his boss and working for us.

If anything, the in-camera meeting leaves a cloud over Bordeleau’s head. We still don’t know if there’s favoritism at play in suspending senior officers, which was precisely Skof’s issue.

Speaking of the opaque, secret Board meeting, El-Chantiry ironically noted “transparency, fairness, and consistency is very important in these processes, both for members and for the public. The Board wanted more information from the chief on how he and his staff make decisions around suspensions.”

“We also wanted to be walked through some past decisions so we could remain confident that his administration of this part of the complaints system is done in a fair way. Now that we’ve received the information we requested, the board has no doubt with respect to the chief and his staff’s decision making around member suspensions. It is both fair and consistent. We are confident in the integrity of the police service.”

Spoken like a true cheerleader.