Month: October 2017

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Ontario Liberals trumps Trump

It’s ironic that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s so bent on painting Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown our own version of US President Donald Trump that she’s adopted Trump tactics to do so. She’s even happy to manufacture and spread fake news, to boot.

The Liberals’ tactics leading up to the June 2018 election have been to smear Brown as an anti-woman social conservative, even though he’s on the record as saying that social conservative issues are off limits. Period.

Let’s face it, it would be political suicide to embrace social conservativism in 2017. No shrewd politician would want to die on that hill. The “hidden agenda” angle also hounded former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Paranoid Liberal pundits would continually warn that Harper would make abortion and gay marriage illegal and even bring back the death penalty. He was in power for nearly a decade and there was not even a hint of his interest to do so. In fact, just as Brown has said, Harper took social conservative issues off the table.

But it hasn’t stopped the hysterical and desperate Ontario Liberals from dealing in similar wedge politics à la Trump.

Most recently, a new well-funded organization called Working Ontario Women (WOW) has sprung to life with vicious anti-Brown ads. Turns out WOW is bankrolled by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) with a 2 million North America membership. WOW’s website tells that they fight for protecting women’s rights, including marriage equality and the right to choose, improving women’s health and expanding access to women’s health care and fighting for fair wages and equal pay. All noble objectives.

But why pick on Brown who’s on the same page as WOW? WOW’s website also claims that the organization is “led by women.” But once you dig deeper through this pop-up organization which has less than 150 followers on Twitter, you get a big clue on who really runs it. WOW’s puppeteer is a big L Liberal guy pulling the strings from SEIU. This sheds light on why WOW is pro-Wynne and anti-Brown. Meet Michael Spitale, SEIU Healthcare ‘s Director of Government Relations and very much a man. Spitale’s worked on Wynne’s Leadership campaign and was Director of Political Affairs for the Liberal Caucus, not to mention that he’s the former President of the Ontario Liberal Party.

This explains not only SEIU’s coziness with the Liberals, but also the extent to which it actively works to get Liberals elected time and time again. SEIU has openly campaigned for Energy Minister Glen Thibeault and others. SEIU’s also donated thousands of dollars to the Liberal Party.

SEIU is so tight with the Liberals that they are the only union to have been invited to a partnership with the government for a new training program for personal support workers. This incestuous relationship even led to the Ontario Public Service Employees Union President Warren (Smokey) Thomas to denounce the sweetheart deal as a “shady inside relationship” that “dangerously” erodes democracy.

So, next time you see an ad on TV by WOW, remember that it’s courtesy of Wynne in the finest of Trumpian tradition – deceitful, deceptive and meant to divide.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

What a difference a week makes

In last week’s column, I lamented the sad state of oversight affairs in Ontario.
The Invisible Man, Ombudsman-light Paul Dubé, is like Punxsutawney Phil the scared groundhog who saw his shadow and rushed back to his burrow. You wouldn’t know his job is to fight for the “little guy.” But all he seems to want is please his political masters in government. God forbid he ruffles any feathers.
Another Officer of Parliament, French-Language Commissioner François Boileau, isn’t coy one bit about where he stands. Apparently, it’s in a threesome photo op embrace with Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs Frances Lalonde. Can you imagine former Auditor General Sheila Fraser cuddling-up with former Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin at a photo op?
As all this lovefest was going on between Officers of Parliament and cabinet ministers, Auditor General Bonnie Lysik was sharpening her spear to pierce through the government’s Hydro One rebate scheme. A breath of fresh air amidst the incestuous atmosphere surrounding some of the current crop of overseers.
There are two very troubling findings in the AG’s report revealed by the Financial Accountability Office.
First, we learn the government’s been “cooking the books,” as PC leader Patrick Brown put it. We already knew the 25% hydro discount would cost us $39.4 billion in the long run. Now we learn the debt won’t be with the provincial treasury, but funnelled through Crown corporations so the Liberals can magically balance the budget.
When gangsters do this kind of thing, we call it money laundering. But for Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, it’s business as usual. All this deviousness will add another $4 billion to the almost $40 billion in interest we’ll owe from the 25% “discount.”
What could $44 billion buy? Enough transit and health care infrastructure to go a long way to fixing this province’s problems. But instead that money is being used by the Liberals to get re-elected.
Second, in order to make this ruse work, the Liberals used different accounting standards from those that should have been used to further skew the numbers in their favour. It’s Wynne’s version of alternative facts, courtesy of accounting practices in Texas, New York and Minnesota.
Wynne keeps telling us we needed the 25% discount because people are suffering from high electricity rates. Sure, we’re suffering, but who’s to blame in the first place? The people who’ve been running the province for the last 14 years – the Liberals. There’s no question hydro infrastructure needed upgrading. But it was done recklessly without any forethought about consequences. Green energy was massively foisted upon us and the enormous expansion of electricity production far outweighed what we needed. Now we’re stuck with the bill.
Far from showing humility, the Liberals responded viciously to the AG’s report, disputing her findings and attacking her personally.
It’s no wonder Dubé and Boileau prefer copping out and hiding behind bushes or group-hugging Liberal ministers. It’s a lot safer. Thank goodness, we have the Financial Accountability Officer and AG in our corner to call it as it is.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

The death of oversight

Hydro One’s Ombudsman, Sophie Petrillo, has released her first annual report. And a glib and chest-thumping Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault was pointing to declining complaints as proof that things have improved. Not so fast. Less complaints can be attributed to a myriad of reasons. For example, if the Ombudsman is too cozy with Hydro One – which it is, in this case, can mean that the public has no faith in the process, ergo less complaints.

Having a closer look at the skinny 14-page report shows it to be devoid of much substance and bereft of any kind of information to draw any real conclusions.

The crux of a compelling Ombudsman’s report are the human stories behind the complaints so the reader can get a flavour of what beleaguered Hydro One customers have to deal with. Don’t look for them here. The heart of the report is bureaucratese language laid out over 8 bullets that is neutered to the point of being meaningless.

For example, the Ombudsman made recommendations on modifying “how managers in the field investigate complaints about service.” Say what? We are left hanging. What gibberish nonsense. What ever happened to the: Who was involved, What happened, When did it take place, Where did it happen, Why did it happen and How did it happen?

But that’s what we get with a government which has been in bed, or at war with, independent oversight.

French-Language Services Commissioner François Boileau seems to have adopted the mantra that if “you can’t beat them, join them.” He travelled to Ottawa last week to be used as a prop in a slightly nauseating photo op for Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and Marie France Lalonde, Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs. Smiling widely cheek-to-cheek, he appears in a threesome embrace with the ministers while wearing a red tie behind a podium with a Liberal red banner stating, “Stronger Access to Justice in French.” I can’t remember in my 20 years of oversight, an Officer of Parliament so callously abdicating his independence. The only message missing was an outright “vote Liberal” banner.

Back at my old office, Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé has managed the nearly impossible. When he was appointed he acted like a 5-year-old sitting in a pilot’s seat. “This is my dream job, this is my dream job!” he sounded. He said he would do things differently. And he sure has. Ever heard one peep from his office? Neither have I. He’s returned the office to the obscure backwaters.

Meanwhile, there’s an ongoing war between the financial numbers of the Auditor General, the Financial Accountability Officer and the Ontario government. For example, the government dug in that last year’s deficit was $991 million while the Auditor General begs to differ and maintains it was $2.44 billion.

Effective oversight protects the public’s interest and reinforces confidence in government. It requires a strong and independent voice. Are you listening Boileau and Dubé?
But it also requires the government to accept that the relationship is, by definition, not always a bed of roses. Tension and friction is a necessary evil. Premier Kathleen Wynne shouldn’t expect Boileau or Dubé to be Liberal cheerleaders. Nor should she declare war on her financial overseers.

Sadly, this is the place we’re in currently. And it’s eroding our ability to keep the government in check.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Liberal bubblehead

It is an understatement to call the announcement by Attorney General Yasir Naqvi of a bill that was tabled to create a bubble to protect women attending abortion clinics crass, dog whistle politics. It’s a blatant and hypocritical attempt to exploit a serious issue by cheapening it for political gain.

It’s been long rumoured that Naqvi has his eyes on Premier Kathleen Wynne’s job, so nothing is beneath him. He’s a known show boater and poseur.

So it was difficult to watch Naqvi shed crocodile tears about the story of a woman being spat on near a clinic and hear say he had to protect these women.

Naqvi maintained protecting women’s right to choose “is our No. 1 job.”

But the Ontario Liberals have been in government since 2003 and just now they realize they have to do something about women being harassed at these clinics.

The Morgentaler clinics have been around for over 40 years. Harassers have been in plain view with big, screaming anti-abortion placards dishing out obscenities and insults at whoever gets close to the clinic doors. One such clinic has been operating on Bank St. in Ottawa – a stone’s throw from Parliament Hill. So why has Naqvi decided that now was the time to crack down?

Because there’s an election in 8 months and what a wonderful wedge issue to throw the opposition Progressive Conservatives in disarray and change the channel from the scandals that have been tormenting the Liberals. It looked like a turkey shoot.

Except it backfired. Nepean-Carleton Tory MPP Lisa McLeod called Naqvi’s bluffs. She brought a motion that, if given unanimous consent, would transform the bill to law by mid-day. Despite women advocates giving the bill an A+, the Liberals put the brakes on so they can work on outing some tory MPPs who might not greet the bill with open arms.

The irony is that Naqvi has no shame in using women activists as pawns for political scheming instead of agreeing to the quick passage of the bill which could have been in force and protecting the very women he claims to want to protect as early as last week. It would have been a quick wrap but for Naqvi’s sinister meanderings.

Naqvi said: “I want to thank the advocates. They worked with us in the summer, very hard. We’ve had many, many conversations to get this right.” So, by his own account, the bill is spot on.

But once the PCs agreed, the Liberals pivoted and said they wanted “health-care professionals, women’s groups and other advocates” an opportunity to “provide input to strengthen the bill during the committee process.” In Naqvi’s world, you can have it both way – a perfect bill, but when it gets acclaimed as such and blows up in his face by failing to embarrass the opposition, we need to “strengthen it.” Some hero alright.

Last Sunday, I wrote about how the Liberals are smearing the PCs at every opportunity, trying to link them to U.S. President Donald Trump. Now they shifted into the politics of division. Expect more of these foul shenanigans as we near the election.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Wynne vs Brown

I’m not sure champagne corks were popping in Premier Kathleen Wynne’s office last week as she nudged up 2% to 17% in popularity among Ontario voters. That’s a full 10% behind the runner-up for last, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Premier Dwight Ball.

But not so long ago, Wynne was at a record-low-for-a-premier 12%. So, I guess that’s called progress – thanks largely to bribing the electorate with free university, free drugs, discounted energy, rent control and a huge hike in the minimum wage. And using public funds to shill for Liberal schemes through publicity which once had to pass the Auditor General’s “smell test” to make sure the government wasn’t using public funds for shear political ends. The Liberals got rid of that pesky little hurtle. Shamefully, public coffers are now open for Liberal propaganda use under the guise of “informing” people of new programs.

A long list of Liberals have flocked from the LIberal caucus or have signalled that they’re about to, no doubt a sign of unrest with where the party is heading. Fallen former “star candidates” include Glen Murray, Madeleine Meilleur, David Orazietti, David Levac, Mario Sergio and Monte Kwinter. They have either called it quits or won’t be running in the upcoming election in 8 months. Likely more will jump ship.

Apart from using publicly paid commercials to advertise Liberal pet projects, both Wynne and Deputy Premier Deb Matthews appear to be singing from the same song sheet in trying at every opportunity to paint Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown as Ontario’s version of U.S. President Donald Trump. It’s their amateurish way of defining the opposition leader before he gets to define himself.

Apart from being nasty, it’s complete nonsense. Since chosen as leader, Brown has continually and consistently emphasized the “progressive” side of the progressive conservative party. Does he support the $15 minimum wage proposal? Yes, but give businesses a chance to adapt to it instead of rushing it through. Rent control? Yes, as well, but again not as stringent as what’s proposed.

Some would prefer MMA-style fisticuffs between the government and an opposition party. Sure, it’s more entertaining to watch, but governments of all stripes and levels are always urging opposition parties to suggest solutions and not oppose for the sake of opposing. And that’s what they’re getting from the PCs in Ontario.

The notion of right and left-wing parties in Ontario has blurred to the point where the Liberals are all over the map. First wavering from governing from the right on selling public assets like Hydro One to then operating from left of the New Democratic Party on social issues. It’s an opportunistic government which has lost its compass and thirsts for power at all costs.

That’s what happens in an ongoing, 14-year-old government.

Pundits keep telling us not to underestimate Wynne’s campaign skills. How she took over former Premier’s Dalton McGuinty’s scandal-plagued government by turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse. But Brown’s no pushover. He rose as an unknown back bencher in the federal parliament to challenge Ontario MPP Christine Elliott in the 2014 PC leadership race. Elliott had at least 19 out of the 28 caucus members behind her. Brown easily beat her.

Wynne underestimates Brown at her own peril.