Month: December 2017

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Heads should roll over Trudeau’s ethics breach

Eleven long and agonizing months passed before the outgoing Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson finally said the plain obvious. It was wrong for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to accept a free vacation at the private Bahamian island owned by the Aga Khan last Christmas.

It was also painfully obvious from the get-go that accepting such lavishness from a. someone he had spoken to only once in 30 years before he became Leader of the Liberal Party in 2013, ergo not really a “friend” as Trudeau maintained and b. whose organization had received nearly $50 million in 2016 and was lobbying for more, was unethical, whether you take a narrow, technical definition of the word, or the everyday one.

It’s a ludicrous notion that Trudeau, who’s 45 years old, was a close friend of the Aga Khan – he would have been a 12-year-old boy last time he spoke with him. This is what they would call in the United States “fake news,” or “alternative facts.” If US President Donald Trump said it in the same context he’d be called a liar. But we’re polite Canadians so we call it a difference of opinion between Dawson and Trudeau. Trudeau sounds desperate when he relies on occasional contacts as “renewing” that deep friendship since he became Leader of the Liberals.

One of the tests of whether a young child can testify in court is whether he can distinguish between right or wrong. And I’d be ready to bet a 10-year-old could have called the shots on the facts of this case in a snap. It stinks to high heaven.

As Dawson breathlessly concluded in bureaucratese lingo: “Therefore, the vacations accepted by Mr. Trudeau or his family could reasonably be seen to have been given to influence Mr. Trudeau in his capacity as prime minister.”

Ultimately, Trudeau was somewhat repentant, apologized and said it won’t happen again. He added: “It is important that as we move forward, we learn from this mistake. I take full responsibility for it.”

But the former drama teacher sure skated, hemmed and hawed when asked at a scrum by CBC’s Rosemary Barton how he could possibly think this whole thing could “be OK.” A straight forward and very predictable question.

The answer by a stumbling and shaky Trudeau clearly showed he was out of his depth. “The fact is, we work …um…the…um…with….um…sorry I was just trying to re-order the thoughts…we…um…worked with the Lobby…um…Conflict of Interest Commissioner…it wasn’t considered that there would be an issue there.”

What in the world does that mean?

Did his staff not brief him on the most obvious of scrum questions?

Granted, a Prime Minister’s a busy guy with lots of things on his mind. He therefore needs to rely on intelligent, ethically-sound and well-informed people around him to give him solid advice. So, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for a moment and assume he didn’t disregard the advice he received.

Who are the boneheaded people that saw nothing wrong with Trudeau vacationing on the Aga Khan’s dime?

They couldn’t have set-up their boss for that big fall any better.

Turns out many of the Prime Minister’s Office’s top dogs cut their teeth in politics under the ethically-challenged former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty or Premier Kathleen Wynne’s governments. Figures.

Two of the top three bosses in the PMO are Chief of Staff Katie Telford and Principal Secretary Gerald Butts, the latter being the architect of Ontario’s disastrous green energy plan. But others from the McGuinty/Wynne era also fester at the PMO.

It’s great for Trudeau to apologize, but for his own good and ours, he should clean shop and give the boot to those in his office asleep at the switch.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Grits sad mismanagement

Another billion-dollar Liberal government boondoggle might be in the works. Think e-health and gas plants. The problem is, we might never find out about this one.

Fears are starting to emerge regarding business and residence green energy producers who feed Ontario’s hydro grid. It’s just another sad chapter in the incompetence of the provincial government in managing the energy portfolio.

Producers are being paid between 20 and just over 80 cents per kilowatt hour. With new technology emerging they can increase their output by an extra 40 per cent whether the grid needs it or not. How do we know they are not abusing the system? Well, we don’t.

If these producers feed excess power, they are overbilling the system, the system being you and me. To make matters worse, when we have an oversupply we have to shed it, which means giving it away or selling it under cost to other energy-starved jurisdictions. In 2016 alone, this cost us a whopping amount, between $384 million and $675 million according to the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers. Hydro One says it monitors the production and payouts to the producers, but will provide scant details, because legally it’s not obliged to. Trust us, they say. Sure.

With Hydro One’s track record of public service, we should be very weary.

How can this lack of accountability be possible? It’s a direct result of privatizing Hydro One in 2015 by Premier Kathleen Wynne and then Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli and their decision to remove the oversight jurisdiction of independent officers of parliament and neuter statutes such as the freedom of information laws. This, despite the fact the government still owns almost half of Hydro One’s shares.

The overly simplistic rationale for removing outside oversight is that it’s not the way the private sector works. Plus, Hydro One has its own internal Ombudsman. (We all know how well that works.)

Public ombudsmen oversee private sector consumer organizations all over the world – there is ample precedence. Even at the federal level, Canada Post, structured much like a private company with a President, Chair and Board of Directors, is subject to the federal Access to Information Act.

But Hydro One, with a reputation of overpaying its employees, offering shoddy treatment to its customers and under-delivering on its promises, managed nonetheless to carve out its own zone of oversight and statutory immunity, thanks to Wynne and Chiarelli.

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), one of the governing players in the energy sector, rarely tracks the amount of money paid to producers to check whether they are over producing. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has no role in the monitoring.

A poorly informed spokesperson for Energy Minister Glen Thibeault offered this misleading reassurance: “We have confidence in both the IESO and the OEB to ensure that our renewables contracts are being managed appropriately.”

The resulting lack of proper checks and balance was an entirely predictable result. In my last report as Ontario’s Ombudsman in May 2015 titled “In the Dark,” I warned the government not to remove Ombudsman oversight over Hydro One given its historical record of not living up “to principles of good public administration.” It was the only one of 66 recommendations rejected by Wynne and Chiarelli. (Mind you, even if the government had preserved jurisdiction, Hydro One would have little to fear from invisible Ontario Ombudsman-light Paul Dubé.)

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Small business suffers under the liberals

I just received a notice from the security company monitoring my home. It laid out the crushing financial pain it’s about to endure as a result of the provincial government rushing through a 30% raise to the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The email was blunt: “By January 1, 2019, it is anticipated that the increase will cost our business more than 32%.”

Unfortunately, small businesses like this one will be struggling and the costs will be passed on to consumers. All because Premier Kathleen Wynne wants your vote on June 7, 2018.

But it seems none of the freebies she’s thrown at us lately nor the vicious attack ads by Working Families Coalition or Working Ontario Women have had any positive impact on her popularity.

According to the latest Forum poll released on December 4, 2017 Wynne, if elected, would be leader of the third party with the New Democratic Party serving as the official opposition and the Progressive Conservatives enjoying a “massive majority.”

Wynne’s personal popularity over the last year has hovered between a low of 12% and a high of 17%. Now it’s at 15%. A staggering 74% say they disapprove of her performance as Premier.

I know the Ontario Liberal party can’t just hide Wynne under a desk until the election is over, but the current strategy of pushing her upfront in television ads and the internet is certainly baffling in light of these numbers. People literally bristle at the sound of her name.

Outgoing Deputy Premier Deb Matthews acknowledges featuring the unpopular Wynne as the main pre-election prop in a commercial “an usual strategy. I think it’s an approach that is different, but as I say, this was the ad that the premier really wanted to run,” Matthews said. She even calls Wynne the party’s “greatest asset.”

Me thinks Wynne’s ego is dictating the agenda. Sure, she’s a great campaigner, hard worker, runner who never quits blah, blah, blah. But a magician she is not. Her ego is exposing the Liberal Party to a disastrous election finish.

Lest we forget, she’s facing another great campaigner in Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown who transitioned from a little known federal MP to beat the PC establishment’s choice of Christine Elliot by selling upwards of 40,000 of the more than 70,000 PC memberships. Now that’s called hustling.

Another odd strategy adopted by the fledging Liberals is to insert the word “fair” everywhere they can. We have the Fair Hydro Plan, the Fair Auto Insurance Plan, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act and it’s “only fair” to increase the minimum wage so quickly. “It’s not fair that, in an economy on the rise, those who work as hard as anyone else still can’t get ahead, so I will never stop fighting for you,” Wynne says.

It’s as if Wynne’s is fessing up to how unfair her government has been for the last 14 years. It’s a kind of consciousness of guilt. Like someone on their deathbed wanting to make amends before passing away.

Small business owners sure don’t feel they’re being treated fairly. It doesn’t matter how many times Wynne showcases herself everywhere you look repeating it like a broken record.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Reminiscent of the Bill Davis era

For many months now, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals have hammered away at Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown on where he stands on provincial issues.

How many times have we heard howls from the government benches in the Legislature pressing the PCs on “what’s your solution to hydro problems” or nastily and falsely portraying him as a Canadian version of US President Donald Trump.

Well, be careful what you wish for. Last weekend Brown released his election platform at a policy convention over 6 months before the June 7, 2017 election and was the first party leader to do so. Talk about turning the table on Wynne. And it’s a good one to boot.

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall as Wynne was being briefed by Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca who she dispatched to spy on Brown at the conference. The largest mental health commitment in Canadian provincial history, lower income taxes for the middle class and 12% more off our hydro bills are all worthy things in the platform called “People’s Guarantee.”

Del Duca, in a classic pot-calling-the-kettle-black, had the nerve to comment on Brown’s promises “you can get everything under the sun…it’s going to be all sunshine and rainbows.” This from a government who’s been squandering our money on all types of pet projects like green energy.

The PC’s plan is consistently centrist in all respects reminiscent of the era of former Premier Bill Davis. By contrast, Wynne’s track record’s been all over the map. Selling a profitable Crown corporation, Hydro One, and removing public accountability is very much a right-wing thing to do.

The way Wynne micromanages things like when we should do our laundry according to hydro usage smacks of left wing socialism. She also appears to support the wacky “Phones Down, Heads Up Act” introduced by one of her obscure backbenchers MPP Yvan Baker which would create an offence for crossing the street while using your cell phone. Wynne called it an “interesting idea” even though it’s completely unsupported by evidence that it would make us safer.

Heck, no doubt any idea that would get your mind off your skyrocketing hydro bill would be “interesting” from Wynne’s perspective.

The one risk of being the first one out of the gate with a plan for governing is that you are more vulnerable to attack by political adversaries. The flip side is that Brown has shown the courage of his convictions and is ready to defend his plan. And it also shuts up the Liberals who have been harassing the PCs for what they stand for and suggesting they have some kind of hidden agenda.

Right now, the Liberals are looking like a deer caught in the headlights. Their MPPs are running for cover or quitting and their coffers are not quite as full as they should be. Just last year, the PCs fundraised $12.6 million, nearly double what the Liberals collected. In the first quarter of 2017, the PCs fundraised even more money than last year’s first quarter.

The Liberals? Not so much. In a pathetic and desperate appeal for money, Ontario Liberal Party President Brian Johns emailed his faithful last week begging them to “chip in $5” so they can produce a video to attack the PCs. He added: “A $5 contribution from you is exactly what we need.”

What’s next? What about a beer bottle drive? I’m sure 10 cents a bottle would be “exactly” what the Liberals would need to top up their meagre resources.