Month: January 2018

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Victory?

He was a politician with a fondness for younger women. He was around 40 years old and not yet married. He was the quintessential womanizer, playboy and player. A bit of a sex scoundrel, really. No, I’m not talking about former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown, but former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Justin’s dad.

Back in the heydays, not only was the senior Trudeau not damaged by his dalliances, but he was celebrated as a man’s man, partly leading to Trudeaumania.

But in 2018, two anonymous stories by women dating back many years ago lead to the incredible fall of Brown, poised to be the next premier.

Notwithstanding the overwhelming condemnation of Brown’s “sex scandal” as “horrific,” “despicable,” and “horrible,” he committed no crime. Not even close. The two encounters, if true and taken to their highest level, qualify at best as kind of a couple of bad dates.

In the first incident, a Barrie high school student was drunk at a bar when Brown invited her to his house and asked her for oral sex. She agreed and then left.

The second incident involved a university student Brown met on a plane. He invited her to Barrie bars where he might be later that night and offered to help her skip lineups to get in. She ignored his invite but contacted him months later looking for a summer job. They attended a charity event she’d organized and eventually ended up at his house while drunk. He started to kiss her. She told him to stop. Brown did so and drove her back home.

If this were the early 1970s and Brown’s part was played by Trudeau senior, he would have been ridiculed for having lost his magical touch by not “closing the deal.” Maybe Trudeaumania would even have come to a screeching halt. But this being 2018, Brown was dead in the water. Ruined forever and run out of town. Now the PCs want him out of caucus.

I don’t blame the Progressive Conservatives for having pushed Brown out of his leadership position. A political party’s existence is to win power. The PCs have bungled the last two elections. They are frisky and could hardly risk it all over this – however unfair the whole thing is to Brown.

The new leader is MPP Vic Fedeli, elected by caucus.

Moments after selecting him, the powerful PC brass decided that he was merely an “interim” leader. They decided to cram a convention in before the big vote so that the 200,000 rank and file PCs get to pick the next leader before the election. It’s a big mistake that might end in yet another electoral defeat for the PCs.

Lawyer Caroline Mulroney and former CivicAction head Rod Philips appear to be behind the push for a convention but many more holding PC nominations also petitioned the executive to do so.
But conventions are polarizing events and it takes time to re-unite a party wounded by friendly fire. With about 130 days before the election, the PCs don’t have time on their side.

Suppose, for example, that a candidate at a convention proposes to reverse the new minimum wage while a competing candidate pushes the status quo. The Liberals would jump all over it. Get ready for Liberal ads: “The PCs are political opportunists. They don’t know where they stand on anything. You can’t trust them. They have a secret agenda.”

As it stands, the PCs have a platform developed through party consultations. It’s smack in the middle of the political spectrum and a winning formula. With Fedeli in charge, victory is back in the cards. With a PC convention, all bets are off.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Wade carefully in the Liberal swamp

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s former deputy chief of staff Patricia Sorbara tweeted five rather peculiar messages on Saturday that shed light into the cut-throat world of Liberal politics. Just before the charges were laid, she had taken a leave of absence to become party CEO and 2018 campaign director.

She had left her position under a cloud, charged for bribery under a provincial statute for an incident in Sudbury. But under our justice system, a charge doesn’t displace the presumption of innocence unless and until a court finds the accused guilty. She was acquitted a few months ago and expected to rejoin Wynne’s team.

Saturday, however, she tweeted that Wynne slammed the door on her. So much for the “Fairness Premier.” Sorbara, clearly disappointed in Wynne, tweeted that politics is “not for the faint of heart…if you work as political staff, you serve at the pleasure of the Leader…but decisions re-integrating into the the existing team proved too tough to overcome. The Leader made the decision she felt best and I am no longer part of the campaign. I am very saddened by her decision but I defend the Leader’s right to make it.”

Pretty ruthless move by Wynne. Sorbara’s name was cleared but Wynne’s political expediency trumped doing the right thing.

Wynne’s modus operandi was a continuation of former Premier Dalton McGuinty’s office where the Liberal Leader expects unquestionable adulation and obedience from their staff. Creepily echoing North Korea’s dictatorship, the Leader rules supreme. Regardless.

Former McGuinty chief of staff David Livingston wasn’t so lucky before the criminal courts. He was found guilty of dishonestly deleting documents relating to the cancellation of power plants to protect the Liberals.

It was always an enigma to me as to why a highly successful businessman like Livingston would even consider working for McGuinty. Livingston had a lucrative 30-year banking career. He then spent about seven years as chief executive of Infrastructure Ontario. According the 2012 Sunshine List, he made $321,249 in his last year there. He then joined McGuinty for 9 short months until the former premier suddenly decided to cut and run.

He could have easily retired or worked elsewhere instead of joining McGuinty’s political swamp. Making small talk with him, I once asked: “why would you possibly want this job at this stage of your life?” He answered: “because I love the man. I’d do anything for him.”

Turns out Livingston wasn’t bluffing. He committed criminal deeds to cover-up the gas plant fiasco’s paper trail, which served not only McGuinty’s interests but also his successor’s Wynne.

He was found guilty of one charge of unauthorized use of computer and one charge of attempting to commit mischief to data. Of course, Wynne’s attempting at all costs to separate herself from the scandal.

And Livingston’s actions created a convenient way to allow her to shrug off the gas plant scandal and say she knew nothing about it. His crimes were of benefit to Wynne, whether she likes it or not.

The prosecutors in the case are seeking jail time for Livingston, as they should. He was acquitted of a breach of trust charge, there is no doubt that what he did offended any sense of public duty.

Livingston’s lawyer, who did everything to prevent the charges to be laid in the first place, scoffed at that suggestion saying: “We consider that to be an absurd position given Mr. Livington’s outstanding good character.”

That may well be the case, but when you play in the swamp, you take your chances. You might get bitten by an alligator.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Minimum wage

Having discovered that the new $14 an hour is, not surprising, wildly popular with lower paid employers the Liberals are once again trafficking in wedge politics spreading falsities about where the Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown on the issue.

The latest fib came courtesy of a campaign-style stop at a Toronto café last week by Labour Minister Kevin Flynn that Brown had been showing mixed signals on the issue.

“I’m convinced by past practice with the Conservatives on this issue that they would roll it back or that they would at least attempt to roll it back,” the minister said to the media. He added with a straight face: ““So you’ve got Tory MPPs saying they don’t support the increase; you’ve got the party saying it does support the increase; and you’ve got a party leader that appears to have dropped out of sight on this issue right now.”

Flynn was following in the footsteps of Attorney General Yasir Naqvi who was peddling similar fears in a confidential plea by email to one of his constituents. Naqvi, in begging for $10, fasely wrote: “The Conservatives have proposed to cut $12 billion in funding from essential services and programs that millions of people rely on. They’ll start by killing the minimum wage increase.”

Brown’s position on the minimum wage increase has been a consistent one. He agreed with it in the fall. In the recently published campaign manifesto, the “People’s Guarantee” he reiterated his party’s support for it. The only difference with the Liberal’s plan is that they would slow it down to ease the strain on small business.

Conservative MPP John Yakabuski explained that the PCs would slow the climb to $15 an hour, incrementally moving the minimum wage from the current 21% increase to $14 on January 1, 2018 to 2022.

The current problem for the Liberals is that they attempt to brand Brown as some Donald Trump of the North just isn’t sticking because it’s not supported by the facts. They can’t get their narrative to stick. Brown has moved the PC party to the middle of the spectrum while Wynne is mostly operating from the left except when she became a right winger and sold half of Hydro One to gets some extra cash for her pet projects.

The Liberals’ disinformation campaign shows how ugly it’s going to get as we get closer to next June’s provincial election. Last week’s latest Forum Research Poll continues to show a near obliteration of the Liberals and may explain the panic in the Liberal ranks. The PCs remain in a commanding lead with 43% of popular support, the Liberals unchanged at 24% and the New Democratic party matching the Liberal’s 24%. This would translate in the PCs securing 88 seats, the NDP with 24 seats and the Liberal reduced to third party status with only 12 seats.

But while the Liberals are throwing mud at Brown that’s not sticking, it’s a great strategy to change the channel on bad economic news. Not only does the Auditor General and the Financial Accountability Office still maintain, contrary to Wynne’s position, that Ontario is still in a deficit position, the provincial is still a “have-not” province, having to rely on equalization payment from the federal government to the tune of $1.4 billion in 2018.

It’s no wonder the Liberals are trading in diversionary tactics.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

From grandma to tyrant

Premier Kathleen Wynne is Ontario’s very own version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And it’s not by mistake. She has always cultivated a bipolar political persona depending on political expediency. Wynne the Nice. Wynne the Mean.

Then there’s the other Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde version, rubbing shoulders with Wynne, supposedly caring for, and protecting the Ontario underdog, just like Wynne. Deputy Premier Deb Matthew acts as bookend to Wynne. They’re our self-styled “grandmothers” and nurturers.

Mathews once proclaimed “the grandmothers are in charge. I like to think that grandmas are tough, but fair. Firm but kind. And always willing to listen.”

Bullshit baffles brains, I say.

But just as easily, Wynne can turn on the mean switch and Kathleen the “Fire and Fury” tyrant takes over. She’s quick to falsely label Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown a Trumpist to besmirch his reputation and take the high moral ground. Yet, she won’t hesitate to sue him when her feelings are hurt.

And Wynne’s toadies follow suit. For example, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn chimed in: “Unfortunately, it appears that some employers are abandoning the spirit of this legislation, and some may even be doing more than that,” he said last Monday. “The stories we’ve all heard over the past week have not only been disappointing but, quite frankly, they’ve made the premier, myself and others in this province angry.

“Angered” the premier, Her Majesty, Mr. Hyde? Mon Dieu! Very much Marie Antoinette indeed. Hide for cover.

Wynne’s fight with Tim Horton’s franchisees who just started squeezing employees after facing a sudden 21 per cent increase in minimum wage transformed into Wynne the Mean. And angered her, to boot.

The franchisees, much to Wynne’s furor, cut back on some benefits to absorb the 21 per cent hit. They were hardly the only ones that took financially mitigating measures.

And estimates of job losses as a result of the sharp increase in the minimum wage range from 42,000 to 60,000 in the next 12 to 18 months. There appears to be consensus by economists that in the long run things will settle down. But tell that to the tens of thousands of employees about to be sacked or to see job seekers openings vanish. Understandably, small businesses need a period of adjustment.

Why suddenly do we need to increase the minimum wage by about 30 per cent within an 18-month period? Because, plain and simple, we’re having an election in less than 5 months. What as spectacular way to buy votes.

But it didn’t stop Wynne from lashing out on Twitter, à la Donald Trump, writing “I was upset to read how Ron Joyce Jr – whose family sold Tim Horton’s for billions of dollars – is treating his employees in response to the minimum wage. If he wants to pick a fight I urge him to leave his employees out of it. I’m right here.”

Although she tweeted it at 3:54pm and not 3:54am, unlike Trump’s similar over-the-top tweets, it caused raised eyebrows. What was Wynne proposing? Some kind of tweet war? Hand-to-hand combat? We can only speculate, but the tweet was silly and needlessly bellicose. It was the kind of reckless tweets that divides people and invites Tim Horton’s patrons to revolt against their coffee place of choice.

Overall, if Wynne has any chance of winning the next election, she needs to tone down her political extremism. She swings one way, then another. I don’t think she even knows where she stands when she wakes up to the morning. She likely takes her cues from her political advisors who need to sharpen their pencils because they are not making the cut.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

3 wishes for 2018

This is the time of year for pundits to predict political events.

As most polemists turn out wrong, I’m going to make three wishes instead.

First, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government should be wiped out of existence at the June 7 election. Ill-thought of knee jerk policies are hurting us in the short term and killing us in the long term.

Jacking-up the minimum wage by nearly one-third in an election year has already been felt by business and workers are already hurting.

Tim Horton’s quickly did away this week with paid breaks and other perks enjoyed by their lowest paid employees blaming the sharp increase in minimum wage. The Bank of Canada predicts 60,000 jobs will be lost as a result. How does this benefit anyone? It’s vote-buying at its best.

Green energy wins the award for the most ill-conceived policy in the history of Ontario politics. It will take us decades to recover from the damage and debt it’s caused us. The government won’t budge in a dispute with the Auditor General on how many $ billions we’re talking about.

Wynne has publicly humiliated the AG and the Financial Accountability Officer and tabled, for the first time in history, unaudited government financial statements. Pesky independent audits? Meh, who needs them!

Wynne despises independent oversight, unless it’s the friendly-type offered by Ombudsman-light Paul Dubé or by French Languages Commissioner François Boileau who not only plays friendly but who shamelessly showed up as a prop a few months ago to be exploited at a Liberal photo op.

Second, not only do we need to beef-up integrity legislation as proposed by Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown but we need a specialized enforcement mechanism with teeth and independence.

The provincial offences trial of bribery in Sudbury showed that the evidence gathering and prosecution were amateurish. Québec has had for years an anti-corruption police called “Unité permanente anticorruption” reporting to parliament. A kind of SIU for politicians. It’s had its growing pains but it’s a model worth considering to send a message that politics and corruption don’t mix.

Third, I beg Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to grow-up. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper came across as a bit of a grumpy fellow. Trudeau capitalized on that and came forth with “sunny ways.” A boxing match with a Senator and yoga poses at Liberal caucus were good showing off before he got the big job.

Trudeau got elected on a very progressive platform of proportional representation and the legalization of pot. Looks like we’re at least going to get the latter. But a series of blunders in trade deals in 2017, ethical breaches and a deficit spinning out of control show a government in disarray.

Trudeau needs more talent on his team. Purge the deadwood at the Prime Minister’s Office.

He also needs to promote backbenchers who have actually done real things before politics.

Having conducted both military and police oversight in my prior life and worked with both men, I can say that I am no particular fan of former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair or former Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie. That’s not to say I haven’t respected them as professionals. They are both people who have run big government bodies, respectively the police and the military, and who retired with many accolades and recruited as star candidates. Strangely, they have both been lingering, warming the back seats of government since day 1.

So why have they not made cabinet? Trudeau should put them to work. They’d be naturals for the police and military portfolios.

The year 2017 didn’t end well for Trudeau. To make matters worse, in the last week we’ve learned that he entertained at his office former hostage Joshua Boyle days before police laid 15 charges against Boyle, including eight counts of assault, two counts of sexual assault, two counts of forcible confinement, and one count each of misleading police, uttering death threats and administering someone a noxious substance.

For Trudeau, there’s never been a better time to press the reset button.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Paradise’s dirty little secret

Thinking of escaping the long frigid Ontario winter for a hot spot in the sun?

Bali has often been viewed as tropical paradise. We don’t often hear about Bali because it’s a long way from home and most prefer the quick 3-4-hour flight to the Caribbean’s in the winter rather than taking a day-and-a-half to get to the nearest beach.

For some parts of Bali, it’s paradise indeed. But here’s Bali’s dirty little secret – in some of the most popular tourism beaches, a “garbage emergency” has just been announced. A 5.7-km stretch of beach on the island’s western coast was declared an emergency zone. It’s ugly, smelly, disgusting and beyond belief.

I’m spending a few weeks over Christmas and the New Year in the Tangung Benoa area which is pretty close to utopia. It’s pure luck that I didn’t end up booking at a resort where literally piles of garbage decorate the environment.

Workers sent to Jimbaran, Kuta and Seminyak beaches, among the island’s busiest, were reportedly carting off up to 100 tons of garbage each day at the peak of the clean-up, according to AFP news agency. Plastic pollution in Bali has soared in recent years, becoming a major concern for visitors and residents.

Indonesia, with a population of over 260 million people is the second biggest plastic polluter in the world after China.

What do the locals think of the situation? They accuse the government of tokenism, committing empty gestures that don’t really fix anything. Sounds familiar?

In 2012 world champion surfer Kelly Slater tweeted his disgust over the conditions at Uluwatu, a legendary surf break. “If Bali doesn’t #DoSomething serious about this pollution it’ll be impossible to surf here in a few years. Worst I’ve ever seen,” he wrote. It’s apparent that nothing much has happened in the last 5 years.

Then of course let’s not forget the other big three international polluters China, Russia and the U.S. all ramping up dirty coal production.

If there’s a lesson here for Ontario and Canada, it’s to take our real environmental problems seriously instead of the tokenism shown by our Liberal politicians. For example, last May, the equivalent of 521 Olympic-sized pools of partially treated sewage was dumped into Lake Ontario due to heavy rainfall. Bacteria levels were reported to be 300 higher than provincial standards considered safe for swimmers.

Isn’t investing in infrastructure in our own backyard to fix this problem a worthy investment?

Instead, as pointed out in a recent Toronto Sun editorial, the Liberal governments in Canada and Ontario continue to push carbon taxes for the sake of symbolism and trying to stake a position on the world stage as leaders in the fight for a cleaner environment. As a country of just over 35 million people, we can hardly put a dent on the problem. Yet, it’s hitting us hard in the pocket book.

Instead of trying to play the environmental international boy scout, we should start by cleaning out our own backyard, like our lakes and rivers. Charity does begin at home after all.

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