Month: June 2018

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Ford is on the move

One of the reasons Premier-elect Doug Ford was elected was that he was seen as a « man of action. » A politician who would move quickly and implement his promises which were modest and offered immediate relief.

This was confirmed by a Navigator research study that Ontarians were more concerned with their day-to-day issues than some pie-in-the sky grand scheme, which became a trademark of Premiers McGuinty/Wynne days in office.

Jaime Watts, executive chairman of Navigator, put it succinctly in a recent op-ed: “Voters wanted immediate relief, not grandiose promises for the future. They wanted policy that would positively impact them now.”

Ford moved last week to cancel Ontario’s cap-and-trade program, representing $1.9 billion. The problem, some critics say, was that he moved too quickly as his government will only be formed next Friday. It’s rare to hear criticism of a government acting too quickly to do anything. Things are normally studied to death. For example, just look at the federal government’s legalizing of pot. It began as an impromptu announcement by then Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in 2013 and now we’ll see some legalization (edibles and oils not included) on October 17, 2018.

The irony with the cap-and-trade program was that it was never part of Wynne’s election platform in 2014. It was announced with great fanfare 6 months after Ontarians casted their vote. Did Wynne really have a voter mandate to announce such a far-reaching, broad public policy plank? I doubt it.

But Ford, who clearly laid out his plans to dismantle cap-and-trade is being criticized for acting without authority to do so as government-in-waiting.

After an election but before the swearing-in of a new government, the old government is in stagnancy mode. The Legislature had not yet reopened, there is no speaker and old ministers keep their portfolio until replaced by a fresh batch. The focus of bureaucrats is to prepare briefing notes for incoming ministers and act as caretakers, subject to emergencies.

So, did Ford jump the gun? (He also ordered that free lunches and coffees at government meetings, discretionary spending and out-of-province trips be suspended.)

The answer is that Ford could not have decreed what he did without the co-operation of Wynne who would have ok’d the head of the public service Steve Orsini to dismantle cap-and-trade and lift some bureaucratic perks.

Why would Wynne allow one of her pet projects to be cancelled so abruptly? Perhaps because she was keeping her word of co-operating fully with the new Ford government out of the goodness of her heart? But seeing the Liberals in action for the last 15 years show them to be ruthlessly partisan to a fault.

So why play nice now and give a leg up to Ford?

A cynical observer could well conclude that Wynne, having no party status and grovelling to Ford for an exception to be recognized in the Legislature as a party and receive the funding that comes with it, was playing by Ford’s rule book to get that favour in return.

If I were Ford, I’d accept her help to move his agenda fast, but would require her to spend time in purgatory. Wynne needs to reflect for a few years on the considerable damage she’s done to the province in her 15 years of governing. It might take a decade or more to recover. Here’s a few things she could ruminate on: Out of control debt, gas plant fiasco, e-health disaster and hydro hell. Maybe then Ford could consider helping her out.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Ontario New Premier Designate

Ontario Premier-designate Doug Ford and his cabinet won’t be sworn-in until June 29, but lots of things are fast happening behind the scenes to make sure the government moves quickly on hot button issues like hydro.

And according to a recent post-election analysis by Navigator, a communications and strategic advice firm, that’s exactly what Ontarians expect.

As Ford’s transition team meets to set priorities and select cabinet members, his bench is loaded with talent, such as Vic Fedeli, Caroline Mulroney, Rod Philips, Christine Elliott, John Yakabuski and last, but not least, Lisa MacLeod, already dubbed the Nepean Queen.

The fact that three members of Ford’s transition team hail from Ottawa bodes well for locally- elected Tories. MacLeod told me she was pleased to see that Ford had chosen veteran political consultant Chris Froggatt to lead the team which also includes lifelong conservative Michael Coates and former provincial and federal minister John Baird, who happens to have been MacLeod’s predecessor as MPP.

Mississauga had its Hurricane in Hazel McCallion, who served 36 years as the longest-serving mayor there and likely all of Ontario and yielded powerful influence on both local and provincial politics. Now MacLeod, an MPP first elected in 2006, and not yet in cabinet, has suddenly emerged as Eastern Ontario’s ultimate power broker. She’s set to become Hurricane Lisa.

How else to explain the sudden and inexplicable move by former Liberal minister and Mayor Jim Watson to find money to study extending Ottawa’s new light-rail (still a work-in-progress) into MacLeod’s riding?

MacLeod, known for her tenacity in representing her constituents, tweeted approvingly “good move.” The Queen has spoken.

The Ottawa’s light-rail project into MacLeod’s riding was killed off in 2006 by then Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien and has never been seriously in the works since then. Instead of what was envisioned to be light rail in a tightly knit community was paved over and urban sprawl prevailed.

While MacLeod’s riding high these days, it wasn’t always the case. After losing a run at the PC’s leadership a few years back, she experienced mental health issues. In an interview with me she said it was an uphill battle to “beat the stigma,” but she was happy to have “crossed the finishing line.”

Anyone who’s experienced depression or seen it in family and friends knows how hard it is to bounce back. You can put a cast on a broken leg and expect full recovery in few months.

Recovering from depression is a long and bumpy road. Even with medication, it’s not a linear thing. Some never recover.

MacLeod’s resilience and strength of character allowed her to rebound. When I asked her whether she was eyeing the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care as a cabinet position, she was coy, keeping her cards close to her chest.

Ford who has a comfortable majority with 76 out of 124 seats has promised a smaller cabinet. He will face a delicate balance in choosing between talent and geographical considerations. Toronto combined with the 905 belt have elected 32 MPPs while 11 seats were won in the East region. No one from the East region has ever been deputy Premier. That may be about to change, and no one would be better suited for that post than MacLeod.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Ontario Liberals do not deserve party status

The Ontario provincial election was quite the roller coaster. Fortunately, it had a happy ending of tossing the Liberals to the curb. It will take a lot more than four years of Tory rule to undo the deep damage caused to the economy and the middle class. The skyrocketing hydro bills alone will likely take decades to bring under control.

There are three Liberals that “we’re sorry, not sorry” to see gone, to use ex-premier Kathleen Wynne’s losing election line.

First, former finance minister Charles Sousa. He’s the first finance minister to blatantly ignore the Auditor General’s review of our financial books. Sousa even seemed to relish tabling unaudited financial statements. “Oh, it’s just a little math misunderstanding,” was the government’s position. What’s the point of having an Auditor General when you ignore or even personally attack her? That’s where the Liberals had come to – sheer arrogance.

Second, former Attorney General Yasir Naqvi likely ranks as the worst AG in Ontario history. He was rumoured to have leadership ambitions but was all sizzle, no steak.

It was a humiliating defeat for Naqvi who’s always on campaign mode to be defeated by Joel Harden who’s advocated a $150/tonne carbon tax, which would be the largest in the world.

The one thing Naqvi gets partial credit for is the reform of the Police Services Act allowing more powers to Chiefs to discipline their cops and modernizing the Special Investigations Unit, among other things. But in a last-minute backroom deal cut with Chiefs of police as his bill was being studied in committee, he ordered his Liberal cronies on the committee to carve out an exception that the SIU not be notified in cases where someone died as a result of police administrating Naxolone in opioid incidents. So, police investigate police when someone dies in their presence, which goes against one of the pillars of SIU’s existence. No doubt Naqvi thought this would endear him to the police. Not a chance.

Third, Wynne resigned as Leader of the Liberals but retains her seat without official party status. She’s not quite gone, unfortunately. She’ll have to hand over the limo keys and continue her life as a mere mortal. Many pundits, including me, warned her many months ago that if she really cared for the Liberal party she should step aside. But no, Wynne’s gargantuan ego came first. It’s as if Wynne was always trying to prove something. In one of her farcical election ads, she claimed to get up at 5am to run and would obsess with making our lives better. It wasn’t clear if the point she was trying to make was that, contrary to most of us, she gets up at 5am to run and how great she was, or that she was preoccupied with our welfare before the sun rises.

Knowing Wynne, she’s likely already plotting some kind of comeback.

In 2003 when the Liberals beat out the Tories, the NDP were left with non-party status with 7 seats. NDP Leader Horwath pleaded with Premier Dalton McGuinty to lower the threshold test so she could get that much needed status which includes funding and more prominence at the Legislature. McGuinty refused. Premier-elect Doug Ford should do the same when Wynne comes groveling with the same demand. We’ve had enough of Liberals in the last 15 years.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

LHINS just like tribbles

A line-by-line review of Ontario expenditures to find efficiencies, as promised by Progressive Conservative Doug Ford, would undoubtedly yield positive results. But if he wants to start his review with a bang, here’s an idea: abolish the awkwardly named LHINs.

You could easily be forgiven for not knowing what a LHIN is. It stands for Local Health Integrated Networks. They are fourteen independent behemoth bureaucracies created by the Liberals in 2004 – complete with fourteen CEOs making each about $300,000 a year with their own boards and loaded with bureaucrats. They mostly operate in the shadows.

And they gobble up $100 million a year of our health care money. That’s no chump change.

They were ostensibly created by the Liberals to distribute bags of money on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and decide where they should land. They were touted as heralding a new era in community health care. It was all about making health care decisions locally and making them accountable.

When I was Ontario’s Ombudsman I investigated the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN in a report called The LHIN Spin – and what a spin I found.

LHINs, by law, are supposed to hold public meetings to get community input on local health decisions, subject to very limited exceptions. Instead of holding mandated public meetings, the LHIN I was investigating was having clandestine, secret meetings under the exception of “education.” The education exception was meant to cover things such as IT training and such. It would be nonsensical to force an organization to hold these sessions in a public meeting.

In essence, they were abdicating their role of conducting public consultation.

This LHIN was an elitist little bunch. Rather than consulting and making tough decisions on where funding would go, what they were effectively doing was insulating the Liberals from accountability. The Liberals simply washed their hands of any controversy by deflecting it on the LHINs.

One board member told me that sure, he consulted – with his pals at the local golf club, in shopping centres and in line for groceries in creating a dedicated children’s hospital. So, if you couldn’t afford a membership at his golf club, you were out of luck unless you stalked the local shops and hope to bump into him.

This LHIN even had the nerve to fight me on this one trying to justify their conduct until the Health Ministry told them to smarten-up.

I say kill the LHINs, return $100 million to frontline staff, like doctors and nurses and return accountability where it belongs – to Queen’s Park.

Dr. Kulvinder Gill, President of Concerned Ontario Doctors pulls no punches when it comes to LHINs. She emailed me: “Wynne’s government has rewarded (the LHINs’) incompetence by creating more vast layers of bureaucracy – nearly a hundred new regional sub-LHINs. It is appalling that for a healthcare system in crisis, there are more bureaucrats than family doctors on deck; no bureaucrat has ever saved a human life, but this bureaucratic bloat has certainly helped the government ration patient care and avoid accountability.”

So, it appears that the inefficient LHINs have multiplied just like tribbles in Star Trek movies. What a terrific opportunity to find efficiencies.

She pleads, much like Ford, that front-line caregivers should be consulted on replacing the LHIN model: “It is time for Ontario to abolish the LHINs strangling our healthcare system and finally reform our broken system by working with those who have an intimate knowledge of our crisis and are able to provide tangible solutions – our province’s frontline physicians.”

We should also look at other provinces that have regional models that directly govern or provide health services. The current model was doomed to fail from the get-go.
Just another Liberal boondoggle.