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Commentary on maladministration at all levels of government

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Wynne betrays PM’s promise

Seldom has a government been so out of touch with voters than the Kathleen Wynne’s provincial government approach to selling pot.

Remember, we are talking here not about the de-criminalization of the consumption of pot but the federal government making it full-out legal, or recreational, as you will, as of July 1, 2018.

The decision of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to legalize pot use was not a rogue one. It was one of his main planks of the last federal election that drove primarily youth, but also others, to rush to the ballot box to vote liberal.

You’d expect Wynne’s government to embrace the decision and facilitate the sale of pot. But no, what we’re getting is a puritanical, post-prohibition-era-style distribution system that will result in pot shaming those who had hoped that their federal liberal vote meant something.

Wynne’s method of following through with Trudeau’s wildly popular promise? Open LCBO-run pot shops. 40 next summer when the legalization kicks in, 80 by year end, then topping it up to 150 standalone marijuana stores by 2020. By contrast, there are over 800 LCBOs in Ontario.

To put it in perspective, given Ontario’s population of nearly 14 million, this translates into 0.00000571 stores per person the first year of legalization. How will this stem the flow of pot through the black market?

On Friday, Wynne dispatched her three princes of darkness to explain the evolution of the nanny state in dealing with pot.

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi wagged his fingers, sounding an ominous tone, distancing himself from his federal cousins. He said: “Legalization is taking place at the federal level. It’s not a matter of supporting or opposing.” Which is beyond the point. His job is to make it available in a way that won’t feed the black-market and doesn’t perpetuate the stigma associated with its use.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa in his baritone voice cheered about how well the “LCBO model works,” so let’s go that way. Sure it works! You want craft beer, you can only go to a certain supermarket where only a type of Ontario wine will also be sold. You might need to hunt down another supermarket for another type of wine. Corner stores? Don’t even think about it. Spirits? LCBO only. It’s a mishmash of rules that don’t make any sense. Great model indeed.

Then there was Health Minister Eric Hoskins talking the evils of marijuana and its health implications. A conversation held and concluded many years ago. Alcohol is far worse for your health.

Finally, in an ode to the mid-century style LCBOs, if you happen to make it to the government pot shop the actual stuff will be hidden from plain view. God forbid if your eyes made contact with it, you might have nightmares. Maybe we’ll also have to don a brown paper bag over our heads before entering the stores. You wouldn’t want your neighbour to see you there.

And the government promises not to use the stores as a cash cow. Don’t believe that one in a second. Booze and cigarettes are taxed to death. There’s no way it’ll be different for pot.

Trudeau’s promise to legalize pot has been turned into clickbait. It’s a betrayal of Trudeau’s extremely popular promise by Wynne’s liberals.

Wynne’s been leading a campaign-style government for the last year, giving away free pharma, free education, huge hikes to the minimum wage etc. Her backwards approach to making pot available may yet prove to be her albatross in next June’s election. You read it here first.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

More oversight needed in the airline industry

There was a time where governments and airlines appeared to care about the travelling public.

The federal government created an Air Travel Complaints Commissioner in August 2000. He described his first six months on the job as “hell” because carriers, especially (and not surprisingly) Air Canada weren’t cooperating with his investigations of complaints of shoddy service. Commissioner Bruce Hood said two years into his new job that “there are horror stories… but I think it’s getting better. 17 years later we know how wrong a prediction that was. His office vanished sometime after 2004 and any trace of his office has been scrubbed from the federal government websites.

Anyone who’s taken to the skies will know that it’s generally not a pleasant experience. Being bumped from flights, endless inexplicable delays and shoddy service are the norm, not the exception. And Air Canada is far from being the worst carrier. All of them south of the border are bad.

This week in a rare hearing, the Canadian Transport Agency got an earful about the horrors arising from two planes suffering a 5 and 6-hour tarmac delay in Ottawa on July 31, 2017. It’s quite the brouhaha. Passengers sitting in sweltering heat, tempers rising, a stench permeating the plane, the plane running out of toilet paper and people having panic attacks.

They were offered passengers a $400 credit for future use. I can’t imagine any passenger wanting to fly Air Transat again.

The hearing is pretty much a circus with everyone in authority passing the buck. Ottawa International Airport Authority said the provision of fuel, water and food to passengers is not the responsibility of the airport. Besides, the airline or its ground contractors never asked for help.

The air crew denied much of the evidence of passengers.

Air Transat appeared to blame the airport. The captains of the two flights being investigated also passed the buck citing “circumstances beyond their control” and that they kept being told over and over that it was only a 30 minutes delay.

If it hadn’t been for a passenger calling 911, those planes may still be sitting on the tarmac.

Transportation Minister Marc Garneau recently tabled a bill to create a new passenger bill of rights and specify new compensation levels. The devil’s in the details and we don’t have them yet. They are to be worked out by the CTA.

Air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs feels the CTA and the airlines are too cozy and has little faith in the agency, adding: “This makes absolutely no sense and this is nothing short of entrusting the fox guarding the hen house.”

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Revisionist madness

It’s hard to think Captain James Cook who discovered Australia, and John A. Macdonald, our first Prime Minister would have anything in common besides liking a good, stiff drink.

But now in 2017 they both find themselves at the centre of historical revisionism. Cook’s 19th Century statue bearing a plaque that he “discovered this territory” on August 22, 1770 is under attack. Indigenous people are up in arms and say they were there tens of thousands of years before and want the plaque changed.

Back home, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario union have voted to rename the schools bearing Macdonald’s name. He’s part of the generation of leaders to have opened residential schools. All of this feigned indignation in the wake of Confederate statues being covered or removed south of the border as they serve as painful reminders of some of the darker moments in American history.

Some call it a culture war. Others call it political correctness run amok. I call it a total eclipse of sanity.

Where do we draw the line on historical revisionism? Why stop with Mcdonald’s name on schools? How about tearing down the statue of suffragette Nellie McClung on parliament hill who was one of The Famous Five to get women recognized by courts as “persons” in the British North America Act, 1867. After all, she was a key proponent of eugenics – a pseudo-science at best which favoured sterilization and segregation of those with mental health issues to improve the “race quality.”

And then there’s UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who in 1945 ordered the fire-bombing of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, killing up to 25,000 mostly civilian victims in a city which had little strategic value and at a time the Nazis were on the verge of capitulation. There are dozens of schools in Ontario bearing his name. Let’s rename them all while we’re at it.

Let’s not forget US President Harry S. Truman who ordered the US military to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. 129,000 people were instantly vaporized. And within the first two to four months the acute effects of the bombings killed almost a quarter of a million people. Luckily, we have no schools named after him.

The point is that there are a lot of good people who have done bad things. The bad things were often understood at the time as good ones. It’s all about the context and understanding that we just can’t rewrite history and erase the bad parts.

I can just see this radical political correctness jump into other areas. For example, the erogenous area of the vagina is called the G-Spot, after male gynecologist Ernst Grafenberg who identified the area in an article called The Role of Urethra in Female Orgasm in 1950. Imagine that. A part of a woman’s body that can lead to strong sexual arousal is named after a man. Sharpen your pen revisionists, surely, we need to find the G-Spot a new name.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Wynne presser load of hot air

News came out early on Wednesday that on Thursday afternoon something big would come out of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s mouth. An event not to be missed. The pre-spin was out of the ordinary.

Pundits started speculating.

Wynne was supposed to meet with her Liberal party executive, followed by a cabinet meeting and an “open” caucus meeting which would be live-tweeted and broadcasted on YouTube. It sent the Queens Park media pool and a few analysts in a twizzy. What were the tall foreheads in her office scheming?

It created buzz and had all the telltale signs and markings that something big was about to happen.

Some were speculating that Wynne had come to her senses, put party before person and realized that it was time for her to go to give the Liberals a fighting chance at survival in next June’s provincial election. After all, when you’ve been sitting at 15% approval ratings 10 months before the vote, the likelihood of her winning is extremely slim. How low is 15%? Let’s put it in context. South of the border, US President Donald Trump is being excoriated for having “only” a 34% approval rating. Wynne should be so lucky.

It’s possible a fresh face at the helm with new ideas could renew the Liberals on time for the election.

But of course, Wynne, who views herself as a great campaigner put her ego ahead of logic. History will liken her to the band of musicians who played on when with the titanic was sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic.

Others speculated that she was poised to call a snap election for the fall. She’s been handing out goodies to buy votes for months now – with questionable effect given her approval rating. But the cupboard is bare now and those goodies risk being forgotten in 10 months. And the party is scrambling to fill nominations. Not to mention that the party’s finances trail the rival Progressive Conservatives.

So what was all the hoopla about on Thursday? It turns out to have been a publicity ploy. Liberal House Leader Yasir Naqvi let the cat out of the bag in a mid-morning tweet that Wynne was going to outline her “Plan for Fairness and Opportunity” at the caucus meeting. The whole thing landed like a big thud.

What was meant as a big splash barely left any impression. And there’s hardly a trace of her announcement on the internet. Nothing on the government of Ontario newsroom. A few tweets from reporters describe that the Liberals greeted her with chants of “4 more years! 4 more years.” Just like trained seals.

Wynne declared to her captive audience that the “world is inherently unfair” and that Ontario is not immune to global problems. As Queens Park Today’s Allison Smith tweeted: “And that’s it. Much ado about, literally, nothing.”

If anything, her announcement backlashed. It’s rich of Wynne to speak of fairness. Anyone who consumes electricity in Ontario would have a word or two about the topic.

If Wynne has any chance of surviving the election, she’ll have to do better than pretending she’s some kind of philosopher king surviving up puff, platitude and empty words at a dog and pony show in Neverland.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Law applies to cops too

Our system of justice is based on the rule of law, which is in fact enshrined in our constitution through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It means that the law applies to everyone – no one is above the law. And the law must be applied the same regardless of race, gender, status or any other consideration.

The reality, however, is that the military and the police at times get the kid glove version of the law while visible minorities who happen to be male are at the other end of the spectrum.

One of the causes, perhaps not the main one, of cases being tossed from the courts because of the time it took for them to get to trial is over-charging by cops. For example, if you’re black and found shoplifting an item and damaging it all the while and you were agitated during the arrest, you might well face charges of mischief, theft, resisting arrest and assaulting a peace officer out of one simple act or incident. And maybe more charges. These cases unnecessarily clog up the court docket.

But when a member of the military or the police allegedly commit a criminal transgression, the favoured instrument of trial is all too often their respective disciplinary code. Of course, this way of prosecuting miscreants keeps it “in the family.” And spares the offender from a criminal record and the stigma attached to having one. The consequence for police officers found guilty is generally a slap on the wrist in the form of a temporary rank reduction or some kind of fine.

Case in point, last week the Toronto Police Services Chief Mark Saunders was ordered by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIRPD) to hold a disciplinary hearing concerning Sgt. Eduardo Miranda. A video by a bystander showed “excessive force” being used by Miranda while arresting a man by repeatedly Tasering him six times when he was “prone face down on the ground being physically controlled by four officers,” according to the OIPRD. And stomping him repeatedly.

The hearing will be held Sept. 26 and the man who videotaped the incident, Waseem Khan, plans to attend.

Khan had a good point when he said: “I hope that there’s some sort of accountability, because I think officers, just like any other citizen, should be held accountable when they go beyond the law or do something criminal.”

Despite the video of the incident going viral, Toronto police apparently didn’t see anything wrong with one of their officers Tasering and stomping on a man repeatedly while being held on the ground. They had to be “ordered” to hold a hearing.

And logically, if the matter leads to reasonable grounds that a crime was committed, then the cop should be charged accordingly. The disciplinary hearing should follow.

As the video surfaced, Saunders should have immediately ordered a criminal investigation into the actions of his officer. He has so far shown himself to be a weak Chief, and too cozy with the police union.

The police board, supposedly his boss, should remind him that the thin blue line doesn’t override the rule of law.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Cops ignore the importance of the SIU

Both Durham Regional Police and Toronto Police continue to serve as evidence of why the Special Investigations Unit’s mandate needs more teeth. Both police services are supposed to be modern and sophisticated crime fighting machines. Yet, when it comes to the SIU, they are dumb, deaf and blind.

19-year-old Dafonte Miller, who is black, will lose an eye after an altercation with a Toronto cop, Const. Michael Theriault, last December 28, 2016. He was off-duty, but identified himself as a cop.

Miller was punched, and kicked in the face with a metal pipe. Durham cops attended to the scene and even if Miller suffered from multiple broken bones, the SIU was left in the dark. Durham police promptly charged Miller with a slew of criminal charges and predictably let Theriault walk free.

The SIU was notified four months after the incident by Miller’s lawyer, to boot.

All charges against Miller were withdrawn by the Crown. Theriault and his brother are now the ones facing multiple charges laid by the SIU, including aggravated assault and public mischief.

The conduct of both DRPS and Toronto police has been deplorable since the incident. Neither accept any responsibility for not notifying the SIU “immediately” once they became aware of the incident. Of course, DRPS being the first to become aware of the matter had that legal duty to report it to the SIU. Instead, they notified their buddies at the Toronto police.

Toronto police should have stepped up and did DRPS’s dirty deed by calling up the SIU. But the thin blue line being the thin blue line, they did squat.

Both police services should have owned up to their mistake. But no. In typical “the cover-up is worse than the crime,” or the alleged crime, they both accepted no responsibility.

And so, the zizany ensues.

They have mounted a two-prong defence to accusations they were ducking the SIU. First, they are pretending this involved a complex legal enigma. DRPS says it was Toronto police’s job to call SIU. Toronto police claims this case was thoroughly analysed by cops specializing in the SIU and it was found to be out of its mandate.

Of course, all of this is bogus and a moot point. The SIU ended up investigating the case and laying charges. Why are the police quarrelling about the obvious? The SIU wouldn’t have involved itself if it was outside their mandate.

Second, both the DRPS and Toronto police chiefs have ordered investigations to get to the bottom of all this. DRPS will do it internally and Toronto got Waterloo Regional Police Service to investigate. But neither Toronto police chief Saunders nor DRPS chief Paul Martin has the gonads to pledge making investigation findings public, which is very telling. They undoubtedly fear they may not be favourable ones, despite the fact police-investigating-police is almost always in favour of the police.

Both investigations are smoke and mirrors meant to assuage a public tired of being played when it comes to the SIU. Basically, a public relations exercise.

Toronto Mayor John Tory made himself sound very upset about the whole thing wowing to get the bottom of this fiasco for the sake of accountability. I have no faith in police investigating police and don’t expect either WRPS or DRPS investigations to have any impartial or meaningful findings. But if sincere, Tory, as a member of the police services board, should at least commit to publishing WRPS’s report and use his influence in the GTA to convince DRPS to make their internal investigation public.

We’d at least have something to go on instead of this ongoing dog and pony show.