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Commentary on maladministration at all levels of government

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Where’s Wynne?

You’d have a better chance of finding Waldo in a crowd then former premier Kathleen Wynne in the Legislative Assembly.

Wynne’s always built her brand on her toughness. Campaign slogans such as “run don’t walk” and election commercials featuring her running up hills everyday allegedly at 5am, obsessing with how to make our lives better were part of a carefully crafted persona she developed over the years.

You’d think Wynne was set to replace Gal Gadot as the next Wonderwoman.

Alas, she threw in the towel on June 2 and conceded the election, almost a week before it was actually held. Not exactly an action hero.

But where has she been since the Legislature was called back on July 11, 2018? After all, it’s been well over a month since the provincial election.

Undeterred, Wynne the warrior tweeted on June 14 that she has “not in any way lost (her) passion for continuing this work- continuing to find ways to build our province up.”

Nice words indeed. Very Wynne-esque.

But she snubbed the speech from the throne and skipped every question period since July 11. The two times we heard from Wynne since the election was when she grovelled for party status that she lost at the election, coming short one seat. And when she asked that her portrait be erected in the halls of parliament, like former premiers. And she wanted it done pronto.

The fact is she ran for a seat, won it fair and square and is the legislator for North York. Sorry, Kathleen but you have to show up for work. The constituents of that riding need you to work for them. The Liberal opposition, even the tiny one now headed by Ottawa South MPP John Frazer, still play an integral part of democracy.

Of course, Wynne leading the annihilation of the Liberal Party of Ontario (which I and many predicted over the last year) must be a bummer. So is losing the prestige, the accoutrement that comes with the office and more importantly the power the office yields. Not to mention the dramatic drop in salary.

But since the June 7 election, Premier Ford has moved quickly to dismantle her cherished nanny state. We heard not a whisper from her. Maybe she was just staying out of the way and being magnanimous, while Ford was blowing up in smoke her social engineering programs like cap-and-trade? Perhaps, but I personally doubt it.

From what is known of Wynne’s persona, there are two of them. The “I-live-my-life-to-do good-for-you” and the political cut-throat Wynne. The electors saw through the former, while the latter is no doubt in remission, having lost the reins of power. Wynne and her former deputy minister Deb Matthews were once dubbed “the mean grandmothers,” a reflection of their dual persona. All smiles and hugs on the outside, some kind of a mean streak lurking on the inside.

The irony of all this is that Wynne kept reminding us during the election that it’s not about winning, it’s about fighting for what’s right. So, before we send out an all-points bulletin for you Kathleen, come out and fight for what you consider right.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Finally liberated from the Liberals

There was much hand wringing over the Ontario Legislature’s speech from the throne last Thursday. For example, what does it mean to replace the “failed ideological experiments in the classroom” with “tried-and true” sex education and math programs?

I, for one, feel no need to panic. In fact, I feel in some ways that we’ve been liberated. Over 15 years of Ontario Liberal rule, we’ve gotten numb to the micro-managing of our lives by government. The Ontario Liberals appear to have ruled according to the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. It may even have been their bible. One thing’s sure, author George Orwell would have been proud of how we were governed for 15 years.

Green energy, we were told, would be a good thing. No doubt it brought some benefits to our lives. We no longer have coal to produce energy, thus less pollution. But the Liberals over did it. We now produce such an overabundance of electricity that we have to dump it for free and in some cases actually pay the US to take it off our hands. It ridiculously got out of hand.

All the while, we pay through the roof for our electricity and are treated like Stepford Wives, having to do our laundry or use electricity at certain times to save on the cost of electricity which was already in oversupply mode. Trash that now. Hopefully, that’s on the Premier Doug Ford’s “to do” list.

For 15 years of Liberal rule we were not only subjected to “Big Brother” government social experiments but misinformed about the size of our deficit which, according the Auditor General, has ballooned billions of dollars beyond what the Orwellian government told us it was.

We’ve also been liberated last week from restrictions in buying beer and wine. Prohibition never quite ended in Ontario, but the Liberals made sure the nanny state would prevail. A few years ago, in what was announced as some kind of pre-revolution in the booze industry, then Attorney General Yasir Naqvi brandished 12-packs of beer at the LCBO announcing a “pilot project” in selling beer in 12 packs at the provincially run liquor store. What could have possibly been lurking in his mind? Pilot project to what end? To see whether the lumpen proletarians could handle it? I don’t recall seeing 12-packs at the LCBO recently so maybe we flunked the social experiment.

According to the speech from the throne, we’ll be able to buy beer and wine from convenience stores, grocery stores and big-box stores. This has been the case for as long as I can remember in Quebec. Ontario has long been a laggard in modernizing the sale of alcohol and embarrassingly so. Certain Ontario wines and beers are available in some grocery stores, while others are available elsewhere. Some grocery stores don’t carry alcohol at all. Corner stores? Don’t even think about it. The LCBO carries hard liquor and other types of wines and beers. The current byzantine system is patronizing, moralizing and puritanical.

Now you’ll be able to buy your beer and wine, like an adult, in the store of your choice. I don’t expect riots or mass unrest to result. The past government’s ideological resistance to easing the sale of booze was illogical. This is 2018 and that’s going to change.
Ford ran his campaign on the “for the people” slogan. Less micro-managing of us plebes by government is a great start on keeping his promise.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Trudeau’s groping allegation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have been slightly ahead of his time when he declared himself a feminist in 2015. The #MeToo movement spread virally in 2017. Trudeau didn’t stop with that proclamation, he politically exploited the #MeToo wave saying women must be supported and believed.

As a former assistant Crown attorney I have prosecuted my fair share of sexual assault charges. I saw the #MeToo movement brewing for decades. The Criminal Code and the court system have long unfairly treated victims of sexual assault. For example, before the 1980s the Crown needed to produce corroboration in sexual assault prosecutions. In other words, you couldn’t successfully prosecute solely based on the complainant’s evidence.

There are many other instances of our criminal justice system unfairly treating women. For example, who can forget the “knees together” judge berating a sexual assault victim.
Complainants of sexual assault must, of course, be supported and deserve a thorough investigation. They need to be considered of good faith but believing them at 100% from the get-go takes away the accused’s presumption of innocence. A rigorous investigation and charges should be laid if there are “reasonable grounds” to believe a sexual assault occurred, in the language of the Criminal Code.

The current #MeToo rebellion was in the making for decades but the pendulum has swung too far where mere allegations are too often taken as proof that a crime has taken place.

Which brings us back to Trudeau. In a January 2018 interview with CBC he said: “I’ve been very, very careful all my life to be thoughtful, to be respectful of people’s space and people’s headspace as well. This is something that I’m not new to. I’ve been working on issues around sexual assault for over 25 years.”

Trudeau has proven ruthless in dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct among Liberals, even minor ones, adding that if sexual allegations came to light against him, he’d apply the same standards.

Calgary MP Kent Hehr was made to resign from cabinet for describing an Alberta MLA a decade ago as “yummy.” Another woman alleged he touched her “inappropriately,” while he maintains it was “unintentional.” The Prime Minister’s Office ordered a report into the complaints. The findings remain secret.

Though much more serious allegations have emerged against Trudeau, they haven’t been exactly dealt with according to those same standards, as he promised. Au contraire.

An incident now known as the Kokanee Grope has garnered international attention. According to a paper called the Creston Valley Advance in British Columbia, Trudeau in 2000, then 28 years old allegedly “inappropriately handled” one of its reporters who wrote an editorial about the event. Disclosed in the main stream media a few weeks ago, he remained silent only to fess up to the event saying he remembers the day and no “negative interaction” happened. No story here, move on.

Then last Thursday more information was provided by Trudeau. He appeared to acknowledge the grope and that he apologized for it but added “often a man experiences an interaction as being benign or not inappropriate, and a woman, particularly in a professional context, can experience it differently.” He rejected the need for an investigation.

Trudeau’s latest meanderings raise more questions than they answer. A non-consensual grope is beyond sexual harassment. It’s sexual assault. Trudeau has hoisted himself on his own petard by closing the door on an investigation. And despite his earlier undertaking to treat himself the same way he’d treat sexual misconduct allegations against him, that certainly didn’t happen.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Ford’s Cabinet

If you were listening carefully to Premier Doug Ford’s swearing-in on Friday, that’s what you would have heard him say once he concluded reading his oath of office. It’s almost as if he was saying “I’ve worked tirelessly 24/7 to get to recite a single paragraph.” It may be a short bit of text but it’s a powerful one. And in naming his cabinet, Ford set the tone for what lies ahead.

Those who expected Ford to be reckless in his cabinet choices will be disappointed. His choices were a careful blend of experienced parliamentarians with new blood from the outside. The geographical representation was there and although there’s no gender parity, women are going to yield powerful functions in Ford’s cabinet.

Christine Elliott to be Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care was a no brainer. She was Deputy PC Leader before she became Patient Ombudsman. Vic Fedeli at Finance brings his valuable experience as Finance critic to a hot potato portfolio. Jim Wilson, a veteran of former Michael Harris’ government brings an experienced and steady hand to the Ministry of Economic Development, Job creation and Trade. Given the overnight explosion of these issues courtesy of US President Donald Trump tariff madness, his knowledge of the machinery of government will be crucial to the manufacturing sector.

John Yakabuski, one of the greatest current orators in parliament, gets to become Minister of Transportation. Lisa MacLeod was particularly well-suited to become Minister of Children, Community and Social services and Women’s Issues. Last year, her private member’s bill became law. Known as Rowan’s Law after an Ottawa teen died of concussion while playing rugby, the new law, passed unanimously setting-up a cross committee to ensure consistency among provincial ministries and to pay more attention to coroner’s inquests recommendations.

Steve Clark became Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He will bring to cabinet his extensive experience with municipal government. When he was first elected as Mayor at 22, he was the youngest mayor in Canada.

Then there is the new blood. Most notably, lawyer Caroline Mulroney becomes the Attorney General and Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs, succeeding the all-sizzle-no-steak Yasir Naqvi. She brings youth, vitality and the right pedigree to cabinet. The daughter of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, she was educated at Harvard University and the New York University School of Law.

At 20, the current cabinet is about a third smaller than former Premier Kathleen Wynne’s outgoing and tired cabal. After considering how the Liberals left the cupboards empty, they have their work cut out for them.

What struck me the most in the re-arrangement of ministries is that they are tailored in a much more logical way. Efficiencies begin today as bloated ministries are amalgamated. For example, Wynne’s cabinet inexplicably had a stand-alone Minister of Seniors Affairs and another one dealing with accessibility. It makes sense to combine both into the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. Same for Economic Development and Growth. Wynne separated economic growth from trade. Ford now has grouped up economic development and trade, and added job creation to Wilson’s portfolio.

It’s a political football and often the elephant in the room, but the salary of MPPs, Ministers and the Premier should also be addressed pronto. Back in 2006, former Premier Dalton McGuinty and then opposition Leader, now Toronto Mayor John Tory, had proposed a formula that would have increased MPPs’ salary to 75% of federal MPs salaries, as recommended by former judge and Integrity Commissioner Coulter Osborne. It’s ridiculous that a federal backbencher makes thousands more than a provincial cabinet minister. MPs have lofty pensions. MPPs have none.

The idea in 2006 was to depoliticize the remuneration of our provincial politicians – a thorny issue for most people.

In 2009, Wynne froze salaries again in an empty, symbolic act. There’s never a good time to talk about politicians’ pay. But Ford should use the money saved on building his cabinet and thaw Wynne’s freeze.

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.