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Commentary on maladministration at all levels of government

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Liberals blow budget

For over a year, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government has been at war with the Auditor General over whether we were out of a deficit situation or not. The attacks on an independent officer of parliament were relentless, vicious and personal.

For the first time in Ontario history, unaudited government financial statements were tabled in the legislature. Damn the auditor!

Now it seems the whole brouhaha was all for naught. The government just announced that next year it would be running an $8 billion deficit. Wynne seems to have adopted the mantra of that other guy, US President Donald Trump, always spoiling for a fight just for the fun of it. According to a Trump tweet last week, conflict is a good thing. It’s not chaos but “great energy.”

How dare would an independent overseer actually dare to disagree with the government, which has shown that it much prefers lapdogs like Ombudsman Paul Dubé or French Languages Commissioner François Boileau than a real watchdog?

How bad is our financial situation in Ontario? As former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney put it last week “Ontario has been reduced to accepting equalization payments from Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Finance Minister Charles Sousa wants to make it clear that the new deficit, which amounts to breaking its promise to maintain a balance budget, wasn’t just happenstance. He’s driving us into more debt “deliberately.” How is that supposed to make us feel better?

It’s like saying “I didn’t fall off that cliff, I jumped!”

Sousa says “we have to invest more and that doesn’t come cheap. So here is the choice: Ignore these costs of care to stay in balance or use our fiscal room to invest more in mental health, long-term care and child care.” Which all sounds great.

The problem is that for 15 years, these three areas have been neglected. The government’s priorities have been on shinny objects. Think free university, free drugs for people under 25 years old, increasing minimum wage by 30% and an extra week of vacation all announced in the months leading to the June election.

But none of it seems to have fooled the electorate and Wynne’s sinking ship seems to be a done deal. According to a poll early last week, “Anybody But Wynne” appears to be a real thing.
According to a poll released last week by DART, “eight in 10 (81%) Ontarians believe it’s time for another provincial party to take over and run the province compared to just two in 10 (19%) who say the Liberal government under Premier Kathleen Wynne has done a good job and deserves to be re-elected.”

To make matters worse for Wynne, the poll was conducted in the middle of the Progressive Conservative’s chaotic leadership campaign at the time former leader Patrick Brown was unceremoniously dumped from the party. Yet voters still preferred the PCs at 44% to 19% for the Liberals, leaving the NDP in the middle at 24%. 13% said “other.”

An Angus Reid poll released last Thursday had even worse news for the Liberals pegging the PC support at a staggering 50%, the Liberals faring slightly better than the DART poll at 24% and the NDP at 22%.

What we are witnessing is the complete decimation of the Ontario Liberal party. History might well reveal it to rival the 1993 federal election when the Progressive Conservatives under Prime Minister Kim Campbell were left with 2 seats out of the 295. Maybe even besting it, with Ottawa-Vanier likely the only safe seat left in Ontario.

With its track record of mismanagement, wasteful spending and scandals, it’s one trophy the Ontario Liberals richly deserve.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

No end run needed

It was a sad sight to behold. In a tweet by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police there was a photo of Attorney General Yasir Naqvi grinning ear to ear surrounded by OACP officials lobbying hard against the Special Investigations Unit.

It’s almost as if Naqvi was getting a rush from rubbing shoulders with the mighty cop bosses.

The issue? It’s the one I covered a couple of weeks ago. The OACP wants the SIU to butt out of cases that police must advise the SIU whenever serious injury or a death occurs during a police interaction and, in particular, when the administration of Naloxone was attempted or given.

The SIU by law must been notified of cases of death or serious injury occurring during police interaction. It’s a legal obligation in Ontario and it makes sense. If a suspect has a heart attack and dies in the back seat of a cruiser, you’d expect an independent and impartial investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death. Police investigating the police just doesn’t work. That’s why the SIU was created.

Cops are trained to be in control. Crowd control, arrests and various police interactions require it. But when it comes to the SIU, they have yet to learn that they need to be hands-off. Since it was created 1990, there have been hundreds of cases where they failed to notify the SIU (or didn’t do it “immediately” as required by law), tampered with evidence and fought the SIU at all levels of courts – and lost.

The latest coup in police chiefs declaring that they will defy the law and not notify the SIU in death or serious injury involving the police seems to be triggered by the current opioids crisis. Police want to investigate themselves if, in administrating the anti-opioid drug Naloxone, they are unsuccessful at saving a person.

How is it different from someone who dies while the police are administrating CPR?

The difference is that the former is likely an addict while the latter may simply be suffering from heart disease. So, addicts don’t deserve an independent and impartial investigation while the patient with heart disease does. The Chiefs’ position amounts to class warfare and discrimination.

Bill 175 is legislation designed in part to bolster the powers of the SIU as a result of cops snubbing the SIU since its inception but doesn’t speak to this issue. It’s at committee for study and it should be amended to prevent the police from undermining civilian oversight.

Interestingly enough, the OACP tweet notes that they had “a fruitful & honest discussion about changes to #policing legislation #Bill 175 & Naloxone” with Naqvi, even though Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Marie France Lalonde is the one having carriage of the Bill. Why then give the gears to Naqvi and not go solely to the minister responsible? My guess is that the OACP knows where the weakest link lies and is quite cleverly prepared to exploit it.

Naqvi has never been the friend of the downtrodden and disadvantaged.

Remember when he was minister responsible for jails and let a prisoner, Adam Capay, spend 1,560 days in solitary confinement in Thunder Bay? Jail staff said Naqvi had met Capay and been briefed on his situation. But he did nothing about it. He later dubiously claimed that he “had no recollection” of the meeting.

And Naqvi’s been the weakest AG in recent memory. A recent independent report on the operations of his current ministry reveals that Naqvi and his most senior bureaucrats did nothing to fix the “festering sore” at the Ministry of the Attorney General, with reports of wide spread “belittling, gossip-mongering, bullying and a tendency to unduly punish employees.”

The OACP boasting about a “fruitful & honest discussion” with Naqvi should make anyone concerned with proper civilian oversight very nervous. Hopefully Lalonde will ignore Naqvi when he comes knocking on her door parroting the OACP’s position.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Turmoil at the AG

While the Progressive Conservatives appear stuck in endless mayhem, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government has been laying low and presumably enjoying the spectacle despite the PCs soaring even higher in the polls.

But a recently leaked third-party report of dysfunctionality in Yasir Naqvi’s Ministry of the Attorney General is a good reminder of the rotting turmoil in Wynne’s government. Naqvi’s carefully nurtured and cultivated public image is one of selfless devotion to the public interest. All of which is rounded out by ear-to-ear smiles and endless Naqvi photo ops. He’s the kind of politician who’d call a press conference for opening an envelope.

You’d think given his lust for media coverage, he’d be out there bravely facing the report’s findings. Not a chance. The report’s been kept secret and Naqvi’s issued a platitudinous boiler plate statement that “Everyone has a right to feel safe and respected in their workplace…all employees are respected.”

He was last seen hiding under his desk.

According to a report concluded in the summer of 2017 called “Turning the Ship Around,” Naqvi’s ministry is a bloody mess. It doesn’t surprise me that the AG’s office is in such a disarray. Over the last few years, I’ve had many Crowns approach me about how bad things had become. Some grin and bear it. Others have taken early retirement.

Although staff from across the province have been mistreated but ground zero is the AG’s headquarter at 720 Bay Street where Naqvi has his office on the 13th floor.

The 115-page report was written by lawyer and former bureaucrat Leslie Macleod after she interviewed 250 lawyers and administrative staff. It contains a litany of acts of misconducts (see sidebar). She writes “The descriptions of inappropriate conduct that I heard through consultations were alarming and the fact that it continued unabated for so long makes it doubly so.”

To me the most damning allegation is that government lawyers are at times forced to redact their own opinions by senior managers on whether or not to charge individuals or companies to protect the special interests of other provincial bodies. That, in itself, could constitute an obstruction of justice. Instead of keeping the report top secret and threatening leakers that they would be fired, Naqvi should have called in the OPP to investigate.

And what about the top bureaucrats who were at the helm at the time? Didn’t they see fit to intervene? Au contraire, Macleod concludes. They were part of the problem. Both attorney general senior management and deputies at other ministries “knew that the situation was a festering sore” but allowed it to persist.

Former deputy attorney general Patrick Monahan flew the coop to become a judge last summer just as the report was concluded.

What’s happened since then to rectify the problems identified? Apparently not much.

The role of the AG has traditionally been viewed by the courts as one above other ministers.

Naqvi should read his own website and learn more about his job. It correctly states: “The Attorney General is the chief law officer of the Executive Council. The responsibilities stemming from this role are unlike those of any other Cabinet member. The role has been referred to as “judicial-like” and as the “guardian of the public interest.”

Naqvi should get from under his desk and fix his ministry.

Among the report’s findings:

• A senior government official was described as “a classic bully drunk on her own power”
• “Many employees work in an atmosphere of constant fear and retribution and a culture of silence prevails”
• Naqvi’s ministry has “a deeply embedded dysfunctional culture”
• “Allegations made during the consultations included various forms of belittling, gossip-mongering, bullying and a tendency to unduly to unduly punish employees”
• “Deputy ministers (at other ministries) knew that the situation was a festering sore”

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Police are not above the law

Have you ever had the impression that some police officers believe they’re above the law?

Well, it’s official – the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police sure think they are.

The OACP has gone rogue.

It’s the only conclusion from the shocking and astounding letter from OACP President Bryan Larkin telling the Special Investigations Unit that when it comes to deaths or serious injuries in the presence of the police, especially, but not limited to, when the administration of the anti-opioid drug Naloxone is involved, that they will not notify the SIU as required by law.

In Larkin’s letter to SIU Director Tony Loparco, he shamelessly writes “The OACP is concerned by the reported position of your agency that police must advise the SIU whenever a death occurs during a police interaction and, in particular, when the administration of Naloxone was attempted or given. With respect, that is not how the legislation reads nor is it logical or practical.”

The OACP letter is nowhere to be found on the OACP website. Perhaps they were too embarrassed to publish it? But Loparco posted it on the SIU website along with his rebuttal last Thursday. Good on him for exposing the OACP’s lunacy.

Has the OACP been living under a rock?

Ever since its very inception in 1990, police interaction in the presence of serious injury or deaths must, by law, be reported to the SIU. And the SIU calls the shots on how they are to be investigated.

The legal obligation of notifying the SIU in such cases is plain and simple. It’s to provide independent, third-party investigation of the incident. For example, if an officer responds to a 911 call at an apartment building and upon entering the premises a person jumps to his death off a balcony, there may be no foul play by the police but let’s hear it from an independent investigative body. Not police investigating police.

But now the OACP, whose members are senior police executives from all police services in Ontario, has unilaterally decided it will start breaking the law. Loparco politely but firmly put Larkin in his place, responding that “this office fully expects chiefs of police to abide by their legal obligations and immediately notify this office of these types of incidents whereupon, you may rest assured, this office will discharge its legal obligation in the pursuit of its mandate.”

Who are you going to call when police Chiefs break the law?

Many police services boards, who are the Chief’s bosses are either too cozy with their Chief or too weak and misinformed to crack the whip on them. And in the rare instances they’ve stood their ground, they’ve been brushed off by Chiefs and told to keep their nose out of police operations, as if boards’ roles are to be cop groupies.

Not all is lost, however.

Under Bill 175, called Safer Ontario Act, 2017, currently before the Legislative Assembly, the SIU’s authority is strengthened. Evidently the knuckleheads at OACP need to the SIU notification provisions spelled out more clearly. And while we’re at it, let’s make it an offence punishable by fine or jail for a police Chief not to notify the SIU, just to make it crystal clear of how significant this obligation is. This ought to get their attention.

Bill 175 was referred to committee review after second reading December 5, 2017. Nothing’s happened since then, despite Attorney General and House Leader Yasir Naqvi’s tooting his horn that he’d pass it before Christmas, a promise I was been openly skeptical about. Naqvi’s lack of leadership may have been a blessing in disguise.

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government should take a break from political scheming, fix and pass Bill 175. They’re back at work on Tuesday but with few sitting weeks before the election begins at the latest on May 9, the Liberals could easily get sidetracked. Don’t let this important piece of legislation die. Amend it and pass it.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Now the real work begins

All the Progressive Conservative leadership candidates show promise and give us hope for the future.

Caroline Mulroney was educated at some of the best U.S. universities, is a successful businesswoman and philanthropist and, of course, has name recognition. She has poise, is youthful and presents well with an aura of sophistication.

Christine Elliott is a seasoned ex-MPP, ex-deputy leader and someone who exudes confidence and invites trust. She’s come out of the gate strong this time.

Doug Ford is, well, Doug Ford. Larger than life, he was able to pull an astounding, almost 2,000-person strong crowd of supporters within two days of announcing his candidacy. Ford Nation is alive and well. And Ford carries a populist voice which stand in stark contrast to Premier Kathleen Wynne’s leftie politics. He appeals to voters who want real change after 15 years of Liberal ineptitude.

But all three have clear challenges to overcome. The first being common to all three – they don’t have a seat in parliament. At least for now.

Mulroney’s CV looks a lot like former federal Liberal candidate Michael Ignatieff’s CV. And we all know what happened to him. The federal Tories ran what I thought at the time was an absurd ad campaign against him that he was “just visiting.” But it worked. He was soundly defeated and heading back to Harvard shortly after – I guess “just visiting” after all. Mulroney’s also untested in politics. It doesn’t mean she won’t succeed but it’s a challenge she’ll need to face-up to. Mulroney will need to surround herself with knowledgeable people and take advice, which I understand she has already begun doing.

Mulroney remains a bit of an enigma and a wildcard. When questioned on how she’d deal with current issues, she was sketchy. Unfortunately, there’s no time to waste. PC and Ontario voters will want to know more about her grasp of public policy issues.

Elliott was twice rejected in PC leadership race. The party chose former MPP Tim Hudak over her. Then it went to former MPP Patrick Brown. Is a hat trick next in the cards? Last time she took a shot at the leadership she enjoyed broad support by caucus, but she was criticized for not having “fire in her belly” to do the heavy lifting required to get the votes out. She was out-hustled by then little-known backbencher MP Brown. And she’ll have to deal with the fact that, shortly after retiring from politics, she accepted a political appointment by the Liberals. That might not go well with the PC membership.

Ford is bombastic (Not that I haven’t been accused of that!). But he’ll need to keep that in check. So far, he’s done a good job at showing deference and diplomacy towards his two female opponents. Ford’s complaining that the party’s quick electronic voting “convention” was meant to disadvantage him is a non-starter. Ford’s hardly the underdog in this race and him claiming to be a victim rings hollow. He also has to have broader appeal extending beyond the GTA. He’s not running for councillor or Mayor of Toronto, but premier of all of Ontario. Ford’s said he’d keep the current platform, The People’s Guarantee, except for maybe 10% of it being the carbon tax. He’ll make up the lost revenue by finding 2% efficiencies in the Ontario government. Ford’s an expert at sound bites, but the PC membership may want more details on where this 2% will come from.

Ford will also have to reach out to Franco-Ontarians. The fact he doesn’t speak French is not necessarily a problem. But he’s failed to recognize this small but powerful influencers. Former Premier Bill Davis and his Attorney-General Roy McMurtry didn’t speak French either, but both made tremendous strides in strengthening francophone rights in Ontario.

We’re less than a month before finding out who will lead the PC party. So far, all three candidates have been cordial to each other and that’s a good thing. But now is time to face their challenges head-on.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Conservative Leadership Convention

In the midst of the days of madness that followed the resignation of former Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, erudite PC Campaign Chair Walied Soliman who also is Chair of the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright implored through a series of tweets for everyone to “stay positive and to stay focused.”

The PCs would have none of it and were imploding by the hour. Suddenly theirs was a party of “rot”, a real “mess” with “rigged” nominations and financial irregularities. And apparently the number of PC members included non-existent ghosts. It wasn’t enough that Brown had been run out of town, some wanted him expelled from caucus. While we’re at it, why not send him on a one-way trip to outer space! A true lynch mob mentality prevailed, undaunted.

MPP Vic Fedeli was elected Leader, then downgraded to Interim Leader by the party executive. He subsequently announced he’d run for the leadership of the party, to then withdraw as “rooting out any rot” in the PC party would prove to be a full-time job.

Last Sunday quickly became known as PC’s bloody Sunday. The PC President Rick Dykstra quit when Maclean’s magazine contacted him about sexual assault allegations against him and PC executive director Bob Stanley was fired.

So much for Soliman’s admonishment to steady the course.

Give credit where credit is due. Brown recruited top staff and nominees. He developed a sound centrist platform, increased exponentially the party’s membership, made sure the PC coffers were more than replenished and made the party more inclusive than it ever was.

Fortunately, things now appear moving in the right direction with lighting speed with leadership candidates having until Feb. 16 to sell memberships and register as candidate with an election of the new leader taking place electronically on March 2 and March 8. The results will be announced March 10.

The contenders so far include former MPP Christine Elliott, PC nominee Caroline Mulroney, Toronto councillor Doug Ford and possibly former Postmedia Chair Rod Philips.

The downside of all this brouhaha and drama of the last week and a half is that it gives the governing Liberals lots of ammo for election attack ads. I can see this one already: “They can’t govern themselves, how can you expect them to govern the province?” Also expect ads to repeat the PC internal warfare about how rotten they’ve said they were.

The upside is that the Liberals’ heads were spinning just as fast as ours. How could they strategize a way forward when none of us knew where this was all headed? Maybe that was the secret PC strategy all along. Confuse the hell out of the Liberals!

The PC platform, The People’s Guarantee, sounds hokey, but it’s what’s in it and how it was developed that counts. It’s a middle of the road, moderate platform developed over many months by the party. Candidates like Ford may want to tweak it a bit to the right but all you need to do is keep Brown’s mug off the logo and presto, you’re good to go with a solid platform which will give the Liberals and the New Democratic Party a run for their money.

Another friendly piece of advice for the candidates. You know you’ll most likely be Premier if you win, and it’ll be tempting to chew yourselves apart during the leadership race for the big prize. But remember who your real adversary is. The Liberals will be watching and taking notes. This is your election to lose. Keep it classy.

Let’s hope the boil has been lanced. On your mark, get set, go.