Politics

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

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

What is next for Comey?

There was a moment during former FBI Director James B. Comey’s testimony before a Senate panel that brought jubilation to President Donald Trump and his croneys.

The apparent “gotcha moment” was when Comey testified that he passed on his typed-written statement prepared in his SUV to a “friend” while being whisked away from his meeting with Trump. Those notes were his recollection of a meeting with Trump where the president asked him to shut down an FBI investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Comey refused.

That friend, we later learned, was Prof. Daniel Richman, a lawyer and law professor with Columbia. Richman later passed it on to the media. “Aha!” proclaimed the Trump camp, Comey leaked confidential information, thus breaching executive privilege and guilty of some kind of malfeasance or even of breaking the law.

The president’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, originally even contemplated invoking executive privilege to prevent Comey from testifying in the first place. He ultimately allowed the proceedings to take place. Now he wants to complain, but to who is anyone’s guess as Comey’s got no boss anymore.

After Comey testified, Kasowitz also not so subtly suggested that Comey could face an investigation on the matter “along with all those others being investigated.”

Privileges are not always absolute. They can be waived directly, or indirectly by behaviour. The Comey memos were leaked a full week after Trump fired Comey on May 9. To be sure, they were not classified information of any kind, just a recollection of a conversation. Between May 9 and May 16 Trump and his gang were all over the map when trying to explain why he sacked Comey.

Consider the wildly varying reasons for getting rid of Comey. First, the firing was recommended by the Deputy Attorney General. Then in a tweetstorm Trump said he was just doing what the Democrats had long wanted to do. Later he said Comey wasn’t doing a good job. Trump staff accused Comey of committing “basic atrocities” during his Clinton investigation. (Brings up images of mass genocide.) Then came the excuse that the FBI had lost confidence in him. Trump also said that he would have fired Comey “regardless” of any recommendation.

The final straw came on May 15 when Trump said: “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won’.”

Would it come to any surprise that Comey finally decided to tell his side of the story? Clearly Trump waived his right to invoke privilege over his discussions with Comey by blabbing incoherently and almost non-stop about why he fired him. Going through a lawyer to get the information out to the public domain was also a clever way for Comey to insulate against any legal reprisals for leaking the information. Comey didn’t leak anything. His lawyer made public Comey’s notes.

Trump tweeted Friday morning that “WOW Comey is a leaker”.

One of the reasons Comey gave for passing on his notes was that it “might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.” It did just that and now we have a better chance of getting to the bottom of things.

If ever the ends justify the needs, this has to be the case.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Implications of raising the minimum wage so quickly

In her on-going quest to bribe voters with their own money, Premier Kathleen Wynne this past week made official that Ontario’s minimum wage will go up 32% to $15 an hour within the next 18 months.

Barely four months ago, Wynne was asked about raising the minimum wage and she poo-pooed on the idea. Sounding like a true stateswoman, she proclaimed with her head up high on Jan. 19, “we’ve got a really good process … that actually depoliticizes the increases to the minimum wage.”

What could possibly have changed her mind so quickly? Well, she wanted to politicize the increases to line herself up for the next election in a year by pandering to the unions and the low-income earners. Not to speak of stealing turf from the left and creating a wedge issue with the Progressive Conservatives.

And there’s much speculation in the air that Wynne will call a snap election this summer or fall and not wait until June 2018. After all, after an orgy of spending to buyoff voters, why wait a year before pulling the trigger?

A sharp increase in the minimum wage in such a short time could well serve Wynne’s cynical political objectives but will undoubtedly pose a huge headache to small business owners who have little heads-up to adjust. More worrisome is the escalating effect of the increase. Say an employee’s salary jumps to $15, guess what will happen to the one already making that wage? Salary relativity means that he’d likely see his hourly wage jump to $18 or $19. A similar jump of a few more dollars per hour will be seen for those already making $20. The domino effect will translate to significantly more costs for small business who will pass it on to consumers.

Expect, as well, jobs to be slashed. Many employers will no doubt relocate to provinces with lower minimum wages. Expect to see a push towards more automation that will require less employees. Been to a McDonald’s lately? You can order from a stand-up computer display and pick-up your order when your number comes up. All of which means less jobs. Expect more and more fast food restaurants to follow the lead. Tim Horton’s, Wendy’s, A&W certainly won’t be far behind.

Adding insult to injury, and more pressure on small business owners, are the changes to workplace laws that will make employers pay three hours of wages if they cancel a shift with fewer than 48 hours’ notice.

Let’s think this one through.

Say you operate a small snow plow company. Environment Canada forecasts a huge snowstorm in the next 3 days. You put your 30 plow operators on notice (because, of course, our weather predictions are always on the money. Not!). A day and a half later, the storm warning is cancelled (surprise!) and you call off your operators. Guess what? Everyone gets three hours of pay.
A local small snow operator in Ottawa noted last week that the minimum wage increases plus this new rule would add over $40,000 to his seasonal work. You and I will end up paying for it, of course.

There’s no end to Wynne’s power plays to get re-elected. She has no shame. Given that her popularity with voters is sitting at a near record low, maybe it’s time to bring on the election earlier than later.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Grits a lesson in bad government

For decades to come, former Premier Dalton McGuinty and Premier Kathleen Wynne will be a case study in political science and public administration university courses across Canada – but for the wrong reasons. Both will be studied for how to impoverish a provincial economy by making ideologically-driven electricity policies, devoid of any planning and logic.

Ontario used to be the manufacturing centre of Canada – a rich and prosperous province. Now we have to take handouts from other provinces and we are the most indebted sub-national jurisdiction in the world.

Proctor & Game’s move to shutter their Brockville plant, laying off nearly 500 employees is just the latest blow. While P&G didn’t point to the cost of electricity as the reason to move to West Virginia, I can’t imagine it wasn’t a factor. Perhaps they just didn’t want to burn bridges with the Ontario government. But according to Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clarke, the average price of electricity for industrial users in West Virginia was 8.8 cents per kilowatt/hour in 2016, compared to approximately 13 cents in Ontario. That has to have a huge impact on the bottom line.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper used to be vilified over his dogmatic policies. He was criticized for failing to account for science in his decision-making. But no two politicians have been more short-sighted and politically-driven by dogma than McGuinty, Wynne and the hydro file.

The un-dynamic McGuinty-Wynne duo have left our energy sector in shambles, not only creating current economic mayhem but plunging us into costly energy schemes which we will not be able to emerge from for the next 30 years. The Ontario liberals like to goad the opposition by challenging them to unveil their plan to fix the problems liberals created. To be honest, I’m glad the NDP and the PCs are not taking the bait. There is no solution to the conundrum the liberals have put us in. It’s as simple as that. We are basically screwed. No way out. Which is why the liberals deserve the boot in the next election.

The finding by the Financial Accountability Office that renegotiating our hydro debt will add $45 billion to our debt over the next 29 years is simply outrageous. Oddly, Wynne behaves as if it someone else’s fault that the electricity sector is ruined.

“You all read the newspaper, you listen to the radio and you watch television — you know the problems that families are having around the province paying for their electricity costs,” Wynne said, as if some external force was to blame.

Wynne misses the point when she says that “there were thousands of kilometres of line that needed to be rebuilt . . . that work hadn’t been done over those generations, so electricity costs were low over that period of time but the work wasn’t being done.”

The real culprit for the out-of-control electricity rates are the massive spending on green energy and government subsidies for solar panel.
Wynne can stick her head in the sand and pretend the mess is not her doing but in a year’s time, we’ll have a chance to remind her who’s to blame.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Giving away the kitchen sink

Free drugs if you’re under 25, free university, discounted hydro, rent control and the cherry on the sundae is a 30% increase in the minimum wage in one fell swoop. Premier Kathleen Wynne’s running government like a Giant Tiger – everything is priced to sell. It’s like Christmas in July, except were still just in May – and a little over a year from the provincial election.

But what do you do when only 11 percent of the population trusts you? Wynne’s giving away the kitchen sink, desperate to cling to power.

What’s particularly pernicious is what’s unfolding with your hydro bill. In January, the province cut the provincial portion of the GST out of your bill, saving you 8 percent, then plans to cut a further 17 percent on June 1. Wynne would have you believe it’s all magical. She waved her wand and zap, your hydro bill was cut by a quarter. That’s supposed to make you forget that you paid for massive green energy spending which we didn’t need leaving us on the hook for years, even decades, to come – and adding billions to our debt.

All Wynne did was to re-amortize our debt, shuffling it around so you get the illusion that it simply vanished.

But a cabinet document leaked to the Progressive Conservatives tells the real story. Between 2022 and 2027 we can expect 6.5% increases each year followed by a 10.5% increase in 2028. Given that we have set elections every four year, Wynne’s likely thinking she’ll win in 2018 and pack it in before the 2022 election, leaving the whole mess to be sorted out by whoever gets power after her.

Liberal Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault, in an explanation that strains credulity, said he couldn’t confirm the document or verify its numbers. Poor fella explained how he’s been swamped with “thousands of documents” and “hundreds of briefings.” “I’ve been in this position for 11 months,” Thibeault pleaded.

He then pivoted à la US President Donald Trump contradicting himself to say the numbers were off as the document was just a “draft.” But he refused to give us the supposedly updated numbers.

Thibeault said he’d disclose the numbers when he updates his long-term energy plan. Expect that to land in the lazy days of summer once the Legislature has recessed and when most are at their cottage and likely around 4pm on a Friday.

If Thibeault doesn’t have the financial projections available now, as the bill is set to pass, we have a serious problem. We’re sailing blindly into the abyss. Isn’t that what first got us into this hydro mess – a lack of planning and sheer negligence?

Both New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath and PC leader Patrick Brown’s parties will rightfully vote against the hydro bill. Horwath called it a “$40-billion attempt to buy an election” while Brown said “in no world can I support a plan that’s going to cause vast new amounts of debt.”

Of great concern is that the poll finding that 89 percent of people distrust Wynne was conducted after all the goodies were announced. The same poll also found PCs still lead in popular support with 41%, the Liberals have 28% support and the NDP trail with 23%. That’s only going to spur Wynne to continue spending your money like a drunken sailor. You’ve been warned.

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