- Written by Gordon Prentice
In her winter newsletter PC Deputy Leader Christine Elliott told her constituents in Newmarket-Aurora there would be no cuts to front-line services and no job losses.
That promise may be difficult to sustain.
On Thursday (20 June 2019) York Regional Council will be considering a report from the Regional Treasurer, Laura Mirabella, who says the provincial funding reduction this year is estimated to be $10.86 million with the largest direct impact on Community and Health Services.
Child care and paramedics will see significant cuts in the years up to 2022.
Christine Elliott's achievements
Elliott has been hard at work tweeting about her Government’s Olympian achievements. Hardly a day goes by without a new announcement about a milestone reached.
The Government House Leader Todd Smith (who is responsible for managing the business at Queen's Park) breathlessly tweets on 7 June:
"Our Government has accomplished more in 12 months than any other Government in Ontario's history."
This reminds me of the old Soviet Union which regularly boasted about increased tractor production when harvests were failing.
The Toronto Star has a different take on the first anniversary of the Ford Government giving us a list of the casualties during a year of slash and burn.
Elliott has also been championing Bill 108 (More Homes, More Choice Act 2019) which has been roundly condemned by Aurora’s energetic Mayor, Tom Mrakas.
The Government introduced Bill 108 on 2 May 2019 and it got Royal Assent on 6 June 2019. The consultation period ran for less than one month. That’s the way Ford likes it. Laws should be made fast with no messing about! He doesn’t want people to bother with the small print.
Developers don't like development charges
The Bill was supposed to promote new home ownership and rental housing but it also makes big changes to how municipalities determine and collect development charges.
Development charges are paid by developers to municipalities theoretically to offset the costs of growth – the new roads, lighting and infrastructure that new communities need.
Like Mrakas, Newmarket’s Mayor John Taylor has expressed major concerns about Bill 108’s likely impact. A staff report going up to today’s Committee of the Whole (17 June 2019) says this at page 253 onwards:
“The proposed changes in Bill 108 represent a dramatic change from the planning and development financing landscape that has been consistent in Ontario since 2007.”
The report goes on:
“Bill 108 contains limited evidence that its central objectives, making it easier to bring housing to market and accelerating local planning decision, will be achieved. The proposed changes could have significant impacts on how the Town attempts to achieve its strategic goals…”
“From the evidence provided, proposed changes will dramatically change the development financing landscape. The changes will create additional administrative costs, increase price uncertainty for developers, and may reduce municipalities’ ability to continue to provide the same level of service in the face of growth without finding additional sources of funding.”
Why so much?
The Region says Bill 108 further limits a municipality’s ability to recover growth-related costs through development charges.
Municipalities across Ontario are fearing the worst. But until the Regulations are published we don’t know how big the hit is going to be to municipal budgets.
The developers will, of course, be laughing all the way to the bank.
They like Buck-a-Beer and he likes them.
Update on 19 June 2019: More than 400 administrative health sector workers to be laid off in Ontario.
Update on 20 June 2019: Doug Ford: Year one. (From the Globe and Mail.)
- Written by Gordon Prentice
The Globe and Mail tells us a ban on handguns and assault weapons isn’t going to happen – not under this Liberal Government.
The Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, Bill Blair, says:
“I believe that would be potentially a very expensive proposition but just as importantly, it would not in my opinion be perhaps the most effective measure in restricting the access that criminals would have to such weapons, because we’d still have a problem with them being smuggled across the border.”
Same old busted rhetoric.
Blair’s announcement comes days after a fatal shooting in Ottawa’s Byward Market that happened on a Friday night at 9.30pm when the area was packed with people. So far this year there have been 31 shootings and three gun related homicides in the capital. And Blair looks the other way.
I find the Liberal Government’s position deeply disappointing but utterly predictable. I wrote twice to Bill Blair but didn’t get the courtesy of a reply. Only later did I realise that people like me - who chose to write to him directly - did not have their views taken into account in the report on the Government’s consultation on a possible ban on handguns and assault weapons. Yet this phoney consultation allowed people to vote multiple times in the on-line survey.
When the next massacre comes we shall hear politicians offering their thoughts and prayers. But there will be no action.
I thought the slaughter of so many innocent children at Sandy Hook would be a watershed moment for the United States but I was wrong. The United States – as dysfunctional a polity as one could ever imagine – continues to tolerate an epidemic of gun violence which has now, to a large extent, been normalised.
What will it take?
Here in Canada I am left wondering what it would take to get the Federal Government to act to ban handguns and assault weapons.
Perhaps a Christchurch-style massacre in the Prime Minister’s Papineau riding, leaving 51 people dead?
Or a deranged gunman in Bill Blair’s Scarborough Southwest mimicking the Danforth shooter, Faisal Hussain, who killed two people and shot and wounded 13 others?
Tragically, I don’t think even that would be enough.
Our politicians are not protecting us from the mad and the bad and the angry sociopaths. Or from people with no previous criminal record who, for whatever reason, just flip.
Update on 17 June 2019: the useless Bill Blair passes the buck to the cities. If they want tighter controls on handguns it will be up to them to act.
Update on 18 June 2019: 4 injured in shooting near Raptors rally in Nathan Phillips Square.
Update on 19 June 2019: Star Editorial: Trudeau's Liberals wrong to duck a handgun ban.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Yesterday Doug Ford celebrated the newly expanded Etobicoke General Hospital - as if he had anything to do with it.
These things take years to plan and deliver and this hospital expansion goes way back into the Wynne era.
But that doesn’t stop Buck-a-Beer claiming credit.
"We made a promise to end hallway health care and to protect what matters most to the people of Ontario… Today, we are taking another step toward delivering on those commitments with the grand opening of the new four-storey patient tower at Etobicoke General Hospital that will provide better access to patient services, including emergency, maternal, and newborn care. With hospital projects like this one, we are making sure everyone in Ontario has access to the high-quality care they expect and deserve."
Ford embraces the project as clear evidence of his Government’s determination to get more hospital projects up-and-running.
"This project is part of our plan to invest $27 billion over the next 10 years in hospital infrastructure projects to build more capacity throughout Ontario."
Infrastructure Ontario gave details of the project and its financing in March 2016.
You gotta laugh.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
How long before I can see my MPP, Christine Elliott?
I have no idea.
It could be in the Fall.
But I am keeping my fingers crossed.
We learn the PCs want their MPPs to use the summer break talking to their constituents, finding out what’s important to them.
The Minister responsible for getting Ford’s legislation through Queen’s Park, Government House Leader Todd Smith, told reporters last week that the long summer recess had nothing to do with the forthcoming federal election. No. No. No. It was all about giving MPPs an opportunity to re-connect with their constituents.
“This was a decision that was made by our cabinet and our team here in Ontario. It’s time for us to sit down, talk on where we’re going to go next, talk to our constituents about what’s important to them. And we’re going to come back bigger and badder than ever in the fall.”
Encouraged by this, I decide I want to see Ms Elliott face-to-face to tell her my concerns about the way Ford’s Progressive Conservatives have subverted the legislative process. She is Deputy Leader and knows her way around Queen’s Park and must take some responsibility for what’s happening.
Subverting the legislative process
This subversion has, of course, been happening incrementally for years but now it is utterly shameless. The PCs are going full steam ahead, abandoning any pretence of consultation. They are doing away with the Committee Stage of Bills, compressing consideration of important Bills into a handful of hours of “debate”. This is all done under the guise of “time-tabling” the legislation. And all the while, the Attorney General stands aloof and apart. Unwilling to intervene.
But it wasn’t always like this.
PC MPPs like Todd Smith have in the past condemned time-table motions as undemocratic. But now they are doing themselves what they previously condemned - voting to curtail debate. This is what the “big bad” Todd Smith MPP had to say in April 2016
“Sometimes what happens here—my friend from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke describes it as the guillotine coming down and slicing off debate. He makes a very effective sound effect every time the House leader or deputy House leader moves a closure motion. We’ve seen that time and time again. They should not be using a blunt instrument—and a guillotine is not a blunt instrument—to pass legislation in this House.”
Steve Clark MPP, now Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, told us on 28 May 2015:
“Time after time, we’ve had negotiations where all of a sudden the government stops talking to us and presents bills that will either choke off debate or move bills through quickly without hearing from constituents.”
And on 7 May 2018 John Yakabuski MPP, now Minister of Transportation, complained:
“Well, how can something be duly considered if you haven’t even had the opportunity to debate it? How can you say that something has been duly considered if you haven’t even allowed the public, the stakeholders—those people who will be most affected by it, those people who will be responsible for carrying it out—the opportunity to offer opinion or views as to how that legislation might be changed, altered, improved, or have some parts of it swept away altogether, because they’re not in the best interests of the people who will be most affected?
… But if you are not considering the views of others, if you’re not considering the right of the opposition to bring a different view that might make that legislation stronger, then you are not acting in the best interests of democracy.”
Where will it all end?
I ask myself where will it all end? Will we get a Bill to abolish York Region and amalgamate Newmarket and Aurora after 7 hours of “debate” and no Committee Stage where the Bill could be examined line by line and where expert witnesses could be called? Very possibly. Line-by-line scrutiny is not Doug Ford’s thing. There was no consultation with the public at all on Bill 5, cutting by half the size of Toronto City Council (the Better Local Government Act).
For me, I suppose the Beer Stores legislation is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Previous Bills to axe cap-and-trade and the one to cut the size of Toronto City Council stress tested the system. But now we are into completely new territory. The old structures, conventions and procedures are routinely being by-passed and ignored.
Bill 115 (aka Bringing Choice and Fairness to the People Act (Beverage Alcohol Retail Sales), 2019) was crying out for detailed forensic examination. It didn’t get it and it is now the law of the land.
How to get an appointment with your MPP
It is Friday and I am outside Christine Elliott’s constituency office with the Common Ground people, chatting to the demonstrators and getting their views about things.
After half an hour or so the good-natured crowd, waving placards aloft, moves off towards Yonge Street and I stay behind. I decide I want to see my MPP to discuss the subversion of Parliamentary procedures at Queen’s Park.
Last year I tried and failed to get an appointment with Ms Elliott to discuss her views on handguns and assault weapons and whether she thinks they should be banned (she doesn’t). There was an exchange of emails with her staff but I never managed to get past her gatekeepers. This time I resolve it will be different.
As I go into the office I meet Dorian Baxter on his way out. He hasn’t seen her either. I’ve been here every Friday for weeks but I haven’t caught a glimpse of my MPP. How on earth does she spend her time? I’d love to have sight of her appointments diary and to see how much time she spends in the constituency.
“You can see her in the Fall.”
Anyway… I am standing at the reception counter asking a staff member if I can get an appointment with my MPP. I am told I shall have to email with details of what I want to see her about. Why? I ask. I am standing here in front of you and can explain. The staff member tells me the nearest appointment is in the Fall. Surely some mistake?
OK I say. I’ll take an appointment in the Fall.
Now I am told she can’t help me. She doesn’t do the appointments. I shall have to speak to Dawn who is Constituency Manager and Executive Assistant and she isn’t in the office. She’s gone up to Yonge Street to talk to the Common Ground people about the demonstrations outside the MPP’s office.
I chase after Dawn and finally catch up with her and explain why I want an appointment. She tells me to email her and on Friday afternoon I send this off:
Dear Ms Gallagher Murphy
I am a constituent of Ms Elliott.
We spoke earlier this afternoon on the way up Yonge Street.
I would very much like an appointment with Ms Elliott to discuss the Bringing Choice and Fairness to the People Act 2019. I am not an employee of the Beer Store nor do I have any links with its owners as a shareholder or in any other capacity.
However, I am concerned that the Government has decided to break its contract with the Beer Store in a way that seems to preclude compensation or any kind of remedy. I believe this amounts to arbitrary and capricious lawmaking.
Your colleague at the constituency office suggested I may have to wait until the fall for an interview but you told me you work on a two month schedule looking forward. I am out of the country from xx-xx July but, other than that, I shall change any commitments I may have so as to fit in with Ms Elliott’s schedule.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Servants of the people
The same afternoon I get an encouraging response from Dawn thanking me for emailing her and saying she will put me in her log. This is more like it! She says she will be in touch and that I should enjoy the lovely, warm, sunny weather.
This is terrific. Just as it should be. Our elected officials should be the servants of the people not their masters.
I look forward to reporting back on how my appointment goes.
Todd Smith wants to know.
The exchanges at Question Time in the Legislature on 6 June 2019. "We will take no lessons on legislative procedure..." Vic Fedeli
Ms. Sandy Shaw: My question is to the Attorney General. The rule of law means that governments, even—I must remind the members across—this one, should follow the law, just like every Ontarian is required to do on a daily basis. It’s a basic principle of justice and how we function as a civil society. Speaker, it’s a principle that this Attorney General is sworn to uphold. That’s why it’s so concerning that this government is ripping up contracts and ignoring the rule of law—all for beer. In fact, the Canadian American Bar Association wrote the Attorney General an urgent letter and said that this government will “undermine the rule of law.”
The Attorney General’s job is to uphold the rule of law. Has she spoken to the Premier about these serious concerns?
Hon. Caroline Mulroney: To the Minister of Finance.
Hon. Victor Fedeli: Speaker, we continue—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’d ask the Minister of Finance to sit down. I apologize.
The rules of the House allow any minister to refer any question to another minister. What they’re doing is completely within the standing orders.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order.
The Minister of Finance to reply.
Hon. Victor Fedeli: Speaker, I’ll begin like I begin this answer all the time. Most people in the province of Ontario are not aware that the government does not own the Beer Store. It is not like the LCBO, which we do own, and that great brand.
The Beer Store is owned by three global multinationals. They were given a sweetheart deal by the Liberal government. The Liberal government put profits ahead of people, a deal that’s terrible for the consumers, a deal that’s killing competition, a deal that’s keeping prices high and a deal that’s stifling the craft brewers.
International companies understand our parliamentary system. They know that a new government isn’t bound by bad legislation—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. The supplementary question?
Ms. Sandy Shaw: Back to the Attorney General: Clearly the Attorney General will not take responsibility for the severity of what she’s doing—again, all for beer.
Our international reputation as a place to do business is going down in flames. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce say that this legislation hurts Ontario’s investment climate. The Canadian American Bar Association says that this is an attempt to override the law of contracts. They don’t mince words at all, Mr. Speaker. They warn that this legislation will create uncertainty and risk upsetting a functioning legal system, and say that there isn’t a precedent for ridiculous legislation like this in Canadian legal history. This plan is so reckless, it’s now an international embarrassment.
Why is the Attorney General willing to put Ontario down in the history books as ignoring the rule of law?
Hon. Victor Fedeli: For the member, international companies completely understand that in our parliamentary system, a government isn’t bound by legislation from a previous government. If that were the case, this afternoon we could pass a brand new piece of legislation that would disallow tax increases in Ontario for the rest of time. But we know that our governments don’t work that way. Things simply don’t work like that.
On the international front, we heard from Fitch bond rating agency just last week, after they heard about our new legislation, and they gave our province an upgrade—their first upgrade in eight years. That tells us that our plan is working, that our legislation is respected. We will take no lessons on legislative procedure from that government.
Local Teachers lobbied Caroline Mulroney about education cuts at her Holland Landing constituency office at 4pm on Friday 7 June 2019 (photo below). The MPP was absent and her office was locked up and deserted. Average class sizes are set to increase from 24 to 28.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
This morning’s Toronto Star editoral accuses Ford’s cabinet of being his enablers.
Newmarket-Aurora MPP and Health Minister, Christine Elliott, has been singing the virtues of Bill 115, saying it will allow thirsty constituents to buy a beer at their local convenience store when they want one. She makes no mention of the Bill’s treatment of the Beer Store’s owners who are to be denied any remedy for breach of contract.
There is a case for liberalising beer and alcohol sales but no case whatsoever for ripping up without compensation a contract which, in any event, expires in 2025.
The Government relies on Ken Hughes who was appointed as the “special adviser for the beverage alcohol review”. His report on the retail landscape for beer and alcohol makes compelling reading but nowhere does he advocate ripping up the contract (the Master Framework Agreement) with the three big brewers who largely own the Beer Store. Hughes tells us:
“The alcohol retail landscape is diverse and complex. The largest retailer, the LCBO, is government-owned and provides a significant annual contribution to the provincial treasury – $2.12 billion in 2017–18. Beer sales are dominated by The Beer Store (TBS), a near-monopoly primarily owned by three of the biggest multinational brewing companies. While most Ontarians view the retail experience at the LCBO favourably, shopping at most TBS locations has changed very little over the past century.”
Hughes recommends the Government should:
“Do everything possible under the Master Framework Agreement to authorize additional alcohol retail outlets.”
Caroline Mulroney, the Attorney General, is another local MPP who seems drunk on power. Included in her long list of responsibilities and duties she
shall advise the Government upon all matters of law connected with legislative enactments and upon all matters of law referred to him or her by the Government;
shall advise the Government upon all matters of a legislative nature and superintend all Government measures of a legislative nature;
Her Ministry’s website tells us
“As chief law officer, the Attorney General has a special responsibility to be the guardian of that most elusive concept - the rule of law. The rule of law is a well-established legal principle, but hard to easily define. It is the rule of law that protects individuals, and society as a whole, from arbitrary measures and safeguards personal liberties.
The Attorney General has a special role to play in advising Cabinet to ensure the rule of law is maintained and that Cabinet actions are legally and constitutionally valid.”
Ripping up contracts
In the second reading debate on the Bill on 30 May 2019 Nathalie des Rosiers warns that ripping up the contract could incur costs of over a billion dollars.
“Not only does it (the Bill) say that the contracts are hereby terminated, but then it goes on to say that no cause of action arising directly or indirectly will be compensated. I want you to listen to that: “No proceeding ... for a remedy in contract, restitution ... tort, or for misfeasance, bad faith, breach of trust or fiduciary obligation ... for any past, present or future losses” will ever be compensated. They say that and after that add, “This section does not apply to a proceeding commenced by the crown.”
“Essentially, this is a piece of legislation that says that the other party to the contract will lose all its rights—its right to compensation, its right to legitimate expectation under the contract—but the government does not lose any of its rights to sue.”
What does the Attorney General Caroline Mulroney think about this? In her tweet today there is no mention of broken contracts. Just a glancing reference to fairness.
The way in which the Bill is progressing through the legislative assembly is nothing short of a disgrace.
The Toronto Star's Martin Reg Cohn mocks Doug Ford's journey from buck-a-beer to Bolshevism. But the hijacking of Parliamentary conventions and procedures is deeply troubling.
The First Reading (when the Bill is printed) was last Monday, 27 May 2019. The Second Reading - the first opportunity for MPPs to debate the principles of the Bill - followed on Thursday 30 May 2019. There is simply not enough time for MPPs to digest all the implications of the Bill and seek expert advice. In other common-law legislatures there is a convention that, outside emergencies, at least two weeks (or two weekends) should pass between first and second readings to allow Members of Parliament to think about the draft legislation in front of them. Apparently at Queen’s Park that isn’t a consideration.
Ford’s placeman, the bone-headed Mike Harris (personally appointed as a PC candidate by Ford, not by the riding association) criticized Nathalie des Rosiers in the Second Reading debate for daring to talk about breaking contracts:
“They can talk all they want about ripping up contracts and this and that, but they were the ones who entered into these contracts in the first place. They were the ones who brought these deals to the province of Ontario, they were the ones who bankrupted this province and they were the ones who put us in the position now where we have to come in and we have to clean up the mess.”
The NDP’s Suze Morrison says:
“We’re talking about what is the priority for Ontarians right now. Is it spending $1 billion ripping up a contract that only has six years left on it? Maybe it’s a good contract, maybe it’s not, but we can revisit it in six years when it expires, and get a new, better deal in six years. If the sky is not falling, come back at this in six years. It’s not the highest order of business on the list.”
Last September during the furore over the cuts in Toronto council, Doug Ford told journalists:
“Democracy is going every four years to elect a government no matter whether it’s federally or provincially or municipally without worrying about your mandate being overturned.”
Ford boasts that he is elected and judges aren’t. Ford believes that Parliament is sovereign and it trumps the judges every time. But is that always the case? Even here?
An Attorney General worth her salt would recognise Bill 115 for what it is – an arbitrary exercise in legislative authority.
The program motion on the Order Paper today guillotines debate on the Bill. There will be no continuation of the Second Reading debate, no committee stage and no consideration of outside opinion. The debate on the Third Reading (the final stage before enactment) will last one hour.
It is a clear abuse of process.
It is also something that Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney, both lawyers, should be concerned about even if their boss isn’t.
How Bill 115 will be dealt with in the Legislative Assembly. Today's Order Paper reads:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 47 and notwithstanding any other Standing Order or Special Order of the House relating to Bill 115, An Act to amend the Liquor Control Act with respect to the termination of a specified agreement, when the Bill is next called as a Government Order, the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the Second Reading stage of the Bill without further debate or amendment and at such time the Bill shall be ordered for Third Reading, which Order may be called that same day; and
That, when the Order for Third Reading of the Bill is called, one hour shall be allotted to the Third Reading stage of the Bill, with 20 minutes apportioned to the Government, 20 minutes to Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, 10 minutes to the Liberal Party Independent Members and 10 minutes apportioned to the Green Party Independent Member. At the end of this time, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the Bill without further debate or amendment; and
That notwithstanding Standing Order 81(c), the Bill may be called for Third Reading more than once in the same sessional day; and
That in the event of any division relating to any proceedings on the Bill, the division bell shall be limited to 20 minutes.
Update 5 June 2019: The Twitterverse reports Andrew's Convenience Store was convicted last year of selling e-cigarettes to minors.
Update on 6 June 2019: You can read the Third Reading debate on 5 June 2019 here. Bill 115 has now received Royal Assent.
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