ONTARIO LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

August 11, 2017


WEEKLY ROUNDUP

WAY UP NORTH – Come next June, 124 seats will be up for grabs in the provincial election – 17 more than there are now and two more than there are federal ridings in Ontario. Attorney General Yasir Naqvi confirmed this week that the government will introduce legislation in the fall to create two extra ridings in the far north, further redrawing the electoral map as redistribution subdivides current seats. Both of the new ridings will cover large areas with relatively small populations: Kiiwetinong (the Ojibwa word for “North”; population 33,000) will be made up almost entirely of Indigenous constituents and will include the northern portion of what is now Kenora-Rainy River; and Mushkegowuk (“People of the Swampland” in Cree; pop. 30,000) will be carved out of Timmins-James Bay, encompassing Weenusk (Peawanuck) First Nation and predominantly Francophone. These changes will leave a smaller – but still massive – version of Kenora-Rainy River and a new riding called Timmins. Although they stem from recommendations of the non-partisan Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission, some pundits have suggested a political motive – namely more seats unlikely to vote Conservative. The fledgling Northern Ontario Party was also unimpressed, issuing a news release decrying, “When you have so many seats to win in Toronto, it becomes the only priority of the big three parties; they know if they win Toronto they win the province. There is no need for them to worry about any place else.”

TED TALK – A week after Environment Minister Glen Murray suddenly announced his resignation, another Liberal MPP many thought was headed out the door has opted to re-up for another go. Former cabinet minister Ted McMeekin – whose voluntary departure from cabinet was thought to be a precursor to retirement from Queen’s Park altogether – announced that he will seek re-election next June. “I want to be part of seeing it through – as tempting as it might be to slow down a bit and play more golf,” McMeekin told local media. “It’s not in my DNA. I want to be part of the action.” First elected in a 2000 by-election, the 69-year-old McMeekin has battled prostate cancer in recent years. But he says he’s feeling good and will run in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas (known by the rather unflattering acronym HWAD, a new riding created by redistribution of his current Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale seat). McMeekin is feeling so good, in fact, he gleefully took a shot at the Tories’ tribulations around their nomination for the riding. Ben Levitt won the PC nod, but two other would-be candidates have launched legal action claiming shady balloting. “It’s a shame,” McMeekin intoned faux-sympathetically. “It’s unfortunate for the young fellow who is running to walk into this race with that encumbrance.” When asked if Levitt’s nomination should stand, McMeekin coyly punted the question to the party leader, offering, “It is for Patrick Brown to decide.” Hamilton police confirmed this week that they are considering a criminal investigation into the allegations of wrongdoing in the HWAD nomination process.

YOU’RE ONLY 150 ONCE – The 150th anniversary of Confederation – which created Ontario – has been a bonanza for history buffs, and the Archives of Ontario is making the most of the opportunity. While much of the country focused on festivities in Ottawa on Canada Day, the Archives has launched a suite of Ontario150 activities to keep the celebration going all year. For instance, this week a special citizenship ceremony welcoming 25 new Canadians was held at the Archives building. The presiding official, Judge Albert Wong, made a point of noting the importance of the Archives in preserving the diverse story of Ontario – “the DNA of the province” as he described the Archives’ holdings. As the sesquicentennial continues, all Ontarians are being encouraged to “reaffirm their citizenship and share what citizenship means to them” on social media using the hashtags #MyCitizenship and #Canada150.

RUMOURS & RUMBLINGS

INTERNAL COMBUSTION

Recent internecine attacks on PC Leader Patrick Brown, which have intensified in recent weeks, are more than a little reminiscent of the fifth-column warfare waged against former Premier Dalton McGuinty when he was in Opposition. There are a few differences – McGuinty wasn’t leading in the polls like Brown is, and the Liberal conspirators struck their blows anonymously – but Brown’s current challenges have a familiar feel to them. Disgruntlement with Brown is epitomized by the Ottawa-based “I’m Out” campaign, which is not unlike the “Dump Dalton” effort prior to 2003. If his critics are getting under Brown’s skin – hard to tell insofar as he, like McGuinty, is largely inscrutable – he can take heart in knowing McGuinty subsequently won three elections, two of them with commanding majorities. However, Brown does face one major challenge that wasn’t part of the earlier script: The anti-McGuinty movement didn’t generate splinter parties. The Trillium Party (buttressed by sitting MPP Jack MacLaren, who defected from the Tories) is already a real thing, and the Ontario Alliance Party – primarily pro-lifers and other social conservatives feeling betrayed by Brown – is percolating. Neither is likely to make any serious inroads in terms of actually electing MPPs, but any votes they do take will almost all be siphoned from the Tories. Brown now has a tough strategic choice – whether to directly fire back and potentially give these new foes credence, or publicly ignore them and risk them succeeding in negatively branding him. On the other hand, having extreme voices against him takes them out of his tent, and could work in his favour if they help drive the moderate narrative he is trying to compose.

FOR THE RECORD

“Right now, because I’ve just got this overwhelming sense of betrayal by my own party, I think it would be an absolute disaster if Patrick Brown became the next premier of the province. If he’s going to treat his own grassroots, his own party, in such a cavalier and arrogant manner, how would he ever behave as the premier of this province? I shudder to think.”

  • Former PC MPP and cabinet minister Marilyn Mushinski, among those unhappy with the way current party leader Patrick Brown has handled nomination controversies.

“It would appear by this complaint that the Ontario Liberal Party has not read, or is unable to understand, the law they wrote. But the Liberal Party’s ignorance to the law should come as no surprise given their own very serious legal problems.”

  • PC President Rick Dykstra, responding a formal complaint filed with Elections Ontario by the Liberals against both the Tories and the NDP alleging contravention of new fundraising rules. Elections Ontario cleared both parties of any wrongdoing.

“The easiest road is to jump into the provincial election. You don’t have to raise as much money, obviously. You don’t have to cover as much ground as you would on a mayoral race. It’s kind of a no-brainer. But I never take the easy route. So, we’ll see what happens.”

  • Former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, still being ambiguous about whether he will run in June’s provincial election or once again challenge Toronto Mayor John Tory municipally next fall.
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