Congratulations to Enterprise CEO Barbara Fox on receiving the 2017 Award of Distinction from the Public Affairs Association of Canada (PAAC). Barb is being recognized for her “longstanding contributions to public affairs in Canada and continued dedication to innovation in a changing landscape.” For us, she’s just a great boss. Kudos on a well-deserved honour!
KATHLEEN MACHINE – Now that the phrase “less than a year away” has seeped into the Queen’s Park consciousness, preparations for the 2018 election are revving up. Case in point was Premier Kathleen Wynne’s mini-media tour this week, when she stopped by major news outlets for “exclusive” interviews. None of her comments were earthshaking, but they did offer a glimpse into how the Liberals want to position themselves in the run-up to next June’s vote. Speaking to the Toronto Star, Wynne took dead aim at the pervasive view that, after nearly 15 years of Liberal rule, voters will want somebody else to run the show. “Part of this discussion around change is, ‘change to what and change from what?’” Wynne mused, trying to raise doubts about PC Leader Patrick Brown. “It’s quite unclear what he believes in or what he stands for.” In a similar sit-down with the decidedly less Liberal-friendly Toronto Sun – which has made a habit lately of putting an unflattering photo of Wynne on the front page with a snarky headline – she made a point of killing speculation about a snap election this fall. “We have no intention of moving the date of the election up,” Wynne declared. “The election is June 2018 and that’s when we’ll be going.” True to form, the Sun front-page the next day was headlined, “Sigh … Premier plans to sit tight.”
SMOKEY SIGNALS – For several years OPSEU President Warren “Smokey” Thomas has been openly bashing the Liberal government in newspaper columns, media interviews and internal messages to the 130,000 public servants his union represents – in what was widely seen as a pro-NDP campaign (surely OPSEU wouldn’t be supporting the Tories). As such, he appeared to be flummoxed when that same government put forward a contract extension he couldn’t summarily trash. “I’m kind of shocked the government actually made us any kind of an offer,” Thomas admitted of the proposed four-year deal for about 36,000 Ontario Public Service and Corrections workers. “It’s no secret that my union and myself, my executive board, we’re always in a battle with the government … We’re at odds with them on a lot of fronts.” In forwarding the details to members, Thomas described the offer as “without precedent in OPSEU’s history” – in that it includes 7.5% wage hikes and other improvements while demanding no concessions in return. A similar offer is also on the table for about 13,000 middle-management civil servants represented by AMAPCEO – the Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario. Both will now go to members for ratification votes later this month. While he didn’t disparage the content, Thomas did impugn the Liberals’ motivation, suggesting the offer was a re-election ploy designed to appease public servants and head off potential protests before and during the campaign. Premier Wynne countered – with a straight face – that the moves are not election related. She insisted the contract proposals are an off-shoot of the recently balanced budget, enabling the Liberals to move away from austerity and hand out raises to government employees. She added, in what could only be seen as part of her effort to outflank the NDP on the left of the political spectrum, that it fits in with her longstanding philosophy that “good working relationships with our labour partners is good for the people of the province.” Assuming the public sector unions accept the new deals, the next question is how they will approach the election – i.e., whether there will be some variation of the Working Families Coalition (largely made up of public sector unions) launching another anti-Tory campaign, and whether said campaign would favour the Liberals or New Democrats.
DRINKING PROBLEM – Ironically, as Wynne’s Liberals look for public sector labour peace, a labour dispute is brewing in one of the province’s most visible public institutions, the LCBO. Some 8,000 liquor store workers are poised to go on strike June 26 – just in time to put a damper on Canada Day celebrations marking the country’s 150th birthday. The employees are also represented by OPSEU, and Thomas was in full vitriol as he told a rally, “If your employer wants to pick a fight with the 8,000 of you, they’d better be ready to deal with all 130,000 of us.” Working conditions are the main sticking point in the fight, particularly the LCBO’s classification of part-time and full-time staff. Wynne said she won’t meddle in the negotiations, but she did publicly exhort the two sides to reach a deal, recognizing that she could pay a political price if they don’t. “I’m sure there will be those who will try to do that — blame me,” she told reporters. “But … there’s always more than one issue on the table at a given time. We need to let that unfold and with luck we will keep our fingers crossed that that they reach an agreement soon.”
GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT – Twenty-five years ago, legendary U.S. campaign strategist James Carville coined the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid,” as the key to winning elections, and it’s been political doctrine ever since. But Wynne’s Liberals must be wondering whether it’s true in Ontario today. The province’s economic performance has been on a steady upswing, but there has been no commensurate rise in Liberal popularity. They can only hope that the most recent positive economic news, courtesy of Statistics Canada’s monthly jobs figures, will eventually translate into voter support. StatsCan reported Ontario gaining nearly 20,000 jobs in May, pegging the provincial unemployment rate at a respectable 6.5%.
HE THE NORTH – Brown didn’t wait long to give his newest caucus member a critic assignment. Even before being officially sworn in as the MPP for Sault Ste. Marie, Ross Romano was named as the PC Critic for Northern Ontario Jobs and the Ring of Fire. Makes sense, given that Romano is the Tories’ lone MPP north of the French River. His role will dovetail with that of Norm Miller, who stays on as Critic for Northern Development and Mines but adds Natural Resources and Forestry, which had been Jack MacLaren’s critic portfolio before he quit/was fired from the PC caucus.
Updated wall charts listing MPP responsibilities and key government contacts are now available. Click here to download:
WON’T YOU JOIN US? – With an Ontario MPP in the running, the NDP’s federal leadership race is bleeding into provincial politics. Former Ontario NDP Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh has taken a leave from his provincial duties as he seeks the leadership of the federal wing of the party; however, he hasn’t formally resigned his Bramalea-Gore-Malton seat. That has brought him under fire from one of the other contenders, who is trying to frame it as a lack of commitment to make a move from Queen’s Park to Parliament Hill, whether or not he is successful in this campaign. “You have to make a decision,” scolded Ontario MP Charlie Angus during a leadership debate last weekend in St. John’s. “You’re telling Canadians to have courage and join you. I would suggest that you could show courage and tell us: Are you going to join us?” Singh didn’t take the bait, dodging the question with a comment that he will fight in Ontario, in other provinces and on the federal level.
FOR THE RECORD
“There will always be people seeking to exaggerate the dangers of a future we can only guess at. Those who tell us we will have less, share less, feel less secure, that the best days are behind us. They are wrong. There is no limit to what you can do and say and discover tomorrow, and it doesn’t matter that none of us can see that far forward.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne, addressing graduates at her daughter’s Ryerson University convocation – with a message that could apply to her own political situation.
“Instead of dwelling on the problem, complaining or becoming apathetic, our dad decided to take a bold step and leave Patrick Brown’s PC Party. He’s travelling a harder road now, but he’s free to speak his mind and advocate for the things he believes in and the people he represents. We are proud of you, dad, for your unwavering honesty, integrity and passion in the face of adversity.”
Jessica, Racheland Alexis MacLaren, daughters of now-independent MPP Jack MacLaren, in an Ottawa Sun op-ed column.
“Every day feels better. I get up and I don’t have to go work with people who I have to wonder whether they’re going to be my friends or my enemies. In caucus, there were daggers out.”
MacLaren, happy with his new political freedom.
“Ontario PC party wins Saul Ste. Marie for first time since 1981. Trillium Party gets Jack MacLaren. Seems like a winning week…”
Tweet from PC MPP Lisa MacLeod, equally happy to have MacLaren gone from her caucus. (MacLaren quit the Tories and has affiliated himself with the upstart Trillium Party, but technically he’s an independent MPP because Trillium is not recognized in the Legislature.)
“The LGBTQ community has made great strides after many years of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But the struggle isn’t over. We need more LGBTQ politicians to represent our voices and to enact change that recognizes sexual diversity. Together, we can ensure that our rights are respected and integrated into our society and our communities.”
NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo, who received a medal at the inaugural LGBTQ Politicians Summit on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
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