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JAGMEET THE NEW BOSS – “You have done our party incredibly proud.” So spoke Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, congratulating her former Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh on winning the party’s federal leadership. Singh’s first-ballot victory was a significant development in Ontario politics, and Horwath evidently sees it as mostly positive for her. On the downside, she loses a member of her caucus – Singh has said he will immediately resign his Bramalea-Gore-Malton seat, which would stay vacant until next June’s provincial election – leaving her two short with the pending departure of Cheri DiNovo at the end of the calendar year. There is much more of an upside, though, inasmuch as Singh’s elevation to the national helm should strengthen relations between the two levels of the party. Despite the perfunctory expressions of support publicly, Horwath never seemed to jell with former federal leader Tom Mulcair, and she obviously is much more simpatico with Singh. He is expected to be active – and to channel resources – on behalf of the provincial NDP in the run-up to next year’s vote, in much the same way as Premier Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have worked in tandem for the Liberals. In the meantime, the NDP will continue to staff the Bramalea-Gore-Malton constituency office, so technically it’s still their riding.
JUSTIN TIME – Wynne was also preoccupied with national affairs this week, as she and her fellow Premiers from across the country met face-to-face with Trudeau. As usual for these first ministers’ confabs, the main topic of conversation was money – the provinces raising their concerns about the impact of Ottawa’s small business tax reform, while the feds tabled ideas to levy and divvy up an excise tax on recreational cannabis when it is legalized next year. Also as usual, there were no definitive results, beyond vows to keep negotiating.
POLLING PUNCHES – As the election draws ever nearer, each party will be increasing its public opinion research, mining for policy nuggets to exploit and pinpointing where to allocate resources to give themselves the best chance to win. This data is rarely made public, leaving most observers to chew only on broader research released by polling firms looking to boost their own profiles. Forum Research is one such agency that has successfully generated plenty of publicity, thanks in large part to its now monthly snapshot of Ontario voters’ intentions. Some pundits have balked at the methodology, but Forum’s numbers always spur plenty of chatter – including the latest results showing the PCs holding on to a commanding lead. Forum found 44% of decided voters favouring the Tories, compared to 27% for the NDP and the Liberals trailing with 22%. Extrapolating this data to seat counts, Forum calculated an 84-seat PC majority, with the NDP as Official Opposition with 26 seats and the LIBs relegated to just 12 MPPs.
ARE YOU STILL HERE? – Even as nomination meetings take place across the province and electoral slates fill up, the absence of an incumbent MPP’s name is not necessarily significant. (Indeed, for decades Liberal Jim Bradley has made a point of timing his nomination meeting to coincide with the election writ-drop as a campaign kick-off.) But in the current environment, incumbents – especially Liberals – who haven’t confirmed their re-election plans will be subject to extra speculation they are calling it quits. TVO’s Steve Paikin stirred the pot this week, openly suggesting that long-time MPP and Liberal campaign co-chair Deb Matthews is headed for the sidelines. “Matthews herself won’t confirm that, but I’ve spoken to a few of her friends recently who say the deputy premier has made the decision and is waiting for the right time to announce it,” Paikin blogged. “Given she’s spent 14 years in provincial politics and is approaching her mid-60s, no one should be shocked when Matthews announces she’s packing it in as a candidate.” Matthews has not publicly responded.
REST IN PEACE – Norm Jamison isn’t a household name around Queen’s Park, but he personified a unique era in Ontario politics. Jamison, who passed away this week at age 67, was a steelworkers’ union rep who ran for the NDP in Norfolk and unexpectedly landed the gig as an MPP in the province’s lone NDP government under then-Premier Bob Rae from 1990-95. Although Rae subsequently switched allegiances to the Liberals – alienating most New Democrats – he kept a good relationship with Jamison. “I was able to speak with Norm … last week and was glad to be able to share with him my warm memories of his service to the community and the province,” Rae told the Simcoe Reformer. “He was a hardworking, decent, engaging man and was a source of good advice, counsel and support to me as Premier. I thought the world of him then and now. He thoroughly enjoyed his elected service and was an outstanding MPP.”
IN THE HOUSE
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi introduced Bill 163, the Protecting a Woman’s Right to Access Abortion Services Act, to establish safe access zones, prohibiting protestors, around abortion clinics and the homes of abortion service providers.
Naqvi’s bill immediately sparked a round of political gamesmanship, as the Tories – who are keenly aware of the sensitivities around abortion issues, and the potential for divisiveness with the hard-right religious segment of their party – proposed to pass the legislation immediately. This would have required all-party agreement, and it was the Liberals – even though it is their bill – who nixed speedy passage. Their rationale was that stakeholders should have opportunities for input during the legislative process, but the Tories and NDP called them out for playing “wedge” politics. Clearly the Tories would like to get the issue off the table as fast as possible, while the Liberals would prefer to drag it out, letting the Tories squirm if the ultra-right faction gets loud. PC Leader Patrick Brown did his best to head off such discomfort, offering a categorical, “I am pro-choice. That includes protecting women exercising their rights from intimidation or harassment.”
Government and Consumer Services Minister Tracey MacCharles introduced Bill 166, the Strengthening Protection for Ontario Consumers Act, to revamp rules around major purchases including real estate (establishing two administrative authorities – one to administer the new home warranty program and one to regulate new home builders and vendors), travel (new registration requirements for individual travel salespersons), and event tickets (banning ticket-buying software – known as ticket bots – and capping the resale price of tickets at 50% above face value).
The House will be dark next week, as MPPs take a constituency break following Monday’s Thanksgiving holiday.
FOR THE RECORD
“I’ve intentionally not watched it because I really have a lot of other things to do. We’re going into a political campaign. There will be contrast that will be drawn between who I am and who the opposition leaders are.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne, responding to PC pre-election campaign advertising.
“Sometimes it is important to sweat the small stuff. Getting small problems fixed can help prevent big problems, or at the very least, mitigate the impacts of larger concerns.”
Howard Sapers, who led an independent investigation into corrections reform, releasing a 240-page report with 62 recommendations to create a more humane and effective jail system.
“DeVos represents everything a public education advocate opposes. She should keep her backwards ideas out of Ontario.”
Ontario Teachers’ Federation President Chris Cowley, tweeting his disapproval of a planned visit by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who cancelled her trip at the last minute due to a scheduling conflict.
“The government’s position is unconscionable and appalling. There may be a little less traffic on Carnage Alley than before, but there is no shortage of accidents and death. Has it occurred to the MTO that a lot of drivers might be avoiding Carnage Alley precisely because it is so dangerous? My constituents tell me that this is exactly what they do.”
PC MPP Rick Nicolls, renewing calls for a centre median barrier on a dangerous stretch of Highway 401 between Chatham and Tilbury, in the wake of the latest fatal crash in the area. Later in the week Premier Wynne promised that the barrier will be installed, although with no details about timing or costs.
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