ONTARIO LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

September 29, 2017


WEEKLY ROUNDUP

MARKETING FORCES – All that money the Ontario PCs raised last year was bound to show up on the airwaves, and the pre-election cavalcade of advertising is now underway. In what was undoubtedly a huge media buy – TV ads running in prime time and during major sporting events, for example – the Tories’ first wave is decidedly negative, focusing exclusively on reinforcing ill will toward the Liberals and specifically Premier Kathleen Wynne. With the now-standard ominous music in the background, the 30-second spot opens with a stark, “Kathleen Wynne is untrustworthy” – both written on screen and intoned by a voiceover. Those words stay on the screen in an almost subliminal header throughout, while the narrator recites a litany of Liberal scandals (“gas-plant rip-off” … “cash-for-access fundraising scheme” … and so on) wrapped up with, “Just imagine what’s next…” Some observers have noted that this kind of finger-pointing style has backfired in the past, but PC Leader Patrick Brown was unapologetic about the tactics and the tone. “We’re going to continue to have an assortment of ads. Some of them will be about my approach and some, frankly, will be about the Liberal legacy – the record after 14 long years,” Brown explained. “Obviously there’s a lot of scandals that swirl around this government.” Wynne’s Liberals, meanwhile, are test-driving a new campaign slogan of their own, “Fight for Fairness.” For the moment theirs is mostly internal, adorning messages to known supporters.

TRYING TIMES – If trials of Liberal operatives in respective Sudbury and Toronto courtrooms end in guilty verdicts, the political fallout is obvious, critics forever tarring the Liberal government as proven corrupt. But if both end in acquittals, is the Liberal slate wiped clean or does the stench of having been accused in the first place continue to linger? That question looms large as lawyers for the defendants submit arguments that could indeed result in legal exoneration:

  • In Sudbury, written submissions have been filed asking the judge for a “direct verdict” dismissing the bribery charges on the grounds that the Crown didn’t meet “the legal definition of an offence” (translation from legalese:  failed to make its case, resulting in no chance of a conviction).  The trial is slated to resume after Thanksgiving with closing arguments, but the defence teams are aiming to have the whole thing shelved before then.
  • In Toronto, where two former senior Liberal staffers are charged with illegally deleting emails, their lawyers successfully argued that a key Crown witness was too close to the police investigation to testify as an impartial expert. Bob Gagnon is a former police detective specializing in computer forensics, who was recruited to help in the investigation. “He believes he is Ground Zero for this charge,” lawyer Scott Hutchison contended. “He can’t suddenly take off the partisan sweater and sit in the witness box like a referee.” Judge Timothy Lipson agreed, ruling that Gagnon cannot offer opinion evidence  – a potentially significant blow to the Crown’s case.

SHE WAS JUST SEVENTEEN – Wynne surely winces every time the Angus Reid Institute releases results from its regular cross-Canada poll on Premier popularity.  Once again, she finished at the bottom of the list, garnering only 17% support among 5,000+ adults surveyed. Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall continues to be the most popular Premier in the country, although even he has dropped below majority support, with 49% approval.

CAMBRIDGE TOO FAR – Stung by allegations of shady balloting in a raft of nomination battles, the Tories have taken steps to prevent another debacle in Cambridge. While they stuck to their guns and insisted on accepting the questionable outcomes in other ridings – spurring legal action in some cases – in Cambridge the party has acquiesced to head off a growing revolt. A nomination meeting planned for October 4 is being rescheduled, and the application process reopened for new candidates. After some nasty rhetoric – “a war by Patrick Brown on local party members” was how one would-be candidate described the situation – the tone was much softer this week. “We are very pleased to report that Patrick Brown and his team at party headquarters listened to the grassroots of the party,” read a statement from Rob Leone, the former MPP (he lost to Liberal Kathryn McGarry in 2014) who is now the PC riding association president.

SPEAKING VOLUMES – A large gathering turned up at the Legislature for this week’s book launch of Without Walls or Barriers: The Speeches of Premier David Peterson – and they were pleasantly surprised they didn’t have to shell out the $30 price tag for a copy. BMO Chair Rob Prichard and wife Ann Wilson bought several hundred copies to be handed out to everyone in attendance. Peterson quipped, “It was good of Rob and Ann to ensure these didn’t all end up in the remainder bin – we’re on our way to a bestseller!” Luminaries at the reception included Premier Wynne, former Prime Minister John Turner and long-time Ottawa political guru Tom Axworthy. Among the current MPPs spotted in the crowd were Liberals Jim Bradley and Monte Kwinter – who both served under Peterson – as well as Deb Matthews (Peterson’s sister-in-law) and David Zimmer, plus Tories Sylvia Jones, Michael Harris and Ted Arnott. Past MPPs from the Peterson era also turned out in good numbers, including Elinor Caplan, Sean Conway, Steve Mahoney and Phil Gillies to name a few. And the brains behind the Peterson administration – the likes of Hershell Ezrin, Vince Borg, Gordon Floyd and Gordon Ashworth, who would have had significant input into the speeches in the book – were there in force. The event was hosted by Speaker Dave Levac and emceed by omnipresent TVO host Steve Paikin.

IN THE HOUSE

  • Health Minister Eric Hoskins introduced Bill 160, the Strengthening Quality and Accountability for Patients Act, to require the private sector medical industry, including pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers, to disclose payments made to health-care professionals and organizations. The bill also amends nine other pieces of health care-related legislation.

For the current status of government legislation, click Government Bills.

FOR THE RECORD

“What we have in North America is not a monolithic, top-down, total control. Today you’re witnessing three of the subnational jurisdictions committing themselves to a very powerful carbon market, and we expect others will follow.”

  • California Governor Jerry Brown, with an undisguised shot at U.S. President Donald Trump, after signing an agreement for Ontario, Quebec and California to create the world’s second-largest carbon market.

“[It] does nothing to protect the environment. All it does is ships hundreds of millions of dollars into the California economy. We shouldn’t be subsidizing the wealthy in Beverly Hills, especially while families here at home are working harder, paying more and getting less.”

  • PC Leader Patrick Brown [no relation], vowing to scrap the carbon accord if he becomes Premier.

“This sends a real chill. If we don’t permit criticism, then we don’t permit ourselves to improve.”

  • PC MPP Randy Hillier, who is facing workplace harassment allegations from employees in Tay Valley Township. Hillier, a long-time champion of individual rights, insists he was justified in following up on the “disproportionate” number of complaints he’d received from constituents about the municipality’s planning department, and that he will not cooperate with what he called the “Star Chamber” investigation now underway.
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