MUNICIPAL ACT-IONS — Nominations for this fall’s municipal election were to close this afternoon, but the Ford government is forcing a change of course. This morning the premier announced reforms to the City of Toronto Act and the Municipal Act that will impose sweeping changes on municipal governance in time for local elections that are only 87 days away. The keystone of the legislative shake-up is shaving the size of Toronto city council nearly in half, from 47 wards down to 25 that align with federal and provincial riding boundaries. Ford is also dismantling another measure from the Kathleen Wynne government, repealing the popular election of regional chairs in the regional municipalities of Peel, York, Niagara and Muskoka. To facilitate these changes, the nomination period will be re-opened and extended to mid-September. The impact of these changes will be significant. Many candidates were already in place and had been fundraising and spending money on their campaigns. And perhaps not incidentally, some of Ford’s foes will be directly affected, and his supporters appeased:
In Peel, deposed PC Leader Patrick Brown (Ford has not split hairs when talking about his feelings towards Brown’s time as leader of the party) had filed papers to seek the chair’s post, as had former Liberal MPP Bob Delaney.
Former Liberal Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca was to be on the ballot for York’s first popularly elected regional chair.
Niagara had an interesting chair’s race shaping up with a local mayor, a former local mayor and the incumbent squaring off, but from the time the previous government announced the post would be popularly elected many PC supporters were not enamoured with the idea. This includes Tony Quirk, a Niagara regional councillor and former Vice-President of the Tories, who noted on Facebook Thursday night that since the Wynne government made the initial change without consultation, he would be OK with reverting to the status quo.
Not surprisingly, the Opposition NDP quickly lined up against the move. Horwath issued a statement at 11 pm Thursday condemning the changes for a lack of consultation and absence during the election campaign as a priority for the PCs. “The actions we hear Mr. Ford plans to take not only mean less accountability and transparency at City Hall, but that each Torontonian will have less help and less access to their city councillor,” Horwath’s statement read. “And reports that Mr. Ford is cancelling elections in which his political enemies are running — elections for the chairs of the York and Peel regions — are deeply chilling.” Legislation facilitating the changes is expected to be introduced Monday.
SUMMER SCHOOL— The possibility of a summer vacation for Ontario’s legislators is looking slim. On Wednesday evening, Ford issued a statement indicating the Legislature could sit for another two to three weeks, which could potentially take the sitting into mid-August. How that will affect a fall session — which would traditionally convene shortly after Labour Day — is still uncertain as more details about Ford’s legislative calendar are as yet unavailable. However, Ford did say the extended session is required because, “Our government for the people still has legislation we hope to pass in the near future.” While the nature of the legislation was unspecified, it can be safe to assume he is referring to the Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, introduced by Environment, Conservation and Parks Minister Rod Phillips on Wednesday (see In the House below) and …
SOMBRE MOMENT— In a rare showing in the Legislature, all four party leaders had an opportunity to address the members on Monday following the tragic shooting in Toronto’s Greektown that claimed the lives of two young people and injured 13 more. MPPs observed a moment of silence for the victims, and each leader took five minutes to express their thoughts, condolences for the victims and their families and appreciation for first responders. Liberal Leader John Fraser and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner were tearing up as they spoke, and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, after praising the work of police, paramedics and health-care workers, turned the floor over to MPP Peter Tabuns, who represents the area: “This morning is a very hard day for my community and for this entire city,” Tabuns said. “For people in my constituency, the Danforth is our home. It is the centre of our community. It’s where families enjoy their dinner together. It’s where couples go for a stroll on a summer evening.” Premier Doug Ford emphasized the need for law and order, with a touch of hope for the future. “What happened on Sunday night was despicable,” he said. “But I hope it is also a catalyst for all of us to come together — to protect our communities against this kind of outrageous violence.”
FIRST AMONG MINISTERS— Ford attended his first Council of the Federation meeting last week — the bi-annual meeting of Canadian premiers — in New Brunswick and certainly left his mark. As is fitting the largest province in the country, Ontario often sets a tone as the “big brother” of Confederation and one of the early priorities of the Ford government has become a priority of Canada’s Premiers. Ontario has been locked in a heated confrontation with the federal government over immigration and refugees, particularly at land border crossings. Incidentally, Canada’s Premiers ended their summer session with a communiqué that highlights this exact issue, which also happens to align with Ontario’s position, calling on Ottawa to “provide full compensation to affected provinces for the costs incurred” as a result of pressures on shelters, housing, education, health care, language training and other support services. Ford’s government followed this up with a formal request of $200 million from Ottawa to cover said costs (see For The Record).
WYNNE IN THE PARK— For the first time since losing the June 7 election, Wynne returned to Queen’s Park. The former Premier has been relatively quiet in recent weeks, toning down her social media presence — her Twitter activity since the election has been limited to a thank you note a week after the election, a post during Pride and a congratulatory note to a former staffer — and skipping the first two weeks of this rare summer session. But Wynne took her place among her Liberal colleagues on Monday — sitting beside Fraser — pressing her successor on the state of NAFTA talks. Wynne conceded to The Toronto Star that it is difficult for her to be sitting across the from government, but she still recognizes the importance of her role: “Somebody said this to me, but it’s what I really believe: there’s no bad seat in that House. There are only 124 of us. It is a huge honour.”
IN THE HOUSE
The Ford government passed its first piece of legislation this week. The Urgent Priorities Act, an omnibus bill that cancelled renewable energy projects, gave the province veto power over Hydro One compensation and legislated an end to the 143-day strike at York University, was supported by the PCs, but voted against by the NDP, Liberals and Green Party.
Phillips introduced the Cap-and-Trade Cancellation Act, which repeals the previous government’s Climate Change Mitigation and Low-Carbon Economy Act, 2016. The act also puts on Phillips’ shoulders the responsibility to prepare a new climate change plan, with progress reports and clear targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“If gay kids don’t know it’s OK to be gay, they are stressed, depressed and that can destroy their relationships with their friends and families. They need to know that being gay is normal. The hatred and lack of understanding is killing us.”
Gay activist Carol Pasternak, participating in a rally on the lawn of Queen’s Park calling for the government to restore a modern sexual education component of the health curriculum.
“What I’m simply asking is that they pay their bills. I would love a cheque.”
Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, requesting the federal government pay Ontario $200 million to cover cost of resettling asylum seekers who have illegally crossed the border into Canada.
“Among Ontario’s strengths are its reputation for fair dealing and respect for the rule of law. Many of the business leaders I represent are concerned that this hard-earned reputation is at risk.”
John Manley, President of the Business Council of Canada and former federal Liberal cabinet minister, urging the Ford government to reconsider its cancellation of 758 approved renewable energy projects in the province.