JUSTIN TIME – Provincial and municipal elections are now behind us, but the campaigning isn’t about to stop, as next year’s federal election suddenly looms into view. Premier Doug Ford has made it clear he plans to be very much a part of that discourse. There are any number of reasons being postulated for his interest in federal politics – he wants to run for Prime Minister himself, he genuinely loathes PM Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, he’s boosting current Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, he’s keen on the idea of a conservative bloc of Ontario and the prairie provinces – but he is obviously not content to be a passive observer. Trudeau, for his part, made his own Bring-It-On statement this week, choosing Ford’s Etobicoke North riding to announce a new climate change program that will impose a carbon tax but rebate the money back to consumers. Ford wasn’t nearby for the event – he was (conveniently for Trudeau) in Sault Ste. Marie – but didn’t mince words in slagging the federal plan (see For The Record, below).
YOU BELONG TO THE CITY – An up and down 2018 went decidedly up for a handful of politicians who started the year as MPPs and reinvented themselves by winning municipally on Monday. To recap:
Patrick Brown was most notable, succeeding in his bid for Mayor of Brampton – perhaps adding a new chapter to the next printing of his soon-to-be-released book about his tribulations and ouster as leader of the Ontario PCs. Still more plot twists could be on the horizon as he engages with his former colleagues; it’s no secret that many of the Tories around Premier Ford are not Brown fans.
Other ex-MPPs who made it back into public office include a spate of Liberals: Kathryn McGarry as Mayor of Cambridge, Bill Mauro as Mayor of Thunder Bay, Mike Colle as a Toronto City Councillor, Jim Bradley as a Niagara Regional councillor (and a rumoured candidate to be appointed Niagara Region Chairman), Dipika Damerla as a Mississauga Councillor and Granville Anderson as a Regional Councillor in Clarington.
Not so fortunate was Chris Ballard, who went 0-for-2 in elections this year, losing in June then again in his bid for Aurora Mayor.
Elsewhere on the comeback trail – for MPPs from earlier governments – Steve Peters topped all vote-getters in St. Thomas to reclaim a seat on the local council. Others came up short, including former Liberal cabinet minister David Caplan, who lost in Toronto, and Kim Craitor, who was unable to beat incumbent Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati.(Craitor has the added ignominy of an orchestrated campaign against him by opponents. Posters were distributed around the city rehashing his departure from Queen’s Park under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations.)
GET A FIX – So far in its mandate the Ford government has been a blunt instrument, going all-in with its policy decisions. But it is taking a markedly more measured approach in addressing the oh-so-sensitive subject of harm reduction. Health Minister Christine Elliott acknowledged that Premier Ford is personally against supervised injection sites, but evidently Elliott – who has met extensively with experts in the field – talked him into allowing the facilities to continue operating. However, new rules will soon be applied for what will now be called the “Consumption and Treatment Services model” which Elliott said will be “rooted in a relentless focus on getting people the help that they need by connecting them to treatment.” There will be a maximum of 21 sites across the province (there are currently 18), and “wrap-around” services will need to be in place – including connections to health and social services like mental health supports, housing and employment, as well as treatment and rehabilitation services. Consultation with local residents, businesses and police will have to be part of the process, pop-up sites will not be allowed, and all existing locations will have to re-apply, with the new model to be in effect next spring.
HEALTHY CHOICES – “Organizational realignment” are words that strike fear into the hearts of many bureaucrats – especially in a government looking to save money – but reaction to just such an undertaking in the Ministry of Health has been muted so far. Elliott, whose moderate sensibilities seem to make her more acceptable to those fearful of Ford’s agenda (hence the lack of outrage around the harm prevention plan above), announced the restructuring late Friday. It includes the merger of some divisions and branches, and the departure of a few senior bureaucrats – including the Chief Health Innovation Strategist – who were reportedly packaged out (as opposed to being laid off, which would violate Ford’s campaign promise not to fire any civil servants).
IT’S NEWS TO THEM – Still reeling from their election thrashing in June, the Ontario Liberals are trying to stay upbeat. They’ve renamed their weekly newsletter as The Nitty Gritty, playing on their longstanding nickname of “Grits.” In announcing the rebranding, party President Brian Johns explained the roots of this moniker – a group of democratic reformers in Eastern Ontario who demanded of themselves “clear grit all the way through” in reference to the mortar used in stone buildings at the time. Now you know.
IN THE HOUSE
Economic Development Minister Jim Wilson, who is responsible for Red Tape and Regulatory Burden Reduction, introduced Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act. Provisions in the legislation include maintaining the current minimum wage at $14 per hour until 2020, to be followed by increases tied to inflation; repealing Liberal labour reforms, including rules around scheduling and personal emergency leave; and winding down the Ontario College of Trades.
Education Minister Lisa Thompson introduced bill 48, the Safe and Supportive Classrooms Act, amending legislation around teacher certification, including revoking an educator’s licence for any act of sexual abuse of a student or child, and requiring new teachers to complete a math content knowledge test before seeking their certification.
Thompson used a point of order to congratulate her Parliamentary Assistant Sam Oosterhoff – Ontario’s youngest-ever MPP – “for popping the question. And she said yes.”
“Never believe a politician who tells you he will save you money by hiking your taxes. Plain and simple, the Trudeau carbon tax will make life harder and more expensive in Ontario. The people of Canada are too smart to believe that Trudeau’s phoney rebates are anything more than a temporary vote-buying scheme that will be discarded once the election is over. In contrast, the carbon tax rip-off is forever.”
Premier Doug Ford, in a statement about the federal Liberals’ new carbon pricing plan.
“Attack workers We fight Back $15.”
Message spray-painted by vandals on the wall of Labour Minister Laurie Scott’s Lindsay constituency office after legislation was introduced freezing the minimum wage at $14/hr. The office was broken into and trashed.
“No matter how much hurt this government creates, no matter how far they drag us backwards, no matter how many disappointing announcements we get… there is no justification for violence, no justification for criminal activity.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, distancing herself from the vandalism, if not the motivation behind it.
“We promised the people of Ontario to restore accountability and trust in Ontario’s finances. Part of that process means making tough decisions about projects across Ontario.”
Ominous statement from Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Merillee Fullerton, announcing cancellation of post-secondary expansion projects in three GTA communities.
“The previously funded satellite campus was the bare minimum the province could do to provide help and opportunities to young people in Brampton … This is a step backwards.”
Newly elected Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, whose first public issue in his new role was responding to the loss of the planned Ryerson University/Sheridan College campus – a decision some suggested was partly made because Brown won as Mayor, and the Ford Tories don’t like him. Ironically, it was Brown who recruited Fullerton as a candidate when he was PC party leader.