Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow broker a landmark $9 billion agreement, transferring control of major expressways to the province while allocating funds for crucial city priorities, including transit and homeless services. Photo Credit: Facebook/FordNation The impression often left by Toronto city council over the years is that it always seems to […]
Photo Credit: Facebook/Jill Dunlop When judging the value of the recently released “Blue Ribbon” panel on the financial sustainability of Ontario’s post-secondary sector, it is helpful to remember why governments so often use such bodies to help make policy decisions. Critics often accuse governments of passing the buck or ducking their decision-making responsibility when […]
Photo Credit: Facebook/Stephen Leece If government action can curtail the recent, alarming rise in antisemitism, then Ontario may have a chance of checking the growing number of such incidents in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle East. From street demonstrations to public statements, from university student groups, to violence and vandalism […]
Last week, Minister Jill Dunlop (pictured) made a statement in the Ontario Legislature to publicly “name and shame” those in academia who have been reportedly expressing anti-Semitic opinions and supporting Hamas’ terrorist actions. Photo credit: LinkedIn/Jill Dunlop What is it about Canadian universities? One outcome of the war in the Middle East is to […]
Education Minister Stephen Lecce. Recent EQAO test results suggest the Ford government’s commitment to improving student outcomes is starting to pay off. Math scores, in particular, are trending upwards across all grade levels in both English and French school systems. Photo credit: Facebook/Stephen Lecce It didn’t receive a lot of news coverage, but the […]
Only time will tell. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford It was a rare sight at Queen’s Park last week. A politician stood up, admitted he was wrong, took responsibility, apologized for breaking his promise and abruptly changed course. After weeks of controversy and perhaps irreversible damage to his brand and to his government, Ontario Premier […]
The Premier has proven himself to be agile in the past, and he’ll need to do so again. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford It just keeps going from bad to worse. The controversy over developing some land in the protected Greenbelt, continues to dog the footsteps of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government. After weeks of […]
And it still could help. It is a painful step for any minister, but for the political health and credibility of a government, it is a very important one. It shows that accountability matters. Pictured is Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark. Photo credit: Twitter/Steve Clark If Ontario Premier Doug Ford loses […]
Photo credit: Twitter/Stephen Lecce Cabinet ministers are frequently shuffled into different portfolios according to the changing political priorities of the day. It is a rare gift to be given a long enough tenure in one portfolio to actually develop and execute on a reform agenda. Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce has been given such […]
Instead of providing the media and Opposition members fodder to cry “patronage”, the PCs should focus squarely on the bevy of important initiatives and fundamental changes its successfully making across healthcare, education, housing, and energy. Pictured is Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Downey Governments and politicians only have so much “political […]
Though it’ll be a monumental challenge, the province at least has a long-term plan to ensure Ontarians can keep the lights on in the years and decades ahead. Pictured is Ontario’s Energy Minister Todd Smith in Windsor announcing the government’s new ‘Powering Ontario’s Growth’ plan, July 10, 2023. Photo credit: Twitter/Todd Smith Ontario Premier […]
Bonnie Crombie (pictured) may be a big city mayor, but she has never experienced the level of scrutiny or faced the kind of political challenge that exists when you are running for the province’s top political post. Photo credit: Twitter/Bonnie Crombie The next provincial election just got more interesting. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie has […]
Blackouts, brownouts, increased costs and the like, just how far is the province willing to go to close the carbon gap and achieve the federal government’s audacious environmental goals. Pictured is Minister of Energy Todd Smith. Photo credit: Twitter/Todd Smith Right now, Ontario’s electrical power grid is already 90 per cent non-carbon emitting, carbon […]
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with then-Governor General of Canada David Johnston in 2015. Photo credit: Facebook/Justin Trudeau For those who have been involved in politics, there is a handy “rulebook” – “how to defuse a political crisis 101.” Too bad the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not read it. That is the […]
School boards argue uniformed officers ‘traumatizing’ to racialized, immigrant students. Photo credit: The Globe and Mail/Glenn Lowson What is it with school boards these days? First, we had the bizarre episode of the Halton District School Board who couldn’t figure out what professional dress was for teachers after one insisted on wearing overwhelmingly large […]
There’s no question that updated and expanded training for and increased promotion of the skilled trades in Ontario were long-overdue. However, the province’s pendulum swing in focus over the last four-plus years has caused many traditional institutions of higher education to fall behind in a big way. Pictured is Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and […]
One of the most fundamental duties of government is to keep its citizens safe. Photo credit: CBC/Mark Bochsler As one gets older, it’s not unusual to fear that society is “going to hell in a hand basket”, to use an old expression. Reading about the rapid increase in “unprovoked random attacks” on our country’s […]
As evidenced by their respective budgets last month, there is a major difference between how the province and feds view and intend to deal with government debt and deficits. Pictured is Canada’s Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick Voters often complain that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, […]
And the contrast between Ottawa’s and Queen’s Park’s handling of the situation couldn’t be starker. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld It’s hard to know what Canadians should be angrier about – China’s increasing efforts to interfere with our political processes or the Prime Minister’s appallingly bad attempts to deal with it. For weeks […]
The Toronto Public Library recently launched a new initiative called the “Book Sanctuary”. Its aim is to protect literary works currently being challenged for not meeting the ever-changing rules of “wokeism.” Photo credit: Toronto Public Library What do you think when you hear the word “sanctuary”? Most people associate it with refugees or illegal […]
To help fix our fledgling system, we need better data, more family doctors, higher-performing emergency wards, and greater involvement from the private sector. Photo credit: Getty Images/Brandon Bell Yeah! The federal and provincial governments have done a deal to increase Ottawa’s share of health funding by $46.2 billion over ten years. While that is […]
From the growing disparity between public vs. private sector compensation, to healthcare, to inflation, to the latest “woke” disturbance, right now everything in Canada certainly feels broken. Some politicians, like Pierre Poilievre (pictured), seem to register the resultant pessimism among Canadians. Whereas others don’t appear to notice, or care. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot […]
When you dive into what the Premier and his health minister actually announced last week, you could be forgiven for asking “is that all?”. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford From all the hysterical caterwauling from Opposition parties, public sector unions and other assorted government critics, you would have thought that Ontario Premier Doug Ford had […]
By expanding affordable childcare options for families, Minister Stephen Lecce (pictured) and his team are making it easier for parents to enter or remain in the workforce. Photo credit: Twitter/Stephen Leece For Ontario families looking for childcare support so parents can stay in the workforce, 2023 could be a good year. Ontario Education Minister […]
Though the province wants to be a part of the climate solution, gambling that we can successfully experiment with our electrical supply and prematurely cut out natural gas is not the answer. Photo credit: TVO/Sergey Bobok Ontarians take electricity for granted. We assume that when we turn the switch, the power will go on. […]
Much to the delight of union brass and membership, Ontario’s superior court recently struck down the legislation that temporarily capped public sector wage increases. While the aggrieved are pleased, if the decision stands, it will not only let public sector unions ask for wage increases they might have received in the absence of Bill 124, […]
The status quo cannot be sustained, but getting over our societal paranoia about “innovation” in health care and the bureaucratic inertia that comes with change will be challenging. Photo credit: Getty Images/Mario Tama For a generation – or two – we lulled ourselves into the complacent belief that our health care system was “better”, […]
Premier Ford’s government was just given another majority mandate by Ontarians to do exactly what it is currently doing in ongoing dispute with CUPE: look out for the public interest by way of keeping kids in school and protecting taxpayer money during tumultuous economic times. Pictured is Education Minister Stephen Lecce. Photo credit: CBC/Carlos Osorio […]
The question now is how the government, in close collaboration with the education sector, is going to fix it. Photo credit: Pexels/Jessica Lewis Creative The verdict is in, and it isn’t pretty. The latest test results from the province’s testing agency, the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), confirm the fears of many that […]
Ontario is fast-approaching an energy crisis and so-called “green” fuel solutions will hardly be able to fill the gap. Photo credit: Atura Power Most voters don’t have high expectations of their governments. But they do expect a modicum of common sense. The Ontario government may be on the brink of ignoring it. How else […]
Traditional evaluation methods develop students’ ability to plan, deal with pressure, cope with expectations and, on occasion, experience and learn from failure. Pictured is provincial Minister of Education Stephen Lecce. Lecce’s ministry recently confirmed that local schools and boards can now decide if they will administer an exam to determine a final grade for secondary […]
Direct data for Ontario is not yet available, but all signs from other jurisdictions point to extended school closures having had severe, worrisome effects on students’ academic progress. Pictured is Education Minister Stephen Lecce. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Tijana Martin The quality of our children’s education should be a priority for parents and the […]
There are no quick fixes or silver bullet solutions. It will take time, increased resources, creativity, and better cooperation between government and those on the front lines. Photo credit: The Canadian Press As one watches the Doug Ford government wrestle with the current health care crisis, several observations come to mind. First, one needs […]
Anytime a government tries to talk about changing health care delivery for better outcomes, like the Ford government tried to do last week, the discussion is quickly shut down amidst the scare mongering over “privatization” and “budget cuts.” However, decades of excessive spending and exceedingly poor results indicate talks of change are not only worthwhile, […]
Existing teachers’ contracts are set to expire August 31. High-performing Minister of Education Stephen Lecce (pictured) and his team started negotiations early to ensure educators are back and remain in the classroom this fall so that students can enjoy the “full school experience” after two years of closures and uncertainty. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Nathan […]
Photo credit: Getty Images/WPA Pool Perhaps it’s the summer doldrums. Or maybe it is just because this writer is getting older. Whatever the reason, it seems that our country is just not working well these days. Wherever you look, there is disfunction. Airport chaos and the total meltdown of the country’s passport and visa […]
Janet Ecker, former senior cabinet minister under Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, contemplates the likely contents of key cabinet ministers’ mandate letters from Premier Ford – like that of newly promoted Minister of Health and Deputy Premier Sylvia Jones (pictured). Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette The cabinet shuffle is over and Ontario Premier […]
Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford What’s wrong with this picture? For weeks during the provincial election we heard Premier Doug Ford promise to “get it done.” To build badly needed transit, highways, schools, hospitals, housing. You name it, he was going to build more, faster, and better than the other parties, to create more jobs […]
Both PC leader Doug Ford (pictured with wife Karla) and Liberal leader Steven Del Duca handled the provincial election results with professionalism and tact. NDP leader Andrea Horwath, on the other hand, used her farewell speech on election night to be petty and spiteful. Photo credit: CBC/Evan Mitsui How one deals with victory or […]
For their efforts, the Tories will almost certainly be rewarded another majority mandate Thursday. As it stands, it’s still unclear which left-of-centre party will become Ontario’s Official Opposition. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford If current provincial election polls are right, Premier Doug Ford is sliding into home plate with another majority government. The question is, […]
Costs continue to rise, while student outcomes continue to go down. It would be nice if Ontario’s major political parties would tell us how they intend to fix the problem – which is, fundamentally, about the quality not quantity of educators, as well as the curriculum and testing mechanisms employed. Photo credit: Rodnae Productions […]
NDP leader Andrea Horwath (left) and Liberal leader Steven Del Duca. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn and The Canadian Press/Chris Young You have to hand it to the politicians running in this election campaign. Never let it be said that they are not laying out what they would do if elected. Since the […]
Heading into the June election Doug Ford and his team have a good shot at forming government again, but they’ll have to work for it. Anything can happen in Ontario politics, and a well-run campaign is necessary to any victory. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford Campaigns matter. Just ask former premiers Mike Harris and Bob […]
Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton. McNaughton has done yeoman’s work promoting and modernizing the skilled trades since taking up his portfolio in June 2019. Photo credit: Twitter/Monte McNaughton It used to be that parents wanted their children to grow up to be doctors or lawyers or teachers. Having one’s […]
Ford and feds come together on $10 a day childcare program. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford It seemed like it would never happen. But after months of Ontario Premier Doug Ford saying a deal was coming “soon”, the province and the federal government finally signed an agreement to create “$10 a day” childcare for children […]
Premier Doug Ford. Photo credit: CTV News In politics it’s the little things that can kill you. And if the Ontario government is not careful, they may undermine what look like decent odds for being re-elected. A recent example was a modest dust up in the legislature over how many backlogged surgeries there are […]
Whether blocking a railway, burning a church, blockading a border, or choking the main arteries of our nation’s capital, destructive acts of civil disobedience must be measured with the same yardstick. Photo credit: Reuters/Carlos Osorio Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh may have inadvertently put his finger on one of the root causes of so […]
Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette After two weeks of truckers’ protests/occupation/blockades across Canada, there was a palpable sense of relief last Friday when Ontario Premier Doug Ford stepped up to the microphones to declare a state of emergency and announce tough steps to try and end the mess. Support him or criticize him […]
With less than four months to go until the next provincial election, Ontario’s former minister of finance and government house leader provides an early assessment of where the parties and their respective leaders stand. Pictured left to right: Doug Ford (PC), Andrea Horwath (NDP), Steven Del Duca (Liberal). Photo credit: Postmedia/The Canadian Press If […]
Photo credit: AAMC Watching the continual and increasingly strident demonization of individuals who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 prompted a melancholy and sobering reflection by this author. It brought to mind a visit, several years ago, to Yad Vashem, the museum in Israel dedicated to the memory of the six million Jews who […]
Ontario’s former minister of education under Mike Harris and minister of finance under Ernie Eves weighs in on the province’s recent decision to renew lockdown measures, as well as governments’ handling of the pandemic more generally. Photo credit: University of Pennsylvania In early 2021, a clever person posted on the internet: “I want to […]
Blanket closures of restaurants and schools, for example, are not sustainable options. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Dominic Chan As we end the year, much like we started – fighting a never-ending pandemic called COVID – Ontarians may well be wondering what next… plagues of locusts, perhaps? Just when everyone thought we could get back […]
Emergency department at Etobicoke General Hospital. Photo credit: CBC/Evan Mitsui We have all been so wrapped up in fighting COVID -19, we have not paid enough attention to a more fundamental, longer-term health care issue – the damage being done to our health care system and the health of our population. Another new report, […]
Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Nov. 22, 2019. Photo credit: PMO The job of a provincial premier is to act in the best interests of his or her province, correct? So why are critics dumping on Ontario Premier Doug Ford because his province has not yet signed a deal with the […]
Premier Doug Ford announces minimum wage increase alongside prominent union leaders such as Unifor president Jerry Dias (left), Nov. 2, 2021. Photo credit: National Post/Peter J. Thompson Political junkies will closely watch the next seven months as the Doug Ford government begins its countdown to Ontario’s next election in June. The roll out got […]
Akershus University Hospital, Olso, Norway. Norway topped a recent list of the world’s best heath care systems in regard to access to care, care process, efficiency, equity, and affordability. Canada placed second to last on the list. Analyzing what its peers like Norway are doing right is necessary to Canada improving its own health care […]
Premier Doug Ford with Ontario’s Lieutenant General Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Oct. 4, 2021. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford Last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government kicked off next June’s election campaign with the traditional government Throne Speech. The pre-writ roll-out will no doubt include an economic update in November, a provincial budget next spring followed by […]
Premier of Ontario Doug Ford makes an announcement at Clean Works Corp. in Beamsville, Aug. 4, 2020. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Tara Walton Finally, results for the 2021 federal election are now complete. The election no one asked for has produced a result no one wanted – another minority government with the Liberals nominally […]
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is escorted by security to his campaign bus in London, ON as protestors – many of whom were identifiable as PPC supporters – hurl insults and small stones, Sept. 6, 2021. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette Watching the federal election play out in Ontario this week looks like watching […]
Premier Mike Harris’ head on a platter during a demonstration by teachers and parents in 1997. As Harris’ former finance and education minister Janet Ecker explains, protesting politicians with threatening behaviour is nothing new, but that doesn’t make it any less inappropriate. Photo credit: Toronto Star/Tony Bock Has our democracy come to this? As […]
Bill Davis and his wife Kathleen at the 1985 Ontario PC Party leadership convention. Davis passed away peacefully at his Brampton home on August 8, 2021. Photo credit: Toronto Public Library/Toronto Star Archives A week ago, former Ontario Premier William Davis passed away quietly at his Brampton home at the age of 92. His death […]
Ontario’s Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, June 9, 2020. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette “What were they thinking” was the phrase that came to mind when reading news that the Ontario Government did not include the province’s independent schools when it distributed over $700 million to public schools to fund COVID prevention measures. This […]
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Cole Burston In what universe has the subject of math become a symbol of racism and colonial oppression? Unfortunately, it looks like this one. It all started off well. Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce recently unveiled the new math curriculum for Grade 9 students which will […]
We can’t change history. All we can do is know it, learn from it and move forward. And so it is with the tragic story of Canada’s residential schools, where hundreds if not thousands of Indigenous children died from disease, abuse, malnutrition and social isolation from their families.
While Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch may be forgiven for not waiting with bated breath for the results of the recent provincial cabinet shuffle, the choice of who’s in and who’s out sends important signals about a government and its future direction. Several of Premier Doug Ford’s choices in last week’s announcement are worth highlighting.
In 1970, the Royal Commission on the Status of Women reported that childcare was necessary to support working women if we were to have gender equity.
Fifty years later, advocates are still lamenting the lack of childcare for working parents, particularly women. Back then, it was to promote equality, today it is a critical infrastructure to “rebuild” the country’s COVID-ravaged economy.
Human beings are very good at the blame game. We like a simple explanation that it’s someone else’s fault.
But when it comes to the tragedy of Ontario’s long-term care (LTC) system – where almost 4,000 seniors died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic – there is enough blame to go around.
Reaction to the Ontario government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions over the weekend was loud and emotional. It was as if Premier Doug Ford had decided to say “let ‘er rip” and lifted every rule.
Something quite remarkable happened at Queen’s Park this past week.
When the Toronto Sun’s Brian Lilley asked Premier Doug Ford when youth sports might start up again, the Premier said “I’ve got to get the green light from Dr. Williams and the local medical officers of health.”
Give the Ontario government credit for this one, keeping schools open but delaying the regularly scheduled spring break was the right call.
Take a deep breathe, take a valium, or whatever works, because this constant bombardment of COVID stories – about this model or that, predicting thousands more cases a day and thousands more deaths and the collapse of the hospital system in three weeks, no two weeks, no wait, it will be one week – is not helping.
For Ontario, the past year has been pretty well all COVID all the time. And despite fervent efforts and wishes to the contrary, it looks like COVID will dominate our lives well into 2021. The challenges this presents for the provincial government as it ramps up for the 2022 election are formidable.
If news of your provincial budget disappears from the media a few days after its announced, old Finance Ministers used to call that a “a good budget.” Based on that measurement, Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips’ first full budget should get straight A’s as little has been said or written about it since its delivery-day headlines.
Watching the U.S. election results this week, several observations deserve comment.
Despite fights over which votes were valid and should be counted, (and who thought it was a good idea to allow millions of mail-in ballots to count days after an election?) this is the biggest affirmation of democracy in the country in over 100 years, with voter turnout about to top 70 percent, perhaps even higher when everything is said and done. In some counties it reached an unheard of 90 percent.
A retired but well-read journalist often says the four most dangerous words in the English language are “the science is settled.” True science is never settled. It always responds and adapts to the latest evidence and recognizes that the answer to most scientific questions starts with “it depends.”
Over the past week, the quote has come to mind for this author as COVID cases have climbed, resulting in more provincial government-imposed lockdown restrictions in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa.
It is perhaps ironic that after all the criticism from teacher unions that the provincial government’s back to school plan would be a disaster, the first school closure because of a COVID outbreak was caused by a teacher with COVID symptoms. who came to work and mingled with colleagues who were not wearing masks. Over 700 secondary students in Pembroke are now out of school.
This summer we have been deluged with stories on the pandemic, the federal government’s WE Charity scandal, the first black female U.S. vice presidential candidate, not to mention the almost hysterical coverage of whether or not children can safely go back to school this fall.
Perhaps that is why the news that Ontario now has a $38.5 billion deficit — triple last years’ prediction of $9.2 billion, up over $18 billion from just a few short months ago – seemed to disappear after one day of coverage.
Parents can be forgiven if they are sitting in their socially isolated homes screaming at the ceiling in frustration.
After four months of watching the Ontario government handle the COVID-19 pandemic reasonably well, it is perplexing why they can’t seem to get a handle on how, if and when schools are to re-open this fall. And time is running out.
After 100 days of life with the COVID-19 pandemic, what have we learned?
We have seen both the best and the worst of our governments. Ottawa and Ontario moved bureaucratic inertia aside to quickly help people cope. But we were also hit by rules that didn’t make sense and red tape that got in the way; all reminders that it is not the size of government that counts, but its competence.
Look up “accident waiting to happen” in the dictionary. It would not be a surprise to see “long term care homes” listed. The steady increase in COVID-19 deaths in Ontario’s nursing homes over the past weeks begs the question, how could we have possibly gotten it this wrong when it comes to running and regulating our long-term care system.
As the pandemic continues to shut down economies and societies, social isolation causes one to contemplate many questions that arise about the aftermath.
It is clear there was no real rule book for this, no off-the-shelf manual or box on the wall with the reassuring letters “in emergency, break glass.” Our leaders are making “lifeboat” decisions on the fly, based on the best available information they can obtain about this new threat.
What’s with the toilet paper, people? In the midst of what is shaping up to be the worst world pandemic in the last 100 years, the obsession with amassing vast quantities of toilet paper doesn’t speak well of our ability to set the right priorities. Stock piling hand sanitizers and disinfectants, now that makes sense.
But setting that aside, let’s consider several important lessons from past experience that are impacting how we handle today’s pandemic.
In an era when parents can’t get their kids to put down their electronic devices and get off the internet, observers could be forgiven for asking why the Ontario Government’s new requirement for two mandatory e-learning high school courses has become so controversial.
When you consider that the average student may take some 20-plus courses during their four years of high school, how is a requirement that two of them be on-line, a draconian reform? And the Globe and Mail has reported that 58,000 students already took an on-line course in 2017-18 and that enrolment is climbing by 17 per cent a year.
Well, that pretty well makes it unanimous. All four teacher unions are now participating in rotating one-day strikes and work-to-rule actions that limit such things as report card writing, administrative tasks, extracurricular activities and organizing the province-wide Education Quality and Accountability (EQAO) tests.
How we ever came to this sorry state where extracurricular activities and report cards are not core duties is a long story, but here we are.
As we review the past year and look forward to the new, how to describe 2019 for Premier Doug Ford’s provincial government? Words from English author Charles Dickens come to mind – “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
It started with the government in full damage control mode because of the Premier’s former chief of staff, Dean French – giving relatives and cronies provincial appointments and creating a virtual reign of terror with his aggressive and bullying style.
There’s an old science fiction movie where the aliens take over humans’ bodies, one by one. The individual still looks like the person they once were, but their behaviour changes, spawning the cult saying “who are you really and what have you done with so and so?”
Observers of the Ontario government’s recent behaviour will be forgiven if they are asking the same of the Premier – who are you really and what have you done with the old Doug Ford?
Score one for the provincial government. At the eleventh hour, Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce reached a deal with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) who represent 55,000 education system support staff.
In an unusual move, CUPE had quickly abandoned its work-to-rule efforts and decided to take its members directly into a strike. This would have shut down hundreds of schools across the province, leaving frantic parents scrambling to make alternative child care arrangements.
Summer days are fading. Labour Day is over. Kids are back in school. Must be time for another labour dispute in our education system!
Ontario’s parents may be forgiven for thinking they are in a sequel to the movie “Groundhog Day”, when the hero wakes up every morning to repeat the day before. Lucky for him, he uses the repetitive time to learn important life lessons. It would appear the teachers’ and educational workers’ unions have not.
An old politician once said that “voters rarely vote for what they say they want.” This fall, when Canadians choose their next federal government, they will have a chance to prove the truth or falsity of that statement. They need to think carefully about the signals they will send to politicians at all levels of government about what they consider acceptable conduct.
In 2015, Canadian voters chose a leader who promised sunny ways and a government that would be more accountable, more transparent and more ethical than the last one.
Recent coverage of the political appointments’ controversy in Premier Doug Ford’s government brought to mind George Washington Plunkitt, an infamous New York politician in the early 1900’s who once said, “I never accepted a dishonest dollar.” As long as his voters received good value for the money spent, “honest graft” was okay.
While such an attitude is frowned upon today, federal and political governments inevitably get dragged into similar controversies about “cronyism” or “corruption” when faced with the daunting task of appointing literally thousands of individuals to various roles on government agencies, boards and commissions.
Once again Ontario Premier Doug Ford left supporters and critics alike very surprised by his unprecedented cabinet shuffle – unprecedented in both timing and scope. Governments often tweak a cabinet from time to time, but rarely do you see such massive changes so early in a mandate. And even rarer is a change in Finance Minister.
Affable, well-liked and considered competent, Vic Fedeli has been moved to the Economic Development portfolio; admittedly an important post for a government focused on being “open for business” but a significant demotion from the second most important position in government.
What gives? The good news is that the Premier is admitting his government has problems that need to be fixed. Three public events where you get roundly booed and half a dozen public opinion polls showing your support heading downwards can do that to you.
Ask most teachers in the kindergarten to grade 12 system what they think of outcome-based metrics or system-wide testing and you will be greeted with a less than enthusiastic, even hostile response. Their unions have fought the provincial government for years over anything that would provide sound data on the quality of teaching, the progress of students as a group or the performance of a school.
But as any manager worth his or her salt knows, whether in the public or private sector, what gets measured gets done, to use the old canard. Most employees outside schools are familiar with the annual exercise of goal setting for themselves and for their organizations.
For those who thought Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s first budget would be a “blood-on-the-floor-slash-and-burn” exercise, there was disappointment.
For those who thought the still-new Ontario government would exercise strict fiscal discipline and eliminate the budgetary deficit in four years, they too were let down.
Thus, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli’s promise of a “Goldilocks” approach, balancing the budget not too quickly nor too slowly, was indeed kept. Either direction is a gamble for the government – too fast risks significant damage to services, but too slow means the budget might not be balanced before the next economic downturn occurs.
The most critical date in the life of any government is the day they unveil their first budget. This is where reality strikes — what did we really mean by this campaign promise or that? What takes priority? How can we afford it all?
For voters, it’s the first real chance to assess a new government. Seeing where the government puts taxpayers’ money shows what the government’s real priorities are. Its choices offer important insights into how the government makes those decisions and how transparent it is about it.
For example, is it clear what is being spent on which program or are details buried deep in the budget papers and appendices?
Events happening in Ottawa these days – where two of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s most respected cabinet ministers, both women, resigned on principle – add an interesting backdrop to this year’s International Women’s Day.
Former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould and former Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Jane Philpott are well regarded, both inside and outside of the Ottawa bubble. Resigning from a cabinet position, a role highly prized within the political world, is not done lightly. Whether you agree with their reasons or not, it takes an individual with a deep sense of ethical boundaries.
Some political observers think the Finance Minister is the most powerful cabinet minister, after the Premier. And while technically true, the Minister that often gets the most political attention is the Minister of Education.
It’s not hard to see why. We all went to school. We all have children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews who are in school. Or we have a family member who is a teacher.
Balancing a government’s budget is like losing weight. We all know people, if we haven’t done it ourselves, who start the traditional January crash diet, experience that first wave of excitement as the pounds drop off, only to see the weight creep back on as old eating habits reassert themselves. Reining in government spending to match government revenues is not that different.
The last two governments increased spending to unsustainable levels. Ontario now has the largest debt of any provincial, state or territorial government in the world. Interest on that debt is now one of government’s largest expenses, dwarfed only by health and education spending. The agencies who rate Ontario’s credit rating have continued to downgrade it, in effect telling the world’s investors that we are a riskier place for their money.