This week marked nine months since Ontario and Canada began shutting down in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, it marked the second time in those nine months the province has entered into a State of Emergency. Many are questioning what that means because not a lot has changed in their lives.
Sometime mid-Afternoon Wednesday my phone began blowing up with texts of “Are you watching this?” streaming across my device.
So I pivoted from the desk in my home office to my TV and quickly turned on the sound as CTV News showed images of people storming the US Capitol buildings. Another series of texts streamed across my phone with, “Can you believe this is happening?”
In his life before entering politics Peter Bethlenfalvy was responsible for downgrading Ontario’s financial rating.
Now as the province’s new finance minister Mr. Bethlenfalvy will be responsible for upgrading it.
When it comes to the environment I have been wildly more successful than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
It’s true. As Director of Caucus Communications in Premier Gordon Campbell’s British Columbia Government I helped usher in Canada’s first carbon tax. Plus, when I was working to earn money for journalism school I spent two months planting trees in Northern B.C. and Central Alberta.
It is becoming more and more apparent that the government decision to shut down bars, gyms, restaurants and small businesses for in-store shopping, has little to do with stopping the spread of COVID-19 from those establishments.
The real rationale behind the closures had one purpose, to get people to stay home by giving them nowhere to go. While no one has come out and said that in an honest, transparent and forthright way, I am – because it seems so evident.
To no one’s surprise, least of all mine, the latest COVID-19 battleground to take shape isn’t in the halls of Canada’s hospitals, it’s in the corridors of justice.
Canadian Appliance Source, the Toronto International Celebration Church (TICC) and now one of the oldest of Canadian institutions – the Hudson’s Bay Company – is going to court to challenge pandemic lock-down rules.
Earlier this year the Conservative Party of Canada undertook a leadership campaign and once again played a dangerous game of appeasement.
Appeasement is something that seems to be a common trait of the CPC and most conservative politicians in Canada. The idea is a conservative cannot win without appeasing the social conservative ranks amongst their voters.
There are rumblings in the corridors of power in Ottawa that Federal Finance Minister and heir apparent Chrystia Freeland will earmark $1 billion for vaccine production on Monday.
Good thing, perhaps Canada will be able to start producing vaccines sometime in 2025. That is unless the billion dollars is just another empty Liberal promise, like the canoe in everyone’s pot, a promise made in the 2019 election.
On Monday morning as sections of Ontario had just gone back into full lockdown I did something I try to avoid. I read Twitter.
It was the typical political grandstanding common with the Twitter machine.
One thing the woke crowd, the Twitter pundits agree, is conservatives bad, socialists good. It all reads like monosyllabic Neanderthal speak, pounding chest, “me good, me fund hospital, you bad, you support business.”
When I was a little boy I remember going to the lunch counter on Kingsville’s Main Street to get a pop with my older brother.
We likely spent too much of our money on hockey cards so we didn’t have enough left over for food or drink. However, we got Pop Shoppe sodas – cream soda is still my favourite – and they cost 20 cents with deposit or 15 cents if we drank them in the store and left the bottles behind.
You see Pop Shoppe had this ingenious thing called manufacturer responsible recycling. You’d pay for the deposit and if you didn’t return the bottle you lost your money, so there was an incentive to recycle.
The number of known COVID-19 cases in Canada has grown to greater numbers than in the spring proving what we all feared – the second wave is in fact worse than the first.
I say known COVID-19 cases because parliament in Ottawa took the summer off instead of ensuring rapid testing is available for all Canadians before schools came back.
Every four years Canadians – and many others around the world I suspect – wonder out loud how much quicker U.S. elections would go if those doing the count were allowed to remove their shoes and socks.
This way you see, in most cases they could count up to 20.
When Justin Trudeau was elected Prime Minister in 2015 he vowed to do politics differently.
This week he fulfilled that vow by attaching a confidence vote to a committee motion, something never done before in the history of Canada. The reason you ask? Well simple, he didn’t like the result of the last election because Canadians put a check on his power-mad, entitled government.
During the 2018 provincial election, one of the strongest voices for Ontario’s long-term care homes was provincial New Democrat leader Andrea Horwath.
It’s true; the NDP platform had several recommendations to improve – in their mind at least – the province’s failing long-term care system. The focus was, and still is, to make them all public.
When the final book is written on the North American wide response to the COVID-19 pandemic a major contributing factor to why so many mistakes have been made will be partisanship.
This writer has said as early as February, there is no worse time for a pandemic to hit the United States than during an election year. No matter what the science says, no matter what kind of response is needed, the reaction will be based on politics.
One of the criticisms I often heard about Erin O’Toole’s run for Conservative Leadership was he doesn’t have the charisma of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Mr. O’Toole doesn’t come from an ultra-rich super-white privileged family. He didn’t attend private dinners with Fidel Castro, Jimmy Carter or the Aga Khan.
If debt servicing were a ministry of government in Ontario it would be the third largest after health care and education in terms of overall cost.
The reason is Ontario has the largest sub-sovereign debt in the world. Like a household with runaway credit card bills, a massive portion of Ontario’s revenue is dedicated to service interest payments.
The politician most invoked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the 2019 election was not his chief competitor, then-Conservative boss Andrew Scheer, it was Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
Attacking the leader of a lower level of government during an election is an incredibly distasteful act as premiers are the prime minister’s partners in governing Canada. It is the kind of thing you would expect from a leader like US president Donald Trump – then again I believe the two men are incredibly similar in there “do as I say, not as I do” attitudes, so it shouldn’t be surprising.
Growing up in the shadow of the Renaissance Centre on the banks of the Detroit River you learned the common refrain “as the General goes so goes the economy.”
General as in General Motors headquartered in that iconic building centred on the Motor City skyline.
Fuelled by collapsing oil prices and the economic impact of COVID-19, the Province of Alberta is projecting the largest budget deficit in its history at $24.2 billion.
The dwindling fortunes are mainly due to provincial revenues dropping by $11.5 billion and spending – COVID related – increasing by $5.3 billion. The province’s real Gross Domestic Product will decrease 8.8 per cent and see an unemployment rate of 13 per cent, with more than 170,000 jobs lost.
Each year when kids go back to school there is always a corresponding crisis in governments – flooded hospital emergency rooms.
My most intimate relationship with this fact came from my time running northern communications from Prince George for the British Columbia Government.
I want to start by congratulating the Liberal Party for finally appointing a woman to the most important ministerial position in Canada or even Ontario.
Ontario Progressive Conservatives have done it twice. The first was Bette Stepheson in 1985 and the second was Niagara Independent columnist Janet Ecker in 2003.
Almost as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, Canadian financial institutions rolled out plans to defer mortgage payments for homeowners.
In the case of banks the deferral period was six months and other, smaller institutions like credit unions, payments were delayed month to month. The month-to-month deferrals are a common option from most lenders and are usually allowed about once a year.
The problem with the idea of conventional wisdom is for a person to employ it they must first have wisdom and second, it must follow convention.
Given this, the idea that the lens we must use to suggest Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau will be out the door for his failings in the WE Scandal may be premature.
For followers of my column you’ll know I have many times written about why the appearance of conflict of interest is essentially the same thing as an actual conflict.
It is not just some conservative howling in the wilderness saying this. It is actually the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada. Yes the highest court of our land believes you have to avoid conflict and the appearance of conflict as well.
Everyone who has ever worked in a government office has been given the conflict of interest talk – everyone.
Simply put, to uphold the senior tenant of the Canadian Constitution – Peace, Order and Good Government – those elected and employed by government cannot use their position to personally benefit themselves. In Regina v. Hinchy 1996 the Supreme Court of Canada further upheld the standard, ruling a public servant could not award contracts to the benefit of their own company.
Politics and money is a vile soup at the best of times and when you mix in family members and soul sourced contracts it can be downright poison as the ongoing WE charity scandal is showing us.
Warren Moon was one of the best quarterbacks I ever watched play in my entire life and he was forced to ply his trade in Canada with the CFL for one reason – he is black.
Prior to the mid-1980s there were hardly any black quarterbacks anywhere in the NFL. James Harris, formerly of the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams and San Diego Chargers, was the first black quarterback to play any significant number of games in the league from 1969 to 1981.
“It is hard not to feel disappointed in your government when everyday there is a new scandal” – Justin Trudeau
Of course the quote above was when the now prime minister was an opposition critic for youth, a position he no doubt held in part because of his close ties to something called WE.
Systemic issues dealing with children in care are nothing new and there isn’t a government in Canada that can say they have been out front on this file.
So it should be no surprise Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé highlighted many of the issues in his first annual report since he took over the file last May.
Premier Doug Ford’s decision to teach financial literacy starting in grade one is the most blatant and brazen political act he has pulled off since being elected June 2018.
Simply put, if you teach children how to budget, they’ll never turn into Liberal or NDP voters. That is the kind of long-term thinking we need in government.
When I was a younger much more left leaning individual still attending Journalism school – aka before I started paying taxes – I wrote a column extoling the virtues of former Prime minister John Turner.
For those who don’t remember, John Turner had a summer job as PM back in the mid-1980s after Trudeau the elder took his last walk in the snow.
Sometime in mid-October Canadians will be waking up to the sudden realization that bill payments have gone back to normal while large swaths of the economy are still stuttering and sputtering.
Former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau once compared Canada’s close proximity to the United States to sleeping with an elephant.
Canada has the most responsible government in the world, not only can we give the Prime Minister the finger, he can give it to us right back.
The reference of course is to Trudeau Senior’s long past actions, and while I don’t agree with them, it is a truism that makes us Canadian. We have the right to tell the prime minister what we think of him or her without the threat of detainment or a firing squad and he can tell us what he or she thinks of us right back.
To absolutely no one’s surprise the Consumer Price Index for April – more commonly know as the inflation rate – dropped into negative territory in Canada for the first time in more than a decade.
The last time the CPI was in the red was September 2009 as a result of the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
Yesterday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stepped out of his cottage to announce his latest relief package, $470 million for fish harvesters.
I am not now or have ever been a fish harvester and I am sure they are facing challenges, as are most industries. But can someone, anyone, even the Prime Minister explain to me how fish harvesters get $470 million yet farmers are splitting just over half of that – $252 million?
In 2019 the World Bank estimated there are 270 million immigrants around the world who remit a combined $689 billion US to their native countries each year.
Canada has the fourth highest remittances in the world behind the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy. Spain and France round out the top six.
There is a meme circulating that shows a two-lane highway through a flat wheat field with the caption, “Saskatchewan, social distancing since 1905.”
The date refers to when the province, more associated with wheat than people, joined confederation. And anyone who has driven through Saskatchewan recently can tell you there hasn’t been a population boom.
There is a story circulating right now about a truck driver who stops for the night at the only hotel in a small town of Nowhere, Ontario.
He walks in and asks to see the room before he rents it and as a deposit he puts $100 on the desk. The hotel owner gives him the keys and the truck driver goes upstairs.
On April 2, in the midst of a worldwide COVID-19 response, the United Nations decided to cozy up to the regime at the core of the pandemic – the Chinese Communist Party.
In what many would call a bat-guano-loco move the United Nations has decided to appoint China to a UN Human Rights Council panel. A panel designed to play a role in selecting human rights investigators.
In the doom and gloom health and financial forecasts peppering every news channel and daily media briefing it is tough to think there is any good news out there.
Brief moments of levity, like Premier Doug Ford proclaiming the Easter Bunny an essential service, are far too rare – and somehow criticised for making light of something in dark times.
I went for a bike ride to pick up some essentials on Tuesday and decided to take a spin through the Queen’s Park grounds.
As I was riding past the east entrance I saw Premier Doug Ford climbing into his ride. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the premier – I kind of wish I did – but I did do something many of us in Ontario are doing right now, I gave him a “thumbs up.”
When Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips stood in Queen’s Park on Wednesday to deliver an economic update in place of the 2020 budget he had one job – make sure the cure for COVID-19 isn’t worse than the pandemic itself.
By cure I mean the response from an economic standpoint, not the actual vaccination health care professionals and scientists around the world are working on right now.
There was a positive sense of glee across Premier Doug Ford’s face during his Wednesday presser as he spoke of the Beamsville, Ontario distillery Dillon’s.
For anyone who has not heard, the Beamsville distillery is changing course somewhat to turn its booze making apparatus into hand sanitizer production. According to reports the sanitizer will be provided for free to health care workers and first responders.
This may be a total shock to my readers, but I am going to say something nice about the Ontario Liberal Party.
Right now the number one challenge to Premier Doug Ford’s Ontario PC government does not come from the official opposition – the Ontario NDP. The biggest challenge to Mr. Ford comes from the party of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne – now under new management.
During the 2018 Ontario Election campaign PC Leader Doug Ford said he would open up the mineral and economic riches of the so-called “Ring of Fire” even if he had to bulldoze the road himself.
The “Ring of Fire” is roughly 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay and is said to possess multi-generational economic potential. Key finds in the area are chromite, nickel, copper and platinum.
Nearing the wind up of his presidency Barrack Obama lamented he did not do enough to heal partisan woes in the United States.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times he invoked Voltaire, the French philosopher, who warned not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Nearly two years ago B.C.-based newsman Tom Fletcher wrote an interesting piece about hyper-organized protests targeting the Canadian natural resource industry.
His article cited leaked documents obtained by the BC Liberal opposition describing well-funded and even better organized professional protestors targeting Canadian energy projects. The writer of the document, “Action Hive Proposal,” was Cam Fenton. Mr. Fenton is a Vancouver-based writer who works for 350.org – an environmental protest group based in Oakland, California.
Former British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell believed strongly that to create economic prosperity in Canada’s more westerly province the government first needed to resolve long-standing disputes with First Nations.
As a communications officer assigned to the Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations in 2004 I saw the potential first hand. My position was issues management and press secretary and as such I dealt with the good news – agreements and negotiations – and the bad news, blockades and protests.
Anyone growing up in the late-1980s or early 1990s no doubt saw the hit movie starring Christian Slater – Pump up the Volume.
The premise of the movie is basically, after moving to a new town, Slater’s parents got him a short-wave radio to talk to his friends from the old town. Slater’s character was clearly brilliant and figured out how to turn the short-wave radio into a pirate radio station – it’s been 30 years and I have no clue.
Very early in my journalistic career I learned the mantra “if it bleeds it leads” and the various machinations of the term.
It didn’t always refer to the more macabre stories in nature. The phrase also refers to the stories that get people’s dander up the most – i.e. the latest in the endless teacher or school disputes or who is marching in what parade.
Anyone following the ongoing labour dispute between Ontario teachers and the province has heard about the wage-increase legislation. Or at least that is what I would call it if I was working for Premier Doug Ford – I am not.
The Ontario Government in an attempt to quell unsustainable budget increases has decided to allow for an increase of one-per cent for public sector unions. This type of wage increase has been attempted before in Canada and this writer in fact lived under a zero per cent cap while working in government in the past.
You would hope even most ardent anti-Ford partisans would concede the Premier’s tone has changed greatly in his second year of office. Yet there are some that still see him as the devil incarnate and they will never change so let’s not focus on that rabble.
Then again I doubt that cabal would read anything I write anyway, so let’s start over.
It may surprise people in the Niagara Region to learn that when you speak to people in Ontario – well Toronto and Queen’s Park – they think credit unions are a western Canadian thing.
It may surprise those people in Ontario’s capital to learn that not only are credit unions an Ontarian thing – they began in our province. And today the Ontario credit union system is the second largest system in Canada outside of Quebec.
The holidays have ended and no doubt everyone who spent time with family heard what is wrong with Ontario and Canada. More often than not how to fix it also got thrown in.
Whether it’s that one uncle or perhaps granddad going over the top complaining about this tax or that program, there is always an opinion. Sometimes it leads to arguments, sometimes others muttering, “would they please shut up” under their breath, sometimes more eggnog.
Simply because something works in other jurisdictions or other countries doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for Ontario. And in many cases the same can be said for whether it is right for Canada.
Nowhere have we seen foreign pressure to act on perceived “issues” greater than in Canada’s – and Ontario’s – housing market and banking supervision. Much of the pressure came from the subprime mortgage crisis in the U.S. and, I believe, runaway imagination stemming from people taking the movie The Big Short as fact and not simply a Hollywood movie based on real events.
Anyone who has ever taken an economics course or watched a TV program that discussed economics or read a book – any book really – understands the law of supply and demand.
Basically if you have demand for something than the market will produce supply. Transversely, if you have supply of something a demand can be created through others means – i.e. no one wanted to buy sliced bread until they could get it.
In 2002 the newly minted Gordon Campbell Government in British Columbia introduced the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act, effectively tearing up a wage hike agreement that B.C. nurses cut with the former NDP provincial government.
The nurses’ deal was considered unsustainable and nothing more than a political tactic of a failed government trying to save the furniture in the 2001 B.C. election. They didn’t save the furniture – just two seats – and Mr. Campbell’s B.C. Liberals swept to a 77-2 election thrashing of the NDP. Opposition to the nurses’ deal was part of the B.C. Liberal’s campaign strategy.
From 2008 to 2015 Ontarians paid $37 billion more than the market price for electricity according to Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk.
The December 2015 AG report also found the then Liberal Government overruled expert advice, tearing up two long-term Ontario Power Authority plans for the electricity system. The AG called the decisions politically motivated actions driving up prices for consumers.
One of the largest complaints of provincial regulators I fielded while working for the credit union trade association was the swiftness of authorities to resolve issues with unhealthy institutions.
Not underhanded mind you, but institutions whose revenues have flat lined or retracted. Often the institutions, once salvageable, had become more of a burden to rescue than a benefit. If the regulator had the power to act more quickly then the credit union that is taking over the merger could be in a better place.
There are more than 10,000 people on the Niagara Region’s affordable housing wait list and that number is bound to get bigger with the economic success of the province.
Sure, that sentence likely doesn’t make sense, but the fact is, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association, homes in the region have appreciated by more than 80 per cent in the past five years. New pressures including the expansion of the Go Train will bring more and more families to the region – even some whose breadwinner or winners work in Toronto.
An Abacus Data poll this past summer ranked “Housing Affordability” as the fifth most important issue for Canadians heading into the Oct. 21 federal vote. The issue of housing affordability was only three per cent less important to those polled as “Climate Change.”
Still, I don’t remember any marches or rallies on home buying during the election. Perhaps that is why the policies the parties presented for those issues left so many Canadians wanting.
Hidden amidst the announcement of more money for health care, education and accelerated deficit reduction in the 2019 Fall Economic Statement Nov. 6, was an interesting comment on environmental programs in Canada.
On Wednesday, Nov. 6 Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips will give his mid-year report card on the province’s finances during the Fall Economic Statement (FES).
It will go something like this: “Thanks to the hard work of Ontario’s all star ministers the province is ahead of schedule to balance the budget within four years. By targeting efficiencies, and not cuts, the province is protecting the services Ontarians need most, and thanks to the great work of Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli, making Ontario open for business, we have been able to increase revenues all the while lowering taxes.”
More than 7,000 Liuna members from across Ontario marched on Queen’s Park to protest the government and hear the leader of the official opposition speak.
It was April 23, 2018, the government they were protesting was that of Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne and the opposition leader they were there to hear speak was new PC Leader Doug Ford.
Joe Biden served Barrack Obama for eight years as his vice-president. By all accounts he wasn’t a total disaster and from what I know he never wore black face.
Mr. Biden is in the fight of his life for the Democratic Party nomination in the United States, the same country Mr. Obama was president. So you would expect the former leader of the so-called free world to support his friend, former running mate and fellow American. Nope.
There is an old adage in politics that you complain up. Anyone who has watched a Niagara municipal council meeting understands that. And when a senior level politician complains down it is often seen as petty almost oafish.
Then there we were Wednesday. Justin Trudeau used Doug Ford’s name nine times in a single announcement. It wasn’t the most he has invoked the Premier of Ontario, that was on this writer’s birthday, Sept. 23, when he said “Doug Ford” 13 times.
So I walked into Canadian Tire after being a panellist on the John Oakley Show in Toronto, Monday and found myself looking at an assortment of canoes and kayaks on sale for season’s end.
One particular blue kayak caught my eye and the price tag only $399. I turned to my friend and said, “ya know, if I buy that I’ll still have $1,600 left for other camping gear.”
Hidden deep in April’s budget delivered by then finance minister Vic Fedeli was a commitment to modernize credit union rules in Ontario.
The decrepit Credit Union and Caisses Populaire Act, 1994, was written before, well, the Internet and is one of the few surviving relics of the Bob Rae era in Ontario. So if you happen to be one of the half-million or so on the Niagara peninsula and Golden Horseshoe that is a credit union member, take comfort knowing that Rae-days may be gone, but the rules governing your life savings remain largely the same.
The value of debates during an election campaign has long been in question and never moreso than following the MacLean’s/CityTV Leaders’ Debate Sept. 12 in Toronto.
The strategy of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau skipping the debate was pretty simple. It was a frontrunner strategy where he saw no upside as the NDP was floundering; the Greens were cutting into their votes and the Liberal attack on the Conservatives hadn’t changed since the 1990s – just go with ‘hidden agenda’.
The World Justice Project 2019 Rule of Law index ranks Canada 9th in the world with high-scores for “no improper influence” and “no corruption.”
I wonder what next year’s rankings will find given the SNC-Lavalin Scandal and the ham-fisted way the government mishandled it and continues to do so. The amazing thing about this, if it was ever really about jobs, is that there was a way to do it properly.
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has been damned if he does and dammed if he doesn’t for most of his tenure at the top of Canada’s natural third party.
First off, Queen’s Park’s former best-dressed Member of Provincial Parliament decided to introduce himself to Canadians before running for a seat in the House of Commons. This was decried by some as a bad move because Ottawa was where the national press is. So he ran and won a seat in Burnaby – a place he has no ties to and doesn’t represent an NDP power-base because it’s on the wrong side of Canada for national media attention.
Shortly after the 2011 provincial election I made the decision to take the Queen’s Park Golden Parachute and move on to greener pastures. My numbers may be wrong, but I clearly remember they were a grand total of 12 to 14 weeks and the paycheque I cashed was nowhere near the $450,000 plus two senior staffers to former Premier Kathleen Wynne pocketed.
So I was a little incredulous to see the former premier defend the decision saying it was in line with other jurisdictions, when from my experience it wasn’t even in line with her own – albeit the opposition side of things. I immediately felt what it is in line with is the entitled way her government acted for many years when dealing with Ontarian’s money.
The Ford Government has given Ontario gas stations until Aug. 30 to place stickers informing motorists of the cost of the Federal Carbon Tax.
The idea of course is to inform motorists and carbon consumers of the additional tax. The number one issue for Canadian voters heading into this year’s election is the cost of living and new taxes, well; they increase the cost of living.
In the past 20 years of covering elections, working on elections and managing politicians there is a common thread of top issues. It is always health care, health care, and health care. Unless of course, as former President Bill Clinton famously said, “it’s the economy stupid.”
So small wonder the federal parties seem to be tossing about to figure out an agenda that has neither of those issues as number one. Health care, because everyone says it in polling regardless of the reason, I suspect, so they don’t feel stupid, is sitting at number two on the latest Abacus Data issues poll July 15.