Tuesday November 20, 2018
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A Change in Fiscal Direction, Details to Come

by Catherine Swift

Now that we’ve had a few days to look over the Ontario PC government’s first financial document – the 2018 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review – there is more clarity about the government’s major priorities and how it intends to achieve them. But it is primarily a directional document, with many plans for reviews and studies in various areas, as opposed to detailed prescriptive actions. Mind you, that is not surprising for a government that has only been in place less than six months.
The Review certainly indicates a sharp change in direction from the previous Liberal government. For instance, instead of dictating labour policy in ways such as forced minimum wage increases, this government will assist lower income workers by eliminating provincial income tax for those earning less than $30,000. This is a preferable approach as it helps those who need it, while avoiding distorting the labour market and eliminating entry-level and part-time jobs by imposing sharp minimum wage hikes. The PCs have also prioritized the reduction of red tape, something that the previous government increased with abandon. This is welcome news to businesses, and especially small businesses which bear the lion’s share of the red tape burden. Other sensible moves to address urgent issues include: removing rent controls on new apartment units to encourage construction, reversing the previous government’s plans to go along with the federal government’s increase in taxation on the so-called “passive income” of small businesses, cancelling the plan for yet another surtax for high income earners, and ending subsidies for political parties by 2022, among other things. In keeping with this government’s promise to provide better transparency than their predecessors – which would not be difficult given the Liberals’ propensity for obfuscation and deception in their financial reporting – the Review was actually more straightforward and readable than versions we’ve seen over the past few years.

It’s (Not) Official!

by Catherine Swift

Following the June 2018 Ontario election, there was much discussion around how the Liberal party did not win enough seats to achieve official “recognized” party status. At that time, the threshold for official party status was set at eight seats in the legislature, and the Liberals only managed to win seven. The Liberals then appealed to the victorious Progressive Conservatives to bend the rules and grant them official status, despite their not having won the requisite number of seats. It was an interesting show of chutzpah on their part, considering that back in 2003 when the NDP did not win enough seats for official party status and asked the governing Liberals to alter the rules in their favour, the Liberals refused. But then, Liberals have never been short on chutzpah.
Official party status is kind of a big deal. Along with the appropriate bragging rights, it means considerably more resources to be able to devote to research, staff payroll and other key functions of a political party. Without official status, MPPs are required to sit as independents in the legislature, with limited ability to participate on the same basis as MPPs of an official party in debates, Question Period and other goings-on. Not having official status is a major impediment for a political party in many ways.

Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli released their first formal economic statement at Queen’s Park Thursday. Dubbed “A Plan for the People”, the statement was the first formal budgetary step in the Ford government’s implementation of its campaign commitments to provide tax relief to Ontarians, make the cost of living more reasonable, stop provincial government wasteful spending and deficits and restore trust, transparency and accountability to Ontario’s finances.
The statement was made amid the backdrop of Ontario’s auditor general, the Fiscal Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) and the special Financial Commission of Inquiry all concurring that the previous Liberal government had not balanced the books in 2017-2018 (as they had claimed). The Commission of Inquiry pointed to a $6.7 billion deficit – and worse – that the Liberals had set the province on a path to a $15 billion deficit for 2018-2019.

Evidence Counts

by Catherine Swift

We regularly hear from governments of all political stripes about how very devoted they are to “evidence-based” policies. Yet upon examination, many governments ignore the actual evidence to pursue policies that conform to their ideological beliefs rather than the facts. A good example was Ontario’s previous Liberal governments of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne. These governments consistently ignored the advice of experts on issues ranging from hydro policy to minimum wages, and instead followed their own personal biases and implemented disastrous policies which Ontarians are still paying for today. Justin Trudeau’s federal government also made a big deal out of their supposed “evidence-based” policy approach, then pushed ahead with such things as dramatic changes to small business taxation and big-spending fiscal practices that the experts told them to avoid, with predictable negative consequences.

The Queen’s Park Shuffle

by Catherine Swift

Ontarians were surprised this week to find there had been a mini-Cabinet shuffle in the Ford government. It’s unusual for a government that has only been in power for a few months to change any of their Ministers. But once the details started to come out, things began to make a lot more sense.
In this era of #MeToo, there is zero tolerance of anyone who has been accused of any type of sexual impropriety, whether or not there is any proof that such a thing actually took place. The Cabinet shuffle, which involved six portfolios, was apparently triggered by the resignation of veteran MPP and Minister Jim Wilson based on allegations of sexual misconduct. The initial announcement of Mr. Wilson’s stepping down said it was because of his need for treatment for substance abuse, but later the claims of sexual misconduct were revealed. When questioned as to why the initial announcement did not mention the sexual misconduct details, the Ford government stated that they were trying to protect the rights of the accuser. Wilson did not only depart Cabinet but also left the Conservative caucus and will now sit as an independent MPP. Wilson’s former post as Minister of Economic Development and Trade will be taken over by House Leader Todd Smith.

Carbon Tax Attacks!

by Catherine Swift

Over the past few weeks, it has become clear that the defining issue of the 2019 federal election will be the carbon tax. Prime Minister Trudeau is increasingly staking his reputation and that of his government on their commitment to imposing a federal carbon tax on the country, even as a growing number of provinces elect governments who have campaigned on an anti-carbon tax platform. So, given the high profile this issue will have in the months leading up to the next federal election, it’s a good time to do a recap of where Canada currently stands.
Although Trudeau now claims he was elected in 2015 to implement a carbon tax with the full support of Canadians, the truth is actually quite different. Trudeau did mention “putting a price on carbon” in the run-up to the election, but was very vague as to any specifics. Since that time, Canadians in several provinces have seen carbon taxes implemented in a number of different forms. Having now experienced the reality instead of the pleasantly painless theory, many have decided they don’t like it and have subsequently voted for provincial governments that openly and emphatically oppose a carbon tax. The election of the staunchly anti-carbon tax Doug Ford government in Ontario this past summer added considerable momentum to this fight.

Free Trade Within Canada Still Elusive

by Catherine Swift

While most of the focus on trade issues in recent months has been on NAFTA renegotiations, the long-standing difficulties of the provincial and federal governments to accomplish a more liberalized trading environment within Canada remain unresolved. The latest pan-Canadian attempt to tilt at this particular windmill resulted in the so-called Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), signed on to by all provinces with much fanfare in mid-2017. Like all of the Trudeau government’s initiatives, the CFTA was hailed by the Prime Minister as a singular triumph and a major breakthrough on a long-standing issue. Yet` once again, like pretty much all of the Trudeau government’s initiatives, the boastful hype far outstripped actual progress. In fact, the CFTA to date has been a major disappointment.
A recent meeting between Ontario Premier Ford and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe may have breathed new life into the whole issue of interprovincial trade barriers. Although the two provinces’ opposition to the federal carbon tax regime once again captured most of the headlines around this meeting, Ford and Moe also stated that they wanted to prioritize policies to free up trade between Ontario and Saskatchewan and signed a Memorandum of Understanding to this effect.

It’s Time to Red-line Red Tape

by Catherine Swift

One of the issues for business that never gets the attention it deserves is that of “red tape”, defined as the plethora of rules, regulations and other requirements that government imposes on businesses and, in turn, on individual citizens. Despite the fact that taxes get most of the attention in discussions of competitiveness – and taxation is a very important issue for businesses – surveys by business groups such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Chambers of Commerce and others show that the perennial number two issue after taxes is red tape. And red tape is far from just a nuisance, which it surely is, but also imposes substantial costs on an economy and is a major drag on competitiveness.
Of course, sensible regulation is essential and an important part of the job of any government. But far too much regulation comes about not to accomplish reasonable things such as ensure safety in workplaces, establish and enforce proper standards in important professions or oversee a safe food supply, for example. Instead, much regulation comes about as a result of one special interest group or another lobbying government to put in place measures to protect them from competitors or from overly ambitious governments engaging in “regulatory creep” as they encroach on areas that have no need for government oversight or that another level of government is already dealing with effectively.

If Your Only Tool is a Hammer…..

by Catherine Swift

The unions and the rest of their left-leaning brethren have once again shown their true colours this week with violence, vandalism and death threats for Ontario conservative politicians. This is nothing new for this gang, who frequently lower themselves to thuggery when they find themselves not getting their way. It was behavior more befitting a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum when denied some candy than supposed grown-ups dealing with policies enacted by a duly elected government.
This latest bozo eruption involved vandalizing Labour Minister Laurie Scott’s constituency office and leveling death threats against Premier Doug Ford, ostensibly for introducing the “Making Ontario Open for Business Act”, which reversed many of the extreme anti-business measures contained in the previous Liberal government’s Bill 148. Of course, no one has claimed responsibility for these foolish and illegal acts. Deep down, bullies are always cowards, and if the perpetrators were truly committed to their point of view, they should not be hiding under the cloak of anonymity.

A Needed Hydro Adjustment

by Catherine Swift

The Ontario government has made some fairly minor changes to hydro policy in their short time in office to date, but has not addressed the elephant in the room – sky-high hydro rates that are hurting the competitiveness of the provincial economy and damaging the finances of residential users. There was a time when Ontario’s very attractive hydro costs were a boon to the economy and something the province regularly cited as a major competitive advantage for the province. It is time we returned to those days, and the Ford government has expressed its willingness to achieve this goal.

More Carbon Tax Hot Air

by Catherine Swift

The latest development in the ongoing saga of Doug Ford, the cap-and-trade/carbon tax situation and the province’s finances has hit the news.  It involves a recent report by Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer, Peter Weltman, that getting rid of the Liberal’s cap-and-trade program will mean a $3 billion shortfall to provincial revenues.  The media coverage of this report was pretty much uniformly negative. Yet what it really means is that Ontarians will now have $3 billion more in their wallets rather than in the coffers of government.  The news also puts the lie to any remaining belief that this form of “putting a price on carbon” was even remotely revenue-neutral, and that it was after all just another tax grab to boost government revenues. 

Right from the start, the cap-and-trade concept was suspect.  The European Union was one of the first regions to adopt such a system back in 2005, and it has been rife with problems ever since.  Cap-and-trade is a complicated and expensive means of dealing with environmental issues as it entails setting up a market where carbon credits are traded among businesses on the basis of whether the emissions of a particular business are over or under a government-mandated level.  The European system basically ended up full of fraud as corporations became adept at gaming the system with significant negative impacts on the economy and much less-than-expected environmental benefits. 

Smokin’ Mad about Pot

by Catherine Swift

It seems we don’t have to look at the funny pages to find humour in the news these days. Last week, Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) President Smokey Thomas challenged Premier Doug Ford to a debate on the topic of Ford’s “irresponsible” plan to sell cannabis through private sector stores instead of government-controlled retailers. Thomas even stated, apparently with a straight face, that Ford “can even stack the room with his army of Harperite lackeys.” Hilarilty ensues. This kind of comment is especially hilarious since it is the unions that specialize in regularly stacking their meetings and press conferences with people paid to behave like trained seals.

The Clock is Ticking

by Catherine Swift

Provincial governments across Canada got a wake-up call this week from the annual tome entitled “Fiscal Sustainability Report” from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), which outlined the looming armageddon for provincial finances in Canada. No provinces were spared bad news, although the situation is more dire in some provinces than in others. The report essentially looks forward 20 to 30 years and forecasts the amount of debt that the various provinces will be facing at that time if current trends continue.

A Busy Year in Politics

by Catherine Swift

The coming year promises to be a very interesting one for political junkies in Canada, with a number of provincial elections on the agenda as well as the federal election in October 2019. The New Brunswick election just took place this past Monday and ended in a virtual deadlock, with the provincial Conservatives winning 22 seats to the Liberals’ 21, and 3 seats each for the Greens and the People’s Alliance party. Recounts are underway and at this time there is no certainty about which party will ultimately end up in power, or even if another election is on the horizon for the near future.
The next provincial election is scheduled for October 1 in Quebec, where the incumbent Liberals are neck-and-neck with the more right-leaning Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) party, an amalgamation of Quebec nationalists and federalists, was founded relatively recently in 2011. Although the Liberals, led by Premier Couillard, have been quite fiscally conservative during their time in power, a win by the CAQ would likely mean a shift to the right in Quebec politics. Next month will also see municipal elections in a number of Canadian provinces, including here in Ontario.

Cooking the Books

by Catherine Swift

It has become so predictable that it is almost a cliché. A new government is elected, takes a little time to get the lay of the land, and then declares that – lo and behold – the financial situation left by the previous administration is worse than expected! And this scenario regularly takes place no matter the political stripe of the outgoing or incoming government.
History repeated itself last week as the Ford government publicized the report of the Independent Financial Commission of Inquiry, which found the actual deficit for the current fiscal year was not $6.7 billion as the previous Liberal government had claimed, nor was it the $11.7 billion Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk had estimated after factoring in irregularities that Ms. Lysyk had identified as wrongly accounted for by the Liberals. No, the Commission found that the actual deficit was a staggering $15 billion – more than double what was claimed by the Liberals.

An Appealing Decision

by Catherine Swift

OK everybody take a valium. It’s time to calm down, stop the desk-pounding, foot stomping and yelling and screaming. The notwithstanding clause will likely not be used in Ontario for the first time ever, so the rights and freedoms of Ontarians are safe and democracy will live to fight another day.
On Wednesday, a panel of three judges on the Ontario Court of Appeal granted the Ford government’s request for a stay of the previous court decision that ruled the government’s legislation to reduce the size of Toronto City Council from 47 to 25 seats was unconstitutional and therefore could not proceed. The appeal court essentially stated that the earlier decision of Ontario Superior Court Justice Belobaba was incorrect, and that although the Ford government’s actions to cut Toronto council could be construed as unfair, that does not mean they were unconstitutional. The Toronto municipal election can now go ahead with 25 council seats up for grabs, and the province does not have to use the Charter’s notwithstanding clause after all.

Time to Move On

by Catherine Swift

As the circus at Queen’s Park continues to unfold over the Ford government’s plan to proceed with almost halving the size of Toronto City Council, opposition parties continue to distinguish themselves by their childish antics, noisy protests and melodramatic speeches. One of the latest salvos from the opposition benches was questioning how much extra taxpayers were being charged for additional sittings of the legislature on the weekend and in the wee hours of Monday morning to attempt to have the Bill passed in time to permit a reasonable period before the Toronto municipal election. It is rich indeed for Ontario Liberals in particular to suddenly develop a concern with wasting taxpayer dollars after a long period in power when they squandered more money year after year than any other Ontario government in recent memory. In addition, the Liberals and NDP have both been actively throwing whatever delaying tactics they can muster to slow down the Bill’s passage, guaranteeing that more tax dollars are expended in the process.

Revolt at Queen’s Park

by Catherine Swift

You’ve got to hand it to the left – it doesn’t take too much to get them riled up out of all proportion to the issue at hand. In their latest attempts to rally opposition to the Ford government’s plan to reduce Toronto City Council to 25 members from 47 – and to employ the Notwithstanding Clause of the Charter to do so if necessary – Andrea Horwath’s NDP was so disruptive in the Ontario Legislature this week that they had to be ejected from the premises. There were also a handful of protesters in the gallery that were compelled to leave as they would not stop their noisy protests so that the legislature could conduct business. Although some members of the media tried to make it appear as it this was some kind of massive protest, actual photos of the legislature’s visitors’ gallery and the lawn of Queen’s Park showed that protesters were actually not that numerous.

Who really cares about Sex-Ed?

by Mark Towhey

This week, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario launched a lawsuit against the provincial government over its decision to revert to an older sexual education curriculum while it reviews the most recent syllabus. A promise to do exactly this, played a role in the government’s election.
Despite all the bluster, all the rhetoric and the tidbits of scandal, the unadulterated truth of the matter is this: none of the loudest voices in Ontario’s sexual education debate really gives a damn about Sex-Ed. Not the teachers. Not their unions. Not the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Not the NDP opposition politicians. Not even the government.

Free Speech at Last?

by Catherine Swift

Following up on an election promise, Premier Doug Ford recently announced some details on his plan to enhance freedom of speech on post-secondary campuses. It is a sad reality that this kind of policy would be needed at all in this day and age in a supposedly modern society, especially considering that for many decades universities and colleges were widely recognized as bastions of free speech, and fiercely proud of it. But unfortunately, creeping infiltration of much of our education system by unions and other left-leaning interests has meant that virtually anyone with an even slightly conservative perspective on issues is quickly dismissed as “alt-right”, Neanderthals or even Nazis, while extreme leftist views are not only tolerated but often encouraged.
The substance of Ontario’s campus free speech policy is eminently reasonable to anyone analyzing it objectively, as it is based upon the widely acknowledged, accepted and respected University of Chicago Statement on Principles of Free Expression. It is designed not only to protect free speech but ensure hate speech, discrimination and other illegal forms of speech are not allowed on campus. Ontario post-secondary educational institutions are to develop and implement a free speech policy starting January 1, 2019 and begin reporting on their progress as of September 2019. Institutions not in compliance could face a reduction in funding, and unresolved complaints are to be directed to the Ontario Ombudsman.

Labour Day Blues

by Catherine Swift

The Labour Day weekend is upon us once again, and the unions in Ontario appear to be devoting much of their energy to opposing various initiatives of the Ford government. Whereas unions used to be primarily concerned with the interests of their members, these days it seems they are more preoccupied with pursuing various social causes and partisan politics.
The composition of the union movement has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Today, only about 14 per cent of private sector workers in Canada are unionized, as compared to about 30 per cent back in the 1970s. This has taken place partly because of technological change which has seen people replaced by technology in many traditionally unionized sectors, and partly because of globalization which has moved many jobs to countries with lower labour costs as unions failed to adapt to changes in the global economy. As a result, the most powerful unions in modern times are government unions, and this is very bad news for the majority of us who are private sector taxpayers paying dearly for expensive government employees and the services they provide.

Six Accountability Reforms to Earn Back Trust

by Christine Van Geyn

Something needs to be done to repair the breach of trust between Ontario’s citizens and our political leaders. The new Ford government should take tangible steps early in their mandate to restore public trust. Accountability reforms are best made in the early days of a government, when idealism is high, and self-interest low (or at least lower).

An Impressive Start

by Catherine Swift

While most of Canada’s politicians were enjoying their gin and tonics on the dock or attending community BBQs, the new Ontario government got down to work early following their strong election victory in early June. Their summer legislative session has just ended for a brief break until they resume sitting on September 24, but Premier Doug Ford and his colleagues have put together quite an impressive list of accomplishments during their several week long inaugural legislative sitting.
Some of the key issues that were acted on include ending the protracted York University strike so that students can resume their education in the fall, and honouring the election commitment to get rid of the CEO and Board of Hydro One. A full line-by-line audit of the province’s books was also initiated so that the true state of Ontario’s finances can hopefully be revealed after a number of years of Liberal dishonesty and obfuscation which underestimated deficits and played fast and loose with the manner in which debt and pension obligations were reported. The findings of the audit are guaranteed to be ugly, but necessary if the provinces financial woes are ever to be properly dealt with.

A Breath of Fresh Air on Pot

by Catherine Swift

This week the Ford government announced its long-awaited distribution model for cannabis sales, confirming rumours that the market would be opened up to private retailers. This is of course a major, and welcome, change in direction from the former Wynne government’s plan to have government retailers monopolize the sale of recreational cannabis and cannabis products.
Wynne’s decision to limit retailing to government outlets was in large part a capitulation to the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) (the same union that oversees workers at the LCBO), and a loss for consumers and the private sector. As with all government monopolies, it was guaranteed to keep prices higher than they need be, limit product variety and restrict convenience for purchasers as there would only be a limited number of outlets and locations. It is refreshing to see a government decision that actually benefits the majority of Ontarians for a change, not simply more pandering to public section unions. Mind you, the Wynne government had already spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to brand the government retail entity – in keeping with its typical disrespect for taxpayers – money that is now a complete waste.

Voters Beware!

by Catherine Swift

Premier Ford’s action to repeal the Liberal’s municipal election changes, including the election of some Regional Chairs by citizens, angered many on the left of the political spectrum, mostly because in some Regions (like Niagara) the left thought they had a good shot at getting in their preferred person elected as Chair.
St. Catharines NDP MPP Jennie Stevens presented a local petition, called “The Petition to Defend Democracy” to the Ontario legislative assembly asking the government to restore the election for Niagara Regional Chair.

Buck a Beer is Back!

by Catherine Swift

Do you remember the last time a bottle of beer cost a buck in Ontario?  It was 2008, at the end of which year the provincial Liberals hiked taxes on a case of 24 to bump the price up to over $25.  Beer prices have only increased ever since.  Now Premier Doug Ford has promised to bring back the old buck a beer price, and considering that this should be a relatively good news announcement, albeit not exactly high on the priority list for government right now, the amount of controversy it is generating is truly surprising.

Welfare Reform is Long Overdue

by Catherine Swift

Ontario Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod’s recent announcement of a major review of how welfare is approached in the province is a development that should be welcomed by all Ontarians. Of course the usual suspects were highly critical of the announcement – mostly those who make their living from the “poverty” industry in one way or another. Yet even front-line social workers have said for years that the system is badly broken and is doing little to help those that need it most. The previous Liberal government had also admitted the system was a mess and needed substantial reform.

A Welcome Shock to the Body Politic

by Catherine Swift

Premier Doug Ford delivered an unexpected blow to the comfy, entitled members of Toronto City Council when he announced late last week that the province was planning to cut the Council virtually in half, from its current bloated complement of 47 councilors to 25. There is no doubt that this surprising announcement could have been made somewhat less abruptly and with a more reasonable heads-up to the individuals affected, but it is also true that this move is probably the most exciting proposal we have seen in government in quite some time. Considering that any change in government tends to take a ridiculously long time to accomplish, perhaps the sudden nature of this announcement was necessary to ensure that change happens at all.

Whither Goest Bill 148?

by Catherine Swift

Undoubtedly the new Ontario government is swamped with priorities right now, but there is one very important area that needs immediate action yet has so far been left unaddressed – the economically destructive and intrusive labour Bill 148.

Carbon Tax on the Ropes

by Catherine Swift

This past week saw a meeting of the “Council of the Federation”, which is a pompous name for the group of provincial Premiers across Canada who meet from time to time, usually to gang up against the federal government on a range of issues. And what an interesting meeting it was! It was the first such meeting for new Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his somewhat longer-serving Saskatchewan counterpart Scott Moe, and they wasted no time in declaring their joint opposition to the carbon tax Justin Trudeau is attempting to force on all provinces by the beginning of 2019.

The Importance of Opposition

by Catherine Swift

The role of Leader of the Opposition is a very important one in the Canadian parliamentary system. This is especially true when a majority government is elected, as recently happened in Ontario. A majority government essentially has a dictatorship over the legislature for four years or so, and an effective Official Opposition is one of the main ways the governing party can be held to account.

For the first time in her political career, NDP leader Andrea Horwath is Ontario’s Leader of the Opposition and the spotlight is on her like never before. Some of her early actions in that role have cast considerable doubt as to whether she will actually be effective in that capacity or merely be an unconstructive government critic sniping away from the sidelines.

Throne Speech Signals Big Changes

by Catherine Swift

Last week’s inaugural Throne Speech of the new Ontario government demonstrated a sharp change in direction for the province from the last 15 years of Liberal rule. The theme of the speech was very much a continuation of the Progressive Conservative’s election campaign, as it reiterated the “government for the people” mantra and the intent of the government to reduce the burden it imposes on the lives of average Ontarians.
Virtually all of the Speech’s content was consistent with promises made during the election campaign, including such elements as the elimination of the cap-and-trade program and opposition to any form of carbon tax, a focus on tax relief, a reduction of the regulatory burden on business, a drop in gas and hydro prices and an overall plan to leave more money in the pockets of taxpayers instead of the coffers of government. The Speech reiterated the Ford government’s earlier statement to remain united with its federal counterparts on trade issues that could threaten the economy. Other topics noted in the Speech were various health care spending items and a “back to basics” approach to the public education system. One item that was somewhat of a surprise was the plan to permit the sale of beer and wine in convenience stores and other retail outlets, a change long overdue. As with all Throne Speeches, there was little specific detail into how the various commitments were to be implemented, although the announcement of a Commission of Inquiry into the financial practices of the Ontario government accompanied by a thorough audit did give some idea of how the new government will approach this important issue.

Beginning the Hydro Fix

by Catherine Swift

After many years of mismanagement by the Ontario Liberals, the hydro issue was a key hot button for voters in the recent Ontario election, and deservedly so. Since 2006, hydro costs in Ontario have more than doubled with dubious if any beneficial environmental impacts, and rural areas of the province were hit especially hard. Businesses also suffered serious harm from the sky-high hydro rates, further damaging their ability to compete. During the election, all of the political parties agreed that major changes had to be made to the hydro system, although there was little agreement as to what those changes would actually look like. This past week, Premier Ford’s new government began to address this important and complex issue.

There’s a New Gang in Town

by Catherine Swift

When Doug Ford was sworn in as Ontario’s 26th Premier on June 29, he also announced the team that will be managing Ontario through the next four years. The size of his Cabinet sent an important message right off the top, as he has a significantly smaller Cabinet of 21 as compared with Wynne’s group of 30. The composition of the Ford Cabinet also sent a number of interesting signals as to how his government will conduct Ontario’s business in the early days of the new government.
For one, naming Christine Elliot as Deputy Premier (and Health Minister) was an inspired choice. Premier Ford has a reputation for being somewhat mercurial, mostly dating back to his days on Toronto City Council. Ms. Elliot has the opposite reputation – a low-key personality and decision maker with a wealth of experience in a number of areas, most notably the health care sector in which she will now be responsible for finding solutions to large and complex problems. As Ford came very close to losing the Progressive Conservative party leadership to Elliot, choosing her as his right-hand person also demonstrates a mature decision to let bygones be bygones regarding any remaining leadership contest tensions.

Ontario’s new PC government was sworn in today at a ceremony inside Queen’s Park.  Shortly after the official swearing-in, another ceremony was held outside on the front steps of Queen’s Park that was attended by thousands.

As expected it is a smaller cabinet than the Liberal government which had 28 Ministers. Doug Ford’s cabinet will have just 21.  It’s a strong cabinet with experienced MPPs.

Premier Ford will serve as his own Intergovernmental Affairs Minister.  Ford took former Finance Critic, Vic Fedelli, and made him Chair of Cabinet and Minister of Finance.  This choice demonstrates a great deal of political astuteness on Ford’s part.  The former Caucus had named Fedelli as Interim Leader after Patrick Brown resigned.  To have appointed a caucus favorite in Fedelli to this key portfolio will certainly go a long way in uniting the PC team.

An End to Union Monopoly?

by Catherine Swift

A long-awaited and very important United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision took place this week which could, and should, have repercussions for Canada. The issue under consideration was whether or not public sector unions had the right to force government employees who had opted out of joining the union to nevertheless pay the portion of union dues that was used for collective bargaining purposes – so-called “agency” or “fair share” fees. US Courts had long ago decided that non-union members could not be compelled to pay the portion of union dues directed to political and other non-collective bargaining uses, so it was only the agency fees that were in dispute in this proceeding. SCOTUS overturned a 40 year old precedent and upended laws in 22 states and, in a great boost for worker freedom, decided that unions could not force the agency dues on non-union employees. Needless to say, this was a huge blow to US public sector unions which will undoubtedly amount to many millions of dollars remaining in workers’ pockets, not in union coffers.

Public Sector Culture Shock

by Catherine Swift

One of Premier-elect Doug Ford’s first directives in taking over the government of Ontario was to enact a hiring freeze, eliminate catered food and alcohol at government meetings, get rid of periodical and newspaper subscriptions, limit government travel and outside consultants and constrain other such discretionary spending by the public sector. Critics were quick to comment that such measures would not really save all that much money and were far from what was needed to find the savings in government operations that Ford said was achievable. Although these measures in and of themselves will not save the billions that need to be found to implement Ford’s agenda, the message sent by the new government and its potential impact on culture in the public sector should not be underestimated.

The Enduring Myth of Minimum Wage

by Catherine Swift

For many people, it is an unquestionable fact that a higher minimum wage is an effective tool to alleviate poverty. After all, it makes perfect sense that paying more to minimum wage earners is bound to improve their standard of living. Or does it? A review of the many studies that have been done on the issue show that the results of a minimum wage hike are considerable more complex than they initially appear, and by no means all positive.
Consider a study that came out just this week from The Fraser Institute which focused on Ontario. The study found that fully 91 per cent of minimum wage earners in the province did not live in low income households based on data from 2015, the most recent year available. In addition, almost 60 per cent of minimum wage earners were under 25 years old, of whom 86 per cent lived with family. As far as that single parent with young children the politicians always like to talk about, only 2.1 per cent of minimum wage earners fall into that category.

Ford’s Challengers

by Catherine Swift

No one can deny that whichever political party had won the Ontario election, the victor would be facing a number of significant challenges. Thanks to 15 years of big spending Liberal government, the province is heavily in debt and spends over $1 billion every month on debt service charges alone. Interest rates are on their way up, which will make the debt burden even more costly in future. At the same time, the economy is slowing after about a decade of fairly modest growth, and a recession in the next couple of years is not out of the question. The ageing population and high levels of legal and illegal immigration mean that demands on social services will increase in the next few years. Ford also made a number of major expensive promises during the election, and needs to follow through on most of them if his government is not to lose legitimacy.

Ontario Election By the Numbers

by Catherine Swift

Here we go again. Every time a conservative government is elected there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth by the left about how the election isn’t really legitimate in some way, that the proportion of the popular vote was insufficient for victory, or some similar comments. The implication is that a conservative government was only elected because of flaws in our electoral system and not because they were really the preferred option of most voters. It’s déjà vu all over again in the aftermath of the 2018 Ontario election.

The People Have Spoken

by Catherine Swift

After a lively, fractious and unpredictable election, the people of Ontario have spoken. And as all politicians love to say, the people are always right.  So considering the outcome of the 2018 Ontario election, what exactly is it that we can expect for the next four years? 

At the time of writing, the Progressive Conservatives looked secure in 74 ridings, with 40 for the NDP, 7 for the Liberals and a first-ever seat for the Green Party.  This majority PC victory means a significant change in direction for the province with their overall objectives of reducing taxes on individuals and businesses, unwinding the destructive and costly impacts of the Green Energy Plan, working to reduce the cost of and increase the efficiency of government, eliminating  “hallway healthcare”, reducing hydro costs and lowering gasoline taxes, among other things.  These objectives are music to the ears of the vast majority of the business community and anyone who believes in a smaller and more efficient government than we have seen in the last 15 years in Ontario. 

Assorted Nuts…

by Joan Tintor

“May all your disgraces be private” was Mayor Quimby’s birthday wish to his nephew Freddy, in that episode of The Simpsons where Homer Simpson was a juror on Freddy’s assault trial. But like all great Simpsons episodes, that one came before the internet took off. Now, however, everybody’s disgraces are public and – thanks again, internet! – can never be buried.

With polls suggesting the threat of an NDP government after Thursday’s Ontario election, the PC campaign has released the not-so-private disgraces they uncovered about some of Andrea Horwath’s candidates and potential cabinet ministers. Some, such as the workplace discrimination and bullying complaints against Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller and Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor, were already known. But the newly-discovered ones reflect the extreme environmentalism and anti-military attitudes that are typical of the hard left.

The Ontario election is now just over a week away, and the outcome looks as unpredictable as ever.  With the apparent surge in support for Andrea Horwath and the NDP, the spotlight is finally being focused on the party, its leader, candidates and many of its highly questionable policies.  The NDP has had the luxury of operating under the radar and getting an easy ride from the media and others for most of this election campaign as the party was not expected to be a serious contender for government.  That has changed, and it is high time it attracted the scrutiny the other parties have been under for quite a while.  Now that the rock is being lifted, all kinds of worrisome things are crawling out.

The NDP has been a protest group on social, economic and political issues, for most of its years and electing the NDP will be very dangerous for Ontario. With many solidly socialist policies they have proclaimed that Ontario should be a Sanctuary Province. Essentially, this means that illegal immigrants will be flowing uncontrolled into the province and will be allowed to stay outside of the existing immigration laws.

The huge costs of implementing a sanctuary policy have been brought to light with the actions taken by the City of Toronto to deal with the influx of immigrants. Longer term problems will continue to flow from creating an unrestricted and unsupervised flow of illegal immigrants.

If he wins the current Ontario election, PC leader Doug Ford promises electricity rate relief — Kathleen Wynne’s 25% household rate cut plus a further 12% cut. The NDP’s Andrea Horwath’s promises a 30% cut, apparently for everyone, instead of Wynne’s 25% for households.
The only way either of them could deliver on these promises is to shift electricity costs to taxpayers to the tune of many billions of dollars per year.

Polls are for Dogs

by Catherine Swift

As usual in modern elections, we have seen many polls in the course of the Ontario election to date. Recent polls tracking support for the three main political parties suggest that the Progressive Conservatives continue to hold a significant lead, Liberal support continues to fall and there is growth in support for the NDP.  Considering the NDP platform, which in a nutshell is “everything will be free for everyone all the time”, it is hard to believe that even a small number of Ontario voters are falling for this.  A lot of Andrea Horwath’s advertising starts out with the word “Imagine”, as in “imagine when child care is free, dental care is free, Hydro is publicly owned and lower cost” and so on.  The use of the word “imagine” is really quite appropriate, since any sensible person knows that the kind of world envisioned by the NDP’s platform is truly imaginary. 

It has been clear for quite some time that Ontarians were fed up with the Liberal regime’s policies of big taxes, big government and steadily worsening public services despite all the money spent.  Given this dissatisfaction, it is hard to fathom that a significant number of Ontarians would shift their support to another big tax, big spend option such as the NDP.  Indeed, based on the NDP platform they would actually be even bigger spenders than the Liberals have been.  There has been a massive amount of fearmongering about the prospect of a Progressive Conservative victory in this election, virtually all of it dishonest and based on information that is simply not true.  There is no doubt that left-leaning interest groups, the “green” lobby and many others have made out like bandits under this Liberal government, at the expense of taxpayers in general.  These same groups would undoubtedly continue to do well with an NDP regime, living large on the taxpayers’ dime.  This explains the desperate and increasingly shrill rhetoric from these groups about the apocalypse that will be Ontario if neither the Liberals nor NDP were to prevail in the election.  It likely will be apocalyptic for them as they are cut off the government gravy train, and that is good news for the vast majority of people in the province.

Another provincial election is upon us. While you would think that political types would have moved on from the distant past and instead be more concerned about telling voters about their plans for Ontario’s future, residents of this province are once again being exposed to horrifying tales of the 1990’s.

Health Care Horror Show

by Catherine Swift

It isn’t surprising that Ontario’s health care system and its many failings has become a key issue in the current provincial election campaign.  Horror stories abound – long waiting lists for many medical procedures, so-called “hallway health care” as people are left in hospital corridors for days on gurneys as no beds are available, emergency room nightmares because of a lack of capacity, the refusal of government to fund key medications, and so on.  Many people within the health care sector itself claim that the silver bullet is to throw even more tax dollars at the problem.  The three main political party leaders are obliging by promising, to various degrees, to up the ante on health system spending. 

Third Party Follies

by Catherine Swift

Now that the Ontario election is officially underway, the activities of a number of groups commonly referred to as “third parties” has also been ramping up. Third parties are referred to as such because they are neither political parties nor corporations or unions.  A fairly recent phenomenon in Canada, and especially in Ontario, has been the creation of third party organizations for the specific purpose of intervening in elections in a partisan manner. 

The most well-established organization along these lines in Ontario is the Working Families Coalition, which first emerged in 2002 to actively support the Liberals under Dalton McGuinty in the 2003 provincial election.  Working Families financed a variety of television and other ad campaigns aimed at demonizing the Conservatives, and the Liberals went on to win that election.  At that time, a majority of Ontarians seeing these ads probably did think it was a legitimate group with the interests of average working people at heart. Of course, a little more digging showed that Working Families was really a union front that was much more interested in maintaining union privileges than caring about the average person.  The fact that many of the unions supporting these groups are public sector unions, whose main goal is to separate the majority of Ontarians from their hard-earned money, makes the claim that these groups represent average Ontarians particularly laughable. 

The Rise (or not) of the Social Enterprise

by Catherine Swift

For a few years now, the left has championed a supposedly new type of business dubbed a “social enterprise”.  The social enterprise claims to demonstrate a different sort of business model which cares at least as much, if not more, about social goals as it does about traditional business goals such as making a profit and staying in business.  Some governments, including the Liberals here in Ontario, have sung the praises of this new type of business as the wave of the future and a better way of operating than the fusty old business models of days gone by.  There are organizations that have been set up to promote this type of business, such as the Better Way Alliance and the Ontario Living Wage Network.   Common characteristics of these businesses are that they claim to pay their employees a “living wage” (usually a dollar or two over the minimum wage), prioritize environmental and other social issues, and seek to make a positive contribution to the communities in which they operate. These are all of course laudable goals, and at first blush this sounds like an innovative new trend.

Ontario’s Maxed-Out Credit Card

by Catherine Swift

For the past few years, the Ontario Liberals have frequently boasted about the fact that the Ontario economy was growing and that employment was expanding. And they of course have taken credit for any positive economic news. However, a little perspective is in order. 

For starters, economic cycles of growth and recession are rarely if ever created by any one government.  In our globally interdependent world, most countries’ economies ebb and flow along with international developments that they have limited control over.  This is especially true for Canada, which is a relative small player on the international stage.  This is not to say that government policies do not matter, as despite global economic cycles, good government policy can give a boost to a growth trend and help to mitigate a downturn, and bad policy can constrain good economic times and make a downturn even worse.  For a recent example, we need only look at Venezuela.  That country, which was blessed with abundant natural resource wealth, was ruined as a result of a socialist government that took over successful private sector businesses, ran them into the ground, and impoverished the entire country.  So although it is true that many of the factors that impact a modern economy are not under any one government’s control, government policy does indeed matter.

NDP Pie-in-the-Sky Platform

by Catherine Swift

At least no one can accuse Andrea Horwath of not being left wing enough anymore.  For some time now, the Ontario Liberals have attracted New Democratic Party (NDP) voters by moving even further to the left than the traditionally leftist NDP was itself. No more! The recently-announced Ontario NDP election platform has moved so very far to the left of the political spectrum that there is now no room for anyone else on that precarious perch.

The NDP platform, announced on April 16, promises lots and lots of new spending.  Among the major and most costly promises are “free” dental care, universal pharmacare, increased social housing expenditures, reduced hydro rates and the “deprivatization” of Hydro One, the conversion of post-secondary student loans into grants, “free” child care for folks earning less than $40,000 annually and $12/day child care for the rest of us. There are many less expensive promises as well, including such high priority items as eliminating the “pink” tax which ostensibly leads to women being charged more than men for dry cleaning and the like. These promises involve added expenditures in the multiple billions of dollars as well as some doubts regarding feasibility.  For instance, many experts have debated whether the “deprivatization” of Hydro One is even possible at this point, and at a minimum conclude that it surely will be very, very costly.

Caught in a(nother) Lie

by Catherine Swift

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Ontario’s intrepid Auditor-General, Bonnie Lysyk, once again informs us of the extent to which the Kathleen Wynne government is misleading Ontarians about the state of the province’s finances. Earlier this week, Ms. Lysyk reported that the government’s most recent financials as presented in the budget were “not reasonable” – auditor lingo for wrong – as they low-balled Ontario’s deficit and expense estimates by billions of dollars. In fact, she deemed the government to have “dramatically” understated their reported projected deficits. Instead of the government’s claim of deficits around $6.7 billion annually over the next three years, Lysyk expects them to be almost double that, at just under $12 billion in 2018-19 increasing to $12.5 billion in 2020-21. Needless to say, Lysyk’s credibility on this far outstrips that of the Liberal government, which has done nothing but misrepresent the finances of the province for many years.
Kathleen Wynne, never at a loss for a glib response when she is presented with shocking facts that contradict her version of events, stated that the A-G’s report was merely a difference of opinion among accountants. If that were true, I guess the Titantic was a minor boating incident.
Lysyk’s most recent criticism hinges on two major factors. One, which I outlined in a previous column, pertains to the reality that the Liberals moved several billions of dollars of borrowing “off-book”, or off of the government’s balance sheet, and recorded it as borrowing by Ontario Power Generation to finance the so-called Fair Hydro Plan. This happened purely for political reasons as it became clear to Wynne that her abject mismanagement of Ontario’s hydro system and the resulting sharp increase in hydro costs to Ontarians had become a serious political liability. Moving these billions off the government’s balance sheet permitted their dishonest claim that the books were actually balanced in the 2017-18 fiscal year, when they were not.
The second bit of financial sleight-of-hand involved a couple of public sector employee pension funds, The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union pension plan. Lysyk states that the government improperly included some funds that belonged to these pension plans as government assets, when pension plans are of course intended to fund pensions and not be dipped into by governments for other purposes.
What is also clear about all of this complex financial finagling on the government’s part are their extensive efforts to hide what they were up to from the Auditor-General, and therefore from Ontario taxpayers. Ontarians are fortunate to have such a dogged and talented advocate in Bonnie Lysyk, who has never shrunk from taking on this government despite the abuse regularly heaped on her by Premier Wynne and many Liberal Ministers.
Weeks away from the Ontario election, polls show that the Liberals remain in the basement of public opinion with support hovering just below 20 per cent. With all of the disgraceful dishonesty, abuse of taxpayer dollars, costly pandering to government unions, multiple cover-ups and other appalling behavior from the Wynne Liberals, it is remarkable that they have any support at all.

The Unfair Hydro Plan

by Catherine Swift

Much has been said about the unmitigated disaster that is the Ontario Green Energy Plan, and its destructive impact on hydro rates and Ontarians’ pocketbooks, let alone negative environmental impacts like threatening certain at-risk animal species and sullying the countryside with unsightly wind farms.  This policy has cost us all a fortune – with the exception of the many government-friendly businesses and individuals who received massive subsidies to produce so-called “green” energy.  And despite all the expense, wind and solar power contribute very little to our electricity system; we are still largely dependent on the more reliable fossil-fuel based sources to generate hydro power.  Any beneficial impact on the environment has been elusive at best.

Teachers Unions Revolting?

by Catherine Swift

Friday 13 took place last week, and it brought some bad luck for Ontario taxpayers. Two of the major teachers’ unions chose last Friday to file unfair labour practices complaints with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) claimed that the Ontario government discriminated against OSSTF and ETFO members by making payouts to other unions that did not challenge the Liberal governments’ actions during the 2012 round of education sector bargaining. Whatever the outcome of this most recent grievance of the ever-litigious public sector unions, one result can be guaranteed – taxpayer pockets will be lighter at the end of it.
It is more than ironic that any teachers’ union would bring a proceeding against the current Liberal government. Since they were elected in 2003, first McGuinty and then Wynne bent over backwards to appease teachers unions’ demands at the expense of other Ontarians to buy their votes and financial support during elections. Teachers’ compensation has increased very handsomely under the Liberals. For example, from 2004-2014, education spending grew by 40 per cent, and almost 90 per cent of that growth went into employee compensation. This growth handily outstripped inflation and the wage growth of the private sector taxpayers footing the bill. And during this period of increased spending on teacher compensation, school enrollment actually declined. Every year when the Sunshine list is published, listing provincial government employees earning more than $100,000, the number of teachers on the list increases substantially. Soon virtually all Ontario teachers with a few years of tenure will be on this list. And don’t forget, that $100,000 plus salary is for working 9 months of the year, and does not include monies going to generous pensions and other benefits.
As well, teachers’ unions are always promoting concepts such as smaller class sizes that necessitate more teachers and therefore more dues paying members for unions, despite the fact there is no research proving smaller class sizes lead to better educational outcomes. Nevertheless, the Liberals went along with shrinking class sizes and the significant associated costs. When full-day kindergarten was being discussed, unions insisted that a fully qualified and expensive teacher had to be present in the kindergarten classroom to essentially be glorified babysitters, despite the fact that Early Childhood Education workers were more than adequate and less costly to the system. The Liberals capitulated to the unions on this one as well.
Being so close to an election, the timing of this labour complaint is interesting. Does taking on the Liberal government at this time mean these two large unions will be supporting the NDP on June 7? Only time will tell.
Overall, teachers and their unions have done exceedingly well by this Liberal government. But there is never an “off” switch for unions, hence this recent legal action. Whereas unions in the private sector have some checks and balances as their employers operate in a competitive marketplace, public sector unions face no competition and can continue their extortion of taxpayers unhindered if the government in power is complicit. Over the past few decades, other countries have, to varying degrees, reduced the entitlement and influence of public sector unions to the benefit of taxpayers and the economy overall. It’s high time Ontario and Canada followed their example.

Liberals Attack!

by Catherine Swift

It seems the Ontario election silly season has finally officially opened, with the launch of the first Liberal attack ad against Doug Ford. Entitled “The Real Doug Ford”. The ad goes on to vilify Doug Ford as someone who will give tax breaks to big corporations, snatch the high minimum wage out of hard-working Ontarians hands, eliminate 40,000 jobs (apparently including teachers and nurses, according to the Liberals), take away women’s rights and not hold corporations responsible for climate change, among other things.  In other words, classic left wing boilerplate we have seen Liberals in many Canadian jurisdictions use election after election, time and time again.

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” A well-known life lesson from Maya Angelou, widely popularized by Oprah Winfrey. You might call it an Oprah-fied version of: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. George W. Bush famously mangled it thus: “Fool me once, shame […]

If elected Premier, Doug Ford’s first act will be to fire the CEO and Board of Directors of Hydro One – Ontario’s largest electricity utility.
“You can take this to the bank, the CEO’s gone and this board is gone. When we’re in government, we’re going to put an end to the hydro executives getting rich off the taxpayers of this great province,” Ford told reporters Thursday.
Could he actually do that? Would it lower electricity prices? Is it a good idea?
Let’s see.

Killing the Golden Goose

by Catherine Swift

Sometimes you really have to wonder if many of our political leaders have a clue how the economy actually works.  Take Justin Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne as examples.  Over the last couple of years,  the federal and Ontario governments have introduced  a number of anti-business policies.  These policies have taken particular aim at small- and medium-sized  businesses, a group that represents about half of the Canadian economy  and the majority of net new job creation. In other words, a sector of the economy that any sensible government would want to promote and encourage.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau introduced a number of punitive tax measures aimed at smaller firms in July 2017, when he likely hoped everyone would be on summer holiday and not paying attention. Prior Liberal governments under Finance Ministers Edgar Benson in 1970 and Alan MacEachen in 1980 tried to introduce similar policies targeting small businesses, and in both cases were forced to back down in the face of massive and justified opposition.  Morneau’s proposals received exactly the same kind of negative reception and he was also forced to substantially water down his original plans, although a number of problems remain with the revised policies.  It seems that Liberals don’t learn from history as every few decades they repeat this foolish mistake. 

Old White Folks Need Not Apply – Or Vote

by Catherine Swift

A few weeks ago, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne made an astonishing statement.  When speaking to a roomful of Humber college students, she urged them to make sure they voted in the upcoming June 7 provincial election.  If she had just left it there, it would have been a commendable reminder of the importance of participating in our democratic system to a group that might never have voted before and needed some extra encouragement to do so.  But Wynne didn’t leave it there, but rather added the absurd and objectionable comment “If you don’t vote, then somebody who looks like me is going to vote, some senior person, older than me, some white person”.  Wow – the notion of old, white people actually voting? The horror!

Wynne has made a career of calling out others as racist, sexist, homophobic, ageist etc. when anyone opposes her views or policies, no matter how legitimate the criticism.  It is particularly hypocritical for her to have made such an ageist, racist statement as she did to the college students.  This certainly did not demonstrate the “inclusiveness” that Wynne and her Liberal friends profess to practice.  Instead it merely exposed the superficial nature of the Liberal brand and the divisive nature of identity politics that seeks to pit one group against another, no matter how corrosive that divisiveness is to society as a whole.

With only 10 weeks to go until the June 7th provincial election, the Ontario Liberals have introduced an election-ready budget. The budget is intended to draw voter support by committing to new social policy initiatives that underscores the Liberals’ campaign theme, “Fairness and Opportunity.”

Consistently behind in the polls over the last year, the party views this is a chance to re-build the Liberal base by investing in traditional Liberal policies including health care, mental health, seniors’ care, education, child care and transit.

Wynne Rolls the Dice

by Catherine Swift

It seems that all the superlatives have already been used up to describe the Ontario Liberals’ irresponsible big-spending pre-election budget, not to mention the profanities.  The budget was just formally announced this past Wednesday, but had been foreshadowed in the weeks prior as big-spending announcement after big-spending announcement was made by Premier Wynne and her cronies.  Clearly there are no limits to the amount of our money this government will spend in their increasingly desperate quest to be re-elected after 15 years of wasteful, destructive and inefficient government.

Walkin’ on Sunshine

by Catherine Swift

Last week saw the annual release of Ontario’s Sunshine List, comprised of those government employees who earned in excess of $100,000 in 2017.  There was very significant growth in the number of people on this list, from 123,410 in 2016 to 131,741 last year, a 7 per cent increase.  This growth took place despite the fact that HydroOne, a notorious hotbed of high earners, is no longer on the list at all as it was privatized in 2015 by the Wynne government.  The handful of people at the very top of the list can more or less be justified, as they tend to be the heads of hospitals, various utilities, universities and other very senior government posts that would be expected to earn a high salary.  Although most media attention tends to focus on the dozen or so people at the top of the list, what is actually more problematic – and most costly to taxpayers – is the massive number of government employees in fairly routine, middling government jobs paid high salaries that far outstrip what they would be earning in the private sector. 

The Sunshine List originated in 1996 with the Mike Harris government, and some critics believe that the $100,000 amount should be adjusted for inflation since that time.  This would change the threshold for salary publication to about $144,000.  However, when you consider that the average wage level of Ontarians is about $70,000, it is difficult to find the notion of publicizing the list of those in government who make significantly more than the average person at all inappropriate. 

Wynne’s Hail Mary Pass

by Catherine Swift

Late last week, Premier Kathleen Wynne surprised everyone by abruptly shutting down the provincial parliament – officially known as proroguing – and announced her intention to launch a new session of the legislature with a Speech from the Throne.  That Throne Speech took place earlier this week and was clearly a pre-election gambit. It promised even more spending on such things as reducing hospital wait times, increased coverage of prescription and dental expenses, expanded mental health care, more affordable day care, further “free” tuition and more assistance with student debt, among other things.  As this is a government that has been in power for 15 years, Ontarians can be forgiven for asking why all this added spending is needed now, and if so what exactly have these Liberals been doing for all those years?

A Threat to Democracy

by Catherine Swift

If you live in Ontario and pay attention to social media, you have likely noticed a sharp increase in warnings about the many perils involved in electing a Conservative government in the upcoming provincial election.  These messages started appearing very shortly after the recent election of Doug Ford as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, and are escalating in quantity and in the desperate tone they convey.  Most Ontarians are probably not aware that this is not merely a bunch of random people who are not fans of Conservatives, but a very orchestrated campaign by a number of affiliated groups whose goal is to elect Liberal governments in perpetuity and in doing so keep themselves on a taxpayer-funded gravy train.

The key groups involved include Leadnow, Dogwood and a number of different labour unions, and this is not the first election they have been involved with.  However, their activities have become more coordinated and more heavily funded in the decade or so since they have been working hard to prevent the election of a Conservative government at all costs.

Why can’t Conservatives be Feminists?

by Catherine Swift

Another International Women’s Day has come and gone, and I am yet again reminded that, as a woman who is a small-c conservative, I am simply not allowed to be a feminist in this day and age.  This was not always the case.  I am old enough to have experienced the women’s movement more or less as it was beginning back in the 1960s and 1970s.  At that exciting time, being a feminist simply meant believing that women should be free to have the same rights and opportunities as men, and not be discriminated against because they were female.  And a key part of the movement was the vital importance of individual freedom. 

The Dangers of Bill 148

by Catherine Swift

When I first reviewed the detailed legislation that comprises the Ontario Liberal government’s Bill 148, which came into force in January 2018, my immediate reaction was that it read exactly like a union collective bargaining agreement.  Normally, employees and employers would be able to negotiate the terms of any collective bargaining agreement; then employees would vote on the result of the negotiations.  But no one other than politicians got to vote on Bill 148.  Instead, the Kathleen Wynne government quickly forced it through the provincial legislature, despite the feedback from many groups representing the interests of both businesses and employees that this Bill would have a major negative impact on workers and the Ontario economy.  The province’s current Liberal government has a long track record of capitulating to labour unions at the expense of the vast majority of Ontario taxpayers, and the passage into law of Bill 148 was just the most recent example of this unbalanced approach to government policy.   

Ontario PC’s should select Christine Elliott on March 10th

by Niagara Independent Staff

Ontario PC’s are currently voting electronically this week for their next Leader. The Leader that in a few short months will lead them into an important provincial election. They should choose Christine Elliott.

We have watched the candidates throughout the process, followed the debates and attended appearances by Elliott, Ford, and Mulroney in Niagara. Elliott stands far above the others.