Political upheaval in Alberta

by Catherine Swift

 Jason Kenney resigned as head of the UCP Wednesday evening after only barely passing a review of his leadership, leaving Alberta without a premier. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Dave Chidley   This week Jason Kenney lost his bid to remain leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP) of Alberta, and with it Premier of that […]

The four-day work week debate

by Catherine Swift

Both the provincial Liberal leader Steven Del Duca and NDP leader Andrea Horwath (pictured) have committed to exploring the idea of shortened work week. While it’s a debate well-worth having, any government would be wise to engage with caution and avoid any kind of top-down imposition. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Tijana Martin   The concept […]

Alberta court overturns ‘no pipeline’ bill

by Catherine Swift

Premier Jason Kenney (pictured) called it a “huge win”. Celebration may, however, be premature. The federal government has already stated that it will appeal the ruling. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Larry MacDougal   Politicians in Alberta and Saskatchewan were delighted at a ruling earlier this week by the Alberta Court of Appeal to quash federal […]

NDP leader Andrea Horwath (left) and Liberal leader Steven Del Duca. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn and The Canadian Press/Chris Young   You have to hand it to the politicians running in this election campaign. Never let it be said that they are not laying out what they would do if elected.   Since the […]

The problem with subsidies

by Catherine Swift

While spending large sums of someone else’s money may be attractive and politically expedient for those in power, more often than not taxpayers end up with a bad deal. Pictured Doug Ford announces a massive public investment in automaker Stellantis in Windsor, May 2, 2022. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   In recent months we have […]

The Freshii foofaraw

by Catherine Swift

Photo credit: Toronto Pearson   You may have heard that Freshii, the Canadian fast casual franchise chain offering salads and other healthy meals, got into some public relations hot water last week because of a decision they made to use a virtual cashier located outside of Canada. This cashier turned out to be a person […]

Ontario’s pre-election budget

by Catherine Swift

Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy at a media briefing before release of the provincial budget on Thursday, Apr. 28, 2022. Photo credit: CBC/Evan Mitsui   It comes as no surprise that the budget announced by the Ford government this week will effectively serve as the Progressive Conservative Party’s election platform. The fact that the budget […]

Ontario election race tightens

by Catherine Swift

   Latest polling shows Steven Del Duca’s Liberals making gains. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Chris Young Most recent opinion polls on the voting intentions of Ontarians in the upcoming provincial election have suggested that the most likely outcome was the Progressive Conservative (PC) Ford government once again winning a majority. Late last week, however, an […]

Freedoms at stake

by Catherine Swift

Certain provisions of the provincial government’s Bill 100, for example, are cause for concern. Pictured is Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, who introduced the legislation last month. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn   A number of issues have arisen in recent weeks that have the potential to impact the basic freedoms of Canadians. In […]

Good news for Saskatchewan

by Catherine Swift

 Amongst other positive developments of late, the province was recently named the second most popular mining jurisdiction in the world. Photo credit: Mosaic   While the larger provinces typically attract most of the attention from the news media, Saskatchewan has recently enjoyed some notable successes that warrant comment.  For starters, the 2021 edition of the […]

Workplace democracy diminished in BC

by Catherine Swift

Recent legislative changes introduced by Premier John Horgan’s NDP government will further tilt the playing field in unions’ favour. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck   Last week the NDP government of British Columbia introduced legislation that will significantly change the way workplaces may be certified by a union under the provincial Labour Relations Code. […]

Only Liberals need apply

by Catherine Swift

The permissibility of oil and gas production in Canada apparently depends on how you vote.   This week’s approval of the Bay du Nord offshore oil mega-project in Newfoundland shows many things, but especially that voting Liberal matters a great deal in Trudeau’s Canada. The fact that the Liberal government has, within one week, imposed […]

Spend, spend, spend! It’s government budget season again

by Catherine Swift

 Canada’s and Ontario’s respective finance ministers Chrystia Freeland (left) and Peter Bethlenfalvy (right). The federal Liberals present their budget Thursday, while the provincial PCs will do so by or before April 30. Photo credit: Reuters/Patrick Doyle and The Canadian Press/Christopher Katsarov   Hold on to your wallets, Canadians. It’s government budget season, and the big […]

Alberta’s innovative energy sector

by Catherine Swift

The oil and gas industry has proven that major environmental benefits can be achieved through innovation and creativity without threatening energy security, affordability, and a decent standard of living for Canadians. Photo credit: Cenovus Energy   I spent a few days this week in Calgary attending a conference of energy industry executives, and it’s fair […]

The protected class strikes again

by Catherine Swift

While many in the private sector struggled, 2021 proved to be yet another profitable year for government employees – like teachers. Photo credit: Pexels/Thirdman   It really is time for a tax revolt. If taxpaying private sector Ontarians were not already well aware that there are two classes of people in Canada, the recent release […]

Provide Canadians some relief: follow Alberta’s lead and reduce taxes on fuel

by Catherine Swift

As runaway inflation continues to hammer Canadian consumers, the Alberta government led by Premier Jason Kenney (pictured) recently announced it was suspending its 13 cent per litre tax on gasoline. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Jason Franson     A couple of weeks ago, the Alberta government made the welcome announcement that it would be suspending its […]

kenney

Critical Race Theory hits Ontario

by Catherine Swift

Bill 67, introduced by NDP MPP Laura Mae Lindo (second from left), recently passed Second Reading in the provincial legislature with almost all MPPs of all political parties supporting it. Photo credit: Ontario NDP   Last week, a piece of legislation called Bill 67: Racial Equity in the Education System Act, received Second Reading in […]

Premier Doug Ford. Photo credit: CTV News   In politics it’s the little things that can kill you. And if the Ontario government is not careful, they may undermine what look like decent odds for being re-elected.  A recent example was a modest dust up in the legislature over how many backlogged surgeries there are […]

Small business bears the brunt

by Catherine Swift

Even after all the draconian rules and regulations are long gone, small businesses, like they have throughout the pandemic, will continue to suffer the most from the government’s ostensible attempts to “slow the spread”. Photo credit: Getty Images/The Business Journals   What a long, strange trip it’s been. For just about exactly two years, Canadians […]

Ontario and the skilled trades

by Catherine Swift

Photo credit: SRP   It is no secret that there is currently and has been for some time an acute shortage of skilled tradespeople, and that this shortage will worsen in future. Over the next few years, there is expected to be 350,000 vacancies in skilled trades positions in Ontario alone.  The shortage is being […]

welder

A few billion to the good – for now

by Catherine Swift

The province’s financial watchdog recently revealed that the Doug Ford government spent $5.5 billion less than was previously forecast for the first three quarters of the current fiscal year. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   Cue the outrage.  The latest report of Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office (FAO) came out this week and found that the province’s […]

Premier Ford

A balanced budget for Alberta

by Catherine Swift

Premier Jason Kenney fist bumps an Alberta MLA after finance minister Travis Toews delivered the 2022 budget in Edmonton, Feb. 24, 2022. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Jason Franson   If there was a race to see which province could bring their budget back into balance following the pandemic government spend-fest – and there should be […]

Premier Kenney

Passing on gas?

by Catherine Swift

In the last few years, several dozen municipalities in Ontario have committed to phasing-out natural gas by decade’s end. Currently, 75 per cent of households in the province use natural gas for heating. Photo credit: Enersure   Most Ontarians would be surprised to find out that over the past couple of years a growing number […]

furnace

The housing conundrum

by Catherine Swift

For decades, Canada’s economic and social success has been based in part on the existence of a healthy and sizeable middle class. A key characteristic of Canada’s middle class is the prevalence of home ownership, which is one of the few means that average people have to accumulate wealth. The current housing crisis is threatening […]

townhouses under development

An age-old dilemma

by Catherine Swift

Canada has a proportionately larger baby boom generation than many other developed countries, which means the demands for additional government spending on seniors will continue to grow in the years ahead. Photo credit: Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio   The good news is that Canadians are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. All indications are that this […]

More good financial news for Ontario

by Catherine Swift

Ontario Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy. On Monday, Minister Bethlenfalvy released the province’s third quarter finances – once again, they’re better than expected. Photo credit: CTV News   Hot on the heels of last week’s financial report from the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO), the Ontario Finance Minister has released the third-quarter of 2021 […]

Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy

Good news on the Ontario deficit front

by Catherine Swift

The province’s fiscal watchdog predicts sunnier than expected days ahead. Photo credit: Reuters   This week, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released a report on its expectations for provincial government finances for the next couple of fiscal years.  The FAO used the government’s data contained in the Fall Economic Statement from November of […]

Premier Doug Ford

More unhelpful “green” policy for Ontario

by Catherine Swift

The previously ‘Open for Business’ Ford government has created a new registry that appears to be another version of a carbon credit system. Photo credit: Bloomberg   For some unknown reason, it seems that the Ford government has been captured by the “green” lobby. In a recent announcement, the government heralded the creation of an […]

hydro towers

Some good news in the climate gloom

by Catherine Swift

Ontario’s St. Marys Cement (pictured) has figured out a way to offset the environmental impact of conducting business. Photo credit: St Marys Cement   The climate crusade to force the developed world to greatly reduce their dependence on relatively affordable and reliable fossil fuels and replace them with the much more expensive and unreliable green […]

St Mary's Cement plant

The demise of oil – and Alberta – is greatly exaggerated

by Catherine Swift

Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney pays a visit to one of the province’s oil producers in Jul 2020. Photo credit: Twitter/Jason Kenney   Although many of our politicians and environmental advocates these days like to say that oil and gas have had their day, the facts show that the Canadian industry is actually enjoying quite […]

Jason Kenney

Another Ontario teachers’ strike?

by Catherine Swift

With yet more job action seemingly on the horizon, Swift suggests public education should be declared an essential service and strikes outlawed. Picture from an Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association picket line in Ottawa, Feb. 4, 2020. Photo credit: Postmedia/Errol McGihon   It is difficult to believe that the Ontario teachers’ unions could get even […]

teachers on strike

The new tyranny of ‘ESG’

by Catherine Swift

ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) is everywhere these days, imposing its heavy hand on financial markets and setting out new conditions businesses must comply with if they want to access financing.   ESG is basically a means of evaluating a company’s eligibility for financing based on non-financial criteria such as the company’s environmental practices, social criteria […]

people talking in a boardroom

Carbon taxes on the agenda again

by Catherine Swift

Premier of Manitoba Heather Stefanson. Like Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe, Stefanson is hoping to craft a made-in-province carbon pricing plan that will be approved by the federal government that aligns with Manitoba’s unique needs and desires. Photo credit: CBC   After having had some experience with the federally imposed carbon tax, and having lost constitutional challenges […]

Premier Stefanson

The highs and lows of premiers’ approval ratings

by Catherine Swift

Premier Ford hit a new low of 30 per cent approval. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette   The latest approval ratings for the various provincial premiers have come out from the Angus Reid Institute and, as always, there is good news for some and bad news for others. In the good news column, relatively […]

Premier Ford

Ontario ready to open schools

by Catherine Swift

Premier Doug Ford (left) and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce (right). Ontario students return to in-person learning on Monday – and it’s about time. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Carlos Osorio    After an extended Christmas break, Ontario appears set to once again open the schools to in-person learning on Monday, barring some unexpected circumstances that […]

Premier Ford and Minister Leece

Truth at last: Wynne admits electricity mistake

by Catherine Swift

Former head of the provincial Liberal Party and Premier of Ontario from 2013 to 2018 Kathleen Wynne. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Chris Young   Perhaps the COVID vaccines have a little bit of truth serum in them, as some painful truths are finally emerging from various quarters.   One of the more recent instances involved former […]

Kathleen Wynne

Dumbing down Ontario’s education system

by Catherine Swift

To promote a distorted sense of equality, the Ontario Superior Court recently ruled that prospective teachers no longer need to pass a simple math comprehension test to serve as educators in the province. Photo credit: Getty Images/Sam Edwards   One of the developments over the Christmas holidays that didn’t get the attention it deserved was […]

students in a classroom

Time for togetherness

by Catherine Swift

One way to promote unity may be to force public officials – those making all the pandemic-related decisions – to experience the same economic hardship many Ontario residents must endure every time further restrictions come into place. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette   The ever-quotable American economist Thomas Sowell said that “It is hard […]

Premier Ford and ministers

Five fearless forecasts for 2022

by Catherine Swift

Prediction number four: following another electoral defeat in June, the 2022 provincial election will be Andrea Horwath’s last as leader of the Ontario NDP. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Chris Young   ‘Tis the season for predictions, and as an economist and political junkie I can’t resist the urge. Here are five shots in the dark […]

Andrea Horwath

Batting .500 on 2021 predictions

by Catherine Swift

Photo credit: Getty Images   As promised, I have reviewed my prognostications made a year ago to see if my track record has improved any from previous years. Overall, it looks like my crystal ball got a little clearer, but still leaves much to be desired.   My first prediction involved whether Canada would have a […]

crystal ball

Timing is everything

by Catherine Swift

Premier Doug Ford (pictured) heads into the holidays with a sizeable lead over his NDP and Liberal competitors, according to a recent opinion poll. Photo credit: The Globe and Mail   It seems that the Ontario Progressive Conservatives just received an early Christmas present in the form of the latest opinion poll on how voters […]

Premier Ford

We don’t need another lockdown

by Catherine Swift

Having been thrust into multiple lockdowns since the start of the pandemic, more and more Canadians starting to view the cure as worse than the disease. Photo credit: Toronto Star/Richard Lautens   Just in time for Christmas, the most recent COVID-19 variant has come on the scene to once again induce fear and loathing in […]

Medical wait times longer than ever

by Catherine Swift

A new report released by the Fraser Institute found that Canadians waited on average 25.6 weeks between doctor referral and treatment in 2021.    The Fraser Institute has been doing an annual survey of physicians across 12 medical specialties since 1993 to document the length of time Canadians need to wait for various medical procedures. […]

Allan inquiry follow up

by Catherine Swift

Primary author of the ‘Report of the public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns’ Steve Allan. Photo credit: Postmedia/Jim Wells   Alberta’s public inquiry into the activities of environmental groups opposing the oil sands and other fossil fuel developments released its report a couple of months ago and continues to be controversial.  The inquiry, headed by […]

Steve Allan

Canadians open to health care changes

by Catherine Swift

Per a recent study conducted by Leger on behalf of Second Street, two-thirds of Canadians are in favour of provincial governments hiring private clinics for surgeries to reduce wait times. Photo credit: LCM Architects    For decades, the prevailing wisdom has been that most Canadians are quite satisfied with the state of our health care […]

The winter of our discontent

by Catherine Swift

A recent Leger poll revealed well over half of Canadians would shun the unvaccinated and not allow them to attend gatherings this holiday season. Photo credit: SciTechDaily   Maybe it’s the prospect of another COVID Christmas, but it seems like Canadians are getting mean these days. A couple of recent public opinion surveys have shown […]

family wearing masks at Christmas time

Auditor General strikes again!

by Catherine Swift

Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk. Photo credit: CTV   The report of Ontario’s Auditor General (AG) was released earlier this week, and it was a doozie. The main focus of the report was, not surprisingly, the waste entailed in disbursing major amounts of money during the pandemic. The AG analysis found that: over $200 million […]

Bonnie Lysyk

Divisive policies multiply

by Catherine Swift

Peel District School Board headquarters in Mississauga. Photo credit: Toronto Sun/Craig Robertson   The last couple of weeks have seen some truly unfortunate policies emerge from various parts of the Ontario government that are more likely to be divisive and harmful rather than accomplish anything positive. Not surprisingly, our always “woke” provincial public education system […]

Peel Board of Education

Saskatchewan’s bold idea

by Catherine Swift

Premier of Saskatchewan Scott Moe. Moe recently floated the idea of Saskatchewan pursuing more autonomy as a province, an idea seemingly well-received amongst his constituents. Photo credit: Government of Saskatchewan   Premier Scott Moe of Saskatchewan recently came up with an interesting concept that attracted attention from across Canada. Moe’s idea was that Saskatchewan should […]

Premier Moe

Daycare plans proceed – or do they?

by Catherine Swift

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announcing the province and federal government reached a deal regarding $10-a-day daycare, Nov. 15, 2021. Photo credit: Edmonton Journal   There was a supremely awkward press conference that took place last week in which Alberta Premier Jason Kenney “signed on” to the federal Liberal government’s so-called $10 per day daycare plan, […]

Kenney

Electric vehicle subsidies back for Ontario?

by Catherine Swift

Tesla supercharge station. Photo credit: Drive Tesla Canada   In the wake of the Biden administration’s apparent intention to introduce significant subsidies to the tune of US$12,500 per vehicle to purchasers of electric vehicles (EVs) manufactured in the US, Ontario Premier Doug Ford seemed to have some softening of his views on EVs and measures […]

tesla charger

We’re all socialists now

by Catherine Swift

  Ontario Liberal leader Steven Del Duca (left) and Premier Doug Ford. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn and The Canadian Press/Richard Lautens   Is it just me, or does it seem like every policy initiative being put forward by governments of all political stripes these days involves discouraging people from working in one way […]

Delduca and Ford

Ontario’s aging population comes home to roost

by Catherine Swift

Photo credit: Pexels/Vlada Karpovich   We’ve been hearing about Canada’s aging population for decades, and the most significant impacts will soon be manifesting themselves in a number of different ways. Most developed countries around the world experienced a post Second World War baby boom, and the boom in Canada was proportionately larger than in most […]

elderly man and woman

Economic update counts on growth

by Catherine Swift

 Ontario’s Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy. Bethlenfalvy presented the province’s 2021 fall economic update on Thursday, Nov. 4. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Christopher Katsarov    Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy presented the province’s fall economic update last week, outlining many areas of new spending as well as the continuation of some existing programs geared to […]

Peter Bethlenfalvy

Minimum wage mythology persists

by Catherine Swift

Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton at an announcement in early 2020. McNaughton’s ministry has introduced a number of labour reforms over the past several weeks, including raising the minimum wage, that many in the business community have questioned as untimely or wholly unnecessary. Photo credit: Postmedia Network/Paul Morden   After rejecting […]

Minister McNaughton

A foolish new tax for Newfoundlanders

by Catherine Swift

Canada’s easternmost province set to impose sin tax on sugary drinks next year.   The Newfoundland and Labrador government has recently announced its intention to levy a tax on sugary soft drinks, to be introduced on September 1, 2022. The amount of the tax is slated to be 20 cents per litre of any beverage […]

sugar drinks

More red tape for Ontario business

by Catherine Swift

The province’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development recently introduced legislation that if passed would, amongst other things, force employers with over 25 employees to establish “right to disconnect” policies, such as no emails before or after work hours. Photo credit: Pexels/Greta Hoffman   At a time when we desperately need to get the […]

person on a laptop

Optometrists’ dispute is just the start

by Catherine Swift

Photo credit: Pexels/Ksenia Chernaya   The Ontario government and optometrists in the province are currently at war and, as usual, the dispute is over money. The bottom line is that the government currently compensates optometrists at a rate of $44 per patient visit, and optometrists say the cost of such a visit is actually $75.  […]

eye exam

Unions spend big in Alberta’s municipal elections

by Catherine Swift

  Calgary mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek. Gondek was one of several progressive candidates that benefitted from big union spending in Alberta’s 2021 municipal elections. Photo credit: CBC News   Once again, the biggest spenders in the recent Alberta municipal election were unions. This has been generally acknowledged as contributing significantly to the election of a so-called […]

Jyoti Gondek

Del Duca’s electoral reform gamble

by Catherine Swift

Ontario Liberal Party leader Steven Del Duca. Photo credit: The Canadian Press   Interest in different systems of voting was revived in Canada following the recent federal election which saw the Liberals re-elected with a record low percentage of the popular vote. Canada’s ‘First Past the Post’ (FPTP) electoral system, in which the candidate who […]

Steven DelDuca MPP

Canadians on the move

by Catherine Swift

Vancouver, BC. According to recent data, BC saw Canada’s largest increase of inter-provincial migrants in 2020-2021.   Some recently released population data from Statistics Canada showed some interesting trends for the migration of Canadians among the provinces, and potentially worrisome developments for some parts of the country.   The data pertained to the 12 months ending […]

Vancouver skyline

‘Heat or eat’ is back

by Catherine Swift

Green policies working to make life more and more unaffordable for average Canadians, with utility prices set to soar this winter.    Leading up to the Thanksgiving weekend, it was hard not to notice the sky-high prices for gasoline as many people travelled to family gatherings for the holiday. Some of this was explained away […]

man wearing a parka on a couch

Supreme Court sides with Ford

by Catherine Swift

Supreme Court of Canada judges. Chief Justice Richard Wagner pictured in centre. Wagner was part of the majority that dismissed the City of Toronto’s appeal against the Ford government earlier this month. Photo credit: Facebook/Prime Minister   Last week the Supreme Court of Canada rendered a decision that supported the contentious 2018 action of the […]

supreme court judges

Ontario kicks off session with throne speech

by Catherine Swift

Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell delivers the provincial parliament’s latest throne speech, Oct. 4, 2021. Photo credit Toronto Star/Rene Johnston   This week the Ontario government launched the second legislative session of the 42nd Parliament with the usual throne speech, read by Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell. The speech was supposed to be read several weeks […]

The threat and promise of AI

by Catherine Swift

Artist impression of facial recognition technology. Photo credit: SmartCitiesWorld   Artificial Intelligence – AI – is very much on the agenda of many governments these days. While the use of this sophisticated technology can have many benefits, it also has enormous potential negative implications for privacy and the misuse of personal information, as well as […]

facial recognition drawing

Beware “Build Back Better”

by Catherine Swift

“Build Back Better” (and its many variations) is a slogan that has been adopted by a number of political figures on the political left as of late, including U.S. president Joe Biden. Photo credit: MSNBC   During the recent federal election period, the phrase “Build Back Better” was heard from time to time, mostly from […]

President Biden

Sick of elections yet?

by Catherine Swift

Photo credit: The New York Times   The post-mortems are underway from the federal election, and they are not pretty. Seems that virtually every political party was a loser, with the possible exception of Maxime Bernier of the People’s Party of Canada, which increased its share of the popular vote but still failed to win […]

election canada sign

Alberta’s unsuccessful gamble

by Catherine Swift

Alberta premier Jason Kenney at a Sept. 15, 2021 press conference. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntos    A few months ago, Alberta premier Jason Kenney decided to roll the dice and, in concert with the support of health authorities in the province, pursued the most aggressive opening of the economy that has taken place […]

Are unions above the law?

by Catherine Swift

President of CUPE Alberta Rory Gill. Photo credit: CUPE   A few days ago, a story broke that deserved to get a lot more attention than it did. In response to some new labour legislation passed by the majority Alberta government, some union leaders commented that they do not intend to obey these laws. For […]

Rory Gill

Provinces and the federal election

by Catherine Swift

Premier of Quebec Francois Legault. Legault has been the only Canadian premier to really wade into the current federal election at any considerable depth. Just a few days ago, the leader of Canada’s second largest province came out in support of the Conservative Party’s Erin O’Toole, calling the NDP and Liberals “dangerous”. Photo credit: The […]

Legault

The politics of “business” groups

by Catherine Swift

Photo credit: Pexels/Werner Pfennig   The ongoing and highly contentious debate over whether or not governments should implement vaccine passports or similar has prompted a range of different stakeholders to express their views in support or opposition.  In Ontario and some other provinces, a key justification given by governments for choosing to proceed with vaccine […]

two men talking in a convention centre

Bracket creep is still with us

by Catherine Swift

Photo credit: Pexels/Rodnae Productions   Back in the mid-1990s, the issue of tax bracket creep was very much on the public policy agenda at the federal level. Now that inflation is increasing after years of modest change, it is once again time to look at this unfairness in the tax system and implement measures to […]

taces

Unions telling tall tales again

by Catherine Swift

Ontario teachers’ unions protest alleged cuts to education outside of Queen’s Park, April 2019. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Tijana Martin   For many years and throughout the pandemic to date, some of the most vocal and constant complainers could be found in the teachers’ unions. These unions have claimed incessantly that horrible cuts to education […]

Ontario teachers’ unions protest

Vaccine passports for Ontario?

by Catherine Swift

Photo credit: ExPat Care   As more and more Ontarians have become fully vaccinated, support for some type of passport seems to have been increasing. A growing number of cases of the Delta variant of the virus has also prompted demands for a form of proof of vaccination as a means of avoiding or lessening […]

vaccine passport

Health care myths delay needed reform

by Catherine Swift

Photo credit: Pexels/Laura James In recent weeks the federal Liberals have been desperately trying to find an effective “wedge” issue they can use in the election to make Conservatives look bad and divide Canadians. Early in the campaign, they trotted out the good old standby abortion question, claiming as they have so many times before […]

doctor

Lessons from the Alberta Heritage Fund

by Catherine Swift

Former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed talks to then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Lougheed’s government established the Alberta Heritage Fund in 1976. Photo credit: Globe and Mail   The Alberta Heritage Fund was set up in 1976 as a means of countering Alberta’s historical boom and bust economy. The pattern was for the province to have huge […]

Pierre Trudeau

A surprise from Nova Scotia

by Catherine Swift

Premier-designate of Nova Scotia Tim Houston, Aug. 17, 2021. Defying all the polls, Houston led the Nova Scotia PC Party to a majority government for the first time in decades. Photo credit: CTV News   With most political attention focused on the federal scene in recent weeks, the fact that a provincial election was underway […]

Premier designate Houston

Provincial issues for the federal election

by Catherine Swift

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offers his hand to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, May 2, 2019. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick As a surprise to no one, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the long-awaited federal election this past weekend. While it is still uncertain whether provincial politicians will choose to get involved in campaigning for […]

Kenney and Trudeau

More lies from the Left

by Catherine Swift

Jerry Dias, head of Canada’s largest private sector union Unifor. The union recently launched an attack ad campaign against Erin O’Toole and the federal Conservatives, claiming O’Toole will just institute “more cuts” and provide “more money to big corporations”. The irony, as Swift writes in the piece below, “is that the current federal Liberal Party, […]

Jerry Dias

The Ontario hydro mess continues

by Catherine Swift

Photo credit: The Canadian Press/National Observer  Three years into the Ford government’s term, one of its major promises – to fix the overpriced and inefficient hydroelectric power system that Ontarians have endured for many years – has still not come to pass. The serious problems with the system are proving very difficult to change, and […]

turbines and solar panels

Rules for back to school

by Catherine Swift

Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce walk the halls of a Whitby high school last August. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette   Ontario’s long-awaited plans for the return of students to school next month were announced this week, adding some certainty for parents and teachers but also raising questions. Key elements […]

Premier Ford and Minister Leece

Alberta’s bold move

by Catherine Swift

 Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Photo credit: Flickr/Government of Alberta Late last week, the Alberta government announced the most comprehensive lifting of pandemic restrictions that has taken place in Canada.  All provinces have opened up their economies to varying degrees in recent weeks, as vaccination rates continue to rise and case […]

Dr Inshaw

Unequal treatment of the provinces divisive and unfair

by Catherine Swift

Premier of Saskatchewan Scott Moe (left) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) wait for media to leave the office after a photo-op on Parliament Hill, November 12, 2019. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Justin Tang  A recent dispute between the federal government and the province of Saskatchewan got very little media coverage, yet should be of […]

Premier Moe and PM Trudeau

The big September question

by Catherine Swift

What will a fall return to school look like for Ontario students, teachers, and parents? Photo credit: Pexels/RODNAE Productions As August approaches, the thoughts of Ontario parents and policy makers begin to turn to the school year and, in this most exceptional time, whether or not schools should open after months of closures due to […]

student at a desk

Some good fiscal news, for a change

by Catherine Swift

Peter Weltman, Ontario’s current Financial Accountability Officer. Weltman’s office recently announced some positive fiscal news for the province. Photo credit: FAO  Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office (FAO) announced earlier this week that, for the first time in a while, there were actually some positive aspects to the province’s financial status. For the fiscal year ending on […]

Peter Weltman's headshot

Women and the economy

by Catherine Swift

Photo credit: Pexels/Ketut Subiyanto The Ford government recently announced a new task force on women and the economy, with the stated goal of advising the government on how best to support women as they re-enter the workforce post-pandemic, promote female entrepreneurship and remove barriers to women entering some fields of study in which they are […]

woman working on a couch with child

Vaccine passport hot potato

by Catherine Swift

The question of whether we should be requiring some form of vaccine passports or similar proof of vaccination is heating up in Canada, with strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Prime Minister Trudeau has been trying to hand off this hot potato to the provinces, but the provinces are pushing back.

vaccine passport

More daycare promises, with few lessons learned

by Catherine Swift

Photo credit: PlayTheTunes There have been many child care promises made by various provincial and federal governments in Canada over the years, but very few have come to fruition. Liberal governments in Ottawa have been making grandiose daycare announcements for decades, with little delivery of the goods. The most recent promise made by the Trudeau government […]

child crying

Wouldn’t you know it, vaccines work!

by Catherine Swift

As if we needed any more proof, a recent study from the Public Health Ontario (PHO), in concert with the University of Toronto and several hospitals, has shown the overwhelming effectiveness of all three major COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. As more people are vaccinated, data on vaccine effectiveness has become more accurate than earlier numbers based on smaller sample sizes.

health care worker with a vaccine vial

Future challenges to health care

by Catherine Swift

Most Canadians take our health care system for granted and greatly appreciate the fact that they can access a comprehensive range of health care services “for free” whenever needed. Canadians regularly cite health care as one of the defining characteristics of being Canadian, and many believe we have one of the best systems in the world. However, health care is anything but “free” in Canada, and cost pressures indicate that there are major changes in store for our cherished system in the future, as illustrated in a recent CD Howe Institute analysis on provincial health care spending trends.

emergency room sign

A year of living politically

by Catherine Swift

Now that we are just under a year away from the next Ontario election scheduled for June 2, 2022, the gloves are off. Opposition leader Andrea Horwath and Steven Del Duca have really ramped up the criticism of Premier Doug Ford and his PC government of late. Much of the criticism concerns how the government handled the pandemic, and there is surely lots to criticize on that basis. But considering that every single government across Canada, and for that matter the world, made many faux pas in their dealing with a once-in-a-lifetime health crisis, it is pretty difficult to argue that an NDP or Liberal government in the province would have done any better.

Elite’s negativity doesn’t reflect Canada

by Catherine Swift

Have we ever seen such a fraught Canada Day? The amount of negativity and self-flagellation championed by many politicians and other elites is truly exceptional this year. The appalling discovery of the unmarked graves of many Indigenous children has sparked much of this reaction in 2021, but if we look back at the last few years it becomes clear that a negative pall has been cast over our national holiday ever since the Justin Trudeau administration came to power in 2015.

people waving Canadian flags

Public education in peril across Ontario and country at large

by Catherine Swift

When are parents and taxpayers going to finally get fed up with the threats to our public education system posed by militant and obstructionist unions, politicized school boards, and special interests that are dragging down the quality of education in Canada?

person with their head on the table

The politics of COVID-19

by Catherine Swift

Remember how just a couple of months ago we were hearing regularly about how there were all kinds of “vaccines in freezers”, supposedly languishing there instead of being injected into the arms of an anxious citizenry? Funny how we don’t hear that claim anymore as it has become glaringly obvious that provincial governments have been doing a bang-up job distributing available vaccines. Looking back, this narrative was apparently promoted at the time as a smokescreen for the failure of the federal government to access sufficient amounts of vaccine as it became painfully clear that Canada was falling badly behind in the global vaccination sweepstakes.

Scott Moe

Another tilt at the health care windmill

by Catherine Swift

This week will see yet another step in the longstanding crusade of Dr. Brian Day to permit the private provision of health care services to Canadians who face long waits in the public health care system. Dr. Day, a surgeon, operates the private Cambie surgical clinic in British Columbia. This clinic has a history of providing high quality health care to patients who were not being treated in a timely manner in the public system. Dr. Day’s long legal battle to enable private clinics to provide relief to patients suffering from the many shortcomings of the public system will continue this week in the BC Court of Appeal.

Dr Day

Ford’s use of notwithstanding clause hardly an affront to democracy

by Catherine Swift

Responding to a court decision which overturned the Ford government’s changes to election advertising rules for third parties, the Ontario PC government has said it will impose the notwithstanding clause of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms to follow through with its plans. The legislation that was struck down in Ontario’s Superior Court extended the period from six months to 12 months prior to an election in which the election-related spending of so-called “third parties” was limited.

Premier Ford

Lockdown impact comes home to roost

by Catherine Swift

The May 2021 labour market data was released last week. Once again, it showed the heavy impact of the pandemic lockdowns on employment. The differences between Canada and the U.S. were particularly stark, as Canada lost 68,000 jobs last month, while the U.S. added 559,000.

empty restaurant

Border measures criticism well-justified

by Catherine Swift

Recent weeks have seen a battle of words between the Ontario government and the federal Liberals over the issue of whether or not the Trudeau government has been imposing sufficiently effective controls at our border to keep out COVID-19 cases and its many pernicious variants. Throughout the pandemic to date, the federal government has announced various border policies with great fanfare, and then done very little if anything to actually implement them. This is a hallmark of the Trudeau government – make sweeping, self-congratulatory policy announcements on a wide range of issues, then do little or nothing to ensure the policy comes to pass.

PM Trudeau

Fire, ready, aim: Horwath’s recent flub

by Catherine Swift

NDP leader and head of Ontario’s Official Opposition Andrea Horwath got into some hot water last week because of a tweet she sent commenting on the case of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, the woman who died in Toronto after falling from her balcony a year ago. Horwath blamed police for the death, ignoring all available information about the tragic case and the results of the ensuing police investigation.

Andrea Horwath MPP

COVID misery measured across Canada

by Catherine Swift

After enduring the many deprivations of the COVID-19 pandemic for well over a year, we are now seeing the post-mortems come in on how the various Canadian provinces dealt with the crisis. A recent analysis by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) calculated a “Provincial COVID Misery Index” which evaluated the misery inflicted by the disease itself, misery caused by governments’ response to the crisis, and economic misery imposed because of the pandemic and actions taken by decision-makers.

Provincial COVID Misery Index’

Happy Tax Freedom Day!

by Catherine Swift

Congratulations! As of May 24, you officially started working for yourself. As reported every year by the Fraser Institute, Tax Freedom Day fell this year on the Victoria Day long weekend. For the almost five months leading up to May 24, if you had to pay all taxes up front, every cent of your earnings would have gone to various levels of government in the form of income taxes, sales taxes, payroll taxes, carbon taxes, property taxes, fuel taxes, health taxes and so many more. Last year, Tax Freedom Day fell on May 17, so in 2021 we were paying government for a week longer than in 2020.

kids celebrating

Provincial reopening plan long overdue

by Catherine Swift

Ontario’s Minister of Health Christine Elliott (foreground) and Premier Doug Ford (background). Photo credit: Queen’s Printer for Ontario 2020 Saskatchewan led the way. Over two weeks ago, the ‘Wheat Province’ published a detailed, comprehensive three step plan to reopen the provincial economy, tied to meeting various vaccination thresholds. The first step in Saskatchewan’s plan is […]

minister Elliott and Premier Ford

A shot across the union bow

by Catherine Swift

During his much-awaited press conference on the state of the lockdown in Ontario late last week, Premier Doug Ford took a shot at the teachers’ unions when commenting on the issue of school closures. While disappointing many Ontarians by extending the current stay-at-home order for a further two weeks until June 2, Ford also said, “On the one hand, we have some doctors saying they want to open the schools. On the other hand, we have the teachers’ unions saying we can’t do that right now.”

Sam Hammond

The many costs of COVID

by Catherine Swift

The direct costs of the COVID-19 pandemic have been painfully clear since the beginning, with illness and death documented in the data we see every day. The indirect costs of the pandemic – a sharp increase in mental health problems, the negative effects on children of such massive disruption in their lives, the economic fallout and so many other impacts – are also legion but are likely to take many years to fully manifest themselves and as such are more difficult to quantify. A recent report from Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office (FAO) shed some light on one of these indirect pandemic impacts, and the news was not encouraging.

man with neck pain

The bell tolls for Newfoundland – for now

by Catherine Swift

For those who pay attention to politics and public policy in Canada, it is no secret that Newfoundland and Labrador is on the brink of bankruptcy. Decades of out-of-control government spending, an expensive and bloated public sector, the disastrous high-cost Muskrat Falls energy project, the exodus of Newfoundland’s youth for greener employment pastures elsewhere, and other factors have led to Newfoundland’s debt crisis.

Moya Greene

More deceptive climate policy revealed

by Catherine Swift

It’s been a banner week for those of us who don’t buy in to the “climate emergency” narrative that so many activists, globalists, and some governments are trying to push these days. This is not to say that we should not be concerned about environmental issues and do all manner of sensible things to have a positive impact.

Steven Koonin

Teachers’ unions bombard airwaves

by Catherine Swift

Have you tuned in to a Toronto Maple Leafs’ hockey game lately? Perhaps watched the news, or pretty much any other current affairs show on television of late? If so, you have likely noticed that there were almost constant ads sponsored by various teachers’ unions critical of Ontario Premier Doug Ford in one way or another.

protest at Queens's Park

Ontario long term care report highlights glaring issues

by Catherine Swift

Ontario’s Auditor General (AG), Bonnie Lysyk, released her report on the provincial long term care (LTC) sector this week, and its findings were dire. The overall conclusion, not surprisingly, was that LTC homes were not equipped or prepared to deal with the urgent and pervasive range of issues involved in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the government departments involved in overseeing the sector were similarly incompetent. The result was a horrific death count of 3,756 LTC residents and 11 staff members.

Bonnie Lysyk

Federal budget encroaches on provinces

by Catherine Swift

Earlier this week, the Trudeau government introduced the biggest spending budget in Canadian history – by a long shot – encompassing a doubling of Canada’s federal debt to $1.4 trillion by 2025-26, with a very “liberal” spreading of large quantities of taxpayer dollars to almost every constituency possible. One interesting and potentially troublesome aspect of the budget was that it contained measures in several areas that are in provincial government jurisdiction, which could cause difficulties down the road for federal-provincial relations.

provincial flags

Victims’ rights lag in Canada

by Catherine Swift

The one-year anniversary of the horrific mass murder in Nova Scotia took place this past weekend and
reminds us all of how poorly victims of crime are treated in Canada. Few Canadians are aware that Canada is seriously out of step with other developed countries with respect to our treatment of victims of crime. Virtually all other Western nations have well-established regimes of legal rights for victims, fair and equitable rules around compensation and support for things such as mental health treatment.

memorial

The end of The Beer Store?

by Catherine Swift

As a diversion from the endlessly negative pandemic news these days, we recently heard some other negative news about an iconic and archaic Ontario institution: The Beer Store. It appears that The Beer Store lost a whopping $50 million in 2020, which followed similarly large losses of $46.5 million in 2019 and $18.5 million in 2018.

the beer store

Our complacent, incompetent public service

by Catherine Swift

Now that we have passed the one-year mark in our collective pandemic nightmare, more and more information is emerging regarding how very poorly the various government bureaucracies throughout Canada have handled the emergency. Politicians have understandably attracted most of the criticism, and they certainly deserve their share of the blame, but Canada would surely have had a much less drastic pandemic experience if more government bureaucrats had been doing their job.

covidiots

The “Vaccines in Freezers” Fallacy

by Catherine Swift

Ever since Canadians started to finally receive Covid-19 vaccines – initially in dribs and drabs – back in December 2020, there has been an ongoing narrative placing the blame on provincial governments for the slow pace of Canada’s vaccination effort as they were supposedly keeping vaccines in freezers instead of putting them into people’s arms. This accusation has been mostly levelled at the Ontario government, which continues to be accused of keeping excessive quantities of vaccines on ice, supposedly due to the inefficiency of its distribution network.

vaccine freezers

The real debt bomb

by Catherine Swift

It is no secret that government debt has increased dramatically over the past year because of the pandemic. And although most Canadians are understandably supportive of increasing our national debt at the present time because of the once-in-a-lifetime (we hope) crisis of COVID-19, we were heading for trouble before the virus hit. Typically when we see debt numbers for Canada in international comparisons, and things like debt/GDP ratios, it only refers to the federal government debt. But to get a true picture of our debt situation, the cumulative debt of all governments needs to be factored in. A recent Fraser Institute study looked at the total government debt situation in Canada, and the news is not good.

debt graphic

A trial balloon for online learning

by Catherine Swift

Last week, the Ontario government floated the idea of making online learning a permanent fixture in provincial public schools. Education Minister Stephen Lecce commented that the government was currently seeking input on the proposal, and that a decision would be made in the coming weeks.

online learning

A Liberal budget for Ontario

by Catherine Swift

It’s not surprising that the opposition parties really had to work hard to be critical of the Ford government’s annual budget presented this week. Even the usually big-spending NDP and Liberals would have had trouble outspending the Conservative government in this budget, prompting many to dub this a Liberal budget.

Ontario budget book

A golden opportunity

by Catherine Swift

As if things weren’t already bad enough over the past year, the Ontario Sunshine List just came out to remind us how much better off those folks we pay to be “public servants” were in 2020 as compared to the rest of us.

sun shining in the sky

Big changes planned for Manitoba education

by Catherine Swift

This week the Manitoba government announced sweeping changes to their Kindergarten to Grade 12 public education system, including the elimination of elected school boards and the role of school trustees.

kids reading

A difficult budget season

by Catherine Swift

It’s that time of the year when most governments look to present a budget outlining their financial position and spending plans for the coming fiscal year. The pandemic and its dramatic impacts on government spending and revenues will make putting together a budget this year more challenging than ever before.

Peter Bethlenfalvy

Vaccination schedule is a work in progress

by Catherine Swift

Following several months of delay and uncertainty as the Trudeau government failed to procure supply of the various COVID-19 vaccines in a timely manner, meaningful quantities of vaccine are finally beginning to flow to the provinces, who bear the responsibility for their administration.

vaccine vial

Ford flip-flops on per vote subsidy

by Catherine Swift

Back in early 2018 when Doug Ford was in pre-election campaign mode, he vowed to end the per-vote subsidy of political parties if he was elected Premier. At that time, Ford even referred to the subsidy as “political welfare”. Yet just last week, he not only said he would reintroduce the subsidy as part of Bill 254, but would actually increase it. He was right the first time.

100 dollar bill

Opposition grows to new highway

by Catherine Swift

Maybe it’s that the number of the Highway is unlucky, but recent months have seen opposition grow to a proposed new 400 series highway, called the GTA West Transportation Corridor or Highway 413.

highway traffic

More municipal motions

by Catherine Swift

At a time like the current pandemic, you would think all governments were exclusively focused on how they could be most helpful and supportive to the voters that elect them and taxpayers that compensate them generously when many of those taxpayers are themselves in dire financial straits.

living wage

The Ontario school bus tragedy

by Catherine Swift

Most Ontarians are unaware of the major upheaval in Ontario’s school bus industry that has taken place over the past decade. This disruption, precipitated by bad Ontario Liberal government procurement policy, decimated many small family businesses, reduced service on school bus routes and created more unnecessary bureaucracy. The original intent of the policy change was supposedly to save money – something that the McGuinty/Wynne Liberals were rarely concerned about – yet ended up costing taxpayers more while wreaking havoc on the industry.

school bus

The paid sick leave debate

by Catherine Swift

Discussion in recent months on the issue of government-imposed paid sick leave has been revived because of the pandemic and the dangers around sick people going to work because they cannot afford to take unpaid time off.

person sick sitting on their couch

Politicians behaving badly

by Catherine Swift

This was not a banner week in the Ontario Legislature for anyone. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath continued with her ongoing opposition to opening up the economy, even a little, to give small businesses and their employees, among others, a chance at survival. The left in general, including public sector unions, have consistently favoured ongoing shutdowns despite the damage they are doing. That is of course easy to do when their livelihoods are not affected by the lockdowns, and in fact many in government are working less for the same or better money.

Premier Ford and Leader of the opposition Andrea Horwath

Them’s the March Breaks

by Catherine Swift

Last week the Ontario government announced that March Break would be postponed until the week of April 12.  This makes sense for all kinds of reasons, including those that are health-related and in the interest of students receiving some minimal amount of education during this school year. The timing appears to be right for students […]

March break written on a chalk board

With friends like these……

by Catherine Swift

When Joe Biden was elected US President last November, much of Canada breathed a huge sigh of relief.
There were many media stories about how this development was great for Canada and that the US-Canada relationship could now be much more positive than it was during the Trump years. And although Biden, who has been in US politics for almost 50 years, will certainly be a more typical politician than the mercurial and unpredictable Trump, it is by no means clear that his presidency will work to the benefit of Canada.

PM Trudeau and Biden (VP, now President)

The UBI myth debunked – again

by Catherine Swift

The COVID-19 pandemic and its drastic economic impacts have revived debate around a number of policy issues, one of them being the Universal Basic Income (UBI).

UBI

The tip of the iceberg?

by Catherine Swift

Despite much evidence to the contrary, some people continue to believe that governments and government entities simply cannot go bankrupt.
In fact, there is a whole school of thought called Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) that promotes the view that governments can spend without constraint, and encounter virtually no downside. MMT has become increasingly popular during the pandemic, as government spending everywhere has skyrocketed and many public officials and others would like to believe that through some magical accounting tricks and governments creating infinite supplies of money, this will not create massive problems for future generations faced with gigantic government debts.

laurentian university sign

The red tape blues

by Catherine Swift

My old alma mater, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), has released its annual report on red tape, its negative impact on business, and how the various provincial governments are faring in getting a grip on this important component of economic competitiveness. Considering that 2020 was dominated by the pandemic, it is commendable that any province actually improved their red tape ranking in the CFIB analysis for that year. Ontario was one such province, with an A- grade overall, behind Manitoba, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan which all received an A rank.

red ribbon and scissors

An interesting disclosure

by Catherine Swift

The ever-unhappy Ontario teachers’ unions have been consistently very vocal throughout the pandemic, complaining that school conditions were unsafe no matter how many mitigation measures were being taken by the government and school boards. It seemed that the unions would only be satisfied if all schools remained completely closed, with of course full pay for teachers who were working at reduced capacity and sometimes not at all. This week we obtained some more insight into one of the ways a teachers’ union was working toward this objective.

Dr David Fisman

More municipal follies

by Catherine Swift

The city of Kingston, Ontario has become the most recent jurisdiction to fall prey to the siren song of the environmental activists as its municipal council just passed a motion to phase out natural gas-fired power plants “as soon as possible”. Other cities in Ontario that have passed similar motions include Kitchener, Hamilton, St. Catharines and Windsor. Kingston was apparently the first Ontario municipality to declare a climate emergency – whatever that means – in 2019, and has vowed that the city will become carbon neutral by 2040.

natural gas plant

Unexpected lessons from online learning

by Catherine Swift

The online learning experiment in the Ontario public school system that has been necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic is having some unintended consequences for teachers and parents, and providing lessons that were not anticipated.

aprent and their child on a laptop

Lockdown!

by Catherine Swift

The best that can be said about this week’s “stay at home” order and the invocation of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act by the Ontario government is that it could have been worse.

premier ford removing his mask

The two solitudes of pandemic employment

by Catherine Swift

Labour Force data for December 2020 was released last Friday, and the news was not good for most Canadians.
For the first time since April, overall national employment dropped by 63,000 and the unemployment rate increased from 8.5 to 8.6 per cent. This was more than double the decline that was anticipated by analysts. The labour force participation rate (the number of people looking for work) declined as well, tempering somewhat the increase in the unemployment rate. The sectors hardest hit included accommodation, food services, culture and recreation – hardly a surprise as these sectors were some of the key targets of restrictive public health policies. The December data also showed that over 28 per cent of Canadians were working from home in the month, as compared to the previous peak of 41 per cent in April.

woman holding a "lost my job" sign

More power to you

by Catherine Swift

One of the aspects of the pandemic that has affected pretty much everyone to some extent is that we are all staying home more. In virtually all situations, this will mean that we are consuming more electricity than we otherwise would. And once again, it will come as no surprise to Ontario residents that they are being put at a disadvantage relative to their fellow citizens in other provinces as they continue to pay the highest hydro power rates in the country.

hydro lines

Five fearless forecasts for 2021

by Catherine Swift

Undaunted by the inaccuracy of my forecasts for 2020 – most of which were thrown off by the immense dominance of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on pretty much all elements of our lives – I will nevertheless proceed with making a few predictions for the coming year. So here goes…..

catherine swift

A tale of two provinces

by Catherine Swift

Before the saga of Rod Phillips and his ill-timed tropical vacation took over the headlines, the Ford government was being criticized for temporarily pausing COVID-19 vaccinations for a couple of days over the Christmas holidays.

Bonnie Henry, BC’s head Provincial Health Officer

2020 ends with a whimper

by Catherine Swift

The end of a year is usually accompanied by celebrations and thoughts of resolutions for the year soon to come. But for 2020, the only celebration will be relief that this awful year is finally over, and hope that next year can at best return us to some semblance of normal.

2020

Ford was right on carbon tax hike

by Catherine Swift

In reacting to the shocking surprise announcement by the federal government recently that the carbon tax was going to increase by over 500 per cent during the next few years, Premier Doug Ford went on one of his classic rants. He was criticized by some in the media for saying such things as “this carbon tax is going to be the worst thing you could ever see” and “you don’t have to protect the environment on the backs of the hard-working people of this province and this country at a time that people are just holding on by their fingernails”.

filling up the car with gas

A sliver of light in the economic gloom

by Catherine Swift

There was very little attention paid to an interesting development that took place this week, a development which should augur well for future economic growth in Ontario.
The governments of Ontario and the US state of Maryland have signed a free trade agreement. Although country-to-country trade agreements are nothing new, this is the first time a Canadian province has reached such an accord with a US state.

Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan

Between a covid rock and a hard place

by Catherine Swift

Last week Ontario Premier Ford announced that he would no longer hold the daily briefings on Ontario’s COVID-19 situation that he had been conducting for the roughly nine months of the pandemic to date. Although Ford did not give any specific reason for the change, it did coincide with the adjournment of the Ontario legislature until Feb. 16, 2021. Ford also noted that he would now do briefings when there was new information to report, not just as a daily routine that took place whether or not anything had changed or if there was something different to discuss.

Premier Ford ans Ministers press conference

The COVID spin cycle

by Catherine Swift

It has been said that perception is reality.
In addition to the actual facts of the COVID-19 pandemic, how it is progressing and how different governments are dealing with it, the perceptions of Canadians in different parts of the country have frequently had little to do with reality but are nevertheless having their impact.

Premier Legault

Promoting excellence in Ontario postsecondary institutions

by Catherine Swift

Earlier this year, the Strategic Mandate Agreements between the Ontario government and public colleges and universities that had been operational since 2017 expired, and were recently replaced with agreements that had a new and welcome twist.
Going forward, funding for these institutions will be based to a greater extent than previously on their performance, measured by the success of their graduates to find employment in their field of study. In previous agreements, virtually all of the funding was tied to enrolment numbers. Under the new regime, it is anticipated that by 2025, 60 per cent of operating funding will be contingent upon meeting performance criteria.

Brock University tower

Another public sector myth on the chopping block

by Catherine Swift

These are indeed crazy times, but there is some craziness taking place these days that has nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.
An example of this erupted recently in Alberta, over some fairly mild wording in a government document and the question of whether or not government employees actually pay taxes.

myth vs fact on scales

COVID failures coming home to roost

by Catherine Swift

In examining how the various Canadian governments have handled the COVID-19 pandemic to date, it seems that provincial governments, and occasionally municipalities, have been getting the lion’s share of the blame.
Considering that the provinces have jurisdiction over health care, and municipalities have public health responsibilities, this is perhaps not surprising. That still should not let the federal government off the hook, however, as many mistakes they made early in the pandemic, and continue to make today, ensure that the provinces have faced a heavier burden than they would have otherwise.

vaccine vile

Auditor General Takes on COVID

by Catherine Swift

Ontario Auditor General (AG) Bonnie Lysyk has done a terrific job for the province throughout her seven-year tenure to date (of a ten year total term) in the job. She has ably identified many areas of wasteful government spending over the years, and was especially scathing in her numerous reports on the mess made by the previous Liberal government of the hydro policy file, the many billions of tax dollars squandered for little progress on environmental issues, and the excessive burden of high hydro rates inflicted on Ontarians to this day because of that failed policy.

AG Bonnie Lysyk at a press conference

Small businesses bearing the burden of an unfair playing field

by Catherine Swift

In the mishmash of COVID-19 measures taken by governments across Canada to attempt to stem the expansion of the virus, a disturbing trend is emerging.
More and more often, government policies that shut down the economy to varying degrees are having a disproportionately negative impact on small businesses. The new lockdown mandate for Toronto and Peel regions in Ontario, for example, permit big box stores to stay open while small businesses must close. Small firms are still permitted to do delivery and offer curbside pick-up, which is cold comfort at a time of year when many businesses do half or more of their entire annual business because of the Christmas shopping season.

closed sign

Streamlining Procurement

by Catherine Swift

The Ontario government has announced the creation of a new agency to centralize and streamline government procurement in the province. This new entity – Supply Ontario – is intended to oversee all procurement for the entire public sector, including the extended public sector such as schools, universities and hospitals.

a keyboard

Conservation and Common Sense

by Catherine Swift

Some recent changes the Ford government has proposed to the Conservation Authorities Act (CAA) and the Planning Act is causing consternation among some of those bodies and environmental groups around the province.
There are currently 36 conservation authorities across Ontario, which are responsible for protecting, restoring and effectively managing impacts on the province’s water resources such as lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater.

overhead shot of some fields

End of the Wynne Era

by Catherine Swift

Like her or loathe her, Kathleen Wynne had a significant impact on Ontario that will last for some time to come. Her recent announcement that she would step away from politics after the end of her current term as MPP in mid-2022 brought the Wynne era to an end after a long run of what will be almost 20 years in provincial politics.

Kathleen Wynne

Small Business Wins in Ontario Budget

by Catherine Swift

Last week’s Ontario budget contained several big and long overdue wins for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). The most significant involves hydro rates, which have been a serious burden on SMEs since the early days of the McGuinty government’s Green Energy Act (GEA) in 2009. As hydro costs steadily increased in the years following the GEA’s introduction as subsidies were provided to inefficient and unreliable wind and solar energy generation, governments put in place some measures to help households and large businesses reduce their bills, while SMEs faced the worst impacts of the rate hikes. Many smaller firms went out of business, downsized or left Ontario as the excessive hydro rates made them uncompetitive with other jurisdictions in Canada and the US.

ontario action plan booklet

Stay in your lane

by Catherine Swift

A number of Ontario municipalities have opted to make pronouncements regarding a ban on natural gas of late.
The first city involved was Kitchener, Ontario, whose city council last week called on the provincial government to phase out natural gas power generation by 2030. Kitchener was following the example of the town of Halton Hills, which previously made this demand.

road

Buy Ontario program announced

by Catherine Swift

Most Canadian governments have emphasized the importance of “buying local” and “buying Canadian” in recent months during the pandemic. This has been partly motivated by the fact that Canada endured shortages of many pandemic-related items such as personal protective equipment (PPE), which opened people’s eyes to the value of producing essential equipment domestically and not having to depend on imports that might not always be available at reasonable cost.

premier doug ford and mpps

Alberta wildcat strike threatens healthcare

by Catherine Swift

While most parts of society are attempting to be constructive during our current difficult times dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, labour unions continue to make life more difficult than necessary at a time when things are already plenty difficult enough.

wildcate strike

BC elects majority NDP government

by Catherine Swift

The BC NDP won a strong majority government last week in Canada’s second provincial election taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier John Horgan took a chance in calling a snap election only three years after the last election – in violation of the fixed election date provision in BC’s Constitution Act – with the hope of turning his minority government into a majority. That risk clearly paid off as his previous minority seat count of 41 was converted into a solid 55-seat majority.

Premier John Horgan

Another hydro rate hike

by Catherine Swift

Ontarians recently found out that they will be facing yet another increase in their already-inflated hydro rates, starting in November 2020.
This change will put an end to the fixed rate pricing that has been in place since June 1, when the provincial government suspended time-of-use pricing because of the pandemic. The increase is expected to amount to about two per cent on average – not a massive hike but still another cost increase when so many people are financially stressed because of pandemic-related economic factors. High hydro rates were causing problems for low- and middle-income Ontarians before the pandemic hit, and this recent price increase will worsen energy poverty in the province.

hydro towers

School boards to hire on quality not seniority

by Catherine Swift

In the private sector, where most people work, if an employer said their goal was to hire the best person for the job they would probably be mocked for belabouring the obvious. 

Not so in the public sector, however, where union rules mean that employees with seniority are routinely given preference, whether or not they are the person best qualified for the job at hand.  This is especially true in Ontario’s public school system, where self-serving union rules often prevail over common sense and good employment policies.  A recent announcement by Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce aims to change this long-standing practice as it pertains to supply teachers, and it can’t come soon enough. 

Minister Stephen Leece

Good News, Bad News on the Jobs Front

by Catherine Swift

The last week has seen some interesting developments in Canada’s labour market, although much uncertainty remains because of the unpredictability of the ongoing pandemic.
Statistics Canada Labour Market Survey Data for September showed that overall employment increased by 378,000 jobs nationally, bringing the unemployment rate down to nine per cent from its peak of 13.7 per cent in May 2020. The vast majority of new employment was full-time, as many jobs which had moved to part-time during the pandemic had once again assumed full-time status. There was also a slight decline in the number of people working from home in the month.

jon postings board

Province to provide support for struggling food service industry

by Nicholas Tibollo

As cases of Covid-19 continue to soar in Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel Region, the Ford government recently made the difficult decision to retighten restrictions for certain establishments.

The return to modified-Stage 2 directives means that indoor dining, nightclubs, gyms, movie theatres and the like will be unavailable to residents in the highly-affected areas for a minimum of 28 days, with the possibility of extension.

restaurant worker wearing a mask

Alberta unions launch boycott campaign

by Aaron Wudrick

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) recently launched a campaign to encourage Albertans to boycott businesses that support the United Conservative Party (UCP), which won the 2019 Alberta provincial election in a landslide.
The AFL has established a website which lists businesses who made political donations to the UCP, and is asking Albertans to avoid patronizing these businesses. The boycott campaign is predicated on the fact that the UCP government is looking for ways to streamline public spending at a time when the province is in serious financial difficulty. Considering that about 80 per cent of Albertans work in the private sector and would therefore benefit from more sensible budgetary policies, the unions are actually advocating against the interests of most workers in the province.

Gil McGowan, Alberta Federation of Labour president.

More tax dollars for the Ontario auto sector

by Catherine Swift

A big announcement took place with much fanfare this week, as the federal and Ontario governments committed a total of $590 million, divided equally between them, to the development of electric cars and batteries at the Ford plant in Oakville.

the ford plant in oakville, ontairio

OLRB rejects teachers’ unions case

by Catherine Swift

Ontario teachers marched on the Ontario Legislature during a one-day province-wide strike last February.

Last week the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) rejected an appeal from the province’s teachers’ unions that claimed health and safety measures taken by the Ontario government were insufficient and that teachers were being put at risk.
All four major teachers’ unions were involved in putting the case to the OLRB – elementary school (EFTO), secondary school (OSSTF), Catholic school (OETCA) and francophone school (AEFO).
The union complaints dealt with a number of issues, including class sizes, student and teacher cohort sizes, ventilation, masking and busing. In addition to asking for smaller class sizes, more physical distancing and some other more stringent measures, the unions also asked that measures taken in the schools be reviewed monthly by the Ministry of Labour.
In its rejection of the unions’ appeal, the OLRB noted that it was being done on jurisdictional grounds, and said that the unions needed to make their cases individually, not jointly. The Board noted that any complaints should pertain to situations faced by individual teachers and any specific health and safety concerns they may have.
It remains to be seen whether any individual teachers or their unions will file complaints of this nature in the weeks and months ahead, and whether or not they will be successful with the OLRB.
For its part, the Ontario government continues to contend that the health and safety measures it has put in place in schools are sufficient. Experience with public school reopenings to date would appear to back up the government’s position as there have been few significant outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools and those that did occur have been dealt with quickly and effectively.
Looking across all of the provinces, a number of teachers’ unions in various provinces have complained about safety issues regarding the reopening of schools, but the Ontario teachers’ unions have as usual been the most vocal and militant. When comparing the school reopening plans of the provinces, Ontario’s precautions are among the most stringent in the country, so the unions’ accusations that the Ontario government is being irresponsible don’t hold water. In fact, some parents in other jurisdictions have commented that they view Ontario’s plan as one to be emulated, not constantly criticized.
No one should be surprised to hear the teachers’ unions respond to the OLRB’s action by saying they will continue their actions against the government, and a press conference is apparently planned for this week to outline the unions’ next steps.
History has shown that the Ontario teachers’ unions like to fight with governments of all political stripes, even those who bend over backwards to appease them as the McGuinty/Wynne Liberals did at immense cost to taxpayers accompanied by deteriorating education quality despite all the additional money spent.
Even though the unions fought with the Liberals, they will always save their most potent vitriol for a Conservative government. In light of the immense amount of money the unions have to play with, receiving forced dues from every teacher in the province funded by tax dollars, one can only imagine what a positive impact they could have for teachers, students and public education in general if they chose to be constructive instead of constantly confrontational.
It doesn’t look like that will be happening anytime soon.

teachers protesting

Some good news in the COVID gloom

by Catherine Swift

Amid all of the concerns about the increasing numbers of people contracting COVID-19 in recent weeks, there was some good news regarding what is taking place in the public school system.
After about a month of most schools having re-opened across the country, there appears to be very little worry among health officials that schools will become a hotbed for infections. Some cases of the virus have been experienced but, in the vast majority of cases, it has been only one or two cases in some schools which were rapidly and effectively dealt with, and the schools involved did not need to be closed.

classroom desks

Should ability to pay matter?

by Catherine Swift

The Ontario Divisional Court this week made a decision that will likely end up costing Ontario taxpayers more money for health care, at a time when the provincial health care budget is already under considerable stress.
The decision concerned a Ford government policy change announced last May which intended to cancel out-of-country traveller’s health insurance. The amount of money involved in this case is not massive – about $10-12 million in the multi-billion health care budget – but the principle is important. Should courts be able to make decisions that affect government finances – often significantly – without having to at least consider the question of whether taxpayers have the ability to pay?

beach

Ontario’s new carbon tax

by Catherine Swift

After pressuring all provinces into imposing various forms of carbon taxes on their citizens, as well as policies to deal with greenhouse gas emissions from heavy industry, this week the federal government accepted Ontario’s plan to impose carbon pricing on industry.

smoke stacks

What a Difference a Week Makes

by Catherine Swift

Last week the Ford government reconvened the Ontario legislature and announced its fall legislative agenda, a plan for “growth, renewal and long-term recovery”.
The top priority cited was health preparedness, but there was also a focus on job creation, skills training, attracting investment, strengthening communities and fortifying the front lines of the health care system – all commendable and necessary objectives. In the intervening week, however, the rather sudden increase in recorded cases of COVID-19 has effectively wiped most other priorities off the table for the time being.

covid testing centre sign

Higgs wins big in New Brunswick

by Catherine Swift

This week saw a big win for the Conservatives in New Brunswick.
Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs had been overseeing a minority government for the past two years, and opted to call a snap election to seek a majority mandate from voters. The four political parties in the province had been in the midst of negotiations about a proposal from Higgs that his minority government be permitted to stay in power until October 2022, or until the end of the pandemic, to provide continuity during the COVID-19 crisis. The provincial Liberals pulled out of these discussions in mid-August, providing the impetus for Higgs to trigger the snap election.

premier higgs

BC court slams door on private health care

by Catherine Swift

Last week in British Columbia, a BC Supreme Court judge rejected a request to reverse some provincial health care regulations – notably a ban on private health insurance for medically necessary procedures. 

The case was put forward by Dr. Brian Day, a physician who has long been an advocate for choice in health care options.  Although there are many complex legal arguments involved, the BC judge effectively concluded that although the current public health care monopoly imposes significant wait times on Canadian patients and consequently considerable suffering and even unnecessary death, this cost is not sufficient to permit private health insurance as in the judge’s opinion private insurance would undermine the feasibility of the public system. 

Dr. Day

The inaugural Ontario-Quebec summit

by Catherine Swift

This week the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec convened their first-ever “summit” to discuss important matters of mutual interest.
Topics on the agenda included economic recovery and job creation in a post-pandemic environment, health care preparedness for a possible second COVID-19 wave, collaboration on trade issues and the safe opening of the Canada-US border and the promotion of domestically made products, as well as other issues of concern to both provinces.

Premiers Ford and Legault

Beware the unintended consequences

by Catherine Swift

As the opening of school gets closer in Ontario and has begun in some other provinces, and teacher union scare tactics escalate to reach even higher levels of desperation, some interesting trends are emerging.
It seems that a significant number of parents are opting out of sending their kids back to public school and are finding alternatives in private schools, tutors, home school variations, distance learning and “learning pods” of a few students, or some combination of these options. Surveys show that in Ontario and some other provinces, as many as one-quarter to one-third of parents will not send their kids to public school this September.

a child sitting in front of a computer

A perfect time for fairness

by Catherine Swift

Anyone who has worked in the private sector for any period of time is likely familiar with the reality that things are not always rosy and difficult circumstances for any business usually creates a need for pay freezes, pay cuts, working longer hours for the same pay or, in the worst case scenario, job loss.
In the public sector, it used to be the case decades ago that workers earned lower pay than the private sector, which was offset by greater job security and better pensions.

road sign

Grim economic news

by Catherine Swift

Now that the worst of the pandemic is hopefully behind us, data are starting to come out measuring the impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian economy. It seems that the news is even worse than originally thought.
Statistics Canada data for the second quarter of 2020 registered the steepest decline in quarterly Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ever recorded since data were collected on this basis in the early 1960s, with an annualized drop of 38.7 per cent. Not surprisingly, consumer spending, investment and international trade all showed sharp declines. By way of comparison, the US economy shrunk by 31.7 per cent, significantly less than in Canada.

stocks

Credit rating stable – for now

by Catherine Swift

Earlier this week the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) for Ontario confirmed that the province’s credit rating by the four major credit rating agencies would remain at its current level of AA- or A+, and has not to date been downgraded because of the sharply increased government spending during the pandemic.
The FAO cautioned, however, that to avoid a downgrade in the near future the province would have to pursue a post-pandemic fiscal path of reducing annual deficits and overall provincial debt.

credit rating

How to kill jobs in Ontario – Part II

by Catherine Swift

Canadian companies move to America and pay one-third the hydro costs. At the end of Part I of this two-part series, we left manufacturer Acme Inc. forced to make some difficult decisions as Ontario Liberal government policies on hydro rates, labour legislation, employment standards and taxes were making it increasingly difficult to do business in […]

ambassador bridge

How to Kill Jobs in Ontario – Part I

by Catherine Swift

Many debates about government economic policy – both good and bad – tend to take place in a theoretical and ideological context without consideration for the effects of those policies once they are implemented.
What really brings the impact home is the real-life experience of an individual business. This is the story of a business in Ontario which struggled for years to keep its head above water in the face of adversity. Some of the difficulties arose from the natural ebb and flow of the business cycle, which is challenging but fully expected by any sensible business owner. What was surprising is that most of the problems this business faced were created by the bad policies of the McGuinty and Wynne Liberal governments.

closed for business sign

An Odd Announcement on a Friday Afternoon

by Catherine Swift

Ontario’s Environment Minister Jeff Yurek says the data gathered under the province’s first-ever climate change impact assessment will help the province and local communities plan their infrastructure to mitigate climate change risks.

Last Friday a rather unusual press release was issued from the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, announcing that the province was launching the province’s first-ever climate change impact assessment, supposedly to “strengthen the province’s resilience to the impacts of climate change”.

Jeff Yurek MPP

Hey Big Spenders!

by Catherine Swift

This week Finance Minister Rod Phillips broke the bad fiscal news in an update on Ontario’s finances and it was grim indeed.
Citing all of the increased spending due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Minister stated that this year’s deficit would hit $38.5 billion, roughly a quadrupling of last year’s deficit of $9.2 billion. Expenditure increases were, not surprisingly, significant in health care where current year spending jumped to $7.7 billion from earlier forecasts of $3.3 billion. Billions more were directed to support for municipalities, transit projects and education.

Minister Rod Phillips

Back to School Blues

by Catherine Swift

It’s not the students that have the back to school blues this year, but the unions and some teachers are working hard to whip up fear among parents and others that Ontario’s plan is going to expose students and their families to unacceptably unsafe conditions when they return to the classroom in September.

children boarding a school bus

Half Time for the Ford Government

by Catherine Swift

The Ford government has now been in power for just over two years – the half way point in a four-year mandate.
Virtually every government of any political stripe tries to get the difficult stuff over with in the first half of its term, then spend the final two years with voter-friendly measures geared to getting them re-elected. The Ford government came into power with big plans in a number of areas to fix the many problems left by their Liberal predecessors, and put in place new elements of their own agenda. So how well have they done in accomplishing these goals in their first two years in power?

Premier Ford on election night with his family

Provinces Weigh in on WE

by Catherine Swift

As the messy and complicated WE Charity scandal continues to unfold, a number of provincial governments have weighed in to question the involvement of WE with their province’s education systems.

WE event

A session to remember

by Catherine Swift

Last week the Ontario legislature adjourned after a session that was unprecedented in many ways.
It began on February 17. At that time, the priority items on the agenda were teachers’ strikes, various blockades of key rail transportation corridors and the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Ford government announced plans to proceed with some previously-introduced legislation on issues such as health teams, justice, transportation and the budget that was upcoming at that time. As we now know, the rapid worsening of the pandemic quickly took precedence over other issues and became by far the top priority for government action.

Queen's Park

The Comfort Factor

by Catherine Swift

In recent weeks most provinces across Canada have been focused on how they are opening up their economies again after months of COVID-19 lockdown. Most of the attention has been paid to exactly which businesses are permitted to reopen and under what conditions, what sizes of groups are allowed to congregate, whether or not masks will be mandatory in certain circumstances and how those rules are to be enforced by governments.

Premier Ford wearing a face mask

Hydro Horror Show Continues

by Catherine Swift

Most Ontarians are well aware that they are paying far too much for hydro – significantly more than pretty much any other jurisdiction in North America.
Most Ontarians also know that the reason for our outrageously high hydro costs is the ill-conceived Green Energy Act (GEA) of the previous Liberal government, which involved signing long-term contracts with solar and wind energy providers, guaranteeing them rates far in excess of any sensible market rates for electricity, while doing little if anything for the environment that would justify the massive added costs.

hydro lines

Ontario mayors want more of your money

by Catherine Swift

“Time is up” was a recent ultimatum declared by Ontario’s Mayors to other levels of government. The reason for this sabre rattling was that municipal governments are demanding more money from provincial and federal governments or they threaten to dramatically increase taxes or reduce services.

Premier Ford at AMO

Province moves to Stage 3 reopening as Niagara and GTA put on hold

by The Niagara Independent

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced yesterday that beginning Friday, the majority of the province’s businesses will be permitted to reopen as the province transitions to Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan.
Unfortunately Niagara and the Greater Golden Horseshoe were not included in the announcement and will remain at Stage 2 at this time. No doubt Niagara business owners will be frustrated with another delay in proceeding to the next stage. Lambton and the Windsor-Essex public health units are also remaining in Stage 2

premier ford and ministers at stage press conference

Alberta strives for labour balance

by Catherine Swift

Following the Alberta NDP’s implementation of a number of very union-friendly policies during their tenure in government from 2015 to 2019, Premier Jason Kenney just introduced legislation to reverse many of those changes and restore some balance to labour relations in the province.

Labour Minister Jason Copping

Province gets rid of school streaming

by Catherine Swift

In somewhat of a surprise announcement, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce stated this week that the Ontario public education system would be abandoning the practice of “streaming”, which entails separating students as they enter Grade 9 into two “streams” – an applied course of study or an academic course of study.

Looking Good for Stage Three

by Catherine Swift

Ontario’s recent success in “flattening the curve” of new COVID-19 cases and to date preventing a second wave of infections means that the province can hopefully move to Stage 3 of its plans to further re-open the economy.

niagara falls casino and hilton

Infrastructure Wars

by Catherine Swift

One of the key government policies conventionally deployed following a crisis is to undertake large scale infrastructure projects to create employment by building or repairing the roads, bridges, sewers systems, transit and other public works that underpin any successful economy. In our modern era we can add high-speed internet to the fundamental infrastructure list as all parts of Canada do not yet have this capability that is routinely enjoyed in urban centres yet still not in many rural areas. The current COVID-19 pandemic is no exception as governments are now looking to these types of projects as one means of helping Canadian workers and the economy recover from our current depressed circumstances.

highways

Lecce’s Year of Living Dangerously

by Catherine Swift

You have to wonder if Stephen Lecce looks back and wonders if he did the right thing in accepting the appointment to Ontario Education Minister just over a year ago. As a rookie Member of Provincial Parliament for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and a first-time Cabinet Minister, it wasn’t exactly a light job to take on, although it certainly is one of the most important portfolios and the second-highest spending area after health care. It has also been the undoing of many Ministers of all political stripes over the years, so the stakes were high.

Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce

School will be back in September – One way or another

by Catherine Swift

The Ontario government recently announced its plans to bring students back to school in September after the pandemic-driven school closure that has taken place over the past few months.  Premier Ford emphasized that student safety was the number one consideration, and that ongoing close consultations with health experts would continue to ensure students were not at risk. 

back to school blackboard

Is Ontario really so bad?

by Catherine Swift

Canada broke the 100,000 mark in terms of COVID-19 cases this week, even as new cases of the virus have continued to trend downward in virtually all parts of the country. There have been many comparisons made among the various Canadian provinces as to how the different jurisdictions have fared in handling the Covid-19 pandemic to date, and Ontario and Quebec are regularly cited as the two provinces that have had the worst time dealing with the virus. But has Ontario really done so badly, considering that it is by far the most populous province and as such would be expected to have a very high number of cases?

covid-19 test

Unions continue to protect the bad apples

by Catherine Swift

For some time now, labour unions have been a source of increasing problems in Ontario and in fact across Canada, and this has become even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent protests over racial issues. Police unions are an excellent example. In all too many of the high profile cases of police brutality over the years, including the current cases in the US that have sparked protests and riots in that country and Canada, the offending police officers were shown to be long time bad cops that had been protected time and again by their union until finally tragedy struck.

Back to business as Niagara set for Stage 2

by Kevin Vallier

“Our team crunched the numbers. Our command table reviewed the data and provided the recommendation. On their advice I’m excited to announce today (yesterday) that as of this Friday the following Regions will be able to enter Stage 2…Niagara.” With those words from Premier Doug Ford business owners and employees from across Niagara who’ve been out of work for months felt hope and optimism for the first time in a long while.

premier ford and cabinet ministers

Common Sense is Still Uncommon

by Catherine Swift

The 25th anniversary of the election of Mike Harris in Ontario and his Common Sense Revolution just took place on June 8 with little fanfare. At that time in 1995, Harris’s majority victory came as a surprise to many political observers who believed there would be a return to Liberal rule in the province after Ontario’s brief and unfortunate experiment with the first – and only to date – NDP government that had ever been elected with a majority in the province. But something about Harris and his common sense platform appealed to voters after the big-spending days of the David Peterson Liberal government in the late 1980s and the even bigger-spending days of the Bob Rae NDP government in the early to mid-1990s.

Former Premier Mike Harris

A Deft Move by Ford

by Catherine Swift

Last week’s appointment of Jane Philpott, former federal Liberal Member of Parliament and Health Minister in the Trudeau government, as a Special Advisor to the Ontario Health Minister was seen by many as a smart move by the Ford government on a number of fronts. As a medical doctor with extensive relevant experience, Philpott is well suited to perform in an advisory capacity during the current COVID-19 crisis. She also stepped in as a volunteer at Participation House, a care home for people with disabilities, earlier during the crisis as that facility was left seriously short-staffed when many of the unionized employees walked out and left the vulnerable residents at considerable risk. From a completely objective standpoint, Dr. Philpott would seem to be a perfect fit for this position.

Dr. Jane Philpott

Emergency Extension Contentious in Ontario

by Catherine Swift

Premier Doug Ford’s decision this week to extend the emergency orders until the end of June attracted a great deal of criticism from many quarters. This decision meant that gatherings of more than five people would continue to be prohibited and many businesses such as restaurants and bars had to remain closed except for limited operations like take-out service for restaurants. Most criticisms were based on the fact that since the vast majority of deaths from COVID-19 had taken place in facilities such as long term care homes among highly vulnerable populations, there was little if any reason to continue to restrict the activities of others not in these situations. Other critics noted that as the biggest Covid-19 problems were concentrated in the Toronto area, other parts of the provinces should be permitted to open more extensively as they did not face the same circumstances.

premier ford making an annoucement

Charter schools, online learning shakeup education

by Catherine Swift

Most schools in Canada have been closed over the past couple of months, but there have been some developments in education policy of late that are worthy of attention. In Alberta, the provincial government has introduced Bill 15, the Choice in Education Act, which facilitates the establishment of charter schools. Charter schools are independently-run, non-profit institutions within the public system which typically have a focus on a particular group of students – for example, children with learning disabilities, a particular vocational emphasis or an all-girls school.

laptop computer screen

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