Taxpayers want Houston to end bracket creep

by Jay Goldberg

The truth is that Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston is using health care as an excuse to continue profiting off inflation at taxpayers’ expense. Photo Credit: X/Tim Houston. Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston is the only first minister in all of Canada deliberately profiting off inflation at taxpayers’ expense.  By refusing to adjust income tax […]

Lecce stares down woke agenda of Ontario school boards

by Janet Ecker

Dividing people as the school board’s manual does, wanting teachers to react to students according to their membership in a racial or other specially designated group is wrong and it is divisive, and it undermines the whole purpose and value of education. Pictured: Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and Premier Doug Ford. Photo Credit: […]

Saskatchewan teachers strike out

by Catherine Swift

Everyone believes teachers should be properly paid – and they are. Endless demands from unions are a fact of life but often not justified. The more information everyone has about teachers’ and other public sector workers’ compensation and benefits, the better the support will be for governments which are fighting back against endlessly demanding unions […]

Ford schools Trudeau on affordability

by Jay Goldberg

When it comes to affordability, Ford has shown he understands what families are going through. Trudeau, on the other hand, has shown just how out of touch he is with the lives of everyday Canadians. Photo Credit: Reuters/Cole Burston.    When it comes to making life more affordable for struggling families, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau […]

Court rules against majority in Ontario

by Catherine Swift

The current course of ever-expanding governments costing the productive private sector more and more is not sustainable. Courts that always decide against the majority of citizens are a big part of the problem. The only answer is for we the majority to demand smaller, more efficient governments and tax reductions that will boost economic growth […]

Nuclear will play a critical role in meeting Ontario’s energy future

by Janet Ecker

If Ontario wants to be able to meet our future energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time, then nuclear energy must remain in the mix with natural gas, hydroelectric, wind and solar. Pictured: Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith. Photo Credit: Twitter/Todd Smith. What often gets lost in the debate over creating […]

Flirting with disaster in British Columbia

by Catherine Swift

As an unelected premier, Eby should be treading much more carefully. For a change as monumental as this, he is having a short consultation period which has been announced very quietly. It seems he would like to sneak this by BC citizens without giving them a fair chance to understand the issue and participate in […]

Ontario PCs in high spirits

by Catherine Swift

The politicians and party supporters were in high spirits, as any government would be if they were about midway through a second mandate in which they won an even bigger majority than in the first. That is not a common occurrence in politics, and the PCs are rightly proud of their record. Photo Credit: Twitter/Doug […]

Alberta pokes the beast

by Catherine Swift

The big news in social policy this week was the announcement in Alberta of a plan to manage the very touchy issue of gender rights, transgenderism and related identity issues as they pertain to children. This is truly a third rail political issue which most politicians are studiously ignoring despite its importance. Pictured is Alberta […]

Lecce quietly transforming education in Ontario for the better

by Janet Ecker

Over to one side, almost under the radar, Education Minister Stephen Lecce has been steadily, but surely, moving an important education reform agenda forward.  And in the long term, it will pay significant economic and social dividends as hopefully, our students emerge more prepared for the challenges of life and the workplace. Pictured: Stephen Lecce. […]

It’s time for Ford to make a budget U-turn

by Jay Goldberg

Ford has made his fair share of mistakes over the past six years. But with two years left in his mandate, Ford still has a chance to right his wrongs. That starts with this year’s budget. Pictured: Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Photo Credit: Twitter/Doug Ford.    Premier Doug Ford created a financial mess over the […]

It’s time to axe Ontario’s health tax

by Jay Goldberg

Putting the health tax on the chopping block would be a boon for taxpayers and show Ontarians that Ford is serious about helping families make ends meet. Pictured: Premier Doug Ford and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy Photo Credit: The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn.    There’s one tax in particular Ontario taxpayers want to see on the […]

Childcare should be a priority in the Ford government’s 2024 budget

by Janet Ecker

Cross-province consultations are underway to identify the spring budget’s priorities. One of them should be further steps for the childcare sector.  Photo Credit: Stephen Leece/X.    January to March is pre-budget time for the Ontario government.  Cross-province consultations are underway to identify the spring budget’s priorities. One of them should be further steps for the […]

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians face major gas tax hike

by Jay Goldberg

Without action from the province, the combined impact of the end of the gas tax cut and the increase in the federal carbon tax would be a stunning 11.8 cents per litre. That would drive up the cost of filling up a minivan by nine dollars overnight. Photo Credit: The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan.    Forty […]

A smart move by the Ford government

by Catherine Swift

This recent decision to overturn an unrealistic OEB decision demonstrates a practicality that is sorely needed in many of our energy policy discussions today. Hopefully, that practical approach will prevail in future energy policy decisions in Ontario and the rest of Canada. Pictured is Minister of Energy Todd Smith. Photo Credit: X/Todd Smith.   As […]

Start the Countdown to the end of political welfare in Ontario

by Jay Goldberg

Ford should seize the moment and end political welfare now. Photo Credit: Twitter/Doug Ford.    Ontario’s political welfare system will finally be relegated to the ash heap of history a year from now. But that’s not nearly soon enough. Political parties in Ontario have gotten millions of taxpayer dollars four times a year with no […]

Ford government announces beer, wine coming to corner stores by 2026

by The Niagara Independent

The Premier promised to expand alcohol sales to convenience stores back in the 2018 election campaign. Move also includes all participating grocery stores, big box stores. Photo credit: X/Doug Ford   Ontarians will soon be able to pick up a two-four at their local corner store.  On Thursday, the province announced that beginning no later […]

Islanders Set for Major Tax Relief to Ring in New Year

by Jay Goldberg

P.E.I. residents set to benefit from Premier Dennis King’s 2024 tax relief, potentially saving households $400 in provincial taxes, but concerns arise over bracket creep’s long-term impact Photo Credit: Facebook/Dennis King   Imagine what your family could do with an extra $400. Thanks to Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King, Islanders won’t be imagining what […]

Crombie Wins – Yawn

by Catherine Swift

Bonnie Crombie clinches Ontario Liberal leadership by a narrow margin amidst lacklustre race and low voter turnout. Photo Credit: Chris Young/The Canadian Press In a very lacklustre race for the Ontario Liberal leadership, this past weekend Bonnie Crombie – the consistent frontrunner throughout the leadership contest – finally prevailed over Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Ted Hsu and […]

Ontario Premier and Toronto Mayor Forge Landmark $9B Deal

by Janet Ecker

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow broker a landmark $9 billion agreement, transferring control of major expressways to the province while allocating funds for crucial city priorities, including transit and homeless services. Photo Credit: Facebook/FordNation The impression often left by Toronto city council over the years is that it always seems to […]

Surprise Switch-up from Ford and Chow

by Catherine Swift

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow unveil surprise jurisdictional swap benefiting city finances, as Ontario takes over Gardiner Expressway and DVP while Toronto relinquishes Ontario Place ownership. Photo: Facebook/Mayor Olivia Chow   Although there had been some hints of this possibility before, it was mostly a surprise that in a joint press […]

Photo Credit: Facebook/Jill Dunlop   When judging the value of the recently released “Blue Ribbon” panel on the financial sustainability of Ontario’s post-secondary sector, it is helpful to remember why governments so often use such bodies to help make policy decisions.    Critics often accuse governments of passing the buck or ducking their decision-making responsibility when […]

Ford’s gas tax cut delivers meaningful relief and should be here to stay

by Jay Goldberg

Photo Credit: Facebook/FordNation   More than $800. That’s how much the Ford government’s gas tax cuts will save the average two-car Ontario family by the end of June 2024. Premier Doug Ford announced last week that his government is extending its 6.4 cent per litre gas tax cut until June 30, 2024. That is music […]

Ontario Takes a Stand Against Antisemitism with Holocaust Education Reforms

by Janet Ecker

Photo Credit: Facebook/Stephen Leece   If government action can curtail the recent, alarming rise in antisemitism, then Ontario may have a chance of checking the growing number of such incidents in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle East. From street demonstrations to public statements, from university student groups, to violence and vandalism […]

Stiles could learn from Kinew

by Jay Goldberg

Ontario NDP Leader could learn from Manitoba Premier Kinew’s affordability strategies. Photo Credit: Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun   Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles could learn a thing or two about affordability from newly-elected Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew. The first move Stiles could make in emulating Kinew is to support gas tax relief. Premier Doug Ford cut […]

Last week, Minister Jill Dunlop (pictured) made a statement in the Ontario Legislature to publicly “name and shame” those in academia who have been reportedly expressing anti-Semitic opinions and supporting Hamas’ terrorist actions. Photo credit: LinkedIn/Jill Dunlop   What is it about Canadian universities? One outcome of the war in the Middle East is to […]

Math is racist

by Catherine Swift

At least, that’s what one advocacy organization in Ontario is seemingly trying to prove. Photo credit: Pexels/Vanessa Garcia   Yes, you read that right. This is just the latest incidence of lunacy in our public education system, and foolishly our so-called “justice” system played along. This all began when the Ontario government decided in 2018 […]

Alberta is on a roll

by Catherine Swift

Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal Liberals’ Bill C-69 – the so-called ‘no more pipelines’ bill – was unconstitutional. The decision means a big change in federal-provincial relations, with the federal government much less able to inflict its extreme and economically harmful views, notably on environmental issues, on the provinces. […]

Jama and Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles on the night of the Hamilton Centre MPP’s by-election win, March 17, 2023. At present, Stiles is standing by her MPP and has not answered calls to kick Jama out of the NDP caucus. Photo credit: Twitter/Marit Stiles   Hamilton Centre Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Sarah Jama […]

Alberta ad campaign a PR win

by Catherine Swift

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith. The Alberta government’s “Tell the Feds” advertising campaign is attempting to offset a lack of information from the federal government about its electrification agenda. Photo credit: Facebook/Danielle Smith   If you’ve been listening to the radio in Ontario recently, it would be hard to miss an advertising campaign from the Government […]

Education Minister Stephen Lecce. Recent EQAO test results suggest the Ford government’s commitment to improving student outcomes is starting to pay off. Math scores, in particular, are trending upwards across all grade levels in both English and French school systems. Photo credit: Facebook/Stephen Lecce   It didn’t receive a lot of news coverage, but the […]

Big changes for Manitoba

by Catherine Swift

NDP secure majority. Wab Kinew (pictured) becomes Canada’s first-ever First Nations provincial premier. Photo credit: Facebook/Wab Kinew   This week’s provincial election in Manitoba has brought about a number of big changes. The major one is that the NDP won a majority government for the first time since 2016, when Conservative Brian Pallister took over […]

Ontario adds six more common ailments to list of conditions pharmacists can treat

by The Niagara Independent

Province introduced expanded treatment power to pharmacists in January 2023. Ontario pharmacists can now treat 19 common ailments. Photo credit: Facebook/Shoppers Drug Mart   As part of its ongoing effort to address the healthcare crisis in Ontario, the provincial government has made it easier for people to receive treatment for common ailments by allowing pharmacists […]

Saskatchewan plans to employ Notwithstanding Clause to protect parental rights

by Catherine Swift

Premier Scott Moe (pictured) said he was “extremely dismayed” by the court’s recent decision to grant an injunction halting the government’s “Parental Inclusion and Consent Policy” from moving forward. Photo credit: Twitter/Scott Moe   Once again, the threat of a provincial government other than Quebec to use the Notwithstanding Clause in the Canadian Constitution has […]

Only time will tell. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   It was a rare sight at Queen’s Park last week. A politician stood up, admitted he was wrong, took responsibility, apologized for breaking his promise and abruptly changed course.  After weeks of controversy and perhaps irreversible damage to his brand and to his government, Ontario Premier […]

Ford’s bloated government must end

by Jay Goldberg

Doug Ford’s government is anything but the lean, efficient administration he promised taxpayers. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   The man who once promised a leaner, more efficient and effective government at Queen’s Park has instead allowed it to balloon larger than any other Ontario premier in the 21st century.   In Premier Doug Ford’s first throne […]

It will take more than a cabinet shuffle for Ford to shake Greenbelt controversy

by Janet Ecker

The Premier has proven himself to be agile in the past, and he’ll need to do so again. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   It just keeps going from bad to worse. The controversy over developing some land in the protected Greenbelt, continues to dog the footsteps of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government.   After weeks of […]

Here we go again with the teachers’ unions

by Catherine Swift

Another September, another threat of strike. Photo credit: The Washington Post/Maddie McGarvey   If it’s September, we must be talking about a teachers’ strike in Ontario. Like clockwork, the teachers’ unions are rattling the sabres yet again as contracts expire and the school year is about to begin. The current demands are especially outrageous as […]

And it still could help. It is a painful step for any minister, but for the political health and credibility of a government, it is a very important one. It shows that accountability matters. Pictured is Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark. Photo credit: Twitter/Steve Clark   If Ontario Premier Doug Ford loses […]

Houston needs to tell the truth and end his debt dive

by Jay Goldberg

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston. In the span of just two years, Houston managed to increase government spending by a stunning 19 per cent. Photo credit: Twitter/Tim Houston   Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston is slamming his foot on the gas pedal and driving the province toward a fiscal cliff. For the sake of future […]

Another vote for common sense in education

by Catherine Swift

 In the ongoing battle to bring common sense back into Canadian classrooms, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick are leading the charge. Pictured is New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs at a meeting of the Council of Atlantic Premiers in March 2022. Photo credit: Communications Nova Scotia   Earlier this week, Saskatchewan joined New Brunswick in defending parental […]

Here’s the truth about Ontario’s education spending

by Jay Goldberg

Ontario spends more now than it ever has and leads the pack per student among large provinces across the country. Plus, remember those supposed cuts you heard about? The opposite is true. Pictured is Minister of Education Stephen Lecce. Photo credit: Facebook/Stephen Lecce   As Ontario families face the possibility of a looming teachers strike […]

Scandal! Another Ontario development saga

by Catherine Swift

This latest issue regarding the Greenbelt is unlikely to go away, and the Ford government is going to have to do something more substantive than keep insisting its approach is the right one. Pictured are Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark, Sept. 10, 2018. Photo credit: Canadian Press/Christopher Katsarov […]

It’s time for school choice in Ontario

by Jay Goldberg

Spending on government-run schools has reached record highs, yet performance has worsened. Photo credit: Pexels/RDNE Stock Project   Here’s something Ontario’s education establishment doesn’t want you to hear: improving school choice would improve students’ outcomes and the province’s bottom line. Ontario students get to pick what post-secondary schools to apply for, tutors to hire and […]

Photo credit: Twitter/Stephen Lecce   Cabinet ministers are frequently shuffled into different portfolios according to the changing political priorities of the day. It is a rare gift to be given a long enough tenure in one portfolio to actually develop and execute on a reform agenda.   Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce has been given such […]

Alberta acts as spoiler again

by Catherine Swift

By imposing a six-month moratorium on large-scale wind and solar projects in the province, Alberta is trying to avoid what Ontario – and many places around the world – found out the hard way. Photo credit: University of Minnesota   Late last week, Alberta’s United Conservative Party government announced that it is imposing a six-month […]

Elections matter, especially when it comes to the fate of the housing market

by Josie Sabatino

The recent by-election in Ottawa’s Kanata—Carleton provides an interesting case study. Pictured is Ontario Liberal MPP-elect Karen McCrimmon. Photo credit: Twitter/Karen McCrimmon   All politics is local, as the old saying goes. While the day-to-day machination of clickbait headlines tend to drive us to focus on the biggest, most salacious stories, we can often forget […]

Ontario’s broken health-care system needs real change

by Jay Goldberg

More money – the proposed solution of choice for virtually all provincial governments past and present – simply won’t get the job done. Pictured is Ontario’s Minister of Health Sylvia Jones. Photo credit: Twitter/Sylvia Jones   Here’s a truth most politicians will never admit: throwing money at Ontario’s health-care system won’t solve its fundamental problems. […]

Instead of providing the media and Opposition members fodder to cry “patronage”, the PCs should focus squarely on the bevy of important initiatives and fundamental changes its successfully making across healthcare, education, housing, and energy. Pictured is Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Downey   Governments and politicians only have so much “political […]

Federal-provincial conflicts heat up over energy policy

by Catherine Swift

Top-down demands and impositions from the feds, by way of Trudeau’s climate czar Steven Guilbeault (pictured), has several provincial leaders up in arms. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Justin Tang   Recent weeks have seen a sharp increase in disagreements between some provinces and the federal government over the Liberal push to achieve its net-zero goals […]

Parents fight back

by Catherine Swift

More parents and grandparents in provinces across the country are starting to push back against the radical gender ideology being introduced to young children in schools. Photo credit: Getty Images   It took a while, but we are finally seeing groups of parents and grandparents fighting back in Ontario and other provinces against the ridiculous […]

Though it’ll be a monumental challenge, the province at least has a long-term plan to ensure Ontarians can keep the lights on in the years and decades ahead. Pictured is Ontario’s Energy Minister Todd Smith in Windsor announcing the government’s new ‘Powering Ontario’s Growth’ plan, July 10, 2023. Photo credit: Twitter/Todd Smith   Ontario Premier […]

New nukes for Ontario

by Catherine Swift

To help meet rising electricity demands, earlier this week the Ontario government announced development of a new large-scale nuclear power plant. Pictured is Minister of Energy Todd Smith announcing the project at Bruce Power’s Kincardine facility, July 5, 2023. Photo credit: Twitter/Todd Smith   This week, the Ford government announced that a new large-scale nuclear […]

On bracket creep, Houston stands alone

by Jay Goldberg

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston. From coast to coast, every other government outside of Nova Scotia has acknowledged it is wrong to punish taxpayers simply for receiving a cost-of-living pay raise. Photo credit: CBC/Robert Short   Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston stands alone by deliberately profiting off of inflation. By failing to index income tax […]

After stumbling out of the gate early, is Crombie up to the challenge?

by Janet Ecker

Bonnie Crombie (pictured) may be a big city mayor, but she has never experienced the level of scrutiny or faced the kind of political challenge that exists when you are running for the province’s top political post. Photo credit: Twitter/Bonnie Crombie   The next provincial election just got more interesting. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie has […]

Ford must be wise with revenue windfall

by Jay Goldberg

Provincial government expected to bring in over $200 billion in tax revenue for 2023. According to the FAO, Ontario is positioned to run a surplus of $3 billion this year, $7.4 billion next year and $10 billion the year after that. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   Despite increasing government spending rapidly, the Ford government has […]

Prairie provinces’ utility corridor could be a game changer

by Catherine Swift

The notion of an east-west utility corridor from Alberta to Hudson Bay has been contemplated for decades. Pictured is Alberta Premier Danielle Smith. Photo credit: Government of Alberta/Chris Schwarz   Earlier this week, the Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba governments signed a memorandum of understanding to pursue the possibility of establishing a deep-water port at Port […]

Ford saving families hundreds at the pump per year

by Jay Goldberg

In total, data from the finance ministry shows Premier Doug Ford’s gas tax cut has left over a billion dollars in taxpayers’ wallets, and that tab will continue to grow for the next several months. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   Eight dollars every week. That’s how much Premier Doug Ford’s gas tax cuts have saved […]

Is Ontario’s push to a ‘net zero’ electricity grid worth the risk?

by Janet Ecker

Blackouts, brownouts, increased costs and the like, just how far is the province willing to go to close the carbon gap and achieve the federal government’s audacious environmental goals. Pictured is Minister of Energy Todd Smith. Photo credit: Twitter/Todd Smith   Right now, Ontario’s electrical power grid is already 90 per cent non-carbon emitting, carbon […]

What’s happening to public education?

by Catherine Swift

The unions have completely run amok, and our children and grandchildren suffer increasingly poorer quality, at times harmful instruction. Photo credit: Pexels/Ksenia Chernaya   The horror stories abound. In public schools, themes such as critical race theory, which teaches children that all white persons are oppressors and is terribly divisive of different groups on the […]

Here’s why Ford should cut the sales tax

by Jay Goldberg

Thanks in large part to inflation, provincial government set to collect nearly $25 billion more in tax revenue this year versus last. If he’s truly a man of and for the people, the premier would share some of that windfall with the wider population by lowering Ontario’s sales tax. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   It’s […]

With rules now in place, Ontario Liberal leadership race in full swing

by Daniel Perry

The federal Liberals will no doubt be watching the provincial leadership race closely to see what resonates with Ontario voters. Pictured is former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister and current federal MP for Ottawa-Centre Yasir Naqvi, who announced his candidacy this past weekend. Photo credit: Twitter/Yasir Naqvi   The “will they, won’t they” dance for prospective […]

Quebec short of electricity? C’est impossible!

by Catherine Swift

According to a new study, the province’s historical surplus of hydro power may be coming to an end, with the possibility of shortages occurring as early as 2027. Photo credit: Facebook/Hydro-Quebec   Quebec has long been known as the electricity powerhouse in Canada, generating the most electricity of any province with over 90 per cent […]

Conservatives win not-so-close battle in Alberta

by Catherine Swift

Predicted to end in a nailbiter on election night, on Monday Albertans awarded Danielle Smith’s UCP 49 seats in government, a comfortable 11-seat victory over Rachel Notley’s NDP. The UCP won 52.6 per cent of the popular vote, compared to 44 per cent for the NDP. Photo credit: Twitter/Danielle Smith   It was billed as […]

Is there such thing as a free lunch?

by Catherine Swift

An assortment of advocacy groups, teachers’ unions, and food banks recently penned a letter to provincial officials asking for the government to fund daily breakfast, lunch for all Ontario students. Photo credit: CBC   One of the best-known sayings of renowned economist and Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman is “There is no such thing as […]

Ontario political party slush fund poised for a comeback

by Jay Goldberg

Taxpayer-funded quarterly allowances haven’t been awarded since last spring, when Premier Ford gave Ontario’s political parties three payments in advance, allowing them to spend the funds on attack ads during last year’s election campaign. Come June, the political welfare payments are set to resume. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Chris Young   Ontario’s political party slush […]

Breaking up isn’t hard to do

by Catherine Swift

Ford government has tabled legislation that, once passed, will start the process of dissolving Peel Region and splitting its constituent communities into single-tier municipalities. Pictured (left to right) at Queen’s Park on Thursday, May 18 are Caledon Mayor Annette Groves, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie […]

Rachel Notley and the story of Alberta’s carbon tax

by Dan McTeague

Before Trudeau forced his own ‘Made in Ottawa’ carbon tax on the people of Alberta, former premier Rachel Notley (pictured) created her own homegrown cash grab. For several years, Alberta suffered under Notley’s carbon tax, a tax, like all carbon taxes, which was based on one lie after another, and, in short, was a nefarious […]

Alberta under fire

by Catherine Swift

Currently one-third of the some 100 wildfires taking place across Wild Rose Country are considered ‘out-of-control’. Complicating the entire situation is the fact that Alberta is in the throes of an ultra-competitive provincial election campaign and mere weeks away from E-Day. Photo credit: The Canadian Press   For several weeks, Alberta has been besieged by […]

The never-ending public/private health care debate

by Catherine Swift

A new round of opposition to the Ford government’s ongoing desire to supplement the current health care model with more private alternatives recently kicked up again in earnest. If you listened to the activist groups, you would think that all the current system was in public hands. Yet, about 40 per cent of health care […]

Education and employment relationship changes

by Catherine Swift

A recent study from the federal government is shedding new light on the decades-long assumption that more education automatically means better job prospects and pay.    For decades, the relationship between a post-secondary degree and ultimate job prospects was very clear. Degree holders were consistently more likely to be employed and earn more than those […]

There’s no question that updated and expanded training for and increased promotion of the skilled trades in Ontario were long-overdue. However, the province’s pendulum swing in focus over the last four-plus years has caused many traditional institutions of higher education to fall behind in a big way. Pictured is Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and […]

Unequal equalization

by Catherine Swift

Last week, the Liberal government very quietly indicated its intention to extend the current equalization formula until 2029. The formula, which sees billions of dollars transferred from wealthier provinces to “have nots” each year, largely benefits Quebec and the Atlantic provinces at the expense of Alberta. Pictured is Alberta Premier Danielle Smith alongside Prime Minister […]

Ford needs to be straight with taxpayers on Ontario Science Centre plans

by Jay Goldberg

Rather than fix the present Science Centre, the Ford government is planning to build a brand-new facility on the grounds of the old Ontario Place. But building a new facility will take time and a lot of taxpayer dough. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   In trying to rationalize moving the Ontario Science Centre to the […]

Corporate welfare has consequences

by Jay Goldberg

In March, the governments of Canada and Ontario jointly announced what could turn out to be the largest corporate welfare handout in the country’s history. Experts say the governments collectively gave some $10 billion to Volkswagen to build its new electric car battery plant in St. Thomas. Photo credit: AP/Michael Sohn   Here’s a sad […]

Ford a voice of reason on carbon taxes

by Jay Goldberg

Ontario’s premier fought hard against Kathleen Wynne’s carbon tax scheme and won. Now, he continues to fight the forces that be in Ottawa. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   Ontario Premier Doug Ford has a penchant for recognizing a wolf in sheep’s clothing. When it comes to carbon taxes, Ford wasn’t fooled for a moment. Scrapping […]

More jurisdictional intrusion?

by Catherine Swift

Canada’s federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld   Did the federal government, in the person of Justice Minister David Lametti, really say earlier this week that he would consider taking over provincial jurisdiction for natural resources in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba? Well, yes […]

Furey schools Trudeau on budgeting

by Jay Goldberg

The 2023 budget presented by the Newfoundlander and Labrador premier demonstrates clear fiscal prudence. In contrast, Trudeau’s budget spends $20 billion more this year than last. Pictured is Premier Andrew Furey. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan   The premier and prime minister might be young Liberal pals with a lot of star power, but […]

A tale of two budgets

by Catherine Swift

The provincial government released its 2023 budget last Thursday, while its federal counterpart did the same earlier this week. Though both economic plans contain their fair share of high- and lowlights, the document produced by the feds houses noticeably more of the latter. Pictured is Ontario Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy. Photo credit: Twitter/Peter Bethlenfalvy […]

The Alberta-Ontario nexus

by Catherine Swift

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith (pictured) recently sat down with the Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers and Businesses of Canada. Among other topics, she discussed the interdependencies and interconnectedness of Alberta and Ontario, as well as the intrusion of the federal government into provincial jurisdiction. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld   Last Friday, we at the […]

Ford leading a spending parade at Queen’s Park

by Jay Goldberg

In 2021-22, Ontario finished the fiscal year with a $2.1 billion surplus – but instead of building on that surplus for budget 2023, Premier Ford (left) and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy (right) tore it down. Photo credit: Twitter/Peter Bethlenfalvy   Ontario Premier Doug Ford was like a rookie at a blackjack table during this budget […]

It’s time for Houston to deliver

by Jay Goldberg

As Atlantic Canadians felt the crunch from inflation last year, the region’s premiers responded in one of two ways. Three premiers chose to deliver tax relief. Only Nova Scotia’s Tim Houston failed to offer any kind of meaningful relief to taxpayers. Photo credit: Communications Nova Scotia    Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston was Atlantic Canada’s […]

King needs to offer Islanders a bold taxpayer-first agenda

by Jay Goldberg

Going forward, the P.E.I. premier can’t count on massive revenue windfalls. His election platform should show prudence and outline a plan to stay in the black. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Brian McInnis   Rather than present a budget, Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King has plunged his province into an election. While the election call […]

An eye-opening FAO report

by Catherine Swift

The latest report from Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office laid out a number of disturbing findings about the province’s health care situation, including a shortage of 33,000 nurses and PSWs by 2028. Photo credit: Pexels/Rodnae Productions   Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office (FAO) has historically provided solid research and analysis on a range of issues pertaining to […]

Alberta’s election budget

by Catherine Swift

Premier Danielle Smith and Finance Minister Travis Toews (pictured) struck a reasonable balance between increased spending and posting a surplus. The happy combination was made possible by strong prices in the oil and gas sector boosting government revenues. With Alberta’s next provincial election only three months away, Smith hopes her first budget at the helm […]

Houston and King living large on your dime

by Jay Goldberg

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston (left) and P.E.I. Premier Dennis King. Their respective provincial governments are stubbornly refusing to adjust their tax brackets to account for soaring inflation. Photo credit: Twitter and Facebook   Two Atlantic Canadian governments are cashing in on inflation and it’s time for taxpayers to stand up and demand better.  When […]

Reality hits home

by Catherine Swift

The shift away from fossil fuels to renewables is not easy, nor cheap. Natural gas remains critical to the province’s electricity grid and isn’t going away anytime soon, as plans for two new gas turbines in Windsor demonstrate. Pictured is Capital Power’s East Windsor Cogeneration Centre. Photo credit: CHA   Following decades of fantastical assumptions […]

Ford faces a moment of truth

by Jay Goldberg

Although the premier has made a series of bad financial decisions of late, he has a fresh mandate and a new opportunity to return to his pro-taxpayer roots. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   Premier Doug Ford is facing a moment of truth in the next budget. After years of runaway spending, will he finally embrace […]

Lessons to be learned from Ontario Liberal Party’s misguided soul searching

by Josie Sabatino

Last weekend, a group of veteran provincial Liberals led by Deb Matthews, Greg Sorbara, and Liz Sandals wrote an open letter to Mike Schreiner (pictured), in which they urge the current Ontario Green Party leader to consider crossing the floor and vying for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Tijana […]

Ford needs to end Ontario’s political party slush fund

by Jay Goldberg

It’s time for the premier to make good on his 2018 promise to nix the per-vote subsidy. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s excuses for maintaining a taxpayer slush fund are wearing thin.  A decade ago, former premier Kathleen Wynne thought it would be a bright idea to give Ontario’s political parties […]

Higgs’ masterclass on fiscal management

by Jay Goldberg

While political leaders around the country used the pandemic as an excuse to increase spending across the board, New Brunswick’s Blaine Higgs took a different approach. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Stephen MacGillivray   If anyone is looking for an instructor to teach a masterclass on defending the public purse, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs should […]

When you dive into what the Premier and his health minister actually announced last week, you could be forgiven for asking “is that all?”. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   From all the hysterical caterwauling from Opposition parties, public sector unions and other assorted government critics, you would have thought that Ontario Premier Doug Ford had […]

Though some unions, certain public officials, and political activists may not like the increase in private sector provision of health care in the province, a greater mix of public and private providers will bring better outcomes for suffering Ontarians. Pictured is Ontario Minister of Health Sylvia Jones. Photo credit: Twitter/Sylvia Jones   That sound you […]

Manitoba Conservatives jump ship

by Catherine Swift

Over a quarter of the governing PC Party caucus is not seeking re-election this October. Opinion polls indicate Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson (pictured) is one of the least popular provincial leaders in Canada right now. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/David Lipnowski   In recent weeks, a record number of Progressive Conservative Members of the Legislative […]

Atlantic jurisdictions push UBI

by Catherine Swift

Earlier this week, yet municipal council on Canada’s east coast passed a resolution calling for a guaranteed basic livable income. Pictured is Saint John, New Brunswick mayor Donna Noade Reardon. Photo credit: Facebook/City of Saint John   It seems that yet another municipal government has not read the literature on UBI (universal basic income). This […]

Not a very ‘just transition’

by Catherine Swift

The Trudeau government’s anticipated new energy strategy will be bad news for Albertans, and the Canadian oil and gas sector as a whole, but good news for Premier Danielle Smith’s election chances. Photo credit: Winnipeg Free Press   After talking about it for almost two years, and distributing a discussion paper in 2021, it seems […]

By expanding affordable childcare options for families, Minister Stephen Lecce (pictured) and his team are making it easier for parents to enter or remain in the workforce. Photo credit: Twitter/Stephen Leece   For Ontario families looking for childcare support so parents can stay in the workforce, 2023 could be a good year. Ontario Education Minister […]

Though the province wants to be a part of the climate solution, gambling that we can successfully experiment with our electrical supply and prematurely cut out natural gas is not the answer. Photo credit: TVO/Sergey Bobok   Ontarians take electricity for granted. We assume that when we turn the switch, the power will go on. […]

Self-serving union survey misses the mark

by Catherine Swift

Characterizing private health clinics as “for-profit”, as if profit in any and every form is inherently a bad thing, is all part of the conditioning Canadians experience on a regular basis. Photo credit: Twitter/OFL   The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), a federation comprised of 54 labour unions in the province, released the results of […]

The shocking cost of electrification

by Catherine Swift

Decarbonizing Ontario’s already clean electricity system would not only be shockingly expensive, but it would also significantly reduce reliability. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette   Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the Crown corporation responsible for operating the electricity market in the province, recently published a study responding to the Energy Minister’s request to […]

Much to the delight of union brass and membership, Ontario’s superior court recently struck down the legislation that temporarily capped public sector wage increases. While the aggrieved are pleased, if the decision stands, it will not only let public sector unions ask for wage increases they might have received in the absence of Bill 124, […]

Premiers’ year-end approval ratings

by Catherine Swift

Francois Legault (pictured) leads the pack, with nearly six-in-ten Quebecers displaying a favourable view of the Premier. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot   The Angus Reid Institute has come out with its regular survey of approval ratings for Canada’s Premiers and as usual there is good news for some and coal in the stockings […]

Saskatchewan takes action toward autonomy

by Catherine Swift

Alberta’s recent efforts to better protect itself from federal encroachment on its internal affairs have received a lot of attention lately, but Saskatchewan is making similar moves toward greater provincial autonomy. Pictured is Premier Scott Moe. Photo credit: Twitter/Scott Moe   Alberta may be getting most of the attention with its Alberta Sovereignty Within a […]

Oil and gas investment avoids Canada

by Catherine Swift

High taxes, environmental regulations, and land claim issues, among other concerns, make Canada’s oil producing provinces some of the least attractive jurisdictions in which to do business. Photo credit: Flickr/Jason Hargrove    If there was still any doubt, a recent Fraser Institute study shows how various Canadian federal government policies have damaged the prospects for […]

Lots to chew on in AG’s latest annual report

by Catherine Swift

Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk (pictured) released her yearly assessment of the province’s financial manaveurs on Wednesday. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Aaron Vincent Elkaim   The annual Ontario Auditor General’s report was released this week, with its usual litany of financial and policy missteps by the provincial government and its agencies. Not surprisingly, some of […]

Ford needs to end the Metrolinx fiasco

by Jay Goldberg

Photo credit: The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum   Imagine you’ve hired contractors to do a home renovation project. You’ve finally saved up enough money to add that second bathroom you’ve always wanted. What would you do if, halfway through the job, the contractors came to you and said that costs had suddenly doubled, and the […]

Carbon taxes hit the east

by Catherine Swift

Atlantic residents will soon be paying considerably more to heat their homes and fill their tanks, as the federal government is set to impose its carbon tax on Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and PEI. Pictured is Premier of Nova Scotia Tim Houston. Photo credit: CBC/Rob Short   The latest provinces to be hit by […]

Big changes in Alberta

by Catherine Swift

Premier Smith (pictured) is doing precisely what she said she would do, plus more. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Jason Franson   Newly-minted Alberta Premier Danielle Smith isn’t wasting any time making changes. Less than two months into the job, she has fired the entire Board of the Alberta Health Services (AHS), fulfilling a leadership campaign […]

Pension fund follies

by Catherine Swift

In losing nearly $100 million to a volatile cryptocurrency investment, and by committing to the ESG narrative, two of Canada’s largest and traditionally most successful public pension funds demonstrated that they’re hardly immune to poor judgement and being swept up by the flavour of the week. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Cole Burston   The spectacular […]

It’s always about the money

by Catherine Swift

Despite claims to the contrary, when it comes to public sector labour negotiations in Ontario, it is, has been, and always will be precisely about the money. Pictured is president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions Laura Walton, Nov. 16, 2022. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Chris Young   In the context of labour […]

Dark clouds over Fall Economic Statement

by Catherine Swift

As economic slowdown looms, province delivers fairly tame, boring mini-budget – but perhaps that’s a good thing. Pictured is Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy presented the Fall Economic Update this week, and not surprisingly the news wasn’t great. In anticipation of a widely expected economic slowdown, […]

Prairies push back

by Catherine Swift

The current federal government has had a habit of interfering with areas of provincial jurisdiction, and it is long overdue that certain provinces begin to push back. Pictured is Premier of Saskatchewan Scott Moe. Photo credit: Facebook/Scott Moe   Canada’s Prairie provinces – Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba – have good reason to be perturbed about […]

In CUPE dispute, Ford government doing precisely what it was elected to do

by Janet Ecker

Premier Ford’s government was just given another majority mandate by Ontarians to do exactly what it is currently doing in ongoing dispute with CUPE: look out for the public interest by way of keeping kids in school and protecting taxpayer money during tumultuous economic times. Pictured is Education Minister Stephen Lecce. Photo credit: CBC/Carlos Osorio […]

Ford should be bold and cut the sales tax to counter inflation

by Jay Goldberg

Premier Doug Ford. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   It’s time for Premier Doug Ford to be bold. The cost of living is soaring for Ontario families. To deliver relief to every Ontarian across the province, Ford should cut the provincial sales tax. Ford owes Ontarians relief. Four years ago, he promised to cut income taxes for the […]

More health care spending not the answer

by Catherine Swift

Canada already has one of the highest levels of per capita health care spending among developed countries in the world, and citizens are hardly getting good bang for their buck. Thus, the country’s Premiers should stop spending time and money asking the federal government for more taxpayer dollars and instead concentrate their efforts on garnering […]

Mass walkout a betrayal of students, families and taxpayers

by Catherine Swift

The “day of protest” is ostensibly a response to the Ontario government tabling back-to-work legislation intended to prevent education workers from striking. Pictured is head of the Ontario Federation of Labour Patty Coates during a news conference at Queens Park on Monday alongside OSBCU president Laura Walton (left) and CUPE president Fred Hahn. Photo credit: […]

Ford should testify at Emergencies Act inquiry

by Catherine Swift

To date, Ontario’s Premier has resisted all calls to take part in the public hearings currently underway in Ottawa. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Arlyn McAdorey   It is mystifying why Ontario Premier Doug Ford continues to adamantly resist appearing before the Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC), currently the hottest political ticket in Canada.  Ford has […]

Ontario student testing agency confirms damage done by lockdowns

by Janet Ecker

The question now is how the government, in close collaboration with the education sector, is going to fix it. Photo credit: Pexels/Jessica Lewis Creative   The verdict is in, and it isn’t pretty. The latest test results from the province’s testing agency, the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), confirm the fears of many that […]

With Ontario’s municipal elections now over, a few of the province’s big city mayors, including Toronto’s John Tory (pictured), will enjoy new powers when they return to the council table later this fall. The new powers will certainly enhance ease and provide more opportunity to ‘get it done’, but is that necessarily a good thing? […]

Be sure to vote in upcoming municipal election, but vote wisely

by Catherine Swift

Municipal elections historically drive the fewest number of voters to the ballot box. However, of all levels of government, the local level touches most citizens more directly and frequently than its provincial and federal counterparts – and not just in terms of basic services and policing. In recent years, municipal governments have become increasingly more […]

Ontario is fast-approaching an energy crisis and so-called “green” fuel solutions will hardly be able to fill the gap. Photo credit: Atura Power   Most voters don’t have high expectations of their governments. But they do expect a modicum of common sense. The Ontario government may be on the brink of ignoring it.  How else […]

Public sector cost pressures rising

by Catherine Swift

Overall spending on Ontario public sector salaries has increased from about $36.3 billion in 2011 to $48.2 billion by 2022, about 2.9 per cent annually. It’s projected the wage bill will reach $56.9 billion by 2027, assuming average annual increases of 3.4 per cent. Clearly, an ever-increasing public sector funded by a shrinking private sector […]

A big week in provincial politics

by Catherine Swift

Premier Francois Legault won a resounding re-election victory in Quebec on Monday, while Danielle Smith became the new Premier of Alberta Thursday night. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Paul Chiasson and Jonathan Hayward   Two major developments this week promise to have a big impact on provincial and federal politics in Canada for the next few […]

Death by taxes for Eastern Canada

by Catherine Swift

Recent analysis demonstrates taxpayers in Canada’s Atlantic provinces pay significantly more in personal income and sales taxes than their western counterparts. Pictured is Spinnaker’s Landing in Summerside, PEI. Photo credit: PEI Tourism/Stephen DesRoches   Whenever an election looms, all politicians claim to want to provide tax relief for the “middle class”.  This is a logical […]

NDP hypocrisy, as interim leader talks energy policy

by Catherine Swift

Peter Tabuns (pictured) recently decried the Ford government for raising natural gas prices. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Chris Young   We are all accustomed to the enduring hypocrisy of politicians by now, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be challenged. The latest instance came from MPP Peter Tabuns, interim Leader of the Ontario NDP. Tabuns […]

Ford needs to make his gas tax cut permanent to avoid being the grinch

by Jay Goldberg

After a temporary six-month pause, the provincial gas excise tax is set to be reinstituted at the end of the year. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   If Ontario Premier Doug Ford doesn’t want to be the grinch who stole Christmas, he’ll start working on a plan to make Ontario’s temporary gas tax cut permanent. Ontario […]

Exams are essential tools that teach more than just their subject matter

by Janet Ecker

Traditional evaluation methods develop students’ ability to plan, deal with pressure, cope with expectations and, on occasion, experience and learn from failure. Pictured is provincial Minister of Education Stephen Lecce. Lecce’s ministry recently confirmed that local schools and boards can now decide if they will administer an exam to determine a final grade for secondary […]

Energy insecurity awaits

by Catherine Swift

A number of Canadian jurisdictions are proceeding with plans to continue on the so-called “decarbonization” bandwagon and move away from more reliable and affordable energy sources. Pictured is Ontario’s Lennox Generating Station, dual-fuelled by oil and natural gas. Photo credit: OPG   All indications are that Europe is facing the prospect of a very difficult […]

Electoral boundary changes controversial as always

by Catherine Swift

The changes take place every 10 years and never fail to ruffle a few feathers. Quebec, for example, was set to lose one seat based on current criteria – an act deemed wholly unacceptable by the powers that be.    Following each national census conducted after a 10-year period, the Canadian Constitution requires that federal […]

To ensure success, students need ‘uninterrupted’ return to class

by Janet Ecker

Direct data for Ontario is not yet available, but all signs from other jurisdictions point to extended school closures having had severe, worrisome effects on students’ academic progress. Pictured is Education Minister Stephen Lecce. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Tijana Martin   The quality of our children’s education should be a priority for parents and the […]

More challenges to plastics ban

by Catherine Swift

Alberta has joined dozens of industry manufacturers in Canada challenging the federal government’s ban on single-use plastics ban. Premier Jason Kenney (pictured) recently commented that the federal policy intrudes on provincial jurisdiction and is yet another Trudeau government initiative harmful to Alberta economic interests. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Chad Hipolito    The province of Alberta […]

The Alberta Sovereignty Act pushes back

by Catherine Swift

Should current favourite for the job Danielle Smith (pictured, centre) become the new UCP leader on October 6, she has vowed to introduce legislation designed to better protect Alberta’s provincial interests against federal encroachment and predation later this year. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh    It is said that the definition of insanity is […]

There are no quick fixes or silver bullet solutions. It will take time, increased resources, creativity, and better cooperation between government and those on the front lines. Photo credit: The Canadian Press   As one watches the Doug Ford government wrestle with the current health care crisis, several observations come to mind.  First, one needs […]

Healthcare debate steals centre stage as political leaders grapple with reform

by Josie Sabatino

Premier Doug Ford met with his counterparts from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island earlier this week. What emerged from the maritime meeting was a consensus that, as a whole, Canada’s healthcare system needs to not only change, but that new solutions must be introduced in order to address the fundamental flaws exposed […]

The ‘strong mayor’ debate

by Catherine Swift

New legislation introduced by the province would give the mayors of Ontario’s two largest cities, Toronto and Ottawa, the ability to streamline important decisions. Mayor of Toronto John Tory (pictured left, beside Premier Doug Ford) said he is in favour of the change. Mayor of Ottawa Jim Watson (not pictured) said he doesn’t see the […]

The three deadly words

by Catherine Swift

Ontario Legislative Building in downtown Toronto. High cost and poor performance are hallmarks of the public sector, and they are brought about and maintained across the country by a single phenomenon: unionized government monopoly. Photo credit: OLA   The hits just keep on coming. Blacklock’s Reporter, an independent media organization that does not take bailouts […]

Is Scott Moe Canada’s Ron DeSantis?

by Catherine Swift

Premier of Saskatchewan Scott Moe (left) and Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis (right). Photo credit: 980 CJME/Lisa Schick and AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack   Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has developed a reputation for pushing back against a range of leftist government policies including Critical Race Theory in the public education system to, most recently, what he […]

When will the green madness end?

by Catherine Swift

Ontario and other Canadian provinces stand to learn a thing or two from places like Germany (pictured) and Sri Lanka about the real-life consequences of over-reliance on “green” energy solutions and succumbing to climate change zealotry. Photo credit: Getty Images/Sean Gallup   As the evidence continues to pile up about how “green” policies are beggaring […]

Existing teachers’ contracts are set to expire August 31. High-performing Minister of Education Stephen Lecce (pictured) and his team started negotiations early to ensure educators are back and remain in the classroom this fall so that students can enjoy the “full school experience” after two years of closures and uncertainty. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Nathan […]

Stop the presses! Nova Scotia pauses pay raises for provincial politicians

by Catherine Swift

Premier Tim Houston (pictured) recently stated, “when inflation is at a 40-year high, gas prices are at historic levels and many hard-working Nova Scotians are struggling to make ends meet, it is not the time to increase the pay of MLAs.” Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan   Something truly shocking happened recently and did […]

Provinces seek more control over immigration

by Catherine Swift

With an ever-growing backlog of new applicants, and significant need for more labour across the country, one would think the Trudeau government would jump at the opportunity for help from its provincial counterparts. And yet, as is typical with this federal government, the Liberals are dragging their feet, promising to ‘look into’ the problem. Pictured […]

Ontario finance news misrepresented by Opposition – again

by Catherine Swift

A recent FAO report indicates the provincial government spent several billion less than planned in the last fiscal year: an otherwise good news story that members of the Ontario NDP – like finance critic Catherine Fife (pictured) – are trying to twist as harmful “underspending”.  Photo credit: Twitter/Catherine Fife   The most recent Expenditure Monitor […]

Health care in peril

by Catherine Swift

Most politicians and many Canadians continue to promote the fiction that our badly broken health care system continues to be viable and among “the best in the world”. But, at present, the only people benefitting from the current health care system are the public sector unions. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Paul Chiasson   The horror […]

Dissatisfaction out east

by Catherine Swift

A recent poll indicates that the vast majority of residents in the Atlantic provinces are none too pleased with their respective governments’ performance when it comes to health care, among other issues. Pictured is Fredericton, New Brunswick. Photo credit: Atlantic Traveller   A recent public opinion poll by the Angus Reid Institute has highlighted a […]

The impossible green dream

by Catherine Swift

Fully 32 Ontario municipalities, including most notably Ottawa, have bought in to the notion that they will be able to phase out natural gas in the coming decades while doing no credible planning on exactly how reliable, relatively affordable gas can be replaced by unreliable and costly renewables. Photo credit: University of Ottawa    The […]

Do you know what your children are learning?

by Catherine Swift

 Hint: it’s no longer just 2+2=4. Photo credit: Pexels/Ksenia Chernaya    Evidence that our public school system is too “woke” for its own good – and the good of its students and taxpayers – has been clear for some time. Recently, however, there have been a number of episodes in Ontario and other jurisdictions which […]

Doug Ford’s big fat Cabinet

by Catherine Swift

After winning another majority mandate last month, Premier Ford expanded his Cabinet to 30 members and significantly increased the number of parliamentary assistants that will work alongside his executive council. Pictured: Ford shakes hands with Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell outside Queen’s Park in Toronto before naming his new Cabinet, June 24, 2022. Photo credit: CBC/Evan […]

More dumb housing policy

by Catherine Swift

The latest entry in the dumb housing policy sweepstakes was submitted by the Ontario government, which earlier this week opted to cap the 2023 permitted rent increase to 2.5 per cent. Photo credit: Homestead   It seems like the only policies governments implement these days to supposedly deal with the housing crisis in Canada are […]

Paid sick days back on the agenda

by Catherine Swift

The Ford government’s pandemic-era Worker Income Protection Benefit is slated to expire at the end of July. Naturally, labour advocates are scrambling to ensure the program gets enhanced, or at the very least extended. Pictured: Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton. McNaughton introduced the benefit program back in April 2021 […]

Basic income under the microscope again

by Catherine Swift

A recently-published study from the Halifax-based Atlantic Provinces Economic Council – one of many from recent years – explored the feasibility of a basic income program on Canada’s east coast.    Yet another study has come out examining the feasibility of a basic income system. As you may recall, such a system – also known […]

Ford taking his time before ‘getting it done’

by Janet Ecker

 Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   What’s wrong with this picture? For weeks during the provincial election we heard Premier Doug Ford promise to “get it done.” To build badly needed transit, highways, schools, hospitals, housing. You name it, he was going to build more, faster, and better than the other parties, to create more jobs […]

Where’s the beef?

by Catherine Swift

Another major Alberta industry becomes target of Ottawa meddling. Photo credit: Facebook/Alberta Beef Producers   You have to wonder if there is a special section within the Canadian Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) whose sole function is to come up with ways to torment Alberta.  If implementing a bunch of policies detrimental to the oil and […]

Public schools under pressure

by Catherine Swift

Having gained a glimpse into Ontario’s ever-devolving school system during the pandemic, more and more parents are pulling their kids out of public education in favour of independent alternatives and homeschooling. Photo credit: Pexels/Gustavo Fring   One of the unexpected side-effects of the pandemic was that, as students were required to stay at home and […]

Both PC leader Doug Ford (pictured with wife Karla) and Liberal leader Steven Del Duca handled the provincial election results with professionalism and tact. NDP leader Andrea Horwath, on the other hand, used her farewell speech on election night to be petty and spiteful. Photo credit: CBC/Evan Mitsui    How one deals with victory or […]

Four more Ford years for Ontario

by Catherine Swift

The PC Party won a commanding 83 seats Thursday night, plenty enough for a second majority mandate. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   It was a rout. There is really no other way to describe the outcome of the Ontario election. As of the latest data, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives have picked up 16 seats (from […]

Beware the support of unions

by Catherine Swift

Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton meets with IUOE Local 793 representatives. The organization is one of several construction trade unions to endorse the Ontario PC Party this election. Photo credit: Twitter/Monte McNaughton   Coming up to the Ontario election this week, the Progressive Conservative Party has been boasting about the support […]

Doug Ford’s PCs ran a near perfect re-election campaign

by Janet Ecker

For their efforts, the Tories will almost certainly be rewarded another majority mandate Thursday. As it stands, it’s still unclear which left-of-centre party will become Ontario’s Official Opposition. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford   If current provincial election polls are right, Premier Doug Ford is sliding into home plate with another majority government. The question is, […]

Vote Compass lacks a sense of direction

by Catherine Swift

Screenshot of the Ontario 2022 election Vote Compass launch page. Photo credit: CBC    The CBC has an odd survey it offers called the “Vote Compass” that the taxpayer-financed network trots out during the period prior to elections, supposedly to help the citizenry come to a decision about who they should be voting for. The […]

Making it easier for unions in Ontario

by Catherine Swift

The provincial NDP, led by Andrea Horwath (pictured), wants to add more imbalance to an already wildly imbalanced system. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette    Part of the NDP platform in the upcoming Ontario election is to make it easier for unions to organize workplaces.  Really? What exactly do they plan to do? Insist […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.  […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

‘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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.

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 […]

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 […]

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 […]

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…..

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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 […]

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Long Term Care Tragedy

by Catherine Swift

What can be said about the horrible crisis in long term care (LTC) facilities that has been revealed by the COVID-19 crisis? That our society has been negligent regarding the care of our elderly population? Absolutely. That there was not sufficient attention being paid to conditions in LTC facilities for many years? Definitely.

Main stream media credibility declines again

by Catherine Swift

Last week saw a worrisome development at the St. John’s Telegram in Newfoundland. The Telegram is a venerable Canadian publication, having been around since the late 1800s. It seems that one of their desk editors, Brian Jones, in a column entitled “Pandemic is an Extended Holiday for Public Sector Workers”, had the nerve to question why government workers were mostly sitting at home doing nothing at full pay and benefits, while those in the private sector who pay for the public sector were seeing their jobs annihilated and being asked to live on a paltry $2,000 a month.

Ontario Leading COVID-19 Research in Canada

by The Niagara Independent

The Ontario government is quickly moving forward with innovative research to prevent, detect and treat COVID-19. These projects, part of the government’s $20 million Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund, focus on areas of research such as vaccine development, diagnostics, drug trials and development, and social sciences. Additionally, Ontario is leading the country with 22 clinical trials investigating COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

Bad News for Ontario Hydro Costs

by Catherine Swift

Ontarians have been spending a lot more time at home since the COVID-19 lockdown began, and have had much less ability than usual to manage the timing of their electricity consumption to use hydro at off-peak times and avoid peak usage pricing whenever possible. In response to this situation, back in March the Ontario government temporarily suspended time-of-use pricing for hydro so that all electricity consumed would be billed at the lowest rate, and this was recently extended until the end of May 2020.

Balance needed in energy policy

by Catherine Swift

It’s no secret that Alberta and to a lesser extent Saskatchewan have been seriously disadvantaged for years by policies pursued by the Trudeau government in the oil and gas sector. Those two provinces rewarded the Liberals’ approach by not electing one Liberal Member of Parliament in the October 2019 federal election, but that doesn’t seem to have changed the government’s approach one bit. If anything, the Trudeau Liberals are doubling down on policies that hurt the energy-producing provinces, to the detriment of all of Canada.

Health Care After COVID-19

by Catherine Swift

As would be expected with such a serious crisis such as the COVID-19 virus, there has been much handwringing, second guessing and criticism about what governments have done to contend with the emergency. The Canadian health care system has understandably been a focus of much commentary, positive and negative, and many different suggestions are being made regarding what changes should happen to better prepare Canada for such a crisis in future.

COVID-19 by the provincial numbers

by Catherine Swift

As all Canadian governments continue to monitor the number of new COVID-19 cases by the day – and thankfully see a fairly consistent reduction in new infections – stark differences among some of the provinces and their experiences with the pandemic have emerged. Many of these differences are easily explained by factors such as urban/rural population numbers, the location of international airports where most of the initial cases came into Canada and the prevalence of long term care facilities which have seen the most frequent outbreaks of the virus.

Premiers take aim at gun legislation

by Catherine Swift

A number of provincial Premiers have come out guns blazing – figuratively of course – in response to the federal Liberal government’s announcement last week that it was banning a number of types of firearms. Ontario Premier Ford weighed in by emphasizing the need to focus on putting an end to smuggling and increasing border measures, as it is well known that the vast majority of guns used to commit crimes illegally enter Canada from the US.

Land of the Living Skies?

by Kelly Harris

There is a meme circulating that shows a two-lane highway through a flat wheat field with the caption, “Saskatchewan, social distancing since 1905.”

The date refers to when the province, more associated with wheat than people, joined confederation. And anyone who has driven through Saskatchewan recently can tell you there hasn’t been a population boom.

Is the School Year Over?

by Catherine Swift

Last Sunday, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that there would be a further extension of school closures, with the government now planning to keep kids home until at least May 31 as opposed to the previously cited date of May 4, due to ongoing uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Minister also assured Ontarians that students would not lose their school year, noting that three-quarters of the school year had been completed while classes were still taking place. He also said that graduating students would be able to move forward with whatever post-secondary education plans they had prior to the pandemic lockdown.

To Open or Not to Open?

by Catherine Swift

After many weeks of draconian measures to stem the spread of COVID-19, it is wonderful to see that Canada is making progress on “flattening the curve” and people are now starting to discuss when and how we will be planning to open up our economies in the future.

Perfect Hindsight

by Catherine Swift

Ontario, it seems, is blessed with an NDP official opposition that has perfect 20-20 hindsight.
When the Ford government recently announced it was devoting $20 million for research into the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, the NDP responded that if cuts had not been made earlier then there would be no need to allocate further money now. In fact, the exact quote from NDP Research and Innovation Critic Catherine Fife was “Researchers could have been working on the global challenge of a COVID-19 vaccine earlier if Doug Ford hadn’t cut their funding and wound down their work a year ago.” Really? Perhaps seeing as the NDP has such perfect hindsight, they should have been recommending vaccine research months ago. Of course that statement is just as ridiculous as the NDP’s groundless criticism.

Rising to the occasion

by Catherine Swift

It was only a few weeks ago that the Ontario government launched its OntarioTogether.com website, established to receive proposals from businesses and others for goods and services to help deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The response from Ontarians has been spectacular. Since the website went live on March 21, 14,000 submissions have been received, resulting in 7,500 leads for various types of emergency supplies and services to date.

The Provinces Take Charge

by Catherine Swift

As the COVID-19 crisis has progressed in recent weeks, a number of provincial governments have stepped up to take charge of areas that are supposedly the responsibility of the federal government, but where the federal government has turned out not to be been sufficiently diligent or responsive. Although it is encouraging that some political leaders are undertaking positive, constructive action to fight the Covid19 menace, it does beg the question as to why the federal government is not implementing policies it claims to support in key areas of its jurisdiction.

Is Ontario Testing Enough?

by Catherine Swift

As the duration of the COVID-19 crisis gets longer and health officials learn more about the virus, the issue of testing has gained increased importance. We see the daily numbers outlining how many people have been found to be infected with the virus, how many are under investigation, how many have recovered and how many have died. Understandably, people pay particular attention to the fatality data and it is generally believed at this time that the COVID-19 virus is more deadly than many other flu strains we have experienced in the past.

A World of Difference

by Catherine Swift

While all governments understandably are scrambling to keep up with the latest Covid19 developments, best practices and developing policies on the fly, some stark differences in the way governments are handling things are emerging. Last Friday, the Ontario government chose to make public the findings of the models the Ford government is using to forecast the impact the virus will have on the province in terms of confirmed, pending, recovered cases and deaths. Prior to this release, the Premier warned that the news would be stark, and it was.

Examples of leaders … leading by example

by Kelly Harris

I went for a bike ride to pick up some essentials on Tuesday and decided to take a spin through the Queen’s Park grounds.

As I was riding past the east entrance I saw Premier Doug Ford climbing into his ride. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the premier – I kind of wish I did – but I did do something many of us in Ontario are doing right now, I gave him a “thumbs up.”

Where’s the Opposition?

by Catherine Swift

While many Canadians are looking for ways to be constructive in the COVID-19 crisis gripping the country, many of our political opposition parties are being anything but helpful.
It is true that in normal circumstances the key job of any opposition party is to oppose the government of the day. But these are not normal times, and an opposition that behaves constructively and makes positive contributions to our current situation would be a refreshing development. Unfortunately, not many thus far have lived up to this goal.

Elliott: “We will make it through”

by Kevin Vallier

Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott says if all Ontarians do their part the Province will come out of the COVID-19 global pandemic and life can return to normal.
In an interview today with The Niagara Independent the Minister said she along with her cabinet colleagues and medical experts are working around the clock, seven days a week receiving and analyzing the latest information so that the province can try and get ahead of the outbreak and flatten the curve as soon as possible.

Business Pitches In

by Catherine Swift

As the initial shock starts to wear off regarding the COVID-19 crisis and life settles into a “new normal” of social distancing, working from home or not working at all, business closures, quarantine and other drastic but necessary measures, more energy is being devoted to making a positive contribution to lessening the impact of the virus. Governments in Canada and abroad have launched efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, test the viability of existing medications to prevent or reduce the severity of the virus and find ways to stretch essential health care resources that are in short supply. Some creative Canadian doctors, for example, have found a way to “MacGyver” a ventilator so that it can be used for more than one patient at a time.

Time for Some True Public Service

by Catherine Swift

As so many Canadians are extremely worried about their economic health as well as their physical health in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a privileged class that does not face the same economic anxieties. I refer, of course, to the vast majority of government employees who not only enjoy on average better salaries, benefits, pensions, much greater job security, shorter work weeks and earlier retirements than the rest of us in normal times, but who so far are mostly unaffected financially by the drastic shifts in our lives caused by this new virus.

Just the Facts, Please

by Catherine Swift

At this time of crisis with the Covid19 pandemic, the major priority for Canadians is to get as much factual information as possible so we can do our best to protect ourselves and our loved ones. The reality that there are still many unknowns about this new virus doesn’t help the situation, but we do have many facts and can learn from the experience of other countries that faced the outbreak earlier than Canada.

Del Duca Cruises to Victory

by Catherine Swift

After a very low key, rather boring leadership contest, Steven Del Duca easily prevailed over his rivals to become the new leader of the Ontario Liberal Party this past weekend. Del Duca won on the first ballot with an impressive 58.5 per cent of the vote, well ahead of the second-place finisher, Michael Coteau, with 17 per cent. Del Duca had done a very effective job of signing up Liberal party members throughout the course of the leadership campaign and had been the clear frontrunner for many weeks leading up to the vote.

Ring of Fire Reignited

by Catherine Swift

This past Monday, the Ford government announced that it would be launching environmental and other studies for an infrastructure project to build a Northern Road Link to the Ring of Fire mining development in Northern Ontario. The announcement was made at the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference, in conjunction with leaders from the Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations, who expressed their strong support for the initiative. The key objective of the project is to establish a permanent, all-season access route to mines in the Ring of Fire, and also connect a number of First Nations communities to Ontario’s highway network. Other benefits include the establishment of high speed internet and reliable cellular service for First Nations and other communities in the area.

Transit Fiascos

by Catherine Swift

If we were not painfully aware of the many fiascos that have taken place in the implementation of Ottawa’s new light rail transit (LRT) system, it would be difficult to believe that even government could screw things up so very badly. The new transit system in the Nation’s Capital was launched in September 2019, a year later than scheduled. Since then, it has been plagued by delays, mechanical problems, lack of co-ordination between the LRT and connecting buses and general dysfunction. And of course more public money is being thrown at the project over and above the initial budget to fix the many emerging problems.

More Political Bozo Eruptions

by Catherine Swift

While the country is grappling with the very serious issues of a potential corona virus pandemic and national gridlock as a result of various rail blockades and other protests causing major difficulties for the economy, there have also been some less critical but nevertheless odd and problematic political miscalculations in recent days. 

The Fight over E-learning courses

by Janet Ecker

In an era when parents can’t get their kids to put down their electronic devices and get off the internet, observers could be forgiven for asking why the Ontario Government’s new requirement for two mandatory e-learning high school courses has become so controversial.
When you consider that the average student may take some 20-plus courses during their four years of high school, how is a requirement that two of them be on-line, a draconian reform? And the Globe and Mail has reported that 58,000 students already took an on-line course in 2017-18 and that enrolment is climbing by 17 per cent a year.

The Mounting Cost of Government Debt

by Catherine Swift

For those folks who seem to think that government deficits and debt don’t matter, a recent Fraser Institute report is an eye-opener. All too often taxpayers view government debt as an abstract concept that really doesn’t affect them very much, and short-term thinking encourages taxpayers to favour consuming more government services today and put off paying for them until sometime in the indefinite future. The study examined the growing amount of interest being paid on debts incurred by the federal and provincial governments in the fiscal year 2019-2020, and the findings ain’t pretty.
For Ontario, interest on the province’s debt comes in just under $13 billion, which is more than the province allocates for post-secondary education. $13 billion could buy a lot more help for autistic children, boost health care services and otherwise be used much more productively than merely covering debt interest.

Alberta’s Final Frontier?

by Catherine Swift

Caught up amid all of the attention being paid to the protests paralysing many parts of Canada is a looming deadline for a very important Alberta oilsands project on the cusp of being approved – or not – by the federal Liberal government. The Teck Frontier project, located in northeastern Alberta, has been in the planning and approval stages since 2012. The project has successfully achieved all of the environmental and other regulatory requirements mandated by various levels of government, and has reached agreement with every one of the 14 indigenous communities in the affected area. It is estimated that the project will employ as many as 7,000 full time workers during its construction and about 2,500 workers on an ongoing basis. The project has a value of $20.6 billion and is expected to contribute $70 billion in tax revenues to governments during its 40-year lifespan. It’s fate currently stands to be determined by the federal Liberal Cabinet by the end of this month.

The Dangers in a Growing Third Sector

by Catherine Swift

The term Third Sector is typically used to include a range of organizations that are neither private sector companies nor government departments or agencies, and whose goal is usually to promote a particular social objective or represent the interests of a specific group in society. Examples of third sector entities include not-for-profits, charities, various associations, social enterprises and co-operatives. Trade unions are sometimes also included in the third sector. In recent years, the third sector has been growing by leaps and bounds in Canada and around the world.

Get Ideology out of Health Care Reform

by Catherine Swift

Most Ontarians know how badly under-capacity our vital health care system is at present, and how things like long waiting lists, hallway health care, patients having to stay in costly hospital beds due to the lack of long-term care beds, doctor shortages and other problems plague the system. Sadly, needed reform is being prevented by a slavish devotion to a monopoly public system that is not performing effectively for citizens yet is costing us a fortune. Although the Ford government is attempting some significant reforms, more fundamental structural change is needed if we are to see the system truly improve, and our aging population makes the need for major changes especially urgent.

NDP ups the ante

by Catherine Swift

In the never-ending war of words among the various factions in the ongoing Ontario teachers’ dispute, the NDP has just upped the ante by calling for the firing of Education Minister Stephen Lecce. According to the NDP, the hashtag #FireLecce is one of the top trending topics in Canada on twitter, which is not much of an accomplishment considering how easy it is to get lots of twitter bots and trolls on the left to click on one whacky topic or another. In the eyes of the NDP, however, Lecce’s real sin is doing his job properly, which means respecting the interests of taxpayers.

Ontario’s passive approach to teachers frustrating but prudent

by Joan Tintor

I don’t have a parent’s perspective on the last few months of teacher strikes and job actions, but as a conservative I am naturally frustrated. “Fire them all!” I shout at the television, invoking the memory of the blessed Ronald Reagan, though I know very well that neither education minister Stephen Lecce nor premier Doug Ford can fire teachers who are employed by school boards. “Lock them out in January!” was another refrain I would mutter into the void. Again, same problem: politicians can’t lock out people who work for different politicians.

Sadly, the prospect of teachers picketing through weeks of winter weather has probably receded into Wiarton Willie’s lair.

The Other Leadership Race

by Catherine Swift

While the leadership contest for the Conservative Party of Canada is getting lots of headlines these days, another important leadership race is getting much less attention. In just over a month, the Ontario Liberals will be choosing their new leader. The Ontario Liberal race was not exactly knocked out of the headlines by the federal Conservative rivalry. There has been very little attention paid to the Ontario Liberal competition at all, probably because it has been, well, pretty boring. It seems that not many hot issues have entered the fray, no major disputes among the candidates have arisen so far, and it has generally been a rather dull affair.

Is this the Big One?

by Catherine Swift

For many years health professionals have warned about the possibility of a new pandemic that could be very destructive in terms of lives lost and other negative outcomes. The recent emergence of the corona virus – a viral relative to SARS – has many people asking if this could be the “big one”. At present, we know the disease originated in the Wuhan region of China, can be deadly, and has already migrated to many other parts of the world, including Canada. This has all happened in a very short time period, considering that the World Health Organization (WHO) first informed the public of the flu-like outbreak as recently as January 9.

Scholarships in Response to Tragedy

by Catherine Swift

Last week Premier Doug Ford announced the creation of a new post-secondary scholarship program to honour the memories of the 57 Canadian victims of the Ukrainian airliner shot down by the Iranian regime earlier this month. The provincial government will establish scholarships for 57 students annually beginning in the 2021-22 academic year. Although the details have yet to be fully worked out, the Premier announced that the secondary schools which lost students or teachers in the crash and families of the victims will have input into selecting recipients of the scholarships, which will also be based on financial need and academic results.

Bad Policies Come Home to Roost

by Catherine Swift

That wailing and gnashing of teeth you hear is the sound of unions, some politicians and others on the left bemoaning the exodus of well-paid manufacturing jobs from Ontario, and Canada for that matter, as detailed in a new study released this week.
Anyone paying attention for the last few years knows that the manufacturing sector in Ontario has shrunk significantly, and this phenomenon was quantified in a recent analysis by Statistics Canada. The study looked at the period from 2000-2015, and found that the share of the workforce represented by manufacturing declined over that period by 6.8 per cent in Toronto and 9.8 per cent in Oshawa. As men predominate as workers in manufacturing, they have been disproportionately affected, with men in Toronto not having experienced an increase in their wages since 2000. In Windsor, where the auto industry has shrunk dramatically, the average man’s wage has declined by 14 per cent over the 15-year period, while male workers in Chatham-Kent saw a 10 per cent drop. Results were similarly dire for other parts of the province. Overall, the Statscan study found significantly fewer men working full time over the period examined than in previous years.

The Skinny on Smaller Class Sizes

by Catherine Swift

As the new year gets into full swing, Ontario teachers are predictably back on the picket lines. Although many issues are supposedly on the bargaining table, there appear to be two major sticking points at present – the government’s offer of a one per cent per year wage increase and class sizes. On the former, several of the teachers’ unions involved have taken the provincial government to court, so that matter may well be decided outside of the bargaining table. On the question of class sizes, despite claims of some that smaller classes are always preferable for better student outcomes, it is worth a look at the results of research done on this contentious issue.

Terrorism and the Left

by Catherine Swift

While news of the killing of Iranian Commander Qasem Soleimani and other senior Iranian officials was capturing the attention of many people around the world over the past few days, a strange Ontario angle to the story unfolded. Two NDP MPPs – Rima Berns-McGown and Marit Styles – attended an anti-American rally supportive of Soleimani in Toronto. In case there was any doubt as to who was behind the rally to show support for Soleimani and denounce the US, the flags of the terrorist group Hezbollah and the Iraqi paramilitary organization Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were prominent at the event. There are many differing opinions on exactly what the US attack on senior Iranian figures will mean for the world and whether it was justified or not, but the notion of elected representatives in Ontario publicly supporting groups that have been classified as terrorist organizations by the Canadian government and many others is difficult to fathom or justify. When questioned, NDP officials claimed that the two MPPs were merely attending the rally as a gesture “in support of peace”. That’s quite a stretch.

Challenges for Ontario in 2020

by Catherine Swift

In the year ahead, Ontario will face many similar challenges to other parts of Canada, plus a few unique to this province. As the next Ontario election is scheduled for June 2, 2022, the Ford government will be hitting the second half of its mandate in mid-2020. Typically, all governments try hard to get any tough medicine out of the way in the first half of their tenure so they can roll out the goodies in the last couple of years to encourage voters to re-elect them. The Ford government clearly followed this approach, with a jam-packed legislative agenda in their first year in power.

How to describe Doug Ford’s 2019?

by Janet Ecker

As we review the past year and look forward to the new, how to describe 2019 for Premier Doug Ford’s provincial government? Words from English author Charles Dickens come to mind – “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
It started with the government in full damage control mode because of the Premier’s former chief of staff, Dean French – giving relatives and cronies provincial appointments and creating a virtual reign of terror with his aggressive and bullying style.

Ontario Needs (Skilled) Help

by Catherine Swift

Many people reacted with surprise to Economic Development Minister Vic Fedelli’s request to the federal Immigration Minister to double the number of economic immigrants allocated to Ontario. They shouldn’t have. For some time now, Ontario and other provinces have been talking about shortages of workers with a range of different skills, and these shortages are getting worse as the population ages and younger generations are not numerous enough or lack the appropriate training to fill the gaps.

Good Policy or Popularity?

by Catherine Swift

The latest survey by two different polling firms – DART and Angus Reid – on the popularity of provincial premiers is out and – surprise! – the most unpopular premiers are those who are trying to do the right thing for taxpayers and their province’s finances. The most popular Premiers – Quebec’s Francois Legault and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe are both in the rather enviable position of having their predecessors do most of the heavy lifting to get provincial finances in order, and are enjoying the results in their own personal popularity. At the other end of the spectrum, approval ratings have fallen for Alberta’s Jason Kenney and Ontario’s Doug Ford, both of whom have been trying to reverse course following the very big-spending, high deficit and debt governments that preceded them. There are factors at play other than provincial finances; especially in the case of Ford whose first year in power was marred by a number of missteps and policy reversals, but there is no doubt that the perception of “government cuts” is affecting the political popularity sweepstakes.

More Facts on Ontario’s Education Spending

by Catherine Swift

As the war of words and competing narratives escalates between the Ontario government and the various teachers’ unions, yet another Fraser Institute report has come out to reinforce the fact that spending in the Ontario public school system has outpaced the national average for the past few years. This is in direct contradiction to the unions’ ongoing claims that education spending is being cut. The Fraser report found instead that Ontario’s per student spending had increased by 3.1 per cent annually in recent years, as compared to a national average of 2.9 per cent. This is also well in excess of the rate of inflation during the period. Not surprisingly, the main driver behind the spending increases was the compensation of teachers and other education workers, especially with respect to the very generous pension component of compensation.

Cleaning the air by first cleaning the waste

by Kelly Harris

From 2008 to 2015 Ontarians paid $37 billion more than the market price for electricity according to Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk.

The December 2015 AG report also found the then Liberal Government overruled expert advice, tearing up two long-term Ontario Power Authority plans for the electricity system. The AG called the decisions politically motivated actions driving up prices for consumers.

Premiers going nuclear

by The Niagara Independent

Yesterday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that they will work collaboratively to develop new energy producing technology. Canada’s provincial leaders are currently gathered in Mississauga for meetings.
“Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick agreed today to work together to explore new, cutting-edge technology in nuclear power generation to provide carbon-free, affordable, reliable, and safe energy, while helping us unlock economic potential across Canada, including rural and remote regions,” read the statement released by the three premiers.

Ontario’s Income Inequality

by Catherine Swift

The Fraser Institute has come out with its latest report on the differential between wages in the public sector compared to the private sector in 2018 and – surprise! – once again government employees come out on top. The study included employees from all levels of government, municipal, provincial and federal, and found that the wage advantage alone for government workers was 10.3 per cent. This does not include the differences in other elements of overall compensation – things like pensions, early retirement, job security etc. When these elements are added in, they significantly worsen the public/private sector differential.

More Hydro Hijinks

by Catherine Swift

Last week the dominant Ontario headline was the revelation that the Ford government had, over a year ago, cancelled over 700 renewable energy contracts at a cost of $230 million. This old news was revealed only recently because apparently the government had included this expenditure under “other transactions” in government documents outlining 2018-2019 fiscal year spending, instead of citing it as a separate line item. NDP Opposition leader Andrea Horwath is now asking the Auditor-General to launch an inquiry into the cancellation of these contracts and the cost incurred. Unfortunately, Ms. Horwath was not at all critical of the former Liberal government when they entered into these contracts which guaranteed excessively high payments to green energy companies at great expense to Ontario ratepayers. The Ford government claims that cancelling these contracts will end up saving taxpayers just under $800 million, and was well worth doing to get a grip on the sky-high hydro rates in Ontario. Some industry sources disputed that number, but many of those very same sources were beneficiaries of the contracts so naturally opposed their cancellation.

The West Wants a Better Deal

by Catherine Swift

I spent last weekend in Red Deer, Alberta where I was speaking at a conference put on by the Freedom Talk group (freedomtalk.ca) – a small “c” conservative gathering of businesspeople, politicians, journalists and citizens concerned about the future of Western Canada within the Canadian federation. Having dealt with years of sluggish prices for the commodities that drive the Alberta and Saskatchewan economies, policies like equalization that continue to punish the West to the benefit of other provinces and uncooperative governments in Ottawa, Quebec and some other provinces, Western Canadians are justifiably unhappy with the current state of affairs. The results of the recent federal election, with the West’s nemesis Justin Trudeau being awarded a second term – albeit with a minority – served only to heighten tensions. Some arrogant comments from Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet also added fuel to the fire.

Health Care Heavy Lifting Begins

by Catherine Swift

Since their election, the Ford government has made many changes to health care in the province, most of which have involved targeted measures within the existing health care system structure. For example, there have been additions to existing hospitals and other facilities, investments in new hospitals and new equipment, all with the goal of increasing system capacity to reduce “hallway health care”, cut down on wait times and generally make the system more responsive to patient needs. All of these changes were needed, but did not deal with the flaws in the overall structure of the system. Last week, the government announced its plans to comprehensively restructure Ontario health care, significantly downsize the existing health care bureaucracy and redirect the savings achieved into frontline health services.

Behind the Scenes in Ontario Education

by Catherine Swift

The only news we seem to hear lately about the public school system concerns the terrible things the Ford government is supposedly inflicting on students and the never-ending strike threats from the various teachers’ unions. But in a much less headline-grabbing way, the Ontario government is implementing a number of positive changes to the system that should be welcomed by students, teachers and taxpayers alike. These changes are largely geared to better prepare students for the future job market and the wave of technological change that is eliminating the need for many existing skills while creating demand for new ones.

Dodging the Google Bullet

by Catherine Swift

Although not a great deal of attention was paid to it, Ontario taxpayers recently dodged a potentially very costly bullet that involved the so-called Sidewalk Labs experiment. This project, initially announced in 2017, was to be a revolutionary “futuristic neighbourhood” project on the Toronto waterfront, complete with technology-enabled infrastructure including self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence controlling heating and cooling with omnipresent sensors recording and storing massive amounts of data on all of the goings-on in the neighbourhood. Google’s subsidiary Sidewalk Labs had grandiose intentions, originally seeking a large parcel of 190 acres of undeveloped waterfront property on which to conduct this experiment, with the expectation that this very valuable land would be effectively handed over to Google at nominal cost.

The Long Shadow of Liberal Green Energy Policy

by Catherine Swift

Ontario electricity consumers are well aware that their hydro bills keep going up despite attempts by the Conservative government to fulfill their election promise to reduce electricity costs by 12 per cent. It would be easy to blame the current government for not meeting this goal, but the reality is that the Green Energy Act implemented by the previous Liberal government a decade ago continues to haunt Ontario hydro consumers and impose stiff price increases every year.

Ford Nation Back in da House

by Catherine Swift

After a period of almost 5 months under the cone of silence believed to be requested by the federal Conservatives prior to the national election, Doug Ford reemerged this week to lead off the fall session of the Ontario Legislature. Reacting to the election results, one of Ford’s first statements was a call for national unity, noting that Ontario should step up and help unite Canada, and do what it can to help heal the regional divisions that have arisen largely because of federal policies that pit one part of the country against another. Given the white-hot anger in Alberta and Saskatchewan at present, this will be a very tall order and it could be seen as presumptuous for the Ontario Premier to assume such a role, but there are some ways in which Ontario politicians can be a positive force in calming regional rifts.

Ford’s Municipal Flip-flop

by Catherine Swift

When the Ontario government announced late last week they would not be pursuing the ambitious municipal reform they had previously championed, virtually all existing municipal politicians breathed a big sigh of relief. This should worry Ontarians as there is ample evidence that municipalities in the province are inefficient with much overlap and duplication among services provided and contain far too many municipal politicians. Instead of placing some sensible demands on municipalities to clean up their act, the province is instead going to give them even more money – $143 million or so – as part of a Municipal Modernization initiative to find efficiencies and improve services. In the Niagara area, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati has long been on the record as saying the region has far too many politicians. He also commented that this was not a matter of saving money, but a problem with having too many cooks in the kitchen. Although the too many cooks comment is accurate, it is also a matter of saving money as the more politicians there are, the higher the cost to ratepayers for their compensation and that of the bureaucracies that support them.

Our Politicized Public Service

by Catherine Swift

It now might sound quaint, but there was a time when government employees prided themselves on being non-partisan and the pursuit of a career in the public service was focused on actually serving the public and not engaging in overtly partisan political activity. I can still remember when someone working for the government would be loath to tell anyone how they voted in an election as they believed it would affect the perception of them being able to do their job professionally and without bias. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. The last couple of decades have seen increased partisanship within the public sector and much more vocal expression of support or opposition to political parties than in the past.

A(nother) Transit Plan for Toronto

by Catherine Swift

After years of dithering, changes in government at various levels and changes in plans, this week saw agreement between the province and the city of Toronto on yet another approach to improve mass transit in Canada’s biggest city. During last year’s provincial election campaign, one of the Conservative promises was a plan to “upload” the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to the provincial level, with the Ontario government taking over responsibility for funding and planning the transit system. This concept was strongly opposed by the city of Toronto, the TTC and the opposition NDP party, among others. After being elected, the Ford government also floated the concept of the Ontario Line – running from the CNE to the Ontario Science Centre – as preferable to the previously-planned downtown relief line on which some work had already begun.

The Bullying Conundrum

by Catherine Swift

The recent horrific bullying incident involving a young student stabbed to death in Hamilton in the presence of his mother has to give every parent pause about what is going on in schools today. The fact that the perpetrators were well known to be bullies prior to this tragic event, and that the school was apparently incapable of doing anything about it, is especially worrisome. Of course bullying has always been an issue, and will continue to be, but it seems that these days there are more high-profile incidents in schools and more serious outcomes for the victims.
The bullying problem is complex and has many causes and potential solutions. The prevalence of social media has added a new angle to bullying which didn’t exist a generation ago. The structure of the average family has changed significantly as well, as typically both parents are now employed outside the home, leaving kids to their own devices more so than in the past, and with many single-parent families in the mix as well. But the environment in schools has also changed dramatically over the past few decades, and bears examination as it impacts the behaviour and attitudes of young people.

Sigh of relief from Ontario parents

by Catherine Swift

The loud sigh of relief coming from Ontario parents could be heard across the province early this week, as news circulated that Education Minister Stephen Lecce was successful in reaching a tentative deal (subject to ratification by union members) with CUPE school support workers and that a strike had been averted. Federal Conservatives also likely were relieved as the federal Liberals were trying very hard to make the Ontario government’s potential inability to reach such a deal into an election issue and attempt to have that rub off negatively on federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. Whatever your perspective, it was certainly good news a deal was reached at the 11th hour, avoiding a disruptive strike. But is it a good deal for taxpayers?

Will They Stay or Will They Go?

by Catherine Swift

By the time you read this, things may well have changed yet again. At the time of writing, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), whose members work in various support capacities in the Ontario public school system, were planning to go back to the bargaining table. In the past few days, the union first instructed its members to work to rule, then after just 48 hours of that said workers would be on strike as of Monday Oct. 7, then a day later retracted that to agree to go back to bargaining with the provincial government. It’s been a whirlwind of unpredictability, with nervous parents wondering whether their children will be in school next week and if they must disrupt their lives and plan for a strike. York and Peel school boards have already said that if these support staff employees do go on strike next Monday, they plan to close the schools.

The Ford Factor

by Catherine Swift

A recent national opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid/Postmedia looked at the impact the current provincial government in the various provinces could have on voters’ intentions in the federal election. The results varied across provinces, but Ontario stood out as the province in which the highest percentage – about half – of all respondents said their federal voting plans would be affected by the provincial government, and primarily in a way that would make them less likely to support the federal Conservatives under Andrew Scheer. This was deemed to be a result of the so-called “Ford” Factor, and a reflection of how Doug Ford’s popularity has declined as his government has committed a number of missteps in their haste to cope with the mess left to them by the previous Liberal government.

Another Union Dust-up in Windsor

by Catherine Swift

A judge recently imposed a significant fine on officials of Unifor, the auto industry union, for engaging in a prolonged illegal strike. The matter involved auto parts company Nemak, a supplier to General Motors. The dispute arose when Nemak announced that it was planning to close the Windsor plant in 2020, two years earlier than when the current collective agreement expires in 2022. Nemak stated that the plant was operating at very low capacity and was too small and inefficient to be competitive in today’s market environment, leading to the accelerated plant closing timeline.

Fun with Budget Numbers

by Catherine Swift

It was recently revealed that the Ontario deficit for the 2018-2019 fiscal year came in at $7.4 billion – much lower than the $11.7 billion the Ford government had predicted it would be back in the spring. This new and improved deficit number immediately elicited cries from the opposition parties that this was proof the government had exaggerated the deficit in the first place to score political points, and that the fabled Liberal spending spree of the last few years before the June 2018 election had not been as bad as advertised. As usual, the truth is a bit more complicated.

Time for a Reckoning

by Catherine Swift

Difficult as it is to avert my eyes from the ongoing gong show that is federal Liberal politics, it is nevertheless worth looking at the interesting investigation currently underway in Alberta into foreign-funded environmental groups. Shortly after being elected this past spring, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney initiated an inquiry into the activities of a number of charities with an environmental focus which have been working vociferously for some time to shut down Alberta’s energy industry.

Unions Rattling the Sabres

by Catherine Swift

Two major Ontario public school unions – the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (EFTO) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are currently seeking a mandate to strike from their members. Although this didn’t take long as their contracts just recently expired, this is not surprising given that all unions reflexively oppose Conservative governments as they are much less willing than Liberals and other parties on the left to endlessly fleece average taxpayers for the unions’ benefit. In the case of EFTO, they claim they are looking to consult their members over the next couple of months to determine their appetite for strike action. The CUPE workers, which include janitorial and other support staff, could be out on strike as early as September 23.

Pinching Pennies, Not Taxpayers

by Catherine Swift

Last week Ontario Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy announced that by implementing a few simple administrative measures, the government saved $153 million over a couple of months earlier this year. This is of course not a princely sum in light of realities such as the fact that the government pays $34 million per day in interest on its massive debt. But it’s a start and shows that over time serious money can be saved by changes that are merely sensible and should have been done long ago.

Bad Report Card for Ontario Educators – Again

by Catherine Swift

Another year, another bad report card on the performance of Ontario’s students in math. This was illustrated by the most recent Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) test results, which was made public this week. The data show that 58 per cent of grade three students met basic math standards, which is a four per cent decline from 2016. Only 48 per cent of grade six students met the math standards, down one per cent from 2016. These declines have been happening for over a decade, and tend to coincide with the introduction of so-called “discovery” math which moves away from teaching basic math principles to a supposedly more “problem-solving” oriented approach. However, other studies have found Ontario students problem solving capabilities have also declined, so this version of math teaching has seemingly failed on that front as well. What is especially painful about the long decline in student math achievement is that under the former Liberal government the overall budget for education roughly doubled at a time when the number of students declined. Many analyses have revealed that virtually all of the spending increases went to teachers’ unions and teacher salaries, pensions and other benefits. Basically, Ontarians are paying more and more for less and less in our public education system, and our children are being seriously short-changed in the process.

The Expanding Welfare Trap

by Catherine Swift

The nature of the “welfare trap” is well understood as the situation that arises when a person is discouraged from seeking work or better-paid work because they will face higher tax levels for any additional income and/or lose benefits that only accrue to lower income citizens. As a result, people in these circumstances opt to remain unemployed or in a low income job. A new study from the CD Howe Institute entitled “The Paycheck Blues” has provided some pretty shocking measurements of the extent of the welfare trap in Canada and the many problems it creates for both the individuals and families stuck in low income lives, as well as the economy overall.

Good Riddance Ontario News Now

by Catherine Swift

The Ford government is undertaking a review of the self-serving so-called “news” video service called Ontario News Now (ONN). Good. This faux news entity is financed by taxpayer dollars, and produces puff pieces on various policy announcements and other activities of Premier Ford and his colleagues. The justification for creating this service in the first place was that much of the regular media is so anti-conservative that Ontario’s government would not be able to get a fair shake in the press so needed to take matters into its own hands and oversee its own coverage of events. Although there is certainly a fair amount of truth to the fact that the majority of conventional media tends to be left-leaning, that does not mean that the creation of ONN was necessary or a good use of tax dollars.

Crime, No Punishment

by Catherine Swift

There have been quite a number of disturbing things in the crime department happening over the past few months in Ontario. We have seen far too many incidents involving guns, and over the Simcoe Day long weekend alone there were 17 people that suffered gunshot wounds in Toronto. Although it may be tempting to explain this away as being a Toronto problem, there have also been numerous incidents of gun-related violence in the GTA and beyond. We have seen an absurd number of dangerous people wandering away from a supposedly secure mental health facility, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), to the point that you have to wonder if this facility has any security procedures at all. Another disturbing event was the case of Elizabeth Wettlaufer, the killer nurse who managed to murder eight vulnerable seniors and attempted to kill four more before she was finally caught, which apparently happened only because she confessed and not because anyone in authority bothered to act on the many red flags that surrounded her for years. In July, an Ontario judge refused to convict an aboriginal woman who was driving with three times the legal limit of alcohol in her bloodstream because of “colonialism and racism”. The sum total of these events presents a disturbing picture that should very much concern average Ontarians.

Green Action versus Green Talk

by Catherine Swift

Most Ontarians are rightly concerned about environmental issues, and are more than willing to actively contribute to initiatives that have positive impacts on the environment. Unfortunately, much of the discussion about “green” policies of late have revolved around carbon taxation or cap and trade systems (another form of putting a price on carbon). But these policies have come into disrepute as experience with them has not lived up to initial expectations. For instance, it has become evident that revenues from carbon taxes very often do not end up being spent on environmental matters but just become slush funds for government.

The Enduring Myth of Government Spending

by Catherine Swift

In recent weeks we have yet again seen politicians of all partisan stripes and others promote the fallacy that more government spending results in more or better public services. In response to dishonest claims by federal Liberals that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer would cut health care spending “just like Doug Ford” (who by the way has not cut health care spending), Scheer rose to the bait and made a commitment that he would guarantee an annual increase of three per cent in health care transfers to the provinces. Great, right? Turns out, not so much.

Tempest in a Wine Glass

by Catherine Swift

Despite being in the summer doldrums when most folks are more concerned about hanging out on the dock with a cool beverage than paying attention to the news, there was a bozo eruption from the left this week that got some undeserved media play. The whole thing started with a story from an online so-called news service called Queen’s Park Today, concerning a story on the Ontario Conservatives’ online Ontario News Now outlet about Premier Ford having paid a visit to an Ontario winery, namely Pelee Island Winery, and saying good things about the Ontario business. Another politician visiting a business during the summer months when legislatures are not sitting and making some complimentary public statements about it is something unremarkable that happens every day. That should have been the end of it and, if it had been a Liberal or other non-Conservative government in power, it likely would have been.

Health Care Conundrum

by Catherine Swift

Most people who have dealt with the Ontario health care system in recent years have been disappointed. Long delays, bureaucratic snafus, so-called “hallway healthcare”, shortage of family doctors and administrative incompetence seem to be the norm. Yet despite all of the evident problems, there is still an enormous amount of resistance to change it, and there remain a significant number of Canadians who mistakenly believe that we have “the best health care system in the world”.

Time to Cut the Fat in Education Bureaucracy

by Catherine Swift

It has been many years since Ontario had a serious look at the massive bureaucracy in the public education system, and it is high time it was revisited. The current system has a structure designed for an era when most families were Christian and spoke either English or French. Needless to say, our current reality is very different and has been for some time. We also maintain an educational structure designed for many more students, yet enrollment in Ontario has been declining for years. From 2009 to 2019, for example, education spending increased by over 30 per cent while enrollment declined by 110,000 students. If student performance had improved over the same period, perhaps there could be some justification for the higher spending but performance actually worsened in those years, causing even more questions around whether any value at all was achieved for all those extra dollars spent. Another issue arising from declining student numbers is the reality of many half-empty schools in the province. There has been considerable discussion around the fact that many existing schools need repair and upgrading, and it would seem to make the most sense to focus that spending on schools that are already near capacity and consolidate the schools that are mostly empty, not waste funds on facilities that have no prospect of being fully utilized for the foreseeable future. Clearly, something’s gotta give.

The Liberal Boogeyman

by Catherine Swift

Someone recently asked me why suddenly there seems to be so much negative media piling on the criticism of Ontario Premier Doug Ford. The Toronto Star alone – well known as a rabid supporter of all things Liberal – seems to have some kind of poll coming out every few days with some new angle on how a majority of Ontarians have a dim view of Ford and his government. Most of these polls are done online and not scientifically conducted, so their findings are questionable, but they still make some pretty good headlines. And Ford has had his challenges lately as well, mostly around a botched appointment process linked to the Premier’s former Chief of Staff, Dean French. French is now gone from that position and measures have been put in place to clean up any issues in the appointment process, so all things being equal that should put this issue to bed for the time being.

More Abuse of Ontario Taxpayers

by Catherine Swift

A couple of recent incidents in Ontario underlined yet again how tax dollars are regularly abused by government employees. One incident involved teachers, who, as the data trickles in following the end of another school year, were found to once again be taking an inordinate number of sick days. The Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy called it a “June flu epidemic”, noting that up to 21 per cent of Toronto’s Catholic teachers and 15 per cent of public school elementary teachers were “off sick” for the last few Fridays before school ended. Most of these “illnesses” fell on a Friday or Monday. Frequently, the same teachers were off “sick” both Friday and Monday in a given week. Imagine running a private business when 15 to 20 per cent of your workforce is often absent on any given day? It should also be noted that teachers in the province have a very generous sick leave allotment of 11 fully paid sick days per year, plus another five miscellaneous days to be used however the teacher wants. Some apologists for the teachers’ behavior stated that they might have had some sick days left over to “use up” before the end of the year. But sick days are not holidays, and are to be used when actually sick. Any other use of this time is pure and simple abuse of tax dollars.

A United Provincial Front

by Catherine Swift

I would love to be a fly on the wall at the meetings currently underway among Canada’s provincial Premiers, the so-called Council of the Federation. The meeting is taking place in Saskatoon but most of the Premiers took the opportunity to stop off briefly in Alberta the night before and, with the Calgary Stampede underway, the obligatory awkward photos of politicians in cowboy hats flipping pancakes were part of the proceedings. But the real action will be taking place out of the public eye once the closed-door meetings are underway. The usual issues of interprovincial trade barriers, accreditation for workers from different provinces, energy matters, the carbon tax, etc. will undoubtedly be on the agenda. Most of the liveliest discussions, however, will surely be around activities the Premiers will be planning in the few months remaining before October’s federal election.

Integrity with a Partisan Lens

by Catherine Swift

The latest development in the ongoing dust-up over appointments under the Doug Ford government occurred last week, with Ontario Liberal Leader John Fraser asking the Integrity Commissioner to review all government appointments since the Conservatives came into power in June 2018. There is no doubt there were a few botched appointments, notably two Agent General appointees who turned out to be closely connected to former Ford Chief of Staff Dean French, and who did not possess appropriate qualifications for the positions. Once this came to light, the appointments were quickly rescinded and a few other appointments withdrawn because they had connections to French, even though most of the people involved were well-qualified for the posts. Dean French also walked the plank over this issue and is no longer Ford’s Chief of Staff. This is not the first time this type of situation has happened with governments of all political stripes, and it’s unlikely to be the last. The departure of French and the rescinding of the offending appointments should be the end of it, especially as the Ford government has launched a review of the overall appointment process. But as this situation involves a Conservative government, the usual rules do not apply.

A Summer of Discontent

by Catherine Swift

Newly-minted Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce has his work cut out for him. With contracts for teachers and other education workers expiring at the end of August, there is not a great deal of time to negotiate new agreements before the start of the next school year. This is not by accident of course, as unions always contrive to have their collective agreements expire at the most difficult time for the employer so that maximum pressure can be applied. For teachers’ unions, this means that contracts expiring just before the school year starts is perfect for them, and disastrous for taxpayers, parents and the students themselves. It’s hard to believe that we Ontarians tolerate this abuse year after year.

A Charter for Toronto?

by Catherine Swift

Recent tensions between the Ontario provincial government and the City of Toronto have once again revived interest in Toronto seeking to become a Charter City. Charter status would mean that Toronto – and possibly other cities – would have constitutionally protected authority to exercise much more autonomy that it can currently in its position of being a “creature of the province”, subject to provincial oversight on most issues of importance.
The establishment of a Charter City would be a first for Canada. All Canadian cities currently have the same status of being under the jurisdiction of the relevant province, with limited autonomy. The concept is far more established in the US, where 10 states have adopted the model. Toronto has broached the idea of becoming a Charter City a number of times in the past few decades, usually motivated by a desire for more money or the perception of an unfriendly provincial government that won’t go along with initiatives the city favours. In this latest iteration of Charter fever, there has been an organization established – Charter City Toronto – founded in part by former leftist Toronto Mayor John Sewell. The Charter concept in general has been primarily supported by politicians and others on the left, with the common goal of extracting more tax dollars from city residents, businesses and other levels of government.

More Change at the Top

by Catherine Swift

Following a seismic cabinet shuffle last Thursday, the government of Doug Ford saw another significant development on Friday with the resignation of the Premier’s Chief of Staff, Dean French. French had been under criticism for some time because of an autocratic style that many elected Conservatives resented. This is a fairly common criticism of Chiefs of Staff to political leaders, who frequently have to perform the thankless task of being gatekeeper to the leader, limiting access to others and acting as a go-between. At the federal level, Justin Trudeau famously said to his caucus members that if his Chief of Staff, Gerald Butts, spoke on an issue the caucus could take it as coming from Trudeau himself. Interestingly, Butts himself resigned a few months ago in the wake of the SNC Lavalin scandal. Overall, it is a rare Chief of Staff that is appreciated by those elected to a legislature.

Big Changes at Queen’s Park

by Catherine Swift

After almost exactly one year in office, Premier Doug Ford announced a major Cabinet shuffle this week. And it was indeed major. Almost all of the most important portfolios saw a change in the responsible Minister. Some of the key moves include Vic Fedelli leaving Finance for Economic Development with Rod Phillips moving into the Finance role and Lisa MacLeod exiting Children and Social Services and being replaced by former economic development Minister Todd Smith. Also significant was the departure of Lisa Thompson from the education portfolio, replaced by Stephen Lecce, a first-time MPP who has performed well as Deputy Government House Leader and Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier. Caroline Mulroney is out as Attorney General, with Doug Downey stepping into that important post. Christine Elliot remains as Health Minister, but elements of the health ministry are to be split off with Merrilee Fullerton now responsible for long-term care and Michael Tibollo for mental health. Laurie Scott switched places with Monte MacNaughton with the former moving to Infrastructure and the latter to Labour. All in all, a very significant shuffle.

Voters, Know Thine Enemy

by Catherine Swift

If you watched any of the NBA finals featuring the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors – and let’s face it, who didn’t – you would have been treated to ads that are the first major salvo in the left wing’s campaign to do everything they can to prevent the Conservative party from being elected in this October’s federal election. The ads were funded by a third party group called Engage Canada, and attempted to portray Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer as weak, and a pawn of Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Third parties are entities which are not political parties, unions or businesses, and their presence has grown like crazy in Canada in recent years. Although there have for many years been limits on how much unions and corporations can spend in an election period, similar limits on third party spending are a relatively recent phenomenon.

A Year of Living Dangerously

by Catherine Swift

The government of Premier Doug Ford has now been in power for just over a year, and what a busy and tumultuous time it has been. After being out of power for almost 15 years in Ontario, the Progressive Conservative party had much pent-up energy for policies they now want to act upon as quickly as possible. Former Premier Mike Harris, when asked if he had any regrets from the time he was Ontario Premier, famously said he was sorry he didn’t do more things early in his tenure. Judging from the past 12 months, it seems the Ford government has taken that advice to heart.

Attention Ontario Taxpayers!

by Catherine Swift

Mark July 3, 2019 in your calendars, Ontario taxpayers. That is the date when we will know exactly how much our municipal governments, school boards and other provincial institutions such as colleges and universities are telling the truth when they repeatedly claim to really care about saving taxpayers money. These various government entities have been presented with a very important choice courtesy of Bill 66, the “Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act”, which was passed a couple of months ago.

Trades strike province wide

by Kevin Vallier

Members of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association walked off the job earlier this month when contract negations with Ontario General Contractors Association broke down. This week bus loads of sheet metal union members made the trek to picket in Niagara as part of what the union is calling their “solidarity bus tour”. About 4,000 sheet metal workers are on strike across Ontario.
Also on strike province-wide are Ontario’s plumbers and pipefitters. It’s the first time in 30 years that the sector has walked off the job. They’ve been on strike for a week while the sheet metal workers walked off the job more than a month ago.

Good News on the Financial Front

by Catherine Swift

Many Ontarians would be surprised to find that the province got some good financial news last week. As is often the case when good news is in the offing for a conservative government, there was minimal media coverage of the fact that a key credit rating agency, Fitch Ratings Inc., upgraded the province’s credit rating from negative to stable. Fitch is one of the so-called “Big Three” nationally recognized credit rating agencies, along with Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, so this development is important and a positive endorsement of the financial direction the Ford government is pursuing. And when one major credit rating agency makes changes, whether positive or negative, the rest are usually not far behind.

Province to create centre of excellence for mental health

by Kevin Vallier

It’s a disconnected, inconsistent and complicated system for patients and family members to navigate and understand. That is the reason the provincial government announced this week their intention to create a mental health and addictions centre of excellence for Ontario.
Called the Foundations for Promoting and Protecting Mental Health and Addictions Services Act, the legislation, if passed, will set up a provincial body that will coordinate mental health and addiction services, set care standards and deliver a better and more consistent patient experience.

Ontario’s Ailing Public Health System

by Catherine Swift

One of last week’s big news stories concerned a letter written by 10 former Ministers of Health in Ontario recommending the Ford government reverse planned cuts to public health spending. Much was made of the fact that one of these former Ministers was a Conservative, albeit from about 40 years ago when things were rather different in the province’s health care system. The true irony was that six of the 10 were Liberal ex-Ministers – in other words, the very people responsible for creating the spending crisis in the health care system that the current government is trying to correct. In addition, it is a customary practice in governments that previous ministers, Premiers or Prime Ministers refrain from openly criticizing the policies of their successors. It is actually very inappropriate and borderline rude for these letter writers not to extend this same courtesy to the Ford government, but these days it seems all bets are off and it’s open season on anything this government does.

A Financial Check-Up

by Catherine Swift

This week Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office (FAO) published its customary report on the recent provincial budget and its implications for government finances and the economy. As has become the norm for anything the Ford government does these days, much of the media coverage appeared negative. Some of the headlines included “Fiscal Restraint Could Carry Economic Risks”, “Ontario Spending Growth Slowest in 30 Years” and “More Cuts Needed to Balance Ontario Budget”. An actual objective reading of the FAO report, however, reveals that the news was actually quite positive for Ontario’s fiscal outlook.

Non-issue is back on the agenda

by Catherine Swift

The last time the abortion issue was prominent in national policy discussions was back in the federal election campaign of 2006, the eventual result of which was a minority Conservative government led by Stephen Harper. At that time, a main focus of anti-conservative forces was endless speculation about the so-called Harper “hidden agenda” which, although never specifically defined, was presumed to include draconian restrictions on abortion rights, among other social conservative things. None of that ever came to pass, but that of course doesn’t stop the same parties from once again trotting out the old abortion scare shibboleth.
This scare was briefly resuscitated prior to the 2018 Ontario election when the provincial Progressive Conservatives were again serious contenders and, ultimately, victors. And once more, nothing happened to change anyone’s access to abortion. Of course facts have never stood in the way of some good old leftist scaremongering, and considering past experience, likely never will.

The Endless Big Government Beat Goes On

by Catherine Swift

In their continuing vendetta to oppose absolutely everything the Ford government tries to do, the Toronto Star, the NDP opposition and other forces of the left launched their latest salvo this week, claiming to possess leaked cabinet documents that supposedly contemplated such things as draconian cuts to social services and the privatization of some health-related services in Ontario. The documents apparently contained the warnings of various government employees who stated that lives would be at risk if some of the changes that were reportedly being considered were ever implemented.
It’s worth keeping in mind that government employees will always stand in the way of spending cuts, partly because of their instincts for self-preservation and partly because the culture of government is to always get larger and spend more. In government, there are few if any incentives to be thrifty with tax dollars. And let’s face it – there are not too many things that are as much fun as spending someone else’s money. The current Ontario public service has been marinating in the warm bath of the McGuinty and Wynne big spenders for 15 years now, and old habits are hard to break. Accordingly, much of their advice should be taken with many grains of salt.

Beer Store Follies

by Catherine Swift

The ongoing battle between the Beer Store and the Ontario government ramped up another notch this week with the Beer Store launching an advertising campaign featuring the Canadian curling champion, Glenn Howard, as spokesperson. The Beer Store, having had a monopoly over beer sales in Ontario since 1927 when the province ended prohibition, understandably doesn’t want to give up this immense and profitable privilege. To try to win over the hearts and minds of Ontario consumers, they are predicting all manner of disastrous outcomes for beer drinkers and the Ontario economy should their monopoly end. They have even set up special social media accounts to apprise Ontarians of the so-called “Beer Facts”.

Ford versus Tory – Round Two

by Catherine Swift

It is no secret that there is no love lost between Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor John Tory. Their first serious bout in the ring took place in 2014 when Doug Ford replaced his brother Rob in the race for Mayor of Toronto when Rob’s health challenges prevented him from continuing his campaign. John Tory won that round, garnering just over 40 per cent of the popular vote as compared to Doug Ford’s 34 per cent. However, likely unbeknownst to both men at the time, the real war had not yet begun.

Premier Ford in the Big Apple

by Catherine Swift

Last week Premier Doug Ford spent a couple of days in New York City promoting Ontario within the context of his theme that the province is now “Open for Business”. Along with Finance Minister Vic Fedelli, the Premier spent a couple of days meeting with various industry leaders, trade representatives and US business media to emphasize the importance of the trading relationship between the province and many US states as well as the focus of this Ontario government on policies such as cutting red tape and reducing excess regulation. It never hurts to remind our American friends of the importance of our economic relationship, considering that two-way trade between Ontario and the US reached almost $400 billion in 2018 and that, if Ontario was a country, it would be the US’s third largest trading partner. Indeed, such promotional pilgrimages to our neighbour to the south are quite common by provincial and federal government leaders of all political stripes.

Ontario Education System Disappoints Again

by Catherine Swift

In the past few weeks we have been inundated with advertising from the various Ontario teachers’ unions telling us what a top-notch education system we have here in Ontario and that any attempt to touch it by the Ford government will surely result in a reduction of the quality of education and a downgrading of student achievement. Teachers’ unions in Ontario have a long history of self-promotion, paid for with large quantities of our tax dollars, but a growing body of research disputes their claim to educational excellence in the province’s public school system. We have already seen repeated results from the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) that show about half of primary school students are not meeting basic standards in math and literacy. To add to the research, a new study recently made public focuses on the skill sets of graduating high school students and their preparedness for university. The results are not encouraging.

Big Results from Small Measures

by Catherine Swift

As the cacophony of opposition continues to pretty much any changes the Ford government makes to bring the province’s books back into solvent territory, some relatively small changes are underway which could cumulatively make a big and positive difference.
A good example of this was a recent announcement that the government had sold a small chunk of land – just under an acre – in downtown Toronto to a developer to be repurposed as rental housing, with about a third of the rental housing constructed slated to be affordable housing. This transaction netted the government $36 million and will save annual maintenance costs of about $260,000 annually. This announcement will not attract much media attention while the larger and louder battles are being fought with teachers unions and others, but this is exactly the type of change that we need more of to reduce government spending obligations in a way that also achieves social policy goals such as, in this case, expanding the stock of affordable places to live. The Ontario government plans to undertake other transactions of this nature in future, having identified almost 500 properties that can be sold and put into more productive use over the next few years.

Minimum Wage Hike or Tax Cuts?

by Catherine Swift

A recent report by Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office (FAO) assessed the Conservative government’s so-called LIFT program (Low Income Individuals and Families Tax Credit), which eliminated provincial income tax for people earning less than $30,000 annually. It concluded that although the LIFT initiative certainly did benefit low income earners, it did not put as much money in their pocket as the previous Liberals government’s plan to further increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour, which the LIFT program was intended to replace. The FAO estimated that workers would on average receive $400 per year less under LIFT than if the planned minimum wage hike had proceeded. But this is only part of the story.

Deficits Do Matter

by Catherine Swift

Over the last few years we have witnessed significant growth in government deficits in many provinces and federally even as the economy has been growing. Accordingly, there has been speculation in the media and elsewhere over whether deficits really matter. Perhaps we should refer that question to Paul Martin and Jean Chretien who, not so very long ago in the mid-1990s, were faced with the stark reality that a sharp increase in public debt meant that Canada would not be able to borrow any more in international financial markets except at exorbitant interest rates that would hobble our economy. They were forced to slash government spending, sharply reduce transfers to the provinces for health and education, drain the $57 billion surplus built up in the Employment Insurance fund over many years and use a $28 billion surplus in a public sector pension plan, among other things, to pay off the deficit. Through all of these efforts they did manage to get Canada’s finances back on track but disaster was close. Within the last 20 years we have also seen various jurisdictions effectively go bankrupt, including Detroit and Greece among others. In all cases the cause was government spending growth that far outstripped the private sector’s ability to pay for it.

Alberta Election Changes National Landscape

by Catherine Swift

On April 16, the Alberta electorate gave Jason Kenney, United Conservative Party (UCP) leader, a resounding victory over the incumbent NDP government led by Rachel Notley. The numbers were truly impressive. Voter turnout was an amazing 70 per cent, and the UCP garnered 55.2 per cent of the popular vote and 63 seats in an 87 seat legislature. Whenever a conservative-leaning government is elected these days, leftists typically trot out the old chestnut that “he/she wasn’t elected by a majority of the popular vote”. They certainly won’t be able to make that case with Kenney’s landslide win. Of course this argument never seems to apply equally to left-leaning governments that are also usually elected with less than 50 per cent of the popular vote in our first-past-the-post electoral system.

The Silly Season has Begun

by Catherine Swift

For the last week or two it seems that we are being fed an even larger dosage of “fake news” than usual. Which is saying something. Much of this misinformation has revolved around politics, as it often does. Reaction to last week’s first Ford government budget was a good example. Confounding many who were poised to pounce on the budget for slash and burn spending cuts, the document was actually a disappointment to fiscal conservatives in that it indicated the government plans to take a leisurely approach to balancing the budget and has projected expenditure levels quite comparable to those planned by the former Liberal government. Despite that reality, opposition parties – and the many groups that would deny the sun rose in the east if they thought it would harm the Ford government – still claimed that there were spending cuts in the budget in such key areas as health and education, when in reality spending was increased in both of these areas. In fact, other than some unnecessary silliness about revamping the design of license plates in the province, the first Ford government budget was very much a middle-of-the-road type of document.

The Goldilocks Budget

by Catherine Swift

In the weeks leading up to the first budget of the Ford government, Finance Minister Vic Fedelli characterized his plans as a “Goldilocks” budget – not too hot, not too cold, but just right. At first blush, an analysis of the main budget themes and spending priorities suggests that he may indeed have achieved that balance, albeit with some important caveats.
There were calls from some quarters to bring Ontario finances back into balance in this budget, but considering the massive deficits and debt accumulated by the previous Liberal government over 15 years, it was a very unrealistic expectation that a government in power for less than a year could eliminate a deficit of $15 billion in such short order. Instead, Finance Minister Fedelli took the more incremental approach of bringing the deficit down to $11.7 billion in this fiscal year, with a plan to continue to reduce deficits in stages over the next few years by constraining expenditures to a growth rate of one per cent annually, with the ultimate goal being a balanced budget in fiscal 2023-24. This means the Ford government has no plans to balance the budget in its first term.

Red Tape Revisited

by Catherine Swift

The latest installment of the Ontario government’s ongoing work on the red tape/regulatory issue dropped last week with passage into law of Bill 66, the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act by Minister of Economic Development Todd Smith. This is an omnibus bill that was first introduced in December 2018 and contains changes to a number of different laws and regulations. Going beyond the cutesy name for this piece of legislation – something that all governments of any political stripe seem compelled to do these days with any new law – the Bill undertakes to reduce the regulatory burden in a number of sectors within the agrifood, manufacturing, automobile and construction industries, harmonize regulatory requirements with other jurisdictions, end duplication and reduce barriers to investment in the province.

Stick to the Program, Premier Ford

by Catherine Swift

Earlier this week – on April 1 in fact – the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation published a press release on what the Ford government had done with the so-called Jobs and Prosperity Fund created by the previous Liberal government. But this was no April Fools joke. During the run-up to the 2018 election, Ford and a number of his colleagues had gone as far to call this fund “corrupt” and described it as “corporate welfare”, all of which was true. Past Auditor General reports had criticized this fund as a waste as it handed out tens of millions of taxpayer dollars with no accountability, no tracking and no measurement of results to determine if indeed this spending had any effect on jobs or prosperity. Simply put, this fund is a pork barrel; money to be doled out with no good rationale and no accountability for results, usually on the basis of political favouritism rather than any substantive and worthwhile policy objectives.

Time to Bring Government into this Century

by Catherine Swift

One of the many interesting sessions at the recent Manning Centre Conference in Ottawa concerned how to bring governments into the digital age. Governments tend to be late adapters of technology for many reasons. As they don’t operate in competitive markets, governments are not driven to be up-to-date or productive as a private sector company would be to keep up with competitors. In fact, they are often decades behind technological trends that businesses are forced to adopt to remain in business. In addition, as governments are highly unionized environments – and Canadian governments are some of the most unionized in the world – they face union opposition to any use of technology that will replace a job, and therefore reduce the dues paid to unions. For all of the union attacks on capitalism, it is always amusing to see how unions react so very negatively to any of their sources of funds being reduced.

Ain’t No Sunshine on this List

by Catherine Swift

Another year, another Sunshine List from the Ontario government documenting the very large number of government workers who make $100, 000 or more annually. Ontario is one of the few jurisdictions that publishes this kind of information, and their example should be followed by all levels of government. These are our tax dollars after all, paying the people that are supposed to be serving the public considerably more than the identical job in the private sector would earn.
The Sunshine List was originally set up in Ontario by the Mike Harris government in the mid-1990s with the salary benchmark of $100,000. Many people have argued that it should be indexed to inflation, which would mean a threshold of about $150,000 today. Considering that the average Canadian worker earned about $60,000 in 2018, it would seem that continuing to use the $100,000 number makes a lot of sense as that is still much more than the average worker earns.

A Centralized Procurement System in Ontario. Finally.

by Melissa Lantsman

Two words. Public procurement.
While eyes glaze over for some when the words public procurement are uttered – for citizens and companies interacting with government – it is widely agreed that public procurement can be fraught with inefficiency, waste and perhaps even widespread fraud in government.
This is not just an Ontario phenomenon.

No Budget Bliss for Ontario

by Catherine Swift

The federal budget was announced this week, and fully lived down to expectations that it would be a spend-fest of taxpayer dollars aimed exclusively at the goal of winning Liberal votes in this October’s election. There was very little if any good news for Ontario in the budget, and much to be concerned about. One of the most negative aspects of the budget was the fact that despite some revenue windfalls, the Liberals chose to spend these funds instead of paying down even a part of the deficit to prepare for a rainy day. Heavily indebted governments at both provincial and federal levels is bad news for Ontarians and all Canadians as it leaves us very vulnerable to the next recession, which is looking increasingly imminent.

The Gauntlet Has Been Thrown

by Catherine Swift

The next Ontario election may be over three years away, but last Friday’s policy announcement by Education Minister Lisa Thompson is being viewed by the province’s teachers unions and school boards as a declaration of war. As these players have effectively been at war with the Conservative government since last year’s election – and were often at war with the previous Liberal government as well – people can be forgiven for asking if anything has changed. There is no question, however, that this latest government move has hit the unions where they live. Many Ontarians would say it’s high time.

The Old Math is New Again

by Catherine Swift

Making good on an election promise, this week the Ford government announced that it will be getting rid of the existing so-called “Discovery” method of teaching math to elementary students and promoting a “back to basics” approach in math and some other subjects. More details will be coming out later this week and in the coming months following consultations, but there can be no doubt that the current approach to the vital subject of mathematics in Ontario schools is badly failing students, as for some time now about half of Grade 6 students have not been achieving basic math standards.

Good News on the Jobs Front

by Catherine Swift

Labour market data for February was released late last week, and the news was mostly positive for Canada, but especially good for Ontario. Following a period of slow economic growth in the last few months of 2018, job creation has been on the rise in the first part of this year. In February, Canada added 55,900 jobs, of which 37,000 were in Ontario. In other words, last month saw about two-thirds of total new jobs in Canada created in Ontario. As Ontario represents about 38 per cent of the national economy, this is indeed significant and an indication that Ontario is punching above its weight in the job market. Overall, the first two months of 2019 showed the strongest job growth for Canada in a two-month period since 2012, and the best results for January and February since 1981. Not too shabby.

Taxing Times in Ontario

by Catherine Swift

Maybe it’s just the time of year, but there has been much discussion of late about personal income taxes and their impact on government revenues and the economy. Among the many accusations leveled against the Ford government by the opposition parties and others is that one of the policy changes made early in the new government’s tenure was to give a tax break to the “rich”. That claim was erroneous though, as what the Ford government actually did was cancel an additional tax on high income earners planned by the previous Liberal government, not reduce any taxes on them. A look at the facts shows that high income earners in Ontario continue to be fleeced by the tax system in a big way.

Stop the Madness!

by Catherine Swift

A welcome development in recent days was the announcement by the Ford government to put an end to “March Madness”. Before basketball fans get up in arms, it needs to be said that this definition of March Madness has to do with the annual spending spree that takes place in many governments before the end of the fiscal year. For years it has been documented that government employees go on a spend-fest at this time of year to empty out any funds that may remain in their budgets, as they fear their budgets will be reduced in future if they do not use them up. A recent instance of this at the federal level was the rush purchase of 31,000 smart phones last year around this time. Past examples have included massive purchases of “art” for government offices, unneeded computers and other equipment and office furniture, among other things. At the federal level, the Harper government had some success with discouraging these types of spending sprees, but the return of the big-spending Liberals in Ottawa seems to have changed that as evidenced by the last-minute smart phone order last year.
The Ford government plans to end the fiscal year-end frenzy by ending authorizations for any spending during this period that had not already been planned and undertaking closer monitoring of departmental spending in general. Hopefully they will proceed to the next step, which is implementing a new budgeting system that does not just carry forward spending amounts from the previous year, but requires every expenditure to be justified on an annual basis – so-called zero base budgeting.

Development in Ontario – A Delicate Balance

by The Niagara Independent

As part of its ongoing work to streamline government operations and reduce red tape, the Ford government recently shut down a little-known government entity called the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre (LPASC). This office was set up in April 2018 by the previous Liberal government, ostensibly to help the average Ontarian fight development projects that were “inappropriate, unreasonable, misplaced or designed without considering various planning guidelines”. One person’s “inappropriate” or “unreasonable” could very well be someone else’s perfectly “appropriate” or “reasonable”, and having such subjective goals could be seen to create problems for such an agency from the outset. Basically, the LPASC was intended to provide financial and other resources to enable Ontarians to sue their own government over development projects someone decided they didn’t like. As the office was established at a time when the Liberals had to be pretty sure they were going to voted out of office in a mere couple of months, it is tempting to think of this as just another poison pill planted by the Liberals for their likely Conservative successors, as so many other things the Liberals rushed into being late in their tenure have turned out to be.

More Hydro Cuts

by Catherine Swift

Late last week, Ontario Energy Minister Greg Rickford announced some new parameters for executive compensation at Hydro One. Going forward, compensation for the CEO is to be capped at $1.5 million total, with $500,000 of that in salary and the remainder in performance incentives. This compares to the infamous and excessive CEO compensation of $6 million accorded to the previous CEO under the Liberal government. In addition, Hydro One Board member compensation is not to exceed $80,000 annually and $120,000 for the Board Chair. These levels are significantly lower than used to be the case, although still generous. They also compare favourably to compensation levels at Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and similar utilities in other provinces.

A Deal with the Doctors

by Catherine Swift

Difficult as it is to avert our eyes from the unbelievable and perversely entertaining political farce taking place in Ottawa at present, things continue to happen in Ontario. This week the Ontario government finally reached a deal with the province’s doctors after years of acrimony. Doctors had been without a contract since 2014 and had been at war with the previous Liberal government, and subsequently the current Conservative government, since that time. Monies paid to physicians amount to about $12 billion annually, which represents almost a quarter of the overall health care budget. Conflict between doctors and the government is a foregone conclusion, especially when money is tight.

Full Spring Agenda for Ontario

by Catherine Swift

It is pretty difficult to imagine spring right now as Ontario remains mired in a snowy deep freeze, but the Ontario legislature will resume sitting this week after the winter break and launch the spring legislative session. The Ford government has been very busy in its scant eight months in power. Many of its actions to date have been to initiate consultation and/or research processes on a number of important issues. Those processes are now winding up, and the really big – and big ticket – items on the government’s balance sheet are slated to be dealt with in the coming months. Decisions made in this period will be vitally important and set the tone for the rest of the Ford government’s term, and affect its re-election prospects down the road.

More Double Standards

by Catherine Swift

Earlier this week, the Toronto Star ran a rather disturbing headline – “Chair for GTA conservation authority elected after behind-the-scenes lobbying”. This certainly made things sound like there was some type of skullduggery going on that should raise alarm bells. A read of the actual story, however, told a different tale.
The story concerned the fact that the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), which helps oversee and protect the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine & some other areas had elected a new Chair in Jennifer Innis, who was previously a Caledon regional councilor and had been a member of the TRCA board since 2014. Ms. Innis ousted a long-serving former Chair, Maria Augimeri, who had been a Toronto city councilor until losing her seat in last autumn’s election.

When will it end?

by The Niagara Independent

Another week, another Ford government policy announcement, another virulent public sector union-backed protest. This week the subject was autism funding. The announcement was made by Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod, and the essence of the new policy is to alter the funding model so that funds go directly to the parents of autistic children and not to the regional service providers as was previously the case. Another key – and hugely controversial – change was that funds will in future be distributed to all Ontario parents with autistic children. Currently, only about 25 per cent of affected families are receiving government funds, while the other 75 per cent – representing 23,000 children – sit on waiting lists. Overall funding would actually be slightly increased in the new policy.

Fixing the leak

by Catherine Swift

Earlier this week the government employee who leaked at least one confidential government document on health care reform to the opposition NDP, and perhaps more than one, was identified and fired. The matter was also referred to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), although it is unclear at this time whether an investigation will be conducted. In response, NDP leader Andrea Horwath naturally made a big deal out of this leak, claiming the contents of the leaked document showed the government’s intention to privatize health care and other nefarious things, despite the fact that the document said nothing of the sort. When the government noted that the OPP had been consulted, Horwath was very critical and made the strange comment that bringing in the police could discourage future “whistle-blowers”. It is outrageous to compare someone who has breached the terms of their employment by leaking a confidential and politically volatile document to a true whistle-blower, which is someone who reveals wrongdoing and possibly illegality in the workplace in an attempt to stop it. Horwath’s thoughtless comment is dishonest and denigrates the important role of an actual whistle-blower.

Ford wins the golden scissors

by Catherine Swift

Early in their tenure, the Ford government made the reduction of red tape in Ontario a priority. Although never a “sexy” issue that is likely to garner congratulatory headlines for a government, the elimination of unnecessary laws and regulations is nevertheless vitally important for business and other citizens as it reduces excessive costs on taxpayers and frees up businesses to establish new firms, expand and hire in the province.
Last month, my former alma mater, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) held their annual Red Tape Awareness Week and awarded the “Golden Scissors” award to Premier Doug Ford for the removal of most of the provisions of Bill 148. This bill, hastily introduced by the Wynne Liberals in the dying days of their government, was a hugely intrusive and imbalanced piece of legislation that imposed a raft of new and onerous red tape requirements on businesses. Bill 148 also had privacy implications for employees as unions were now to be permitted virtually unfettered access to employees’ personal information without their consent. Getting rid of most of Bill 148 was in and of itself a big step in reducing red tape.

The Health Care Hot Potato

by Catherine Swift

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government have taken on a number of sensitive issues in their term to date, but this week they started to deal with the motherlode – health care. The first report of the Premier’s Council on improving health care in the province, headed up by Dr. Reuben Devlin, was tabled on Thursday. Some of the main findings of the report were that people were waiting too long for health care procedures and were often getting that care in locations that were less than optimal. As many as 1,000 patients daily are receiving so-called “hallway healthcare”, being treated in hospital corridors or other inappropriate locations instead of hospital rooms. It was observed that a large proportion of emergency department and walk-in clinic patients could have been treated more effectively by a family doctor or nurse-practitioner. The report also noted a lack of co-ordination and strategic oversight of the various parts of the Ontario health care system, a lack of accountability for outcomes, and that technology could be deployed much more effectively than it is currently. Reading the report, my first reaction was “Tell us something we don’t already know.” The Council is expected to release a second report in the spring, which will contain suggested remedies for the many serious and growing problems in the health care system. Hopefully that second installment will do more than just reiterate the obvious.

Carbon Tax Recession?

by Catherine Swift

When Premier Doug Ford made a speech to the Economic Club of Canada last week, he raised the possibility that a recession could be sparked in Canada by the federal government’s carbon tax and much hilarity ensued. A number of economists from banks and other quarters such as the federally-funded Eco-Fiscal Commission pooh-poohed the notion that the carbon tax could spark a recession, and implied that this was a naïve and ill-informed musing on Ford’s part.
It is true that a recession is rarely caused by any one tax or other factor, but it is becoming pretty difficult to ignore the storm clouds hovering over the Canadian economy, which are growing by the day. We regularly see news stories about how Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque and that personal bankruptcy numbers have begun to climb. Canadians’ debt-to-disposable-income ratio was over 170 per cent at the end of last year, close to an all-time high. The Bank of Canada is not predicting a recession for this year, but then of course they never would as such a statement would spook markets profoundly. Bank of Canada Governor Poloz has however expressed much more caution of late and has held off further increases in interest rates for the time being.

School Daze

by Catherine Swift

In its relatively brief tenure to date, the Ford government has taken on a number of controversial issues. But now that they are flirting with changing the cap on public school class sizes, they have really touched the third rail. Although this was just announced this week, the always-militant teachers’ unions are already losing their collective minds, and it can only get worse.
Class sizes in Ontario are currently capped at 29 for kindergarten, with the caveat that average class size cannot exceed 26 students. For primary school, the cap is 23 while 90 per cent of classes in any school board must be 20 or less. The argument in favour of smaller class sizes arises from the belief that students do better in a smaller class. The actual evidence from the voluminous research on this topic is mixed at best. Some studies have shown advantages to smaller class sizes, while others have demonstrated little if any value. School principals and other administrators also claim that having a fixed cap on class sizes limits their flexibility to customize classes to best fit the student body at any given time. The infamous Drummond report, commissioned by the Liberals and published in 2012, concluded that there was insignificant evidence to justify the added cost of smaller class sizes and recommended larger class sizes be implemented. The Liberals ignored this finding as well as many other sensible recommendations of that report.

Varsity Blues

by Catherine Swift

Last week the Ontario government announced changes to the funding of post-secondary education, the focal point of which was a 10 per cent cut to tuition fees for domestic students in 2019-2020 and a tuition freeze for the following year. There was also a reduction of the grant component of the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). Post-secondary education funding was last changed by the Liberals in 2016, when the “free” tuition plan was introduced. The cost of that plan far exceeded Liberal projections – as was the case with pretty much all Liberal spending plans – and is currently a very expensive program of over $2 billion annually.

Regional Reform on the Roster

by Catherine Swift

Premier Doug Ford had spoken some months ago of his interest in examining the issue of local government reform in Ontario, and this week he formally announced a consultative process to review eight regional governments in the province, encompassing 82 municipalities in total. The objective is to investigate opportunities to reduce red tape, eliminate duplication, save money and enhance local service delivery. Consultations are slated to take place in the spring of this year.
As could be expected, reactions were mixed, with many regional politicians welcoming a review and others being concerned that changes were likely to be imposed on them as opposed to being implemented in concert with local officials. The spectre of the City of Toronto council reduction is still fresh in the minds of many municipal politicians that fear the same sort of ax could be wielded in their backyard. NDP MPP Jeff Burch commented that Ford was “meddling in municipalities”, which is a foolish comment considering that the province has full jurisdiction over municipal affairs and is completely entitled to structure local governments as they see fit. That being said, it makes eminent sense to pursue any changes on a consultative basis and that is exactly what this review purports to be doing.

An Extra Ford in Motor City

by Catherine Swift

This week Ontario Premier Ford is heading to Detroit for the annual North American International Auto
Show (NAIAS). He is slated to meet with a number of auto manufacturing executives and labour leaders, including Jerry Dias of Unifor. According to reports, Ford’s main message will be that Ontario is “open for business” and there will be a focus on how to retain current auto manufacturing jobs in the province as well as fostering future growth in the sector.
Apparently, Ford will not be offering corporate welfare, special tax incentives or other inducements, but rather will highlight plans to reduce the burden of government red tape in Ontario which has been crushing businesses both large and small for some time, and to make factors such as record-high hydro rates more competitive in future.

It’s in the Cards

by Catherine Swift

The practice of “carding”, wherein police officers randomly stop an individual, collect identifying information and retain it in a database, has been used to varying extents in Ontario since the 1950s. In recent years, it has become highly controversial as it became clear that a disproportionate number of the people carded belonged to certain identifiable groups, notably people of colour and those of indigenous heritage. There were periods of time when quotas were even established for carding, which led to all kinds of abuses by some police officers. In 2016 new regulations were brought in by the Wynne government to supposedly stop the practice of randomly “carding” people that were doing nothing wrong, but it seemed to lead to more confusion than anything else as the wording of the regulations was unclear and convoluted .
In an attempt to establish some badly-needed clarity on the issue of carding, a comprehensive report overseen by Ontario Appeal Court Judge Michael Tulloch was made public last week. One thing the report clearly lays out is the difference between “street checks” and carding. Street checks are the legitimate collection of information in a situation where there is reasonable evidence that something untoward is going on, whereas carding is typically undertaken when there is no tangible reason for suspecting the individual except perhaps that they are out late at night, are in a certain neighbourhood, or that a police officer has a quota to fill.

Ontario’s Game Plan for 2019

by Catherine Swift

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has been in power for barely six months, but has already made a number of significant changes to the operation of the province. Despite the torrid pace of the past few months, Premier Ford stated in year-end interviews that he has no plans to slow down in 2019.
There are a number of issues that are certain to be on the agenda in the coming year. Changes are underway on the three biggest ticket items in Ontario’s budget – health care, education and social services. In health care, the government has been working to eliminate so-called “hallway health care” by increasing the number of hospital beds and establishing new health care facilities. Education reform will continue to focus on fixing the failing math curriculum, enhancing the skilled trades, improving standardized testing and introducing a Parents Bill of Rights. Undoubtedly, the ever-controversial sex-ed component will get lots of attention too in the coming months, likely with more heat than light on the topic. On social services, the government announced their plans for reform late in 2018, but with many of the specifics yet to be determined.

Taxing Times

by Catherine Swift

Ringing in the new year of 2019 will be accompanied by some new taxes for Ontarians, layered on top of the existing tax load which currently takes just under half on average of every worker’s paycheque. One of these taxes is the carbon tax, imposed on Ontario and several other provinces by the federal Liberal government supposedly because Ontario and the other affected provinces have not come up with a climate plan sufficiently acceptable to the Liberals in Ottawa. Although there has been a great deal of debate and discussion of the carbon tax, there is still much uncertainty about exactly how it will apply, whether Ontario’s recently-announced climate strategy is at all acceptable to the federal government and how the various court challenges of the federal carbon tax by Ontario and other provincial governments will pan out. As the federal Liberals saw opposition climbing throughout 2018 to their climate strategy and especially the carbon tax, they cooked up a rebate scheme by which they claim that most Canadians will receive more in rebates than they actually pay in carbon tax. Anyone buying into that whopper really does need to have their head examined. The only certainty with the carbon tax is that it will cost us all money, continue to be a contentious high profile issue throughout 2019 and a key factor in elections taking place federally and in Alberta.

Mixed Signals on the Economic Front

by Catherine Swift

Economics is often referred to as the dismal science. After almost a decade of global economic growth, there are indeed more and more dismal economic indicators starting to appear as 2018 comes to a close. In Ontario and most of urban Canada, the real estate market has been a major driver of economic growth in recent years but is now slowing markedly. Federal policy changes are making it more difficult to qualify for mortgages by introducing a “stress test”, as increasing interest rates and cyclical factors have all contributed to the slowdown in this important sector that drives a significant proportion of overall economic activity. Strong growth in residential housing values in recent years along with low interest rates encouraged consumers to take on debt, to the extent that household debt/disposable income is now at 170 per cent – a Canadian record. Personal bankruptcies are also on the rise, and depending on the survey, anywhere from 25 to 40 per cent of Canadians are currently feeling overwhelmed by debt.

What a Year it Was!

by Catherine Swift

As we come to the close of 2018, it’s a great time to reflect on all of the changes Ontario has seen in the last 12 months. And boy oh boy, have there been big changes! The biggest of course was the final ouster of a Liberal government that had ruled for almost 15 years – a very long reign in Canadian politics – and its replacement by a Progressive Conservative (PC) majority government.
Prior to the June election, the Liberal government was throwing money at everyone and everything in a last-ditch attempt to be re-elected. As it became more and more clear that the Liberals were going to be trounced, all of these last-minute spending announcements also had the effect of laying many traps for the incoming Conservatives, which was put in the position of having to renege on virtually all of the spending extravaganza. Even if the Liberals had won the election, the dire state of the provinces finances would have required them to back off these many spending promises too, but the PC victory meant they were stuck with the mess. The election also led to the NDP assuming the role of official opposition, setting up many pitched battles in the legislature that are sure to continue for the next few years.

A Lump of Coal for Ontario

by Catherine Swift

Last week, bond rating agency Moody’s played the Grinch, downgrading the credit rating of the province of Ontario from Aa2 to Aa3. A few days later, seven Ontario public agencies – including three hospitals and Ryerson University – also had their credit ratings reduced. The last time the credit rating was downgraded for the province was in 2012, when growing debt and doubt surrounding the then-Liberal government being able to meet its budget targets compelled rating agencies to reduce the rating at that time.
The reasoning behind the most recent credit rating change included the fact that the Ontario government has conceded that it will likely run deficits for the next few years, and that the Ford government had undertaken some changes that would reduce government revenues, such as the cancellation of the cap-and-trade program and some fuel and income tax reductions. Although it is true that these measures will mean a drop in government revenues in the short term and will therefore increase deficits, it would be hoped that they will stimulate the economy overall, leading to increased government revenues down the road. Rating agencies do not typically take the long view, however, and focus on the short-term ability of governments to meet their financial obligations.

Power Failure

by Catherine Swift

The latest news from our perpetually disruptive union brethren is that the workers at Ontario Power Generation (OPG) are threatening to strike in the next few weeks if their demands are not met. Last Friday the Power Workers Union (PWU) filed a notice that they intend to go on strike in 21 days. OPG provides about half of the electricity in Ontario, so any disruption in service – especially in the middle of winter – would be a serious situation to say the least. If defies belief that a union involved in providing heat and light to such a significant number of Ontarians would have the right to strike in the first place. If that doesn’t meet the definition of an essential service, I don’t know what does.
The Ford government responded quickly to this PWU announcement, stating that despite the previous plan to dissolve the legislature for the Christmas break, they would now recall MPPs this week to introduce legislation to ensure power workers stay on the job. We can expect lots of drama in the days ahead as the Official Opposition NDP whine and moan about workers’ rights and the integrity of the collective bargaining process. But how absurd is it that a group of extremely well-paid hydro employees can threaten to disrupt a service that can, without exaggeration, be considered life threatening if it is compromised?

Buying In to Buy-Outs

by Catherine Swift

As a last hoorah before shutting down the Ontario legislature for the Christmas break, the Ford government announced that they were extending the existing program to encourage public sector workers to voluntarily accept buy-outs. There has been a program in place since 2013 available to regular Ontario Public Service (OPS) employees and the recent announcement will extend this program on a time-limited basis to up to 10,000 non-union management and other employees not previously included. The laudable goal is to reduce the size of the public sector in the least painful way possible by encouraging people to take advantage of buy-outs voluntarily instead of being fired.
There is no doubt that some downsizing of the Ontario public sector is needed. During the Liberals’ time in office, private sector employment increased by under 10 per cent while public sector employment ballooned by 25 per cent. We also know that during that period, average incomes stagnated and government debt skyrocketed. Some sensible reduction in the size and cost of the provincial government is long overdue.

More Welcome News on the Labour Front

by Catherine Swift

The Ford government has moved very quickly to rectify a number of damaging labour law changes that were hastily introduced in the dying days of the former Liberal government to curry favour with their union friends.  As part of an omnibus piece of legislation introduced last week – Bill 66 entitled Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act – the requirement for union-only procurement on public projects undertaken by municipalities, universities and other public bodies, is to die a well-deserved death.

The whole concept of restricting government construction projects to businesses that were unionized, and in some cases only to businesses whose employees belonged to a particular union, came about as a result of some underhanded maneuvering by unions over the past 20 years or so to convince the Ontario Labour Relations Board to declare that entire municipalities and other public sector employers were to be deemed “construction employers”.   Entities designated as construction employers were required to limit tendering to unionized companies or companies whose employees belonged to a specific union.  This is a ridiculous policy for any major project, but especially so when public funds are involved.  Research has shown that policies of this type raise the cost of projects by as much as 40 to 60 per cent of what they would be if open tendering was permitted.  This change alone will save taxpayers many millions of dollars – potentially billions over time – and open up projects to capable, tax-paying businesses that are well able to take on these projects but don’t happen to be unionized.  The fact that this foolish and costly policy was ever implemented in the first place is a testament to overly union-friendly governments that put the interests of narrow interest groups ahead of those of taxpayers and the stability of public finances.

Waste not…….

by Catherine Swift

This week’s report of the Auditor General (AG) is likely the last one that will be welcomed by the Ford government for some time to come. Ontario is blessed with a very competent and thorough AG in Bonnie Lysyk, and she once again identified a number of areas of wasteful or ineffective spending that at this juncture can be laid at the feet of the previous Liberal government. Going forward, annual Ontario AG reports will be identifying government waste on the Ford government’s watch, so they should enjoy the moment while they still can.
This year, the AG identified widespread problems in many different areas of government activity. This quote from Ms. Lysyk is telling: “A central finding in almost all of the audits this year was that spending of public monies did not consistently result in the cost-effective achievement of anticipated program benefits, or the proactive addressing of program risks”. This is auditor-speak for “the government wasted a ton of your money this year, with no accountability or even concern about the funds being spent usefully, and without putting systems in place to ensure the waste does not continue in future”.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

by Catherine Swift

Last week saw the announcement of the long-awaited environmental policy of the Ford government. The legislation had the usual long and tedious name that seems to be de rigueur for all legislation these days, being entitled “Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations: A Made-in-Ontario Environmental Plan”.
In the context of the announcement, Environment Minister Rod Phillips noted that Ontario was actually more than two-thirds of the way toward meeting its 2030 emissions targets – those targets set by the federal Liberal government which remained unchanged from those established by the previous Harper government. The main reason Ontario has made such progress is a result of the phasing out of coal in the province by the previous Liberal government, and Phillips credited them accordingly. Going forward, the government plans to establish an Ontario Carbon Trust, initially with $400 million taxpayer dollars over a four-year period, which will be used to incent companies that create and implement carbon reduction technologies. Industry-specific emissions standards will also be established, with monetary penalties imposed on businesses that fail to meet these standards added to Ontario Carbon Trust coffers. Other elements of the strategy include such items as increasing the ethanol component in fuel, reducing methane-producing organic waste and community level initiatives to promote waste reduction and cleaner waterways, among other things. A carbon tax was nowhere in sight.

Pardon My French

by Catherine Swift

In retrospect, the enormous flapdoodle that has erupted over changes by the Ontario government to French language services was probably predictable. The whole bilingualism issue has always been a touchy hot button over which many political battles have been waged. As is always the case with war, the first casualty is truth. 

When examining what the government actually changed, it would be difficult to see such an outpouring of opposition for most other issues. The proposed changes to French language services did not involve reduced spending, but rather a realignment of the bureaucracy that oversaw such services. The changes included the elimination of the French language commissioner, whose functions were to be moved to the Ontario Ombudman’s portfolio where there is perfectly adequate capacity to handle them. There was also the matter of the cancellation of the last-minute announcement by the previous Liberal government of a French language university. Because several well-established French universities already exist in the province, it is difficult to justify creating a new school of this type, especially when the finances of the provinces had been left in such dire straits by the Liberals.

GM Abandons Oshawa

by Catherine Swift

Wow. If we ever needed confirmation of how uncompetitive Canada’s economy has become, this has to be it. General Motors, which has had a strong presence in Oshawa since the early 1900s, and used to employ as many as 40,000 workers in Canada, is abandoning its flagship location. The company plans to shut down all Oshawa operations by next year at this time, at the cost of almost 3,000 jobs directly, and several more thousand indirectly in the community.
This is a huge blow to Oshawa, and a warning signal to Canadian governments. Although most governments in Canada claim to be concerned about business competitiveness, they have done precious little to help. Last week’s economic update by federal finance minister Morneau was a case in point. Although Morneau introduced an improved accelerated depreciation treatment for investments in certain sectors, it was much too little, much too late. With our major economic competitor south of the border having drastically slashed corporate income tax rates and costly red tape, some tinkering with depreciation rates can hardly compete.

The First Shoe Drops on Welfare Reform

by Catherine Swift

This week, the Ontario government gave the first indication of where it plans to go in reforming the two major social assistance programs in the province, Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). The government had previously announced changes to these programs – reducing the planned increase in benefits for next year from 3 per cent to 1.5 per cent and cancelling the basic income pilot project – so it was under considerable pressure to announce what it was planning next. The total social assistance budget is currently around $10 billion, so this is not a minor expenditure for the province.
This week’s announcement contained some improvements, but many questions remain. One improvement involves permitting welfare recipients to keep $300 of income earned per month without suffering a reduction in benefits, instead of the previous limit of $200. For ODSP recipients, they may now earn $6,000 annually without penalty, up from $2400. Coupled with the tax measure that eliminates income tax on people making less than $30,000 per year, these changes should provide a greater incentive to seek employment, instead of simply remaining on assistance.

A Change in Fiscal Direction, Details to Come

by Catherine Swift

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

It’s (Not) Official!

by Catherine Swift

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

Ford sets Path to Deal with Red Ink and Red Tape left by Liberals

by The Niagara Independent

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

Evidence Counts

by Catherine Swift

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

The Queen’s Park Shuffle

by Catherine Swift

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

Carbon Tax Attacks!

by Catherine Swift

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

Free Trade Within Canada Still Elusive

by Catherine Swift

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

It’s Time to Red-line Red Tape

by Catherine Swift

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

If Your Only Tool is a Hammer…..

by Catherine Swift

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

A Needed Hydro Adjustment

by Catherine Swift

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

More Carbon Tax Hot Air

by Catherine Swift

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

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

Smokin’ Mad about Pot

by Catherine Swift

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

The Clock is Ticking

by Catherine Swift

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

A Busy Year in Politics

by Catherine Swift

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

Cooking the Books

by Catherine Swift

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

An Appealing Decision

by Catherine Swift

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

Time to Move On

by Catherine Swift

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

Revolt at Queen’s Park

by Catherine Swift

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

Who really cares about Sex-Ed?

by Mark Towhey

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

Free Speech at Last?

by Catherine Swift

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

Labour Day Blues

by Catherine Swift

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

Six Accountability Reforms to Earn Back Trust

by Christine Van Geyn

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

An Impressive Start

by Catherine Swift

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

A Breath of Fresh Air on Pot

by Catherine Swift

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

Voters Beware!

by Catherine Swift

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

Buck a Beer is Back!

by Catherine Swift

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

Welfare Reform is Long Overdue

by Catherine Swift

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

A Welcome Shock to the Body Politic

by Catherine Swift

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

Whither Goest Bill 148?

by Catherine Swift

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

Carbon Tax on the Ropes

by Catherine Swift

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

The Importance of Opposition

by Catherine Swift

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

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

Throne Speech Signals Big Changes

by Catherine Swift

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

Beginning the Hydro Fix

by Catherine Swift

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

There’s a New Gang in Town

by Catherine Swift

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

Ford names impressive new Ontario Government Cabinet

by Kevin Vallier

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

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

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

An End to Union Monopoly?

by Catherine Swift

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

Public Sector Culture Shock

by Catherine Swift

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

The Enduring Myth of Minimum Wage

by Catherine Swift

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

Ford’s Challengers

by Catherine Swift

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

Ontario Election By the Numbers

by Catherine Swift

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

The People Have Spoken

by Catherine Swift

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

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

Assorted Nuts…

by Joan Tintor

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

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

Lifting the Rock on the NDP and “Angry Andrea”

by Catherine Swift

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

The NDP wants to make Ontario a “Sanctuary Province”

by Bill Tufts

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

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

Ontario’s coming power finance crisis

by Tom Adams

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

Polls are for Dogs

by Catherine Swift

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

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

Reality Check: Let’s Bury the Harris Health Care Myths Once and for all

by Kevin Vallier

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

Health Care Horror Show

by Catherine Swift

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

Third Party Follies

by Catherine Swift

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

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

The Rise (or not) of the Social Enterprise

by Catherine Swift

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

Ontario’s Maxed-Out Credit Card

by Catherine Swift

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

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

NDP Pie-in-the-Sky Platform

by Catherine Swift

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

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

Caught in a(nother) Lie

by Catherine Swift

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

The Unfair Hydro Plan

by Catherine Swift

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

Teachers Unions Revolting?

by Catherine Swift

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

Liberals Attack!

by Catherine Swift

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

Ontario Liberals continue to show who they are

by Joan Tintor

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

Would axing Hydro board change anything?

by Mark Towhey

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

Killing the Golden Goose

by Catherine Swift

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

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

Old White Folks Need Not Apply – Or Vote

by Catherine Swift

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

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

What the 2018 Liberal Budget Means for the 2018 Election

by Kelly Baker

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

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

Wynne Rolls the Dice

by Catherine Swift

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

Walkin’ on Sunshine

by Catherine Swift

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

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

Wynne’s Hail Mary Pass

by Catherine Swift

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

A Threat to Democracy

by Catherine Swift

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

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

Why can’t Conservatives be Feminists?

by Catherine Swift

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

The Dangers of Bill 148

by Catherine Swift

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

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

by The Niagara Independent

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

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

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