Poll Shows Ontario Majority Supports Carbon Tax see more
A new poll from Angus Reid shows public support for the carbon tax is increasing. This is particularly so following the federal government’s announcement for a rebate plan.
Here’s what the poll revealed:
- More Ontarians approve of the tax than oppose it.
- Support picked up significantly following the federal government’s rebate announcement
- 50% of respondents support giving the federal government the authority to impose carbon pricing and 50% oppose; In a previous survey 64% thought the provinces should have jurisdiction on the issue
The Ontario government believes that Ottawa has overreached its authority with the implementation of a carbon tax and has joined with a number of other provinces to oppose the federal government’s authority on this matter in court.
Angus Reid surveyed 1,500 Canadian adults between October 24 and October 29 and the poll is statistically accurate within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Poll Shows Ontario Liberal Support Increasing see more
An online poll of 1,628 Canadians aged 18 years or older conducted between October 26 and October 28 by Innovation Research Group conducted on behalf of the Ontario Energy
Association revealed the following:
- Support for the PC Party is now “in the low end of their range.”
- Is an election was held on the day the poll was taken, 31 per cent of decided and leaning respondents picked the Tories, 28 per cent chose the Liberals and 22 per cent would vote NDP
- Among decided respondents the gap narrowed to 35% for the PCs and 32% for the Liberals
- 37% of respondents felt ambivalent or alienated
- Only 22% of respondents felt Ontario electricity consumers are well protected on price
The complete results are available in full graphic form by clicking on the following link:
Ford Shuffles Cabinet see more
On the evening of Friday, November 3rd, a spokesperson for the Premier announced that the Minister of Economic Development Job Creation and Trade and the MPP for Simcoe-Grey, Jim Wilson, had resigned from Cabinet and also from the PC Caucus to seek treatment for addictions. Then, on Monday, November 5th, various media outlets reported that allegations of sexual misconduct had been made by a male Queen’s Park staffer against Wilson.
Also, over the last few weeks, the Opposition has been raising questions about the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Michael Tibolo and in particular about the numerous lawsuits arising during his long career as a lawyer, prior to his election on June 7th as the MPP for Vaughan-Woodbridge and also about allegations of past questionable management practices.
These factors caused Premier Ford to visit the Lieutenant Governor on the morning of Monday, November 5th to make the following Cabinet changes:
- Jim Wilson, (MPP Simcoe-Grey) formerly Minister of Economic Development Job Creation and Trade - RESIGNED from Cabinet and from the PC Caucus and currently sits as an Independent
- Todd Smith (MPP Bay of Quinte), formerly Government House Leader and Minister of Government and Consumer Services - Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade and continues as Government House Leader
- Bill Walker (MPP Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound), formerly Chief Government Whip - Minister of Government and Consumer Services
- John Yakabuski (MPP Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke), formerly Minister of Transportation - Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry
- Jeff Yurek (MPP Elgin-Middlesex-London) formerly Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry - Minister of Transportation
- Silvia Jones (MPP Dufferin-Caledon) formerly Minister of Tourism Culture and Sport - Minister of Community Safety and Corrections
- Michael Tibolo, (MPP Vaughan-Woodbridge), formerly Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services - Minister of Tourism Culture and Sport
- Lorne Coe (MPP Whitby) - Government Caucus Whip
- Doug Downey (MPP Barrier-Springwater-Oro-Medonte) - Deputy Government Caucus Whip
Line-by-Line Audit Recommends Transformation in Expenditure Management see more
Ernst & Young LLP (EY) was engaged by the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) of the Government of Ontario to conduct a line-by-line audit of Ontario Government expenditures and expenditure growth across all ministries over a fifteen year period from fiscal year 2002/03 to fiscal year 2017/18. EY recently completed the review and submitted its report to TBS. The title of this report “Managing Transformation: A Modernization Action Plan for Ontario” suggests the general direction of their findings. The Government’s objective is to achieve a 4% efficiency improvement.
Among the reports summary findings are the following:
- Per capita spending has increased by 32% over the period
- Increases in expenditures have outpaced population growth
- Total provincial debt increased by 87%
- Interest on the debt is Ontario’s 4thlargest expenditure, higher than the total operating expenditure of the total Ontario Public Service (OPS)
- There was no real change (increase/decrease) in the OPS operating expenditures over the period
- Real growth in Transfer Payments including to the Broader Public Sector (BPS) over the period accounts for 99.8% of the real growth in total operating expenditures
- 90% of total operating expenditures are spent through Transfer Payment agreements
- Significant efficiencies can be implemented that will not compromise outcomes and can in fact improve results
- The Province must develop a better framework for public expenditure management
- Strong leadership will be required at the centre to strengthen coordination across the Government and its BPS partners
- There must be a renewed focus on efficiencies across government ministries and the BPS
- A Modernization Action Plan should be developed to define how this will all work
For the full report, click on https://files.ontario.ca/ey_report_2018_en.pdf
Ministries in Holding Pattern as Government Attends to Urgent Business see more
It appears that most ministries of the Ontario government have been in a “holding pattern” as our new Government attended to its most urgent business. The first session of the 42nd Parliament began little more than a month after the June 7th general election and our new government’s most urgent business included:
- Causing the resignation of all Hydro One directors and the retirement of the CEO
- Ending the labour dispute at York University
- Terminating the White Pines Wind Project
- Limiting and making public the compensation of directors, the CEO and executives at Hydro One
- Cancelling more than 300 renewable energy projects
- Initiating Ontario’s withdrawal from the North American emissions trading system
- Aligning the City of Toronto’s electoral districts with the provincial electoral districts and thereby reducing the size of the City of Toronto’s Council from 47 to 25 councillors
- Reverting to the appointment of the chairs of Regions of Niagara, Peel and York and the District of Muskoka by their Councils rather than by Region/District-wide election by the voters
The ruling by the Superior Court of Justice that Bill 5, which dealt with the last two bullet points above, contravened the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, caused our government to introduced a new Bill, Bill 31, which mirrored Bill 5 but invoked the rarely used “notwithstanding” clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedom that allows Canadian governments to override the Charter.
Almost every constitutional expert and a number of former politicians who are very familiar with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms including former Prime Ministers Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien, former Ontario Premiers Davis, Peterson and Rae, former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow and former Ontario Attorney General Roy McMurtry have been critical of our newly elected Premier, Doug Ford, for misusing the “notwithstanding” tool, which was intended for only the most extreme circumstances, for an issue of such minor importance that was not even mentioned during his recent election campaign.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was developed by Canadian politicians and it forms part of the Constitution Act 1982. Its purpose is to make sure that all statutes passed into law by governments in Canada conform to the rights and freedoms identified in the Charter. These include:
- Freedom of religion
- Freedom of the press
- Freedom of peaceful assembly
- Freedom of association
- Democratic freedoms such as the right of every citizen to vote
- Freedom of mobility
- Legal rights such as the right to life, liberty and security
- The equality of everyone under the law
However, Section 33 of the Charter gives Canadian governments the authority to override the rights and freedoms identified in the Charter. This is the “notwithstanding” clause and as already stated, its use was intended by the framers only for the most extreme circumstances.
Our new Ontario government has taken unusual steps to push Bill 31 through the legislative process as quickly as possible including invoking the notwithstanding clause, calling a special 40-minute meeting of the Legislature on Saturday, September 15th and then another for second reading debate that started at 12:01 am on Monday, September 17th.
The ministries are also in a holding pattern as the government waits for the results of the line-by-line audit being conducted by E Y Canada and the report from the Independent Financial Commission. The line-by-line is supposed to be completed not later than September 21st and the Financial Commission was to have submitted its final report on August 30th.
Once all of the intelligence from these two initiatives is received and analysed, the government will be in a position to establish priorities, develop financial and legislative plans and move forward in a planned and orderly fashion.
Standing Committees Elect Chairs see more
All Standing Committees of the Legislature with the exception of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs and the Standing Committee on Justice Policy met last week to elect their chairs and vice chairs. The Standing Committees and their chairs and vice chairs are as follows:
Standing Committee on Estimates
- Chair: Peter Tabuns (NDP, Toronto—Danforth)
- Vice-Chair: Wayne Gates (NDP, Niagara Falls)
Standing Committee on General Government
- Chair: Dave Smith (PC, Peterborough––Kawartha)
- Vice-Chair: Natalia Kusendova (PC, Mississauga Centre)
Standing Committee on Government Agencies
- Chair: John Vanthof (NDP, Timiskaming—Cochrane)
- Vice-Chair: Taras Natyshak (NDP, Essex)
Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly
- Chair: Jane McKenna (PC, Burlington)
- Vice-Chair: Vijay Thanigasalam (PC, Scarborough—Rouge Park)
Standing Committee on Public Accounts
- Chair: Catherine Fife (NDP, Waterloo)
- Vice-Chair: Peggy Sattler (NDP, London West)
Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills
- Chair: Randy Hillier (PC, Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington)
- Vice-Chair: Kaleed Rasheed (PC, Mississauga East—Cooksville)
Standing Committee on Social Policy
- Chair: Nina Tangri (PC, Mississauga—Streetsville)
- Vice Chair: Deepak Anand (PC, Mississauga—Malton)
A bump up in salary comes with the added responsibilities of these roles.
MPPs’ Compensation see more
The item in this publication about the election of Standing Committee chairs got us thinking about the subject of the salaries of elected officials at Queen’s Park. MPPs’ current salary scale was set in 2008 and subsequently frozen in 2009 and there is no opportunity for an increase until April 2019. Salaries are surprisingly low given the high level of responsibility and for the 24/7 demands of the job. Those salaries are as follows:
- Premier $208,974
- Leader of the Official Opposition $180,885
- Cabinet Ministers $165,850
- Leader of other recognized parties $158,158
- Speaker $152,913
- Parliamentary Assistants $133,216
- MPPs $116,550
It was the government of Mike Harris that stripped MPPs of their pension plan and replaced it with a more modest defined contribution retirement scheme.
It will be interesting to see how our new government addresses the issue of MPP compensation when the freeze is no longer in effect in about 8 months’ time.
First Hundred Day – Ford’s Accomplishments see more
Premier Ford’s first hundred days in office were celebrated at a rally held on the night of October 9thin the heart of Ford Nation, Etobicoke. Some of our new premier’s accomplishments are the following:
- Freezing discretionary spending across all ministries
- Ending the strike at York University
- Causing the resignation of the Hydro One CEO and replacing the company’s board of directors
- Reducing the size of the Toronto city council from 48 councillors to 25
- Introducing legislation that, if passed, will end the cap-and-trade system; joining with a number of other provinces to fight the federal government’s carbon tax
- Promising not to implement the planned increase in the minimum wage from $14/hour to $15/hour on January 1, 2019
- Engaging an independent auditor to conduct an audit of the government’s finances; striking an Independent Financial Commission and a Select Committee of the Legislature to review the financial performance of the previous government;
- halting discretionary public sector spending;
- letting the private sector in on the legal cannabis market;
- scrapping the Drive Clean program;
- lowering the minimum price at which can be sold to $1.00 i.e. “buck-a-beer”
To celebrate, our new government published a nifty timeline of all of their numerous achievements, which is available at the following link:
Impressive Action on Promises Made and Other Initiatives Not Promised see more
Here’s what was promised in the Throne Speech and the subsequent actions taken by our new government:
Reduce gas prices
- No so far
Reduce the price of electricity
- Caused the Hydro One CEO to “retire” and the board of directors to resign
- Placed constraints on compensation for the directors, CEO and executives of Hydro One and its subsidiaries.
- Required Hydro One to annually make a public posting of the salaries paid to certain executives
- that Hydro One’s executive compensation must not be reflected in the rates charged for electricity
Reduce taxes for parents, small businesses and the working poor
- No action so far
Scrap the cap and trade emissions trading system and all carbon tax schemes in all other forms
- Introduced Bill 4 Cap and Trade Cancellation Act 2018
- joined forces with Saskatchewan to fight the federal government’s authority to impose a carbon tax on the provinces
- took steps to challenge the constitutionality of the federal government's carbon tax at the Ontario Court of Appeal.
- Continues as a work in progress
Stand with the federal government, the other provinces, businesses and workers to build a strong economy for the future; become an active participant in NAFTA negotiations especially with the 28 US states for which Ontario is their #1 or #2 trading partner
- Premier-elect Ford spoke with Prime Minister Trudeau and offered his support for the federal government’s position
- Premier Doug Ford spoke with the Governor of Michigan to promote a mutually beneficial trade relationship and pledged to with leaders in all US states with which Ontario has a significant trading relationship
- Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Jim Wilson, represented Ontario at U.S. Department of Commerce public hearings on the national security investigation of imports of automobiles and automotive parts
- Work continues on this file
Lower taxes and reduce the regulatory burden to signal that Ontario is Open for Business
- Made changes in the Building Code specific to the Lower Don Lands to allow construction to proceed while flood protection infrastructure is in place.
- A work in progress
Initiate a Commission of Inquiry into Ontario’s public finances, conduct a line-by-line audit, eliminate waste and duplication
- an Independent Financial Commission of Inquiry under the direction of chair Gordon Campbell and commissioners Dr. Al Rosen and Michael Horganand and an external line-by-line audit of government spending.
- issued a public request for bids to competitively acquire consulting services for a line-by-line review of all government programs and services
- a work in progress
Balance the budget on a modest, responsible, pragmatic timetable
- Work in progress
Put the interests of patients in the province’s health care system first while always respecting doctors, nurses and healthcare workers; increase the number of long-term care beds and increase spending on mental health and addiction
- announced intent to fix the OHIP+ program to focus benefits on those who do not have existing prescription drug benefits.
- A work in progress
Turn back the clock on education; it’s back to the basics, the tried and true methods
- Nothing concrete yet; Minister has made contradictory and confusing statements on sex education curriculum for 2018/19 school year
Increase supports for families with children with autism
- Work in progress
Partner with municipalities on transit
- Nothing yet
End green energy contracts in rural Ontario where they are not wanted
- White Pines wind farm cancelled
- 758 other renewable energy contracts cancelled
- Work in progress
Build a new monument to recognize the heroes of the Afghanistan war
- committed to building Ontario's first provincial public memorial within the legislative precinct at Queen's Park to honour Canadian heroes of the war in Afghanistan
Expand the sale of beer and wine through new distribution channels
- Nothing yet
- Passed back to work legislation ending the strike at York University
- Launched Buck a Beer although uptake by craft and industrial brewers hasn’t been enthusiastic
- Introduced legislation which if passed will reduce the number of city councillors in Toronto and change the way chairs will in certain regional/district governments
- Are planning to reform Social Assistance so that it helps more people break the cycle of poverty, re-enter the workforce and get back on track.
This is an impressive list of achievements for such a young government, elected little more than two months ago.
Bill 5 on Track to Become Law Before Summer Recess see more
On Thursday, August 9th Government House Leader Todd Smith moved a time allocation motion on Bill 5, Better Local Government Act. Bill 5 is the legislation which, if passed, will change the electoral districts in the City of Toronto (wards) to align with the provincial electoral district and thereby reduce the size of the Toronto city council to 25 councillors. Also, for the selection of the chairs in the District of Muskoka and the Regions of Niagara, Peel and York, which would have been elected at-large for the first time in 2018, Bill 5 reverts back to the former method of chair selection, by appointment of the councils.
If the time allocation motion carries, which it undoubtedly will, Bill 5 will follow an accelerated path through the legislative process, skipping the committee stage and will move directly to third reading debate (one hour before it will be voted on). Some have criticized the new government, which ran on the slogan “For the People” and on a platform that called for repealing the 2014 sex education curriculum because of a lack of public consultation in its development (4,000 parents and hundreds of educators and students), of hypocrisy on its approach to Bill 5.
We anticipate that Bill 5 will pass third reading before Tuesday, August 14th when the Legislature is expected to rise for its summer recess.
Bidders Question RFB for Line-By-Line Audit see more
One of our new government’s key pledges to the voters of Ontario is to reduce the size and cost of government. They promised to do this mainly by finding efficiencies. Moreover, to find efficiencies, they promised to conduct a line-by-line audit of the government’s finances, to scrutinize the books as never before with a fine-toothed comb. The government needs to find these efficiencies in order to pay for promised tax cuts and spending increases.
Our government recently published a request for bids (RFB) for the line-by-line audit of its $150B annual operations. The RFB stated that the project would commence on August 10th and conclude not later than September 21st and that the maximum price for the work is $500,000. This left several potential bidders stating that the timeline is too tight for such a thorough scope of work and that the top price is far too low.
Hydro One Board Resigns, CEO Retires see more
Hydro One and the Province of Ontario have entered into an agreement that will see the orderly resignation and replacement of the company’s board of directors and the retirement of its company’s CEO. While the Province is only a 47% shareholder of Hydro One, it has the ability to remove the utility’s entire board of directors under the terms of a governance agreement dated November 25, 2015. Hydro One’s current fourteen-member board of directors will be replaced by a ten-member board of directors, four appointed by the Province and six appointed by an ad hoc Nominating Committee made up of representatives of the utility’s largest shareholders other than the Province, by August 15th. The new board will serve until Hydro One's AGM in 2019.
Hydro One’s CEO chose to take the high road and agreed to “retire” and accept a $400,000 lump sum payout rather than be forced out and fight for the more than $10.7m he is entitled to under the terms of his employment contract, although it is believed he will retain the restricted shares he earned while in the CEO role.
Here are the highlights of the agreement between Hydro One and the Province:
- Consistent in principle with the ability of the Province to remove the entire board of directors pursuant to the Governance Agreement dated as of November 5, 2015, each of the current directors of Hydro One will resign and be replaced by nominees identified as set out below.
- The new board of directors will initially consist of 10 members. Consistent with the Governance Agreement, the Province will nominate four replacement directors and the remaining six nominees will be identified through an Ad Hoc Nominating Committee comprised of representatives of Hydro One's largest shareholders other than the Province.
- The new board of directors will be responsible for appointing a new chief executive officer who will also be appointed as the eleventh member of the replacement board of directors.
- Hydro One has agreed to consult with the Province in respect of future matters of executive compensation.
- The replacement directors will serve until Hydro One's next annual meeting or until they otherwise cease to hold office.
- Paul Dobson, Hydro One's chief financial officer, has been appointed as acting chief executive officer until such time as the replacement board of directors, once constituted, can appoint a new chief executive officer.
More details are available at the following link:
Key Ministers see more
Anyone who was nervous when Doug Ford was elected Premier of Ontario should take great comfort from his cabinet selections. As a newcomer to provincial politics, Ford has chosen proven competence and experience above all other criteria.
Rod Phillips – anyone who has been around Queen’s Park for a while will remember Rod Phillips as Elizabeth Witmer’s chief of staff in 1995 when she was Minister of Labour; he was a shining star then and a superstar today. He has had an impressive career including chair of Post Media, CEO of the OLGC, president of an HR firm and chair of Civic Action. Minister Phillips has the leadership experience to perform extremely well in the challenging Environment portfolio.
Vic Fidelli – Minister Fidelli was the natural choice for the Finance portfolio. As the Tory Finance Critic for many years, he is intimately acquainted with the finances of the government and can hit the ground running.
Steve Clark – Minister Clark’s experience as both a mayor and municipal CAO make him the perfect choice for the Municipal Affairs and Housing portfolio. Add in his time as a political staffer and as an MPP, he knows how to get things done at Queen’s Park.
Monte McNaughton – Minister McNaughton is well known in COCA circles. He was a strong supporter of our drive for prompt payment legislation and for the new Construction Act. He understands our industry. We are confident he will deliver a long-term commitment to public infrastructure development and expansion with annual investments as Minister of Infrastructure.
Laurie Scott - Minister Scott is a proven performer having served in several critic roles in her years as an MPP. She is smart, engaging and open minded. She will learn the Ministry of Labour files quickly and easily. We look forward to working with her to improve the performance of Ontario’s health and safety system and on WSIB issues.
John Yakabuski – No one in the Ontario Legislature is more approachable, friendlier and more fun loving than Minister Yakabuski. He followed in the footsteps of his father, who served as MPP for Renfrew from 1963 to 1987, when he was first elected in an upset in 2003. He’s also an experienced small business person and an outspoken defender of the little guy. As Minister of Transportation, it will be interesting to see if he pursues the four-laneing of highway 17. He has family members in construction so he knows the ins and outs of our industry.
Jim Wilson – First elected as an MPP in 1990, Minister Wilson has more cabinet experience than any of the other Ford cabinet ministers, having served as Minister of Health, Energy Science & Technology, Northern Development & Mines and Environment in the governments of Premiers Harris and Eves. He also served as Opposition House Leader and as his party’s Interim Leader following the resignation of Tim Hudak. The Economic Development portfolio is a well-deserved reward for his long and capable service. He will be an effective advocate for Ontario on the challenging trade file and a strong salesperson for the province, convincing companies to invest and create jobs here.
Merrilee Fullerton – Minister Fullerton is a newcomer to Queen’s Park. She is a family physician who has been an active advocate on medical and healthcare issues for many years. Her ministry, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, has taken back the oversight responsibility for the Ontario College of Trades from the Ministry of Labour which may signal a new Ford government emphasis on apprenticeship modernization. We certainly hope this is the case and look forward to working with Minister Fullerton.
Caroline Mulroney – Minister Mulroney is a newcomer to elected politics who ran for the leadership of the Ontario PC Party earlier this year and placed third. Her appointment to the important Attorney General role is a unifying signal to the party. Her work experience as a lawyer and a financial services executive will serve her well. We look forward to working with Minister Mulroney on the implementation of the new Construction Act.
First Order of Business - MPPs Elect Speaker see more
The first order of business for the 42nd Parliament of Ontario when it met on July 11th was the election of the Speaker, the presiding officer of the House, the person to serves as the referee over proceedings in the Legislature. The 124 MPPs who serve in the Ontario Legislature had four candidates from which to choose:
- Ted Arnott, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Wellington - Halton Hills
- Randy Hillier, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Lanark-Frontenac - Kingston
- Jane McKenna, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Burlington
- Rick Nicholls, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Chatham – Kent – Leamington
MPPs elected Arnott on the first ballot. Here are some facts about Speaker Arnott:
- Earned a BA in political science from Wilfred Laurier University
- Early in his working life, he served as a political aide to an MPP
- Was first elected at the age of 27 in the 1990 general election, when the NDP under the leadership of Bob Rae was elected to form the government
- Has been re-elected in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2014 and 2018
- Has many years of experience serving as Deputy Speaker
- Is highly regarded as an honest, honourable, principled and truly decent person
In addition to serving as the legislature’s presiding officer, the Speaker also:
- Serves in a diplomatic capacity as the Legislature’s official representative at various events and ceremonies
- Serves as chair of the Board of Internal Economy which controls the Legislature’s finances
- Serves as the head of the Office of the Legislative Assembly which provides MPPs with professional and administrative support services
The Speaker’s job comes with some perks that include a salary of $36,364 (in addition to his base salary as an MPP) and a modest third-floor apartment in the main legislative building.
We offer our thanks to MPPs Hillier, McKenna and Nicholls for putting their names forward and our congratulations to Speaker Arnott.