Premier Ford – For which people exactly?

Whenever there’s a ‘Ford Fest’, the people in attendance could be anyone’s friends, neighbours or work colleagues. Most have shown up to support Doug Ford and possibly scarf the odd hot dog or burger (2,800 hot dogs, 4,200 burgers and 800 veggie burgers at the recent one in Vaughan). Free food and Ford Nation T-shirts aside, they’ve probably made the effort because they believe the Premier really is on their side; cutting the waste, the bureaucracy and all that red-tape while building subways and fighting for the little guy. This year, anticipating larger numbers, the ‘Fest’ was held away from his mother’s house at a Vaughan banqueting hall. The PC Party allegedly footed the bill.

Gone are the days of accidental encounters with prime ministers, free booze and $20 bills dispensed from a roll. No; Premier Ford needs to look, shall we say, presidential. As Ford Nation stalwarts shuffle along dutifully in a line, whether it’s for condiments from legions of servers doling them out a tablespoon at a time, or for a handshake and selfie with the great man himself, the event seems to have lost its spontaneity. Regardless, Ford Nation needs a pep rally every so often and gratitude must be shown for their unswerving loyalty but the events seem a bit more formulaic. There has never been a superlative that the premier doesn’t like. Taking his cue from south of the border, Ford seems to gearing  up for more frequent events – the latest, tonight, will be a celebration of the first 100 days of his premiership.

from Twitter.

There’s no doubt that legislatively, Ford has hit the ground running. There’s also an impression that cabinet members like Christine Elliot and Caroline Mulroney have been told to keep their opinions (and integrity) to themselves.

Let’s examine the 100 days of achievements that Ford Nation will celebrate.

He:

  • Threatened to use the ‘Notwithstanding Clause’
  • Cut a planned welfare increase of 3% to 1.5%
  • Shrank  Toronto Council to a gerrymandered 25 councillors.
  • Set up a teacher snitch line
  • Repealed the most heavily consulted Health and Sex-Ed curriculum ever
  • Cancelled Cap and Trade that made polluting companies pay money to conservation projects..
  • Cancelled a $100 million school repair program
  • Cancelled an almost complete 18.5 megaWatt wind turbine project
  • Cancelled the Green Energy Act
  • Got successfully sued by Tesla
  • Cut $17 million from public housing green upgrades
  • Ended the Green Ontario Fund (gave grants for homes to be more energy efficient)
  • Ended the Basic Income pilot a year early.
  • Paused the opening of new safe injection sites.
  • Forced the resignation of Hydro One’s Chair and Board.
  • Diverted money for mental health care into police budgets
  • Scrapped the Drive Clean program.
  • Fired Ontario’s Chief Scientist
  • Froze public service hiring
  • Enabled Buck a Beer
  • Shelved a law to cap concert and sport tickets at 50% higher than face value.
  • Shelved new vaping regulations
  • Shelved new indigenous curriculum writing teams
  • Froze the cost of a driving license at $90 (would have risen to $97).

The people who support ‘Ford Nation’ and those who voted PC at the last election wanted change and disruption after years of Liberal rule. Kathleen Wynne failed to tamp down the arrogance of some high profile ministers who had been in office too long. Ford Nation voted for change and disruption and they’re getting it in spades.

With about 1360 days to go in Ford’s mandate; a steady hand at the wheel seems unlikely. The clock is ticking on his premiership and Ford is desperate to stem the flow of money – especially since he has ended a lot of revenue streams and the province is on track for a $15 billion deficit this year. According to Ford, we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.

In the near future, legislation will be announced that will:

  • Hold the minimum wage at $14.00
  • Repeal workers’ right to 10 annual leave days (including two paid days).

Ford instituted a ‘line by line review of government spending’. Ernst and Young recommended selling big assets like the LCBO, ending social program universality and tightening up government generally.

The report found that Ontario Government spending increased by 55% over 15 years. This sounds bad but it’s a less than 3% annual increase (compounding at work). This is remarkable when taking into account the increased health care spending needed on a growing senior population. When inflation is taken into account, it’s miraculous.

When compared to other provinces, Ontario is reasonably efficient in operating its services so there’s not much fat to cut. Over that 15 year time period, Ontario Public Service spending had a 0% increase.

What may be coming:

Along with a hiring freeze, Ford will need to cut expensive programs. Education, health care and social services take up more than 80% of the budget so that is where he may act. Selling off assets like Hydro or the LCBO produce a one-time gain and the revenue stream is lost forever (remember former PC premier Harris leasing the 407 for 99 years?).

  • Provincial government agencies may have to bargain through a central bargaining unit.
  • Sharing of data across ministries
  • A reduction of ‘red tape’ across ministries (this may imply fewer regulations)
  • More services available online
  • Means testing and co-payments for some services
  • Increased costs for civil litigation cases.

With a hiring freeze continuing and an estimated  annual civil service turnover rate of 15%, it’s clear that some government departments will become severely understaffed and personnel will need retraining if they are transferred.

If none of this works, a money saver for a future term might be a voucher school system. Parents would be given a voucher for each child’s education to be be used in a public or private school of their choosing. Home schoolers could convert the voucher to cash. The diversion of students to home and private schools would reduce the size of the public system and therefore administration, pension and maintenance costs.

Public transit could be auctioned off to private companies (as happened under Margaret Thatcher) and this would provide instant cash and get the government out of fare subsidies. If Ford (as rumoured) takes over the TTC’s subway system, it could be sold or leased for a good amount and the province could keep the cash.

How will these changes affect Weston and Mount Dennis? We live in an area with a substantial number of people working minimum or low wage jobs. Many others rely on benefits or welfare. With less money coming in, there will be increased poverty and reduced spending. There is a danger that the local economy will be affected in terms of lower sales.

In the larger community, squeezing the economy will mean reduced government revenues, the possibility of a recession and an even greater deficit.

Perhaps not the effect that Ford Nation was anticipating.

Fun facts from the report:

  • 90% of gambling revenue in Ontario goes to ‘grey market’ online sites.
  • 33% of tobacco sales in Ontario are contraband and therefore contribute no tax revenues.
  • There is an estimated $16 billion in unreported economic activity each year in Ontario.

What to make of Mainstreet’s poll results

While neither the local nor mayor’s race is decided, unless some dramatic changes occur before polling day on October 22nd, the following scenarios are likely.

Toronto’s new ward map. From City of Toronto. (Click to enlarge.)

As Adam has pointed out, Mainstreet Research issued a poll that reflects the voting intentions of 593 residents of Ward 5 (York South Weston) on the 24th and 25th September. Among decided and leaning voters, the support is as follows:

From Scribd.com Click to enlarge.

Mainstreet’s poll methodology seems exemplary; for example, a large number of calls were made to a variety of cell and land line phones and at various times of two survey days.  The margin of error is 4.1% which still indicates a cast iron lead for Frances Nunziata over all other candidates.

The results must be demoralizing for candidates Lekan Olawoye and Chiara Padovani . The candidates with their dynamic young teams have worked hard to expand their bases in the respective halves of York South Weston. They have been outmuscled by the star power (i.e. name recognition) of the two incumbents, only one of whom will be councillor. While it is notoriously difficult to unseat an incumbent Toronto councillor, Olawoye and Padovani can look for hope from three sources:

  1. There will be other elections – sometimes it takes a few tries before voters learn your name.
  2. Your focus on certain issues during the campaign may have moved people’s (and possibly the winning candidate’s) opinions.
  3. This is valuable feedback – try other tactics to raise your profile.

As for Frank Di Giorgio; to win he needs to build up his support in the 50+ age groups in YSW. If he loses, he won’t be the first big name to be defeated by Ms Nunziata.

Mayor’s Race:

Of the four major candidates, Mainstreet’s latest poll shows stodgy incumbent, John Tory snoozing his way to victory in spite of his flawed and lacklustre mayoralty. Toronto poverty, crime and congestion levels continue to rise under his watch while he concentrates on his three main objectives; austerity, low property taxes and re-election. The mayor is so confident, he recently took a pass on a transit debate, instead choosing a cocktail fundraiser with Toronto’s moneyed and business elite. His abysmal SmartTrack plan was probably the reason for wanting to avoid scrutiny on that difficult topic.

Former Toronto Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat’s campaign has failed to gain traction as her policies differ only marginally from those of the incumbent. Her insider knowledge of where the bodies are buried at City Hall has been kept under wraps so far. In policy areas where Ms. Keesmaat does differ from John Tory, she is unable to effectively state why her position is better.

Local candidate Saron Gebresellassi has acquitted herself forcefully in debates and offers some starkly new ideas to address issues such as poverty in a big city like ours. She needs to keep pushing the two mainstream candidates off their comfort zones.

Sarah Climenhaga is another candidate with West Toronto connections and one who has lived a fascinating life full of valuable experiences. Like the other candidates, this is her first shot at the Mayor’s job.

Sadly, becoming mayor costs a lot of money. Mayor Tory spent almost $3 million to get elected in 2014. This is beyond the reach of most candidates; even the well-connected Ms. Keesmaat. It looks like we’ll be stuck with John Tory for another four years.

Last of all; most people usually don’t vote in civic elections here in YSW. The people who do tend to be in the older age groups. The folks at American media production company Nail Communications produced this mock ad geared to the mid-terms in the U.S. but speaks volumes about the demographics of voting in both countries.

Local group threatened with lawsuit, legal complaint

On Friday, John Nunziata, Frances Nunziata’s brother and our former MP, threatened to take legal action against the Black Creek Alliance, a local citizens’ group, for “contravening election laws” and “slander & defamation”.

He said,

This site is contravening election laws. Black Creek Alliance is clearly a front for Chiara Padovani a candidate running against Frances. Accordingly, it must be registered as a Third Party. Screenshots have been taken for the last 2 months and a formal complaint will be filed and a prosecution will follow against Ms. Padovani and the administrators of this site. A civil action will also be launched for slander & defamation.

The Black Creek Alliance is a “non-partisan community group working to make Black Creek Site East an environmentally sound, low flood risk and beneficial recreational area”. They have posted articles on area flooding, Hurricane Hazel, water quality, and the development on Rockcliffe Court, among other things.

Chiara Padovani said, “These are ridiculous allegations. You can put a few exclamation marks at the end of that…. I believe it’s an intimidation tactic to dissuade and intimidate members of a community group.”

“It’s unfortunate to see that kind of thing happen. I always encourage debate. I don’t want [WestonWeb], or the MDCA or the WVRA to get threatened by a lawyer with a lawsuit. It’s absurd.”

Frances Nunziata also quickly distanced herself. She emailed me saying,

I was surprised to hear that my brother had posted on the group’s page. Once I read the post, I was not happy as it had not been discussed with me, nor did it reflect my opinions with respect to this group, or any other group. I know that the Black Creek Alliance is not “a front” for another political candidate – the group was formed long before the municipal elections started. While my brother does not speak for me, I do apologize to the group for they concern that was caused as a result of his post.

She also wrote on the the BCA’s webpage:

Yesterday, a member of my family responded to a post in this group suggesting that legal action would be taken, or complaints filed, related to comments made in this group.

I would like to make it clear that at no point have I considered (nor has my campaign team considered), taking any action against this group, or other candidates.

Since the Black Creek Alliance was formed, I have read many of the posts from Administrators and group members, as have some of my office staff. While there have been times I have not agreed with public comments made here, I have not stated as much as I respect your right as a community to share your opinions, and will continue to do so.

Do I believe the Black Creek Alliance is non-partisan? No.

When the group was first started it was; since then, there have been a number of posts, including some from Administrators of the group which, in my opinion, are clearly partisan. That being said, it is your group to operate as you wish.

I will continue representing and working with all residents and groups of York South-Weston. The post that was made yesterday was not made on my behalf, it was not discussed with me or my campaign team, nor does it reflect my feelings or intentions as they relate to this group.

One of the administrators of the Black Creek Alliance said, in response to John Nunziata’s allegations:

BCA is a non-partisan group, dedicated to raising awareness about local flooding and environmental concerns in the Black Creek /Rockcliffe-Smythe and Mt Dennis area. We formed in November 2016. We live in this neighborhood and want to change this legacy.

As a group we are pursuing park equity and trying to preserve our floodplain. We have found ourselves at odds with Councillor Nunziata and her support for the meat packing industry expansion in Rockcliffe-Smythe. We had no idea that our hopes for our neighborhood would eventually put us in the political crosshairs or at odds with our Councillor, who has attended many of our walks and events. Flooding along Alliance Ave, Hilldale, Cordella and area is a heated issue, especially with climate change and increased storms. Our Facebook page has become a place where neighbours share the stories of their homes flooding, of their street flooding, and of their desire for change and acknowledgement. Black Creek channel has not seen any flood infrastructure change since Hurricane Hazel. The TRCA has written reports on what needs to be done to mitigate flooding, and to reduce sewage outflow into Black Creek, but as we have seen in the city’s decision to sell 301 Rockcliffe instead of preserving it as floodplain, we now know that we as a community are continuing to be ignored. We wish to see that changed. We think that has put us in a position where industry and politics would rather that our little non-partisan group cease to exist.

Ontario has robust protections against anti-defamation lawsuits, and public interest is a virtually unimpeachable defence. Recent changes to the law award defendants their full costs if the statement they made is found to be in the public interest.

Toronto’s third-party advertising laws explicitly exclude social media  posting and issues-based advocacy from the definition of advertising.

I have tried several times to be in touch with John Nunziata, but he has not had time for a phone interview, and he has not yet responded to questions sent to him electronically.  If he responds, I will be delighted to post a follow-up.

 

Community safety issues meeting report.

It’s no secret that poverty and crime often go hand in hand. At the September 12 community meeting organized by several York South-Weston community associations, these items were flagged by the 90 participants as actions that would help increase safety in the community. Actions were summarized under headings which have been placed in italics.

Some of the raw data captured during the meeting. From MDCA. Click to enlarge.

To try to make sense of the raw data generated by participants, I have arbitrarily categorized the actions as Social actions (S), Police actions (P) or both (SP). To skip the raw data and see the summary, scroll to the header ‘Summary’.

Youth susceptible to gang entry:
Financially accessible after-school programs (S)
Provide job opportunities (S)
Mental health support and awareness (S)
Parenting classes and parenting help (S)
Open Weston Lions Arena for ice time (S)
Baseball teams. (S)
High school drop-out rate:
Every child to have a learning development plan used by teachers, parents and community organizations (S)
All youth in conflict with the law to be directed to education programs (S)
Gear education to work and employment. (S)
Homelessness:
Employment program for the homeless (S)
Eliminate requirement that to receive welfare you need an address (S)
Create a strategy to build more housing and improve access to housing. (S)
Gun Violence:
Restorative justice (SP)
Youth Programs (S)
Reducing program wait lists (S)
Tighter gun control (S)
Post-incarceration programs (S)
Hire more support workers (S)
Education about gun violence in schools (S)
More security in Smythe Park (SP)
Animate Smythe Park by holding events and/or adding amenities (S)
Neighbourhood walks (S)
Getting residents more information about gun violence (S)
Break-Ins:
Report to police (SP)
More outdoor lighting (S)
Talk to your neighbours (S)
Pet patrols (S)
CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) (S)
Car Thefts:
Hide valuables (S)
Security cameras (SP)
Walk or get a bike (S)
Better community engagement (S)
Fraud:
Fraud prevention information sessions (SP)
Do not share information (S)
Publicise current scams (SP)
Report fraud to the Police and to companies involved (e.g. bank scams) (P)
Hang up the phone (S)
Speeding:
More Police enforcement especially on Jane, Weston and Eglinton (P)
Police presence on random days and times (P)
30K speed limit on side streets (SP)
Speed bumps (S)
Violent crime:
Review funding, resources and support (S)
Address poverty issues (S)
Artscape programs (S)
Use High School students’ community hours to work with Elementary School students in after-school programs on art, music, sports, mentoring (S)
Neighbourhood change (?)
Police presence (SP)
Street Safety Visibility:
Fix lighting (S)
Secure vacant buildings (S)
More cameras (SP)
Increase reporting of all crime (SP)
Know your neighbours (S)
Walk your community (S)
Garbage removal (S)
Accuracy of What is Happening in Community:
Attend community meetings (S)
Read print and email newsletters (S)
Define problem accurately (S)
Ask questions (S)
Make it easier to access data (S)
Pedestrian safety:
Education from school age to seniors (S)
Reduce traffic speed limits (S)
Longer crossing times (S)
More speed enforcement (P)
Traffic calming measures (S)
Bike lanes (S)
Sidewalks for pedestrians (S)
Remove barriers on sidewalks (S)
Lighting:
Lighting audits in our community (S)
Update lighting infrastructure (S)
More solar panels (S)
Drugs:
Stay vigilant in regard to surroundings (S)
Report suspicious activity (SP)
Increase police presence (P)
Creation of a task force (TAVIS?)(P)
Install cameras (SP)
Sex assaults:
Education and training on consent and prevention of assaults (S)
Focused community engagement in schools and faith groups (S)
Police presence (P)
Lack of community police presence:
Advertise online reporting of minor crime (SP)
Report all incidents (P)
More bicycle officers (P)
Attend CPLC meetings (SP)
Lack of evidence of successful youth programs: (S)
Talk to levels of government about assessing community supports (S)
Market local resources to youth (S)
Dispensary equals crime?:
Court has to make it a punishable crime (P)
Community consultations (S)
Additional issues of concern that the meeting did not have time to deal with included:
irresponsible driving (at red lights, crosswalks, stop signs) (P)
cycling on sidewalks (P)
walking while texting on cellphones (P)
jay walking (P)

Summary:

Here is my tally of the types of measures recommended during the meeting.

  • Social actions:  62
  • Police actions: 14
  • Social and Police actions: 14

69% of the recommendations were of a preventative nature, 16% dealt with enforcement while 16% were a combination of the two. One would hope that  the political response to this excellent community effort would not distort the message from the community. In other words, the recommendations suggest most of the efforts directed to reducing crime should be go to addressing the roots of poverty and crime rather simply by adding more police officers.

Click to enlarge. From metrocosm.com

The United States has greatly increased its spending on prisons compared to education and community support. It’s clear that this approach doesn’t work. Let’s not make the same mistake here.

Incidentally, Premier Ford has said that he wants to bring back TAVIS (Toronto Anti Violence Intervention Strategy). Let’s hope he doesn’t. He’s already on record as opposing the January 1, 2019 minimum increase from $14 to $15 so it’s clear he’s not very good at cause and effect.

Update: this article was amended to correct the impression that the meeting was held under the auspices of only one (but awesome) community association.

Padovani’s office launch–and a bit of a stir

Chiara Padovani will be hosting an office launch today at 1289 Weston Road at 1 pm (Sorry for the late notice; it’s been a busy week and this slipped by me).

MPP Faisal Hassan will be a guest speaker.

Hassan’s support for Padovani caused a stir this week, when Frances Nunziata accused Hassan of impropriety at a meeting to discuss gun violence.

On Twitter, Nunziata said on that “There is a time and a place for campaigning…a meeting to discuss serious issues facing the community, with a father who lost his son last week to violence and mothers fearing for the safety of their sons in attendance is not one.”

In the past, Nunziata has campaigned with Laura Albanese, our former MPP.

Padovani: TD to keep ATM in Weston for now.

The TD Canada Trust branch at 1979 Weston Road. Note the Rockport rental apartment building in the background that will be home to hundreds of new residents when it opens in the coming months.

Toronto Council candidate Chiara Padovani has managed to wrestle a concession from TD Canada Trust, set to close its 1979 Weston Road branch on September 21. The building’s ATM will remain open for ‘the time being’ after the branch closes. The bank’s WiFi hotspot (who knew?) will not continue past the closing date.

Ms Padovani also wrote to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada; the 120-employee independent agency that according to its own site,

“ensures federally regulated financial entities comply with consumer protection measures, promotes financial education and raises consumers’ awareness of their rights and responsibilities.”

These are the people who sit on their hands while predatory payday loan companies fill the void left by departing bank branches. Apparently they’ve educated the public about those things so it’s ok. In their reply to Ms Padovani’s letter, FCAC alleges that TD provided adequate consultation with the community before announcing the closure. As a result, FCAC won’t compel TD to hold a community meeting.

If a letter announcing the closure counts as adequate consultation, then yes, the community was consulted adequately.

Undaunted, Ms Padovani also tackled TD who have relented somewhat by agreeing to keep the ATM open past the closing date. In the meantime, she is working with TD Canada Trust to set up a permanent ATM in the vicinity.

So far I have received confirmation that the ATM will remain at the current location while they search for a permanent home in the vicinity. While TD is hosting sessions on digital banking and financial literacy in the community, they have not committed to installing a WiFi hub to facilitate the use of such services for people who don’t have access to the Internet.

I’m committed to continue to advocate for accommodations for the members of the community who will be negatively impacted by the bank’s imminent closure.

Access to fair banking and financial services is especially important in Weston, given the increase in predatory lending that has sever consequences on socioeconomic health of our neighbourhood. As a social worker in the community, I’ve seen far too many hardworking people get trapped in debt through pay day lenders.– Chiara Padovani

Read more from the candidate here.

Read Adam’s excellent take on the issues here.

Banking in Canada is regulated federally. Incidentally; crickets from MP Ahmed Hussen’s office on the branch’s closing.

Nunziata votes to take province to court

Frances Nunziata voted to fight the province over the Conservatives’ plan to reduce the number of council seats to 25.

By Antonella Artuso, Toronto Sun

Doug Ford’s party had cut the size of city council in half, midway through an election and without any warning.

City Council voted on Tuesday to go to court and restart the election process, in the unlikely event they win the case.

Frances Nunziata has been inconsistent on the issue. She supported the plan when it was first announced, then said it shouldn’t have been announced in the middle of an election cycle.

Frank DiGiorgio, who is also running in the new Ward 5, voted against going to court.