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  • Repealed the most heavily consulted Health and Sex-Ed curriculum ever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.

Latest Crosstown video shows green roof installation.

The latest video from Crosstown shows before and after views of the vehicle maintenance yard located on the old Kodak lands in Mount Dennis. The video begins with a shot of the site back in March 2017 and then moves forward to this October. The work is substantially complete; most of the tracks are down and a striking feature of the project is the green roofing of the complex. The green roof will save money on heating and cooling while reducing the buildings’ carbon footprints.

One can speculate whether or not such ‘frills’ could happen if the project had been approved under the current Ford regime.

Hassan ejected from commons

Faisal Hassan, our MPP, was ejected from Queens Park yesterday after protesting Premier Ford’s plan to use the notwithstanding clause to force ward amalgamation.

The NDP members protested by banging their desks and shouting until they were escorted one at a time from the chamber by the sergeant at arms.

Hassan had voiced his opposition to the Conservative’s plan earlier in the week. He called the motion “undemocratic” and suggested it was dictatorial. On Twitter he called it “an abuse of power”.

 

As you were – it’s Ward 5 again.

Nobody ever said that Toronto politics was dull. Yesterday after getting judicially spanked for re-arranging Toronto Council’s seats, Premier Doug Ford went nuclear. He used the ‘Notwithstanding Clause’ contained in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; originally designed to hold confederation together during constitutional impasses. Under the clause, provinces can declare a law too important for it to be judged as unconstitutional.

The NC was designed to be used in exceptional circumstances; not in anger, petulance or bloody mindedness. What Ford has done is something like finding that there are no seats in a subway car and pulling the emergency cord; someone forgot the pepperoni on his pizza so he phoned 911 (insert your own meme here).

Ford actually dissed the judge yesterday on the basis that judges are unelected and this one, Edward Belobaba was tainted, having been appointed by Premier McGuinty (actually it was Paul Martin). What’s worrying is that Ford seems likely during his time as premier to take any actions he deems necessary in order to get his way. The possibilities are frightening.

The Legislature will meet tomorrow to begin the process of passing Bill 5 once again. So, barring a mutiny of MPPs, or a blockade of the Legislature, we’re going to be back to 25 seats, gerrymandered (thanks to being out of date) to favour the suburbs rather than downtown. Our new Ward 5, using the York South-Weston boundaries will once again feature a showdown between decades long incumbents Frank Di Giorgio and Frances Nunziata  pitted against new main challengers, Lekan Olayowe and Chiara Padovani.

Ain’t democracy great?

It’s back to Ward 11 – for now.

From the Toronto Star.

Premier Doug Ford’s surprise re-alignment of city wards from 47 to 25 seats has been kicked into touch by a Superior Court judge this morning after a challenge by a group of concerned citizens. The judge cited the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and called  his legislation unconstitutional. He made it clear that Ford’s actions were unjustifiable. No doubt Mr. Ford will be railing at ‘elite’ judges this morning but he now finds himself in a serious quagmire with his latest legal setback. If he doesn’t appeal, there’s just enough time for the election to go ahead with 47 seats instead of Ford’s 25 that would have matched provincial ridings. These 47 seats were the result of much consultation and expense to better reflect increased populations in the downtown core. The 47 seat count is likely to produce several more left-wing councillors as downtowners tend to vote in that direction.

If Ford appeals, either the October 22 poll date will have to be delayed – a decision will take weeks – or we’ll keep the original date and hold a 25-seat election. Either way, an appeal will be a disruptive and constitutionally risky event.

What’s a premier to do? My guess is that he will forego the appeal but ask his lawyers to look for ways to sideline Council’s future decisions. One idea already floated is to expropriate important City assets such as our subway system.

Locally, Ward 11 Councillor Frances Nunziata will not be facing Ward 12’s Frank Di Giorgio and Ms. Nunziata’s main challenger, Chiara Padovani will now be able to focus her finances and resources on our section of York South-Weston.  On the other side of the water, in Greater Weston™, it’s back to being in Ward 2, most likely represented by (barring an apocalyctic event)  Premier Ford’s nephew Mike.

United ward spells trouble for Nunziata and DiGiorgio

From CTV News.

Under the proposed new municipal setup, councillors will represent federal ridings and as a result, Wards 11 and 12 will become one. In York South-Weston, two incumbents, Frances Nunziata and Frank DiGiorgio will be battling for the same job and will likely split the vote since they are both right-leaning, developer friendly and often vote in unison with Mayor Tory. Left-leaning Chiara Padovani has been mounting a solid campaign, canvassing extensively in old Ward 11 and from today will no doubt begin to make an impression on voters in old Ward 12.

If Ward 11 largely votes for Nunziata and Ward 12 for DiGiorgio, depending on the strength of the votes and the turnout, Padovani could scoop the progressive Ward 11 and 12 votes and come through the middle – even with a relatively small percentage of York South-Weston’s overall vote.

No doubt Ms. Padovani will join the chorus of protests at Doug Ford’s move to shrink council but it should work in her favour. Look for strategists on both incumbent teams to set their sights on Ms Padovani once campaigning gets under way in earnest. It won’t be pretty.

Ford disrupts Toronto Council

So it’s official; Doug Ford, disrupting in the style of Donald Trump, will soon present legislation to axe the number of Toronto wards from what would have been 47 to 25. Ford, looking confident and as if he is hitting his stride, made the announcement at a press conference this morning. Calling Toronto Council, ‘The most dysfunctional arena in the country’, he  revealed that city wards will be gone; instead, councillors will represent areas that are identical to federal / provincial ridings. After the next election, Wards 11 and 12 will be known as York South-Weston and represented by just one councillor.

Locally, Frances Nunziata and Frank DiGiorgio represent York South-Weston at Council and one of those two will not be returning after October if they both choose to fight for the YSW seat.  Many other familiar faces will not be back after October. The bad news is that it might be harder to get in touch with a councillor who will now have twice as many constituents. On the plus side, a smaller number at council meetings will find the process of passing legislation quicker and easier. A smaller number will mean greater name recognition, scrutiny and accountability for individual councillors.

There will be a lot of people very disappointed with the decision. There will be worries about a loss of democracy and representation. There may be a legal challenge. The bottom line is that in Ontario, city councils are ‘creatures of  the province’ and the higher level of government holds sway.

I don’t think anyone will miss a larger council’s decisions despite the recent flurry of common sense legislation coming from the rotunda this week (apart from ShotSpotter). Frankly, the record of Toronto Council is lousy. These are the people who have brought us neglect and mismanagement of public housing and transit, a subservience to developers, a proposed one-stop subway, threadbare infrastructure and dangerous streets for pedestrians and cyclists. On that basis alone, at least half deserve to be turfed. Will fewer councillors produce a less democratic council? With many wards failing to achieve a 50% election turnout, probably no less democratic than it is today.

Nominations for council have been extended until Sept 14 but the election date will still be Oct 22.