New PC candidate: Mark DeMontis

The Progressive Conservatives have long been total also-rans in York South–Weston, but that looks about to change. Mark DeMontis has announced his candidacy for the PC nomination.

DeMontis, a Westonian, is well known for rollerblading across Canada to raise money for Courage Canada, a charity that helps blind and low-vision people get into hockey. DeMontis was a promising hockey player himself before losing much of his sight in early adulthood.

Past PC candidates have been total duds, and have barely campaigned. DeMontis, by contrast, has been present in the community and has been increasing his presence on Twitter for several months. He may prove a challenge in this traditionally centre-left community.

Ontario Government lets payday lenders off the hook

From Richmond Times Dispatch.
From Richmond Times Dispatch.

After dragging its heels for months, the Ontario Government has finally acted on a promise to do something about the huge rates charged by the payday loan industry in this province. As readers in Weston / Mount Dennis are painfully aware, these stores have proliferated in our communities and prey mainly on the poor, charging as much as 21% for a two-week loan; an eye-watering annual rate of 14,299%.

All of this was made possible in 2006 by the lovely Vic Toews, then Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the late lamented Conservative government. His bill made it legal for companies to charge more than (the then) usurious rate of 60% annually by giving provinces the power to regulate their own loan rates. Ontario opened the flood gates in 2008 and the payday loan industry hasn’t looked back.

The provincial Liberal government, instead of taking leadership, has listened to the Payday Loan lobby and rather than lowering rates drastically, they have decided to take the line of least resistance. They are quietly proposing that as of January 2017, rates for a two-week loan drop to 18% and then in January 2018, rates will become 15%, matching those of Alberta. While this is a good start, there is nothing in the legislation that addresses the dire plight of people forced to borrow at such appalling rates. 15% may sound better, but it is still 3,724% compounded annually.

Here is John Oliver’s take on Payday Loans.

Does Ontario have to go this route? Quite simply, no.

Quebec has taken the lead and they cap annual loan rates at 35%. As a result, there are no payday loan companies in that province.

That is the example that Ontario needs to follow and would help poor in our province dig their way out of poverty. In addition, some pressure on our hugely profitable banks and credit unions to provide loans to the poor would not go amiss.

If readers would like to comment on the proposed changes to the act, the Ontario Government isn’t making things easy. The contact page is here and a written submission may be sent via email or snail mail.

MPP Laura Albanese’s contact information is here and her constituency phone number is 416-243-7984.


Liberals hiding embarrassing report on UP Express

The Liberals are hiding a document that could make the UP Express look like another gas plant debacle, the Progressive Conservatives and NDP say. Rosario Marchese, an NDP MPP, says that they are filibustering his motion to produce documents that would embarrass them.

Marchese is asking Metrolinx and the Ministry of Transportation to produce their market studies for the Air Rail Link. These documents would show the projected ridership and revenue—and just how bad the expected losses will be. The Auditor General said last year that it is “not feasible” for the UP Express to break even.

Marchese first asked the government to produce the documents on December 3. On December 10, the Liberal members of the committee ran the clock down so that they couldn’t vote—leading PC Jeff Yurek to say the fillibuster is “disgusting and in bad taste”. On February 18, they did the same thing.

In last week’s Committee on Government Agencies meeting, Marchese said “it is clear that the government doesn’t want this to be dealt with, and so they are deliberately stalling.” And his Liberal counterpart, Mike Colle, did just that—speaking, at length, on an unrelated point, and trying to extend the deadline of  Marchese’s motion from 30 days to 60. Mitzie Hunter, another Liberal, took over for Colle and ragged the puck until the meeting ended, delaying the vote until the next meeting of the committee—at the earliest.

The Liberals may be trying to postpone the report until after the imminent election. Laura Albanese, our MPP, is on this committee.




Sullivan took words verbatim from provincial NDP

MP Mike Sullivan’s recent ‘householder’ and ‘ten percenter’ took words directly from the provincial NDP’s platform. The ‘ten percenter’ has recently made national news because Judy Sgro, a Liberal MP, alleges that Sullivan used taxpayer money to fund the advertising campaign of his provincial NDP counterpart Paul Ferreira. Doing so would break House rules about spending.

‘Householders’ and  ‘ten percenters’ are mailings sent at government expense. Regulations say that the money cannot be spent on “provincial, municipal or local election campaign material”.

Sgro took issue with a photo of Sullivan and Ferreira together and the Sullivan’s apparent support of the provincial NDP’s platform.  Sullivan told the Globe that Ferreira is “a constituent who happened to be in a group photo. As for the platform references [in the mailing] – he said he was only talking about promises his own federal party had made in the past.”

A close look at the newsletter shows that this is not quite the case. Ferreira is not in a group shot; the picture is only of the two of them. Nor is Ferreira identified as a constituent; he is identified as “former MPP Paul Ferreira”.

Further, the words on both the ten-percenter and the community update are taken almost verbatim from the provincial NDP’s platform.  The first paragraph of both, for instance, reads:

The Harmonized Sales Tax has hit struggling families at the worst possible time. Instead of making life more affordable for people struggling with the recession, it made life more expensive. It shifted more of the tax burden off large corporations like banks and insurance companies and onto household budgets-$6 billion worth in Ontario. That’s not fair. 

Only the last line, struck through here, does not appear in the NDP platform document.

Much of the rest of the front page of the letter sent to residents is also taken verbatim from the provincial NDP’s platform statement.

Sgro has referred the issue to the Speaker of the House. I’m not an expert on this (or any other) kind of thing, but I believe that if the Speaker finds that the language is similar enough to count as advertising for the provincial NDP, he can penalize our MP by deducting money from Sullivan’s budget.

In correspondence with me, Ferreira said,

The NDP — both provincially and federally — has been consistent in our position on the HST: we would take it off daily essentials, like home heating and hydro. That was in the Federal NDP platform. Mike articulated this position in the newsletter. Mike is doing his job, informing his constituents of where he stands on an issue of immense importance.

Thanks to PW and N for the mailings.

Pot To Kettle…

Just a brief update to the story regarding a pamphlet issued by Mike Sullivan. According to Paul Ferreira,

“…no one objected when the former MP (Alan Tonks) regularly featured the current MPP (Laura Albanese) in his newsletters both *before* and since the 2007 election.”

If this is the case it would seem that this is an arbitrary complaint about something practised by both sides.

Candidate Ferreira adds,

“I think our Liberal friends should spend more time focussing on what’s important to local residents, than creating distractions to suit their interests.”

With York South-Weston in the shape it is, there are far more pressing issues and ideas to wrestle with. As for the originator of the complaint, Liberal MP for York West Judy Sgro, it seems she has had her own experience of breaking the rules.

This article was updated to correct an earlier version that misquoted Paul Ferreira. I apologize for the error.

Albanese says NDP ads are paid for by taxpayer money

The provincial election campaign has just taken a very nasty turn in York South-Weston. If the allegations being bandied about are correct, our federal MP, Mike Sullivan, is spending taxpayer money to elect his provincial NDP counterpart and friend, Paul Ferreira.

Judy Sgro, a Liberal MP, says that she got a “Ten Percenter” in the mail last week from Mike Sullivan, our MP. “Ten Percenters” are mailings to constituents that MPs send out now and then. They are paid for by the taxpayer, not the MP.

Sgro says the letter she got was a partisan ad for the NDP’s Paul Ferreira—and federal MPs are prohibited from spending taxpayer money to meddle in provincial elections. She says the mailer contained “the NDP logo and a large photograph of the local NDP candidate [Paul Ferreira and]…. partisan phrases and campaign promises taken directly from the Provincial NDP platform document.” Laura Albanese calls this a “shocking misuse of federal taxpayers money”[sic] on her election site.

Sgro says that Sullivan is trying to sidestep provincial election financing rules and give the NDP more advertising, “courtesy of the taxpayers of Canada”.

Speaking to the Globe and Mail,

Mr. Sullivan said she’s got it all wrong – there’s a photo of York South-Weston NDP candidates Paul Ferreira in the flyer, but it’s only because he’s a constituent who happened to be in a group photo.

This is disingenuous. Sullivan is close with Ferreira. Mike Sullivan came by my house, in fact, campaigning for him, and Ferreira worked on Mike Sullivan’s campaign last year in turn. They shared a campaign office, too. Whatever role Ferreira was serving at the time of the photo, he certainly didn’t ‘happen’ to be in the photo.

Sullivan also said, “I certainly didn’t wade into any provincial matters. I really can’t think of what she’s talking about.”

Your humble correspondent doesn’t have a copy of the flyer Sullivan sent out. If one of you does, would you send a photo of it in?