Heads roll after Doug Ford’s audio opinion polls.

Apparently Doug Ford doesn’t like being booed. His reception at several public events has shown that he’s strongly disliked – even by once loyal supporters. His approval rating is now lower than Kathleen Wynne’s – at her absolute lowest point – quite an achievement in such a short time.

Instead of reflecting on this, the Premier is blaming the people to whom he gave impossible tasks.

Today’s cabinet shuffle demotes some of his most ardent (and obedient) followers who made the mistake of taking Mr. Ford at his word. Having issued no platform before last year’s election, the Premier issued directives only in superlatives and what’s a rookie cabinet minister to do except adopt the tone that has no doubt pervaded caucus and cabinet meetings i.e. cut taxes, eliminate waste, decimate bleeding heart projects and keep people happy with more accessible booze.

A steamroller approach was encouraged based seemingly on, ’What would Don Cherry do?’. Less than a year later, Ford Nation is in tatters and the Premier gets an audio opinion poll anytime he appears in public. His federal counterpart, Andrew Scheer wants no help from toxic Doug in the upcoming election and Ford has agreed to lie low, obligingly shuttering Queens Park until the end of October – after the federal election. That must hurt.

Over the past few months, Ford’s cabinet has dutifully picked fights with autistic children and their parents, public servants, safe injection sites, minimum wage earners, municipalities, the Beer Store and many others. In the meantime, Ford ended the Carbon Tax and halted tax increases thinking that this would endear him to the people. What this did was lower revenues and make things harder for Fedeli whose budget spending went higher than Kathleen Wynne’s the previous year.

The Premier promised that not one job would be lost as a result of his ‘efficiencies’. Now he says he meant, ‘Not one front line job’ (whatever those are). He apparently didn’t mean cabinet jobs.

Big names demoted today were Lisa Thompson (Education), Lisa Macleod (Community and Social Services) and Vic Fedeli (Finance), Even Caroline Mulroney wasn’t spared, being moved from the prestigious silks of the Attorney General position to the greasy overalls of Transportation. No doubt Mulroney Senior along with other Conservatives is furious.

Nobody claimed that everything was good in the Kathleen Wynne government. Lord knows we needed a change. Few would have predicted that Ford would fall on his face this early.

There are three years left in the P.C. government’s mandate; they won’t be dull and if perceptions don’t improve, the Ontario Conservative movement will be set back for decades. The question is, can the P.C. Party dump Ford and install a new leader before 2022?

That’s probably their only hope.

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.