By Ivor Tossell - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
Start by asking how taxpayers are going to pay for it
How do you get 2.7 million people’s heads around the idea of paying for transit? Here’s a start: Nobody say “subways.”
Both the City of Toronto and its provincial overlords are on a mission for 2013: Sell the public on the idea that if they want less gridlock—which is to say, more public transit—then they’re going to have to pay for it with taxes, tolls or levies.
But what the city’s not doing this time around is even more telling. Historically, transit expansion starts with politicians drawing hopeful lines on a map and then trying to find ways to pay for those lines. This has led to decades of transit fiascos as plans got drawn, redrawn, hacked to bits and then finally half-built.
So now, the city is taking a smarter tack: It’s starting with asking how taxpayers are going to pay for transit, while deferring talk about what exactly that money would pay for. It’s counterintuitive—all stick, no carrot—but it makes a great deal of sense.
“What we’re trying to do right now is focus on principles, which is a good place to start,” Jen Keesmaat, Toronto’s new chief-planner told me, as she rolled out “Feeling Congested,” the city’s new consultation. Those principles involve some general talk about priorities, but the nut of the issue is choosing (lucky us) how we’d like to be taxed.
So, despite the protestations of Toronto’s increasingly sidelined mayor, both city and province are making a full-court press to get this through to the general public, in a blitz of live consultations, op-eds and media hits. The city has also put up a website with an online budgeting exercise that’s worth taking a poke at. It assays 14 “revenue tools,” ranging from a sales tax to development charges to parking levies. Among other things, the site hammers at the idea that no single revenue option will be enough; we’ll probably need a combination. And not all revenue tools are created equal: development tools, for instance, yield nowhere near the returns of parking levies.
(Pointedly, some would-be revenue tools the mayor’s office likes to talk up just didn’t make the list. These include vaguely defined “public-private partnerships,” which, for money-losing projects like transit expansion, are more often a method of administering public funds, than of generating them.)
It’s quite a conversation to be having with an electorate that, less than three years ago, voted in Rob Ford on the explicit premise that he’d cut taxes like the Land Transfer Tax and the now-defunct Vehicle Registration Tax. The difference now is the promise of dedicated funding.
“Before, with the LTT, the VRT, it was just another bloody tax,” says Keesmaat. “What we’re doing right now is saying, hold on a minute, what if that tax got you all these transit lines? Then are you willing to pay it? Does that seem worth it to you? That’s very different than kissing your money goodbye and not knowing where it goes.”
But before they start naming all these projects, the city’s bureaucrats want to talk money. It’s a refreshing reversal of the way transit planning has been run for decades, putting politics first and planning second. For the moment, it keeps the unfortunate “subway vs. streetcar” debate at bay. It shouldn’t be complicated: Toronto needs both, but built in the right places for each. Yet there’s no surer way to turn transit planning into a political football, then to start talking about which citizens “deserve” a subway. (“It’s an absurdity to be debating, at a city-wide level, subways versus LRTs,” said Keesmaat.)
The money-first approach is even more meaningful in the long-term. Since the municipality is so limited in the ways it can legally raise money, trying to fund big projects has long meant begging senior levels of government to cough up huge sums.
It hasn’t worked terribly well. In practice, it’s meant waiting for transit-building ambitions to line up with political fortunes. It means waiting for three governments at three levels who are willing to work together, which is like waiting for three gold bars at a slot machine. It also means waiting for the right people to take the right important roles: When the MPP for Vaughan became Ontario’s Minister of Finance, a $2.5-billion subway extension to a scrubby local field managed to become reality.
And then there’s timing. Politicians like legacy projects, but transit schemes take so long to implement that they become ideal targets for cuts when their successors take over. Even if governments survive, their willingness to spend might not. Governments start looking at megaprojects when they want stimulus spending, then lose interest when the economy recovers and the government is left in the red. The result is that we make half-hearted stabs at building transit when the economy tanks, but never keep pace when development’s booming. Toronto’s transit map is dotted with projects that were conceived for bad reasons and cancelled for worse ones.
After all this, the technocracy is fighting back. Shifting transit funding from top-down to bottom-up—cutting a deal straight with the taxpayer—helps depoliticize the process, setting up revenue streams that could survive from one government to the next. Even Ontario opposition leader Tim Hudak, speaking at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, wouldn’t rule out revenue tools, even as he launched once again into how Scarberians deserve subways in order to be “full citizens.”
The irony, of course, is that Rob Ford himself, who wouldn’t talk money, was the one who led us to talk about nothing but. His campaign for subways, subways, subways helped stoke the public appetite for transit expansion, even as he insisted that taxpayers wouldn’t have to pay extra for it. Ford’s rude encounter with reality helped foster a rare consensus that more transit is needed, but that there’s one way to get it built, and it’s not wishful thinking.
“We’re kind of calling that out,” said Keesmaat. “We’re being very clear: There’s no pot of gold. If we want to invest in public transit, we have to find the revenue tools to pay for it. It’s that simple.”
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 10:40 PM - 0 Comments
It’s not clear what Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath expects from the province’s next Liberal premier, whom the party will select on Jan. 26. She’s “open to working to get results for the people of this province,” in contrast to Conservative opposition leader Tim Hudak, who likes his chances in an election and will likely withhold confidence as early as possible to try to get one.
Does that mean Horwath wants a Liberal-NDP coalition? Continue…
By Tamsin McMahon - Monday, December 10, 2012 at 6:43 PM - 0 Comments
Tamsin McMahon on how the province with a monopoly makes less money on booze
Ontario’s Opposition leader, Tim Hudak, seems to have found the ideal hot-button issue in his promise to privatize the provincial liquor monopoly if he emerges victorious from whenever the present leaderless minority government ends up holding an election.
The future of the LCBO has been debated ad nauseam since the agency was created back in 1927. But this time the announcement actually appears to have some traction for Hudak, coming during the holiday season when budgets are tight, alcohol is in demand and there’s not much else in the way of interesting news from the provincial government to distract us.
Strangely enough, as Progressive Conservative leader Hudak shied away from the privatization issue in the 2011 provincial election, instead musing on the days a buck-a-beer, when a 24-case of domestic could be had for $24.
But after floating a few other wedge issues in the last election (prison chain gangs, the dangers of sex ed for elementary school children) to no avail, Hudak may just have found the one that actually matters to Ontarians. After all, free-flowing booze is about the only thing that could unite a 50-something libertarian in rural Eastern Ontario and a 20-something hipster in downtown Toronto.
Still, the idea has predictably touched off a firestorm of debate. B.C. Premier Christy Clark floated a similar idea back in the summer, but was forced to back down due to union pressure.
Proponents of LCBO privatization often point to Alberta, which privatized its liquor sales in 1993 and has since seen a rush of new private liquor stores, both mass market and specialty, along with a larger selection of products and longer store hours. Critics also like to cite Alberta for the downside of privatization: Namely the fact that the Alberta government has seen steadily declining revenues from alcohol sales for the past two decades and that the LCBO transferred $1.63 billion to Ontario government coffers last year, excluding taxes. (Hudak’s finance critic, Peter Shurman, recently said the Progressive Conservatives “don’t know” exactly how privatizing liquor sales will affect government revenues.)
In light of the ongoing debate over public versus private liquor stores, here is a look at some Statistics Canada data that tracks the net government proceeds of liquor sales in every province. The data removes the GST portion of the sales tax, along with what it costs provincial governments to run their liquor stores. In other words, it’s a look at the pure profits flowing into government coffers from the sale of booze.
The results here are based on revenue per 100 residents and are adjusted for inflation (in 1993 dollars, which is when Alberta privatized alcohol sales):
They clearly show that Alberta has faced declining revenue since going private, from $15.30 for every 100 residents in 1993 to the equivalent of $12.86 in 2011, a drop of 16 per cent. However, the province still earns more per capita than either Ontario or Quebec, which long ago allowed private stores to sell beer and wine, but not hard liquor. B.C., which went to a two-tiered system in 2004, has also seen its revenue drop over the years. But most of that decline actually occurred before it allowed private wine and beer sales and revenue was actually growing between 2004 and 2009.
Atlantic Canada earns by far the most per capita from its alcohol sales and, along with Saskatchewan, has been able to grow its revenue nearly 25 per cent since 1993. Quebec takes in the least per person from alcohol sales, although the province has managed to boost revenues by nearly 50 per cent over the past two decades.
What’s interesting in Ontario is that government revenues are substantially lower than other provinces that also have monopolies on the alcohol distribution and sales. Revenues per capita from alcohol have increased just eight per cent in nearly 20 years in the province. Despite moving to a privatized system, the Alberta government still takes in more per capita on alcohol sales than Ontario.
Clearly there’s more at work here than a debate over a public monopoly versus privatization. After all, governments have lots of potential policies in their arsenal to boost revenues from booze whether in a public or private system: alcohol taxes, minimum pricing to discourage consumption, fees for alcohol producers for the privilege of selling their products in government stores, fees for liquor licences. The Maritime provinces, for instance, all have large alcohol taxes on top of provincial sales tax.
One would expect that more taxes, a la Atlantic Canada, would lead to higher prices for beer, wine and spirits. On the flip side, critics argue that privatization has driven up prices in Alberta.
To test this debate, here’s a look at the price of a popular product, a standard 750 ml bottle of Smirnoff Vodka, across the country:
Quebec, which collects the lowest alcohol revenues has the lowest price, while the Maritimes, which collect the most, have higher prices. (It’s not broken down here, but at $27.98, Nova Scotia actually has the highest price for a bottle of Smirnoff in the country.) Manitoba’s high provincial sales tax helped push up its prices. Alberta’s private system has also pushed its prices toward the higher end. (The amount quoted here is from Metro Liquor Stores in Calgary.)
Ontario’s prices seem high given that government revenues from alcohol sales are comparatively low. It costs 17 cents less to buy a bottle of Smirnoff in Newfoundland than it does in Ontario, and yet the Newfoundland government takes in roughly 62 per cent more per capita in alcohol revenues than the Ontario government does.
It’s clear the issue is a lot more nuanced than the debate over public versus private alcohol sales would suggest. B.C., Alberta and Quebec have all allowed some manner of private sales of alcohol. But government revenues from alcohol sales have been growing in B.C. and Quebec. Not so in Alberta. Ontario’s liquor monopoly doesn’t seem to have helped the province boost its sales revenue all that much. Neither Ontario, nor Alberta, had the highest or the lowest prices.
There may be other valid reasons to privatize liquor sales, like better choice of products and more convenience for consumers. If it’s a matter of being able to buy beer and wine at midnight at the corner store, ending the Ontario government’s monopoly on liquor sales may be the best option. If the debate is over whether governments should benefit from higher revenues, consumers should benefit from lower prices, or that alcohol should be taxed into oblivion to keep us all from drinking too much, neither a government monopoly, nor a privatized system seems to have all the answers.
In reply to this article, Jan Westcott, president and CEO of Spirits Canada, writes the following:
Ms. McMahon comes tantalizing close to stating the obvious yet rarely uttered truth, that provincial Treasury revenues derived from the sale of beverage alcohol are most directly related to implicit provincial commodity tax rates, i.e., liquor board mark-ups (Should Ontario privatize liquor sales, December 10, 2012).
A case in point: by exempting beer and bottled-in-Quebec wines from their fair share of the provincial alcohol tax burden, Quebec ranks lowest amongst net return per capita.
The corollary: those provinces with the highest taxes on spirits no longer are home to distilled spirits production as manufacturers consolidated their operations in lower tax jurisdictions.
For example, Ontario jumps to the province with the highest government alcohol revenues per capita once one adds an additional $1 billion ($5.25/100 residents), directly related to local spirits manufacturing.
Ontario PC leader would allow booze to be sold in corner stores and grocery aisles, consider selling LCBO
By Maria Babbage, The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 2:10 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Ontario should allow beer, wine and spirits to be sold in corner…
TORONTO – Ontario should allow beer, wine and spirits to be sold in corner stores and grocery aisles, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said Tuesday.
He said he wouldn’t cut taxes on alcohol, but he would consider selling part or all of the LCBO, which said it brought in $1.6 billion to the province last year.
“So I think we need to be practical and thoughtful, whether that’s a partial sale of LCBO stores, a full sale, allowing the employees in to bid and run them as well, or franchises,” he said.
“I think all these options are valid. I’d like to hear what Ontarians have to say about that, but I’m not going to build new stores, and I think it is time to have LCBO stores go into private hands.”
The government should concentrate on core services like health care and education instead, Hudak said.
But he rejected the notion that selling any part of the LCBO would deprive the province — which is facing a $14.4-billion deficit this year — of much-needed cash.
“I bet you that actually increases revenue at the end of the day,” he said.
Ontario should follow other Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions such as Alberta, British Columbia, West Virginia and Iowa, which allow the private sector to sell alcohol, he said.
“You could drive out of this province in any direction you wanted to go to, and you’d find more choice and more competition in privately run stores,” he said.
“It’s time we did that in Ontario too.”
Hudak’s suggestions for the LCBO are among the trial balloons the Tory leader is floating, which also include having the province get out of the gambling business. But they’re not official party policy.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 8:43 PM - 0 Comments
A tribute dinner was held to honour Conservative Senator Doug Finley at the War…
A tribute dinner was held to honour Conservative Senator Doug Finley at the War Museum. Proceeds went to the Scottish Society of Ottawa.
By Paul Wells - Friday, June 15, 2012 at 12:27 PM - 0 Comments
Dalton McGuinty was the very picture of grim determination this morning at Queen’s Park as the Ontario premier explained why an election right now would be a disaster for Ontario.
“An election right now,” he said, “would threaten our economic recovery.”
“If we receive a downgrade because we’re plunged into an election less than a year after the last one,” he warned, interest rates will go up and vital programs will become more expensive and harder to finance.
An election, he said in a half-dozen ways, would be just an awful thing. But he may call one next week.
This is going to be a tricky sell. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 9:32 AM - 66 Comments
Stephen Harper, August 2. Harper didn’t stop there, putting in a campaign plug for Ontario’s provincial Conservatives in this fall’s election. ”We started cleaning up the left-wing mess federally in this area. Rob’s doing it municipally. And now we’ve got to complete the hat trick and do it provincially as well.”
Stephen Harper, last Friday. You know I don’t analyse elections, and I don’t get involved in provincial elections. Obviously we congratulate Premier McGuinty on his win. Our governments have worked well during the challenges of the past two or three years, and I look forward to continuing to work with Premier McGuinty’s government.
By Richard Warnica - Friday, October 7, 2011 at 2:34 PM - 8 Comments
With little to no financial wiggle room, Ontarians shouldn’t hope for much from McGuinty
The Twitterati in my home province of Alberta made a lot of hay this week over a headline in The Globe and Mail that presented the election of Alison Redford, a centrist former justice minister and now provincial premier, as an evolutionary step forward for the knuckle draggers of the Prairie politic. “Alberta steps into the present,” the headline read, to which the easily offended replied, “So where were we before, the past?” Albertans have an almost reflexive sensitivity to criticism from the East. It’s a bit like what the rest of Canada feels for the U.S., a mix of smug superiority and desperation to be noticed. But Albertans should relax. Ontarians seem to think worse of each other than of anybody else. And their politics, well, they’re nothing to brag about.
Take last night’s election. It was, in many ways, an odd campaign. In a province where health care eats up $46 billion a year, more ink was spilled on cross-dressing than on doctors’ salaries. Indeed, it seemed at times as if the parties had made a pact to avoid dealing with most of what a provincial government actually does. Health care? Untouchable. Education? Just keep the kissing booths out and we’re fine. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Friday, October 7, 2011 at 12:14 AM - 58 Comments
“Admit it,” a Liberal campaign guy said to me at the Château Laurier while those last few seats were see-sawing back and forth, “If I had told you six months ago that we’d be on the cusp of a majority tonight, would you have believed me?”
Nope. Six months ago I’d have said Dalton McGuinty was toast with a stake through his heart. Or whatever your preferred mixed doom metaphor is. The Liberal has run a doughy, amorphous government, strong on primary schooling in my opinion, but lackluster with the occasional big mess elsewhere. Most Ontarians couldn’t pick Conservative Tim Hudak or New Democrat Andrea Horwath out of a police lineup but they figured surely anybody had to be better than this boyo.
That changed. McGuinty took a licking but he keeps on ticking. His party lost 18 seats. Eleven go to the Progressive Conservatives, seven to the NDP. Reporters get super-excited when it’s unclear whether a government will hold a majority of seats, but even if he falls one short, at 53, McGuinty is close enough and the affinities between his rivals so few that he’ll be able to govern comfortably for quite a while. He’s already outlasted Mike Harris and David Peterson; he’ll have had the job for about a decade before he has to decide whether he wants to try a fourth time. No, I don’t expect him to. But he’s already proved surprising. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 7, 2011 at 12:00 AM - 7 Comments
Ontario’s unlikely premier now ranks among the most successful politicians of his generation
Twelve years ago, after an underwhelming first provincial campaign as Liberal leader, Dalton McGuinty’s future was in some doubt. The columnist in McGuinty’s hometown paper, the Ottawa Citizen, duly wondered if he was a lost cause.
“Should the Liberals keep Dalton McGuinty as leader? Now that the dust is starting to settle on his mediocre election campaign, it’s a question they are going to have to ask. The quick and easy answer is that there’s no one better on the horizon so Dalton’s the man. One can imagine the positive reception this idea receives among Tories. They’d like to see McGuinty keep the job until mandatory retirement age of 65. What better way to assure another 50-year Tory reign?”
By Nicholas Köhler - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 67 Comments
His enemies roused, his brother a liability, Canada’s toughest mayor comes undone
The Saturday after the worst week in Rob Ford’s political life, the mayor of Toronto and his councillor brother Doug attended the inaugural game of Toronto’s new women’s lingerie football team, the Toronto Triumph, in which players wear bras, hot pants, garters and shoulder pads, and for which Doug’s daughter Krista is captain. “How these puppies are going to stay in place beats me,” Krista, in her early 20s, wrote before the game on Twitter, an apparent reference to her breasts. “All I care about is: not missing a single tackle & leaving it all.”
The Triumph lost badly, 48-14, to the Tampa Bay Breeze. For the Fords, the losses did not end there. Bad news has dogged them for weeks, a situation so intriguing to many Torontonians that it often pushes Ontario’s provincial elections off the city’s front pages. Much of that fascination has to do with the intense culture war under way between the Fords and Toronto’s downtown elite. If Krista’s LFL—the Lingerie Football League—is the most powerful symbol of the conflict, it is by no means the only one. No politician in recent Canadian history has had as polarizing an effect as Mayor Ford and his brother Doug, generating an industry of Tweedledum and Tweedledee caricatures and promoting a level of civic engagement at city hall not seen in years.
Ford, who secured an improbable election win by promising to deliver a stripped-down Toronto—one free of graffiti, a Toronto of roads, perhaps some police, lower taxes and little else—has been stopped in his tracks by the city’s old order. His story is a morality tale that plays more like farce. It would be funny if it were not such a powerful lesson in the staying power of civic vested interests and the Sisyphean challenge of changing a city.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 22 Comments
In the session ahead, the PM needs to remember that his mandate ‘has a big old fence around it’
In the early morning hours of May 3, with the ballots almost all counted, he basked in a Conservative majority. The Liberal Party of Canada, his nemesis, was in shambles. The Bloc Québécois was decimated. If the world seemed then to have tilted in Stephen Harper’s direction, his political situation has become only more advantageous since.
The NDP, though now the official Opposition, has lost its uniquely popular leader, removing Harper’s primary challenger from the House of Commons. What’s more, with Progressive Conservatives mounting serious challenges in Ontario and Manitoba, Harper might awake one day next month to find that every single province west of Quebec is led by a right-of-centre government—a resounding endorsement of the Prime Minister’s twin assertions that “Conservative values are Canadian values” and that “the Conservative party is Canada’s party.”
But if it is to be Stephen Harper’s world, what will Stephen Harper do with it? Perhaps only as much as he said he would do. “The challenge will be getting the balance right and not overreaching,” says Jim Armour, who once served as Harper’s director of communications. “If the Prime Minister goes too big or tries to go too fast, then he risks unifying the opposition and attracting the media’s attention. If, on the other hand, he continues with the ‘stick-to-the script,’ ‘no-surprises’ approach to governing that he’s taken for the past five years, then he’ll be fine. As with all things—even once-in-a-lifetime political opportunities—the key is moderation.”
By Charlie Gillis - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 9:45 AM - 3 Comments
Mostly Liberal supporters shell out to get heard above the din
Outsiders have never been terribly welcome in Canadian election campaigns. In federal votes, the 95 per cent of us who don’t belong to registered parties face a bulwark of laws restricting third-party campaign spending—rules rooted in the fear that, left unguarded, democracy will be sold off to the highest bidder. This theory has been an article of faith among left-wingers since the early 2000s, when a conservative activist named Stephen Harper waged a court battle against the limits, to the delight of Bay Street’s heavy hitters.
The Supreme Court of Canada ultimately upheld federal third-party spending limits. But few provinces have strong limits of their own. And if Ontario’s current election campaign is any guide, fears of big business stealing elections for conservative parties may have been laughably misplaced. As of last week, all six third-party advertisers registered with the province’s election watchdog were either labour organizations or coalitions who have in the past run attack ads against Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. Meantime, an array of environmentalists, NGOs and green entrepreneurs have joined forces in hopes of saving the province’s two-year-old Green Energy Act, with plans for unprecedented forays into the ground-level campaign. Leaders of the ad hoc group deny they are acting for or against specific candidates or parties. But Hudak is the only leader committed to undoing the act’s key provisions.
The Tories might have seen this coming. Four years ago, they felt the full force of a labour-funded coalition called Working Families, which took advantage of Ontario’s loose laws on third-party advertisers by unleashing more than $1 million worth of anti-Conservative attack ads that helped propel Premier Dalton McGuinty to victory. The Tories later complained to the province’s chief electoral officer, claiming the group was a front for the Liberals. An investigation indeed revealed ties between Working Families and Grit campaign director Don Guy. But the probe found no evidence that the group was outright controlled by the party.
By Andrew Coyne - Monday, September 19, 2011 at 10:20 AM - 6 Comments
The election talk in Ontario over “foreign workers” has reached a new level of “huh?”
Every now and then the province of Ontario takes leave of its collective senses. Grown men jump at shadows. House cats are conjured into dragons. For a time it seems as if the only thought on anyone’s mind is the length of their own toenails. We call these periods “elections.”
Just now this province of 13 million souls is preoccupied with a vast and far-reaching proposal on the part of the governing Liberals to give every new job that comes up to a foreign worker. You read that right: if the Liberals are re-elected, they will make the province’s unemployed sit at home—I believe the slogan is “Ontarians need not apply”—presumably until the supply of foreign workers is exhausted. Indeed, so determined are the Liberals to see these itinerant labourers take over the province that they are actually paying employers to hire them: $10,000 a job.
Quite why the Liberals should wish to do this is unclear, but I have it on no less authority than the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. The party has been blanketing the province with advertisements to that effect, while its leader, Tim Hudak, hammers the point home at every opportunity.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 12, 2011 at 10:01 AM - 47 Comments
Adam Radwanski watches Jason Kenney watching Tim Hudak.
On Thursday, federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney – the point man for federal Conservative efforts to reach out to new Canadians – used much milder language than Mr. Hudak in expressing concern about Mr. McGuinty’s promise. The previous night, at a rally, Mr. Kenney applauded Mr. Hudak’s line about “foreign workers.” But glancing around him, he looked slightly uncomfortable as he did so.
Dalton McGuinty thinks Tim Hudak should apologize for his language.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 26 Comments
Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro imparts his feelings on the Ontario election campaign.
More than that, however, Mr. Del Mastro says it harkens back to the early 1990s when Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae was Ontario’s NDP premier. He brought in employment equity legislation to encourage the hiring of women and visible minorities. “My opportunities were severely restricted by legislation that was supposed to be creating equality,” Mr. Del Mastro said. “I was in my early 20s and thought how dare they create an entirely discriminatory policy that was going to affect my future.”
As a “young white male” at the time, Mr. Del Mastro said jobs were few and far between as a result. “And here we go again,” he said.
The issue in question—considered here by the Globe—is an Ontario Liberal proposal to create a tax credit for businesses that hire immigrants for jobs in professions such as “accounting, law, engineering and architecture.”
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, August 15, 2011 at 8:59 AM - 5 Comments
Laureen Harper… has gone on an annual summer hike for a few
Laureen Harper has gone on an annual summer hike for a few years now. It started off as a solo venture, plus the mandatory RCMP detachment, but soon blossomed into a group event that includes women such as Minister of Public Works Rona Ambrose. This year the group went to the Yukon, for a trek through Tombstone Territorial Park. Mrs. Harper noted, “It never got dark so we could hike until 11:00 at night.” Last year the group had to scare off bears. No bears this year, but Mrs. Harper says there was other company. “We did run into lots of hoary marmots [large ground squirrels]. The valley bottom was very boggy so we had to walk up on the mountain ridges, and the marmots would hike along with us for a while.”
By Paul Wells - Friday, August 12, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 56 Comments
Canada’s conservatives are more united than ever
They are incorrigible, these Harper Conservatives. Sooner or later, they’ll wind up right in your own backyard.
Mr. Robert Ford, of the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, Ont., made that startling discovery on Aug. 2, when 700 federal Conservatives showed up for a garden party on his mother’s property. To Ford’s apparent surprise, one of his guests was Stephen Harper.
Ford recovered quickly, for he is the mayor of Toronto and these folks were, in fact, his invited guests. “My new fishing buddy,” Ford called Harper. They swapped tales about Ford’s prowess in landing a 39-cm smallmouth bass. Harper took the microphone and spoke briefly. He said Ford didn’t live up to his reputation because he refused to kill and eat the fish, although, to be honest, Ford never really struck me as a seafood lover. Harper said Ford did “something very important” by “cleaning up the NDP mess here in Toronto.” Since Harper is, by his account, cleaning up “the left-wing mess federally,” it was up to Ontarians to “complete the hat trick” by electing Conservative Tim Hudak as the province’s new premier this fall.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 4:49 PM - 7 Comments
The Prime Minister’s Office would like Conservative MPs to refrain from bringing too much attention upon themselves as it pertains to this year’s provincial elections.
“During these elections you may be called upon by a provincial candidate to assist them in their election. Please keep in mind that we do not want the federal government to become a story in any of these elections,” he warned….
The memo notes that, “In provinces where there is only one ‘conservative’ option, we may all make efforts as individuals on private time to assist the election of that option — provided that we comply with this policy.”
One might wonder whether Stephen Harper, with his comments at Rob Ford’s barbeque, already violated this rule about becoming the story.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, June 17, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 3 Comments
A special performance by Raffi…
In honour of her birthday last week, Green Leader
A special performance by Raffi
In honour of her birthday last week, Green Leader Elizabeth May had Happy Birthday sung to her by famous children’s singer Raffi Cavoukian. Raffi, who was in Ottawa to visit May and see her in action as a new MP, lives in her B.C. riding. The singer and MP met when May hosted an Ottawa TV show, and they have been friends ever since. Raffi had an album out at the time called Evergreen Everblue. The 20th anniversary edition of that album was recently released with two new songs about environmental sustainability, Cool It and Sustainable. Raffi, known for such classics as Bananaphone and Down By the Bay, has not done any new children’s songs for nine years.
That Tory blue is looking fabulous
At the recent Tory convention, party members voted to support any religious organization’s right to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Meanwhile, a group of gay Conservatives at the convention, held at the Ottawa Westin, hosted “The Fabulous Blue Tent,” a hospitality suite open to all. One of the organizers, Jamie Ellerton, a former aide to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and now a top aide to Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, rented special pink and blue LED lighting for the occasion and hired hip electronic DJ Trevor Walker from Ottawa’s eclectic Mercury Lounge. The party went on until 3 a.m. Ministers in attendance included Kenney and John Baird. Among the Conservative MPs were Patrick Brown, Rick Dykstra and newly elected Toronto Tory Ted Opitz (who beat Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj by 26 votes in a recount). One Tory attendee quipped: “The Conservatives have made progress clearly by upgrading from a closet to a ‘fabulous blue tent.’ And if you keep throwing fabulous parties they have got to love you.”
By Colby Cosh - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 5:37 AM - 68 Comments
I want that headline understood: I don’t mean to say the Ontario PC leader has won the actual argument about the usefulness of assigning provincial inmates to “mandatory” work gangs so that they can pick up litter and clean up graffiti until they become model citizens. The truth, which advocates of liberal penology seem unable to put into plain English, is that you can make labour “mandatory” only by the use of one or more large individuals armed with whips, clubs, or possibly, in our enlightened times, tasers.
We cannot hold hostage privileges that prisoners already enjoy by right as a consequence of court decisions. The only foreseeable alternative to having an overseer prepared to inflict pain upon chain-gang inmates on the spot would consist of equal or worse tortures and deprivations, administered out of sight and in cold blood. Some inmates will refuse outdoor work on principle even if it is made “mandatory” by the stroke of a ministerial pen. Are we going to make such objectors serve their sentences in solitary confinement? Or does Hudak propose to treat Ontarians to the sight of prisoners being beaten and terrorized in the streets? Chain gangs, one notices, have historically been features of morally benumbed societies in which law-abiding citizens were quite prepared to contemplate such Roman spectacles.
Hey, I don’t know Ontario all that well, but I can’t imagine very much of it fits that description. I don’t think Hudak is very serious about this chain-gang idea as such. But look at what he accomplishes by bringing it forward: he has stampeded editorial boards and Liberal worthies like James Morton and Warren Kinsella into arguing against him. And what argument do they use? Why, that provincial prisoners are dangerous and can’t be trusted to perform manual work, even under close supervision, in our communities!
This immediately calls attention to the fact that provincial prisoners are, by definition, those who have received sentences of less than two years’ imprisonment. “Why would a convict proven and agreed to be ‘dangerous’ be in provincial custody in the first place?”, asks the Ontario voter: no answer arrives from Crown prosecutors, from judges, or from an explicitly punishment-averse corrections establishment. “And where have these liberal concern trolls been for the past forty years while the federal penal system, which has charge of the really dangerous criminals, has explicitly promoted ‘community release’ and built a bunch of zero-security prisons*?”
Thus is the magic lamp of law-and-order sentiment rubbed, and thousands of conservative-voting genies roil forth. Hudak has certainly learned a trick or two from Stephen Harper. At every election Harper invents pretexts to make the media angry at him, and the media take the bait, not realizing that all Harper wants is the fight—carried on in front of an audience that would happily take Pol Pot’s or John Wayne Gacy’s side against the media as such (that is, as an amorphous blob ruled by a liberal hive-intelligence). All Hudak wants here is a fight against advocates of rehabilitation and humanitarianism in prisons, whose moral standing is, for better or worse, little higher than that of us journalists.
*[As measured by the raw numbers of escapes, of course, the "security" level of federal prisons has become all but perfect in recent decades, improving on the margin even since the year 2000. Prison escapes were a fairly significant preoccupation of the news apparatus in my youth; today they are all but unheard of.]
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, February 14, 2011 at 10:29 AM - 3 Comments
For the second year, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami presented A Taste of the Arctic, this time in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Canada. While there were long lineups for the muskox, halibut and shrimp stations, the one featuring seal meat was less popular. Evan Solomon, host of CBC’s Power & Politics, claimed the seal meat was delicious, if hard to taste because of the heavy sauce. ITK president Mary Simon arrived with her leg in a cast. (Ottawa is plagued with leg injuries: not only is Treasury Board President Stockwell Day in a cast, Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn injured his leg in a snowmobile accident.)
The keynote speaker for Taste of the Arctic was former governor general Michaëlle Jean, now a UNESCO special envoy to Haiti. This was Jean’s first official event since stepping down as GG. Jean, who has bought a house in Ottawa, is happy she was able to stay there for work as it allows her daughter to continue at her school and keep her same friends. Also in attendance was Nick Javor of Tim Hortons, who noted that the company recently opened three kiosks (offering a limited menu) in Nunavut.
The entertainment included Inuk singer Elisapie Isaac. During Isaac’s set, which closed the evening, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq starting rocking out on the dance floor and got people moving. Laureen Harper was so impressed with the singer she quipped she was going to “lobby” Heritage Minister James Moore to have Isaac perform for Canada Day on Parliament Hill. Mrs. Harper joked she might have to hire a professional lobbyist because last year she tried to recommend a band she saw in a bar but nothing happened.
How can I be cool if…
Last week, Liberal MP Massimo Pacetti received his new BlackBerry Torch, the latest handheld device to offer both a keypad and touch-screen option. Pacetti was told by the Commons telecommunications department he was the first MP to get the Torch, which made him feel pretty hip—until he was also told senators had been getting Torches since the end of 2010.
Liberal conspiracy theory
There was much grumbling by Liberals on the Hill when news hit that Rocco Rossi, the former national director of the Liberal party who helped recruit Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff into federal politics, was going to run provincially for Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives in Ontario. At the same time, federal Liberals say quietly that should the Ontario Liberals be defeated before the next federal election it would bode well for them because Ontario would be looking to balance provincial and federal power. Was Rossi’s move all part of some secret plan?
In the last election, Liberal MP Justin Trudeau took the riding of Papineau from Bloc MP Vivian Barbot. With election fever in the air, Barbot, who still works on the Hill for her party, says she plans to go for round two against Trudeau, but only if there’s an election before she turns 70 on July 7.
Harper’s card to Helena
Officials in the PMO say that when they told Stephen Harper that Helena Guergis and Rahim Jaffer had a baby, the PM instructed his staff to send a card, which they did, sometime in December. (A recent item in Capital Diary had Jaffer reporting he did not get any congratulatory message from the PM.) Jaffer explains that when he and Helena collected items, including flowers from Green party Leader Elizabeth May from Guergis’s Hill office on Jan. 18 (the day Capital Diary went to press), there was no card from the PM, but that one arrived a few days later. It was much appreciated, he says. Apparently there are no hard feelings: his wife, he notes, has put out signals she would be willing to come back to the Conservative party if the PM invited her.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 11:37 AM - 6 Comments
If the government won’t answer your requests in Question Period, leave.
Frustrated by Premier Dalton McGuinty’s refusal to hold public hearings on the controversial 13 per cent HST, the 25-member Progressive Conservative caucus stormed out of the Legislature’s daily question period today shortly after it began.
“You have lost touch,” Conservative Leader Tim Hudak told McGuinty before the stunt took place, accusing the Liberals of being afraid of a public backlash over the tax. ”If Premier McGuinty is going to show that level of contempt for taxpayers by forcing through the largest sales tax grab in the history of this province without any kind of public hearings . . . we see no point in proceeding with question period today.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 29, 2009 at 1:59 PM - 16 Comments
While Elliott coped well with defeat, her husband, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, appeared bitter during the crowded celebration at a downtown pub, astonishing Tories with his demeanour. Three sources told the Star that Flaherty told Tory MPP Ernie Hardeman (Oxford) to “f— off” because he hadn’t supported Elliott.