Archive | Canadian Politics

John Tory defends his record after third year as mayor

Posted on 03 November 2017 by admin

Even Tory’s detractors agree he’s restored stability at city hall, which has led to high approval ratings in opinion polls on the eve of his third anniversary of his election win in 2014.

While campaigning for the job of running Canada’s largest city, Mayor John Tory promised to restore stability at city hall after the tumultuous term of his predecessor Rob Ford.

Even Tory’s detractors agree he’s accomplished that, and as a result has maintained high approval ratings in public opinion polls.

But beyond his calming influence, what has John Howard Tory, multimillionaire lawyer, businessman, and former provincial Progressive Conservative leader, accomplished since he became 65th mayor of Toronto.

What about the other promises to tackle traffic congestion and expand transit, cornerstones of his 2014 election campaign. Does it take any less time to cross the city? Has traffic gotten better, or has it gotten worse?

“I like to think it’s better, I have people tell me anecdotally, that it’s better,” Tory says in an interview to mark the third anniversary of his Oct. 27, 2014 election.

Then Tory, as is his custom, qualifies his answer.

Measuring progress is difficult, he admits, though it will get easier with recently installed Bluetooth technology that monitors traffic speed on major downtown streets.

“I will say with certainty, that if we hadn’t done all the things that we’ve done, and that we’re doing, then it would be much worse, because we have a growing city.”

Those things include towing and ticket blitzes for downtown lane blockers, a pilot project using paid duty police officers to direct traffic at major intersections, to be replaced soon with full-time “traffic wardens.” Next month, Tory will meet with representatives of utility companies asking them to confine non-emergency work to off-peak hours.

On the transit file, Tory remains committed to creating a transit line called SmartTrack. Although, the current configuration is nothing like the original proposal made during the 2014 election campaign. The original proposal has been reduced to six proposed stations added to the GO train network in Toronto and an LRT line toward the airport.

During the campaign, Tory promised it would be a surface rail subway “that moves the most people in the shortest time across the entire city in seven years.” Only recently has he begun to admit seven years was an overly ambitious target.

“It may not end up being seven,” he said last week sitting in his office overlooking Nathan Phillips Square. “I mean, it’s going to be, I’m saying in the early 2020s.”

And while Torontonians might not see evidence, Tory insists progress is being made on the plan, which involves Metrolinx electrifying existing GO train tracks. Last week, there were public meetings on the design of stations, and next spring, a request for proposals will be issued, he said.

“There’s stuff happening, and it’s going to get done.”

Last week, Tory held a series of sit down media interviews wearing a dark suit, chartreuse tie, red and purple argyle socks and polished black shoes.

Sunday marked the one-year countdown to next year’s municipal election on Oct. 22 when Tory will seek re-election. So far, there is only one other major declared challenger: former city councillor Doug Ford, whom Tory beat in 2014.

Some pundits are already sizing up the campaign ahead — though it doesn’t officially start until next May — and suggest Tory’s weakness is that he lacks a bold vision for Toronto.

“I would say to people there is a vision that’s connected to a 15-year network transit plan that’s been approved by city council, we’ve never had one before,” he said, bristling slightly.

“People may say well that sounds dull, well not to me.”

And he touts his role as a champion of the tech, and film and TV sector, as further evidence.

“Nobody will call that visionary, but if you said in terms of my thinking ahead, to the future of the Toronto economy and making sure that we’ll have the new jobs that will last into the future — I am.”

He’s also proud of his record on affordable housing, pushing the province and federal governments for funding, and supporting council-set goals of building between 1,200 and 1,500 units — though housing activists challenge whether they’re affordable enough for people who need them most.

Council critics on the left credit Tory with demonstrating leadership in areas one might not expect from a politician with a Conservative pedigree: his backing of safe injection sites and the Bloor St. bikes lanes, for example.

But those same critics say Tory falls short because he won’t raise property taxes above the rate of inflation to make the necessary investments in areas that he says he cares about.

There will be no budging in the upcoming 2018 budget debate on that 2014 election pledge.

“The government is talking about stress testing people on their mortgages, in light of rising interest rates, why don’t we stress test as well what would happen to a lot seniors and young people if we started property taxes up by 7 or 8 per cent,” Tory said in response.

Instead, Tory suggests much can happen with the gas tax revenue which Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne ponied up after killing Tory and council-backed road tolls, and the infrastructure levy, which he introduced in 2015. The 0.5 per cent property tax surcharge kicked in this year and will compound to 2.5 per cent over five years.

The mayor says he isn’t thinking about what other tax measures the city should consider in the future.

“We still have sort of a delta that we’re going to have to speak to but at this stage, I’m not consumed with that because we don’t need the money at this moment.”

Looking ahead to the final year of this term, Tory insists he is not about to play it safe with a do-nothing agenda.

“They grossly underestimate me,” he says of critics who suggest otherwise. “We have tons to do just look at the agenda.” He cites upcoming transit reports, the 2018 budget and a proposed short-term rental bylaw to regulate Airbnb.

“I’m going to fully occupy myself between now and the campaign time doing my job … moving transit, housing, poverty reduction forward.”

Tory, 63, also plans to continue showing up at city hall at 6:30 a.m., after sleeping for five-and-a-half hours, and admits while he doesn’t have the best work/life balance, it’s not “unhealthy.”

He credits wife Barb Hackett for being so “understanding,” such as putting up with his punishing schedule that saw him work 30 days straight in September. He vows to resume regular workouts with a personal trainer and to spend more time with his grandchildren.


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The more equivocal the answers, the more persistent the questions for Jagmeet Singh

Posted on 03 November 2017 by admin

Politics is always a balancing act and some have suggested Jagmeet Singh is being unfairly singled out because he is Sikh. But that doesn’t mean a leader can dodge questions about positions he has taken in the past.

For Canadian politicians visiting India, it is a rite of passage: Circumambulating the Golden Temple to honour the holiest site in Sikhdom.

Prime ministers, cabinet ministers, premiers — and anyone aspiring to those jobs — knows the importance to voters back in Canada of being photographed on the temple grounds in Amritsar, wearing a head-covering out of respect for the faithful.

But it won’t be happening anytime soon for Jagmeet Singh — neither praying, nor paying his respects. That’s because the new NDP leader, who could one day be Canada’s first turbaned prime minister, was refused a visa when trying to visit India in 2013.

Back then, as an Ontario MPP, Singh was told (unofficially) that he’d been turned down after criticizing India’s treatment of minority groups. Four years later, fresh from winning this month’s NDP leadership convention, he is once again a controversial figure in India — and here at home among some Indo-Canadians.

Singh’s pointed comments about a Sikh right to self-determination sparked protests from Indian politicians leery of local separatists who still dream of carving out an independent Khalistan in the Punjab.

“It is better you confine your political views to Canada and don’t create any problem for Sikhs in India,” former Punjabi parliamentarian Tarlochan Singh told the Hindustan Times.

Singh’s equivocations about the perpetrators of the 1985 Air India bombing have also raised eyebrows among the families of passengers who perished in the deadliest terrorist incident in Canadian history.

Asked in a CBC interview if he condemned those who still honour the accused mastermind as a martyr — images of the late Talwinder Singh Parmar still pop up in some Sikh temples and commemorations — the NDP leader chose his words carefully. Or perhaps carelessly.

While condemning the “heinous” violence, he hedged: “I don’t know who’s responsible (for the attack) but I think we need to find out who’s responsible.”

Given that most of the 329 on board were Canadian citizens, and that Parmar was identified in court and by an inquiry as the instigator of the attack, the analogy has been drawn to an American politician withholding judgment against Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks.

Bal Gulpta, chair of the Air India 182 Families’ Association, complained that Singh “should have disowned the glorification of terrorism, even suspected terrorism or promoters of terrorism.”

Supriya Dwivedi, a morning talk radio host who had family friends aboard the ill-fated flight, commented that Singh “needs to be able to better answer these sorts of questions.”

No Canadian politician wants to be seen as soft on terrorism, given the current climate. Nor does any leader want to be seen as excessively hard on self-determination, given Quebec’s historical environment.

Politics is always a balancing act and some have suggested Singh is being unfairly singled out because he is Sikh. But that doesn’t mean a national leader can dodge sensitive questions about public positions he has — or hasn’t — taken in the past.

During his time in the Ontario legislature, MPPs passed frequent resolutions marking historical massacres and expressing solidarity with victims around the world. Singh proposed a resolution in 2016 condemning an Indian “genocide” during anti-Sikh riots in 1984 (it was defeated, but a similar resolution passed the next year).

World history isn’t part of the legislature’s provincial mandate, but it pays off with domestic voters. MPPs can pronounce on foreign affairs with impunity.

Now that Singh has moved from the relative obscurity of Queen’s Park to the rarefied atmosphere of Parliament Hill, he can expect more scrutiny.

The Air India disaster never got the attention it deserved because of a double standard that downplayed the deaths of so many Indo-Canadians. It would be unfair to apply another double standard — making Singh pay a special price for that collective inattention — but the more equivocal his answers, the more persistent the questions will become.

Similarly, the self-determination issue will remain a perennial in Canadian politics given Quebec’s sovereignty movement, just as Catalonia has returned to the Spanish agenda, and Khalistan is still a sore point in India, which has spent decades fending off separatist movements all along its northeastern and northwestern borders.

Like any politician who tries to avoid giving offence, Singh may only end up offending more people along the way. That said — and no matter what he leaves unsaid — if the NDP leader ever becomes prime minister, he may yet get that Indian visa.


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Quebec women who wear niqab worry about how Bill 62 will affect daily life

Posted on 25 October 2017 by admin

Women like Fatima Ahmad say the bill could technically stop them from attending university and will disrupt their use of public transit.

MONTREAL—Warda Naili says the first time she donned a niqab six years ago, it became a part of her.

The Quebec woman, a convert to Islam, said she decided to cover her face out of a desire to practice her faith more authentically and to protect her modesty.

And in an image driven society, she found it liberating that people would now have to connect with her based on who she was, not what she looked like.

“My interpretation — and it’s very personal — is that my niqab is my portable curtain,” Naili, 34, said in an interview near her home in Montreal.

“I can go everywhere and be reached, and reach people as I want.”

Since its adoption on Wednesday, the Quebec government’s religious neutrality bill has been the subject of heated debate.

In light of this, the government will publish the rules on how it will be applied, the province’s justice minister said Sunday.

Stéphanie Vallée said the decision to publish the document, which was originally intended only for administrators, was made in order to fully inform the public on the controversial legislation.

In a lengthy interview with The Canadian Press, Vallée said she was stunned by the intense reaction to Bill 62, which requires anyone giving or receiving state services to do so with an uncovered face.

On Sunday, Vallée called for calm and stressed the need to “reposition the law in its context.”

She noted that most members of Quebec’s legislature agree with the principle behind the bill.

“I must admit that the interpretation we’ve heard is quite particular, because we were concerned throughout the bill with preserving balance and especially preserving individual freedoms,” she said.

Fatima Ahmad, a 21-year-old Montreal university student, said she felt compelled to begin wearing the niqab just over a year ago, during the month of Ramadan.

“I realized it was something I wanted to do, and I loved it,” she said. “It’s part of my devotion towards God and it also deals with modesty.”

The legislation forbids anyone from receiving or giving a public service with their face covered.

That includes city services such as public transit.

While the law does not mention a particular religion, many say it unfairly targets Muslim women who wear religious face coverings.

Justin Trudeau is weighing in further on the Quebec law banning people from covering their faces while receiving public services. The prime minister says it is not the role of government to tell women what they can or can’t wear. (The Canadian Press)

Ahmad says the bill could technically stop her from attending university, although she’s hoping that won’t happen since most of the faculty members she’s spoken to have said they’ll support her.

She also takes buses and the subway to get around, both to school and social engagements.

In the future, she says she expects to have to stay home more often.

Naili, for her part, says she already stays home most of the time to avoid the discrimination she faces on the street.

The exception is hospitals, which she says she must visit on a regular basis for health problems.

She says she doesn’t see how the law can claim to be helping women when it will make her depend on her husband for rides and force her to change what she wears.

“I want to control who I give the permission to access my body,” she said. “I think every woman, and every person, should have this right.”

Both Naili and Ahmad say they made the choice to wear the niqab on their own, based on the way they interpret their religion.

But having made the choice, neither feel they can just remove the garment, other than when necessary for identification purposes.

“It’s something very personal to me, it’s part of who I am, my identity,” Ahmad said. “It’s not something I can just take off to receive a public service.”

The political opposition has said the law doesn’t go far enough, while members of the Islamic community said it violates the right of Muslim women right to express their religion as they see fit.

Some city leaders, including Montreal’s mayor, have said they’ll resist applying it to city services.

But not all women who’ve worn niqabs feel positively about them.

Ensaf Haidar, the wife of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, says she had to wear the niqab in Saudi Arabia at times because it was mandatory.

She feels niqabs are a way of erasing women from public view and says she doesn’t believe they have a place in Canada or Quebec.

“When the niqab is there, the woman is absent,” she said in a phone interview. “She’s like a ghost.”

Haidar lives in Sherbrooke, Que. with her three children as she fights for the release of her husband, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for his criticism of Saudi clerics.

She says she doesn’t believe wearing the niqab can be a choice and hopes to see it gone from Canada one day.

“We came here to be free,” Haidar said. “We’re here because there are a lot of things we can’t do in our country.”

“I am here and I am free and I am me.”


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Trudeau names former Ontario premier Bob Rae as special envoy to Burma

Posted on 25 October 2017 by admin

He will be advising Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Burma, where nearly 60,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled since late August.

OTTAWA—Former Ontario premier Bob Rae has been named a special envoy to Burma.

He will be advising Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the southeast Asian country.

Nearly 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Burma’s Rakhine state since late August to escape persecution that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.

Rae’s appointment was announced this morning by the prime minister.

The appointment comes as UN humanitarian officials, high-level government envoys and advocacy groups hold a one-day conference aimed at drumming up funds to help refugees in Bangladesh.

In addition to Rae’s appointment, the federal Liberals announced Canada will provide an additional $12 million in humanitarian assistance, bringing the total of Canada’s financial commitment to $25 million so far.

“Canada is deeply concerned about the urgent humanitarian and security crisis in Myanmar’s (Burma’s) Rakhine state, particularly the brutal persecution of the Rohingya Muslim people,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“I am confident that Bob Rae’s vast experience as a lawyer, adviser, negotiator, arbitrator and public servant will help Canada work more effectively with Myanmar and other international partners to chart a path towards lasting peace and reconciliation.”

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Liberals accused of tax grab by clawing back disability credit for diabetics

Posted on 25 October 2017 by admin

Diabetes Canada joined Conservative politicians to denounce what they say is a clawback of a disability tax credit to help diabetics manage a disease that can cost $15,000 annually.

OTTAWA—Health groups joined forces on Sunday with the Conservative opposition to accuse the Liberal government of trying to raise tax revenue on the backs of vulnerable diabetics.

The accusation opened a new front in the ongoing opposition-waged war on government taxation policy, amid the backdrop of the conflict-of-interest controversy dogging Finance Minister Bill Morneau over whether he’s properly distanced himself from millions of dollars in private sector assets.

Diabetes Canada was among the groups that joined Conservative politicians to publicly denounce what they say is a clawback of a long-standing disability tax credit to help diabetics manage a disease that can cost the average sufferer $15,000 annually.

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre branded it as one more example of an out-of-touch Liberal government that he characterized as unfairly targeting the hardworking middle-class people it claims to support.

“His tax department tried to tax the employee discounts of waitresses and cashiers. Now his government is targeting vulnerable people suffering with diabetes with thousands of dollars in tax increases,” Poilievre said on Sunday at a Parliament Hill news conference flanked by fellow Conservative critics, a young diabetic constituent and a top official with a leading diabetes advocacy organization.

In May, the revenue department stopped approving a disability tax credit for people with Type 1 diabetes for those who had previously claimed it, he said.

People who need more than 14 hours per week for insulin therapy and had a doctor’s certification previously qualified. But other than citing a spike in applications for the benefit, the government offered no explanation for the change during initial interactions earlier this spring, said Kimberley Hanson of Diabetes Canada.

Thousands of claimants from across Canada who had previously been given the $1,500 annual benefit have been rejected in recent months, but Hanson said she can’t get an exact number from Canadian Revenue Agency and has had to file an Access to Information request to find out.

In recent months, the agency officials and Minister Diane Lebouthillier have for the most part rebuffed their overtures.

“Over the past two months, she’s stopped responding to my messages and answering some of my questions,” Hanson said, referring to one senior department official.

On Saturday, a senior department official reached out to her to reopen dialogue, she said. Poilievre said that only happened because the matter was raised briefly on Friday by the Conservatives during Question Period.

“Applicants are now being denied on the basis that ‘the type of therapy indicated does not meet the 14 hour per week criteria.’ These denials are in contradiction of the certifications provided by licensed medical practitioners and do not appear to be based on evidence,” says an Oct. 3 letter to Lebouthillier, signed by Diabetes Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism and two other organizations.

In an emailed response to The Canadian Press on Sunday evening, a spokesperson for Lebouthillier writes that the “concerns brought up by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and other groups, are worrisome.”

It says the minister has initiated a “five-point plan” that included numerous consultations with “stakeholders” to better understand how the benefit is administered.

It says she wants the agency to improve its data collection and is planning to hire more nurses to work in processing centres to evaluate the claims.

This would help “to ensure that a medical professional is involved in the reviewing of individual’s applications,” said the emailed statement.

This latest complaint about the government’s tax policy comes after the Liberals were forced to reset proposed tax measures after weeks of vocal opposition from small business owners, doctors, farmers and backbench Liberal MPs.

The Canada Revenue Agency was also recently forced to withdraw a notice that targeted employee discounts after it caused an uproar.

“It’s not like I can snap a finger and this disease turns off,” said Madison Ferguson, a constituent of Poilievre’s who first raised it with her MP this summer after her claim was rejected.

She said she has to constantly calculate the effect of what she eats, while monitoring her blood sugar levels as much as four to 10 times a day, using test strips that cost $1.50 to $2 each time.

“It’s quite expensive but it’s needed because without this I wouldn’t be here,” said Ferguson. “So every moment of every day has to be calculated.”


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Jagmeet Singh vows to help Horwath topple Wynne

Posted on 25 October 2017 by admin

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath can count on some major campaign help from her party’s brightest star, Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath can count on some major campaign help from her party’s brightest star.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he will do all he can to ensure Horwath replaces Liberal Kathleen Wynne as Ontario premier after the June 7, 2018 election.

“I’ve committed to supporting the provincial party. I have a personal reason: these are my colleagues, my friends. I also have a vested interest in the benefit of the province and of the country,” Singh said Monday at Queen’s Park where he bade farewell to his former NDP caucus colleagues.

“It’s absolutely clear that the province will be better off with Andrea Horwath as premier and the country will be better off with the New Democratic values of putting people first, of standing up for issues that matter to the lives of people,” he said.

Singh, who resigned as Bramalea-Gore-Malton MPP on Friday, three weeks after winning the federal NDP leadership, said it’s “very special” to be at Queen’s Park.

“This is where my political career began and I’m really honoured to be back here as leader of the federal party,” he said.

“Andrea’s been my mentor. She appointed me deputy leader.”

Horwath expressed delight that Singh will help her party next spring.

“Although he won’t be on the ballot for us, he certainly will be very, very active and prominent in our campaign,” she said.

“Yes, we’ve lost our deputy leader and our MPP from Bramalea-Gore-Malton, but we’ve gained an amazing national NDP leader, who has brought a great amount of excitement . . . .”

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Gas plant emails show McGuinty government in damage-control mode

Posted on 25 October 2017 by admin

Dozens of premier’s office emails seized by OPP in search warrant released at trial of two key McGuinty aides.

A late-night email from then-premier Dalton McGuinty asking if the builder of a cancelled Mississauga power plant was a Liberal donor is one of dozens released at the criminal trial of his two top aides Thursday.

The emails, recovered by Ontario Provincial Police forensics investigators after hard drives were seized in a search warrant, show the McGuinty government in full damage-control mode in 2012 and 2013.

There are references to the wiping of hard drives as “Pete’s Project,” but none of the documents sheds new light on why McGuinty scrapped the Mississauga plant and another in Oakville before the 2011 election.

Many, if not most, of the emails in the 179-page package filed as a Crown exhibit with Justice Timothy Lipson were previously released to a legislative committee probing the cancellations.

The committee had issued a legal order demanding documents on the decisions, as opposition MPPs accused the government of covering up the real reasons when political staff said they had no such records.

The email from McGuinty’s party account to his deputy chief of staff Laura Miller and two other staffers on July 16, 2012, asks about Eastern Power, the spurned builder of the Mississagua plant near Sherway Gardens.

“Did that company contribute to the PCs as well as the OLP?” McGuinty queried, referring to the Ontario Liberal Party.

“Eastern Power contributed to OLP and PCPO,” Miller replied, using the acronym for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

Miller and former McGuinty chief of staff David Livingston are charged with breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system in the alleged wiping of hard drives in the premier’s office before Premier Kathleen Wynne took power in February 2013.

Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.

They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

McGuinty was not a subject of the investigation and has co-operated with police.

The Pete in “Pete’s Project” is a reference to Peter Faist, Miller’s life partner and a computer consultant who was paid $10,000 to clear hard drives in the McGuinty premier’s office.

Peter Wallace, the former head of Ontario’s civil service under McGuinty, testified this week that Livingston requested a special password to clear hard drives of personal information in the premier’s office.

Wallace warned Livingston about the need to retain official documents and told court that hiring an “outsider” for the job was a major departure from standard procedure of using government technicians.

Miller emailed Livingston at least twice in late January 2013 asking if he was making progress in getting the special password.

“Not yet,” he answered on January 30, noting “somebody from IT may stand and watch what we do to make sure nothing was done to contaminate files or programs outside those on the desktops being dealt with. I guess that’s the concern: the fact that having the code gets us access to systems other than our own.”

In another email, dated Aug. 9, 2012, Livingston tells Miller and other staff “I don’t have a strong desire to be email monitor for the Premier’s Office” and instructs them, among other things, that “double-deleted” emails cannot be retrieved.

He added, “nothing is more confidential than talking rather than writing!”

The email package includes several memos to premier’s staff asking if they have any documents to satisfy freedom-of-information requests.

Livingston responded “nothing here” on January 15, 2013, about four weeks before Wynne became premier, to one FOI request for any records from January to October 1 of the previous year on the construction, relocation or other arrangements for the two cancelled gas plants.

He also jokes about double-deletions in an exchange with Miller about a press release from New Democrat MPP Michael Mantha accusing the government of a slow reaction to a killer shopping mall collapse in Elliot Lake.

“Mantha is an absolute asshole,” Miller wrote.

“LOL. This one will never get the double delete,” Livingston replied.

The email package also reveals how Liberal political staff were prepared to manipulate the media after McGuinty, amid a political furore over the gas plants documents, announced his resignation in mid-October 2012.

The night of the announcement, in an apparent attempt to sidetrack reporters from the controversy, McGuinty said he might seek the federal Liberal leadership.

“I think we also leak tomorrow that the premier has been taking calls this weekend and is discussing the leadership with his family with an intention of making a decision early this week,” top advisor Don Guy wrote in an email to Miller and other staff several days late on October 20.

“We need a parallel news-controversy plan also for this week that is as salacious as the bullshit.”

McGuinty has said repeatedly the power plants were cancelled because they were too close to residential areas, while opposition parties insist the decision was to save Liberal seats in Oakville and Mississauga where many residents were opposed to them.

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Kathleen Wynne serves Patrick Brown with libel notice

Posted on 25 October 2017 by admin

Ontario’s Liberal premier has served the PC leader with a notice of libel after he said she was on was on “trial” in the Sudbury byelection bribery case.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has served Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown with a libel notice for claiming she’s on “trial” in the Sudbury byelection bribery case.

Having given Brown the requisite six weeks to apologize for his statement on Sept. 12, the premier’s lawyers served the Tory leader with the legal papers on Friday at his Orillia constituency office.

“You have refused to retract or apologize for those defamatory statements and have made further defamatory statements about Premier Wynne,” lawyers Jack Siegel and Sheldon Inkol of Blaney McMurtry LLP said in a four-page letter.

The notice is the next step toward a defamation suit being filed in court.

It stems from Brown telling a Queen’s Park media scrum that Ontario had “a sitting premier sitting in trial” and that Wynne “stands trial” in Sudbury.

His comment was made the day before the premier testified as a Crown witness in a Sudbury courtroom where Patricia Sorbara, her former deputy chief of staff, and Liberal activist Gerry Lougheed are on trial for alleged Election Act violations, which they deny.

“Your statements above are false and defamatory. The express meaning of these statements is that Premier Wynne was on trial for bribery, which was not the case,” wrote Siegel and Inkol, adding Brown had the “intention of further harming Premier Wynne’s reputation.”

“A further implied meaning of these statements is that Premier Wynne is unethical and was under investigation by the police for a criminal act.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she wanted to take the witness stand Sept. 13 to be as “open as possible” at a bribery trial involving a former top adviser and a Liberal fundraiser. (The Canadian Press)

The lawyers said Wynne, whose legal bills are being paid by the Ontario Liberal Party, could seek an “award of aggravated and punitive damages” if the case proceeds to court.

An unrepentant Brown accused the premier of using the libel notice “to deflect from news that 180 pages of emails and documents were released to the public yesterday during one (of) her two political corruption trials.

“Her Liberal government is also under fire from an explosive report on hydro from the auditor general,” said the Tory chief, a lawyer by training.

“Make no mistake, it is political corruption that’s on trial. And the premier is oblivious to the fact that her party is politically corrupt,” he said.

“It was a sad day for Ontario and truly a sorry spectacle that the premier of our province testified in a trial,” said Brown.

“No one wants to see the premier of our province debased or humiliated. Regrettably Kathleen Wynne compounded this with baseless legal threats against me.

“Her baseless threats will be ignored.”

Speaking to reporters in Windsor, where she was co-hosting the Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Wynne urged Brown to recant.

“An acceptable outcome for me is to have a debate about the truth — whatever the subject we’re talking about — to talk about the facts and to talk about the substance of the issues,” she said.

Two Star reporters and a columnist were in Brown’s Sept. 12 press scrum along with journalists from CBC, Radio-Canada, The Canadian Press, The Globe and Mail, QP Briefing, Global, CP24, CTV, TFO, Queen’s Park Today, Fairchild, CHCH and Newstalk 1010.

Prior to the 2014 election, Wynne launched a $2-million libel action against former Tory leader Tim Hudak and MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) over their comments about her alleged role in former premier Dalton McGuinty’s cancellation of gas-fired power plants in Oakville and Mississauga. That matter was settled out of court in 2015.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has called on Brown to “absolutely” say sorry to Wynne.

“People are human beings. You make a mistake, you apologize. There’s not enough of that in politics,” Horwath said last month.


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Conservatives, NDP call for an ethics probe in finance minister’s holdings

Posted on 20 October 2017 by admin

The parties are calling for an investigation into revelations that Bill Morneau didn’t disclose for two years that he and his wife own a private corporation that controls a villa in France.

OTTAWA—The opposition parties are turning up the heat on Finance Minister Bill Morneau over what he disclosed, or didn’t disclose, to the federal ethics watchdog about his vast financial holdings.

On Monday, the Conservatives called for an investigation into revelations that Morneau didn’t tell the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner for two years that he and his wife own a private corporation that controls a villa in France.

Today, the Tories pushed further, demanding that Morneau publicly divulge everything he has submitted to the ethics commissioner since the Liberals took office in 2015.

The NDP also called on commissioner Mary Dawson to investigate what they see as a perceived conflict by Morneau over pension reform legislation that could benefit the finance minister through shares he owns in human resources consulting giant Morneau-Shepell.

New Democrat ethics critic Nathan Cullen said the revelation that Morneau has not placed his financial holdings into a blind trust is evidence enough that an investigation is needed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has maintained that Morneau has followed all federal ethics rules.


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Top McGuinty aide dismissed concerns about lack of gas plant documents, trial told

Posted on 20 October 2017 by admin

The bombshell testimony from one-time cabinet secretary Peter Wallace, now city manager for Toronto, came Monday at the criminal trial of David Livingston, chief of staff to Dalton McGuinty.

A top Dalton McGuinty aide dismissed concerns the energy minister was ignoring legal orders to disclose documents on the axing of two gas plants as “political bull—-,” says the former head Ontario’s civil service.

The bombshell testimony from one-time cabinet secretary Peter Wallace, now city manager for Toronto, came Monday at the criminal trial of David Livingston, chief of staff to McGuinty during his last months as premier.

It was summer 2012 and McGuinty’s minority Liberals were under intense pressure from an opposition-controlled legislative committee to produce secret emails shedding light on reasons behind the controversial cancellations of the power plants in Oakville and Mississauga before the 2011 election.

There was a “stark contrast” between “voluminous” boxes of documents revealed by energy ministry bureaucrats and the Ontario Power Authority, compared with “no disclosure” from the minister’s office, Wallace told Crown attorney Tom Lemon.

The energy minister at the time was London lawyer Chris Bentley, although Wallace, cabinet secretary from 2011 to 2014, did not mention him by name.

“I was acutely concerned I have a premier’s office and a minister’s office that may not be in compliance with a legally binding order,” Wallace continued, noting he was not sure if the political staff “has not fully understood…or ignored” the demand.

Out of “an abundance of caution,” Wallace said he then had senior legal counsel in the cabinet office prepare three memos he would use to brief Livingston on the government’s responsibilities.

The memos, presented in court, include an explanation of the legislative committee’s legal authority to compel the production of government records and responsibilities to retain proper records on official decisions.

 “I don’t think he found the conversation particularly useful,” Wallace told court as Livingston watched from several metres away with his legal team.

“His language was ‘that’s political bull—-.’”

Wallace described the conversation as “tense.”

Livingston and former deputy chief of staff Laura Miller are charged with breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system in the alleged wiping of hard drives in the McGuinty premier’s office before Premier Kathleen Wynne took power in February 2013.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty. They face up to 10 years in prison. McGuinty was not under investigation and co-operated with police.

Wallace said he and other bureaucrats “know we sent them an enormous number of documents,” making it “not credible” for the minister’s office to deny having emails requested by the committee of MPPs.

Crown prosecutors have not yet produced evidence of any recovered emails in the trial, which is slated to continue into November. Ontario Provincial Police obtained search warrants and seized hard drives used in the premier’s office.

The Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats accused the McGuinty government of cancelling the natural gas-fired power plants, which faced local opposition, at taxpayer expense to save Liberal seats in the 2011 election and allege a cover-up of the real reasons.

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk has reported the cancellations, and moving the plants to the Sarnia and Napanee areas, could cost up to $1.1 billion over 20 years.

McGuinty has previously said the two plants were scrapped because they were located too close to residential areas.

Wallace is back on the witness stand Tuesday.


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