Wednesday, 17 April 2019 12:51

The Ford decimal system

Those who said that the Ford government in Ontario would bring in the kind of tumultuous era that came about when the Mike Harris government ruled the roost in the late 1990’s, might be saying I told you so about now.

Under Harris, the delivery of health, education, social and municipal services in Ontario all saw radical changes. Under Ford, the same thing is happening.

The 14 Local Health Integration Networks LHINS, which fund hospitals, homecare and other health services, are being folded into a single agency. That was not a huge shock to anyone. The LHIN’s, a Liberal government innovation, were never very popular and the Conservative Party said they would eliminate them while on the campaign trail last spring.

The subsequent plan to eliminate dozens of health care and community support agencies in order to set up single service providers for populations of 300,000 or so residents signaled the direction the government intends to take, across the spectrum of provincially delivered services.

This week, the true breadth of change is coming even more clear with the announcements that Public Health Units will be restructured. Thirty-two health units will be reduced to 10, each serving a million or so people.

Then, another shoe fell, when it was announced on Monday that 52 Paramedic Service Providers in the province will be restructured down to 10 as well.

As taxpayers, we should be able to hear from our politicians how these changes, with all the up-front costs they will bring, will improve service delivery and/or save money. Before disrupting operations that have been working to create efficiencies and trying to build effective corporate cultures around delivering public services, we all need to know that there is a coherent plan to actually make things work better.

But we have none of that. All we have is this suspiciously round number, 10. There are 14.8 million people living in Ontario, spread in a very uneven fashion over a 1.07 million square kilometre land mass. Somehow, it makes sense to have 10 (not 9, not 14, not 8) but exactly 10 Public Health organisations and the exact same number of Paramedic Service operators.

It might be a coincidence but it suggests that instead of a thoughtful consultative process aimed at determining the best way to deliver essential paramedic services, and promote and defend public health, a small group of political operatives sat around a table and thought 10 was a nice round number.

The Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, put out a statement on twitter on Tuesday, after the story came out, about the changes to Paramedic Services.

“As we modernize our health care system, we will empower paramedics to improve the already great emergency care they provide. We are working with frontline paramedics and our municipal partners to ensure emergency health services can better meet the needs of Ontario’s communities,” she said

The way this has been announced and the fact that no one involved in paramedic services had any idea this was coming, suggests that Elliott’s claim that “we are working with frontline paramedics and municipal partners” is false. If that claim is false, then why should Ontarians believe that the new emergency system will indeed “better meet the needs of Ontario’s communities”.

Later in the day, Premier Ford seemed to step back from what had been a definitive statement of the governments intent to make these changes, by saying “nothing is written in stone” and “we are looking at all options”. This only serves to indicate that this government is willing to make announcements first, and develop concrete policy later.

I might be proved wrong, but I expect that services to more remote regions of our area, such as Denbigh and Robertsville in Frontenac and Lennox and Addington, will face closure when a single service provider, with no local oversight, is responsible for all of Eastern Ontario, from Cobourg to Cornwall in the South and Pembroke to Huntsville in the North.

The implications of this will hit Frontenac County more than just about any other jurisdiction, since losing the Paramedic Services will cut out over 40% of its operating budget.

What this does, as well, is leave municipal politicians to wonder what comes next. The changes to Paramedic Services and Public Health reveal that the provincial government is more than willing to radically change services, that are financed with both provincial and municipal dollars, and operated by municipalities. And in doing so, they will effectively be taking over the services.

There is an example of how this works, the operation of the OPP. Municipal ratepayers pay for the service through property taxes, but municipal councils have no say in either the operation of the service or how much it costs their ratepayers. All of the control rests with the Province.

It is becoming more and more evident, that the next change that is coming will involve a restructuring of Ontario municipalities themselves.

Should we be getting prepared for the 10 municipalities solution in Ontario?

Published in Editorials

The ever shifting fortunes of Ontario Conservative Party are making the news again, and local MPP Randy Hillier has taken on the role of attacker in chief against former party leader Patrick Brown. Hillier was one of the first MPP’s to insist that Brown step down back in January when allegations about his sex life were about to be revealed on a CTV news report.

Then, over the last few days, after Brown submitted his nomination papers to run for his old job, Hillier has been the most vocal sitting Conservative MPP seeking to discredit and even invalidate Brown’s candidacy.

On Sunday, Hillier released a statement condemning Brown, and asserting that he is not fit to run for party leader.

It reads, in part, “Patrick Brown is unfit to be in the Progressive Conservative Caucus, he is unfit to be leader and he is unfit to be premier.”

The statement goes on to assert that Brown “wilfully and dishonestly lied to the people of Ontario” on national TV, that he “must explain and answer” for the sale of fraudulent party memberships. Although the statement does not directly accuse Brown of direct financial impropriety, it does ask about the whereabouts of $200,000 in membership fees.

A subsequent statement by Hillier, which came after a report in the Globe and Mail raised further questions about Brown’s financial dealings with a PC candidate, went even further.

In that statement, Hillier said that Brown “is unfit to sit in the legislature”.

At the end of his first statement, Hillier said that he “is aware and has evidence of further ethical breaches, dishonest behaviours and will be making them public at a later date.”

At the end of his second statement, he said that he “has every confidence that he [Brown] will be answering to these charges in front of a judge.”

Hillier also said he will be filing the evidence that has been collected with the relevant “law and compliance enforcement agencies”

On Tuesday, as the Ontario Legislature re-opened after the long Christmas break, Hillier was front and centre, repeating what he said in his statements for the benefit of the assembled Toronto and provincial media.

Later in the afternoon, he went even further, filing a complaint with the Ontario Integrity Commissioner, charging Brown with final infractions. He cited four: Payments on Patrick Brown’s $2.3 Million House Incongruent with Declared Income; Failure to Disclose Other Income as Required by Law; unreported gifts of lavish international travel, including trips to India, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and Fiji; and unreported income allegedly related to nomination acclamations.

It is unclear, at this time, whether all or most of these allegations will be supported by verifiable facts, but they have certainly thrust Hillier into the fray as a the voice of opposition to Patrick Brown.

 

Hillier has thrown his support to leadership candidate Christine Elliott, whom he hosted at an event in Smiths Falls on Sunday.

There is certainly a desire among many in the party establishment to see the leadership contest nomination committee reject Patrick Brown as a candidate, and Hillier’s actions of the last few days are intended to support that position. Since it was in Brown’s name that most of the current membership of the party was signed up, he could actually win back the leadership, causing turmoil.

There are also people within the party who not only support Brown, but also believe that all of the attacks on him have been orchestrated by his enemies withing the party

Goldie Ghamari, the PC candidate in the riding of Carleton, came out in support of Patrick Brown’s candidacy over the weekend, tweeting on February 16 that “Patrick Brown is officially a Candidate [for party leader]. My family and I couldn't be happier ...”

Ghamari appeared with Brown at an event on the next day. Earlier Ghamari retweeted a post that questioned the “behind-the-scenes connivance” within the party “over the last few weeks” that led to the ousting of Patrick Brown.

Ghamari, readers will remember, accused Hillier of harassment and physical intimidation based on an interaction between the two of them that took place at a party convention back in 2016, an event that is being investigated by the party.

The scenarios for how this will play out are difficult to reconcile

If Patrick Brown becomes party leader again, what happens to Randy Hillier? It’s hard to imagine Hillier on the Brown ‘team’ after what Hillier has done this week. Would he run as an independent, with the Conservatives being forced to find a new candidate?

What if Brown is not allowed to run for leader, what do Goldie Ghamari and all the Brown loyalists do?

Randy Hillier has clearly taken a calculated risk. By choosing to be the blunt instrument that will bring Patrick Brown down, he will clearly lose if Brown survives. But even if Brown is defeated and finally departs the scene, Hillier will undoubtedly pay a price, sooner or laterds. Randy Hilllier has been a renegade and a grandstanding figure ever since his Lanark Landowner Days, with the tractor convoys to Ottawa and Toronto, red suspenders and all.

But this is different. This is no longer Rural Randy making a point. He is doing the dirty work for the wing of the right and centre wings of the party, and the one who does the dirty work, sooner or later, often pays the price.

Published in Lanark County
Wednesday, 14 February 2018 11:08

The Ontario Conservatives, #Metoo and the media

Remember Patrick Brown. Way back in time, almost three weeks ago now, he was the leader of the Ontario Conservative Party, the Premier in waiting. The upcoming Ontario election was ‘his to lose’. And then he was gone, so gone.

The Ontario Conservative Party has moved on, and is now fully immersed in an open war between its Conservative, moderate, and Ford wings. But there are still a number of commentators who remain in hand wringing mode over the fact that Mr. Brown was “tried, convicted, and sentenced” by a mere allegation of sexual harassment.

There certainly have been a number of politicians and celebrities named as alleged bullies, harassers and abusers in recent months, and the accusations have had a devastating impact on their lives. But each case is different.

In the case of Patrick Brown his own party turned on him before the public had even heard the allegations against him. His personal staff resigned and there were calls for his resignation by members of his caucus before the story even went to air. After professing his innocence at a press conference, which also took place before the allegations had been made public, Brown tendered his resignation over night. Most Ontarians learned of his resignation at the same time that they heard the allegations against him. His own colleagues did him in, before the media had a chance to cut him down. Since then it has become abundantly clear that Brown had little or no support among the Conservative Caucus, although he had the support of many of the Conservative Pary candidates for the coming election.

The party may indeed choose a leader who will be capable of leading them back to power against the Liberal government that has been in power for 15 years and has made more than its share of enemies along the way. There is also a chance that the party will consume itself over the next month or so, such that it cannot present a coherent program to the Ontario public in time for the June 7 election. And even then, they might still carry the day.

Patrick Brown was indeed brought down by un-proven allegations of impropriety, but that does not mean that every man in the public eye who has ever made a pass at a woman can just as easily be cut down. In Brown’s case, CTV would not have aired the story without doing a lot of background work, and without corroborating evidence. Of course they aired allegations that have not been tested in court, but they need to construct enough evidence and credibility to protect themselves against a libel suit. Libel is all about money. CTV is owned by BCE, incorporated. They have lots of money. Patrick Brown was poised to become a Conservative Premier of Ontario at the age of 39, his lifetime earnings potential was vast and is now limited. Those are the two key elements to a successful libel suit because libel is about losing present and future income.

CTV would not air this story without first ensuring they were on solid footing. That, in itself, does not make the allegations true, but it ensures that they are credible.

In another recent case, Steve Paiken of TVO has been accused, by former Toronto Mayoralty candidate, Sarah Thomson, of propositioning her with the implicit promise of providing TV exposure if she said yes, and witholding that exposure if she said no. But Paiken’s employer has not suspended him, although they have launched an independent investigation. Meanwhile he is still employed and his profile, although damaged somewhat, remains more or less intact. The public is taking a wait and see approach.

Paiken may indeed be a sexual predator and Brown may be entirely innocent, we don’t know anything for sure in either case. But the cases are still different and that is why the consequences, thus far, have been so different. In Paiken’s case, there is only one accuser, Sarah Thomson, and the accusation was published on her own website. Paiken brought it to the attention of TVO himself and then it became widely known.

There was no journalistic work done in this case, no meetings to determine if the story was strong enough to publish.

The series of revelations about various individuals under the #MeToo umbrella are not all created equal and they will not all do irrevocable harm to reputations. As time passes and more information comes out, a fuller picture tends to emerge. In some cases it is pretty ugly, in some cases it is murky. Human relations and human memories are fallable, and sometimes people are vindictive.

We are at an important moment. A pattern of behaviour in all professions and in all corners of our society, is being revealed. There are some who will be caught up in the whole thing unfairly, and none of us should jump to conclusions based on a single newspaper account or a single tweet.

There is a broader issue behind this, outside of the whole celebrity culture aspect and the gossipy nature of the way these stories are coming out.

My own demographic, the 50 - 65 year old men who grew up in the 1970’s, when the idea of equality in the workplace, and an egalitarian society was already well accepted, did not live up to those ideals. Much like the men in the generations before us, we used our social and economic advantage for our own benefit. And some of us, a small but significant minority, have weopanised sex throughout their working lives. This current generation of women, and men as well I hope, are rising up to stop it, hopefully once and for all.In this time, it is important to listen carefully to the voices of those who are speaking out, before coming to our conclusions about each of the cases that hit the news.

Published in Editorials

Allegations of sexual harassment against former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown, and of sexual assault against Brown’s friend, former party President Rick Dykstra exposed a wide rift in the party over the last few days. That rift separates the old guard in the party, including most of its sitting MPP’s, and the younger, more urban membership, many of whom were recruited by and allied with Brown and the team he assembled in a bid to win power over the Liberal Party under Kathleen Wynne.

One of the starkest representations of that rift came from allegations of physical intimidation against Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington MPP Randy Hillier that stems from an incident that took place in Ottawa back in March of 2016.

Under new electoral boundaries, Hillier will be running in the new riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston. Goldie Ghamari is the PC candidate in the adjacent riding of Carleton, also a new riding. Late on Sunday night (January 27) just after Party President Rick Dykstra resigned, Ghamari put out the following two tweets:

“Two years ago, a sitting [Progressive Conservative] MPP harassed me, intimidated me, & used his body to bully & scare me out of getting involved in politics. I gave him an opportunity to apologise and recognise that his actions were wrong. He chose to deny it ever happened.” and “My story breaks tomorrow. I urge this person to step forward, acknowledge their actions, and apologise for what they did to me. When I complained about their behaviour, I was told this is ‘not surprising’ given this person's history.”

It did not take long for Randy Hillier to come forward and acknowledge that he was the MPP that Ghamari was referring to. He immediately sent her an email, which she also posted on her twitter feed.

It reads, in part “I was outside for a smoke at the Ottawa Convention Centre in 2016. We briefly exchanged pleasantries and small talk and then parted ways. It was only when you brought your claims forward two years ago that I learned of who you were at the time. I never denied the interaction, but I will confirm there was never any physical contact nor do I recall any unkind words exchanged. I’m truly very sorry if you felt intimidated while we shared a smoke ...”

In the article that Goldie Ghamari was referring to in her tweets, which came out in the Ottawa Citizen on Monday, she describes a different kind of encounter.

She said that it took place in the evening of March 16, 2016. She went outside to get some fresh air and check her messages when he walked up, slung an arm around her shoulders and pulled her in close.

“He was smoking, his cigarette was in his left hand, and it was clear that he was drunk. It was just very obvious from the way he was walking and I could smell the alcohol on his breath, his fingers were digging into my shoulder and his cigarette was still in his hand as well.”

Again, according to her account, as reported in the Ottawa Citizen, Hillier then asked her if she was “Goldie from Nepean who is running against Lisa”.

At the time, due to riding redistribution, Lisa MacLeod had yet to decide if she was going to run in the new Carleton riding or in the Nepean riding, both of which contained parts of her soon to be eliminated riding, and Goldie Ghamari was known to be considering challenging for the nomination in Carleton, the more rural and thus more safe Conservative seat.

In 2016, Ghamari was a member of the riding executive from Nepean, but since there were many Nepean PC’s who wanted to attend this particular convention, she had been invited to represent a weaker PC riding, Kingston and the Islands. Her name tag also used her given name Golsa, even though she goes by Goldie.

Her name tag, “Golsa from Kingston and the Islands” was not what Hillier expected.

“He seemed sort of shocked and he grabbed my name tag, and looked at it and then he was like, ‘Huh,’ and then he just walked away.” she said, adding that “the exchanges was brief, but frightening.”

She told the Citizen that she subsequently approached a senior party office, gave her account of what had happened, and asked for a written apology from Hillier.

The party official then talked to Hillier, who said he had indeed spoken to Ghamari that day, but the encounter happened in the afternoon, not the evening, and he never touched her.

The party officials then contacted the Convention Centre to see if the encounter was caught on any video footage. The results were mixed. There is video of Ghamari and Hillier exiting the building at around the same time, in the evening, and of Ghamari re-entering the building a few minutes later, lending credence to Ghamari’s claim about the time of the encounter. But the video is limited and there is no there is no footage of them together, and there were no eye witnesses available.

There are two incompatible accounts of what had happened, Hillier says it was a non-physical friendly moment in the afternoon, and Ghamari says it was a physical, visceral and intimidating encounter in the evening.

At this point the investigation had run its course as far as the party was concerned.

The official wo dealt with the matter, Nic Pappalardo, told the Citizen in an email this past Sunday (April 28) that “I suggested to her that under the circumstances, the ball was in her court and that she was free to launch a formal complaint under any applicable law or standard in the appropriate forum and that we would fully cooperate. Given her legal background, I had no doubt she understood her options. That was our last exchange on the subject.”

On November 2, 2016, Goldie Ghamari was chosen as the PC candidate for the riding of Carleton, winning a contest with one other candidate.

There was considerable controversy around her selection, as two potential candidates were not ratified by the riding association executive, which, Ghamari’s critics claim, had been stacked with her loyalists.

One of the potential candidates reportedly made a “racial comment” regarding Ghamari.

Last summer, 8 months after Ghamari was nominated, MPP Lisa MacLeod made some headlines questioning the suitability of Ghamari as a candidate in Carleton.

In an email to supporters that was leaked to the press, MPP MacLeod wrote,“For 22 years John Baird and I have kept Carleton deep Tory Blue and now that is at risk. I chose a tougher, urban seat and I do not regret the choice, but I am gutted by what comes next in Carleton as I not only believe the current candidate will not win but worse, if she does win, she will not be a suitable representative for my constituents who I remain loyal to.”

MacLeod acknowleged that she wrote the email, according to the National Post.

MPP’s Lisa MacLeod and Randy Hillier were among the first members of the Conservative caucus to call for Patrick Brown to resign last week, doing so even before the story broke on CTV news.

On Saturday (January 27), MacLeod came forward to say she had approached the party executive about rumours she had heard in the fall of 2017 about Patrick Brown’s history, concerned it might become a problem, but had been ignored.

The next day, (Sunday, January 28) Ghamari tweeted about her 2016 encounter with Hillier, making it public for the first time, and the Citizen article came out the next day.

On Monday evening (January 29) the Ontario Conservative Party announced that they will be hiring an outside investigator to take a fresh look at what happened on March 16/2016 between two of its own candidates for the upcoming election, Goldie Ghamari and Randy Hillier.

As a result, Hillier would not speak to the matter when his office was contacted on Tuesday (January 30), but Dave Shostal in Hillier’s Perth constituency office said “Randy stands by what he told the press on Monday when he spoke to reporters.”

In one of those exchanges, Hillier said that the fact this incident is coming forward at this time is anything but a coincidence.

“The record is clear that Ms. Ghamari was a candidate that was selected by Patrick Brown. There was some level of dispute and consternation with her nomination. We know with what has transpired recently in the party that there were those people who were supportive of Brown and people who were less supportive. And it’s clear Ms. Ghamari and I were on different sides of this divide.” he told the Ottawa Citizen.

For her part, Ghamari told the Citizen that her timing has more to do with the broader historical moment than partly politics. She did not want to put the encounter at the level of “any sort of inappropriate sexual behaviour ... but I think in the sense of how women are generally treated in certain industries and certain professions, it’s something that unfortunately is far too common ... I’m glad that it’s coming out, in all different areas, because I think it’s important for everyone to be treated respectfully. I think it’s important for everyone to be treated as equals. And I think everyone should have a fair chance to do whatever they want to do based on their merits and their capabilities.”

Both Lisa MacLeod and Randy Hillier are former candidates for the PC party leadership.

According to Dave Shostal, the fact that interim leader Vic Fedeli, announced on Tuesday that he will not be seeking the leadership, “does open things up for some potential candidates. I have read the same media reports as everyone else, which say that Lisa is considering running. I can say that Randy is also thinking about it,” he said.

Randy Hillier finished fourth on the first ballot in the 2009 leadership contest that chose Tim Hudak as leader. He threw his support to Hudak before the second ballot.

Lisa MacLeod ran in the contest that chose Patrick Brown. She eventually stepped out of the race, and threw her support to Vic Fedeli.

Published in Lanark County
Wednesday, 10 January 2018 12:36

Election Year

The last time we all went to the polls was for the Federal election way back in the fall of 2015, when the 10 year old Steven Harper led Conservative government was tossed out in favour of the Liberals under Justin Trudeau. This year the 14.5 year run of the Ontario Liberals, during which time Dalton McGuinty was elected 3 times and current Premier Kathleen Wynne one time, will be on the line on June 7th. Riding redistribution, which came into effect federally in that 2015 election, will be mirrored at Queen’s Park after this coming election. Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington Conservative MPP Randy Hillier will be contesting the new Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston riding against Amanda Pulker-Mok of the Liberals, Anita Payne of the Green Party, a still un-named NDP candidate, and perhaps other independent or small party candidates who may come out of the woodwork in the run up to the election.

Our readers in Addington Highlands will be part of the new provincial riding of Hastings, Lennox and Addington (HL&A). Former Conservative Federal Member of Parliament Daryl Kramp, who lost the Federal election in the HL&A riding to Mike Bossio in 2015, was chosen last August as the Conservative candidate in the new provincial riding, and has been campaigning ever since. The other parties have not selected candidates as of yet.

While the local election will not heat up until the writ period, which starts in early May, on a provincial level the contest has been under way for at least a year, perhaps longer.

The thinking as recently as 3 months ago was that the Liberals were headed to certain defeat to the Conservatives, but the polls have tightened since then. We will be watching the provincial election over the next few months, reporting as the candidates surface for the various parties, and trying to get a sense of how riding redistribution will affect the local race.

In the 2015 Federal election, The Lanark Frontenac Kingston riding went to Scott Reid, the long serving Conservative Party incumbent from the former Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington riding. While Reid’s margin of victory decreased from earlier elections, that could have been more a reflection of dipping Conservative Party fortunes nationally than the impact of riding redistribution. In Frontenac-Hastings, the riding swung from the Conservative to the Liberals, leading to a surprise victory for Mike Bossio over Daryl Kramp.

We will look at the candidates as they are announced and will provide coverage of the local election in May and early June, when we will publish profiles of the candidates and will hold all candidates meetings at two locations.

The municipal election will be the subject of our attention at the Frontenac News over the summer and into the early fall. There will certainly be a good number of current council members who will be running again, and a smaller number who will be stepping away from municipal politics at the end of the year. The first thing to watch for after May 1st, when the nomination period opens, is whether any current members of council decide to take a run at the incumbent mayors in Frontenac County. If any do it will open up the council vote and create a more competitive race overall. And if the previous election is any indication, running for council as an incumbent can be anything but a sure thing. In Central Frontenac the last time around, only two of the 7 incumbents who sought re-election kept their place. An incumbent lost in each ward, as did the sitting Mayor, Janet Gutowski. The other townships were not as volatile, but there were hard fought races in many wards, and in the mayoralty races. We will also be closely watching Addington Highlands. If Reeve Henry Hogg does indeed step down, the race for Reeve will be pretty wide open, and it will be interesting to see if any of the current members of council decide to step up to the plate.

We began our early coverage of the election this week by polling incumbent heads of council (reeves and mayors) as to their intentions. We will continue to report on the intentions of current members of council and others who are ready to declare their candidacy as they come forward over the winter and early spring. After May first we will report on nominations as they are submitted in the townships, and our coverage will swing into higher gear after nominations close on July 27th. In the run up to the election we are planning to hold all candidates meetings in each ward where our paper is delivered, as we have done in the past, and we will profile the candidates in September and early October. We will also look at the issues that will be contested in the election, from development pressures in South Frontenac, to the septic inspection issue in Central Frontenac, to the fallout from the rebuild of the township office and the onset of the One Small Town initiative in North Frontenac. The underlying issue of taxation and service levels in all townships is another concern will will address in our coverage.

Published in Editorials
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 15:36

Referendum a nod to Reid’s reform Party roots

Scott Reid is one a very few active politicians in Canada who were active in Preston Mannings Reform Party. The Reform Party became the Canadian Alliance and eventually the Conservative Party of Canada under Stephen Harper.

But back in the Reform days ideas about reforming democracy were a major part of the party program, and were one of the attractions for the Ontario based Reid to join the party and begin working in Preston Manning’s office. Among the ideas taken on by the party were a commitment to direct democracy to deal with what are sometimes called “moral” issues such as abortion, same sex marriage, and assisted dying. The legalization of marijuana was one of the issues on the Reform party list for a direct vote.

That is one of the reasons why Scott Reid decided that, for the ninth time in is 18 year carreer, he would hold a vote of his constituents and follow the majority opinion when the vote is called in Parliament, which could happen in late November.

When contacted this week to answer a question about the number of voters who have responded to the referenda over the years, Reid said the numbers varied and since the ridings have changed twice, each time resulting in smaller numbers of constituents, it is hard to compare the numbers.

It is is clear from the numbers he provided that one of the major factors in the response to his mailouts is the nature of the issue at hand. The largest number of responses, over 9,000, was the vote on the Civil Marriages Act. His most recent referendum, which was not tied to an actual vote on an Act but on the stance Reid should take about whether a referendum should be required for a change in the system through which MP’s are elected, received under 1,500 responses.

“I don’t necessarily judge a process by the percentage of voters. Some decisions don’t need to reflect just the opinion of the MP, or as is mostly the case, their party. In some cases my constituents have had me vote against the wishes of my party,” he said.
Reid considers his referenda as one of the tools he uses to be responsive to the public and be effective as a politician. He held a referendum on riding boundaries in 2003, but ten years later he did not.

“The referendum was not particularly effective, so the next time around I engaged with municipal councils and local politicians in a different way, and I think it was a more effective way of influencing the result.”
Constituents who have received the mail out for the marijuana vote, can return them over the next couple of week’s, as Reid and his staff are committed to waiting until the vote in the house is pending before cutting off the vote and beginning to count the ballots.

The ballot also includes a second question, about whether 19 is the right age for marijuana to be legally available. That is a provincial and out of Reid’s jurisdiction but he will pass the results on to the provincial government, and local MP Randy Hillier.

Published in FRONTENAC COUNTY

The short answer is yes. Randy Hillier is a Conservative MPP, a former leadership candidate for the party and until the dissolution of the legislature last week he was member of the Conservative Party Caucus.

But at the very least, Hillier is about as likely to become a cabinet minister if Tim Hudak became the premier as Kathleen Wynne is. There is no indication that the two men have spoken since Hudak said Hillier was “not a team player” in September of last year, when he stripped Hillier of his position as Labour critic in his shadow cabinet at Queen’s Park.

The demotion took place after an email Hillier had sent to the party questioning its ties to a construction company was leaked to the press. Earlier in the summer Hillier had supported a proposal to make it easier for party members to call for a leadership review, which did not endear himself to Mr. Hudak either.

There is no indication that Randy Hillier has reconciled either with Hudak himself or with any other members of the party's inner circle since September.

None of this is likely to hurt Randy Hillier’s chances of re-election in Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington on June 12, as the spat has not gone so far as to lead either to Hillier leaving the party or the party brass removing him as their candidate, so he is still carrying the Tory banner.

Although he has repeatedly said that he is more beholden to his constituents than he is to his party - and his difficulties with the party do bear this out to some extent even though most of us don’t really care about the backroom politics in Toronto - he has not taken the ultimate step and decided to run as an independent, constituency-first candidate. If that had happened, we would have been in for an extremely interesting election, rather than one with long odds in favour of the incumbent.

The controversy will, however, add a wrinkle to the local campaign, which will feature the same candidates for the three largest parties as the last time around in the fall of 2011 – Bill MacDonald for the Liberals and Dave Parkhill for the NDP. Among the major parties, only the Green Party will have a new candidate, Cam Mather from Tamworth.

Randy Hillier will run against the Liberal record after 11 years in power, which Bill MacDonald will be forced to defend, but Hillier will be open to the attack that even if his party comes to power he will remain as ever as an oppositional figure, only talking about what is wrong with the system but never able to put anything new in place.

It may not be enough to dent his standing; he received over 50% of the votes last time, but it will give his opponents some ammunition this time around, if only because many people vote for the party and not the candidate.

Published in Editorials
Wednesday, 20 November 2013 19:00

Hillier Expands His Call For Voter Recalls

Never one to ignore a political opportunity, Lanark, Frontenac Lennox and Addington MPP Randy Hillier wrote to Premier Wynne last week. In his letter, he told the premier that he would be happy to amend the private member's bill on voter recalls that he has been sponsoring to include not only provincial politicians but municipal politicians as well.

Hillier's bill, If passed, would stipulate the recall of any MPP if a petition is signed by 25% of the number of voters who cast a ballot in the previous election. If that threshold is met, a recall election would be initiated in which the incumbent would still be allowed to run for re-election.

Given the publicity surrounding the current mayor of Toronto and some of the comments Premier Wynne has made about that situation, Hillier thought the premier might be more receptive to recalls than she has been in the past. And he points out that it is not only the voters in Toronto who have concerns.

“While voters in Toronto are visibly frustrated, voters in Rockland or London are faced with similar concerns and are receiving far less attention,” said Hillier. “Despite criminal charges laid against the mayors of both these municipalities, voters’ only hope of holding these individuals accountable is either through a conviction or the next election; the delay is disenfranchising,” Hillier said in a media release on Tuesday.

The letter to Premier Wynne, which was sent on November 15, concluded by appealing to the premier’s populist stance. “Since you became premier you havestated that, above all else, you area listener and a conversationalist. I believe that ifyou listen to the voters across ourgreat province, they will tell you they welcome the opportunity to become more involved in our democracy; it is certainly what they have told me.”

As yet, the premier has not responded to MPP Hillier’s letter.

Published in FRONTENAC COUNTY

Although I do not share the view that the Senate expense affair will have a long-term impact on anyone but those who actually touched the money, it is still all bad for the Conservative government and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Whether you agree with the planned suspension of the three big-spending senators or consider that they are being sentenced before having the benefit of a trial, the whole mess, from start to finish, can only be attributed to the Conservative Party, and ultimately to Mr. Harper himself.

He is the one who appointed the three senators. And at least in the case of Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy, they were then extensively employed by the Conservative Party for fund-raising purposes. Someone in the Conservative Party hierarchy knew, or should have known, where these people lived and whether they should be able to claim expenses for places where they did not live.

And now that they have become a liability, Stephen Harper has suddenly taken on the mantle of righteous indignation. While you or I might say we are angry that these people have ripped us all off, for the man who set the whole scheme up, who put them in that position in the first place, to now say he is just as angry as the rest of us, is hard to swallow.

When you add the fact that Mr. Harper's own chief of staff covered $90,000 of Mike Duffy's expenses and Harper's own Conservative Party paid over $13,000 in Duffy's legal fees, Stephen Harper's current stance as the angry victim is even harder to take.

Still, the whole thing is about to blow over and with 730 days until the next election it could be a distant memory by then, no more relevant than any of a hundred other events.

However, the real danger in all of this will come from the Conservatives' desire to change the narrative, which is something that politicians in trouble always do. They have indicated they may attempt to transform the whole issue into a renewed call for Senate reform.

While it is certainly worthwhile to discuss Senate reform, this is entirely the wrong context. The Conservatives will only be trying to weaken the Senate in order to do damage control for a tawdry expense scandal that was of their own doing.

This is not the kind of sober second thought that the Senate, a body that is devoted to providing just that to legislation that comes out of what is often an overheated, partisan parliament, deserves.

Published in Editorials