Category Archives: Ontario

Vacation State of Mind?

Vacation Alert

What is a vacation state of mind? What is an ‘away from work’ Zen moment feel like?

Do you detach completely? Is it an awareness there are something at work that you know will be waiting for you when you get back? To get your vacation state of mind do you leave town? Do you go off grid? Or does obtaining a vacation state of mind merely mean getting out of the office?

I have a week off, so I got out of dodge as they say, this week we’re in Thunder Bay. That does not mean I left everything behind. Give me two weeks away from the office and I will go stir crazy. To avoid that when we go away for two weeks, it better be in another city, town, somewhere that means the regular life trappings are not in my line of sight. Without somewhere to go, why take the time off? It is not an uncommon as you might think.

The benefits of taking vacation are well known; a reduction in stress helps relationships and a paid mental break from work. Are there benefits for the few that don’t want to take vacation? For those enjoy their work, vacation my just be an unwanted distraction from it. It is very difficult to find benefits to not taking vacation, but there are reasons why some workers will avoid it.

Count the reasons for vacation denial as being the fear of email inbox overload and increased assignments, the fear that another worker will take their job away, the fear that someone else doing their work will screw it up and it will have to be redone when they return.

A 2014 study in the US; Project: Time Off found 4 in 10 Americans did not take their vacation. Are Canadians any different? If you believe a study from Expedia .ca, Canadians only did a little better. Just over one in four Canadians did not take the vacation OR had a year between vacations (http://www.torontosun.com/2016/10/19/canadians-leave-31-million-vacation-days-unused-each-year-study ).

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Our work places are changing and work environments are also adjusting to be more competitive, hence the reluctance to get away from it all.   While most of Ontario is off on vacation for one or two weeks this July and August, Ontario MPPs are currently touring Ontario to discuss Bill 148, The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. Sadly, with 173 recommendations from a study that led to the legislation, the majority of press around this bill goes to one recommendation to increase in minimum wage to $15.00/hour by January 1, 2019.

Other aspects about workplaces including vacation, sick notes, emergency personal eleave, overtime and other aspects that will impact Ontario employers are going almost unnoticed. Much of what the Ontario government wants to implement are clauses that are normally negotiated between companies and unions. Is Kathleen Wynne now going to force non-union workplaces to have ‘union’ like workplace rules and atmospheres? Bill 148 will change workplaces in Ontario, but for the better?

Take some time to read about Bill 148, http://www.ceridian.ca/blog/2017/06/ontarios-employment-standards-act-reform-what-bill-148-may-mean-for-employers/ and then talke to your MPP and let them know what you like and don’t like about telling good employers how to run their shops.

Of course there are some bad employers Bill 148 will be awake up call for them – but to force union like rules on workplaces that are successful? The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act is something I would expect from the Ontario NDP…BUT the next Ontario General Election is less that 11 months away (June 2018), so yes I also expect this frm Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Should Queen’s Park still be in session?

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On June 1st, Ontario Legislature Speaker (Brant MPP) David Levac gave a tearful farewell,  a week before he announced that he would not be seeking re-election in 2018. This led to speculation that Kathleen Wynne would call a snap election before the 4 year mandated election scheduled for June 7 2018, before Queen’s Park is due to come back this fall on September 11th.

All that is left on the Order Paper are mainly Private Member’s Bills and a couple Government Bills. The Liberal government has wisely had all their major legislation receive Royal Assent. Its lone major bill, Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act, is controversial in that it will bring many ‘labour negotiated work concessions’ to non-union smaller businesses around Ontario.

It is important to restate that many important Private Members Bills will die if an election will be called this summer. So that leads to my primary thought for this blog post, why did the Ontario Legislature rise for the summer break?

Legally sitting days are regulated by Standing Orders of Parliament. In Toronto, Standing Order 6 dictates when and how long Queen’s Park sits (http://ontla.on.ca/web/go2.jsp?Page=/house-proceedings/supporting-content/files/standing_orders&menuitem=dandp_proceedings&locale=en) In Ottawa, Parliament is still sitting and Ottawa City Council continues its regular bi-weekly council meetings and all committee meetings until a two-week break in August.

Having worked at Queens Park, I know how hard all MPPs work at Queens Park. They sit Monday to Thursday taking part in Question Period, regular House Duty, Committee Hearings and when needed late sittings in the House.

On Parliament Hill, the house will likely rise before the end of this week in June (week of June 12th), one week earlier than published on the Parliamentary Calendar. But I have to ask the question, is the governing of Ontario such that our Provincial legislature rises earlier than our Federal Parliament and our local City Council? My thoughts have always been the closer the level of government is the electorate, the more work there is to do and more legislation to get enacted.

inside QP

At Queen’s Park there are still some important pieces of legislation in the queue, many at first reading and until second reading takes place – these bills will sit there gathering dust.

Bill 104; Tax Fairness for Realtors Act. This act is sponsored by all three parties and yet is stuck at Committee since April 6th.

Bill 94; Highway Traffic Amendment Act (School Bus Camera Systems), 2017. This act is to strengthen the use of camera for school buses and student safety.  This bill was sent to committee February 23rd and will not be in effect to keep students safe when they return to school in September.

Bill 88; Asbestos Use Prohibition Act, 2017. This also passed second reading in February and was sent to the Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly.

Bill 71; Lung Safety Act 2016. Another Bill with all party support. The Lung Safety Act was introduced November 22nd was quickly through 1st and 2nd reading by November 24th, sent to the Standing Committee on Social Policy November the same day. There has been no committee report nor has the bill come back for 3rd reading in 27 weeks.

Bill 17; Saving the Girl Next Door Act, 2016. MPP Laurie Scott’s important bill to stop the trafficking of young girls has been in the Committee on Justice Policy since October 6th, 2016!

SONY DSCOf 169 bills in the current session at Queen’s Park, 102 are still on the books at either first or second reading.  29 bills are at Committee stage, 13 of the 29 have been in committee since the end of 2016.

There is a case to be made that our provincial government should sit longer and not allow so much legislation to to sit for a 3rd reading vote until the fall.  If Kathleen Wynne does call an election, all these bills may die.  Some will be re-introduced in the new session, which would be the 42nd Session; others will not see the light of Queen’s Park ever again.  Longer sitting sessions would allow the important work of our MPP’s to be done at committee stage where bills are further thought out and amended.

The summer break is important for MPPs to refresh and to spend in their ridings, it seems this summer break in 2017 might be more than that – it will be a chance for a longer ‘unofficial’ campaign through our #Canada150 summer before the writ is dropped.  But all this takes place with a cost, as  some good needed legislation will die and whether it returns all depends on who wins the snap election this summer.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

 

Elections should be easy for voters: Part One

RHBS 160In one year we will be in the middle of a writ period in Ontario. Leaders of all of Ontario’s main parties will tell you “this is the most important election Ontario has ever had”. Let’s be clear, every election is always more important than the last one – the future is at stake, the four year ‘near’ future.

Instead of talking about how this coming election was more important that the 2014 election, wouldn’t it be better if the next election was presented in such a way that voters would know what to expect and understand what will take place based on a “real” election promise, not something vague. Somethings about the needs of Ontarians that is real to them and will make a difference.

Election promises are made, some are kept and others, well…aren’t. But to be honest sometimes the promises don’t make sense and just provide an agenda (if you don’t like the platform) or plan (if you support the leader and the party) for a four year mandate. Here is a simple idea – a simple four year plan to the voters of what will take place until the next election on four major themes. If you think about what happens now, each year of spending is a pot pouri of promises without a specific theme. Budgets are like Mambo #5; a little bit for you, a little bit for that group and little bit here and there. Lets talk about changing that with thematic budgets that address specific areas of the lives of Ontarians.

Simply put there are four areas that matter to voters: Health Care; Education; the Environment and Energy. Yes, yes…there are other important areas, but they can exist in one or  more of the four sectors mentioned. Each year of the mandate would feature a budget that focuses on one sector and its sub-sectors. It could look something like this:

Year One: Health Care

Year Two: The Environment

Year Three: Energy

Year Four: Education

Here is my theory, you do health first because changing health care is like steering a oil tanker on the seas, turning around takes a long time – it can’t make that turn on dime.  It will take four years for changes made to be seen and felt  for Ontarians.  If it works then Ontarians will see improvement in how health care is delivered by the time the next election comes around. In the second year the Environment is the theme and ties into year three with Energy. In year four Education is addressed for action after studies and consultations are done in the first 2-3 years of the mandate. If successful the four year platform rolls out smoothly, is successful and sees positive results that will ensure a second mandate.

Now, it will be problematic if there is no plan to follow up four years of success. Think back to Mike Harris and his five priorities, he completed his five priorities successfully however without a plan that could follow them up and because of that, under Ernie Eves, the Ontario PC’s fizzled. The lack of additional priorities was death bell of the Ontario PC’s in 2003 and brought us McGuinty and Wynne – we know how that has worked for Ontario.

The needs of Ontario do not stand still, neither should election plans, but governments get tired and try to stay relevant based on yesterday’s success. In this series of posts, I will look at the possibilities of having a structured election plan. It may even be considered as free advice heading to the June 2018 Ontario election.

 

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

The Collective Benefits of Ending Homelessness 2

December 2011 I posted “the Collective Benefits of Ending Homelessness”, since then, over 5 years, there have been 500+ clicks to see the post. Five plus years later, it is time for an update. In those five years the conversation has shifted, it has moved from talking about ending homelessness to having available affordable housing, in essence the conversation could now be the “Collective Benefits of Affordable Housing”.

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Back in 2011 I wrote about the then Federal Conservative Government plans to reduce homelessness by finding and funding places for people to get off the streets and under a roof. Was it the right approach? Where does the search to end homelessness begin? Is this is a chicken or the egg situation? What is the right beginning, to create new housing to move people to a house from a room or fund shelter spaces to move people off the street? Whatever the solution, it helps the circle of movement move faster and more efficiently (one hopes).

Since the 2012 report from the Ottawa Alliance to End Homelessness (ATEH) there has been an increase in the number of people accessing homeless spaces. The 2016 report (http://endhomelessnessottawa.ca/resources/2016-progress-report-on-ending-homelessness/) shows that 7170 individuals used a shelter of some sort, not since 2012 have over 7000 people sought a shelter for the night. There is some indication that the federal plan of 2011 has had a positive impact as numbers dropped to 6508 in 2014, but that number has been slowly creeping back up to the numbers released recently by the ATEH.

Why isn’t the needle moving in a positive direction on this? What is hold us back?

With a 10 year commitment from the City of Ottawa to reduce homelessness in its 4th year, there remains a concern that the needs are not being met – and that the reasons for it are changing. Affordability is becoming more and more the reason for not having a permanent home. Youth are couch surfing and families are moving into smaller homes as the cost of rent and everyday needs (like hydro) increase without solid solutions to reduce or stabilize the cost of staying in a home. In 2012 it was estimated that 1000 new housing units were needed annually in Ottawa to meet, reduce and eliminate homelessness. In five years the City of Ottawa has created just under 1300. Based what the ATEH estimated, the Ottawa is 3700 units behind its needs.

It is clear to me each new government has its own ideas for solutions to ending homeless and in 2017 we see affordability becoming a huge issue as the cost to purchase a home rises annually. The Liberals in Ottawa announced $11B over 11 years as part of National housing strategy, but that money is being spread over several initiatives – the $11B sounds like an incredible figure and it is. But on an annual basis the figures do not seem as impressive. As an example, the $3.2B in the Renewed Federal-Provincial-territorial Partnership for seniors housing over 11 years is less than $300M each year.

The $11B is a good first step nationally, but for the 10,000+ on the Ottawa housing wait list it will take years to build those roofs and walls and eventually end homelessness in Ottawa and other communities across Canada. What needs to be addressed is how governments can help the unknown those families, youth and individuals who are not on wait list, we don’t know where they are today or where they will be tonight.

I have hopes that by distributing the $11B through the CMHC it will be a much more effective and efficient flow of funding rather than previously when the money flowed through three different government hands before it got to the providers and builders of affordable housing. One positive out of the 2017 budget is that it should reduce the reporting structure for how the money used while this funding is available over 11 years.

2017 and 2018 will see several Municipal and Provincial elections held, for the social and affordable housing sectors these will be important to hold governments to account for a lack of progress and to ensure incoming governments and councils will take actions that will see less use of shelters as more rooms, apartments and houses for youth, seniors and families will be ready with doors wide open for them.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Happy Cannabis Day

Pot FlagThe Trudeau Liberals checked off another box today from their 2015 election promises. Legislation was introduced to legalize the use of recreational marijuana.

In this bill, Trudeau is sitting pretty atop the pyramid of responsibility, he has the least to lose and the least to pay for an issue that in the Provincial Elections of 2011 and 2014 was not raised. Even during my short time campaigning municipally in 2010, this was not an election concern. In the federal campaigns of 2011 and 2015, I don’t recall legal marijuana being listed as a top concern in Ottawa Centre and other ridings, whether it was in Toronto or Ottawa that I helped a candidate in.

While the Liberals have the greatest to gain and the least to lose it’s the two lower tiers that will have to work the hardest to make the legislation work. This is legislation that as far as I can tell was not top of the page in Queens Park, Ottawa or Toronto City Hall or any other provincial legislature. As the responsibility drops, there’s more to lose. The cost of enforcement falls to municipal and provincial police forces; the provincial justice system has to try the cases. Distribution will flow through individual provincial manners much like alcohol and with different provincial policies for health and healthcare it just gets messier.

If the federal government really wanted to take control of legal pot – they could do it all alone using federal institutions that are currently in place. Let’s leave the Provinces and Municipalities out of it. It’s not unrealistic to think that the federal government could do this all on their own, with few exceptions.

Growth and production regulations for of cannabis and cannabis products would fall under the Health Canada, while the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would team up with Agriculture Canada to regulate the growth, collection and inspection of the efficacy and safety of the product going out to Canadians. Health Canada would be responsible for education on the use of pot and the awareness of its use’s effects.

The federal government can rely on Canada Post for distribution of the marijuana to customers, either through mail or in Canada Post outlets. This eliminates the need and legality of others owning the pot dispensaries.

Enforcement falls in to the laps of RCMP; the CBSA could be expanded to include the law’s enforcement and on federal lands (parks and Parliament Hill) wardens and Parliamentary Police Forces would pitch in. In some other cases other levels of policing could be contracted and invoice the federal government when arrests are made. These policing costs would merely be a line item in the larger legal marijuana budget. Criminal cases would be tried solely in federal courts and convictions to be served in federal penitentiaries.

The same concept works for the treatment of cases for marijuana related ambulatory trips to the ER’s, stays in hospitals etc., Provinces can bill the federal government and receive payment through healthcare transfers.

Through all of this, the beauty is that the federal government keeps all the money; there would be no need to share any of the revenue from the sale of the marijuana.

Does this scenario make it more difficult for people who want to smoke it get it? Maybe, but that’s not my issue, more importantly though it makes it simpler to know who is supposed to do what.  It would all fall on the federal government – no one to blame (or praise) for the success or failure of legalizing pot goes to any other level of government.

The bottom line is this; it’s easy to come up with an idea and tell someone else to take care of it. But courage is to take ownership, 100% ownership. In a 2017 Trudeau world, there is no room to take 100% ownership of any problem, there is always someone else.

Now what can we do to move the date of legalization away, far away from Canada Day?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Is 25% enough for you?

wynne-and-electricity

Illustration from Ontario Wind Resistance (www.ontario-wind-resistance.org)

25%, that’s the answer from Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals. Mired with a personal approval rating of 11% (as of 01/03/2017) the Premier announced a further reduction in the electricity bills of 17% this summer (after an 8% reduction that was set January 1st) as way to avoid the knives that would cut her and the Liberals out of government in the on 2018 Ontario General election. In the announcement, Wynne also stated that following the summer reduction in rates, increases will be tied to the annual rate of inflation.

Rates are currently frozen between November 1 2016 and May 1 2017 and tradition shows that previously approved rates go up on May 1st. So a question: with a reduction coming in the summer, will the 17% rate reduction have to take in any increase that may come on the first of May?

With this “olive branch” from the government, there are so many questions and so few answers.

I recently attended a meeting about Hydro costs hosted by Nepean-Carleton PC MPP Lisa Macleod; it featured a presentation by Peter Gallant from Wind Concerns Ontario. Mr. Gallant went behind the line items and presented what was represented on each line. There is so much more behind your electricity bill than just a box that says please pay this amount.

It will come as no surprise that your monthly bill is political. Political in such that choices are made in how the bill is written to make it seem that you should feel good about the fees you pay, right down to the final line of your statement indicating how much you saved on electricity because of reductions and time of use savings (I hope that makes you feel better).

Then there are the acronyms! My goodness, the number of acronyms that are used is mind-blowing. LDC, NUG, OPG, RPP, TOU, FIT and MicroFIT, GA, the list goes on.

My take away from the session was that producing hydro is burdened with levels of debt payment and delivery fees. But also that green energy, the McGuinty Green Energy Program, is going to burden Ontario Taxpayers for years as FIT (Feed in Tariff) contracts guarantee fees paid to generators that are up to 6 times more than what we currently pay for its use. The difference, and the bulk of what we pay, lies in the delivery and renewal generation connection charges created to bring in the revenue that time of use electricity rates cannot for the creation of wind and solar energy in Ontario.

The announcement by Wynne and Energy Minister Thibeault is going to push paying for contracts, repairs and expensive energy generation through to the next two generations or more. By only allowing rate of inflation increases for the next four years, debt payments of billions are being delayed, increasing the provincial debt further and increasing debt financing payments closer to the top the expense sheet of the province.

Prior to the announcement from the government, the NDP pledged to cut electricity rates by 30%. No word on how to do it, but just to cut rates by a third.

So now of course, Ontarians want to know how the Brown led PC’s will challenge the Liberals ‘reduce and almost freeze’ plan. MPP Macleod told those at her meeting that there will be a response, but it will be thought out (unlike the NDP plan?) and a workable plan to provide affordable electricity for Ontario.

We’ll have to wait, but I hope that the plan will include a dash reality, acknowledging what path Ontario has been led down by the McGuinty-Wynne Green Energy Coalition.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

 

A Cap ‘n Trade happy ending

happy-endingsDISCLAIMER: I am not a climate change denier, I have been on the earth long enough to know that our climate is changing and that everyone must do something so that when Canada celebrates 250 years our great great grandchildren will have a just as great country as we did 100 years previous. But, I am also aware that wages are not increasing in the private sector as fast as taxes are going up and being introduced. The end of being able to fund EVERYTHING the government wants/needs to do is coming.

Somehow I got an email from a company that was announcing its purchase of Cap and Trade credit, I do not know how they had my email address but that is beside the point here. An Ottawa area real estate team annouced that they had figured our their carbon footprint and purchased carbon credits to offset the carbon they create/use each year.

My first reaction was great – thank you for recognizing your environmental impact. My second was, you have a new cost and now you are going to pass it on your clients? On top of that in the email, there were suggestions on how to reduce our individual carbon footprint like using LED bulbs, lowering our thermostats when we’re not home, using cloth or reusable grocery bags an fill our green, black and blue bins for recycling.

Did the writer of this email think that we weren’t already doing those things? People are doubling up sweaters when they are home to reduce electricity consumption to stay warm. Many have to decide do I heat or do I eat? I asked the company to talk to the government and let them know that consumers are reaching the end, the disposable incomes of Canadians are thinning out because of the passed on costs of taxes and carbon credits to consumers.

They Real Estate company probably don’t expect any replies, but I decided I should ask a few questions on their decision to purchase Carbon Credits. How many did they buy? How much did they pay? Will they be passing the cost of their purchase onto their clients? Are they aware that by passing on the cost, they are adding to the cost of homes in Ontario making it more difficult for first time buyers and families that need a new home to replace the once they have grown out of?

I was not expecting a reply, but I received one the next day. in the email I was told:

“…as a company (we) decided to take this initiative on and fund the costs of doing so without passing them on to clients.”  

Further more they wrote when I asked why they were doing this at a time when cap and trade is going to cost consumers more, they wrote:

“My belief is organizations and individuals should all look at doing this for themselves and that means paying for it themselves not passing it down the line.”

So, kudos to them, I applaud their stance that believing that they alone were responsible for their carbon footprint and that they alone should pay for it.

Kudos to the Adam Mills Real Estate Team in Ottawa for taking a stand for consumers. They won’t get much press for doing what they did, but I hope that word sneaks out and that they have set the bar high for others to follow. That the government will be adding a Carbon Tax line to our hydro costs is expected – that one company in Ottawa has decided NOT to is unexpected.

I hope others WILL take note and follow their lead.

I am not in the market for a new home, but if I were they would be getting a call from me.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com for what I see, hear and read.

I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.