Category Archives: Queens park

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.

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.

 

Surprises of 2016

joey

2016, the year that is about to pass gave us a few surprises, though the surprises that came in the form of the deaths of many great entertainers and leaders provided the saddest of surprises.   For the year that was to be of #SunnyWays, there were many dark days.

February 3, 1959 was the day “that the music died”, 2016 is becoming the year that took the best of music from us, starting with David Bowie in January, two thirds of Emerson (March), Lake (December) & Palmer and closing out (hopefully) with George Michael on Christmas Day. CNN provided a look back http://www.edition.cnn.com/2016/12/26/entertainment/musician-deaths-2016-year-music-died/index.html.

The Rolling Stones #BlueandLonesome Lp is the best thing they have put out in many years.

David Bowie produced a masterpiece even while knowing he was dying.

Some Toronto sports teams were good! The Raptors, Blue Jays and Toronto FC challenged for league titles.

Ontario by-election results in Scarborough-Rouge River (expected the worse) and Ottawa Vanier (expected better).

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens was SO GOOD (No surprise there).

That I was back in Ottawa after 10 months in Queens Park and that I would be busier with one file to monitor and advise on than I was with 7 in Toronto.

The Tragically Hip delivered one of their best yet on vinyl  – and on stage they delivered a show for a Nation.

Henry Burris, the Ottawa Redblacks AND becoming #GreyCup104 Champions.

The collapse of the leadership of Thomas Mulcair at the NDP Conventions and that the assumed frontrunners for the party leadership have stepped aside and decided not to run.

There are still 14, FOURTEEN, contenders for the Leadership of Conservative Party of Canada.

It was a banner year for books about musicians with biographies about Springsteen, McCartney, Robertson, Collins and Wilson all marking pages.

Kathleen Wynne is still here.

Hilary Rodham Clinton.

Donald J Trump.

What surprised you in 2016?

Finally, thank you for reading #RedheartBlueSign in 2016. With 45 posts, 1000 visitors and over 1300 views it was a good year. I look forward to continuing that in 2017 – with you along with me. Thank You!

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

129: Hospital Hopscotch?

civic-hospital

First there was the Central Experimental Farm after the Ottawa West Nepean Conservative MP granted the Ottawa Hospital’s request for the 60 acres across the road from their current site.

Then the 2015 election took place. Former NDP MP Paul Dewar was defeated and the Liberals were in charge. A group formed to save those 60 acres of the farm went straight to the new MP and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna asking to have the decision from Baird overturned.

McKenna asked the National Capital Commission (NCC) to conduct a review to find NCC property to offer to the Ottawa Hospital. Based on the approach she received from those wanting to “save the farm”, the NCC may have known that the Central Experimental farm was off the table.

While the farm was off the table, were there other sites that have been given a nudge to the frontline? We have learned that months ago, McKenna met with the NCC and asked that Tunney’s Pasture be given a good look as the new site for the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital.

Then an announcement, it was a decision that created ripples across the city and through four levels of government. The NCC decided it would make the Government hub of Tunney’s Pasture offered as a site for the Ottawa Hospital.

The reaction was swift from current Ottawa City Councillors and former Ottawa Mayors, Tunny’s Pasture was so far down the list of possible sites when the Ottawa Hospital did their own study it was not even talked about. Issues with traffic, access by EMS vehicles and the increased volume of people daily in the area was not sustainable without changes to roads and traffic flow plans – changes that were not anticipated for quite sometime by the City of Ottawa.

On the day of the announcement, Ottawa Centre Provincial Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi was non-committal about supporting or raising doubts about the selection. No Liberal MPP in Ottawa said a word. The only provincial MPP to raise the question of the selection was Nepean-Carleton PC MPP Lisa MacLeod, during Question Period in Queens Park, asking Health Minister Eric Hoskins to intervene and have the NCC reconsider the selection.

Within a week of the announcement last week, the tide against Tunney’s Pasture was becoming stronger. On Parliament Hill, Carleton Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre asked McKenna about the decision. It was the Heritage Minister Melanie Jolie that answered, she ‘would review the report and make a recommendation/offer to the hospital’.

Too late, the hospital board rejected the location siting along with the previous issues mentioned, the cost and the time to build the new hospital was greater than if another location was chosen. The relocation of 10,000 civil servants and demolishing of the buildings on the site now (including a 26 story tower) would cost more and take longer than the hospital was willing to accept. A next century healthcare facility was needed sooner not later.

McKenna praised the decision and issued a press release, (https://cmckenna.liberal.ca/news-nouvelles/statement-on-ottawa-hospital-site-recommendation/). In her release she praised the NCC for their selection for the location for a new state of art health facility.

Eventually the 5 Ottawa Provincial Liberals got on the same page as the area Federal and Provincial conservatives and supported the Hospital’s decision to reject the decision of the NCC, though a joint press releases and Ottawa South MPP John Fraser making the media rounds.

Mayor Jim Watson came out trying act as the voice of reason for the decision, but aware of the challenges it presented. Watson as the top ranking municipal elected official aimed to play the role of peacemaker seeking a solution that meets the needs of the Ottawa Hospital.

While the sideshow of backlash was happening Minister Joly had not yet made her decision known, she was likely waiting this out to determine if a consensus on an alternative sire could be made, it was.

After some inward reflection everyone agreed, the former site of the Sir John Carling building of Agriculture Canada could and would fit what the hospital was seeking. It was across the street, just a little further east than originally planned.

In a joint press conference with the City of Ottawa, the NCC along with Provincial and Federal members of parliament all were happy with the new site proposal, even McKenna who it seems always liked Tunney’s Pasture. When asked about her previous praise for Tunney’s, McKenna preferred to be “forward thinking” about the new site.

What remains to be known is what influence did Minister McKenna think she had with the NCC? How could she be so out of touch with what the hospital AND the City needed for healthcare? How has this tarnished McKenna? How has McKenna playing Hospital Hopscotch damaged the NCC and if she had just let the NCC do its study what site would have the NCC and Minister Joly offered to the Ottawa Hospital?

Photo Source: Library and Archives Canada

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117: Be an Adult about Bad news

queenspark_interior

Prorogation is a legislative tool at the disposal of a government. It is legal, but when it is used it comes up as an ethical issue. Former Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak said it correctly, “it’s a pretty typical move for governments to make halfway through their mandate” and for this I would say it was acceptable – IF that was the real reason. He also added that the by-election loss in Scarborough-Rouge River may have caused the Wynne government to put the legislative reset into action.

The problem is that through the entire summer, the Ontario Liberals were not communicating anything that sounded like a restart was needed. Checking through the list of press releases sent out this summer the government thought it was doing great, there was no urgency to have a midcourse correction. Then September 8th came and a safe Liberal seat suddenly turned blue with the election of Raymond Cho as the area’s MPP following the mysterious resignation of Liberal Bas Balkinsoon.

Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod, speaking with Evan Solomon on CFRA (https://youtu.be/USOFyfYLxeI)  called it an act of desperation. She also correctly stated that there is “a lot of anger (around the province), the government is out of touch with everyday Ontarians. Hydro prices are skyrocketing and we are losing jobs.” She goes on to say that the government “was called out, in a by-election in Toronto of all places”.

The realization that energy pricing is out of reach of more Ontarians that the government thinks, and now that voters won’t give her a ‘pass’ on this one issue has forced Kathleen Wynne to react, not proactively act on a major concern for Ontarians. Some may say that there are programs out there to help low income families – but the requirements to receive the smallest of rebates are so outrageous that a very small percentage of applicants will see any money.

IF the urgency of their energy policy and pricing is the sole reason for reset, is the reset needed? Why not head back to Queen’s Park, accept, as the government (and as adults), what is waiting for you (the government) in question period? Why not present your plans with new legislation? Why not start turning down rate hydro rate increase requests? Why not start addressing the costs associated with the compensation of Hydro One and OPG executives? All of these can be done without asking Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell to make a political speech on behalf of Kathleen Wynne.

When it comes to an honest reset, we don’t need the pomp and circumstance of speech from the throne. All we want from a government is action – not a reaction because you got a bad report card.

Thank you for reading this post, to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.

#112 Building a safer community

NOTE: This is a longer post than I normally put out, but to express completely what I wanted to say required a longer than normal piece, I hope you enjoy it.  Please provide your feedback, I look forward to hearing from you.

Community Safety

In post #111 I wrote about how the change in policing is out of our hands and in the hands of the Ontario government. A new Police Services Act is due to be introduced in Queens Park following the multiple Safer Communities consultations. Former Community Safety and Corrections Minister Yasir Naqvi was hot on the trail for changes in policing before he was shuffled to take over the Attorney General Ministry. New Minister David Orazietti has not said much about any new legislation until this week’s Association of Municipalities conference.

During the Safer Communities meetings you could decipher which direction the government was heading by the questions it asked.

In the “Safer Communities” consultation, themes discussed were:

Community Safety and Well-Being; The Role of the Police Officer in the 21st Century; Education and Training;  Accountability to the Public

Around these themes the following questions were asked:

In what way can the relationship between the police and members of your community, including vulnerable people, be improved?

What public safety roles personnel other than police officers, in your community, could do?

What, if any, forms of technology would improve community safety?

What should be the required minimum level of education for new recruits?

What police skills do you think are the most important?

Looking at some of these questions, there is a subtle direction from the government to take the police, or some of them, out of traditional police roles and to put them in the community. However I want to concentrate on two specifics in making our communities safer.

Safer Onatrio

I do think the most important question that we need to spend a lot of energy on when it comes to policing is how we protect the vulnerable in our community. Until as a society we can treat and provide shelter for those with mental illness in a true caring manner we need to adjust how we protect those with metal illness and also prevent harm being done to others by the vulnerable.   Should the police be taken out of the equation when a call comes where mental distress is at the centre of the issue is that the answer. There is talk of having social workers trained in these areas ride with police in a so-called Community Care Cruiser. This would be impractical as not all calls are about mental illness vulnerability and in other calls it places these social workers in a line of potential harm.

The government and policing itself needs to strongly consider police officers with social worker training and education as part of a specialized unit to work with healthcare workers and shelter providers protecting the vulnerable and being to diffuse very sensitive and troubling situations. It would take time, perhaps years to have these fully functional, staffed and running – but consider how the outcome of Abdirahman Abdi could have been different with such units in place in Ottawa.

Another of the interesting debates that I heard was around what educational background our new recruits should have. It was overshadowed by the larger topic of what skills a police officer should have. In one session 73% thought a new recruit should have a college or university education while only 23% believed a high school or equivalent diploma should be the minimum needed.

For a while I was part of the 73% that is until I spoke to a friend of mine who is in the policing community. The sense of the question was ‘do we get rid of high school graduates and require a higher education prerequisite?’ As I stated, I was part of the 73%. My friend put a strong case forward for recruits that join a force with no post secondary education. It was her experience that these police bring a skill set that education cannot teach – compassion, humanity and a down to earth temperament that is needed and cannot be taught. These police may not rise high in a force, but they can turn a force from being about policing to one about being part of a community. Understanding that we want our police to reflect our community it should mirror our society, we need to allow all educational backgrounds to have the chance to serve in our community in a policing role. If the government places an educational background minimum higher that high school our communities lose the opportunity to reflect our Ottawa and our Ontario. You can now put me in that 23%

A new Police Services Act is due to be introduced early fall following these consultations. Asked at the municipalities’ conference when the new legislation would be introduced, the Minister said “We will do our best for the fall, but it is not definite. We want full discussion.” When that legislation is introduced the public will have further opportunity to provide input into the conversation. Recent events involving police in Ottawa and other centers will certainly motivate the outspoken to appear. It is important that all temperaments towards policing speak to give a balanced view for the government to hear.

We don’t know where this will lead, but the government certainly has built a path they want us to take.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.