Ford government scandals and problems

180 posts / 0 new
Last post
jerrym

NDPP wrote:

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/former-federal-cabinet-minister-leaves-ontari...

"Nine northern Ontario FNs and associations announced in September that they'd be taking the government to court over other recently rescinded protections..."

Ford regime attempted to conceal a scheme to gut exisiting environmental legislation, including the protection for existing wetlands, in an omnibus finance bill.

 

Here's more on the nine First Nations taking the Ford government to court over the reversal of environmental protection policies. 

Several Indigenous groups are taking the Ontario government to court over recently rescinded environmental protections, arguing the province’s move violates their constitutional rights. The claim comes in a notice of application filed this week by nine northern Ontario First Nations and associations. The application states that Premier Doug Ford’s government reversed decades of environmental progress and protections for Indigenous communities when it made changes to the Environmental Assessment Act.

In July, the government changed the rules around assessments for forestry projects and passed a sweeping omnibus bill aimed at speeding up the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Indigenous groups claim the result is that public projects can now take place without any environmental assessments at all — a move they say undermines both previous government agreements and their rights. ...

They’re asking the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to declare the changes unconstitutional and reinstate protections across the board. “Through these decisions the Crown has undone a set of protections for both the environment and for the exercise of Aboriginal and Treaty rights,” the notice of application reads. ... “These protections had been put in place to address the central importance of the environment to these rights, which First Nations exercise for their very survival.”

The Ministry of the Attorney General said it was reviewing the application, but declined further comment since the case is currently before the court. The bulk of the Ford government’s environmental changes became law in July when a bill dubbed the COVID-19 Recovery Act was tabled and passed in less than three weeks.

It altered 20 pieces of current legislation governing areas as diverse as the province’s schools, municipalities, and justice system. Ford said the bill will help change an environmental assessment process that has been on the books for decades. ...

The Indigenous groups disagree, saying removing the need for environmental assessments on public projects undercuts years of negotiations between the government and First Nations communities. The notice of application points specifically to four years worth of timber management hearings in the 1980s and 1990s, during which it says Indigenous communities successfully argued that the environment was crucial to their ancestral way of life and won key protections from the province. Those protections, they contended, allow First Nations communities to continue exercising their rights to hunt, fish and pursue other long-standing tenets of Indigenous traditions. The application said the government’s most recent decision effectively undoes those efforts.

The groups argue all public projects were previously subject to an automatic environmental assessment unless specifically exempted by the minister, noting the public also had opportunities to weigh in if such an exception was considered. ...

After the changes in July, they said that position has reversed, with the minister now having the right to decide if an assessment is necessary. “The Crown created an open-ended discretionary regime within the new (act),” the application said. “This creates a path of unpredictability, uncertainty and probability of multiple disputes, forcing First Nations to live on the edge of their seats and depleting their already insufficient resources for engagement.”

Chief Robert Nakogee of Fort Albany First Nation, one of the groups behind the application, said First Nations were fighting back. “This is not reconciliation between the Crown government that has perpetrated colonialism and the governments of first peoples who have lived in and protected these environments and lands since time beyond memory,” he said in a statement. “This is deconstruction … We are seeking to have all of this declared unconstitutional.”

https://globalnews.ca/news/7353741/first-nations-ontario-court-environme...

NDPP

WATCH: What Doug Ford says about the Greenbelt behind closed door to his friends and PC party insiders

https://twitter.com/AndreaHorwath/status/1337083504589410306

"Doug Ford is trying to sell off our environment to his insiders again."

NDPP

"Shielding long-term care homes from lawsuits, opening the door to university status for Canada Christian College, weakening the powers of conservation authorities: Ontario's most contentious bills of 2020."

https://twitter.com/CBCQueensPark/status/1337013902362763264

jerrym

The Ford government is facing heavy criticism following the mass resignations from the Ontario Greenbelt Council after saying during the last election that he would not touch the Greenbelt. 

Premier Doug Ford said Monday he would not “touch” a protected stretch of land surrounding the Greater Toronto Area, pushing back against criticism over mass resignations at a conservation authority.

The chair of Ontario's Greenbelt Council, David Crombie, stepped down on Saturday over what he called fundamental differences of opinion on the province's Greenbelt policy direction. Six members of the council resigned on Sunday.

Ford said that his government was committed to expanding the quality and quantity of the Greenbelt in 2020 . “During the election I said I wasn't going to touch the Greenbelt, unlike the Liberal government that touched it 17 times,” said Ford, who noted that all six of the conservation authority members who resigned were appointed under the previous Liberal government. “I have not touched the Greenbelt, we won't touch the Greenbelt, we won't build on the Greenbelt,” said Ford during question period. ...

Crombie, a former Conservative cabinet minister, explained his reasons for stepping down in a letter Saturday. “Ontarians can successfully realize the great values and benefits of the Greenbelt through the effectiveness of watershed planning, the strength and resilience of the Conservation Authorities and the power of public participation and open debate,” Crombie wrote. “It is now clear that the government's direction ... disastrously assaults all three of these primary conditions.”

https://www.cp24.com/news/ford-government-under-fire-over-mass-resignati...

jerrym

Despite Ford's protests to the contrary, the NDP point out that the PC government's actions could pave the way for developers to destroy a large part of the Greenbelt. 

Doug Ford and his government have been overruling the zoning and environmental protection process to do favours for developer friends by dramatically and inappropriately overusing Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs), and is now using its budget to also help them pave over the wetlands.

“The nonpartisan Greenbelt Council has delivered a clear warning that the Ford government is putting people and property at risk with its latest stealth attack on the environment,” said NDP Environment critic Ian Arthur. “Doug Ford has been cooking up backroom deals with developer pals, and we have to stop it.”

Doug Ford has been caught trying to punch holes in the Greenbelt as a favour to developers three times.

In a letter from yesterday, the Greenbelt Council, chaired by David Crombie, called on the Ford government to remove Schedule 6 from its budget implementation bill. The schedule sidelines conservation authorities and opens the door to development on wetlands and flood plains, putting people and property at risk of flooding, soil contamination, threats to drinking water and other hazards.

The letter also repeated the council’s earlier warnings about the government’s misuse of Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs), which allow the minister to make backroom deals to approve favoured development projects without public consultation or transparent environmental review. The Ford government has been using them repeatedly in recently months, under the cover the pandemic, to do favours for developers who often have PC Party connections.

https://www.ontariondp.ca/news/ford-budget-could-let-developers-pave-ove...

jerrym

In typical Ford fashion the government is ploughing ahead with its legislation regarding the Greenbelt that expands ministerial authority on zoning and environmental issues and strip power from local authorities. 

The Ford government didn't backtrack on plans to push forward controversial legislation and instead announced funding for wetlands on Monday morning, despite seven members of Ontario's Greenbelt Council resigning in protest over the weekend.

David Crombie, the former chair of the council, warned that if the province didn't change its plans, which he said will gut environmental protections in the province, "they're going to find a battle on their hands."

So far, the government shows no sign of changing direction and the legislation could soon be passed into law.

Speaking in an interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning, Crombie explained that at issue is something called Schedule 6 — a small part of the government's omnibus COVID-19 recovery bill, Bill 229. 

Critics, including Crombie, warn it would strip power from local conservation authorities and expand ministerial authority on zoning and other potentially sensitive environmental issues. ...

Crombie says he believes if the government compromises those natural systems, it will find itself "less and less" able to deal with natural forces, something that will cost the economy. ...

At a news conference on Monday morning Steve Clark, the minister of municipal affairs and housing, announced a $30 million investment to create and restore wetlands across Ontario. When asked if the announcement was in response to the resignations Clark responded there has been an ongoing conversation about protecting the province's wetlands. ...

Following Clark's news conference, Peter Tabuns, the Ontario NDP critic for energy and climate crisis, lashed out at the minister, describing his defence of Schedule 6 as "simply hot air. [The amendment] undermines environmental protections and, with its attacks on flood control, puts lives at risk," Tabuns said.  

Tabuns said only two groups will be happy by passage of the schedule: "Developers and speculators who think they can get cheap land and get it rezoned with far less difficulty in the future" and Ford and his cabinet. "The premier still has time to do the right thing," Tabuns added, urging Ford to cut Schedule 6 from the broader legislation. If he doesn't do it, people will understand fully the depth of his commitment to attacking the environment," Tabuns said.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-greenbelt-latest-1.5830891

jerrym

The medical profession is slamming the Ford government over not going far enough in its lockdown. 

A group representing more than 43,000 doctors in Ontario is slamming the provincial government’s new colour-coded COVID-19 framework saying the measures don’t go far enough in preventing the spread of the disease.

"Doctors are worried,” Dr. Samantha Hill, president of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), said in a news release issued on Thursday. “It is clear the new tiered framework is not enough to control the virus, which is spreading among more and more people.”

The framework, which was released last week, places each of Ontario’s 34 public health units into one of five categories based on a series of trends, including the number of people that are testing positive or being hospitalized. ...

"Ontario's doctors want to work with Premier Ford to make our province as safe as possible for as many people as possible," OMA CEO Allan O'Dette said. "We can't have a healthy economy without healthy people. Following the recommendations of Ontario's doctors will stop the spread and support a safe reopening."

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-health-minister-says-ford-government-...

jerrym

NDP MLA municipal affairs critic has provided evidence that the Ford government has been favouring its donor friend developers by over-riding to authorize development projects despite local rules. 

Premier Doug Ford's government is increasingly using special provincial powers to help developers with ties to the Progressive Conservative party, according to research by the Ontario NDP. 

The New Democrats have produced evidence that 19 of the 38 ministerial zoning orders issued by the Ford government since March of last year have benefited developers with a record of donating to the Ontario PC party or with links to PC insiders. 

Ministerial zoning orders (MZOs) are a provincial tool — used infrequently before Ford took power in 2018 — by which the government can immediately authorize development, regardless of local rules for land-use planning decisions.

The government has issued 33 of these orders since April alone, more than successive Liberal governments issued in the previous decade, said NDP municipal affairs critic Jeff Burch. 

"The government is lining the pockets of their donors and developer friends under cover of a pandemic and hoping no one will notice," Burch said in question period Tuesday.  ...

"I'm shocked by the number [of orders] quite frankly, and it's unprecedented," Burch said at a news conference earlier in the day. Something stinks here, and I believe people deserve an explanation," ...

But the NDP questions why so many of the projects getting this provincial green light are run by developers friendly to the governing party.  

Two minister's zoning orders issued by the Ford government this year benefited two companies linked to longtime PC party donor Silvio DeGasperis, according to the NDP's research:

  • An order issued in April allows TACC Holborn Corp. to develop a property on The Gore Road in Brampton. 
  • An order issued in November gives the go-ahead to the Block 41 Landowners Group to develop farmland in Vaughan, north of Teston Road and east of Pine Valley Drive.  

Another order allowing development in Vaughan, at the southeast corner of Rutherford Road and Jane Street, came at the request of real estate development firm The Cortel Group.

Its president is Mario Cortellucci, who along with members of his extended family, donated more than $12,000 to Ford's PC leadership campaign, according to Elections Ontario records. ...

Another order enables a 200-home residential project in Lindsay by Craft Development Corp. Its president is Carmine Nigro, who is also vice-president of the PC Ontario Fund, the party's fundraising arm. Nigro personally donated to Ford's leadership campaign and was appointed chair of the LCBO in 2019.  

list published by the NDP of all municipal zoning orders issued under the Ford government shows another 15 that clear the way for development by companies whose principals have donated to the PCs or whose lobbyists have party ties.  ...

Burch calls MZOs a "nuclear option" that ignores local decision-making processes.   "Rules are there for a reason," Burch said. "We don't need to flout good environmental policies and proper planning rules and public consultation in order to have development." 

The mayor of Stratford told CBC News this week he now regrets asking the province to issue an MZO for a proposed glass factory owned by the Chinese company Xinyi, which has become the focus of growing local opposition

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-doug-ford-government-mzos...

jerrym

Medical professionals and the NDP has criticized the Ford government over its slow roll-out of vaccines once they have already arrived in the province. 

Opposition critics are slamming the Ford government over a scaled-back COVID-19 vaccination schedule over the holidays.

While the province has received around 90,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month, only a small fraction of those doses have been administered so far. Doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine also began arriving in the province last week. Provincial officials had said Ontario was expected to receive about 53,000 doses of that vaccine by the end of December. 

But according to the province, just 13,200 vaccine doses have been administered as of 4 p.m. Monday.

Most vaccination clinics were open with shortened hours on Dec. 24. All clinics were then closed on Dec. 25 and Dec. 26. Just five hospitals ran clinics on Sunday, while 10 were operating Monday. All 19 of them are expected to reopen on Tuesday. ...

In an interview with CP24 Monday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called the news that vaccine distribution was scaled back over the holidays “troubling” and “frustrating. This is a situation that is literally one that could save lives if we were ramping up that vaccine distribution instead of ramping it down,” Horwath said. “Other provinces managed to do that. But we have this huge problem with the government not being forthcoming in terms of its plan, so we don't know whether this was planned all along, or whether it wasn't because they're simply not providing the transparency that they should be providing.” ...

Dr. Michelle Cohen, a family doctor in Brighton, Ont., told CP24 that the idea health care workers want a pause or slow-down of vaccinations is “completely ridiculous.” “Putting the blame on us or on hospitals, first of all, doesn't make sense. Hospitals run 24-7, including during the holidays,” Cohen said. “This is a health crisis, unlike any other that the province has experienced in recent memory.” She said many health care workers would have “gladly stepped up to the plate” and volunteered their time if need be to keep vaccinations rolling.  

Ontario Medical Association President Dr. Samantha Hill told CP24 that the OMA was not consulted about the modified vaccination schedule and agreed that doctors would have volunteered to keep vaccinations going. “It’s heartbreaking. We’ve been waiting a year for the vaccine and to find out that there are days when it’s just not being administered, it’s hard to swallow,” she said.

https://www.cp24.com/news/critics-slam-ford-government-over-holiday-slow...

jerrym

Former general Rick Hillier, leader of the Ontario Vaccine Task Force now admits it was wrong to shutdown vaccinations during the holidays. 

Ontario health authorities faced harsh criticism for slashing vaccine clinic hours over the holidays, with only five out of 19 operating over Christmas. But the Ontario Ministry of Health argued that was requested by various hospitals due to staffing issues.

That decision didn’t sit well with some health-care providers.

“The virus doesn’t take a weekend, [it] doesn’t take time to sleep at night…and it certainly doesn’t take Boxing Day or the holidays [off],” said Doris Grinspun of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.

Head of the Ontario Vaccine Task Force, Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, said that “clearly we got it wrong.”

“We’ve been slammed, we’ve been spanked. We’ll pick up our game, we’ll get on from here,” he told CTV News.

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/slow-vaccine-rollout-across-ca...

jerrym

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips is getting heavy criticism and calls for his resignation from NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh for his going on vacation outside the country and making a misleading social media comments that he was still in the province while the Ford government calls on Ontarians to stay home. On December 24th he tweeted a message sitting by a fire wishing people a Merry Christmas and later tweeted we all have to make sacrifices because of Covid-19 during Christmas after the Ford government called on everyone to stay home during the holidays because of Covid. 

On Power and Politics former NDP MP Tracey Ramsey noted the large number of social media comments calling for Rod Phillips resignation over this, which she also supported. 

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips is currently vacationing outside of the country, his office said Tuesday, as federal officials have been urging Canadians to avoid nonessential travel and as Ontario remains shut down. ...

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips is currently vacationing outside of the country, his office said Tuesday, as federal officials have been urging Canadians to avoid nonessential travel and as Ontario remains shut down.

The Globe and Mail asked his office if he was vacationing out of the country on Sunday. At the time, his office said it did not know where he was spending the holidays. Emily Hogeveen, a spokesperson for Mr. Phillips, said Tuesday that the minister and his wife left Dec. 13.

However, Mr. Phillips’s Twitter account continued posting tweets as if he were in Ontario. On Tuesday, Dec. 15, a tweet from his account showed a photo of he and a group of colleagues making a funding announcement in Durham.

On Dec. 18, another tweet from his account said that on the previous weekend, he stopped by a business in Ajax.

Last weekend I stopped by @InspiredRO & Rossland Pharmasave to drop off some holiday treats to show our support for these amazing #Ajaxbusinesses. Thank you for serving our community this year! pic.twitter.com/tUUOuFv8fW

— Rod Phillips (@RodPhillips01) December 18, 2020

Ms. Hogeveen said Mr. Phillips “has made no public appearances or outings since Dec. 13. All photos posted since then were photos our staff thought made sense to post along with the tweet etc.”

On Dec. 24, a tweet from his account said, “As we all make sacrifices this #Christmas, remember that some of our fellow citizens won’t even be home for Christmas dinner over Zoom. Thousands of front-line heroes will be at work, looking out for us. Who is the special hero in your life you want to thank?”

Mr. Phillips’s staff also tweeted a prerecorded video of the minister sitting by the fire and wishing viewers a merry Christmas. ...

NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh said Mr. Ford “cannot give Finance Minister Rod Phillips a free pass for his choice to leave the country for a vacation in December, while instructing everyone else to stay inside their home. Doug Ford let Sam Oosterhoff off the hook when he held a big family shindig. Ford let himself off the hook for gathering with family when he told the rest of us we can’t. These guys just think the rules don’t apply to them,” Ms. Singh said.

Ms. Singh said while the rest of Ontarians “ache to hug our loved ones again, Doug Ford insiders are whooping it up, even vacationing in the tropics.”

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-ontario-finance-ministe...

jerrym

Ontario PC Finance Minister Rod Phillips is facing more criticism for not only being out of the country on St. Barts, a Carribean island for the "rich and famous", but also for posting videos showing him at various businesses including a drug store and buying maple syrup in Ontario and a Christmas eve video showing him in a heavy sweater beside a fire and saying we all have to make sacrifices because of Covid. When rumors of his being on a Carribbean island came he denied he was on St. Lucia, which is true - he was on St. Barts. He also posted a photo of him with a group of PC MLAs from before the trip while he was on the trip making it seem he was still involved in provincial business.  I guess his sacrifice was having to make the videos to show he was supposedly doing what many others were doing to reduce Covid spread.

Premier Ford said he was extremely disappointed in Phillips and wanted him home immediately. Only a few days ago Ford criticized the lack of testing of people coming into the country to Pearson Airport because of the new UK strain of Covid. 

I had zero trust in the Cons budgets before. Now its sunk to minus 100 for a minister who can't even tell you the truth about when he's on vacation, let alone what the budget situation is.  

Ontario's Minister of Finance Rod Phillips 

Provincial Finance Minister Rod Phillips appears to be following the adage “Do as I say, not as I do” on his shocking recent vacation outside the country.

On Tuesday night, Phillips confessed he went on vacation to the pricey Caribbean island of St. Barts, the swish winter playground for the rich and famous. ...

While the trip is not illegal, it’s an optical trainwreck as the Ford government fights a life-and-death struggle trying to get Ontarians to follow COVID-19 pandemic protocols.

Rumours that Phillips had fled for some fun and sun began circulating several weeks ago. ...

On Monday, Phillips’ office said the minister denied ever being in St. Lucia and would not reveal where he went. Then, last night Phillips admitted he was in St. Barts. ...

“I deeply regret travelling over the holidays. It was a mistake and I apologize,” Phillips said in a statement. “I left on a personally paid for trip to St. Barts on Dec. 13 following the end of the legislative session.

“I am making arrangements to return to Ontario immediately and will begin a 14-day quarantine as soon as I arrive.”

Premier Doug Ford expressed dismay over his finance minister’s decision to disobey decrees by public health officials.

“At a time when every Ontarian has been asked to make sacrifices, I am extremely disappointed in Minister Phillips and his decision to travel abroad,” he said in a statement Tuesday night.

“I have let the minister know that his decision to travel is completely unacceptable and that it will not be tolerated again — by him or any member of our cabinet and caucus. I have also told the minister I need him back in the country immediately.”

Phillips, meanwhile, issued a statement earlier Tuesday which contained no specifics about where he went on vacation.

“Immediately following the end of the legislative session, which occurred on Dec. 8, my wife and I departed on a previously planned personal trip outside of the country,” Phillips said. ...

Phillips is the former chairman of the board of Postmedia (owners of theToronto Sun).

Photos were posted on Dec. 15 of Phillips’ PC caucus colleagues at an event in Oshawa but the photo was taken Dec. 11. ...

Ford recently let loose with harsh words for travellers and threatened to implement mandatory testing at Pearson International Airport in an effort to halt the new COVID-19 strain coming into the country from the U.K., where it apparently originated. ...

But apparently, that doesn’t include his high-flying finance minister, who like many other Canadians enjoys sun and fun in the tropics.

Except most Canadians are taking their governments’ advice and staying home.

https://torontosun.com/news/provincial/hypocrite-air-amid-covid-lockdown...

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

What a POS! It's not like being the finance minister of Ontario is a neglibible responsibility that he can take a freaking luxury, 3 week vacation in St. Barts. And then 2 weeks of quarantine time off on his way back!!! I hope he is fired or at least demoted to the Tourism portfolio, which probably isn't very demanding these days.

jerrym

Doug Ford now admits he did know about Finance Minister Rod Phillips was out of the country but says he only found out after Phillips left. Ford says it was his mistake to not insist that he come back  immediately. This is the second secret holiday Phillips has gone on. He already went to Europe in August. There is now considerable pressure that he resign not only for abandoning the province in a time of high crisis, but for using social media to pretend he was still in Ontario. If you can't trust his social media posts to be true or to stay around to work during a crisis, how can anyone trust his budgets?

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is acknowledging he knew his finance minister, Rod Phillips, was outside Canada before the news of Phillips's Caribbean vacation began making headlines Tuesday. Phillips, Ford said, never told him he was leaving.

"I did call him shortly after he arrived and I asked him and he said he was away," Ford told reporters Wednesday. "My mistake, and I take full responsibility. At that time, I should have said get your backside back into Ontario and I didn't do that." 

The premier now says a "very tough conversation" is in store when Phillips returns from his trip taken while Ontarians were urged to hunker down amid rising cases of COVID-19. ...

Phillips apologized Tuesday evening for leaving the country on Dec. 13 for a personal trip even as health officials pleaded with Ontarians to only venture outside of their homes for essential purposes.

Ford spoke publicly on the issue for the first time at Trillium Health in Mississauga, where staff are preparing to distribute Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to Peel Public Health. "There can't be rules for elected people and non-elected people," Ford told reporters. "I can tell you I'm very upset. I'm very frustrated with the situation. I stand out here every single day and tell people to stay at home," he said. "It's unacceptable and we're going to have a very tough conversation when he gets back." ...

News of Phillips's holiday trip to the Caribbean — despite the COVID-19 pandemic and his own government's advice to avoid non-essential travel — has left many questioning how it came about in the first place and sparked calls for his resignation. ...

On Dec. 24, his account posted, "As we all make sacrifices this #Christmas, remember that some of our fellow citizens won't even be home for Christmas dinner over Zoom." Then in a Christmas Eve video, a fireside Phillips — flanked by a gingerbread house and a tiny Christmas tree — thanks the public for all they are doing to protect the most vulnerable. ...

"I'm concerned about the videos as well on social media," Ford said Wednesday. "We're going to address it, and I assure the people of Ontario we're going to have a tough conversation when he gets back." Ford said that after their conversation he would "get back to the people" with a further update. ...

The premier's comments came as opposition legislators called for Phillips to be removed from cabinet over his international vacation. They said the minister contravened the government's own health guidelines by travelling abroad and it's not believable he would do so without telling the premier.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath echoed a call from her party for Phillips's removal from cabinet. "While the government demands sacrifice from everyday Ontarians, Rod Phillips chose to ignore public health advice, jet off to St. Barts and create an elaborate coverup on social media," Horwath said Wednesday. "It's not believable that a senior member of cabinet didn't tell the premier's office he was leaving the country for weeks during the height of a global emergency. If he didn't, that in itself would be enough reason to demote him."

Horwath said there is a pattern of "these guys behaving like rules don't apply to them." In October, Niagara MPP Sam Oosterhoff faced backlash for posting a photo to social media of himself with a large group of people at a banquet hall where nobody wore a mask. ...

In May, Ford also admitted that two of his daughters who live in different households visited his home over Mother's Day weekend, contrary to the province's COVID-19 rules at the time.

Meanwhile, the Liberals noted it has been a "longstanding requirement" for ministers to notify the premier's office of any out-of-province travel and urged Ford to disclose if any others on his team had ventured outside Ontario during the pandemic.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-rod-phillips-caribbean-va...

jerrym

There are a growing number of media outlets and people calling for Finance Minister Rod Phillip's resignation. 

In the grocery store on Wednesday morning, people were talking about Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips’s trip to St. Barts. “Can you believe it?” a customer asked the cashier, who shook her head in disgust. Premier Doug Ford knows better than anyone how bad that moment was for his government. ...

But what has people spitting mad is the Finance Minister’s decision to fly down to a Caribbean island that caters to the superrich, while covering his tracks with prerecorded fireside chats and insufferable tweets: “As we all make sacrifices...” “Frontline heroes...” “We need to look out for each other...” etc.

It’s not hard to understand the anger. This government told us that to fight back against the second wave of the pandemic we would have to cancel our plans to see family at Christmas and give up on celebrating New Year’s. It’s up to each of us, we were told, to stay home and bend the curve.

Meanwhile Mr. Phillips and his wife jetted off on a Christmas getaway to a place where the yachts have helicopter pads.

As anyone who watches politics knows, whether a minister resigns for a transgression depends not on the nature of the offence but instead on the importance of the minister. Mr. Phillips is a very important minister. And Mr. Ford made himself complicit in the affair when he acknowledged Wednesday that he had talked to Mr. Phillips while he was in St. Barts. So the minister might survive.

But politically, it looks just awful for both of them. ...

Mr. Ford says he’s for the little guy. And he knows what the little guy thinks about the minster travelling, the Twitter deceptions, the refusal to apologize for a “previously planned personal trip” and the final, self-serving “please don’t fire me” grovel. The whole thing reeks of privilege. ...

We know what the cashier in the grocery store thinks. If it were up to her, he’d be out on his keister tomorrow. Other than that, Minister, how was your vacation?

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-rod-phillipss-vacation-...

jerrym

Even the National Post, part of the corporation where Rod Phillips was the former chair of the board of Postmedia Network Inc., has an article saying he needs to go. 

Finance Minister Rod Phillips has to be fired, not just for taking a Caribbean vacation while other Ontarians are locked down, but for the social media posting designed to deceive people into thinking Phillips was still in Ontario. His “Christmas Eve” fireside message on Twitter, so full of fake empathy for all those facing a virus-curtailed Christmas, is destined for the Hypocrisy Hall of Fame. ...

 Phillips, the former chair of the board of Postmedia Network Inc., ...  has lost the moral authority to lecture other Ontarians on the sacrifices they have to make when he is apparently not prepared to make any himself. His attempt to prevent people from knowing that he was on the beach in St. Barts suggests that Phillips knew the decision was wrong, but made it anyway.

Now, his political credibility is shot. As long as he stays in the second most important job in the Ford government, he will offer a daily reminder that Ford is asking Ontarians to constrain their lives dramatically, but the same rules don’t apply to the Ford team.

That undermines Ford’s political image as a champion of the little guy, the one who can’t afford fancy island holidays. That image has already been damaged by Ford’s decision to lock down small retailers while letting the big box corporate giants stay open. Small-business owners are furious, and they have every right to be. It would be one thing if Ford was disadvantaging his own core supporters for sound health reasons, but he’s not. There is no compelling evidence to show that big retailers are safe and small retailers are not. ...

Ford won’t be able to escape all the damage caused by Phillips’s rapid conversion from a star to an asteroid hurtling at Queen’s Park, but he has to limit it. The premier said he didn’t know about Phillips’s holiday plans in advance, but he clearly knew about them sometime before they became public and failed to haul his minister back. ...

The premier’s initial instinct was to scold the finance minister but not fire him. That’s not going to be enough.

The case for keeping Phillips is simply too weak. ... The fact that he went on the trip shows Phillips is politically tone deaf and the deception of using social media to pretend he was still at home calls into question his character, even for people who previously supported him. ...

Ford must know, surely, that many Ontarians are at the breaking point. The pandemic has been long, frustrating and damaging on many levels. While we keep hearing about “the light at the end of the tunnel,” the tunnel is still pretty long.

In that environment, every move the government makes will be carefully scrutinized and those who disagree will make themselves heard, loudly. That’s why the Christmas halt to vaccinations has caused a fairly large stir. It is unlikely to materially change things for anyone, but people want action and they want it now.

https://nationalpost.com/opinion/randall-denley-doug-ford-cant-afford-no...

jerrym

laine lowe wrote:

What a POS! It's not like being the finance minister of Ontario is a neglibible responsibility that he can take a freaking luxury, 3 week vacation in St. Barts. And then 2 weeks of quarantine time off on his way back!!! I hope he is fired or at least demoted to the Tourism portfolio, which probably isn't very demanding these days.

Phillips would likely love to be Tourism Minister as he could use it to justify more trips to the Caribbean!

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

True enough, Jerry. Maybe Associate Minister of Transportation (GTA) - that might keep him grounded.

jerrym

Fireside Rod Phillips gave us the video of him sitting by his fireside in a thick wool sweater at Christmas telling us of the sacrifices we all have to make during the holidays by not travelling, while travelling to St Barts, a Carribean island dedicated to tourism for the rich and famous. Maybe he thought he was the reincarnation of FDR with his fireside chats. He also posted videos of himself visiting businesses in his riding while away. Today he was forced to resign today before being fired by Doug Ford. It was also revealed that Phillips had another secret holiday just a few months ago in Switzerland, no doubt taking another richly deserved break from Ontario's hoi poloi. When asked at the airport upon his return to Toronto, he said he intended to stay in cabinet as finance minister. When asked why he did it, his answer was “I have been asking myself that same thing over the last number of days”. After he met with Ford, he resigned. Anyway, to Rod Phillips, you certainly had a Merry Christmas, but I guess it won't be a Happy  New Year for you.

The question now is what and when did Ford know about Phillips shenenigans earlier. At first Ford proclaimed he was shocked by Phillips actions. Later he admitted that Phillips had told him, but only after he was already in St. Barts. Ford did say it was a mistake not to have demanded Phillips return to Ontario immediately. Is this just a cover story?

Phillips

"Today, following my conversation with Rod Phillips, I have accepted his resignation as Ontario's Minister of Finance," Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. "At a time when the people of Ontario have sacrificed so much, today’s resignation is a demonstration that our government takes seriously our obligation to hold ourselves to a higher standard," he said.

The Ajax MPP left for St. Barts, a tiny, 10,000-inhabitant island known as a hideaway for yachts and boutique luxury hotels, on Dec. 13, calling the decision a “dumb, dumb mistake.”

“It was a significant error in judgment – a dumb, dumb mistake, I apologize for it, I regret it,” he told CP24’s Steve Ryan at the airport terminal.

He said that he could not really explain why he went ahead with the trip at the time that he did.

“I have been asking myself that same thing over the last number of days,” he said.

With his departure, Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy has been tapped to assume the role of minister of finance in addition to his existing duties. He will be the Ford government's third finance minister in as many years.

His office released a plethora of tweets and Instagram posts during the time he was away, including one where he sat next to a gingerbread house and thanked healthcare workers dealing with packed hospitals, as “we all make sacrifices this Christmas.”

Many of the posts made it appear as if he was in his riding when he was not.

Phillips said it was not his intention to deceive anyone about the trip when he sent the videos, tweets and Instagram posts.

“I understand why some people believe that is the case but it is not – many politicians, in fact most politicians pre-plan and pre-load messages on social media,” he said.

But he said the messages may have made it look that way given where he was and he knows the public is upset.

“I do understand that I have angered many people – I have to work to regain their confidence.”

Phillips said that he didn’t tell Ford about the trip because the Premier has better things to do.

“Premier Ford has far more important things to do than worry about the travel of his ministers,” he said.

Ford has said it's “unacceptable” for any public official to ignore the province's COVID-19 guidelines, which urge residents to avoid non-essential travel. ...

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath said if Phillips’ trip had not been revealed publicly, first by Newstalk 1010, Ford would not have taken any action against him. “Doug Ford knew about Rod Phillips’ trip to St. Barts two weeks ago,” she said Thursday. “Not only did Ford not fire him then, he helped him keep the trip a secret. Phillips’ resignation from cabinet today is not because of Phillips’ vacation, it’s because they got caught.”

Phillips will remain in the Progressive Conservative caucus as the MPP for Ajax. His salary will decline from $165,450 to $116,500. He will now self-isolate until Jan. 13.

https://www.cp24.com/news/phillips-resigns-as-finance-minister-after-apo...

jerrym

It turns out Rod Phillips was not the only politician leaving the country on vacation and pretending otherwise.  Alberta United Conservative Party Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard and MLA Pat Rehn also sent emails advising Albertans to stay home and Allard even sent a Xmas tree picture that made her look like she was still in Alberta. 

An expanding list of Canadian politicians are in hot water after being caught vacationing or travelling abroad amid a worsening COVID-19 pandemic at home.

Current federal public health guidance says to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada, something Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and heath authorities have repeatedly reiterated in public briefings. ...

ALBERTA Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has declined to discipline members of his government for travelling abroad as it emerged staff like MLA Pat Rehn travelled to Mexico and Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard was vacationing in Hawaii. Two education ministry press secretaries were also vacationing in Hawaii after photos surfaced of them on a beach. They have since deleted their social media accounts. Kenney confirmed that his own chief of staff, James Huckabay, travelled to the U.K. and came back via the United States on Boxing Day. 

Allard’s Instagram account posted a video of her delivering a holiday message in front of a Christmas tree at the Alberta Legislature Building while she was away from Dec. 19 to Dec. 29 – a move she denies was to cover-up her location. Rehn’s Facebook photos of him in a Mexican cave wishing people a merry Christmas were shared widely online, along with other posts urging Albertans to stay home and save lives.

Kenney said he has since issued a directive orderings staff not to travel abroad. But Kenney’s stance on why he’s not disciplining member of his government – insinuating that guidelines were “unclear,” is being met with derision.

“This idea that people were unaware of what the travel rules were – it’s not like there’s ambiguity in November or early December, its been the same set of rules since March,” said political science professor at Mount Royal University Duane Bratt on CTV’s News Channel Friday. “That’s a long period of time. It doesn’t meet the smell test. And the problem is when you’ve got a government preaching personal responsibility, and then you see people in Hawaii…posting pictures of themselves, like there wasn’t a problem,” Bratt said.  “People knew what the rules were. People knew what they weren’t supposed to do.”

MANITOBA The NDP said Friday that MP Niki Ashton travelled abroad to visit an ailing family member in Greece, which Ashton later confirmed in a tweet. NDP leadership said they were not aware of the trip and that Ashton had not informed them of her intentions before she left. The party stated in the release that while they were “sympathetic” to Ashton’s plight, that she would be removed from her shadow cabinet critic roles moving forward.

QUEBEC Liberal MNA Pierre Arcand and his wife are planning their flight home to Quebec after being spotted in Barbados’ Glitter Bay region. Quebec’s Liberal leader Dominique Anglade said she tried to talk him out of the trip but was unsuccessful.  Arcand maintains he and his wife got tested for COVID-19 before they left from Quebec and again when arriving in Barbados. He now says he “regrets” the decision.

CAQ MNA Youri Chassin was also caught internationally visiting his husband in Peru. His party released a statement said his trip was planned in order to wrap up immigration procedures for his spouse, who he had not seen in a year. 

SASKATCHEWAN Saskatchewan Party MLA Joe Hargrave’s trip to Palm Springs, Calif. was made public on Wednesday, which he said was to finalize a sale of personal property. Calling his trip an “error in judgement,” Hargrave apologized and said he had informed Premier Scott Moe of his travel plans. His wife is also on the trip. The couple plans to return to Canada after their self-isolation period in California ends on Jan. 5. 

https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/growing-list-of-canadian-politicians-cau...

Debater

jerrym wrote:

MANITOBA The NDP said Friday that MP Niki Ashton travelled abroad to visit an ailing family member in Greece, which Ashton later confirmed in a tweet. NDP leadership said they were not aware of the trip and that Ashton had not informed them of her intentions before she left. The party stated in the release that while they were “sympathetic” to Ashton’s plight, that she would be removed from her shadow cabinet critic roles moving forward.

I can understand why Niki Ashton would want to visit her sick grandmother in Greece -- it's a difficult situation to be in.  But it's surprising that she didn't check with the NDP leadership before making this decision.

jerrym

Once again the Ford government is facing a crisis in the long-term care homes with the situation so bad that CUPE is pushing the government to send the military back into the long-term care homes. It also called the Ford government's attempts at reforms in LTC 'lethargic and inadequate. 

It’s time for the Ontario government to send the military into long-term-care homes, the Canadian Union of Public Employees says.

With growing COVID-19 outbreaks in the province’s care homes, “We are tragically losing the battle to protect long-term care residents,” CUPE Ontario secretary-treasurer Candace Rennick said in a news release Saturday. “The homes and staff are on the verge of total crisis and collapse.”

The union is joining the Ontario Health Coalition in asking the Ford government to send the military into the hardest hit homes, as it did during the first wave of the virus.

On Wednesday, coalition executive director Natalie Mehra said it was clear the measures the province had taken since the second wave of COVID hit Ontario were insufficient. “What we’re seeing is worse than anything I have ever seen in the homes,” she said.

As of Jan. 1, Public Health Ontario reported 2,814 COVID deaths among residents of long-term-care homes and 11,217 total confirmed cases of the virus.

In its release, CUPE said there were 187 homes in outbreak with 1,186 positive residents and 1,050 positive staff, although those figures are likely a day out of date.

In a statement Wednesday night, the province insisted it is doing all it can to stem the second wave.

CUPE said the PC government’s efforts to reform long-term care were “lethargic and inadequate.” And it also called military intervention “a temporary solution to the worsening crisis caused by the government’s failure to implement immediate and meaningful reforms needed months ago. This kind of crisis cannot continue to be met with half measures by the province.”

https://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/2021/01/02/send-in-the-military-pub...

jerrym

The Ford government is cutting back on the Social Benefits Triubunal thereby causing some people to have to wait until 2022 to hear get appeals heard regarding disability benefits due to a shortage of adjudicators. What are these people supposed to do in the meantime? Not a single appeal filed in 2020 has been heard yet. In the past appeals have had a 80% success rate. Those awaiting the appeal process receive only $730 instead of the $1,169 for those qualify because of a disablity. 

The Cons have also introduced their five year plan to deal with poverty. It has zero increases to social assistance benefits despite the ever rising cost of living.

The Ford government = the Grinch who stole Christmas deliberately.

“There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus Christ,” read Ford’s holiday message. “It is the time to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart and our neighbours as ourselves.”

Do those neighbours include the province’s poor and disabled? Apparently not. At least, not according to those who work on their behalf to ensure they can access disability benefits they are entitled to by law.

Earlier this month, the Provincial Steering Committee on Social Assistance wrote to Doug Downey, attorney general of Ontario and Todd Smith, minister of children, community and social services, to raise alarms about the future of the Social Benefits Tribunal. 

It hears appeals from people whose applications for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) are denied. With support from legal clinics, applicants obtain and provide more fulsome medical evidence and speak directly to adjudicators about their physical and mental health disabilities. More often than not, the tribunal overturns those refusals. 

“Legal clinics are reporting that some of their clients will have to wait until 2022 to get their appeals heard,” wrote committee co-chairs Laura Hunter and Michael Ollier in the letter, dated Dec. 8. “We believe that the delays are in part due to the shortage in the number of current adjudicators at the Tribunal. Having people who live in deep poverty wait for over a year to get benefits causes undue hardship, which is now felt even more given the Covid-19 Pandemic.”

Downey’s subsequent reply, sent late last week, included assurances that the government is working to better resource all of its various tribunals, many of which are also facing similar delays as highlighted by Tribunals Watch Ontario. Those assurances don’t fully comfort Ollier, who told me he remains concerned about the tribunal’s future.

“While it’s a good response, it flies in the face of experience at this point,” he said from his home. He has seen a success rate of 80 per cent in successful appeals of ministry decisions. The auditor-general has suggested such results reflect dysfunction at the tribunal level, rather than critique the original decision making. ...

“The first level of the process is not designed to bring out the best evidence,” said Kathy Laird, a member of Tribunals Watch Ontario and former executive director at the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. “The people in the ministry who make the first-level decision to deny benefits are there to protect the public purse and that is why Ontario has a well-established process that gives applicants the right to an evidence-based, independent review.”

That review remains critical in providing some of the province’s most marginalized people with a voice, said Vanessa Emery, staff lawyer at West Scarborough Community Legal Services, and co-chair of the Social Assistance Action Committee of Toronto and York Region. 

Of the approximately 350 disability appeals filed this year by the two Scarborough legal clinics, not one has been granted a hearing date, said Emery.

This delay means single people are struggling to live on $730 a month on Ontario Works welfare, instead of the $1,169 provided to those eligible for ODSP (which is still barely enough to cover food and safe housing and well below the low-income cut off). Single parents don’t fare much better.

In the meantime, the province quietly unveiled its five-year plan this month to reduce poverty — it contained zero increases to social assistance benefits even as the cost of living goes up. What was that again about “taking care of our neighbours as ourselves?” Shame.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2020/12/29/has-the-ford-gov...

jerrym

Andrea Horwath

In an interview on Power and Politics on January 4, 2021, Ontario NDP Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath discussed the utter failure of the Ford government to deal with Covid-19, where cases are skyrocketing, the disaster in LTC homes escalates, and a vaccination program that has the lowest vacination rate in the country is far from working well.

During the Power and Politics interview Horwath noted that over 200 long-term care (LTC) homes in Ontario have Covid outbreaks with 2,843 dead there already in these homes. Pointing out that there are reports of LTC residents begging for food and water to survive, in addition to the failure to get support in dealing with Covid, she demanded immediate action. Horwath sees the situation as so desperate that Ford needs to call in the Red Cross and  army to deal with the the long-term care problems. She also pushed for experts to be sent into each of the LTC homes to design Covid-19 containment plans to save as many residents as possible. Despite the enormous problems in the homes she pointed out that Ford has no plans to increase staffing in the homes until 2025. 

Many of the homes where things are completely out-of-hand are run by the private sector. Horwath earlier had called for making the private sector LTCs part of the public sector. "The Ontario New Democratic Party revealed an eight-year plan Friday to create a new long-term care system in the province — including transitioning all facilities to a public sector model". (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-ndp-plan-changes-to-long-...)  

Despite the Ford government getting 100 billion in funds from the federal government to deal with the problem that it has not utilized $12 billion according to the auditor general. "The Ontario government was sitting on $12 billion in COVID-19 contingency funding around the same time the second wave of COVID-19 began, the province’s financial watchdog said Tuesday." (https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-sitting-on-12b-in-unspent-covid-19-co...) It looks like the money it is not spending is going to be used to reduce the budget deficit so the Cons can proclaim they are great budget managers. How sick.

Horwath demanded the government to recall the legislature in order to deal with the issues, which of course the Ford government has no intention of doing because it doesn't want to hear about solutions or face accountability for its failures. 

When it comes vaccinations, Horwath also discussed how the Ford government has once again failed, which is reflected by the fact it has the lowest vaccination rate in the country. Ontario biostatician Ryan Imgrund told CTV News Toronto that “Ontario is not doing too well with the vaccine rollout. When it comes to the number of individuals vaccinated per 100,000 people, we are dead last amongst all of the provinces,” he said. “It's extremely frustrating. We have 78,000 long-term care facility residents here in Ontario. We have 146,000 vaccines and we have had those vaccines for quite some time. It is unacceptable to have vaccines for this long, know that they were coming, know what their storage requirements are and yet still we're sitting on them.” (https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/first-health-care-workers-to-be-vaccinated-ag...)

The video of Horwath's comments in the Power and Politics interview can be seen at the url below, starting at 19:35 minutes. 

https://gem.cbc.ca/media/power-politics/provincial-ministers-resign-foll...

jerrym

Horwath's criticism, described in the last post, of the Ford government's failure to deal with exponential growth in Covid cases and deaths, the long-term care home crisis, and effective vaccination distribution has hit home with Ford now considering declaring a second Covid state of emergency and new Covid-19 modelling predictin full Intensive Care Units by mid February. 

Ontario's latest COVID-19 modelling will project the province's intensive care units to be filled beyond capacity by early February and will also show how a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus risks accelerating the spread of infections, sources tell CBC News. 

Premier Doug Ford's cabinet is to meet Monday evening to decide on further pandemic restrictions. ...

"The modelling paints a very bleak picture both in terms of daily cases and the impact on hospitals," a senior government official told CBC News on Sunday. 

"We are in a desperate situation, and when you see the modelling, you'll fall off your chair," Ford said

Friday during a news conference filled with dire warnings of what Ontario faces from COVID-19. 

Multiple sources who have seen the modelling tell CBC News it includes: 

  • Forecasts putting the province on track to report a daily average of 6,000 new cases of COVID-19 before the end of January.

  • Survey data indicating that a large proportion of Ontarians are not following basic public health guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19.

  • Mobility data showing a spike in movement by Ontarians in the days just before Christmas when the government imposed what it described as a provincewide lockdown, beginning Boxing Day. 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-covid-19-cases-modelling-...

jerrym

As noted in the previous post, the Ford government is being urged to declare a state of emergency, but once again hesitates to act as the situation gets worse. 

Ontario's cabinet is being urged to declare another state of emergency as it seeks to address surging numbers of COVID-19 cases in the province, sources say.

Health officials have recommended the following restrictions to cabinet, sources told CBC Toronto on Monday:

  • Gathering limits reduced to as few as five people.
  • Shorter hours for essential businesses, which would involve earlier closures and later openings.
  • Limits on construction activity, but those limits would still allow essential construction to continue. Essential construction would be defined as work on health care and critical infrastructure, as well as residential buildings.
  • A requirement that no employees would be allowed in offices unless they are deemed essential.

Those proposals, which have not yet been decided upon, come as Ontario reported another 3,338 cases of COVID-19 and the province's death toll topped 5,000 on Monday.

Also on Monday, a government source told CBC News that a curfew will not be among restrictions expected to be announced.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid-19-ontario-january-11-2021-...

jerrym

On the environmental front, the Ford government is receiving more criticism of its December legislation that destroyed the effective of Ontario's governmental organizations charged with protecting watersheds and natural areas, including greatly reducing Toronto's greenbelt to help PC developer donors. 

Thanks to last-minute legislation snuck into a budget bill adopted on Dec. 8, the province’s 36 conservation authorities will be forced to green-light development projects for which the government issues a ministerial order that overrides their independence.

So-called municipal zoning orders (MZOs) have existed for years but are meant to be used only on rare occasions. The Ford government has ratcheted up their use since taking power in 2018. And now MZOs will strip conservation authorities of their ability to withhold permits from development projects they deem harmful.

The CAs will still be able to make developers mitigate any damage their projects might do, but the conditions they impose can be appealed to the environment minister, rather than to their own appeals body.

As one example of the consequence of this change, it is now expected that a development company whose owner donated thousands of dollars to the Ontario PC Party will be able to pave over a 57-acre lot in the Toronto suburb of Pickering that is under protection as a “provincially significant wetland,” and build a distribution centre.

Ontario’s Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Steve Clark, issued an MZO for the project in October at the request of Pickering’s municipal council, the mayor of which also received political donations from the development company involved.

The defanging of Ontario’s conservation authorities could open the door to more projects in the Greenbelt – two million largely undeveloped acres that ring the Greater Toronto Area, containing farmland, parks and fragile ecosystems, as well as serving as the watershed for Canada’s largest metropolis.

And that’s the real danger here. The Ford government’s move to create easier channels for developers to get their projects built comes at the expense of a conservation regime designed to serve long-term needs. ...

The Conservation Authorities (CAs) own and operate dams, monitor streamflow, snow pack and rainfall, and operate flood-warning systems. They also maintain conservation areas, plant trees, manage woodlots, protect water sources and approve septic systems. ...

And until last month, they were able to independently regulate development around wetlands and other sensitive zones. That has now been put in jeopardy by the Ford government’s political override through the use of MZOs.

Premier Doug Ford has defended MZOs as a necessary tool for building urgently needed long-term care homes, affordable housing and other public goods. But that’s a red-herring argument for giving the Environment Minister the power to force conservation authorities to issue permits for commercial projects in protected wetlands.

It’s the kind of myopic politics that comes home to roost. The current pandemic provides sobering examples of this.

After the SARS scare in 2003-04, Ontario filled a warehouse with $45-million worth of personal protection equipment and other vital materiel. But successive governments never budgeted money to keep the contents up to date and, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, most of it was unusable.

The Trudeau government likewise ignored the long term when it interfered with the Global Public Health Intelligence Network, the Canada Public Health Agency’s system for monitoring disease outbreaks around the world. In May, 2019, just months before the novel coronavirus appeared in China, Ottawa quietly shuttered the early warning system.

It’s not self-evident that, had the government not done so, the GPHIN’s work could have helped limit the current crisis. On the other hand, Ottawa has since seen reason to reverse itself. In August, the GPHIN began issuing international outbreak alerts again.

Politicians can do harm when they fail to think past the next election. The Ford government has done just that with its neutering of conservation authorities at a time when there is growing development pressure on the Greenbelt, and across the province. By undermining institutions created to allow for long-term planning and preservation, the Ford government is selling out the future.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/article-the-ford-gove...

jerrym

Confusion reigns as to exactly what the rules are regarding Ford's new stay-at-home order, as news stations are unable to give clear answers as to what outings from homes are allowed and are not and when fines could be imposed. The situation in long-term care homes also is in full crisis as Ford admits his willingness to accept Trudeau's offer of military help. 

At a news conference Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford was asked about the "iron ring" the province had said it planned to secure around Ontario's long-term care homes. In response, Ford pleaded with front-line health-care workers to get tested for COVID-19.

"It's not coming in through the walls and the ceiling ... inadvertently though our great health-care workers, it's coming in," Ford said.

The premier also said at the news conference it's possible Canadian Forces soldiers will be called in again to help at some hard-hit homes, although he provided no specifics. 

However, a senior official in the Ford government later told CBC News that the province does not believe that any long-term care homes are currently in need of assistance from the military. The Red Cross is already assisting in homes, and no facilities have such a staffing crisis that military support is warranted at this time, said the official. ...

Meanwhile, the provincial government is expected to provide more details at some point Wednesday regarding its newly issued stay-at-home order, as public health units reported another 2,961 cases of COVID-19 and 74 more deaths of people with the illness. 

At some point today, the province will publish the legal parameters for the order, which takes effect tomorrow, providing more clarification on the measures. The premier's office said it likely won't be posted until this evening.

As of Thursday, residents will have to stay home except for essential purposes such as grocery shopping, accessing health care and exercising. ...

The province said police and bylaw officers will have the power to enforce the stay-at-home order and issue tickets to rule-breakers, but hasn't given details on how that will play out in practice.

But Toronto Fire Chief and head of emergency management Matthew Pegg said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that the city still doesn't know how it's supposed to enforce these new rules.

"Literally, the best information we have right now comes off a media release and a slide deck," Pegg said. "It simply is not the technical detail we need in order to assess or understand that. We are sitting right now in a position where we have ... not even seen a draft of the regulations." ...

The order was announced yesterday as the province declared a state of emergency — its second of the COVID-19 pandemic — and unveiled a series of new restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus.

They included prolonging the pause on in-person learning in schools in five southern Ontario hot spots — Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex — to at least Feb. 10. Child-care centres for kids not yet in school will remain open, however.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid-19-ontario-january-13-2021-...

jerrym

Doug Ford has kicked MPP Roman Baber from the PC caucus after he released a letter saying “the lockdown is deadlier than COVID.” It's one of the few times I agree with Ford. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford booted a member of his own caucus Friday for speaking out publicly against the province’s latest lockdown.

York Centre MPP Roman Baber released a letter he sent to Ford titled “the lockdown is deadlier than COVID.” ...

Ford responded by evicting Baber from the PC caucus, forcing him to sit as an independent or join another party, and refusing him the opportunity to run again as a PC candidate.

The Premier accused Baber of putting people at risk by spreading misinformation and undermining the efforts of frontline healthcare workers.

“I will not jeopardize a single Ontarian’s life by ignoring public health advice,” Ford said in a statement. “There is no room for political ideology in our fight against COVID-19. Rather, our response has been and will always be driven by evidence and data.”

“Furthermore, Mr. Baber has put himself ahead of his PC caucus team, who have worked around the clock for months to support and protect the people of Ontario through this public health crisis.”

Baber commented on Ford’s reaction by tweeting, “I was removed from the @OntarioPCParty caucus. It’s a regretful decision since many colleagues agree with me, incl @fordnation in large part. I don’t regret speaking out for millions of lives & livelihoods decimated by Public Health, I serve the public. 1/2#onpoli.”

In another tweet, Baber wrote: “While Doug only cares about re-election, lockdowns are killing more than saving. I couldn’t watch the suffering anymore.”

In his letter, Baber called on the Premier to end the lockdown and its “catastrophic toll” on Ontarians.

“The lockdown isn’t working … It’s causing an avalanche of suicides, overdoses, bankruptcies, divorces and takes an immense toll on our children,” Baber wrote. “Dozens of leading doctors implored you to end the lockdowns.”

jerrym

In November 96 groups demanded that the Ford government not use  minister’s zoning orders (MZOs) to overule wetland protections. Now they are also using them to enable the destruction of heritage sites as Ontario becomes developer's heaven (for PC donors of course). 

96 organizations signed a letter addressed to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, opposing the use of Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs) to over-ride policy protections for Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs) in Ontario. The groups asked the Minister to revoke two recently issued MZOs that will lead to the destruction of PSWs in the cities of Vaughan and Pickering, and to refrain from using MZOs for this purpose in the future. ...

Wetlands are of immense value to communities, providing flood mitigation, water filtration, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, wild foods and medicines, and recreational opportunities. In southern Ontario alone, wetlands provide over $14 billion dollars in benefits every year, according to a study commissioned by the government.  

Provincial planning law and policy rightly prohibit development on wetlands that are deemed to be provincially significant. The use of MZOs to sidestep these protections is unacceptable. 

https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/nearly-100-groups-tell-the-ontario...

 

A heritage plaque seen through demolition scaffolding. An unexpected excavator eating away at an old building while people behind a fence yelled “stop!” The scenes that played out at the Dominion Wheel & Foundries Ltd. buildings in the Canary District this week are a cliché.

Owned by the province but listed on the city’s heritage register, giving it some protection, the plaque is courtesy of Heritage Toronto, the city’s arm’s-length organization that does such things, but the destruction of this excellent collection of industrial heritage is due to a minister’s zoning order (MZO) from Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark’s office. MZOs override local control and plans, and is a power that has been barely used by past provincial governments, but is a recent favourite of the Ford government, issuing them in multiples, such as in Pickering to overlook wetland environmental concerns. 

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/01/23/why-is-doug-ford...

jerrym

The UK Covid strain has hit Roberta Place long term care (LTC) home in Barrie Ontario with devastating consequences as it spread like wildfire through residents and staff. It seems like a warning of what this more contagious mutation could do in other LTCs. Ford dismissed calls to send in the military saying it was unnecessary. 

Public health officials confirm a new, more easily transmissible variant of COVID-19 first identified in the United Kingdom has torn through Roberta Place Long-Term Care in Barrie, sickening all but two of its residents and killing 41 people.

Genome sequencing identified the U.K. B.1.1.7 variant in six swabs taken from the facility. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit all cases at Roberta Place are likely a result of the U.K. variant.

Officials said 127 residents have tested positive for COVID-19. By Sunday afternoon, 40 of those residents had died. One of two infected essential visitors has also died.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner said Sunday that 86 employees of the home, which is roughly half of the staff, have contracted the virus since Jan. 8. Three external partners and 42 household contacts of primary cases have also tested positive.

Confirmation of the U.K. variant inside Roberta Place profoundly concerns to Gardner.

"What we have here, we probably won't be able to contain. And therefore it becomes a risk to the broader community and other facilities."

He warns the region is "on the edge" of seeing community spread of the variant and is open to the possibility of more specialized testing to detect it.

Roberta Place's first positive case was in a staff member who'd had close contact with someone who recently travelled, though not to the U.K. While officials will not reveal the relationship between the staff member and the traveller, Gardner said the traveller made efforts to isolate within a shared home and that no quarantine rules were broken.

Fifty-five cases of COVID-19 were identified in the first 48 hours of the outbreak.

The rapid rise in cases meant many symptomatic staff members had to stay home. David Jarlette, President of Jarlette Health Services, said that left Roberta Place too short-handed to separate infected and non-infected residents properly.​ ...

The provincial government has dismissed calls to deploy the military, insisting that there isn't the same sort of staffing concern experienced at long-term care homes in the pandemic's first wave.

https://barrie.ctvnews.ca/u-k-variant-confirmed-at-barrie-ont-care-home-...

jerrym

Covid is hitting the Canadian prison system hard with severe consequences for the prisoners and staff confined in such tight spaces. One example is Maplehurst jail in Milton, Ontario, which is run by the Ford government. The correctional officers local union president has asked that all new admissions and court appearances be halted because the situation is so bad. 

The Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ont. is under lockdown as it works to curb a fast-spreading outbreak of COVID-19 that's infected 89 inmates and staff.

As of Friday evening, there are 68 active cases of the novel coronavirus among inmates and another 21 cases among staff, according to Ontario's Ministry of the Solicitor General. 

That's an increase of 20 cases in just one day, up from 69 cases on Thursday. ...

Peter Figliola, president of the OPSEU Local 234, the union representing correctional officers at the Milton jail, told CBC News he'd like to see all new admissions and court appearances stopped completely until the outbreak is under control.  ...

"I am sure all staff within the facility have some fear and a great deal of concern. They are walking into an identified outbreak and doing so with the best intentions in keeping the community safe," Figliola said. ...

Meanwhile, Figliola says correctional officers continue their work "and do so knowing the identified danger that awaits them on the other side of the wall. We've always said from day one that once the virus entered any provincial facility, it would be extremely hard to combat and control."

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-jail-coronavirus-maplehur...

jerrym

Doctors for Justice in Long-Term Care have criticized the Ford government for its reactionary approach in dealing with Covid in long term care homes, citing its "lack of transparency and coordinated Ontario government oversight has resulted in 'piecemeal interventions'  that are too late or even non-existent as more people continue to die of COVID-19. "

 Ontario must take urgent action to address the rising number of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care, a group of over 200 doctors, researchers and advocates said Tuesday, calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis.”

In a letter to Premier Doug Ford’s government, the group said the province does not appear to have learned from deadly nursing-home outbreaks during the first wave of the pandemic, which led to almost 2,000 deaths.

Instead, staffing shortages, poor infection control, and a delayed response to outbreaks continue to occur in the homes with deadly consequences, the group wrote.

“Due to the Ontario government’s inaction … LTC residents are at high risk of death from COVID-19,” the letter said. ...

“In many circumstances, residents are also left without basic care, hygiene, food and water. This is a human rights violation.”

The group recommended a series of sweeping changes across the sector to help save lives as the pandemic continues.

Among them are calls to immediately bolster staffing, legislate a minimum standard of daily care for residents, and provide unrestricted access to family caregivers with personal protective equipment.

Vivian Stamatopoulos, an associate professor at Ontario Tech University specializing in family caregiving and one of the group’s organizers, said the situation in long-term care is dire. ...

“The rights of these residents … are violated with impunity by being locked away from their loved ones in spite of the directives which supposedly gives them uninterrupted access.”

In addition to its recommendations, the group also wants the province to begin the process of removing for-profit long-term care providers from the sector.

“Any home operator that does not comply with staffing ratios, infection control protocols, or commits any other major infraction which harms the residents should immediately and permanently lose their license and face a harsh penalty,” the group said.

The group also wants immediate military assistance where nursing-home staffing has “collapsed”. ...

Provincial figures show that 3,462 long-term care residents have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

https://globalnews.ca/news/7600366/doctors-researches-advocates-ontario-...

jerrym

Kingston Health Sciences Care CUPE union local 1974 says the Ford government is not providing safe working conditions for its members despite Covid being in the province for a year now. CUPE noted that over 8,000 medical professionals have caught Covid in the province, thereby demonstrating the risk level they face. 

Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, CUPE 1974, the union representing workers at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), is expressing feelings of frustration with how the Ford government has handled the pandemic. ...

Staff at KHSC say they are exhausted and burned out.

Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), says that protective gear against COVID-19, such as N95 masks, is not provided to KHSC workers as much as it still needs to be.

KHSC denied that claim in a statement, and said that to date, none of its health-care workers have caught COVID-19 in the workplace. ...

CUPE and OCHU are also calling on the Ford government to recognize that COVID-19 is an airborne disease, to provide the necessary personal protective equipment and pay for exposure or illness due to the novel coronavirus.

“We haven’t had much success with the provincial government on the issue of the airborne virus. We’ve gone to court over this; we’ve been pressuring them for months. They continue to take the view that the virus is primarily transmitted through droplets and contact,” Hurley says.

In a statement released Thursday, CUPE shared that about 8,000 health-care workers in Ontario have contracted the virus between March and November of last year. That number nearly doubled to 15,000 as of this week. ...

The unions are also demanding paid sick leave for their workers if they’re exposed to COVID-19, or even for issues like exhaustion. ...

“This is the minimum the government can do to show that they’ve got hospital workers’ backs,” says Barb DeRoche, president of CUPE 1974.

“In other occupations, this wouldn’t happen. The health-care force is asked to face potential hazards capable of killing or disabling their life. Yet the worker is completely on their own if they’re exposed,” Deroche says.

https://globalnews.ca/news/7594259/khsc-union-ford-government-health-car...

jerrym

217 doctors in Ontario have signed a letter calling for an end to for-profit long term care homes.

With hundreds of Ontario long-term care residents dead and COVID-19 outbreaks continuing to ravage facilities across the province, a group of health experts is pushing the province to abolish for-profit long-term care facilities. ...

Out of more than 5,900 COVID-19-related deaths in the province, more than 3,400 were in long-term care, according to provincial statistics.

After a lull in cases in the summer, Dosani said long-term care homes are still seeing poor infection-control practices and a delayed response to outbreaks. ...

He also referenced this report from Ontario's COVID-19 Advisory Table, which found that in the first wave of the pandemic, the province saw 78 per cent more deaths in people with COVID-19 in for-profit homes than in their public counterparts.  "It's not a fluke," Dosani said. "This system was actually built this way. It's built to put profits over people. When you think about for-profit homes, they're by design created to have one thing in mind and that's profits for shareholders. It's not care for our seniors," Dr. Naheed Dosani, said Tuesday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "This is a humanitarian crisis." Dosani, a palliative care physician for the William Osler Health System, which has hospitals in Brampton and Etobicoke, is one of more than 215 Ontario doctors and researchers who have joined the Doctors for Justice in Long-Term Care campaign.

Despite repeated assertions from Premier Doug Ford, Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton and other provincial officials that Ontario was building an "iron ring" around its long-term care facilities to protect residents from a second wave of the virus, deaths have continued to mount. ...

The group of doctors is also calling on the province to take the following measures with respect to long-term care:  

  • hire appropriate levels of staff
  • set a minimum pay standard for front-line workers
  • ensure at least 70 per cent of staff at every facility are working full time
  • let family caregivers have access to facilities 
  • work with hospitals to establish partnerships for care
  • Keep hospital teams on standby
  • Call upon the military if required
  • Accelerate vaccination rollout to LTC homes

"Until we actually delve deeper at the roots — the systemic underpinnings of what is causing this crisis in long-term care — we will not develop that iron ring," Dosani said. "The solutions and conversations thus far have been way too superficial, and have been band-aid approaches." ...

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath backed the group's campaign. "I'm grateful to these doctors and researchers for coming together to advocate for seniors," she said in a statement. "Long-term care residents and their loved ones have endured agony, incredible sorrow, and tragic loss during this pandemic. Ford has "protected for-profit corporations — allowing them to put their bottom line ahead of the care and quality of life of seniors," Horwath said in the statement. "It's time for an overhaul to stop the terrible living conditions and preventable deaths." 

An independent commission — Ontario's Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission — has been looking into how the province handled the deadly spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes and has flagged a lack of provincial oversight and uneven management standards. The commission's interim report on the situation late last year pointed to a provincial decision in the fall of 2018 to end comprehensive inspections and a lack of enforcement when issues are found. It also found that fines and prosecutions are rarely applied to home operators, leaving a lack of urgency to address violations. Earlier this month, the commission told the province it needed more time to finish its final report because the government itself wasn't providing enough documentation.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-long-term-care-1.5888226

jerrym

Parents and advocates are complaining that the new Ford government autism program uses spending caps and age restrictions on autism services to greatly reduce available funds despite the child's needs, with funding being less than under the previous government. 

 Ontario’s new needs-based funding model for autism treatment is being criticized by advocates who say the plan places caps on the services a child can receive regardless of their needs. Social Services Minister Todd Smith announced, on Wednesday, that 600 children with autism will be selected for the province’s new Core Services Plan -- the Progressive Conservative government's second attempt at redesigning the autism treatment program. After receiving a diagnosis and a treatment plan, families would work with a care coordinator to identify the severity of the child’s needs before accessing new funding of between $6,600 to $65,000. ... 

Families of children with autism insist, however, the plan cannot be a truly needs-based program because the government placed age requirements for funding and limits on how much each child can receive. Here is the breakdown provided by the province:

  •  Children aged 0-3 could receive from $10,900 to $65,000 yearly
  •  Children aged 4-9 could receive from $8,900 to $65,000 yearly
  •  Children aged 10-14 could receive from $7,600 to $41,400 yearly
  •  Youth aged 15-18 could receive from $6,600 to $31,900 yearly

Kristen Ellison, whose 10-year old son Carter was approved for $71,499 in treatment under the previous Liberal government’s autism treatment plan, says her son would now see a 42 per cent decrease in funding under the PC party system. ...

Ellison says her son, who wears diapers, is non-verbal, and is considered a flight-risk, has benefitted from nearly 25 hours of therapy per week but said the new system penalizes Carter for aging with autism. “I didn't expect to have an arbitrary age funding cap that made it so no child over the age of nine would ever get intensive services,” Ellison told CTV News Toronto. “No child, based on that chart will ever get remotely, intensive needs-based amount of therapy.”

The assessment was shared by a number of other autism funding advocates who say the cuts could lead to regression. Nancy Silva-Khan, whose twin boys both have autism, said the $65,000 cap in funding per child wouldn’t pay for intensive applied behavioral analysis therapy her sons need -- which she said would amount to a total of 30 hours per week. “This announcement is a 10-hour therapy cut to ABA therapy, Silva-Khan said in a n NDP news release. “They just announced that my kids will lose one-third of their therapy.”

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-parents-say-ford-government-s-new-aut...

 

jerrym

Ford is violating his own Covid rules on social distancing to carry out photo ops and raise money for the PC party in the process, after having weakened the election financing laws. 

A photo of Premier Doug Ford crowding in with nurses for a selfie at the COVID testing centre at Pearson Airport created a bit of a social media stir on Wednesday. Plenty of Ontarians wondered why the government’s edict on social distancing didn’t seem to apply to him. Ditto for the rules prohibiting them from gathering indoors, or even outdoors, with the number of people that followed the premier around Terminal 3. ...

Ford is using the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed thousands of Ontarians as a backdrop for political fundraising. It’s gross. Even more so since Ontario’s high death toll is in part due to his government’s inept handling of long-term-care homes, its inadequate testing and tracing regimes, and come-and-go public health measures.

On Tuesday night, Ford sent out a fundraising plea titled “Tighter controls at our border.” The email, signed “Doug,” goes on to tout his government’s call for Ottawa to bring in stronger border protections and ban flights from countries with new variants of the virus. “If you support our government’s common sense approach to border control, please stand with the PC Party. Please consider donating today if you’re able.” ...

The very next day Ford trotted out to the airport, where he had no government announcement to make. It was nothing more than a campaign-style photo op and a chance to amplify his fundraising message. It’s not the first time Ford has tried to raise money off the government’s response to COVID. ...

It’s hardly a surprise, given the steps Ford has already taken to weaken the legislative reforms, unanimously passed in 2016, to clean up political fundraising. His party has exploited loopholes in election financing laws. And his government reinstated the discredited cash-for-access fundraising that undermines democracy. ...

The PC government increased the maximum an individual can donate to $1,600 and tossed out the requirement for donors to certify that it’s their own money and not given to them by, say, their development company employer or their union to skirt the ban on corporate and union donations. Ford unfairly doubled up on contribution limits by urging well-heeled donors to donate the legal maximum to the party and his own leadership fund — long after the 2018 election was over and his campaign was debt-free.

Worst of all, the government removed the prohibition on MPPs and cabinet ministers from headlining big fundraising events. In pre-COVID times, that allowed Ford to raise millions in a single night by offering a VIP encounter with a who’s who of provincial power for a $1,250-a-plate ticket.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2021/02/04/doug-ford-shouldnt...

jerrym

In an effort to appease the growing backlash over MZOs to give the green light to developments in environmentally sensitive areas, often involving PC party donors and the building of the GTA Highway West through the Greenbelt  that contains 21 river valleys, the Ford government has announced the expansion of the Greenbelt, according to Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark. 

Though the announcement didn’t come with new proposed boundaries, Clark said the province is mulling whether to extend the Greenbelt to encompass more urban river valleys and the Paris-Galt Moraine, a rock formation that stretches across the northwestern Greater Toronto Area. But Clark admitted "Critical infrastructure like highways, transit and wastewater projects may be permitted in the Greenbelt".

But even as the Progressive Conservatives work on the Greenbelt expansion, Clark confirmed the government will also forge ahead with the controversial GTA West Highway, which would cut through the area. It will also continue using ministerial zoning orders (MZOs) — a contentious method for fast-tracking developments that was the subject of a Canada's National Observer investigation released Tuesday — outside of the Greenbelt.

The announcement also comes amid heightened scrutiny of environmental concerns around the GTA West highway, and one particular MZO that allowed a warehouse to be built on top of a protected wetland connected to Duffins Creek in Pickering, Ont. 

In nine cases, the directives ⁠benefitted developers who donated thousands to the Progressive Conservatives, the analysis showed. Several allowed projects in close proximity to the Greenbelt, which experts say can degrade the protected land.

The announcement also comes amid heightened scrutiny of environmental concerns around the GTA West highway, and one particular MZO that allowed a warehouse to be built on top of a protected wetland connected to Duffins Creek in Pickering, Ont.

Duffins Creek is of the urban river valleys the government is now looking at protecting, Clark said. He also added the province will not consider any requests to remove or develop parts of the Greenbelt.

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the expansion of the Greenbelt is a good thing, but it doesn’t make up for the government’s “agenda of environmental destruction. Even as the Ford government mulls the Greenbelt expansion, it will also forge ahead with a highway that would cut through the area and continue fast-tracking developments outside the protected land’s boundaries. I think this is an effort by the government to distract from all the criticism they're receiving,” Schreiner said in a phone interview. All the other things that the government is doing that degrades environmental protections — that ultimately affects the Greenbelt.”

The Greenbelt is a broad slice of protected land that stretches around the Golden Horseshoe region on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. The 800,000-hectare area is larger than Prince Edward Island. The Greenbelt already contains 21 river valleys that run through cities and towns. It’s not clear how much the government is planning to add to that network ⁠— in the case of the Duffins Creek, for example, Clark has already issued an MZO that would allow a wetland complex in the watershed to be destroyed. Clark also said lands around the Don River, which flows through Toronto into Lake Ontario, are under consideration.

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the expansion of the Greenbelt is a good thing, but it doesn’t make up for the government’s “agenda of environmental destruction. Even as the Ford government mulls the Greenbelt expansion, it will also forge ahead with a highway that would cut through the area and continue fast-tracking developments outside the protected land’s boundaries. I think this is an effort by the government to distract from all the criticism they're receiving,” Schreiner said in a phone interview. All the other things that the government is doing that degrades environmental protections — that ultimately affects the Greenbelt.” ...

NDP climate critic Sandy Shaw pointed out in a statement that Premier Doug Ford has repeatedly tried to develop the Greenbelt and backed down under pressure. “No Ontarians believe Doug Ford when he talks about the Greenbelt,” she said.

The Ontario government is consulting the public on the idea of expanding the Greenbelt until April 19. Feedback can be sent to [email protected] through the province's Environmental Registry.

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2021/02/17/news/ford-government-announc...

jerrym

First Nations in Ontario have criticized the Ford government for using the pandemic to not consult indigenous people that affect them through legislation and through funding. 

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare has accused the Ford government of using coronavirus pandemic restrictions as one more excuse for not consulting with First Nations.

“The government is still doing a lot of work behind the scenes without us during COVID. There are major bills being passed that affect our lives and our communities, and I just feel more so now than before COVID,” Hare said on Feb. 16 during a forum on lands, resources and economic development. “At least there was somewhat of a communication before then, but none now. Things happening too fast, so fast and we’re not part of it.”

Hare singled out Bill 156, Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, which was enacted in June 2020. The Act designates farmlands as “Animal Protection Zones” protecting farmlands, livestock and farm equipment from mischief related to activities that support the objectives of environmental and animal rights protest groups. It provides farm owners and operators with the ability to use “reasonable force” to conduct a citizen’s arrest on any trespassers. These Animal Protection Zones may overlap with First Nation territories where First Nation people have traditionally hunted for thousands of years. I will never resort, under Bill 156, if I should straddle onto somebody’s property and not knowing I am, and to be confronted by a farmer, and I have to prove who I am and show them all my identification. I will never go that low,” said Hare.

Another bill that has come under fire was the omnibus Bill 197, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020, which came into effect in July 2020. First Nation leaders accused Ford of hiding the amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) in that omnibus bill. Amendments to the EAA left a wide range of decision-making to ministerial discretion. 

Also of concern is proposed changes to allocating registered traplines. “Proposed changes to the trapline succession and some of the changes, if they go through… some of our First Nations will never get a trapline. We’re outnumbered in the trapping industry right now. There’s something like 2,500 traplines in Ontario and less than 300 are occupied by First Nations. We have a lot of work to do on the trapping side of it,” said Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief‒Northern Superior Edward Wawia.

However, Regional Chief‒Lake Huron Scott McLeod went a step further calling out the Ontario government for “not having a political appetite to honour treaties” even before COVID-19 hit. “That’s very obvious when you look at the annuities case and their desire to get into an appeal of the decisions that were made on annuities based on the Robinson-Huron Treaty. So it really shows that the appetite to recognize Indigenous rights that were protected by treaties is not there,” he said.

Almost six years ago action was brought against both Canada and Ontario for their failure to increase the annual annuities paid to Robinson-Huron Treaty beneficiaries. The annuity has remained at the 1874 rate of $4. In 2018, the court ruled in favour of the beneficiaries for increased annuities. Ontario appealed the decision. The federal government did not.  A second court decision in June 2020 upheld the finding. Ontario appealed again. Now, in part due to COVID measures, appeals won’t be heard until April and June 2021. ...

But it’s not only the Ontario government’s approach to bills and advice that have chiefs concerned. Funding is also a concern. Marsden pointed out that on-reserve businesses did not qualify for COVID funding through the province. McLeod said First Nations were having difficulty retaining their qualified staff because off-reserve businesses and organizations offered better salaries and benefits.

Wawia said First Nations were losing out at industry management tables, because their representatives were not qualified. Capacity and training were needed, he said, to allow First Nations to be full participants at decision-making tables. “First Nation communities are not going anywhere and we’re not going to stay silent on this. We need to figure out ways of how we can be positive, productive partners in this … and not just recipients of any financial resources. ...

However, he wasn’t confident that the province would deliver in resource revenue and help to build capacity in First Nations.  “I don’t see them doing this willingly. It’s going to, in my opinion, it’s going to be the next phase of court challenges that we have with the Robinson-Huron Treaty, and also the other treaties we’ll be watching of course." ...

https://www.orilliamatters.com/coronavirus-covid-19-local-news/chiefs-ca...

jerrym

The Ford government has proposed election law changes that would increase campaign donation limit, tighten controls over interest group advertising.

With Ontario's next election little more than a year away, the Ford government is proposing to increase campaign donation limits and to change rules governing political advertising by interest groups such as unions and Ontario Proud. 

The changes are proposed in new legislation tabled Thursday afternoon that would make 19 amendments to Ontario's Election Act and Election Finances Act. 

One change would double the maximum annual donation that an individual can make to a political party, boosting it to $3,300 effective this year. 

The amendments also include a plan to extend the $13 million annual taxpayer-funded subsidydoled out among the major political parties based on the number of votes each received in the 2018 election.

Premier Doug Ford had promised to scrap that subsidy, and it was due to expire at the end of this year. Instead, the legislation would actually increase the subsidy, to an annual amount as follows:

  • PC party $5.92 million
  • NDP $4.91 million
  • Liberal party $2.86 million
  • Green party  $673,000

The government says it is extending the subsidy until 2024 "due to the financial impact of COVID-19." However, not all parties saw donations drop dramatically in 2020 compared with the previous year, according to real-time-disclosure records on the Elections Ontario website.

The PCs reported $4.5 million in donations to the provincial party in 2020, while its comparable figure for 2019 was $5 million. The Liberal party reported $3.5 million in donations in 2020, more than triple its haul in 2019. The NDP's reported fundraising total for 2020 sits at $1.8 million, while 2019 donations to the party were reported as $2.25 million. The Green Party reported $780,000 in donations for 2020, virtually identical to its 2019 amount. ...

Unions and corporations have been banned from donating to Ontario's political parties since 2017, under reforms introduced by the then-Liberal government. The limit for annual donation by an individual was set at $1,600 and has risen with inflation each year.  Unions and corporations are allowed to donate to the political activity of interest groups that are not political parties. ...

Such non-party groups (dubbed "third parties" in Ontario election law) spent $5 million on campaign-related activities in the run-up to the 2018 election, an amount that dwarfs such spending in other provinces.

Among the biggest spenders were Ontario Proud, along with the Ontario Medical Association, the Ontario Real Estate Association, the union-funded Working Families group, and Unifor. The proposed changes would impose a spending limit of $637,200 on each group over a year-long period leading up to the election. A $600,000 spending limit was in effect for just six months before the 2018 campaign. ...

Other proposed changes to the election laws include: 

  • Parties would only have to post a notice on their website of any fundraising event three days in advance of the event. The current requirement is seven days in advance. 
  • The available number of advance polling days available ahead of the election would be doubled to 10 from the current five. 
  • The chief elector officer would be given the power to issue fines for minor infractions of the election laws. The current practice is to refer all violations to the Attorney General for a decision on whether to prosecute. 

Under Ontario's fixed election date law, the next election is scheduled for June 2, 2022.  

 https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-election-law-amemndements...

jerrym

Retired general Rick Hillier, the head of the province's vaccine task force, announced yesterday a delay in the vaccination schedule for all age groups, raising questions once again about how the Ford government has dealt with Covid. Ontarians aged 80 and older are set to start receiving COVID-19 vaccines in the third week of March instead of March 1st and all other age groups will be set back in time while "members of the general public in both Alberta and Quebec will be able to start booking appointments this week". Hillier says he will allow some private companies to start vaccinating their own employees, thereby setting up a two-tier system.

Hillier's announcement comes as members of the general public in both Alberta and Quebec will be able to start booking appointments this week. Ontario has been running behind the schedule it initially set out. 

Hillier said the delay in launching Ontario's version is because the focus until that point will be on populations that don't require an appointment, such as patient-facing health-care workers and essential caregivers for long-term care residents.

"I would have liked to have it earlier, quite frankly," Hillier told reporters, adding that health authorities are working "furiously" to test the system.

Ontario then aims to vaccinate adults aged 75 and older starting April 15. Shots will go to those 70 and older beginning May 1, he said.

People aged 65 and older will be vaccinated starting June 1 and those 60 and older the following month.

Vaccinations for populations considered high-risk, including Indigenous adults, will be ongoing as the province targets those age groups.

Essential workers will likely begin getting their shots in May if supply allows, Hillier said.

Some private-sector companies with large operations have offered to vaccinate their essential workers, their families and communities when the time comes, and Hillier said the province intends to take them up on the offer. ...

Shots will be administered at pharmacies, mass vaccination sites, mobile units and smaller sites depending on the public health unit.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/coronavirus-covid19-canada-world-february2...

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

Thanks for the links, Jerry. The sneaky passage of bills without consultation is not surprising but the one that could endanger Indigenous hunters practising their legal activities on traditional territories is super low (and could result in a farmer shooting a hunter and not being legally responsible for manslaughter). The changes to traplines and environmental assessment legislation and policies is also depressing.

jerrym

Transcripts from the province's long-term care commission that were just released on Sunday show that Minister Merrilee Fullerton knew about the extreme risks LTC seniors faced in early February 2020, two months before any action was taken to reduce the risks that they faced. Her excuses for not acting are lame. She mentions that while she had considered limiting LTC workers to one home rather than allowing them to continue working in more than one would have faced legal issues, but the NDP BC government did limit workers to one home by adjusting their pay upward and making work full-time, something that a conservative government would tend to oppose. BC has had far fewer LTC deaths per capita than Ontario, not coincidentally.

The Ministry of Long Term Care itself had only been spun off from the Ministry of Health in mid 2019 and still seems to be in set up mode and too influenced by private sector LTC homes. 

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says this costs many LTC resdients their lives. 

 Ontario's Opposition says the province's long-term care minister should have spoken out earlier on the risk COVID-19 posed to the province's nursing homes. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says Minister Merrilee Fullerton should have made her concerns public when the government said the opposite at the start of the pandemic.

Newly released transcripts show Fulllerton told the province's long-term care commission that she was aware of the dangers the novel coronavirus posed to the sector long before it was declared a global pandemic....

Fullerton's told the commission that she and her ministry advocated for stronger measures than what the government was willing to put in place, earlier than they were willing to act. Fullerton, who is family doctor, says today that she is not a public health specialist and at the time felt it was important to take advice from experts in the field.

Horwath says if Fullerton had spoken up about the situation she could have saved lives.

Fullerton testified before the Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission last week, with the transcript posted online Sunday night. ...

For instance, Fullerton's notes from the time suggest she was concerned about asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes as early as Feb. 5, 2020. That possibility wasn't publicly acknowledged by the government until much later. "I recognize that at times people can overstep, so that was -- I needed to listen to the experts and the science and ... I was trying to wear my -- not my doctor or public health hat, because that's not the role I had," she told the commission.

But she noted that her personal history gave her insights into the situation that other politicians may lack.

"I had suspicions early on only -- well, because I'm a family doctor and spent many years dealing with the elderly," she said. "They may not present with typical symptoms, and so you always have to be watching."

In other cases, such as the directive for staffers to only work at one long-term care home rather than toggling between facilities, potentially spreading the virus, it was legal issues and questions about whether there would be enough staff to keep the homes running that delayed government action.

COVID-19 has devastated Ontario's long-term care system, causing the deaths of 3,744 residents and 11 staff members so far. ...

Her notes from the pandemic's first wave, read out during the interview, also show that she advocated for locking down long-term care homes before the province did so, and was concerned about staff not wearing PPE at all times the week before the province made it mandatory. ...

The transcript also paints a portrait of a nascent ministry thrust into a pandemic before it could gather its bearings. The Ministry of Long-Term Care was spun off from the Ministry of Health (formerly known as the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care) mid-2019, and the commission heard it spent much of that year getting set up. 

But when the pandemic struck, the Ministry of Long-Term Care was still largely dependent on the Ministry of Health, she said, and when it came time to communicate with long-term care homes about the pandemic, the newly formed ministry was being left out.

"Just wondering why Ministry of Health is issuing, reissuing the guidelines without MLTC," Fullerton wrote in an email early in the pandemic, which was read out during the interview. "I understand MOH is the lead, but MLTC must be part of this communication to our own sector."

Her chief of staff echoed the sentiment in a separate email dated March 31. "PPE has been deployed to hospitals and correctional facilities. This was done with LTC partners on the line," he wrote. "We are too often the forgotten partner."

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/long-term-care-minister-should-have-gone-publ...

jerrym

Communities in Ontario are now pushing back against the Ford government's Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs) that make a final, unappealable decision on how land can be used. MZOs were once a rarely used provincial government device, but the Ford government issued 37 since 2018.

Opposition to a proposed glass factory in Stratford, Ont., reached a fever pitch last fall. Growing numbers of residents opposed the $400-million project, which was enabled by a special order from the Ontario government allowing Xinyi, the Chinese company behind the factory, to skip the normal approval process. The government directive, called a ministerial zoning order (MZO), was quietly requested by city council. When the public found out months later, critics were furious. 

“For some people, they felt deeply betrayed,” said Loreena McKennitt, an acclaimed singer-songwriter who founded Wise Communities, one of the local groups opposing the development. We were mounting rallies every week there from November until Christmastime.”

The protesters were concerned not just about the lack of public input on the project, but also the environmental impact. The Township of Guelph-Eramosa had previously rejected a similar proposal from Xinyi over the environmental impact of the factory ⁠— it would have made emissions-intensive float glass, which is used for windows ⁠— and its impact on local water supply.

As tensions rose in early December, Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson said he regretted asking for the MZO. Wise Communities and other groups like Get Concerned Stratford kept the pressure cranked high. Ultimately, Xinyi and Stratford city council failed to agree on sharing costs to upgrade infrastructure necessary for the factory to operate and the project was put on hold. The final announcement came on Feb. 16: “Xinyi Canada has decided to suspend the project indefinitely to avoid further financial loss and unfounded attacks on its reputation,” the company said in a statement. 

Similar battles are playing out in municipalities across southern Ontario as the province issues MZOs ⁠— which make a final, unappealable decision on how land can be used ⁠— at a rapid pace. 

MZOs can be an important tool for kick-starting urgent projects. But while previous governments used them a handful of times per year, the Ford government has issued 37 since 2018, and used a similar mechanism to rezone a 38th piece of land. Of those, 14 cases involved environmental concerns, a Canada’s National Observerinvestigation found last month. ...

Communities don’t always agree with decisions made by their elected officials. And as more communities fight back against MZOs, a playbook for how to do so is emerging: build a coalition, do your own research and keep the pressure high. ...

When it came to mounting a campaign, residents weren’t starting from scratch. Wellington Water Watchers, a non-profit that has worked on environmental causes in southern Ontario since 2000, helped Get Concerned Stratford with measures like petitions that raised public awareness.

When McKennitt formed Wise Communities, the group was able to rely on her musical experience to ensure they had the sound gear to host an effective rally. While they co-ordinated with their local health officials to ensure the protests were COVID-safe, they also posted clips online so people who couldn’t attend could stay in the loop. ...

Another key was networking, McKennitt said. Wise Communities and Get Concerned Stratford promoted each other’s work. And organizers also worked to bring in more voices: farmers who live adjacent to the proposed site of the factory, youth activists and former chief of the nearby Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Leslee White-Eye all spoke at events, each helping build momentum. ...

The work isn’t quite done yet ⁠— some in the community are still pushing for the province to rescind the MZO, since the order only allows the land to be used for a glass factory and wouldn’t allow any other type of project. But for now, the plan to build the Xinyi facility is dead.

It was relatively easy to build support in Stratford, a smaller city with a population of 31,000 where people tend to be more familiar with each other and elected officials come face-to-face with constituents more often, McKennitt said. But she said she hopes other groups can learn from some of the techniques they used to build momentum.

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2021/03/03/news/how-communities-are-fig...

jerrym

What a lame excuse! Claiming you didn't go public about the problems in long term care homes in Ontario that you knew about because you weren't an expert! Following this logic most ministers would not do anything about problems in their ministry because most as politicians are not experts in the fields they supervise. Furthermore she is a physician, which gives her more health expertise than many health minister. It wasn't a lack of understanding, but a lack of desire to deal with a problem that cost thousands of lives in Ontario. 

Ontario’s long-term care minister said she didn’t go public early last year with concerns about COVID-19 spreading in nursing homes because she didn’t consider herself an authority on the emerging threat.

Merrilee Fullerton faced criticism from all three opposition parties Monday after newly released transcripts showed she told Ontario’s long-term care commission she was aware of the dangers the novel coronavirus posed to the sector long before it was declared a global pandemic but kept those concerns within government.

The minister, who is a physician, said while she was worried about a number of issues and discussed them with cabinet colleagues and the province’s top doctor, she was no expert. ...

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Fullerton should have spoken out earlier, suggesting that could have saved lives. “The amount of tragedy that Ontarians have had to deal with as a result of this is unforgivable and it is unforgettable,” she said. “So there’s a lot of responsibility to go around here.”

Horwath said Fullerton’s testimony also pokes holes in Premier Doug Ford’s pledge from the early days of the pandemic to create an “iron ring” around nursing homes. “This iron ring never materialized, it never existed,” she said.

https://globalnews.ca/news/7669053/ontario-long-term-care-minister-ahead...

jerrym

Premier Ford's approval rating which climbed considerably following his initial handling of Covid has now dropped 19% since May to 50%. 

Doug Ford’s approval also drops this quarter, putting him at 50 per cent. What had been a remarkable renaissance for the Ontario premier over the last year appears to be coming to an end: his approval has dropped 19 points from where it was last May. Ford has been both praised and criticized for management of the pandemic. Most recently it was reported that he overrode the advice of Ontario’s top doctor when he opened up testing to the general public, which led to backlogs. Ford faces re-election next year.

https://angusreid.org/premier-approval-march-2021/

jerrym

Doug Ford had to apologize today to First Nations NDP MLA Sol Mamakwa for claiming that Mamakwa had engaged in "queue-jumping" to get the Covid vaccine early, once again displaying his racist tendencies. Mamakwa had been invited to receive the first dose of the vaccine in a First Nations community to combat vaccine hesitancy among First Nations in order to encourage other First Nations people, who often have concerns about historical abuses by Canadian governments, to get the vaccine. I notice that Ford didn't attack Trump or Biden or Trudeau for "queue jumping".

Ontario Premier Doug Ford's office says he has phoned Indigenous MPP Sol Mamakwa Friday to apologize for publicly accusing him of jumping the line to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

"Earlier today, Premier Ford called New Democratic Party MPP Mamakwa for a private conversation to apologize for his comments during Question Period yesterday," a spokesperson for the premier's office said in an email. Mamakwa confirmed he received the call just before 3 p.m. He said the call lasted for a minute and half. During the call the MPP said Ford apologized "for attacking me personally yesterday during the question period."

Mamakwa added that he appreciated the call, but did not say if he accepted the apology.

"As an Indigenous person, yes, it was a personal attack on me saying that I jumped the line. But I think when you are trying to save lives, literally, in Indigenous communities, that wasn't a fair comment," he told reporters on Friday. "It's the Indigenous people across Ontario that need a public apology from him," he said.

Mamakwa, who represents the northwest Ontario riding of Kiiwetinoong, was invited by Muskrat Dam First Nation Chief Gordon Beardy to receive his first dose of the vaccine in February.

Demands for the apology grew from the opposition after Ford's comment in question period on Thursday.

"The member flew in [to] get his vaccine, so thank you for doing that and kind of jumping the line," Ford said at the time. "I talked to a few chiefs that were pretty upset about that for flying into the community that he doesn't belong to, but that's here nor there."

Mamakwa said Ford told him he felt the MPP was "going after him" on Thursday by asking about the vaccine plan for urban Indigenous adults, which is what prompted the comment.

He said Ford invited him to come meet him in his office but Mamakwa said he would rather see him in the fly-in community in Northern Ontario where there is a water, housing and mental health crisis, instead of going to his office "and having a cup of tea."

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/ford-apologizes-mpp-sol-mamakwa-221513228.html

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

I thought for sure Pallister would be the first to go there. Shame on Ford making that racist accusation.

(Now that I think of it, Pallister was first to publicly worry about First Nations getting priority over Manitobans for vaccines. Not even queue jumping - he practically denied them provincial citizenship.)

kropotkin1951

Ford is becoming more Republican all the time. His staffers certainly sing from that hymnal.

Doug Ford’s Office Launches Vulgar, Sexually Demeaning Attack on Journalist

Cody Welton, Doug Ford's Deputy Chief of Staff, fired off a vulgar series of personal attacks against a journalist late on a Friday night

https://pressprogress.ca/doug-fords-office-launches-vulgar-sexually-deme...

jerrym

The Ford government's failure to act earlier has led to a rapid growth in Covid variants that are more infectious and deadlier, forcing Ford to issue a province-wide "emergency brake" shutdown.

The Ontario government is imposing a province-wide "emergency brake" starting Saturday, but stopped short of a stay-at-home order, despite modelling showing such a measure could significantly curb the surge in COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations.   

The measure comes into effect as of 12:01 a.m. on April 3, the province said in a news release, and will be in place for at least four weeks.

"We are facing a serious situation and drastic measures are required to contain the rapid spread of the virus, especially the new variants of concern," Premier Doug Ford said in a statement.

"I know pulling the emergency brake will be difficult on many people across the province, but we must try and prevent more people from getting infected and overwhelming our hospitals. Our vaccine rollout is steadily increasing, and I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. That is our best protection against this deadly virus."

Restrictions will include:

  • Prohibiting indoor organized public events and social gatherings, and limiting the capacity for outdoor gatherings to a five-person maximum — except for gatherings with members of the same household, or gatherings of members of one household and one other person who lives alone.
  • Limits on in-person shopping: a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers' markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies; and a 25 per cent limit for all other retail including big box stores.
  • No personal care services.
  • No indoor and outdoor dining. Take out, delivery and drive-thru options are allowed.
  • Prohibiting the use of facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness, with very limited exceptions.
  • The closure of day camps.
  • Limiting capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services to 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of people who can maintain two metres of physical distance outdoors. This does not include social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions, which are not permitted indoors and are limited to five people outdoors.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid-19-ontario-shutdown-hospita...

Pages