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Past Consensus News, Statements, et al.

An ongoing series of informational entries

CONSENSUS ONTARIO CALLS FOR MORE THOUGHTFUL CUTS - NOT CUTTING FOR CUTTING'S SAKE!

8 November 2018

With four months and a bit under his belt, Ontario's new premier Doug Ford and his PC government have been busy. Busy slashing programmes started by their nemesis, the Ontario Liberals. Ford has yet to launch any significant initiatives other $1 beer pricing.

Ford's first moves are prescient - they fall squarely into what Consensus Ontario predicts for a political system based on party politics. Once in government the party will scrap as much of their predecessor's work as possible. While some of those programmes deservedly needed to be ended, Consensus Ontario thinks the wiser way to proceed is to complete the full in-depth financial review of all government spending, programme by programme, to see how much dead wood is in there, available for chopping. It likely doesn't exceed 10% of total spending, but 10% will be a step in the right direction to do what we call for - at least balancing the budget within the first term of government...leaving things no worse than you found them.


Brad Harness

Leader, CONSENSUS ONTARIO

 

POLITICAL OPPORTUNISM HALLMARK OF FORD'S PC GOVERNMENT

16 November 2018

Yesterday's fall economic statement - something that has evolved over the past 4-5 years at Queen’s Park - is not a budget. It lays out nothing official and will see nothing voted on in terms of spending measures or tax changes. It’s merely an opportunity for the Ford government to point fingers and play up to its Ford Nation supporters. It is political He said, She said.

The only substantive information we gleaned was that the government’s annual budgetary deficit is close to $15-billion, something we already knew. So far - after his first six months - new premier Doug Ford has managed to save about $500-million by cancelling planned spending, especially on small things. That is a pittance on a budget of $160-billion. Hiring freezes, pay raise freezes.

I would suspect that the new spending will be very little when we get to the annual (spring) budget in late winter 2019 if they are serious about eliminating the deficit, something Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said is their target...at some point in the future.

The economic statement also reiterated an earlier stated low-income tax cut. Those working full-time on minimum wage ($14 per hour) will not be paying any provincial income tax. We are not sure if that applies to the 2018 tax year or 2019.

That left the only other major announcement being a reversal of parts of the Liberal governments admittedly silly plans for putting a lid on corruption. They had banned candidates, MPPs, and cabinet ministers from attending fund-raising events. They also eliminated business and union donations to political parties, riding associations and candidates - sources of scarce funding for minor political parties and their candidates.

But they gave themselves, the PCs, NDP and Greens, your tax dollars in a new dollars per vote subsidy paid annually. Ford said this will be phased out - but only after the next provincial election. Right! How convenient. Each year this taxpayer-funded subsidy amounts to $588,000 for the Greens, $2.9-million for the NDP, $3.8-million for the PCs, and $4.4-million for the Liberals. Nothing for the 24 other provincial parties and all Independent candidates.

He also did not mention any changes to the campaign reimbursements the three big parties give themselves and their candidates and riding associations from our tax dollars. He never mentioned that the 24 other provincial parties and all Independent candidates get no campaign reimbursements from taxpayers.

Hardly a level playing field, hardly in the best interests of democracy here in Ontario The Good.

Just as the shine has come off the Justin Trudeau apple, it will also fade for the Doug Ford apple, and in a year or so, voters will be scratching their heads wondering why they wasted their votes on yet another turn of one of the Big Three parties in power at Queen’s Park. These parties are old, tired, filled with backroom hacks who keep things going in the wrong direction repeatedly. If only voters would learn and remember they have better options at election time!


Brad Harness

Leader, CONSENSUS ONTARIO



CONSENSUS ONTARIO CALLS FOR MORE THOUGHTFUL CUTS - NOT CUTTING FOR CUTTING'S SAKE!

15 December 2018


With four months and a bit under his belt, Ontario's new premier Doug Ford and his PC government have been busy. Busy slashing programmes started by their nemesis, the Ontario Liberals. Ford has yet to launch any significant initiatives other $1 beer pricing.

Ford's first moves are prescient - they fall squarely into what Consensus Ontario predicts for a political system based on party politics. Once in government the party will scrap as much of their predecessor's work as possible. While some of those programmes deservedly needed to be ended, Consensus Ontario thinks the wiser way to proceed is to complete the full in-depth financial review of all government spending, programme by programme, to see how much dead wood is in there, available for chopping. It likely doesn't exceed 10% of total spending, but 10% will be a step in the right direction to do what we call for - at least balancing the budget within the first term of government...leaving things no worse than you found them.


Brad Harness

Executive Director,

CONSENSUS ONTARIO

ONTARIANS ARE CONCERNED ABOUT GETTING

AROUND THE PROVINCE

14 May 2019

Fly, take a ferry, drive, walk, bike, take a bus, streetcar or a taxi - an Uber even - or travel on a train or the subway and you will hear your fellow Ontarians sharing their views about Transportation. For the majority it is a discussion about commuting between home and work on a daily basis. What is the fastest way? What is the most comfortable way? What is the most efficient way? What is the most affordable way to get around living here in Ontario?

Urbanites have more choices. Rural residents considerably fewer. Are we trying to get from town A to Village B? Are we trying to get from the suburbs into the downtown core?

Clearly, regional transportation systems allow us to leave the car at home for some or all of the trip. Integration of local transit systems into a seamless provincial network makes sense to a lot of people, especially in the Greater Toronto Area.

For those living in places like London, Kingston, Ottawa or Sudbury, it is about highways. The province must maintain top-quality highways to serve the millions of Ontarians who live in places such as these. Even in smaller centres like Brockville, Pembroke, Sarnia, Welland, Milton and Sault Ste. Marie, reliable and safe highways get people and goods where they need to go.

Yes, it would be nice for everyone to get rid of personal vehicles and use public transit but that is simply unrealistic. What we can do is offer incentives to use transit, incentives to use vehicles that pollute less, incentives for people to live closer to their place of work so that they place less strain on provincial transportation systems.

As for highway speeds, raising these to 120km/hr makes sense as most traffic on the province's 400-series highways travel at least at 120 km/hr most of the time (in good weather). On smaller provincial highways (such as Hwy.7 between London and Stratford) having an 80 km/hr limit and a solid line simply encourages drivers to pass in order to go faster. Lets up the limit and reduce the need to pass, especially in unsafe areas of the smaller highways.

Having police stop drivers for exceeding a lower speed limit by small amounts is poor use of expensive police time. Police should tackle unsafe drivers - we all agree with that! This means impaired by alcohol or drugs, and it also means drivers going 50km/hr over the posted limit, as well as drivers weaving in and out of traffic.

Finally, lets take a serious look at high-speed rail and how it can be implemented without requiring additional farmland to put together a route. Ideally such rail lines should run along existing 400-series highways. And they should incorporate passengers as well as freight to ensure financial viability. This would mean building stations for both in key destination cities. The more transport trucks we can get off our 400-series highways the less pollution and the safer the roads will be. Fewer drivers will be needed (there is a significant driver shortage already and that will only get worse in the future) and their surfaces and subsurface structure will last longer and need fewer repairs and less future widenings.

Brad Harness

Executive Director,

CONSENSUS ONTARIO


Brad Harness

Executive Director,

CONSENSUS ONTARIO

ONTARIO'S SAD FINANCIAL SITUATION

CAN ONLY BE FIXED ONE WAY

7 November 2019

Ontario’s Fall Economic Statement - a.k.a. mini-budget - was released at Queen’s Park yesterday.

What we have learned is that the PC government of Doug Ford has rapidly rolled back much of their agenda, and according to their Finance Minister Rod Phillips, has increased spending over last year’s Liberal amounts. There is an additional $1.3-billion in spending, much to fund backtracks on policy changes and cuts that caused the government major trouble in 2019.

The PCs claim that Ontario’s Auditor General declined to agree with the Liberals last three budgets, as they were not considered accurate reflections of the province’s finances. They also says that the Auditor General has signed off on the PC’s 2019 fall mini-budget.

The PC’s overstated the provincial deficit during last June’s election. That was their authority to charge ahead with cuts here and there, cuts which after much upset among various sectors of Ontario society have since been cancelled.

Now the next day, the Quebec government released it’s Fall Economic Statement, too, and announced more money for families as well as a $1.4-billion budget surplus. Their economic statement advances by two years a promised increase in family allowances, giving nearly 679,000 Quebec families an average of $779 more a year beginning in January. Quebec is also cancelling extra payments wealthier families had to pay for subsidized daycare spots, making the change retroactive to New Year’s Day 2019. All parents, regardless of income, will pay $8.25 per child per day for daycare. This represents an average savings of $1,100 a year for 140,000 families.

Quebec is also repaying its provincial debt, something Ontario can only dream of doing. Ontario spends $13-billion on interest on its huge provincial debt every year. Why is Ontario struggling so much with its finances?

Any financial planner worth their salt will tell you the very first step in improving your finances is to figure out what you are spending, on what, why, and consider whether you need to continue with each expense or not. The Chretien Liberals federally had Finance Minister Paul Martin spend 18 months conducting a very thorough item by item, employee by employee review of federal spending in the early 1990s. It resulted in smarter spending and a reduction of about 10% in federal spending which the review was able to show was not really needed any more. Dropped were older programmes that had simply been carried on by staffers who kept requesting money and employees to deliver questionable programmes.

This sort of thorough review is the way to get Ontario back onto the long road to financial health. It should be started now and report back in 18 months. In the mean time, government spending can be capped at 2019 levels for the next two years so as not to worsen things.


Brad Harness

Executive Director,

CONSENSUS ONTARIO

FILLING JUDGE VACANCIES WILL

DELIVER JUSTICE FOR ALL

26 November 2019

I believe it is safe to say that all of us would prefer to have no involvement in the court system ourselves. But we do expect there be a court system, that it be fair and that it upholds whatever laws are currently in place - otherwise why have such laws?

Ontario’s legal system is changing somewhat on New Year’s Day. Announced last month, Ontario Small Claims Court is being tweaked again, allowing for matters worth $35,000 or less being something which can be taken to small claims court. It also allows people to seek justice by using cheap legal representation (paralegals, law students, or self-representation). It is hoped this will allow disputes of this dollar amount to be settled more quickly rather than taking years as is now often the case.

The Ontario Attorney-General Doug Downey, the cabinet minister responsible for the province’s legal system, announced this month that he wants to change the way judges are appointed in Ontario.

The court system in all provinces is split in two, with a higher level for more serious matters controlled by the federal government (who appoint those judges), while the lower level is for less serious matters and is controlled by each provincial government(who appoint those judges). Judges run the proceedings, ensuring the laws are upheld, and deal with any questions of unfairness in their cases they are trying.

Downey told a legal conference in Toronto that the province appoints judges and justices of the peace, saying the process is subjective, fraught with delays and leaves too many qualified lawyers out of the running.

However, those - including the fellow who designed the currently used appointment system back in the 1980s - worry that the PC Government’s push for changes has more to do with getting more conservative judges on the bench rather than about providing an array of judges which better reflect the gender, racial and cultural makeup of Ontario.

Downey does not like the fact that the judicial appointments advisory committee - which screens applicants who want to be judges - ends up recommending only two names, and that all of the work screening the other names is wasted. He would like more names brought to him than just two so he has some room to maneouvre with his appointment choices. He also says the appointment process - paper-based an very slow - needs modernization.

What is imperative is that there are enough judges working in our court system so that every person charged and on trial is given their day in court, and that it is done in a timely manner.

Charges dropped due to unreasonable delay is not doing our justice system any good, and there have been calls to fill vacant judgeships in order to clear up judicial backlogues. Perhaps the advisory committee can make recommendations more often, to fill more vacancies?


Brad Harness

Executive Director,

CONSENSUS ONTARIO