Mini-Cabinet Shuffle Strong Evidence That This Election Is Kathleen Wynne’s Last

By Josh Lieblein

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m probably the least confident person in Ontario that Patrick Brown will be our next Premier.

Though I do hold out hope for a PC government (honest!), I can’t overlook Kathleen Wynne’s ability to keep resurrecting herself or ignore how Ontarians seem wedded to the notion that she’s the the devil they know.

So when I say that win, lose, or draw, Kathleen Wynne is a spent political force who will step down after June’s go-round, I think my bearishness on Brown gives that particular prediction a little extra weight.

Lost in the speculation over today’s Liberal cabinet shuffle — which is, to be sure, slapping a new coat of red paint on a very old car — is once Wynne moves relatively new MPPs into ministerial roles and retiring/more seasoned MPPs out, that just puts more focus on how long she’s been in politics.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Of the 56 Liberals currently at Queen’s Park, Wynne is one of 11 who were elected in 2003 and, as of this writing, have not called it quits. (The other 10 are Vic Dhillon, Shafiq Qaadri, Harinder Takhar, Bob Delaney, Lou Rinaldi, Kevin Flynn, Jeff Leal, Lorenzo Berardinetti, Bill Mauro, and David Zimmer).

Of those 11, she and 4 others (Rinaldi, Berardinetti, Leal, and Zimmer) appear as confirmed candidates on the Ontario Liberal Party website.  Only 5 Liberals have been at QP longer than her, and of those 5 only one — Ted McMeekin — is a confirmed candidate for June’s election. Both McMeekin and Jim Bradley — who’s served since 1977 — were dropped from cabinet in this shuffle, leaving only Bob Chiarelli and Michael Gravelle on the inside. The fifth member of this long-serving group is Michael Colle, who hasn’t been close to cabinet since he was tarred with the Cricket Club Scandal.

I don’t mean to disrespect my elders, but the sands of time have been pouring against Kathleen Wynne and what’s left of her Class of 2003 for quite a while now, and there are fewer and fewer Liberals who make her look like a fresh face by comparison.

It takes a long, long time for Liberals to reach the level of duplicity that qualifies them to lead the party — just ask Steven Del Duca or Yasir Naqvi — but even by this abominably slow standard there is small chance Wynne will still have a credible claim to lead in 2022 even if she ekes out a win here.

And as it happens, this isn’t the first time the Ontario Liberals have cleared the decks of political toxic waste. Once one-time perennial contender Chris Bentley opened his big mouth about the gas plant scandal, he and a bunch of Dalton McGuinty holdovers such as Dwight Duncan, John Milloy, Greg Sorbara and McGuinty himself had to get flushed to clear the smell away. Of course this time we don’t have a cabinet minister going rogue, so the process is a bit more orderly and subtle.

One way or another, we will be in a no Wynne scenario before the 43rd general election.

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Patrick Brown fires up Ontario Conservatives at the PC Policy Convention

Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario Leader Patrick Brown was welcomed to a thundering crowd on Saturday. His two accomplished younger sisters, Stephanie and Fiona Brown, a dentist and lawyer respectively, introduced their brother to the stage at the PC’s policy convention.

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Brown’s sisters, Fiona and Stephanie introducing their brother. Photo Credit: Ying Jiang.

“Mental health should be treated no differently than physical health,” said Brown to loud applause midway through his speech.

In Brown’s speech he went over his core promises of his party’s policy manifesto, laid out in glossy magazine for the press and party members.

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Brown’s speech focused on his top five proposals that he and the PCs are calling “the People’s Guarantee.”

The top five proposals comprise of lowering income tax for the middle class by 22.5 per cent, a 75 per cent tax refund for childcare, an average of 12 per cent more off hydro, $1.9 billion, matching federal funds, to mental health over ten years and the “first ever Trust, Integrity, and Accountability Act.” Brown also signed a promise that he would not seek a second term if he becomes premier and doesn’t deliver on these core proposals. No word was given on what he’d do in the case of a minority mandate.

Brown’s and the Ontario PCs’ policy included almost another 150 proposals to overhaul the provincial government if they take over the reigns in 2018. A lot of these proposals are either tax breaks for Ontarians or additional program and infrastructure spending—like $5 billion in funding for new subways in the GTA—yet the PCs are claiming they’d balance the books in their second year at the helm.

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Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown speaking to PC members on Saturday in Etobicoke. Photo Credit: Ying Jiang

Liberal MPP and Minister of Transportation Stephen Del Duca was quick to rain on the PCs’ parade. “Over the last two years or so, Patrick Brown has been running as fast and as hard as he possibly can away from his track record,” Del Duca said to reporters shortly after Brown’s speech.

“We know, that after all of the policy discussions that he still refuses to level with the people of Ontario about what he would cut when he pulls back the curtain—and we’ve seen this in the province of Ontario.”

Del Duca then went on to invoke the infamous line from former PC leader Tim Hudak, when in the last election he said he would cut 100,000 public sector jobs, a statement that proved to be disastrous in the last election.

Despite the Liberals and the NDP bashing the PCs’ manifesto, the PCs also had economic experts give their de facto stamp of approval.

The PCs had the first Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page (appointed by the Harper government) look over and assess their plan.

“The fiscal estimates underlying the Ontario PC platform have been deemed reasonable,” said Page in a statement included in the PC’s press release.

High-profile UBC Vancouver School of Economics Prof. Kevin Milligan also reviewed their estimates “without compensation.”

“The Ontario PC policy platform proposes to find 2.8 billion in savings by 2021. Controlling costs for a provincial government in Canada depends mainly on the organization and compensation of public sector workers,” wrote Milligan in a blog post. “In my view, a government with firm attention to cost management can achieve savings in the range proposed by the Ontario PC platform.”

How the PCs intend to find those cuts is still largely up in the air, especially with all of their new spending and tax cut proposals.

During the introduction Brown’s sisters joked about how they convinced Brown to finally change his haircut from the gelled hedgehog look to a more natural, slightly longer do.

For those rolling their eyes, perception is reality is no truer than in politics. Demeanour and appearance matter, and to many, even some within the PCPO apparently, according to a Toronto Star profile from yesterday anyway, believe Brown hasn’t exactly projected warmth in public appearances and ads before now. But that likely won’t matter much because the majority of Ontarians haven’t paid attention yet (less than half of residents know who Brown is at this point). His sisters and supporters certainly gave him a boost on Saturday.

Brown’s speech appeared to go over well with members I spoke to, even though there were a lack fiscal cuts proposed.

“I was very impressed with his vision for reducing taxes for the middle class,” said Suzanne Pupkin, a PC member, part-time dental hygienist and full-time real estate agent. “Loved his policy for funding mental illness.”

For those interested in the rest of the PCPO policy proposals you can check them out on my Twitter account. In the coming days and weeks I’ll further analyze the PCs’ policy proposals

 

 

 

The No Wynne Scenario Podcast (Ep. 8): Municipalities and the Province (October 26, 2017)

Apologies for the long hiatus. This podcast was recorded back on October 26. In this episode Josh and his anonymous municipal political activist explain how municipalities work politically, including their relationship with the province. We also discuss the Sudbury bribery trial being thrown out by the judge, as well as Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario Patrick Brown’s decision to refuse to apologize to Premier Wynne for saying she would stand trial, even after she filed suit against him.

A Warning to Albertans: Prepare Yourselves for the Identity Politics Onslaught

By Josh Lieblein

Nothing shatters the relative calm of Canadian discourse so completely as a full-throated Albertan cry for redress against the perfidious East.

When Ryan Rados raked my home province of Ontario over the coals in his justifiably harsh missive, I felt the burn.

I can’t argue with Ryan’s characterization of our out-of-control debt or how we seem wedded to the same old disastrous progressive ideas–though I did try.

I confess that my first instinct was to do what all Ontario conservatives do when called out by a Western Canadian and invoke the example of Mike Harris and his efforts to get spending under control.

But I was forced to check that impulse. Truth be told, except for a $3.1 billion drop in the bucket (and I realize how insane it is to call it that) when Highway 407 was sold to a Spanish multinational, the debt continued to balloon under the Harris PCs, though arguably not as quickly.

No, there’s no getting around it. Unlike Ontario, debt is about as welcome in Alberta as pumpkin-spice flavoured crude oil. Rachel Notley will learn this the hard way come 2019 when she’s deposed by Jason Kenney.

And while I’d love to believe that, I’m not so sure.

You see, Ryan, an addiction needs enablers and, most importantly, a belief that things will get worse if the addiction stops.

While I may be three provinces away, it seems to me that Notley is as good, if not better, than Trudeau and Wynne at scaring her unfortunate constituents into staying hooked on debt. Specifically, she knows how much Albertans hate to be stereotyped as bigoted rednecks… and she knows how to play on that insecurity to get her way.

Ryan even betrays a hint of this in his own piece when he says, “The bitterness that we have toward the East right now isn’t irrational or based on any kind of bigotry.”

Look, I’m in no place to judge. Ontarians are possibly the most reputation-conscious folks on the planet. Why, just a month or so ago it was alleged–ALLEGED–that over-concern for the Ontario Liberal Party’s “rep” was the motive for the deletion of emails in the gas plant scandal.

But I’m old enough to remember when the federal Conservative leadership race was rocked by chants of “Lock Her Up!” directed at Premier Notley herself at an anti-carbon tax protest outside the Alberta provincial legislature.

And I was interested to see how Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was re-elected to a third term despite having accumulated quite a bit of baggage–but not before he played the race card, of course.

Then there was that abrupt implosion of the Wild Rose Party in 2012–all because, we were told, of a single blog post where a WRP candidate said gay people were going to burn in an actual lake of fire.

Ontario conservatives live in fear of such unreconstructed stupidity taking over the news cycle to the point where they elect ciphers like Patrick Brown to lead.

Not that it’s doing any good, mind you. Because now the Liberals have managed to take what might have been a slip of the tongue by Brown–to the effect that Kathleen Wynne was on trial when she wasn’t–and torqued it into a narrative in which this represents a Trumpian disregard for the facts.

Laughable? Kind of. But then again, these are the same people who convinced Ontarians that the aggressively bland John Tory was a secret radical because he unwisely green-lighted a plan to fund faith based schools. So I don’t take Kathleen Wynne’s desperation moves lightly, even if Patrick Brown and his team do.

For his sake, then, I hope that the first United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney has figured out some way to keep the discussion on the subject of Alberta’s finances when–not if–his comments about gay-straight alliances come up.

And I’d especially hate to see Albertan conservatives become like their Ontario cousins, refusing to touch anything controversial for fear they’ll get steamrolled.

Because if they do somehow lose to Notley… who will be left to tell Ontarians how badly we’re screwing up?

The No Wynne Scenario (Ep. 6) The Overly Energetic Leap Forward

This week Josh and Graeme discuss the energy fiasco Ontario is currently mired in. We also talk about the announcements of Liberal MPPs Liz Sandals and Deb Matthews leaving provincial politics at the end of their terms, and how the Liberals are trying to frame Patrick Brown as Trumpian.

A circus is coming to Ontario and you’re all invited!

By Sarah Warry-Poljanski

Ontarians are getting ready to enter the province’s 42nd election in early June of 2018 and, boy, it’s going to be a zinger. After much speculation earlier this summer, Kathleen Wynne has promised she will continue to carry the torch as leader for the Ontario Liberals in the next election. Wynne currently holds an approval rating of 17 per cent, a few points higher than in recent months but still lower than despised U.S. President Donald Trump, and for good reasons.

Recently, however, it is PC leader Patrick Brown who is being compared to Trump by the Ontario Liberal Party. Why? With a war chest of an estimated $16 million dollars, the attack ads are rolling out from the PCs and it’s clear Wynne and her gang aren’t too thrilled. The latest commercial features newspaper headlines with a narration about Liberal scandals and the untrustworthy behaviour of the Liberal Party of Ontario. In all honesty, nothing said in the ad is exaggerated or untrue. Over the past 14 years the Liberal Party has seen its share of scandals and problems. They are currently in court for two different issues, and have been under five different OPP investigations. If they aren’t happy with their dirty laundry being aired maybe they need to change the way they operate.

One of the things that makes me laugh is that it was just weeks ago that Wynne threatened to sue Patrick Brown after he misspoke and stated she was “standing trial” while she testified at the Sudbury byelection scandal case involving two of her former political operatives. She gave him six weeks to meet her list of demands or she would pursue with legal action. He ignored her threats, and I applaud him for that. In 2014, Wynne had a lawsuit against then PC leader Tim Hudak and PC MPP Lisa MacLeod for statements they made about Wynne’s supposed connection in the infamous gas plant scandal. The suit was dropped after Wynne won the election in 2015 and nothing else came of it. So, why does all this matter going into the next election?

Before the 2016 U.S presidential election, name calling and slander were popular in elections and pigeonholing voters and candidates was not unusual, but today it’s growing rampant. Since the beginning of the U.S election the newest counter-attack seems to be calling your opponent or their supporters names and making comparisons of them to odious people–dead or alive. Trump is the newest and most infamous figure to compare others to as an insult in Canadian politics. (In reality, he’s grown the American economy–jobs and the stock market are booming, and America is being taken seriously by other nations–this must be hard to grasp for left-wing politicians using him for this tactic of smearing by association.)

Last week, Mayor Nenshi of Calgary, who is looking to secure his third term in office, called supporters of his opponents “racists and haters”.  The only problem is the “racists and haters” he is referring to are many of the very same people who put him in office the first two times. As you can imagine, Calgary residents were less than impressed with this childish behaviour and stated they don’t like the job he’s done and feel it’s time for change.

While I have to admit that I am a fan of attack ads, I do also believe there is a clear line between attacking the behaviours and actions of a person and attacking the person as an individual. This also applies to the person under attack. Using shaming as a way to divert attention away from yourself is a low move, and trying to guilt and shame people into voting for you is a terrible strategy. But politics is politics, and diversion and vilification and minimization are all tactics of politicians trying to get voters to forget about issues and for them to escape honest scrutiny.

The issue moving forward is that there are people like Wynne or Nenshi running for office who instead of taking responsibility for their actions and admitting their faults would rather turn it around and insult and pigeonhole voters and their opponents. By calling someone who doesn’t support you a racist, misogynist, bigot, or compare your opponent to a notorious person they have nothing in common with, you are doing democracy a disservice. In fact, failing to be able to take responsibility for or acknowledge your actions and accept that most voters genuinely may be sick of your lies and equivocation over your faulty policies probably means you should drop out of the race and quit while you’re behind.

But how do we make sure that these tactics don’t become control mechanisms for failing politicians to use to secure votes by means of psychological manipulation? These same tactics worked for the OLP in the last few elections. How do we ensure that voters are free to decide who they want controlling their money and, more and more commonly, their lives through laws and policies if they fear being labeled or seen as a bad person for doing what’s needed or right? (Like making cuts in the most indebted sub-sovereign jurisdiction in the developed world that spends billions a year servicing our crippling level of debt.) Maybe it will take a few more election cycles until we hit rock bottom and wise up, or maybe people will see through the melodramatic desperation this time around. Either way, grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.

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Sarah is a 34-year-old Hamiltonian with a background in addictions counseling and criminal psychology. She has spent the past several years participating in local politics, advocating on behalf of taxpayers. Sarah recently ran as a candidate in a Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario riding nomination.

 

The No Wynne Scenario Podcast (Ep. 5): Moving Truck, the Ontario Health Care Labyrinth, and Video Game Trolling

On this episode Graeme and Josh try to navigate and make sense of the Ontario health care system maze. Josh tells us about the unveiling of Ontario Proud’s anti-Wynne moving truck in Richmond Hill. Josh also takes Graeme to task for taking the now-cancelled and racist “Dirty Chinese Restaurant” video game, created by Markham trolls, too lightly and for not joining in the moral panic.

Speaking of video games, here’s Josh singing the praise of another Canadian video game creating a lot of buzz in the gaming world for good reasons. Yet, for some odd reason Canadian politicians haven’t clued in or cared to promote it.

Also, Josh and Graeme’s latest columns can be found at Loonie Politics:

The Liberal Party of Canada: From “Real Change” to Status Quo (Again)

Trudeau Talks the Biggest Game When it Comes to Feminism, but are his Actions Measuring Up?

 

The No Wynne Scenario Podcast (Ep. 4): Laughing Gas and Ads Bonanza

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This week Graeme and Josh look at Ontario government and party ads, including how recent changes to legislation may have affected fundraising and rules for both types of ads. But first, Josh gives us an update on the Gas Plant Trial. At the end we also discuss what the hell a Red Tory means, and if Patrick Brown is right to court this elusive voting bloc.

Here’s a Globe and Mail report, backing up our one claim made in today’s podcast, showing the lion’s share of third-party ad spending was directed against the Ontario PC’s last election.

You can also check out Josh’s and Graeme’s latest columns at Loonie Politics, “The PC Party of Ontario’s Plan 9 From Outer Space” and “Wynne Needs to Spend $5.5 Million on Hydro Ads to Combat Fake News” respectively.

 

 

The No Wynne Scenario Podcast (Ep. 3): Muddy Fields and New Seats

This week Graeme and Josh look at the changes to the Electoral Boundaries Act and then go over Conservative Leader Patrick Brown’s and Premier Kathleen Wynne’s tiff over some (choice?) wording Brown used last week. But first, Josh tells us about his experience trudging through muck in bucolic Walton where the Ontario party leaders attended the annual International Plowing Match.

You can also check out our latest columns at Loonie Politics: “The Myth of the Rational Ontarian” and “Wynne and Brown Play a Dumb Game of Chicken“.