PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY, ON – Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his provincial counterparts got into the holiday spirit by chopping down their own Christmas wind turbine.
Ford invited his friends and families visiting for the premier’s meeting to take home a sawed-off clean energy generator as a holiday gift courtesy of the Ontario government.
“This one is a little big, but if we trim 50 feet from the base, I should be able to fit it on the roof of my car,” said Ford to his colleagues, gazing at the towering structure ready to be harvested. “I usually get my wind turbines from a guy outside of a Canadian Tire parking lot, but this year was special.”
White Pines Wind Farm has nine majestic and recently decommissioned wind energy converters so young they didn’t even have the opportunity to produce electricity thanks to the Ontario PC government’s cuts.
“I always feel a bit guilty if I have to cut down a tree,” said Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe holding a large hacksaw. “That’s a living thing that should be harvested for its lumber or burned for its low-efficiency energy, not tossed away January 1st.”
“Timber!” yelled New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs as one of the turbines fell crushing a barn and any opportunity to help stave off an impending climate change disaster.
Ford said that cutting down Christmas turbines was worth the $100 million price tag, and Ontarians will be amazed to see the colourful display of lights and decorations.
At press time, the leaders sang old favourites such as O Christmas Fan and Nuclear Energy is Coming to Town. SOURCE
Since being elected, Doug Ford and his government have been embroiled in scandal after scandal. A poll conducted in July showed that about 60% of Ontarians considered his administration to be corrupt.
Jason Kenney now appears to be following in Ford’s footsteps, entangling himself in a web of unscrupulous behaviour and sketchy dealings.
Both Premiers have a penchant for shady governance, but who stands above the other as Canada’s most corrupt Premier?
Doug Ford: King of patronage and nepotism
Right out the gate, Ontarians got a glimpse of Ford’s proclivity for doling out cushy jobs and appointments to friends and allies.
In July 2018, Doug Ford rewarded his friend and former Progressive Conservative Party president, Rueben Devlin, with an obscure appointment that paid $350,000.
The Ontario Premier’s real troubles began back in late 2018 when he attempted to appoint his long-time friend Ron Taverner as the OPP commissioner. Ford’s government even lowered the requirements of the hiring process so that Taverner could be eligible. He would end up being handed the job but later stepped away from the controversial appointment after public backlash.
By the spring of 2019, Doug Ford had overseen a growing list of patronage appointments. His family lawyer was handed an appointment with a six-figure salary. Failed PC candidates received high-profile jobs in the public sector. Former staffers and lobbyists alike had their fair share of roles to play in Ford’s new government. Most notably, Ian Todd, a senior staffer on his campaign, was appointed to represent Ontario in Washington, D.C., a position which would pay him $350,000 a year.
Things came to a head in June of 2019 with the now-infamous Dean French scandal. French, the Premier’s chief-of-staff, was handing out public jobs to his friends and family. Perhaps the most shocking of all was the appointment of Tyler Albrecht, a university graduate who played lacrosse with French’s son. The 26-year old Albrecht had no substantive work experience, but he was a friend of the French family. That, it seems, was enough under the Ford government to give him a $164,000 a year appointment to represent the province in New York.
Ford and his government went into full crisis management mode. A cabinet shuffle, a promise to change the appointments process, and a 5-month disappearing act — they were all meant to make sure the public forgot about his cronyism. However, if the federal election results are any indication, “the people” remember.
Jason Kenney: A Graft-y Fraudster
Kenney was dogged with scandal from the day he became Premier. His leadership race was riddled with irregularities and an alleged ‘kamikaze’ candidate that ensured Kenney won the UCP’s top spot.
Shortly after arriving in office, Kenney announced a wave of patronage appointments, packing Alberta’s public boards, agencies, and commissions with UCP loyalists. Failed candidates, donors, and campaign staffers all got a piece of the pie. Instead of spreading out his patronage like Ford, Kenney rammed his crony appointments through in one blow.
Then came the news that Kenney had used $16,000 in public funds to fly fellow Conservative Premiers on private jets. The misuse of taxpayer dollars to facilitate a partisan photo-op was just the beginning of Kenney’s most recent problems.
Shortly after, his closest advisor came under fire for using public funds to pay for trips to London, fancy dinners, and luxury hotel accommodations. In the span of a few months, Kenney’s right-hand man spent $45,000 on just four trips to the United Kingdom.
On top of all this, there came the discovery of graft in Kenney’s inquiry on ‘foreign-funded’ climate activists. The inquiry’s commissioner had spent more than a third of his budget on fees to his son’s legal firm. Commissioner Steve Allan, appointed by Kenney himself, had given the firm a sole-source contract worth $905,000.
Now Kenney has fired the Elections Commissioner — the one man capable of thoroughly investigating the ‘kamikazee scandal’ from the UCP leadership race — and announced plans to roll back election finance laws and open a floodgate of dark money into Alberta election campaigns. One can only imagine the forms of corruption this wave of corporate money flowing into Alberta politics will create.
And the winner is…
While Doug Ford has a head start on Kenney, it appears that Alberta’s Premier has learned from Ford’s early mistakes in his efforts to reward his buddies and political allies.
While Ford has thus far received more public blowback for his scandals, Kenney’s interference in election oversight and campaign financing suggests that he is — shockingly — already overtaking Ford as Canada’s most corrupt Premier. SOURCE
On November 8, 2019, the Provincial Government passed Bill 124, “the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019” (“Bill 124”). Bill 124 imposes wage restraint in the public sector for both unionized and non-unionized employees. The purpose of this legislation is “to ensure that increases in public sector compensation reflect the fiscal situation of the Province, are consistent with the principles of responsible fiscal management and protect the sustainability of public services.”
Bill 124 applies to certain public sector entities, including not-for-profit entities that received at least $1,000,000 in funding from the Ontario Government in 2018.
Bill 124 creates a 3 year “moderation period” during which time compensation increases for individual positions must be limited to no more than 1% per year. For non-unionized employers the 3 year “moderation period” begins on a date selected by the employer after June 5, 2019 or January 1, 2022, whichever occurs first. Accordingly, employers have some degree of flexibility in determining when the wage restraints begin. For unionized employers, the “moderation period” generally begins after current collective agreements expire. As such, the wage restraint measures do not impact current collective agreements.
The restraint measures in Bill 124 do not apply to prohibit an employee’s salary rate from increasing due to (a) length of employment; (b) an assessment of performance; or (c) the employee’s successful completion of a program or course of professional or technical education. As an example, wage progression grids in a Collective Agreement based on seniority will not be impacted.
The Government included anti-avoidance provisions in Bill 124 to prohibit employers from providing ‘catch-up’ payments to employees (either before or after the “moderation period”).
It is important to note that Bill 124 offers protection for employers against claims made by employees (e.g. constructive dismissal) who may be adversely impacted by the employer’s compliance with the wage restraint measures.
Bill 124 is controversial amongst labour unions who have signalled that they may challenge Bill 124 on constitutional grounds in the Courts. However, as of today, Bill 124 is law and employers are obliged to comply. Accordingly, public sector employers should immediately review their compensation policies and practices. Non-union employers should take advantage of the flexibility offered by Bill 124 in deciding when the “moderation period” should begin. For those employers entering collective bargaining, recognition must be given to the fact that the “moderation period” will apply going forward. As such, negotiations must respect the 1% limit set out in the legislation.
“I’m so proud of that,” Ford said of his decision. “I’m proud that we actually saved the taxpayers $790 million when we cancelled those terrible, terrible, terrible wind turbines that really for the last 15 years have destroyed our energy file.”
Later Thursday, Ford went further in defending the cancelled contracts, saying “if we had the chance to get rid of all the wind mills we would.”
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The NDP first reported the cost of the cancellations Tuesday, saying the $231 million figure was listed as “other transactions”, buried in government documents detailing spending in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
The Progressive Conservatives have said the final cost of the cancellations, which include the decommissioning of a wind farm already under construction in Prince Edward County, Ont., has yet to be established.
The government has said it tore up the deals because the province didn’t need the power and it was driving up electricity rates, and the decision will save millions over the life of the contracts. Industry officials have disputed those savings, saying the cancellations will just mean job losses for small business.
How a small-scale homeowner energy program contributed to cost escalations in hydro bills
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has asked Ontario’s auditor general to investigate the contracts and their termination fees. She called Ford’s remarks on Thursday “ridiculous.”
“Every jurisdiction around the world is trying to figure out how to bring more renewables onto their electricity grids,” she said. “This government is taking us backwards and costing us at the very least $231 million in tearing these energy contracts.” SOURCE
It warms the soul to recall the day last June when Doug Ford was heartily booed by the enormous crowd in Nathan Phillips Square celebrating the Raptors — a crowd so big that it even dwarfed the one at Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Humiliated by this stunning rebuke, the premier retreated from some of his more unpopular cutbacks.
But it would be a mistake to assume that Ford’s destructive austerity agenda has been derailed. On the contrary, it moves forward like a freight train, coming at us slowly but relentlessly, much of it under cover of darkness.
Among the premier’s sweeping cutbacks — aimed at reducing the deficit without tapping the corporate elite for more tax revenues — are a dizzying array of cuts to our public health-care system, the crown jewel of our social programs.
These cuts, totalling about $360 million, will affect everything from mental health care to cancer screening, according to Natalie Mehra, head of the Ontario Health Coalition.
Their impact will likely be profound, since Ontario’s health-care spending is already well below the Canadian average, even though Ontario is one of the richest provinces.
Indeed, Ontario’s health-care spending is only $3,903 per person — the lowest of the 10 provinces — and $487 per person lower than the Canadian average, according to Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office.
Even more damaging may be the Ford government’s embrace of further privatization, evident in recent legislation creating a health superagency with vast new privatization powers.
Let’s quickly clarify that there are no savings to be had from such privatization. Quite the contrary.
While government spending on the public portion of health care — doctors and hospitals — has held steady at about 4 per cent of GDP for the past 40 years, the costs of the private parts of the system — drugs, physiotherapy, dentistry, home care, etc. — have risen dramatically.
But Ford seems less concerned about controlling health costs than about pleasing business interests, which have long pushed to open our health-care system to more privatization, so they can get in on the spectacular profits reaped in private health care south of the border.
The premier’s support for privatized health care adds new impetus to the well-funded, pro-privatization campaign already well underway.
The public face of this campaign has been B.C. medical entrepreneur Dr. Brian Day, who has spearheaded a 10-year legal battle to strike down Canadian medicare laws restricting private surgical clinics from collecting money through the public system while also charging patients hefty additional fees.
Behind the scenes, Day has had ample financial support from private interests who recognize that his victory would open the floodgates to private medicine in Canada. “If he wins, you can kiss goodbye to medicare as we know it,” says Colleen Fuller, a health policy researcher affiliated with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Astonishingly, much of this anti-medicare campaign appears to have been waged with tax deductible dollars.
A massive $5-million war chest to support Day’s legal challenge has been amassed by the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), a right-wing, Calgary-based organization — with charitable status.
The CCF acknowledges that its donors include some very high-net-worth individuals, including Anthony Fell, former chairman of RBC Capital Markets. Indeed, the suggested donation range on the CCF’s website goes all the way up to $250,000. And there’s a link to a form allowing donors to transfer securities from their brokerage accounts. Not your usual lemonade-stand charity.
The CCF is also registered as a U.S. charity with the IRS, suggesting it receives money from wealthy U.S. donors keen to help strike down Canadian laws that restrict their investment opportunities here.
(Might be something for Jason Kenney’s inquiry into foreign influence to investigate.)
Meanwhile, a pro-medicare group called Canadian Doctors for Medicare is denied charitable status in Canada, on the grounds that it’s an advocacy group. So, while you can get a tax deduction for a donation to fight medicare, you can’t get one for a donation to save medicare. Ironic, since most Canadians revere medicare.
Far from the boos that greeted him at Nathan Phillips Square, Ford has now moved to the backrooms where he’s quietly helping financial interests, domestic and foreign, get a chunk of our crown jewel. SOURCE
The Ford government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars this year to tear down or cancel 751 renewable energy projects around the province, according to documents obtained by CityNews.
“Last year, this government insisted that there would be no cost to cancelling renewable energy projects like the White Pines Wind Farm,” NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns said in the legislature Tuesday.
For the White Pines Wind Farm project in Prince Edward County, the Ontario government is on the hook for an estimated $141 million. The company had signed a 20-year contract to provide the province with renewable energy.
At the project, located two hours east of Toronto, cranes started arriving last month to tear down 100-metre-tall wind turbines that were just built and ready to be switched on. The project was more than a decade in the making and was expected to produce enough energy to power more than 60,000 homes over the length of its contract.
While planning for many of the 751 cancelled projects was well underway, they had not hit key construction milestones. The White Pines project is unique in that construction began in 2017 and the turbines are ready to go.
Outside the town of Milford, nine wind turbines — four fully constructed and five more partially so — are coming down. They are a casualty of the White Pines Wind Project Termination Act, a bill that was passed by Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government just weeks after coming into office.
The government won’t say how much this decommissioning is costing but based on publicly-available documents showing wind power rates, and the project’s generating capacity, CityNews has calculated the province would owe the provider more than $7 million per year of the contract, or just over $141 million over 20 years.
The total cost of all the cancelled renewable energy projects around the provinces is $231 million in 2018-2019, according to the Public Accounts of Ontario.
On Tuesday, associate minister of energy Bill Walker would again not confirm the figure in Question Period. Neither would Energy Minister Greg Rickford when he was asked by CityNews earlier this week.
However, an email obtained by CityNews shows that Rickford’s office did confirm to researchers at Queen’s Park that the $231 million was indeed to wind down wind projects. After Question Period on Tuesday, Walker confirmed the figure.
In a one-on-one interview with Rickford, the minister told CityNews that the government’s plan was on track.
“We’re making sure this is entirely consistent with the plan. Sometimes costs upfront will save us down the road — that’s the way we looked at the risks with the 750 projects in total,” he said.
On Tuesday morning, Tabuns likened the cancellations to the Liberal’s cancellation of gas plants in 2010.
“The similarities are striking,” he said. “We saw what the Liberal government did to hydro bills and now Premier Ford is doing the same thing at the same time as he’s letting hydro prices increase.”
Walker responded that White Pines and the other 750 renewable energy projects weren’t necessary.
“Our government has been very clear that it would act to cancel any unnecessary contracts. Ontario has an adequate supply of power right now,” he said.
The government also said the move will eventually save taxpayers money.
“Any of the projects that we cancelled were going to cost our system more money over the long haul than the ratepayer was prepared to pay,” Rickford said. “Extraordinarily high-priced projects, like wind power and solar, were not making us competitive. They needed to be dealt with.”
The government estimates the cancellations will save $790 million in the long term, but couldn’t tell CityNews how much had been spent to date in settling those contracts, despite repeated requests or how much the government was saving by cancelling the White Pines contract.
“Those costs are ongoing, the project is in the process of decommissioning. I don’t see any red flags there,” Rickford told CityNews.
CityNews has confirmed that a negotiated settlement has been reached with WPD Canada, the Mississauga company that owns the White Pines turbines. Company spokesperson Ian McCrae would not disclose details of the settlement between the government and WPD shareholders. In the past, company officials have confirmed that it is upwards of $100 million.
The opposition are also arguing that the PC government — which is currently fighting federal climate legislation in court — has another motivation for cancelling the renewable energy projects.
“The government needs to be honest with people about their politically-motivated campaign of literally ripping turbines out of the ground,” Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said. “It’s going to cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars. […] I don’t think tax payers want their money wasted.”
“I don’t believe that they don’t have the information about how much its going to cost,” Tabuns said. “But this is a government that never cares particularly about cost when it comes to pursuing their anti-climate change agenda.”
Tabuns believes that, like the Liberal gas plant scandal, this cancellation will result in an investigation by the auditor-general, something CityNews has heard from other sources involved in the file.
“It’s contrary to the interests of people’s pocket books, their lungs and the environment,” he said. “It’s hard for me to believe that the auditor-general won’t follow up.”
“This is heartbreaking.”
When asked about the cost of cancellations, Walker said the White Pines community never wanted the windmills and they were imposed by the previous Liberal government.
“We knew that from Day 1, they knew that from Day 1, and they continued to impose these on unwilling hosts like White Pines was,” he said.
The Milford windmills have been controversial in the community. However, locals whose land the turbines are on are upset to see the project scrapped.
“This is heartbreaking, this has been years and years of building a project that’s being cancelled for absolutely no good reason,” Jennifer Ackerman, who has a turbine on her property, said. “All those years of putting it up to say ‘Oh, its up, and let’s tear it all down.’ The environmental impact of that and nothing gained. Nothing.”
Ackerman is one of several area residents who were heavily lobbying for the turbines, which is located not too far from the shores of Lake Ontario.
“I believe in renewable energy. The science is there, it’s a fact Jack, that we’ve got to get away from fossil fuels and this is the way to do it,” added area resident Anne McIntosh.
Ackerman adds: “The amount hasn’t changed with the turbines being cancelled.”
She’s now getting paid in two lump sums — one when the turbines come down, and another when the decommissioning is fully complete. Removing the concrete, with winter on the horizon, could take upwards of a year.
According to terms reached with the government, the company has three years to fully restore the site. It is anticipated the wind turbines and towers will sit on the ground until next spring.
“I’m not saying I don’t appreciate some money and the revenue was looking great,” Ackerman said. “But given the choice between the money and the wind farm? I want the wind farm.”
PCs had said cancelling wind turbine project in Prince Edward County would not cost taxpayers
The Ford government’s decision to scrap green energy projects in Ontario is costing taxpayers $230 million, according to newly revealed research by the opposition New Democrats. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)
Provincial documents show the Ford government spent more than $230 million to cancel renewable energy projects that included a partially-built wind farm in a cabinet minister’s riding.
The spending was revealed Tuesday in question period by the opposition NDP, who accused the Ford government of throwing away money on scrapping energy projects as the Liberal government did earlier in the decade.
The province’s public accounts for 2018-19 show spending of $231 million by the Ministry of Energy on unexplained “other transactions.”
Inquiries by an NDP researcher uncovered that these “other transactions” were “to fulfil a government commitment to wind down renewable energy contracts” including the White Pines wind farm in Prince Edward County.
Bill Walker is associate minister of energy in the Ford government. (CBC)
“Wasting $231 million to cancel hydro contracts is the sort of thing the previous Liberal government did during the gas plant scandal,” NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns said on Tuesday.
The associate minister of energy, Bill Walker, said the province didn’t need the power from the White Pines project but didn’t deny the cost of the cancellation.
“This municipality was an unwilling host from day one, they did not want the turbines, we did the right thing,” said Walker in question period.
Walker pointed to actions of the previous Liberal governments, whose moves to cancel gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville ended up costing upwards of $1 billion, according to the province’s auditor general.
The NDP researcher had to resort to a roundabout way of confirming that the $230 million listed on the 2018-19 books was spent cancelling energy projects. When government officials did not reply to his queries about the “other transactions,” he asked legislative library staff to find out.
“Costs associated with the wind down and subsequent termination of renewable energy contracts (including the costs associated with the termination of the White Pines Wind project) are not anticipated to exceed $231 million,” a ministry official said in an email to the library staffer.
“Total compensation for the termination of the White Pines Wind project is within the above amount and is still to be finalized, as there are a number of activities, such as decommissioning, that need to take place.” MORE
“…cranes started arriving last month to tear down wind turbines that were just built and ready to be switched on. The project was more than a decade in the making and was expected to produce enough energy to power more than 60,000 homes…”