Fedeli, MacLeod, Thompson all demoted in major Ontario cabinet shuffle by Ford

Vic Fedeli is out at finance after overseeing release of just one provincial budget

Some of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s most high-profile cabinet ministers have been moved out of their posts as part of a major shuffle that comes amid slumping poll numbers for the premier and controversies on several important files.

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli is no longer finance minister. He was demoted to minister of economic development, job creation and trade. Fedeli’s departure from the top cabinet position comes after he oversaw the release of just one provincial budget.

Ford’s government faced weeks of intense criticism and protests at Queen’s Park after near-daily stories emerged of cuts that came in the aftermath of the April budget.

Rod Phillips, who served as environment minister for the first year of the PCs’ mandate and played a key role in the cancellation of Ontario’s cap-and-trade program, will take over the finance portfolio. Jeff Yurek will move from transportation to the environment portfolio.

Meanwhile, Lisa Thompson, who had been education minister, and Lisa MacLeod, who was minister of children, community and social services, were both demoted. The two files have seen considerable strife recently as the province cut funding to school boards and revamped Ontario’s autism program.

Thompson will now be responsible for government and consumer services, while MacLeod takes over the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

All but seven ministers saw their roles changed. Details of the shuffle were revealed at a Thursday morning swearing-in ceremony at Queen’s Park attended by Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

With the shuffle, the size of Ford’s cabinet grows from 21 to a total of 28 ministers and associate ministers. After the PCs formed a majority government last year, Ford said he intended to keep his cabinet small to save taxpayers’ money.

Christine Elliott will remain deputy premier and minister of health, though the portfolio now has two additional cabinet positions. Merrilee Fullerton becomes minister of long-term care and Michael Tibollo becomes associate minister of mental health and addictions.

In addition to Elliott, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy will also stay in their current cabinet positions.

Caroline Mulroney will no longer be the attorney general and instead will head up the province’s Ministry of Transportation and continue to oversee francophone affairs.

The shuffle also brought significant promotions for a number of backbenchers — Stephen Lecce will serve as minister of education, while Doug Downey is Ontario’s new attorney general.

Ford has recently been slipping in public opinion polls, and some suggest he could hurt Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s chances of winning in Ontario in the October federal election. SOURCE

Here’s everything the Doug Ford government cut in its first year in office


File photo of Doug Ford by Alex Tétreault

Before Ontario Premier Doug Ford was elected last June, he made an array of ambitious campaign promises. He also vowed to create a “government for the people” that would rein in spending.

Friday marks a year since the Progressive Conservatives were elected and began their budget cuts. In April, Ford’s government laid out its plan to eliminate an $11.7-billion deficit from their budget, titled “Protecting What Matters Most”. That phrase has been used repeatedly to justify their cuts, including reductions in the budgets of 13 ministries, as well as a blueprint of shrinkage across public sectors and programs — impacting everything from trees to libraries to financial assistance for victims of crime.

In commenting on the government’s decision to adjourn till Oct. 28, one week after the federal election, Conservative house leader Todd Smith said the PC government has “achieved so much.”

The Ontario premier agreed, adding recently that his government was “moving at lightning speed.”

Here’s a list of everything the Ford government has cut in its first year in office:

Environment

  • Cancelled Cap and Trade
  • Ended electric and hydrogen vehicle incentive program
  • Cut 700+ green energy projects
  • Shut down White Pines Wind Project
  • Proposed cuts to protections of species at-risk
  • Removed electric vehicle chargers from GO station parking lots
  • Slashed 50 per cent of flood management funds given to conservation authorities
  • Eliminated funding for 50 Million Tree Program
  • Ended Drive Clean, a mandatory biannual emissions test program for vehicles and light-duty trucks more than seven years old
  • Axed the Green Ontario Fund, which provided funds through cap and trade to help make properties more energy-efficient

Health

  • Cancelled free prescription medication given to those under 25 through the Pharmacare program
  • Cancelled the opening of new overdose prevention sites
  • Cut the Liberals’ promised $2.1 billion over four years for new mental health funding to $1.9 billion over 10 years
  • Revoked current and future funding for the College of Midwives of Ontario
  • Dissolved Local Health Integration Networks and merged them under one new umbrella body called Ontario Health
  • Slashed the number of paramedic service providers from 59 to 10
  • Proposed ending OHIP’s medical emergency coverage for Ontarians travelling outside the country
  • Planned to cut Toronto Public Health by $1 billion over the next 10 years. That translates into cuts in school breakfast programs, daycare and restaurant inspections, water-quality testing, pre- and postnatal care for single mothers, and detection of emerging threats to public health. (Reversed retroactive acts; future cuts remain)
  • Scrapped funding for three supervised drug-use sites (two in Toronto, one in Ottawa)
  • Trimmed $1 million in funding from Leave the Pack Behind, an agency that helps young people quit smoking

Education

  • Rolled back sex-ed curriculum
  • Removed $100-million budget for school repairs (due to cancellation of cap and trade)
  • Cancelled Ontario’s first planned French-language university
  • Removed $25 million from the Education Programs-Other (EPO) Fund, which will limit grants available for school programs like after-school jobs for youth in low-income neighbourhoods; tutors in classrooms; leadership programs for racialized students; daily physical activity for elementary students and more
  • Dropped financial assistance for college and university students by more than $300 million
  • Removed free tuition for low-income students
  • Cut tuition fees by 10 per cent
  • Scrapped over $300 million in funding for three satellite university campuses
  • Increased class sizes, potentially resulting in over 3,400 lost teaching jobs over next four years
  • Cancelled three summer curriculum-writing sessions, including one that was mandated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and two others relating to American Sign Language and Indigenous languages for kindergarten students
  • Shutdown the Harmony Movement, which provides diversity, equity, and inclusion education
  • Scrapped the Ontario College of Trades

Legislative positions

  • Privatization Officer
  • Chief Scientist
  • Investment Officer
  • Environmental Commissioner’s Office
  • Ontario Child Advocate
  • French Language Commissioner
  • Voluntary buyouts offered to thousands of Ontario public service workers
The Big Story Podcast@thebigstoryfpn

“It’s happening all at once and it’s happening without clarity.” Are the cuts to services in Ontario’s new budget more severe than voters expected? Or is Ford’s government just fulfilling their promise to balance the budget? @fatimabsyed explains. https://thebigstorypodcast.ca/2019/04/29/is-doug-ford-cutting-ontario-to-the-bone-or-is-this-what-voters-signed-up-for/ 

Is Doug Ford cutting Ontario to the bone? Or is this what voters signed up for? – The Big Story

There has been news of cuts to various services, ministries and program funding nearly every single day since the Ford’s PC government dropped the Ontario budget two weeks ago, and the list is…

thebigstorypodcast.ca

  • Reduced legal aid by 30 per cent
  • Disbanded Anti-Racism Directorate
  • Withheld $14.8 million in promised funding from existing and new sexual assault centres
  • Dissolved Ontario’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, the tribunal that has awarded financial assistance to crime victims since 1971, as well as the law that provides financial aid to the victims of violent crime

Municipal affairs

  • Cut Toronto City Council in half
  • Planned to cut funds to repair social housing
  • Asked municipalities and school boards to find 4 per cent in “efficiencies” (i.e., cuts) to services

Arts, culture and tourism

  • Retroactively slashed $5 million from the Ontario Arts Council
  • Cancelled the Indigenous Culture Fund
  • Dropped grants for the Ontario Music Fund by more than 50 per cent
  • Reduced funding to regional tourism organizations by $17.5 million
  • Announced the termination of the Beer Store contract, jeopardizing 7,000 jobs
  • Cut $9.5 million from Tourism Toronto (25 per cent of funding) and $3.4 million from Ottawa Tourism

Social services

  • Cut $1 billion from social services across the board
  • Scrapped Basic Income Pilot Project
  • Cancelled $1 increase minimum wage
  • Cut Workplace Safety Insurance Board payments to injured workers by 30 per cent
  • Killed Bill C-148, which provided part-time workers the same pay as full-time workers, guaranteed 10 days off (2 days paid) and more
  • Removed rent control for new units
  • Severed library services funding in half
  • Ended the Roundtable on Violence Against Women
  • Slashed $84.5 million funding for children and at-risk youth, including children’s aid societies
  • Cut $15 million from the Ontario Trillium Foundation

Research

  • Cut funding to MaRS Discovery District
  • Eliminated funding for public policy think tanks such as the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre, which conducted research on Ontario’s role in Canada and the world, as well as the Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity, launched under former PC premier Mike Harris
  • Cut funding to two artificial intelligence institutes by $24 million
  • Cancelled a technology accelerators program of $9.5 million, a college-based applied research projects worth $6.7 million; $5 million in funding to the Institute for Quantum Computing; $1.5 million in funding to the Lazaridis Institute, and $750,000 for bioindustrial innovation.
  • Pared $5 million in funding for stem cell research
  • Eliminated funding for Gambling Research Exchange Ontario
  • Cut all funding for Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation, a pilot program led by Toronto’s Ryerson University to collate research on employment and training

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on June 7, 2019 at 5:17 p.m. EST to include additional cuts.

SOURCE

Oakville mayor slams Ontario as ‘centralized authoritarian regime’ after Doug Ford tries to weaken wildlife law

The trail of mindless destruction of public safeguards continues.


Ontario Premier Doug Ford applauds Finance Minister Vic Fideli during the presentation of the 2019 Ontario Budget at Queens Park in Toronto on April 11, 2019. Photo by Christopher Katsarov

Premier Doug Ford’s government is facing vehement opposition from municipalities across Ontario for proposing to weaken legislation protecting endangered species in order to allow mass development to occur in critical habitat for wildlife.

The changes were proposed in a housing bill, Bill 108, that proposes amendments to 15 laws, including 20-pages of sweeping changes to existing protections for endangered wildlife. These protections are spelled out under Schedule 5 of the legislation.

The proposed changes include the creation of a new fund that would allow developers to pay the equivalent of a tax, rather than taking steps to protect and restore habitat of species at risk. The government has also proposed to change the makeup of a scientific committee that reviews the status of species at risk, in order to allow people with no scientific expertise to join and provide scientific advice.

The Ontario municipalities of York, Muskoka Lakes, Oakville, Aurora, Archipelago and Lennox-Addington have all voiced their opposition to Bill 108 and passed motions or resolutions to that effect.

Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas says his municipality was neither consulted nor informed that these changes were coming. He worries that the bill will eliminate the ability of local councils to make decisions about how their natural and wildlife areas are managed.

“At the end of the day, Aurora has a lot of green space in southern parts. We have protected habitats in the Oak Ridges Moraine and there are a lot of species in the area,” he said in a phone call. “We need to ensure that we protect those species from harmful development that will take over the area.”

Oakville council also opposes Ontario’s proposed changes to Endangered Species Act. The city council passed a resolution Monday that urged the province to stop the advancement of Bill 108 and give municipalities more time to review the omnibus bill, comment on and consult with the government on changes to regulations. MORE

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Ontario Government has it completely backwards on Ontario wildlife

Doug Ford’s Reforestation and Conservation Cuts Show He Has Historical Amnesia

“While across Southern Ontario there is still around 26 per cent forest cover in some watersheds, in others, forest cover is still as low as the five percent that triggered flooding disasters in the past.”


Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks to reporters while inspecting flood damage in Constance Bay, near Ottawa.Wayne Cuddington/Postmedia

Reforestation and conservation cuts will only increase flooding and other environmental problems in an age when these problems are being amplified by climate change. We need to learn from past environmental mistakes if we wish to avoid repeating them.

On April 25, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced two cuts to programs that were helping to prevent environmental problems such as flooding that are becoming even more acute with the onset of climate change

Ford axed the Fifty Million Tree Program that was started in 2008. This reforestation program was about half way through its target and cost $4.7 million annually. He also announced that provincial funding for Conservation Authorities, now a meagre $7.4 million a year, would be cut in half. These programs designed   to promote reforestation are helping to control flood risks, risks made worse by climate change impacts because climate change is causing increasing precipitation in Southern Ontario in the winter and spring periods. Such programs, which help reduce flooding risks, are needed more than ever before because the forests, many of which are wooded wetlands, help soak up the increased rain and snow melt

Ford’s $12.1 million cuts for trees and flood control is especially galling in view of the small amounts of money involved in comparison with the catastrophic damage to the province that will ensue as a result of the effects of climate change and deforestation going unaddressed.

The cuts also illustrate historical amnesia, a failure to remember why these programs were developed in the first place. MORE

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Before Doug Ford cuts, he should ask himself, ‘Will this sound stupid?’
Ontario government breaking deal with Beer Store to expand sales to corner stores

Premier Doug Ford cancels retroactive cuts that have hit public health, child care and other municipal services

The Ford government’s penchant for retroactive legislation without prior consultation of any kind, provokes unintended consequences and result in public support tanking.

Bowing to pressure from Mayor John Tory, Ford made the announcement Monday.

Bowing to pressure from Mayor John Tory, Premier Doug Ford is cancelling retroactive cuts that have hit public health, child care, and other municipal services.

Ford announced Monday that he was rethinking the change that the city maintains has cost civic coffers $177 million.

The moves comes as his popularity has plunged in five recent public-opinion polls.

While the province disputes city hall’s math on the scope of the cuts, Ford is mindful his in-year changes unveiled in the April budget were unfair to municipalities across the province that had already locked down their spending plans.

Monday’s capitulation came after Tory spent Saturday canvassing the riding of Progressive Conservative MPP Robin Martin (Eglinton-Lawrence).
The mayor, who has been campaigning against the cuts for weeks, was warning residents that Martin’s government had hurt the city. MORE
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WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Monday that they wanted to work with municipal mayors and that retroactive cuts on public health and other municipal services would not go forward this year.

Tory goes door to door in campaign against Ford government’s city budget cuts
Councillor Stephen Holyday blasts Ford for ‘half-truths’ on city audit process

The war on women is still on

 

Planned Parenthood rally. Photo: American Life League/Flickr

On Wednesday, in the wake of the majority vote by 25 white Republican men in the senate of one of the most impoverished states in the U.S., #AlabamaAbortionBan was trending both south and north of the Canadian border. Also trending, #Talabama.

That’s because the Alabama abortion ban is one of the most draconian revocations of women’s rights since women won the vote, a ban that would force even 11-year-old victims of rape and incest to carry to term.

As for Ontario Premier Doug Ford, he just couldn’t deal with the topic. He ducked NDP MPP France Gélinas during question period by tapping one of his ministers, who also dodged the question by talking about — what else? — the “job-killing, regressive carbon tax.”

Later, Ford’s office issued a statement saying “the government will not re-open the abortion debate.”

Yet.

Meantime, in Alberta, Jason Kenney got the blessing of anti-choice groups in his successful run for the premier’s post. And, although he too has said he won’t re-open the debate, recall that he was the founder of the “Pro-Life Caucus” on Parliament Hill. What’s more, he appointed Adriana LaGrange, the former president of Red Deer Pro-Life, as his education minister.

So the war on women is still on and my side is still losing.

We don’t have equal pay. Lawmakers are trying to strip us of the right to control our bodies. And, when we do make babies, we have little access to safe and affordable child care. It’s no wonder there are so many struggling single mothers and children who go hungry — in Canada, in 2019.

It’s obvious, let women work and everybody profits, and that includes government coffers via taxation. It’s been proven in Quebec.

But in Ontario, Ford has cut child-care centres’ general operating funding, which helps pay child-care workers, by $40 million. He has also slashed the capital funding portion, which is used to build new centres, by $93 million, leaving only $10 million in the kitty. That’s a full-frontal assault on women’s rights, and a short-sighted one as well.

This week, Oxfam Canada urged federal parties to put publicly funded child care on the ballot. Citing a 2017 International Monetary Fund study, Oxfam reported that a 40 per cent reduction in child-care costs would result in 150,000 highly educated stay-at-home mothers entering the workforce. This would increase Canada’s GDP by two percentage points, or $8 billion a year.

But there’s little chance this will happen, even in another “feminist” Justin Trudeau government. (Remember years and years of child-care promises by the federal Liberals in the ’90s?) But at least Trudeau openly stands firm on abortion rights.

As for Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, there’s no chance at all. In fact, given his “pro-life” beliefs, even abortion rights are at risk. In Canada, the war on women is escalating, but slowly and stealthily, as Conservative governments form majorities across the country. MORE

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The Global Legacy of Quebec’s Subsidized Child Daycare

Image

The big battle over climate change is just starting

In the House of Commons’ emergency debate on climate change, Elizabeth May  laid out the dangers of inaction and the promise of a Green economy in a remarkable, impassioned speech HERE. 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Photo: Wayne Polk/Flickr

On Wednesday, May 15, the federal NDP will use an opposition day in the House of Commons to focus like a laser on climate change. Jagmeet Singh’s party will make some sweeping and bold policy proposals.

That is only one sign that the war of words over global warming is getting hotter. In that war, the who-cares-about-climate-change side seems to have gotten the jump on the pro-environment side.

The Doug Ford government of Ontario will soon be airing blatantly one-sided ads with a simple and simplistic message: carbon taxes make everything more expensive.

The ads devote a few seconds to say there are better ways than taxation to deal with climate change. But their list of those better ways is bizarre: hold the biggest polluters accountable, reduce trash, and keep Ontario’s lakes clean. The first way is part of the current federal government’s carbon emission reduction plan, while the latter two would no doubt be salutary, if they were to happen. The ads do not explain, however, what, if anything, they have to do with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s time to call climate change what it is — an emergency — and act accordingly.” -deposed Ontario environment commissioner Dianne Saxe

During Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne’s time, the Ontario auditor general criticized government ads that looked and sounded too politically partisan. She advocated that her office should have the power to vet all government advertising for accuracy and context.

The Ford Conservatives, then in opposition, promised to heed that advice. Doug Ford did not wait even a full year before he brazenly broke that promise.While Ford and his allies, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, take an axe to efforts to combat climate change — in the courts, in their legislatures and in their propaganda — sympathetic right-of-centre pundits are working overtime to provide something resembling an ideology for their movement.

In the pages of the National Post, former oil sands executive Gwyn Morgan engages in a sophisticated form of climate-change denial. He argues that the disastrous floods we have been experiencing in parts of Canada are the result of a long and cold winter, with record high snowfalls. “Isn’t climate change supposed to be about global warming?” he asks rhetorically.

The answer is yes — with a big qualification. Climate change is, indeed, producing far higher temperatures, overall, than in the past. But what does this warming trend do? It melts glaciers, raises sea levels and adds moisture to the air. All of these effects drive erratic, fluctuating and often violent weather events. MORE

 

Doug Ford cuts 70 per cent of money for centre helping First Nations protect wildlife and resources

Perhaps the Ford Government was best described by T. S. Eliot in 1925:

“We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. “


Ontario Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski seen at his swearing-in ceremony on June 29, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Premier Doug Ford’s Ontario government has cut 70 per cent of provincial funding to a non-profit organization that helps more than three dozen Indigenous communities protect endangered wildlife and natural resources, National Observer has learned.

The organization, the Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre (A/OFRC), provides independent scientific information to the communities in order to help them manage both resources and wildlife. But the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry told it on April 12, the day after the Ford government delivered its first budget, that “the Ministry is seeking changes to the existing three-year Transfer Payment Agreement.”

The money was part of a critical program designed to help about 40 First Nations participate in government decision-making related to conservation policies.

The payment agreement was in its second year, providing a budget of $860,000 for the arms-length organization to continue to provide independent, non-partisan information relevant to resource management in First Nations territories. This involves providing scientific recommendations to sustain the health and habitat of Ontario’s fish population and other species like moose, turtles and wild rice, and offering technical support to First Nations to help protect their natural resources. MORE

Ontario NDP wants to declare a climate emergency but Doug Ford won’t let them

Since coming to power, [the Ford government has] cancelled climate change mitigation programs including Ontario’s participation in a billion-dollar cap and trade market that funded green energy programs, as well as energy conservation programs, green vehicle rebates, electric vehicle charging stations, and a program to plant 50 million trees.


NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Ontario Premier Doug Ford seen in the provincial legislature on October 3, 2018. Photo by Carlos Osorio

The NDP wants Ontario to declare a climate change emergency but Premier Doug Ford’s response was another attack on the federal carbon tax as “one of the biggest climate crises right now.”

Ford made the remarks in the legislature Thursday after the New Democratic Party tabled a motion to declare a climate emergency in the province. If the Official Opposition motion was adopted, Ontario would be the first Canadian province or territory to declare a climate emergency, following a trend of such declarations by municipal councils in Ottawa, Vancouver, Halifax, Hamilton and Kingston.

“Declaring a climate emergency is an opportunity for Queen’s Park to change direction, and take on the biggest challenge humankind has ever faced,” NDP leader Andrea Horwath said in a statement. MORE

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Auditor general pans Doug Ford’s anti-carbon-pricing ad

One million species at risk of extinction as Doug Ford is ‘sending in the bulldozers’

“They don’t understand how the loss of habitat and species is having a direct impact on our quality of life.” – Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner 


Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks with a member of the public in a partially flooded area of Constance Bay northwest of Ottawa on April 26, 2019. Photo by Kamara Morozuk

Four days after Doug Ford’s government spelled out 20-pages of weakened protections for Ontario’s species at risk in an omnibus housing bill, an 18,000-page report by over 450 scientists — who spent over three years creating a first exhaustive portrait of humanity’s devastating impacts on nature as a result of rapid urban development — conveyed one shocking fact: over one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction.

We can stop this, the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report says, but it will take “transformative change” in every aspect of how humans interact with nature.

This change is not coming from the Doug Ford government, critics say, who are “sprinting the other way” by bolstering a status quo the UN assessment says desperately needs to change.

The Ford government is “sending in the bulldozers,” says Greenpeace Canada’s Shane Moffat, by giving way for developers to actively avoid species-at-risk protections. “The report really makes clear if we’re going to prevent this crisis of biodiversity, that means an end to business as usual … We don’t see a sign of that in Ontario. In a way, what Doug Ford is doing is worse than business as usual.”

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the report — which was based on thousands of scientific studies, and is the most comprehensive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe — is “frightening news.” Among its long list of astonishing findings, the report found that three-quarters of the world’s land area has been significantly altered by humans and 85 percent of the world’s wetlands have vanished since the 18th century, leading to the largest mass extincting the world has seen since the age of the dinosaurs.

Schreiner says the fact that it is the Ford government’s housing bill that guts endangered species protection suggests that “they don’t understand how the loss of habitat and species is having a direct impact on our quality of life.” MORE

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