Todd Smith: Ontario shouldn’t make life harder for the poorest

Todd Smith, Ontario’s minister for children, community and social services.This year’s budget included no increases to Ontario’s miserly social assistance rates. Todd Smith is Ontario’s  minister for children, community and social services

A year after Doug Ford broke his first election promise by axing the province’s basic income pilot project, the future remains uncertain for Ontarians struggling to make ends meet.

The three-year, $150-million experiment was studying whether unconditional cash payments are a better way to support vulnerable workers and improve health and education outcomes for people living in poverty, including those on social assistance.

With a sample size of 4,000 adults in three test sites — Hamilton-Brant, Thunder Bay and Lindsay — and another 2,000 acting as a control group, it was one of the largest and well-designed studies of its kind.

At a time when Western democracies are grappling with rising populism, technological change and the growing gap between rich and poor, researchers and policy-makers around the world were eagerly awaiting the results.

But last July 31, barely a year after it began, the Ford government cancelled the initiative, claiming it was a waste of taxpayers’ money to study an idea the province could never afford. Now we will never know, as there will be no facts to get in the way of this argument.

A legal attempt to save the experiment failed last winter. But the government may still be on the hook to pay compensation and damages as a result of a class-action lawsuit launched on behalf of participants who signed up in good faith and whose lives were thrown into chaos when the province pulled the plug.

Instead, Ford’s “Government for the People” has launched a massive overhaul of social assistance that it suggested in April’s budget will save taxpayers $1 billion over the next three years. MORE

Bills insulating Ford government from lawsuits show it’s ‘closed for business,’ experts charge

Immunity clauses undermine ‘our reputation for a predictable, safe business environment,’ expert says


Doug Ford told supporters on the night of his election win that Ontario is now ‘open for business,’ but some experts say recent moves by his government show the opposite. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

It’s not every day that the first two bills a government introduces have clauses that protect it from being sued, but in the past two weeks of the summer session at Queen’s Park, the Progressive Conservative government has done just that.

Bill 2, the Urgent Priorities Act, enacted back to work legislation for striking York University workers, introduced more transparency for compensation of Hydro One executives and the CEO, and cancelled the controversial White Pines wind turbine project in Prince Edward County. The bill passed on Wednesday it contained a clause that protects the government from civil liability.

Similarly, Bill 4 — tabled on Wednesday — cancelled cap and trade in Ontario and included a clause that says the government can’t be sued.

Despite Doug Ford’s election night pledge that Ontario is now open for business, some experts say the government’s move to protect itself from civil lawsuits by outside companies is a sign of exactly the opposite.

Open or closed?

“It’s unusual,” Nelson Wiseman, a political scientist at the University of Toronto, said of the use of the immunity clause.

University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman says two pieces of legislation meant to immunize the government from civil lawsuits send a message to companies that the province is closed for business.(Facebook) “It happens, but it’s not something that you want you want to do, certainly regularly. You’d only want to do it in extraordinary circumstance.

Wiseman said inserting an immunity clause into two major bills casts doubt on Ford’s assertion that the province is now putting out the welcome mat.

“It’s actually saying quite the opposite: Ontario is closed for business. If we don’t like your business we’ll do whatever we want to it and immunize ourselves from legal recourse by yourself.”

The White Pines wind turbine project — that was killed under Bill 2 — had been under development for nearly a decade.

Earlier this month, the president of WPD Canada, a subsidiary of the German company behind the project, said cancelling the project could cost more than $100 million. The compensation to the company will be limited to the direct cost it has incurred to this point. And the new bill prevents the company from suing.

“Spending 10 years and  $100 million to build this wind farm, only to have an election take place, a new government come in and be told they have to dismantle the project and leave the country: that sends a bad message” said Ross Laver, the senior vice president of policy and communications with the Business Council of Canada.


Cancelling the controversial White Pines Wind Project was one of Doug Ford’s key campaign promises. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

….”New governments are completely free to determine their own course. But this kind of sudden change in direction as a result of an election does have an unfortunate by-product,” said Ross.

“It undermines our reputation for a predictable, safe business environment.”

Whether the immunity clauses stand up in court, especially if they’re tested by international companies, remains to be seen. MORE

Angry protesters chastise MPPs prior to address


Scott Morrison from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation addresses a crowd of protesters outside the Trent Port Marina Thursday where Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy were speaking to members from area chambers of commerce about the provincial government’s achievements. Tim Meeks JPG, BI

QUINTE WEST — It was a less than stellar greeting received by Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy when they arrived at the Trent Port Marina Thursday to share what they called “positive” remarks about the provincial government’s first year in office.

Dozens of members from a variety of teachers’ and public service employees’ unions awaited the politicians carrying flags and placards and chanting “shame, shame, shame” because of cuts to education by the province.

Smith, who became Minister of Children, Community and Social Services during the provincial government’s massive cabinet shuffle two weeks ago, and Bethlenfalvy, MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge, simply smiled and walked into the marina to address members of the Quinte West, Belleville and Prince Edward County chambers of commerce.

Before the speaking engagement began, teachers union members were stating their case against government cuts.

“They need to look at other ways of making cuts and making changes, so that we can trust the government. That’s not what they were voted in for. They were not voted in to slash our health care, they were not voted in to slash our social and community services, or our education system or the autism funding that supports so many. They were not voted in for those reasons,” said Angel Sperry, from the Ontario School Board Council of Unions.

When it was suggested the government was blaming school boards for staff cuts, Sperry replied, “The government gave the budget to the school boards to deal with and they have to find a way to run their schools with what they’re given, so that’s a nice way of just putting it off and onto school boards and taking no responsibility or accountability for what this government has done. They are the ones who have slashed the budget, they’re the ones who have cut the student funding and the school boards are trying to do what they can to make their schools work. They have no choice with the money they are allotted to layoff frontline workers. I disagree with that and think it’s a big copout for the government to take no accountability, something that we try and teach and educate our students about is taking accountability, and this government lies about what is happening across this province, but the educators, we know what’s going on, we live it.”

Scott Morrison from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation said while speaking into a megaphone, “We understand that Todd Smith is coming here today to quote unquote celebrate this government’s achievements. The last achievement I saw Todd Smith celebrating was a video he posted online standing in a corner store, in front of a cooler saying how cool it would be if he could pick up drinks, alcoholic drinks for his family for the weekend. Todd Smith, that is not an achievement, a buck a beer is not an achievement, nor should these be the priorities for our elected leaders. Shame, shame, shame.

“This government has made enormous cuts across the system that affect everyone and I believe that’s why we are all out here today. But they have been especially hard on the children and the students in the province of Ontario. Shame on them,” said Morrison before starting a chant of “Cuts hurt kids, cuts hurt kids”.

“This government hopes we go away, but we won’t back down,” Morrison said.

Quinte West Mayor Jim Harrison tried to address the crowd of protesters, saying, “I’m glad that you’re standing up for your rights. I retired in ’97, do you remember the government that was elected at that time (Mike Harris’ Progressive Conservatives)? What you have to remember is governments make decisions based unfortunately on the dollar.” That’s when the mayor was shouted down by the crowd and walked away. MORE

Quinte: Walking, rallying for action on climate change

Determined Quinte activists, young and old, send Todd Smith a message. But does anyone in the Ford government actually listen?


A group of marchers hold signs aloft that call for action on climate change in the Quinte region and abroad during the “Earth Hour: One Message, One Voice” walk and educational rally on Friday. PHOTO: BROCK ORMOND/INQUINTE.CA

Helping to educate future generations tackle the growing concern of climate change and raise awareness on supporting renewable energy was the goal behind the Earth Hour Walk and Rally on Friday.

About 80 people, including a small group of students from Centennial Secondary School, participated in a walk entitled “Earth Hour: One Message, One Voice,” and an educational rally to raise awareness on the realities of climate change and what kind of impact it will have on the younger people growing up.

The group marched from Zwick’s Park in Belleville, across the Norris Whitney Bridge to Todd Smith’s constituency office in Rossmore to hear speeches and view displays showcasing why people should be supporting renewable energy sources such as wind turbines, solar panels and other eco-friendly initiatives.

The group says they are not happy with the provincial government’s cancellation of renewable energy projects like the WPD White Pines Wind Farm Project in Prince Edward County.

Image result for Jen Ackerman White Pines WindOne of the organizers, Jen Ackerman, says she was generally pleased with the turnout, and was especially happy with the youth’s initiative to make their voices heard for their future.

“We heard them here today, they are strong and they are going to get stronger,” Ackerman said. “They care about the future, the planet, the inhabitance on this planet. Those kids are just wonderful.” MORE

A wakeup call to Todd Smith

 

Todd Smith’s  vanity project, the cancellation of the White Pines Wind Farm,  came with unintended consequences. Beyond the $100 million lawsuit that Ontarian’s will end up paying, the loss of farm revenue necessary for sustainable agriculture, the loss of prospective commercial development fueled by cheap renewable energy, is  the loss of good paying jobs in turbine construction and servicing.

Here is a chart that puts employment information into perspective.

Now, as Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, will he be mature enough to  live up to his job description and reverse his decision on White Pines?

RELATED:

Prince Edward County could be carbon emissions free by 2030

The world is facing a climate emergency (but, of course, not in Prince Edward County)

Prince Edward Councillors should hang their heads in shame.

Todd Smith photo
Todd Smith, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, whose claim to fame is stifling employment and sustainable development in Prince Edward County by shutting down the White Pines Wind Project that consists of 9 wind turbines with a nameplate capacity of 18.45 megawatts (MW) of emissions-free renewable energy .

Climate emergency?  What climate emergency?

Where is the county’s climate emergency plan? Where is the coordinated leadership to address climate mitigation and to inspire conservation, green growth and climate action? Where is the County’s New Green Deal?

”You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to your children.” @GretaThuberg

While  100+ Cities Commit to Clean with 100% Renewable Energy and cities are leading the fight against climate disaster–not in Prince Edward, where councillors sleep the good sleep after filling potholes. Time for leadership? Not so much.


Save The White Pines Wind Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climate change needs to be addressed now

Climate change needs to be addressed now
(Photo: John Spitters/Quinte News)

MPP Todd Smith’s office was the scene of a protest and educational gathering this afternoon (Friday).
In bright sunshine, about 60 people, young and old, waved signs as they participated in an Earth Hour March from West Zwick’s over the bridge  to Rossmore.
The marchers don’t agree with the provincial government’s cancellation of hundreds of green energy projects including the White Pines wind farm in Prince Edward County.
The marchers waved signs reading “We Support Wind Energy”, “Climate Change is Real”, and “Keep the Earth Icy not Spicy”.
(Photo: John Spitters/Quinte News)
Harley Boyce thought taking part in the Earth Hour March was important enough to miss a couple of classes at Centennial Secondary School.

Meanwhile Mikaela Naumann, also a Centennial Secondary School student, said governments of all types just weren’t doing small things that would make a difference, like phasing out some kinds of plastics, regulating packaging, and banning drive-throughs at restaurants. MORE

RELATED:

Climate change in spotlight

Ontario PCs Want To Stop Tracking Toxins. Experts Say It’ll Cost Us Our Health.

The government plans to repeal the Toxics Reduction Act, which makes companies report on their use of toxic chemicals and pollutants.

Emissions are seen coming from an Ontario cement plant in this 2015 file photo. Experts say the provincial government's plan to repeal a toxic substance regulation with affect human health and the environment.
Emissions are seen coming from an Ontario cement plant in this 2015 file photo. Experts say the provincial government’s plan to repeal a toxic substance regulation with affect human health and the environment. RANDY RISLING/TORONTO STAR VIA GETTY IMAGES

TORONTO — Environmentalists say Ontarians can expect more pollution if the Progressive Conservatives go through with their plan to repeal a toxic substances regulation.

“Exposure to toxic chemicals such as hormone disruptors and air pollutants adds billions of dollars in health care costs and significantly increases the burden of chronic diseases such as cancer and asthma,” Tim Gray, the executive director of advocacy organization Environmental Defence said in a statement.

“The Ontario government is not only undermining its own commitment to tackle pollution … it is also sending the wrong signal to industry and will encourage them to dump more toxics into our air, water and consumer goods.”

Schedule 5 of the government’s proposed Bill 66 repeals the Toxics Reduction Act (TRA). The 2009 act requires companies that use toxic substances, including those that can cause cancer, to create a plan to reduce that use. Whether or not they actually implement the plan, though, is voluntary. About 40 per cent of facilities have done so.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Economic Development Todd Smith make an announcement in February...
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Economic Development Todd Smith make an announcement in February 2019. Smith introduced Bill 66 on Dec. 6, 2018. TODD SMITH/FACEBOOK

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