TORONTO — Doug Ford’s government has backtracked on about a dozen policies and promises this year — an unprecedented amount symptomatic of an on-the-fly style of governing that marked his early days in power, critics and observers say.
From a wildly unpopular Ontario autism program to cuts to municipal public health and childcare funding to a promise to upload Toronto’s subway, the year has seen many significant plans yanked back, often after outcry reached a fever pitch.
“I think the bottom line is their cut-first-and-think-later approach to governing simply isn’t working,” said Green party Leader Mike Schreiner. “They’re essentially admitting it’s not working either, given how many things they’ve backtracked on.”
Early this year, the backtracks began when the government scrapped an element of a then-proposed law that could have opened up the province’s protected Greenbelt to development. The Tories had faced criticism over it, but nowhere near the level that was still to come over a new autism program announced the following month.
Then-social services minister Lisa MacLeod announced that the government would clear 23,000 children from the waiting list by giving everyone up to either $20,000 or $5,000, depending on age and family income — far short of the amounts needed for intensive therapy. Condemnation was swift and furious, with parents staging sustained protests over a program they said would ensure children couldn’t access the amount of treatment they need.
After initially standing firm, by the next month the plan had essentially been scrapped, and in June so was the minister, demoted in a cabinet shuffle.
That shuffle, which saw many top ministers moved around and many new faces promoted into cabinet, marked a reset of sorts, said Jamie Ellerton, principal at Conaptus public relations and a former Tory staffer.
“I think if you look at the combative defiance that defined the early tenure of this government it was clear it wasn’t resonating with the province,” he said. “There was a lot of on-the-fly, learn-as-you’re-going processes in this government and I think they kind of changed out of necessity.”
The day after the cabinet shuffle also saw the departure of the premier’s controversial chief of staff, Dean French. The new chief of staff, Jamie Wallace, has been credited for ushering in a more constructive and professional environment.
“They just kind of came out guns blazing in those early days,” Ellerton said. “They didn’t do the homework to kind of line up and listen to where people were at. One of the things they’ve gotten a lot better at doing in recent months is listening.”
That sentiment is echoed by the premier’s office.
“After moving at an unprecedented pace in our first year, we have demonstrated that we are a government that listens,” spokeswoman Ivana Yelich said in a statement.
The government also initially stood firm on municipal funding cuts to public health and child care, but after weeks of backlash from mayors including through news conferences, petitions, and a public campaign, the province reversed course — partially.
It cancelled the in-year, retroactive cuts that were the focal point of mayors’ anger, and later announced that most of the rest would go ahead, just on a longer timeline.
Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said that was one example in which the Tories “softened the edges.”
“Some of the reversals, I describe it as they’ve taken three steps backward and one step forward,” he said.
Cuts to legal aid funding caused a huge uproar eariler this year, and recently the new attorney general announced that while this year’s $133 million — or 30 per cent — cut would go ahead, further cuts of $31 million planned for the next two years would be cancelled.
Teachers were upset by the government announcing plans to increase high school class sizes from an average of 22 to 28 and require students to take four e-learning courses to graduate. The new education minister has since partially walked that back to a class size increase to 25 and two e-learning courses.
“They’ve taken things from bad to much, much worse and now they’re walking it back a tiny bit, but it’s still gone from bad to worse,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
Genevieve Tellier, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa, said next year may see more reversals.
“My guess is that people will still fight because those who have been opposing the government kind of won,” she said. “So others will try the same tactic, I believe, because there are potential gains to be made…Will the government do it again? That’s where I’m not too sure.”
Other notable backtracks include deciding not to upload Toronto’s subway system, as promised during the election, un-cancelling plans for a French-language university, and swiftly revoking two lucrative foreign appointments after reports emerged they had personal ties to Ford’s then-chief of staff, Dean French.
In a more unusual scenario for this government, a backtrack just this month caused outrage, rather than the other way around.
Municipal politicians and transit advocates in Hamilton were incensed after learning the government was backing away from a promise to support a light-rail transit line there, citing rising cost estimates. The critics showed up to a scheduled press conference by Caroline Mulroney, which was soon cancelled, with staff blaming security concerns.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2019.
Crosbie vows to clean up ‘Liberal corruption’ in Newfoundland and Labrador politics – TheChronicleHerald.ca
While campaigning in Marystown on Thursday, Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie berated the Liberals over their governance of the province, saying he would put an end to “Liberal corruption.”
Though technical issues interrupted the livestream of Crosbie’s speech, a transcript was sent to reporters, and Crosbie took questions by phone.
Crosbie again said the most critical issue in the province is jobs, “but Liberal corruption, scandal and cronyism are barriers to job growth.”
Crosbie says after filing a freedom-of-information request for the draft of a report commissioned by the Liberal government and done by consulting firm Goss Gilroy, a discrepancy between the final report and the draft was discovered.
The $22,000 report asked people who had left the province why they left and what it would take for them to return.
“They tried to bury the finding that … a leading reason for not working in Newfoundland and Labrador is the perception that it was who you know that would get you a job,” Crosbie said.
Crosbie said the PCs would hire people based on merit, and the government has a role in setting an example for everyone, including the private sector.
When asked why Newfoundland and Labrador voters should trust this wouldn’t happen if he is elected, Crosbie said voters can look to his decades-long career as a lawyer.
“My practice has consistently been all about holding corporations and governments to account,” he said.
Crosbie said, “(Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew) Parsons is still in cabinet … despite being investigated by police. This is banana republic stuff. You can quote me on that.”
RNC officer Joe Smyth alleges political interference by Parsons, who was formally the justice minister, regarding a previous charge of obstruction of justice against Smyth that was dropped. The allegations are currently being investigated by the Nova Scotia RCMP.
Parsons responded to Crosbie’s corruption comments on behalf of the Liberals Thursday.
“Well, It’s the same old song and dance from Ches and the same Conservative line. Normally, I don’t care too much about what he says, but I do get frustrated when he impugns my character wrongly and he knows this,” Parsons said in a phone interview from his district on the west coast.
“If he wants to talk about ethics, I don’t need a lecture from him. Let’s me and him have a little contest and go back and talk about personal ethics. … If he wants to talk about the PCs, the biggest corruption job on the people of this province ever committed was the billion-dollar
Muskrat debacle that was committed on the backs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that he supports.”
Parsons said the PCs have former cabinet minister Nick McGrath running in Labrador, despite the Humber Valley Paving controversy.
And he slammed Crosbie for slinging mud when politicians should be moving away from personal attacks to policy discussions.
“Ches talks a big game and it’s too bad — he’s not putting forward any semblance of a plan why people should trust him,” Parsons said.
“His goal is to smear everybody and hope it makes him looks good in comparison.”
Meanwhile, Crosbie said people have the right to know who’s donating money to political parties and how much.
“Right now, we have a system where there’s no limit on donations and there’s nothing to prevent corporations, or unions for that matter, making donations,” he said. “There’s no better disinfectant than sunlight.”
He says they will look into the code of conduct for MHAs and introduce recall legislation so, “voters have recourse when their elected representatives are not doing their jobs.”
On Wednesday, Crosbie called for the immediate release of the interim report of the Dame Moya Greene-led Economic Recovery Team.
Premier Andrew Furey said there is no report, but a group of individuals tasked with coming up with ideas.
Crosbie said he laughed when he heard Furey’s comments.
“Either it’s not a report yet, because it hasn’t been written yet, or he’s appointed a bunch of people to sit around and shoot the breeze and have good ideas and none of us are ever going to know what those ideas are because they’re not going to be written down,” Crosbie said. “That last explanation would be absurd.”
At a media event Thursday morning, Furey said he doesn’t want to rush Greene and her team, as that’s how the government has made mistakes and economic flops in the past. An interim report is due later in February, and a final report at the end of April.
“I’m trying to shift decision-making more to a more rational, logical approach, and this is one I think will work,” Furey said.
“I think this is a solid decision-making process. We’re going to gather evidence, and broadly consult with all stakeholders. Every person in Newfoundland and Labrador will have an opportunity to have a say should they choose. Then we are going to table that to the House of Assembly as a very open and transparent process.”
Fixing the province’s financial troubles will require short-, medium- and long-term solutions and lots of collaboration, Furey said.
“There is no simple solution to this. There’s not going to be like an incredibly blunt and frightful budget that shocks everybody into their basements,” he said.
Should Politics Play A Role In Our Investments? – Forbes
With yesterday’s inauguration of Joe Biden, it seems the perfect time to consider the role that politics may play in our investments. Over the past weeks and months, politics has been a hot topic. Undoubtedly, we can expect the economy to change and the markets to react as policies and priorities shift. Many are worried about the outcome of the election—and many others are excited. So, with all of the different emotions at play, how do we think about politics as we make our investment decisions?
The Choice Facing Financial Advisors
As Commonwealth’s chief investment officer, I serve a wide range of advisors and clients. They all have political opinions, and I may fundamentally disagree with many of them (half?) on very important issues. How can I handle this disconnect?
As I see it, I have a choice. I can take public positions that might feel good but will both alienate and ill serve a substantial portion of my community, while convincing no one. Or, I can focus on communicating what I both know about and have been tasked to do, in order to help people, as investors, navigate the current turmoil.
All financial advisors face the same decision. For all of us, no matter what our opinions, stating them can make us less effective for a substantial portion of our clients. And we can’t sidestep the issue by saying we have no opinions, because of course we do. What to do?
The way I have tried to deal with it is by explicitly separating the two roles I have: as a citizen (where I have very strong opinions) and as an economist and investment advisor (where all that matters is the data). By decoupling the two, I acknowledge I have my own opinions, but I try to make them less relevant to the discussions we are having.
I might say something like this. “As a citizen, I certainly have my own opinions, which may (or may not) be the same as yours. As your advisor, however, they don’t matter. My job here is to help you navigate the uncertainty around these events in your investments, not in the rest of your life. Because of that, we can look at the economic and market facts, which is what I am here to do, and make a decision that is best for you. My only concern, sitting in this chair, is your financial future.” I have used something like this with multiple client groups, on both sides, and it has been effective.
A Focus on Long-Term Outcomes
Another way to approach this is to demonstrate how it works in practice. In the last two elections, for example, I had people—on different sides—who wanted to sell out when Obama was elected and when Trump was elected. In both cases, it would have been a mistake. This example is a good follow-up, as you can directly look at emotional decisions, tie them back to the factual results, and make the point that as an investor, data is what is needed most. And that is the job of an advisor. However good or bad things are now, investors need to be focused on the long-term outcomes, not the short-term headlines. Taking the politics out can and does yield better long-term results.
Bumps in the Middle of the Road
This approach doesn’t always work, of course. I typically get feedback, some of it ferocious, whenever I write a piece that touches on politics, with my recent blog post on Washington turning a light shade of blue a good example. Several people felt very strongly, based on that post, that I must be a hard-core Republican. Others thought that the piece showed a clear Democratic basis and needed to be rewritten.
What I tried to do, though, was write something straight down the middle, presenting the facts and reasonable conclusions in a nonpartisan way. With this one, more than some of the others, I clearly failed in the eyes of some readers. That is inevitable, and the feedback helps me get better, so I appreciate it. I will try to do better. But I also draw comfort from the fact that I got fire from both sides. The middle of the road can be an uncomfortable place as well.
Recognize the Disconnect
What if you are not an advisor but just concerned about your own investments? The advice is the same. Look at the data. Don’t make emotional decisions. Realize the U.S. economy and markets are largely disconnected from politics. And keep an eye on the long term. No matter how you feel about either administration, investing is a game of decades during which we will have a wide range of politics.
Nova Scotia finance minister says she will leave politics when next election called – Toronto Star
HALIFAX – A key member of outgoing Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil’s cabinet says she too will leave politics once the next provincial election is called.
Finance Minister Karen Casey, who is also deputy premier, made the announcement following a cabinet meeting Thursday, saying that after 15 years representing the riding of Colchester North, she is ready to retire and wants to spend more time with her four grandchildren.
Casey said while she had been pondering her future for some time, she only made a final decision over the last week.
“Fifteen years, I think, is a good amount of public service to give to my constituents,” Casey told reporters. “I’m happy with the work that we (government) have achieved, and it’s time to let somebody else represent Colchester North.”
Casey, a former teacher, also served in the education and health portfolios and was named deputy premier in 2017.
Over her time in the education portfolio, she was instrumental in the Liberal government’s move to rein in contract demands by the province’s teachers — a battle that ultimately saw the imposition of a contract that ended a two-month work-to-rule campaign by public school teachers in February 2017.
As finance minister, Casey also played a part in helping the government table five consecutive balanced budgets.
“I learned a lot personally in the finance portfolio, but there were challenges there, and I quite like a challenge,” she said.
McNeil, who is leaving politics next month, said he counts Casey as a personal friend and believes she played an “integral role” in helping return the province to fiscal health.
“We have really run a duo operation here in lots of ways,” McNeil said. “She is one person that I have always sought counsel of in my most difficult days.”
Casey was a former interim leader of the Progressive Conservatives and defected to the Liberals in January, 2011 at McNeil’s invitation.
“That allowed me to join a caucus and a leader … whose values I thought I shared,” said Casey. “What motivated me? It would be knowing that my ideas and those of my constituents and me as a person would be respected.”
Casey confirmed she would stay on until the next election, which must be called by the spring of 2022.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.
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