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LILLEY: Playing politics with the 'R-word' as Canada's economy sputters – Toronto Sun

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They weren’t the numbers the Liberals would have been hoping for.

After disappointing job numbers earlier this month and a drop in retails sales announced last week, Statistics Canada reported a slowing construction sector and a drop in GDP on Monday.

It’s the latest in a series of economic indicators from StatsCan showing Canada’s economy is starting to sputter.

The news will boost the call from the Conservatives that we could be headed towards a made-in-Canada recession.

That’s a claim Finance Minister Bill Morneau has called “irresponsible,” even as the numbers are headed in the wrong direction.

Overall GDP declined 0.1% in October, not a big dip by any means but when added to the delines in key economic sectors it’s a worrying figure. Stats Can also reported a 0.5% decline in construction investment on Monday.

Other key indicators in decline include wholesale sales down 1.1%, manufacturing sales down 0.7% and of course unemployment increased last month with 71,000 jobs disappearing.

The Conservatives raised the prospect of a recession in response to the Liberal fiscal update last week.

The update projected that Canada’s economy would grow in 2020 though at a slower rate than this year.

“What we are facing now is the prospect of a made in Canada recession,” Conservative Finance Critic Pierre Poilievre said last week.

Poilievre said he doesn’t think Canada is in a recession yet but worries the Liberals could exacerbate one if the economy slows.

“I think it’s a little bit irresponsible of the Conservatives to be making people more anxious,” Morneau told CTV’s political show Question Period.

“We need to play our hand cautiously, but I see the economy as strong and I see it as growing.”

It’s a bit rich for the Liberals to be calling out the Conservatives on raising the spectre of a recession when Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter to Morneau does that very thing.

“Preserve fiscal firepower in the event that we need to respond to an economic downturn,” Trudeau instructs Morneau in the letter.

Well that’s not something Morneau did, the fiscal update showed a projected deficit for this year of $26.6 billion compared to the $19.8 billion they predicted in the budget.

Next year’s deficit will be even higher at $28.1 billion.

If that is the kind of spending the Liberals are willing to do in what they consider good times, how much will they be spending if there is a downturn? Or to Trudeau’s point, will we have the ‘fiscal firepower” left to respond?

Trudeau was elected in 2015 on a promise of three small deficits of $10 billion a year before returning the country’s books to balance. Of course he never hit those targets, the deficits were two and three times higher and the return to balance never happened.

In October’s election Trudeau promised even bigger deficits, an extra $94 billion of deficit spending over his second mandate and he was still returned to power.

The International Monetary Fund has warned that trade tensions will slow global growth over the next year or so, a move that if true would have a bigger impact on Canada than most other countries that are less export dependent.

Are the Conservatives playing politics by raising the spectre of a recession? Absolutely, but so are the Liberals in criticizing them for doing so. Even the PM knows we need to be prepared.

Recessions come in regular cycles and we could very much be due for one in 2020, the big question is whether we will be prepared when it comes.

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Nova Scotia finance minister says she will leave politics when next election called – Toronto Star

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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.”

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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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Group forms to support women in politics in Grey-Bruce – Shoreline Beacon

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Article content continued

Merton said being involved in a non-partisan community organization for women was important to her because it allows her as a first-term councillor to share her personal experiences.

Merton said she did a lot of research and work before running for municipal council, which helped her get an idea of what to expect in the campaign and then at the council table.

“I thought if I have this information and there are others who have this information lets pass it on,” she said. “It is not easy work even making the decision and then certainly as you move forward to sit in a political office.”

Jan.20 also marked a big day politically for women as Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first female vice-president in the history of the United States.

Merton said that was a very inspiring and encouraging accomplishment.

“This is absolutely amazing,” she said. “It is important for us to just pause, reflect on what this means and appreciate the moment.”

She said Harris’ election gives women hope, something that electHER is also hoping to do.

“We want to give women the recognition and acknowledgement that there are opportunities for you,” she said. “We want future generations to realize that this can be accomplished.”

The first electHER learning session is on March 16 at 7 p.m. with the theme of “How to Decide to Run for Office.” Participation is limited with registration available online at electhernow.ca or by e-mailing

electhernow@gmail.com

All sessions are all “pay what you can” events.

More information on electHER can be found on its website page or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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Opinion: Golden years, golden boards: Mike Harris's post-politics career – The Globe and Mail

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Former Ontario Premier Mike Harris at a Fraser Institute dinner at Calgary’s Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Keith Morison/CGYH

Not long after Mike Harris left the Ontario Premier’s Office in 2002, he embarked on a new career as a corporate director. Nearly two decades later, Chartwell Retirement Residences – Canada’s largest operator of retirement homes – has become his longest-running, and likely most-lucrative, part-time gig.

It might also become his most controversial. Chartwell, like many other operators of retirement and long-term care homes, is in the spotlight as COVID-19 kills thousands of Canadians, many victimized as the virus sweeps through their care facilities. This has amplified the concerns of elder advocates, who have long questioned deregulation of the long-term care industry and the proliferation of the for-profit model in retirement care. (Long-term care, specifically, is about 10 per cent of Chartwell’s business.)

As it happens, Ontario’s deregulation of the sector occurred during Mr. Harris’s “common sense revolution” of the late 1990s. And about a year after his premiership ended, he joined Chartwell’s board as its chairman.

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Through Chartwell, Mr. Harris declined to speak to me for this piece. In a statement, Chartwell spokeswoman Sharon Ranalli said Mr. Harris’s government “undertook the largest reform and investment in Ontario’s history to expand long term care for the province’s seniors … Mr. Harris’s drive and passion to provide great services and quality care to our aging population was one of the reasons he was asked to join Chartwell as Chair in 2003 and continues to serve in this capacity to this day.”

Here’s what has been in it for Mr. Harris: A review of Chartwell’s proxy circulars shows that over those 18 years, Chartwell has paid him about $3.5-million for his services, the bulk of it in Chartwell stock. It’s an average of roughly $200,000 a year for what is supposed to be a part-time job.

Those compensation numbers do not include dividends on his shares. For example, while Chartwell reported his board compensation as $229,500 in its proxy circular in 2019, stock-ownership records filed with regulators show Chartwell gave Mr. Harris shares worth $405,000 that year, when the dividends are included.

Mr. Harris must hold the shares until he leaves the board. All told, his holdings, which include shares purchased on the open market, are worth roughly $6-million today. The stock holdings “represent his personal belief in the value Chartwell provides to society and his confidence in Chartwell as a sound investment,” Ms. Ranalli said.

On several occasions from 2003 to 2014, Mr. Harris received a low-interest loan to purchase a total of roughly $600,000 in shares as part of a long-term incentive plan. Chartwell placed the shares in a special account, where the dividend payments on the shares were used to pay off the loan so Mr. Harris could own the stock free and clear. (In response to questions, Ms. Ranalli of Chartwell says these shares “are not compensation” and should not be included in his pay total.)

Also, from mid-2010 to 2019, Chartwell directors who chose to get their directors’ fees paid in stock, rather than cash, got a one-for-one additional company match – effectively doubling their pay. That meant that in each year of the plan, Mr. Harris received about $230,000 in annual compensation, rather than the roughly $115,000 in annual cash fees.

Ms. Ranalli says the company’s stock plans have created “alignment of participants with the interests of Chartwell and its unitholders,” and its outside compensation advisers have told Chartwell the company’s pay plans are “at or slightly below” similarly sized companies.

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To focus too much on Chartwell, however, would overlook how Mr. Harris turned corporate-board work into a highly lucrative full-time career.

A review of corporate filings shows Mr. Harris has sat on at least 16 public- or private-company boards at various times in the 18 years since he left the premier’s job and made more than $14-million in compensation for his work. For several years, he sat on six or seven company boards and his total board income ranged from $1.2-million to $1.5-million annually. (In recent years, governance advocates have increasingly trained their eye on “overboarded” directors, who they felt couldn’t devote an appropriate amount of time to every board they sat on if they had four or more assignments.)

For several board seats, he collected more than $1-million in cash and stock over his tenure, including his current seat Canaccord Genuity Group Inc., held since 2004, and Colliers International Group Inc. He may also have received as much from EnMax, the City of Calgary’s utility, where he served from 2006 to 2017 and received total of nearly $800,000 in his final eight years on the board.

Mr. Harris’s history as a director shows that he likes to be paid in stock and stock options. That means that Mr. Harris has probably taken home even more than $14-million: Over time, as the stock has grown in value, he’s presumably sold shares after leaving boards (and when disclosure requirements no longer apply, making the numbers impossible to tally).

Some of the companies failed to assign any value to his stock options, thereby understating his pay at the time. In several cases at tiny public companies, the options expired unused, because the company’s stock simply didn’t do so well. One example: Route 1 Inc., a money-losing, TSX Venture Exchange-listed data-security company where he received a combined three million stock options soon after becoming chairman in 2009. Had the company boomed, it could have been his most lucrative directorship. Alas, all those options expired with no value.

But other directorships have been winners. Mr. Harris spent five years on the board of what is now known as Element Fleet Management. He received stock options initially valued at just under $400,000 – but when he left in April, 2015, the unrealized profits were about $1.5-million.

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Previous to Chartwell, Mr. Harris’s most-lucrative public-company gig was Magna International Inc., his first board assignment after leaving office. He served as its chairman during the controversial period when Magna cashed out its founder Frank Stronach for more than $1-billion; the sheer number of meetings Mr. Harris attended helped his compensation range from $550,000 to $750,000 four years in a row.

Mr. Harris left Magna’s board in 2012, and he has a lighter load today than in his peak years of service. He turns 76 on Saturday, and he’s already been forced to offer his resignation at Canaccord because of its age-based retirement policy, an offer that Canaccord’s board has declined. But as Mr. Harris continues his golden years of gold-plated board service, he may decide the challenges will outweigh these very considerable rewards.

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