Regrets? Eventually

I purposely sat out the provincial election period. Regular readers would have a sense of where I stand. It was interesting to watch it all unfold but I think the “record” voter turnout of 58% is still a disgrace.

We got a party and new government that deliberately failed to present a full and honest accounting of its platform and deliberately avoided press and public scrutiny. With people voting ‘against’ instead of ‘for’, they didn’t have to. Still weeks away from being sworn in, I wonder now how long it will be before regret sets in over this government. These are some of the things that might concern us sooner or later:  Continue reading

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Anger vs. Answers

So far, our provincial election campaign is a tiring affair already. The Conservative candidate, and presumptive premier, has been flinging outrage and empty slogans into the air. One of the more bizarre, and distressing pronouncements is that, “I don’t govern through the government”. Wow! It sounds like the radical right south of the border who want to gut their institutions. Has no one told Doug Ford that there is no “I” in government? Does he realize we still have a parliamentary democracy made up of elected representatives? – the “people” he is supposed to be listening to?

His idea to open a “big chunk” of the greenbelt to development revealed not only that he was woefully uninformed about this critical issue but also politically out of touch with the popular consensus. The fact that he modestly credited the idea to the “biggest developers in the country” marks him as a loose cannon and an easy mark for powerful lobbyists. Worse, his party establishment tried, initially, to back this off-the-cuff proposal showing that it is a hostage to his rambling ideas, not unlike a certain circus situation elsewhere.

Never mind that “opening” the greenbelt would accomplish nothing. A whole network of water and sewage pipes would have to be built first. And that would have to be paid for by you through your property tax, dear reader, as a resident of your municipality, long before any “affordable” housing was built in those pristine fields far from any amenities. The money is theoretically recovered later through development charges and the property taxes of new residents.

For decades Innisfil has wanted to build an industrial park west of hwy 400. An original plan proposed including hundreds of new houses and thousands of new residents to justify putting in the necessary pipes. The Places to Grow plan eliminated that sprawl option. The 50 or so businesses that would occupy an industrial park alone could not support the millions of dollars required to install services. Innisfil then approached developers about having them chip in up-front for the cost of services but they declined. So, an Innisfil industrial park remains a ‘pipe’ dream.

So, we’re back to raging at Ontario Hydro. Fire the bums! Replace the Board! Sure. But what’s the policy principle? Why not tackle all corporate greed? What’s good for Ontario Hydro is, I assume, good for the rest of them. We’re long on anger, short on answers.

Is it a good idea to cancel all future generating contracts? Will eliminating time-of-use metering help? Should we go all-in on renewable energy, or conservation? Should Hydro One be brought back into public ownership?

No one proposes lowering your taxes, but the conservative mantra is to lower corporate tax rate to create jobs. How’s that working? Canadian banks, for example, are flush with cash but what are they doing with it? “… the most likely use for the Big Six’s estimated combined $14 billion in excess capital will be share buybacks to appease investors disappointed with the performance of Canadian bank stocks versus their U.S. peers.” (Will Big 6 Banks Flush with Cash Buy US Banks?, April 16, 2018) So far, personal income tax provides 21.8% of provincial revenue while less than half of that, 10.6%, comes from corporations (2017).

If people are angry, it’s with the financial and political imbalance of power. People are fed up with corporations telling us what taxes they will pay (the least), what wages they will pay (the minimum), and where they will locate businesses (where governments buckle under). “People” have a right to organize their societies as they wish through their democratic governments. And we have some tough decisions to make.

Cap and Hide

The outcome of this year’s provincial election is worrying when the apparent campaign front-runner is basing his pitch on a bizarre distortion of the truth.

Doug Ford says he will abolish the “carbon tax” although we don’t actually have one. In an ideological twist, the Ontario Liberals enacted a market-driven cap and trade system while the suddenly-gone Conservative leader had pledged to introduce an actual carbon tax. I tend to think this now-abandoned policy led to Patrick Brown’s swift and abrupt political demise. The Conservative party has invested years promoting a narrative that all government spending is wasteful and all taxes are evil. Brown’s platform was an abomination to those that bankroll the party. Here’s how they put it: “Ontario’s expensive cap and trade carbon tax  … makes life harder for Ontario families and our economy more uncompetitive … We will put money back in the pockets of Ontario taxpayers and stand up for our job creators.” (Simon Jeffries, Conservative spokesperson, April 16)

Cap and Trade is designed to internalize the cost of carbon into the cost of production instead of pushing it, by default, onto the public. It’s not a tax since manufacturers can reduce, or avoid, the fee by adopting cleaner, carbon-free methods of production. Their choice. The most efficient businesses become the most competitive. Under cap-and-trade carbon emissions in Ontario are projected to decline by 8 to 10 megatonnes by 2020.

In the end, some form of carbon pricing is coming. The federal policy mandates it by the end of this year. Ford says he will fight it – abolish the existing cap and trade, and fight any alternative federal carbon tax. So, how many millions of public money is he willing to flush away on government lawyers and court fights?

Cap and Trade generated $1.9 billion in revenue in 2017 ($2.4 billion to date). Here’s what’s at stake:

  • $377 million allocated to fund energy conservation for households and small –businesses
  • $657 million allocated over 5 years for improvements to social housing apartment buildings
  • $100 million to support municipal energy efficiency and renewable energy
  • $25 million allocated for a Low Carbon Innovation Fund to commercialize new technologies
  • $8 million allocated for an electric school bus pilot program

So what is the possible Conservative alternative under Doug Ford? We don’t know. Are Conservatives giving up almost $2 billion in provincial revenue and dumping the associated conservation initiatives? Does Ford think corporations will take remedial carbon reduction action voluntarily? Will we have a Catastrophic Weather Recovery Fund* instead? If he’s promising “relief is coming” for the ‘little guy’ (but he’d lower only corporate taxes and block the minimum wage increase), will he attack the “Sunshine” List” payrolls or follow the usual route of slashing all government payroll and programs?  Is he proud that Ontario is one of the highest per capita carbon emitting jurisdictions? If not, what’s the plan?

Can Ontario afford to elect someone who wants to ‘cap’ the truth and hide from the consequences?

* Check out: Climate Scientists Warn Tipping Point Is Near

Ranked Ballot for a Higher Octane Vote

I recently learned that the Ontario government intends to allow municipalities the option of using ranked ballots starting in 2018. An online survey has been posted to gather public comment until July 27 (scroll down). The idea being examined is to allow ranked ballots for some or all municipal elected office. A voter would rank candidates 1, 2 or 3 etc. according to preference.

“If your first choice candidate is eliminated, ranked ballots take into account the next choices on your ballot. This helps to ensure that the winning candidate(s) receive support from a majority of voters more often.”

I think it’s an idea with merit. Certainly, a lot of people would like to implement this voting option provincially and federally. Maybe, experimenting with it at the municipal level could be the start of something bigger.

Use of a ranked ballot is expected to reduce strategic voting, negative campaigning and vote splitting. In Innisfil, it may be particularly useful for the positions of Mayor and Deputy-Mayor since these individuals automatically sit on County Council and vote for County Warden.

Of course, once we have the option of ranked voting, we’d have to ensure Council actually adopts it. Who will be the first to test the waters?

CBCnews: Ontario allowing municipalities to use ranked ballots in 2018

Innisfil – Taking Care of Business

Residents who toured the new headquarter building of Innpower on April 11 learned that the west end of the building is unfinished and unoccupied. The intention was to provide now for future utility staff requirements that are 10 to 20 years in the future. As Innpower’s CEO put it in September, 2014, “The building footprint takes into consideration the growth demands for our respective communities.”

The original concept was to lease the vacant space (about 4,000 square feet on 2 floors) to private companies. The leasee would be expected to finish the interior space including drywall and electrical wiring at its own expense. At the time of the building’s public Open House, Innpower staff said that leases would generate revenue until the space was required for Innpower employees.

Meanwhile, back in March, Council was presented with a report describing a County initiative to partner with the Greater Barrie Business Enterprise Centre (GBBEC) “to increase accessibility to services/support to Simcoe County entrepreneurs by adding a mobile Small Business Consultant dedicated to providing in-market services …”. This was to be a two-year pilot project to provide a full-time small business consultant whose mandate would be “to deliver core business advisory services, business plan development, seminar/workshop delivery, [and] youth entrepreneur programs …”. (GBBEC is being renamed the Small Business Enterprise Centre)  Continue reading

A New Mayor and Council for Innisfil

Our heavily contested municipal election has returned veteran politicians, Gord Wauchope and Lynn Dollin, as new mayor and deputy mayor while returning 3 incumbent councillors and electing 4 new ones. Congratulations to the newly elected and, a thanks for service to those leaving.

I’m not sure what this result means for the Town. Our first glimpse of intentions and priorities will be from the next year’s budget.

The surprising outcome is that voter turnout declined to 40% from 46% during the previous election in 2010. Only 10,479 votes were cast out of 26,116 eligible voters. The number of candidates was thought to reflect higher voter interest in this election. Some candidates made a concerted effort to boost online participation and the electronic voting option was expected to increase convenience for residents. In fact, 56% of votes were cast online but the option didn’t motivate more people to participate. Were some non-voters new residents, others unfamiliar with issues or candidates, or have we become so cynical to think it doesn’t matter?

So what happened? Why did you vote – or not vote – in this election? What are you expecting from your new council?