Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday December 18, 2018
Ford government cuts funding to Ontario Arts Council, impacting Indigenous Culture Fund
The Ontario government has slashed base funding to the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) by $5 million, as well as more than $2 million to the Indigenous Culture Fund.
The agency that gives grants and services to Ontario-based artists and arts organizations said base funding for 2018-19 will drop from $69.9 million to the 2017-18 level of $64.9 million.
Ontario NDP culture critic Jill Andrew said the cuts include suspending the Indigenous Culture Fund at a cost of $2.25 million, an initiative set up a year ago to support cultural activities and programming in Indigenous communities.
“The government’s cut of $2.25 million to the Indigenous Culture Fund at the Ontario Arts Council is a disturbing step back from the TRC’s Calls to Action,” Andrew said in a tweet.
“This and the $5 million cut to @ONArtsCouncil’s base funding is an alarming attack on arts and culture.”
The Indigenous Culture Fund was set up by the previous Liberal government in 2017 with an investment of $5 million annually.
The fund was part of the province’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).
“Doug Ford’s cuts will cause the layoff of Indigenous staff, immediate cuts to granting budgets, and a significant cut to arts and cultural programming,” Andrew said in a media release on Friday. (Source: Global News)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday December 11, 2018
Environmentalists fear provincial changes mean Greenbelt is open for development
Environmentalists and critics are accusing Premier Doug Ford of breaking a promise to protect the two-million-acre Greenbelt from development with changes they say endanger wildlife and drinking water, setting Ontario’s environmental protections back 40 years.
The Progressive Conservative government’s proposed changes to the planning act will undermine the province’s anti-sprawl smart growth plan, the Greenbelt Act, the Great Lakes and Lake Simcoe Protection acts and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, said Environmental Defence executive director Tim Gray.
The changes were announced Thursday as part of Bill 66, the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act.
It would allow municipalities to obtain provincial approval to use a new open-for-business zoning bylaw that would bypass some of the existing development requirements. The bylaw would only be available if the municipality could prove a development would create 50 jobs for places with populations under 250,000 or 100 jobs in larger municipalities. Of eight Ontario municipalities with more than 250,000 people, five are in the Toronto region.
“The aim is to have all provincial approvals in place within one year so qualifying businesses can begin construction,” said an emailed statement from a spokesperson of Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark.
Conditions would remain on the building, material and other design elements of the employment projects but municipalities would not be required to provide advance notice of the bylaw’s adoption.
The new tool is the kind of opening environmentalists have feared since Doug Ford was caught on video during the election campaign telling developers he would open up the Greenbelt if he became premier. He walked back the remarks after the video was released.
“There is no longer any rational approach to land designation so all areas that we’ve carefully considered being worthy of protection no longer have that protection. Anyone with a property just has to convince Queen’s Park to give them an exemption and (that’s) all it (needs) to go forward for development,” Gray said.
While the bill is driven by job creation, retail and residential components can be part of the projects which qualify for the bylaw’s use, he said. (Source: Toronto Star)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday December 5, 2018
Integrity watchdog urged to probe appointment of Ron Taverner as OPP commissioner. Taverner is a friend of the Ford family
Controversy is swirling over the Progressive Conservatives’ surprise appointment of a close friend of Premier Doug Ford to head the Ontario Provincial Police.
Toronto Police Supt. Ron Taverner, 72, was rubber-stamped by Ford’s cabinet to be OPP commissioner last week.
But iPolitics revealed Tuesday that the government quietly modified the job posting on Oct. 22, and this helped Taverner meet the criteria, as he was two ranks below the initial threshold to qualify for the job.
The original description on the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police website required all applicants to hold, at minimum, the rank of deputy chief or assistant commissioner, iPolitics found.
In the legislature, Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones, who took the opposition questions after Ford ducked them, defended the unusual change.
“There was an independent hiring process,” said Jones.
“The cabinet endorsed the hiring committee’s decision,” she said.
Jones repeatedly refused to say whether Ford had recused himself from the matter when the decision was made last Thursday.
Conservative sources told the Star the premier was at the cabinet table when the order-in-council was signed last Thursday, a point Ford did not deny during a brief encounter with reporters.
“This is a man that’s served 50 years in this community with credibility,” he said, adding that he, himself, “absolutely” did not make the decision.
Taverner, a 51-year police veteran, is a unit commander in charge of Etobicoke divisions and a close friend of the premier. He succeeds Vince Hawkes, 56, who retired earlier this year.
As a Toronto cop, Taverner made $178,968 last year while the OPP commissioner made $275,907. That’s an annual raise of almost $100,000. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday December 1, 2018
Doug Ford’s environmental plan falls woefully short
Some people argue quibbling over semantics — the meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or text — is trivial. Not always.
Consider the Ontario government’s just-announced plan to fight climate change. Environment Minister Rod Phillips says the plan doesn’t include a carbon tax.
Ontario’s environment watchdog — a position the government has announced is being cut — says the province’s plan will impose a carbon tax on industry despite government assurances it would not do so. She argues, credibly, that introducing mandatory standards on Ontario’s largest polluters does, in fact, put a price on carbon. Just not for everyone.
Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe is right, but don’t expect the government to admit that. Doug Ford will never admit to putting a price on carbon for industrial polluters, any more than he will admit his plan falls short of what is really needed. But both things are true.
No one is going to argue against tougher regulations for big polluters. But it’s worth remembering that all of the province’s worst polluters don’t produce as many harmful emissions as comes from buildings and transportation. And those sectors are not even noted in the plan.
Another key feature of the Ford plan offers incentives to the private sector to help Ontario meet its goals. How will those incentives be funded? By the public treasury, of course. So no matter how you slice it, taxpayers are funding industry that wants to become more energy efficient. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with that. But even the most staunch conservative cannot deny that this amounts to taxpayers investing in greenhouse gas reduction. As they would, say, with a carbon tax.
The Ford government says this plan means the province will meet GHG reduction targets agreed upon by world leaders in the Paris Accord. Under that international agreement, Canada has committed to reducing emissions by 30 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030. Thanks to the efforts of the previous government in eliminating coal-fired generation, Ontario has already reduced emissions by 22 per cent. So if this plan could achieve an additional eight per cent reduction, Ford and friends could fairly claim Ontario has done its part, although in large part due to the previous Liberal government.
Here’s the rub for Ontario taxpayers. Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is not impressed. She called the Ford plan “backwards” and suggested Ottawa will push ahead with plans to enforce a carbon tax.
Ford still insists he and other conservative premiers will fight the federal tax, even though constitutional legal experts say there is no chance they can win in court. Meanwhile, Ottawa has plans to send rebates to individual Ontario taxpayers drawn from carbon tax revenue, a move polling suggests will lesson or even defeat public resistance to the new tax.
So Ford spends $300 million on a no-win court battle. Ontarians get a carbon tax in addition to industry incentives, which taxpayers are also paying for. And don’t forget that Ford’s killing of the cap-and-trade program has cost, so far, $3.5 billion in public investment for infrastructure like schools.
Ford says he will ensure Trudeau is defeated in the next election. But the leader doing the most damage to the province and its taxpayers right now isn’t Trudeau. It’s Ford himself. (Source: Hamilton Spectator Editorial)