Monthly Archives: October 2016

Ontario News Highlights and Legislative Agenda for October 27

queens-park-dailyOntario Government introduces strict, new rules for campaign donations.

 

 

 

Provincial riding associations will receive public money for campaigns and MPPs and candidates will be banned from attending political fundraisers under campaign finance amendments announced by the Ontario government yesterday.

The amendments are to the Election Finances Statute Law Amendment Act, which was reintroduced in the legislature on this fall. The bill has passed Second Reading in the legislature, and has been referred to the Standing Committee on General Government for review.

During the committee process due to begin next week, the government intends to introduce two new legislative amendments that, if approved by the committee, will be added to the bill:

  • Banning MPPs, candidates, party leaders, nomination contestants and leadership contestants from attending political fundraising events. This restriction would not apply to non-fundraising events or events where tickets are sold only to cover the cost of the event. It would also not impact funds raised by other means, e.g., by phone or email.
  • Providing an allowance to constituency associations to offset fundraising revenues that they would no longer receive due to the reforms in the bill. Registered constituency associations in each riding would divide $25,000 per year (indexed annually), based on the proportion of votes each registered candidate received in the most recent election.

With 122 ridings up for grabs in the June 7, 2018, election, that means it will cost an additional $3 million annually.

That’s atop the annual $2.71-per-vote subsidy the major political parties will receive beginning next year.

Under that formula — based on the results of the 2014 election — the Liberals, with 1,863,974 votes, would get $5.06 million annually, the Progressive Conservatives, with 1,508,811 votes, $4.09 million, the NDP, with 1,144,822 votes, $3.1 million, and the Green Party of Ontario, with 232,536 votes, $630,000.

The public money for riding associations is designed to help parties and riding associations deal with the fallout of annual riding contribution limits being cut to $1,200 a person — down from the current $9,975 — and the outright ban on union and corporate donations. Donors may also give $1,200 to central parties and another $1,200 for by-elections.

The new law would also limit third-party advertising – such as direct union or corporate donations – to $100,000 in advertising during elections and $600,000 in the six preceding months. There would be a $1-million spending limit during that period for political parties.

Opposition politicians expressed concern that because political staffers — such as chiefs of staff and ministerial policy advisors — would still be allowed to attend fundraisers, the proposed reforms would be undermined.

The opposition also criticized the fact that elected officials and candidates would continue to be allowed to engage in fundraising by phone or email.

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Projected Ontario Legislative Business for Thursday, Oct. 27 

Main Chamber Business

Ontario Legislature Committee meetings for Thursday, Oct. 27

Search the full text, approval status, committee hearings and other details of all Ontario bills from the current session here!

Ontario News Highlights and Legislative Agenda for October 26

queens-park-dailyOntario Minister changes mind and moves man held in solitary confinement for four years without a trial

 

 

A day after the minister in charge of Ontario’s prisons told the media he wouldn’t release from solitary confinement an inmate who has spent four years in isolation without trial, the minister apparently has had a change of heart and moved the prisoner out of isolation.

Community Safety Minister David Orazietti was under intense pressure to let Adam Capay, a 23-year-old First Nations man, out of the Plexiglas-lined cell at the Thunder Bay Jail where he is confined alone under 24-hour-a-day artificial light. This morning he stood up in Question Period in the Ontario legislature and announced that Mr. Capay had been moved.

Mr. Capay was charged in 2012 with killing another inmate in a fight, and has not yet come to trial.

Mr. Capay has become an example of the crisis in the province’s corrections system, where a lack of resources has left hundreds of prisoners locked in solitary confinement for weeks, months and years on end.

On any given day in Ontario, there are approximately 8,000 adult men and women in provincial custody. On average, seven per cent of these inmates (roughly 560) are held in solitary confinement.

“I cannot commit to releasing any individual from segregation,” Mr. Orazietti said at Queen’s Park on Tuesday. “That is not a decision that politicians are making. That is a decision that is made by the individuals operating our jails. I will not take individual action on a specific circumstance.”

Mr. Capay’s situation became public after a prison guard tipped off Renu Mandhane, the head of the province’s human rights commission, when she was visiting the jail earlier this month. Ms. Mandhane found Mr. Capay alone at the end of a range on a windowless floor. After 1,500 days in solitary, she later told reporters, he suffered from memory loss and difficulty speaking. Because of the continuous artificial light, he could not tell day from night.

Ms. Mandhane’s data showed that, between October and December of last year, 1,383 Ontario prisoners had spent more than 15 days in solitary confinement, a threshold the United Nations calls a form of torture.

Mr. Orazietti said he is awaiting the results of a third-party review due next year. He ordered it earlier this month after a previous 19-month review.

Ombudsman Paul Dubé is also considering launching an investigation.

On October 17, Ontario announced a series of incremental reforms that critics say fail to deal with severity of the problem.

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Projected Ontario Legislative Business for Wednesday, Oct. 26 

Main Chamber Business

Ontario Legislature Committee meetings for Tuesday, Oct. 25

  • 12:30 p.m. – The Standing Committee on Public Accounts will meet to consider Long-term-care Home Quality Inspection Program. Watch here! 
  • 3:00 p.m. – The Standing Committee on Estimates will meet to review the 2016-2017 Estimates of the Ministry of Energy.

Federal News Highlights and Parliamentary Business for October 26

parliament-daily-news-updateTrudeau holds out hope for CETA but is a change in strategy called for?

 

 

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is holding out hope for a last-minute breakthrough that will allow Canada’s trade deal with the European Union to be signed, despite objections from Belgium that have put the agreement in doubt.

But the signing ceremony planned for Thursday appears in jeopardy as Belgium appears to be unable to endorse the trade agreement because of ongoing objections by the regional government of Wallonia.

Belgium is the single holdout among the 28-nation union, but the country’s inability to ratify the deal effectively puts the trade pact on hold.

International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland is making it clear that the Canadian government  believes that it’s up to the Europeans — not Canadians — to engage in last minute bargaining to resolve the concerns that have stalled the agreement.

However, putting the ball back in Europe’s court may prove to be short sighted given that Canada has an obvious way out of the impasse – it could offer to drop the controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision in CETA entirely. The ISDS provision allows large corporations to sue government’s if they think their economic interests are hurt by government legislation.

Why this might save the deal is that the main objection of the economically hard-hit Wallonia province in Belgium that is single-handedly holding things up, is precisely the controversial ISDS provisions.

A bold move by the Trudeau government to drop the ISDS provisions from a high profile deal like CETA would also signal a return to the original intentions of trade deals – the lowering of protectionist tariffs. It is the expansion of trade negotiations from agreements that once focused primarily on tariff reductions to far broader agreements that require governments to change local laws and establish dispute-resolution systems such as ISDS, that have undermined support for trade agreements worldwide. This enlarged approach to trade deals, which is a staple of trade agreement like NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, run the risk of surrendering domestic policy choices to other countries (or more precisely, the corporate interests of other countries).

The truth of the matter is that if CETA were limited to tariff reductions, it would be relatively uncontroversial in Europe. Again, the objections to the agreement lies in the mandated changes to domestic laws and the creation of a dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS) that place corporate concerns over local laws.

Regulatory provisions in CETA outside the ISDS mean that both Europe and Canada face the prospect of changing national laws to accommodate foreign businesses. For example, CETA requires Canada to expand patent protections, largely due to demands from European pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer. Over time, the required changes could potentially add billions to Canadian health-care costs by extending the term of protection for popular drugs.

Moreover, there are real issues related to the enforceability of ISDS provisions – particularly in the European context. The ISDS may be challenged on various grounds by European national and sub-national governments, all of which relate to the fact that its very design grants foreign investors a privileged legal status. Essentially, the whole purpose of the ISDS provisions is to grant corporate investors with enforceable legal rights that are superior to the rights available to everyone else under the current legal system. In other words, ISDS effectively places foreign investors above the law.

No doubt, a move by the Canadian government to drop the ISDS provisions would face fierce opposition from powerful corporate interests in both Canada and Europe who benefit from such mechanisms. Moreover, such a move by Canada would certainly delay ratification. But while the political temptation of  trying to somehow salvage the current deal is understandable, the long-term political interests of the Liberal government may very well be served by a change of tactics. At the very least, proposing to drop ISDS from CETA would earn kudos from Canada’s labour movement and other progressive groups, and further move the Liberals into political territory once owned by the NDP.

Over the past 35 years, governments have ignored the protests and concerns associated with trade agreements that have moved far beyond their original intention of reducing tariffs. But as opposition to these agreements steadily increases in the form of Brexit and the Trump  protest vote, ignoring concerns with trade agreements that many view as unfairly tilting the balance between the public good and corporate interests, is proving to be very dangerous and a serious threat to global economic and political stability.

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Projected House Business for Wednesday, Oct. 26:

Main Chamber Business

The House is meeting between 2:00 – 7:00 p.m. today.

Projected  House Committee Business for Wednesday, Oct. 26

Search up-to-date Canada Fact Check databases for the full text, approval status, committee hearings and other details of all Federal bills and regulations from the current session here!

Federal News Highlights and Parliamentary Business for October 25

parliament-daily-news-updateFederal Government announces new Food Health Strategy to revamp Canada Health Guide and improve food labelling.

 

 

 

Health Minister Jane Philpott announced Monday a new food strategy  comprised of policy measures that include revamping the Canada Food Guide, making the nutrition labels on food more readable, reducing harmful food additives such as trans fats and sodium, and restricting the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children.

The main components of the strategy are as follows:

Firstly,  she has asked Health Canada to come up with a replacement for the venerable Canada Food Guide in the form of a “suite of products” – from the classic chart you can stick on the fridge to an app – that are: Evidence-informed, relevant, written in plain language, easy-to-understand and follow and adaptable to food preferences. There will be a 45 day public consultations process beginning October24.

The second major initiative is to improve the Nutrition Facts labels on food. The plan here is to modify the labelling rules so there are standard serving sizes, more info on sugars, identifying additives such as dyes with common names and making the ingredients easy-to read, and actually put labels on the front of packages.

The third initiative in the minister’s food program is a plan to restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children, something Quebec has has been doing for over a decade with some success.

The fourth element in the strategy is the reduction of harmful food additives such as trans fats and sodium. In a written statement , the Heart and Stroke Foundation said it was “especially pleased to see regulations forthcoming to prohibit artificially produced trans fats in our foods and restaurants. This is important because although we have made great progress, there are still high levels of trans fats in baked products and foods often consumed by children.”

All of the actions announced by the minister were part of the Liberals campaign platform and her ministerial mandate letter.

In developing and implementing the details of the policy, Philpott will have to contend with intense behind-the-scenes intense lobbying from groups such as Food and Consumer Products Canada (FCPC), the lobby group for Canada’s packaged food industry. In its release in response to the food strategy announcement, the industry lobbying group said that the strategy represented “an unprecedented amount of change that will require an unprecedented level of investment and resources (on the part of the industry) in an unprecedented timeframe. This will change what’s in our products, what’s on our product packaging and how those products are marketed”.

In an excellent article in the New York Times published October 5, noted food expert Michael Pollan detailed the enormous resources that the American food industry threw into derailing President Obama’s healthy food initiatives.

Continue reading

Ontario News Highlights and Legislative Agenda for October 25

queens-park-dailyOntario News Highlight for October 25: Auto Insurance Rates Rise Despite Liberal Promise to Reduce Rates 15%

 

 

Auto insurance rates have increased 2 straight quarters in Ontario, moving the Liberal government even further away from a legal target of an average 15-per-cent reduction.

In legislation and in supporting regulations finalized in August, 2013, the Liberals committed to cutting auto insurance premiums an average of 15 per cent by August 2015.

Approved rates in the third quarter of 2016 increased by an average of 1.5 per cent, according to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO).

That reduces the average decrease since August 2013 — which at one point was over 10 per cent — back down to about 8.35 per cent, or a little over halfway to the legislated goal.

The 2013 legislation to implement the 15% premium reduction reflected pressures on the Liberal government following the release of statistics showing that the insurance industry cut its no-fault accident benefits payments in half in 2011 compared to 2010, due to government changes in the accident benefit schedule in 2010.

Increasingly, knowledgeable auto insurance observers believe that rates under Ontario’s staggeringly complex auto insurance system will remain high until there is a complete overhaul of the system.

For example, Willie Handler, a former senior auto insurance policy advisor with the Ontario Government, now believes that the no-fault, statutory accident benefits side of the system should be administered by a public, Crown corporation. In an article posted last year, Handler says that a “A made-in-Ontario solution should include private insurance companies continuing to provide third-party liability coverage and physical damage (car repair) coverage, while the government creates a not-for profit Crown corporation to deliver accident benefits”. In Ontario, statutory accident benefits cover everything from a few days treatment for minor strains to so-called “Catastrophic” benefits which often involve long-term income replacement benefits due to incapacitating injuries suffered in a serious accident.

Handler goes on to say that “A single adjudicative body would introduce significant efficiencies, standardize claims practices and eliminate the adversarial nature of the product”.

More on Ontario auto insurance reform in an upcoming Canada Fact Check feature post. Continue reading

Federal News Highlights and Parliamentary Business for October 24

parliament-daily-news-updateParliament begins debate on bill to increase Canada Pension Plan rates

 

 

 

On Friday, Second Reading debate began on Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act and the Income Tax Act, new legislation to implement the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) enhancement agreed to in June by Federal and Provincial Finance Ministers.

If passed, Bill C-26 would, among other things, amend the CPP to:

  • increase the maximum level of pensionable earnings by 14% as of 2025 with the replacement rate increasing from 25% of pensionable earnings to 33%.
  • phase in a 1% increase in contributions over 5 years from 2019 to 2024.
  • Increase the upper limit on maximum pensionable earnings from $72,500 to $82,700 between 2024-2025 and phase in a 4% contribution rate on earnings in this range over those 2 years.

Additional related amendments to the Income Tax Act outlined in Bill C-26 would:

  • increase the Working Income Tax Benefit to compensate low income pensioners for the automatic clawback of the GIS due to the increase in CPP benefits.
  • provide a deduction (as opposed to tax credits) for additional employee contributions related to the increase in the maximum limit on pensionable earnings.

True to form, the Conservatives criticized the modest CPP enhancement as a tax increase on hard working Canadians and seemed likely to vote against the measure.

The NDP was largely supportive of the enhancement but was critical of the modest scale of the increase and the drawn out phase-in schedule.

The full text of Friday’s House debate on Bill C-26 can be found here.

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Ontario News Highlights and Legislative Agenda for October 24

queens-park-dailyOntario News Highlight for October 24: Stunning upset in Niagara as 19 yr. old social conservative takes PC nomination

 

Sam Oosterhoff, a A 19-year-old social conservative university student, stunned the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership Saturday night, winning the nomination for a Nov. 17 byelection in the solidly conservative Niagara seat held by former PC leader Tim Hudak.

Oosterhoff’s surprise victory over PC president Rick Dykstra is a huge set back for PC Leader Patrick Brown who has been trying to present a more middle of the road image of late.

Oosterhoff will be facing off against Liberal lawyer Vicky Ringuette and Mike Thomas of the NDP, next month. Ontario’s new sex education curriculum was a central issue for many of  Oosterhoff’s supporters. Some of the teenager’s supporters marched with pro-life placards at voting locations on Saturday and distributed pamphlets with dead fetuses.

The religious right clearly helped  Oosterhoff secure the victory. The final tally was 662 votes to 501 for Dykstra, 245 for Mike Williscraft, and 235 for Niagara regional councillor Tony Quirk.

Saturday’s setback for Brown comes as the Tories appeared to be gaining momentum. They lead in most polls and have high hopes of winning the other Nov. 17 byelection in the Liberal stronghold of Ottawa-Vanier, where former Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin is their candidate.

Continue reading

Projected Ontario Legislative Business for Thursday, Oct. 20

Projected Ontario Legislative Business for Thursday, Oct. 20 (subject to change):

  • 9:00 a.m. – Government Notice of Motion Number 2. Watch Live!

    Mr. Naqvi – That, pursuant to Standing Order 47 and notwithstanding any other Standing Order or Special Order of the House relating to Bill 37, An Act to amend the Early Childhood Educators Act, 2007, and the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996, when the Bill is next called as a Government Order, the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the Second Reading stage of the Bill without further debate or amendment and at such time the Bill shall be Ordered referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs; and

    That the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs be authorized to meet on Thursday, October 27, 2016, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. for the purpose of public hearings on the Bill.

    Second Reading of Bill 41, Patients First Act.  Watch Live!

    10:45 a.m. – Question Period. Watch Live!

  • 2:00 p.m. Private Members’ business: Watch Live!
    • Private Members’ Motion Number 29: Ms. MacLeod – That, in the opinion of this House, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) should appoint an advisory committee to review jurisdictions where a process is in place to consider lifesaving experimental and high cost healthcare treatments and otherwise exceptional circumstances for patients. The MOHLTC advisory committee should consider Australia’s Special Access Scheme; New Zealand’s Exceptional Circumstances Framework and High Cost Treatment Pool and the UK’s National Health Service’s Experimental and Unproven Treatments Policy with the view to establish a compassionate catastrophic care program in Ontario for those suffering from rare disease or whose treatments may be experimental or complimentary but are not yet covered by Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP).
    • Second Reading of Bill 26, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 in respect of leave and accommodation for victims of domestic or sexual violence and to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act in respect of information and instruction concerning domestic and sexual violence. Sponsor: Peggy Sattler.
    • Second Reading of Bill 44, An Act to proclaim the month of March as Bangladeshi Heritage Month. Sponsor: Lorenzo Berardinetti
    • Voting on all Private Members’ business takes place at 4:30. Watch Live!

Projected Ontario Legislature Committee meetings for Thursday, Oct. 20

  • There are no scheduled committee meetings today.

Search the full text, approval status, committee hearings and other details of all Ontario bills from the current session here!