The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario is deeply corrupt. 

Doug Ford with Snover Dhillon "Ford says he has never met Dhillon."

Under Patrick Brown’s leadership there was cheating, ballot stuffing and voter fraud on an Olympian scale. The rights of ordinary PC members were casually ignored as the then Leader smoothed the path for his favourites. The National Post told us on 13 March 2018 that Brown:

“appointed candidates himself in about 60 constituencies and refused to hear appeals of those that were clouded by controversy.”

As newly elected leader, Doug Ford, told the National Post:

“There were a lot of indiscretions in a lot of nominations. I spoke to people who were disqualified the day before (the nomination election) and that’s not being transparent.”

Now we have the jaw-dropping revelations from yesterday’s Globe and Mail which chronicles the disgraceful actions of the convicted fraudster Snover Dhillon who, by all accounts, hired himself out to people seeking PC nominations. 

“Dhillon played a controversial role in a number of the candidate-nomination votes that have resulted in accusations of voter fraud, ballot stuffing and other irregularities.”

Now both the Liberals and the NDP are calling for a police investigation into PC nominations.  

On top of all this we now have the scandal of Simmer Sandhu and the theft of identities from the privately-owned Highway 407 ETR. It is alleged 60,000 names, addresses and phone numbers were stolen from the company’s internal systems with the thief then distributing or selling the data to candidates in GTA PC nomination races. 

Until last Wednesday Simmer Sandhu – who was employed by Highway 407 ETR - was the PC candidate for Brampton East. He protests his innocence.

Sandhu has now been replaced by another Ford appointee, Sudeep Verma.

Ford refuses to back calls for a police probe.

Clearly Vic Fedeli didn’t root out all the rot.

Ford has now appointed 13 PC candidates including the notorious Meredith Cartwright who is running in Toronto Centre. She took the rap for hiring actors to masquerade as Ford supporters outside the TV studio where the Party leaders debated.

And he’s dumped nine candidates.

And six days away from the start of advanced polling on 26 May 2018, the official PC website still doesn't show a photograph of its candidate for Brampton North, Ripudaman Dhillon.

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There are nine candidates in the race to be the next MPP for Newmarket-Aurora.  

Chris Ballard, the MPP since 2014, has a fight on his hands to retain the seat given the reported surge in support for Doug Ford who, in the space of two months, has rebranded the PCs in the image of Ford Nation. Shallow sloganizing.

Ford is always ready to label his opponents as being in some way phoney when compared with him, the genuine article.

The PC standard-bearer in Newmarket-Aurora is the parachutist, Christine Elliott, who ran three times for the PC leadership and lost on each occasion. During the PC leadership debate on 1 March 2018 we heard this barb from Ford as he stares directly at her:

“If Christine Elliott wins, which do we get? The one who wants to fight Kathleen Wynne, or the one who took a $220,000 a year job from Wynne’s Minister of Health.”

Chris Ballard is an effective politician, capable and well-liked with deep roots in the area. Unlike Christine Elliott, he doesn’t need to consult Google Maps to find his way around the riding.

Melissa Williams is running for the NDP which has historically come a poor third in Newmarket-Aurora. She is hoping for an orange wave.

Bob Yaciuk, the leader of the fledgling Trillium Party, hopes to make an impact with his jolly vaudeville style but has zero chance of success.  

Dorian Baxter, the legendary cleric/politician is running as an Independent this time. He, too, stands no chance of being elected but could pick up one or two per cent of the vote based on his previous showings.

We also have a Green candidate, Michelle Bourdeau.

Then there is Denis Gorlynskiy from the Ontario Moderate Party who can be expected to say nothing that would frighten the horses.

The Libertarians are putting forward Lori Robbins and, bringing up the rear, we see Denis Van Decker representing the None of the Above Direct Democracy Party. These minor parties provide colour and add to the gaiety of the nation but will not pick up more than a handful of votes between them.

Format useless

As it happens, I wandered along to the Aurora Chamber of Commerce “candidates’ luncheon discussion” at the Royal Venetian Mansion on Wednesday to hear what the candidates had to say. 

The format was totally useless. The platform was top-heavy with eight candidates from two ridings (Newmarket-Aurora and Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill) fielding soft-ball questions. The whole thing was overly-scripted with no zip or pizzazz. I don’t blame the candidates who were not allowed to interact or disagree with each other. Instead they recited chunks from their Party program (except for the PCs who don’t have one) making the whole event feel very stilted.

At least Elliott was there. PC candidates have been skipping debates all over Ontario.  

Chris Ballard lives here

How did they do? Chris Ballard plays a strong hand, reminding everyone that Newmarket-Aurora is his home – where he ran a business for 27 years and where he raised his family. He acknowledges that affordable housing is a big issue while, at the same time, recognising that many people have seen their biggest investment (their home) surge in value. He lists the actions taken by the Provincial Government but says more needs to be done. He talks about the problems facing renters.

The NDP’s Melissa Williams says an NDP Government will back buy Hydro One and spend $180 billion on infrastructure over the next decade. She moves on to talk about precarious employment. It is a shopping list tailored to be attractive to the traditional left-leaning voter.

On cue, Christine Elliott complains about high taxes and “astronomical” hydro rates. She talks about meeting an Aurora business person who says things are so bad here that she is thinking about moving to the United States. Yep. They don’t have any problems down there.  

Fiscal Prudence

Elliott’s eyes light up as she talks about “fiscal prudence” without a hint of irony. She repeats Ford’s promise that there will be a Commission to find out the true state of the Province’s finances. During the campaign the incontinent Doug Ford has sprayed billions of dollars of extra spending into every corner of the Province without bothering to explain how he is going to pay for it all.

Ballard says there is good debt and bad debt. We all borrow to buy a house and lots of us borrow to buy a car to get to work. He says the Government is “investing” in the future, spending $190 billion in infrastructure, doing things – citing GO Rail – that should have been done decades ago. Spending to invest and not, I suppose, to splurge.

Get out of our way!

The leader of the Trillium Party, Bob Yaciuk, is the Court Jester, telling us that all our problems would be solved if the Government would just “get out of our way!”

He says this to gales of laughter. He promises to get rid of 30% of regulations and, after pausing for effect, tells us 50% or 60% or even 70% is possible.

Why stop there?

The Newmarket Chamber of Commerce breakfast with the candidates at the Cardinal Golf Club on 24 May will follow a different format. It also excludes Bob Yaciuk who is hopping mad about it all.

Hopefully the candidates will be allowed to debate with each other under the light-touch guidance of a moderator who knows her or his business.

There is another opportunity to hear the candidates in a “Social Issues Forum” hosted by the Holy Cross Lutheran Church from 7pm – 9pm on the 24th.

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Doug Ford’s pledge earlier this week to slash gas prices by 10 cents a litre will mean $1.2 billion in lost revenue to the Provincial Treasury.  

This promise is entirely new, plucked out of thin air. 

He is making policy on the hoof again!

The cut in gas tax did not feature in Patrick Brown’s “People’s Guarantee”.

Political Assassination

And speaking of Patrick Brown, I see that he is planning to publish a book in November about his “political assassination”.  I don’t know if it is fact or fiction. Probably a little bit of both.

I had largely forgotten about Brown but the prospect of his new revelatory book has rekindled my interest. 

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a chapter on his tangled and very irregular finances. The Globe and Mail reminds us:

“Since leaving his post, Mr Brown was found to have broken Ontario’s ethics rules by failing to disclose a $375,000 loan from a close friend who later went on to become a Tory candidate. New nomination races were also held in a handful of ridings amid controversies about ballot-stuffing and fake memberships.”

(Of course, it is worth remembering that the PC parachutist, Christine Elliott, is only here in Newmarket-Aurora because her predecessor, Charity McGrath, was caught stuffing the ballot box with fake memberships.)

The Integrity Commissioner, the Honourable J. David Wake, found that Patrick Brown twice breached the Members’ Integrity Act 1994 in failing to disclose rental income from his personal residence in 2016 and 2017 and in failing to disclose a loan from Mr Jass Johal in the same two years. Johal went on to become the PC candidate for Brampton North. You can read the Integrity Commissioner's full report here.

Brown deliberately concealed the truth 

The Integrity Commissioner says of Brown's deception:

“The seriousness of the breach was aggravated by the fact that it occurred in both the 2016 and 2017 statements and was not corrected at either of his personal meetings with me when his statements were reviewed. On all the evidence it is clear to me that the non-disclosure was deliberate and not through inadvertence.”  (My underlining for emphasis.)

Jass Johal, who loaned $375,000 to Brown, was his adviser, dishing out business cards with the title “Advisor to PC Leader” with the logo and address of the PC Party. Johal went on to become the PC candidate for Brampton North in November 2016 after selling PC memberships on an industrial scale – 6,200. He was disqualified as PC candidate on 15 March 2018. (Seems to me that selling memberships in this way inevitably leads to cronyism and clientism.)

Secret Loan = a berth at Queen’s Park

The Commissioner says the arrangements made by Brown to get his down payment were “Byzantine in nature and disturbing on many levels”.   The Commissioner writes:

“Mr. Brown explained that at the time that he received the Loan from Mr. Johal, he was unaware that Mr. Johal was interested in the nomination. He claims that he first learned that Mr. Johal was interested in being a candidate in Fall 2016. 

Mr. Johal’s evidence on this point differed from Mr. Brown’s. He indicated that he became interested in running when Mr. Brown became Leader of the PC Party in 2015. He also stated that he did mention to Mr. Brown in 2015 that he was interested in running. “  

Does Brown seriously expect us to believe he was unaware of the fact that his own official adviser, Jass Johal – the man who secretly loaned him $375,000 – wanted to become a candidate for the Progressive Conservatives? Does Brown take us all for fools?

In late February Caroline Mulroney was urging Patrick Brown “to do the right thing” and drop out of the leadership race. He resigned as Leader then promptly threw his hat into the ring again. She said the PC Party was in “crisis”.

In a funny kind of way it still is.

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Should political parties be expected to put before the voters a fully costed program for Government, showing what they’ll spend and how they are going to raise the money to pay for it all?  

This morning, the Liberals and NDP are trading blows about alleged “major mistakes” in the NDP’s campaign platform. But at least they both have one.

We are now into the second week of the campaign and Ford’s Progressive Conservatives have yet to publish their costed program.

The CBC reminds me that Doug Ford went into the provincial election campaign promising a "solid platform that is fully costed."

I tend to agree with University of Waterloo economics professor Jean-Paul Lam who says:

"I don't think you will see a fully costed platform because I don't think they know where the money is going to come from."

Promising the earth and delivering dust

Ford at various times has told us he is going to cut taxes by 20% for the middle class; cut corporate taxes; cut hydro rates and eliminate provincial taxes for anyone earning less than $30,000 a year. He has mused aloud about scrapping the foreign buyers tax on real estate and cutting provincial taxes in their entirety for doctors practising in the north. He has set his face against a carbon tax, losing the $4 billion in tax revenue that Patrick Brown had factored into his “People’s Guarantee”He is going to find $5 billion for new subways and transportation initiatives. He is not going to cut public service jobs and he is going to pay for his program through efficiencies such as joint purchasing that will deliver 4 cents in savings for every dollar. He is going to bring down the Provincial debt and balance the books. He pledges to increase spending by $13+ billion while cutting taxes.

No. I don’t believe it either.

We cannot take Ford on trust any more than we should believe Trump when he says (or used to say) that he will publish his tax returns. It is simply not going to happen.

In the absence of a costed program, PC policy commitments are what Ford, speaking ex cathedra, says they are.

When he took over from Patrick Brown, Ford declared the People’s Guarantee dead. Then he said he would change about 10% of the policy platform. Then he just starts making it all up as he goes along.

Ford has piled up so many billion-dollar spending commitments on the fly, coupling them with tax cuts, that it would now be impossible to craft a program that adds up.

Does it matter? 

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce evidently thinks so.

evidence-based policy making

Newmarket-Aurora is one of ten ridings to watch. In advance of tomorrow’s “candidates’ discussion luncheon” hosted by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, I have been reading “Vote Prosperity” – their 2018 election platform which calls for 

“evidence-based policy making”.

That sounds OK to me.

But when are we going to see Doug Ford’s PCs deliver on his promise to publish

“a solid platform that is fully costed?”

Does the Aurora Chamber of Commerce have a view on that? 

And, if not, why not?

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I write to the Newmarket Mayoral hopeful Joe Wamback asking for a copy of his election platform. 

Not yet, he says, because there isn’t one. It is, I suppose, work-in-progress. But he suggests we meet for a coffee so he can explain why he is running and set out his “vision and motivation”.

I turn up at the coffee shop and Joe introduces his wife Lozanne who tells me she is a holistic nutritionist. He buys the coffee.

I am keen to know more about the man who wants to be Mayor. In all my years following the twists and turns of municipal politics in Newmarket I had never come across him. 

Does any serving councillor support him? No he says. He knows Tom Vegh but hasn’t asked him.

I ask Joe if he has been to a Council meeting this term. No.

If he has written to the local paper about any issue. No.

If he signed the Clock Tower petition, for or against. No.

Unfair questions?

Perhaps. 

(At the time, Joe was sitting as a part-time Social Security Adjudicator, no doubt expected to be aloof and above the fray.)

Is Mayor an entry level job?

I ask him if the Mayor is an entry level job. Why not run for Ward Councillor first? Not interested.

He says he can chair meetings and deal with senior staff. And he is going to spend the next six months talking to people, harvesting their ideas.

It is certainly an unconventional approach to politics but perhaps one that chimes with the times. 

Joe is not a bit embarrassed by this. He clearly believes in his own abilities.

He asks me what are the most important issues facing the Town. Hold on, I say. I am not the one running for Mayor.

As I am listening to him I am thinking he needs more than a blank sheet of paper and an interesting CV to run for Mayor.

I ask him what he thinks about Doug Ford and get a long answer about Rob. He corrects himself. He knew Rob.

Are you a Doug Ford man?

Now I bite the bullet.

Would it be fair to describe you as a “Doug Ford man”? 

Joe hesitates and scrunches up his face a bit. Hmmmm. He says he admires Doug’s family values. And he likes the way he stood by his brother Rob and looked after him. That’s the answer I'm gonna get.

Joe says his campaign proper is going to get going after the Provincial election on 7 June. If the polls are to be believed (and I don’t) Joe could be glad-handing Premier Ford and inviting him to Newmarket. Who knows?

Victims of Crime

Joe has a profile deriving from the work he has done over many years to support the victims of crime. He set up the Canadian Crime Victim Foundation.  

His son Jonathan was badly beaten up by a gang of young people back in 1999 and this had a devastating effect on the family, changing at a stroke the course of their lives. 

As a result of his work he tells me he’s gotten to know three Prime Ministers and countless MPs and MPPs. He says he can walk into their offices and get a handshake. I don’t doubt it. He tells me he has, in effect, written legislation. He has appeared before Commons Committees. He has fought the good fight in a cause most people would consider admirable. The victims of crime too often go unheard.

He was awarded the Queens Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 for his volunteer service.

Joe tells me about his life in business. He describes himself as an engineer and a developer with his own company. And he is an arbitrator. He says he doesn’t shy away from confrontation but assures me it is not his preferred way of doing things.

In 2012 he was appointed by the Harper Government as an adjudicator on the Social Security Tribunal which he says he enjoyed immensely. It is an administrative tribunal with quasi-judicial powers dealing with matters such as Employment Insurance (EI), the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS). 

His phone, sitting on the table between us, has been glowing for a while. Are you recording this conversation?  No, he says. Neither am I. 

I ask if he has ever run for elective office before. Once, as a PC in the Federal Election of 2000 in York North – an historic riding which, with boundary changes, has now disappeared. He came third with just under 25% of the vote. He says it happened too soon after the assault on his son.  

Joe’s policy platform - Hmmmm

Now I want to get down to some specifics. If elected in October what would be the biggest file on his desk. The one grabbing his immediate attention. Hmmmm.

We talk about affordable housing. He says all the right things. But how do you deliver it? If developers don’t want to develop what do you do? Hmmm.

We touch on transit and he mentions GO Rail. I impertinently ask if he has ever travelled on a bus. Lozanne appears shocked by the question. Of course! she says.

I tell her I meet quite a few people who proudly boast they’ve never been on a bus in Newmarket. Hence the question.

Now we turn to the controversial purchase of Mulock Farm but Joe is sitting on the fence. He says he needs more information. I counter and ask him what he needs that is not already out there? Hmmmm.

We are now talking about Town Hall secrecy and how he would open things up. He volunteers this as a big issue. I play the devil’s advocate and tell him councillors need private space to consider things. The real issue is when do confidential discussions become “declassified” and put into the public domain. In Newmarket, if the issue embarrasses the Town, the papers will remain locked up forever – or, says the Town, until they no longer “have an impact”.

Not running for the money

I am now thanking Joe for being so open with me. I tell him he will be reading my impressions of him in 500 words. Just my scribbles. As I am getting up to leave Joe tells me he is not doing it for the money.

I believe him.

But why is he doing it? 

I wish I could say he is running for a reason. But I can’t. There are no specifics. No concrete pledges. 

The best I can come up with is that Joe Wamback is running on his conservative values. No more. No less. You vote for Joe because you like the kind of person he is and what he represents.

If you are planning to vote for Doug Ford in June I suspect there is no reason why you shouldn’t vote for Joe Wamback in October.

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Update on 15 May 2018: Joe Wamback has launched his campaign website: "Accountability, Clarity, Transparancy" (sic)

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