Friday 27 July 2018 at 11.35am. 

Ford’s decision to abolish elections already in play is Government by fiat.

If he is allowed to get away with this then where does it stop?

Ford claimed this morning there was no consultation on changes to municipal law which allowed for the direct election of Regional Chairs.

This is untrue.

The previous Liberal Government published a consultation paper “Municipal Legislation Review: Public Consultation Discussion Guide” in June 2015.

It specifically addressed the issue of Regional Chairs.

The former Newmarket-Aurora MPP Chris Ballard introduced his own Private Members’ Bill (Bill 42) calling for the direct election of the Chair of York Region when he was a backbencher. Along with others, I gave evidence to the Bill Committee in 2016.

When Ballard was promoted into Government his Bill died on the Order Paper but the Government took up the wider issue in its own legislation, making direct election of all Regional Chairs mandatory.

Ford silent on proposal during election

During the election campaign Ford made no specific reference to cutting the size of Toronto City Council nor of abolishing the direct election of Regional Chairs. There were glancing references to cutting the size of Government and that’s about it.

When he was in Opposition, Ford’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, supported Ballard’s Private Members’ Bill 42.

Today he did a complete U turn.

Before a Bill from the Ontario Legislature becomes law it must receive Royal Assent. This is given by the Lieutenant Governor whose constitutional role is, quite properly, very limited. In extremis, she acts as a constitutional longstop.

Her website tells us the Lieutenant Governor:

  • Ensures that Ontario always has a Premier who is able to command the confidence of the Legislative Assembly
  • Grants Royal Assent, the final step of the legislative process, to bills passed by the Legislative Assembly

The Lieutenant Governor remains strictly nonpartisan in carrying out her constitutional duties. In doing so, the Lieutenant Governor ensures that the democratic will of Ontarians and their elected representatives is upheld and that the constitutional conventions of responsible government are respected.

Of course, the Province can legislate to change the shape of the municipal map and to allocate and redistribute the powers exercised by municipalities. But constitutional convention does not allow for elections already under way to be abolished or otherwise tampered with by the Government of the day in the absence of an emergency and when no reference was made to this in the Party’s election platform.

No confidence motion

If I were Leader of the Official Opposition I would be tabling a motion of no confidence or “want of confidence” (in the terminology of the Ontario Legislature) which must be debated on the floor of the Chamber for up to a whole sitting day. This would shine a spotlight on the Ford proposals, their genesis and rationale.

It would also force MPPs – such as Newmarket-Aurora’s Christine Elliott – to take a view and nail her colours to the mast.

What Ford is proposing is an outrage which cannot be allowed to stand.

It is nothing other than constitutional vandalism.

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Scarpitti the tease

This morning, Wayne Emmerson bowed to the inevitable and withdrew from the race to become the first directly elected Chair of York Region.  

He was indirectly elected by members of the Regional Council in 2014.

This leaves former MPP, Mario Racco, and former Liberal Cabinet Minister, Steven Del Duca, facing off against each other.

The highest paid Mayor in Ontario, Frank Scarpitti - who had been touted as a possible runner - stays on as Mayor of Markham.

Given the astronomical costs of campaigning for Regional Chair, Scarpitti probably figured a bird in the hand in Markham was worth two in the Regional bush. 

Scarpitti has been known to tease before.

He also believes streaming of York Regional Council meetings is unnecessary and that audio is good enough.

As I tap this out - and with less than 24 hours to go before the deadline - Vaughan’s Mayor, Maurizio Bevilacqua, has yet to lodge his nomination papers.

But he, too, is expected to stay in his safe berth at Vaughan.

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update at 4.45pm Maurizio Bevilacqua has filed his nomination papers for Mayor of Vaughan

update at 10.40pm the Toronto Star reports tonight that Ford will announce plans tomorrow (Friday) that the direct elections for Regional Chair in Peel and York are to be scrapped. Legal challenges are anticipated.

update Friday 27 July at 12.05pm: Two unknowns, Rajasri Sriskandarajah and Judith Tenenbaum have joined the race for the post which is to be abolished.

update Friday 27 July at 3.15pm: A fifth candidate, Chevaunne Stewart, has filed her papers.

This morning I learn that accountant Talib Ansari wants to be Mayor of Newmarket. 

Mystery man to Mayor of Newmarket

I’ve never heard of him but maybe that’s because we move in different circles.

To become a candidate for Mayor 25 people must have endorsed him so I am intrigued to find out more.

He has appeared – at least to me – from absolutely nowhere.

The Town’s website (at 10am) gives no qualifying address. But I'm sure this will be posted in due course. 

Mr Ansari is a partner in Trivana Tax and Accounting Services which is based either in Newmarket or East Gwillimbury - depending on which source you rely on.

I’ve left messages for him to call me back today so we can talk about his program and what he wants to do for the Town in the next four years. 

This guy has a profile that boasts of towering achievements. So why does this mover-and-shaker want to be our Mayor?

His LinkedIn profile tells me:

"Talib Ansari is a highly accomplished, pro-active, customer focussed and results-driven professional with over 18 years of experience in investment finance, accounting and technology with top-notch pensions funds, IT company and real estate firms in the US and Canada. He has consistently demonstrated strategic/tactical leadership, relationship building/management, and innovative problem solving skills across cross-functional/matrix organisations." 

Phew!

"He effectively leverages his distinct combination of business & technology to successfully deliver/manage mission-critical, time-sensitive & highly complex financial and hi-tech projects/solutions that include business intelligence, database management, systems implementation, risk management, compliance and internal control."

Wow!

"Talib Ansari earned his MBA in Strategy and Entrepreneurial Finance from Wilfred Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, to solidify his business acumen, and BBA in Investment Finance from City University of New York, New York, USA, to strengthen his capital market comprehension. He is a Chartered Professional Accountant & Certified General Accountant of Ontario. In his spare time he enjoys photography and loves playing the guitar."

I want to meet him face to face and find out where he is coming from.

I hope I've tracked down the right Talib Ansari. If not, I am in big trouble.

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Update at 11.55am: Talib Ansari tells me he has never been involved in politics before. This is his first outing. He says he has worked for the best companies, knows about real estate and is a qualified accountant. He tells me he wants to take Newmarket "to the next level". He lives in Copper Hills.

Mayoral hopeful, John Taylor, last night launched his election campaign to a crowd of happy-clappy supporters in the Royal Canadian Legion Hall on Srigley Street. 

I wander along to see what all the fuss is about. 

I walk past a bunch of ten year olds prancing about outside, waving giant “John Taylor for Mayor” signs above their heads. 

Before he goes up on stage to deliver his tour d’horizon I casually ask how long he is going to speak. Seven minutes he says. Any longer and people lose interest.

I ask him how much he paid the kids outside. He laughs.

The place is packed and there is a sense of expectation in the air. I see Chris Emanuel, the wannabe Regional Councillor, and lots of familiar faces but, unfortunately, no Tony Van Trappist. I was in the mood to kiss and make up. 

The Mayor has blocked me for years from reading his tweets so I have to rely on reports from my network of spies to tell me what he is up to. The last I heard he was up in Tobermory enjoying cottage life. Anyway… 

Taylor Senior introduces Taylor Junior

Taylor Junior is introduced by his Dad, Tom, the founder of the dynasty.  

John Taylor has been around for a long time and served a lengthy apprenticeship as Deputy Mayor under the old banker. 

Now John Junior is talking about his experience and how he is qualified for the job. He tells us about his passion for the Town and his plans for the future. It is an animated performance with lots of pace. He manages to sound hungry for the job.

Taylor packs a lot into his seven minutes, ticking all the boxes. The Historic Downtown gets a special mention. He paints a picture of the Newmarket he wants to see and makes it sound quite compelling. 

Now he addresses the controversial purchase of Mulock Farm head-on. 

Personally, I don’t have a problem with the Town investing for the future. I thought the $10m it took to renovate the Old Town Hall was money well spent. In any event, the Town routinely borrows piles of cash to finance major projects and life continues as before. It’s not as if the Town is panhandling.

Four years ago, a firm of consultants (Hemson) brought in to review the Council’s asset replacement strategy said the Town’s practice of using debt to finance big projects was reasonable and appropriate. 

The cost of Mulock Farm is out in the open, not buried in the budget.

The speeches weren't for everyone

Fuddy-duddy old house

Yet some Conservatives say it is a complete folly to spend money on a fuddy-duddy old house and park that was home to one of the Town’s most celebrated residents, Sir William Mulock.

Here is what the outraged and irrepressible Darryl Wolk tweeted on 3 May 2018:

I am surprised the proposed “Mulock Central Park” has not gotten more attention in @townofnewmarket. Taxpayers misled on the biggest proposed tax increase in our history. Residents can expect to be hit with costs of at least $100 per year for the next 30 years. Sell the land!

When I spoke to Mayoral candidate Joe Wamback about Mulock Farm later that month he was still sitting on the fence. His website now tells me:

“Council and the Mayor must have crystal-clear clarity on their vision for the future of this town… The residents and taxpayers of Newmarket will always know exactly where I stand.”

So, Joe, spit it out. Are you for or against Mulock Farm?

Taylor is a shoo-in. 

Lots of people I meet seem to think Taylor is a shoo-in and it is all over bar the shouting. 

Don’t bank on it.

After the election of Doug Ford - whose “costed” program could be scribbled down on the back of a bubble gum wrapper - I take nothing for granted. People are waiting for their Beer for a Buck and cheap gas and they want it now!

Newmarket voted overwhelmingly for FordNation.  Even low income neighbourhoods bought that "man of the people" stuff.

By election time people could be whipped into a frenzy by Darryl and his friends in the People's Party!

For the cost of a patch of green grass and a tumble-down old house you could buy 24 million beers.

Hmmm.

No contest.

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Doug Ford tells us the former CEO of Hydro One, Mayo Schmidt, got “zero” severance. He says he was proud to make the announcement.  

Mayo Schmidt

But now the Globe and Mail tells its readers Mr Schmidt is sitting on Hydro shares worth over $8 million and he could cash them in. 

Does Ford have a view on this or on executive pay packages more generally? 

The backgrounder put out by the Province’s newsroom yesterday makes no mention of Mr Schmidt’s shares in Hydro One.

We are told:

“Mr Schmidt and the Company have agreed to the payment of a $400,000 lump sum amount on the effective date of his retirement in lieu of all post-retirement benefits and allowances.

Mr Schmidt will not receive severance payment, requirement allowance or change of control payment.”

The Globe and Mail says 

“Mr Schmidt, like other company executives, has participated in a range of long-term stock plans during his time at Hydro One. As is typical, the company awards the shares, but the executives cannot turn around and sell them in the open market. Instead they “vest” or become fully owned and saleable, when the executives continue their employment, or hit certain performance requirements.”

We learn that “only” 50,000 of Mr Schmid’s stock awards have vested. The rest – the hundreds of thousands of unvested shares - could be retained with Schmidt eventually owning them outright on their original schedule and terms.

However, the Globe and Mail reveals that under the terms of the agreement between the Province and Hydro One Schmidt could cash in hundreds of thousands of “unvested stock awards” 

“at a specified (and undisclosed) price”

and these could be worth $8.2 million.

This begs a series of questions. Is Schmidt going to sit on his shares and cash them in later when the heat is off or is he going to take the cash now?  And if it is the latter, how much is he going to get?

Ford made a big deal about Schmidt being the "Six million dollar man".

But as we now know, his salary was $1.2m with the bulk of the compensation package coming in the shape of Hydro stock. 

Schmidt will of course be paying the CRA every cent that is due to them but it is a sad fact of life that people with stratospheric earnings can be slippery customers.

They have a million ways to keep their cash out of the clutches of the Canada Revenue Agency.

During the election campaign former MPP Chris Ballard reminded us:

 “People on $14 an hour are not parking their money offshore.”

It was a nice line.

When high earners are not paying their fair share the rest of us pay more than we should. 

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