Wednesday at 2.30pm

This morning’s Toronto Star tells me the NDP will delay Ford’s plan to cut Toronto city council and axe the elections for Regional Chairs by using “legislative procedural tactics”.  

I approve.

However, the excellent Queen’s Park reporter, Robert Benzie, who originally broke the story, does not tell us what impact this procedural fancy-dancing will have beyond delaying the passage of the Bill by two days.

Tomorrow afternoon (2 August) the Leader of the Opposition will have 12 minutes to speak to the following Private Members’ Motion

Ms. Horwath — That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should not meddle in municipal or regional elections and should withdraw Bill 5 as the government did not campaign on interfering in elections in Toronto, Muskoka, Peel, York and Niagara and changing the rules of a democratic election in the middle of a campaign period is undemocratic, un-Ontarian, and un-Canadian; and fails to reflect widely held beliefs that decisions about our democracy should engage citizens so they have their say about any changes to the electoral processes.

After a mini-debate she will have a further two minutes to sum up. Rather than bellowing at the Government benches, complaining yet again about Ford’s bullying, I hope she will try to find out how the Government intends to proceed. I take it as a given Ford is not going to pull the Bill just because she asks nicely. 

Tight timetable

The Government is up against the clock. The elections are on 22 October and we are already into August and MPPs haven’t had a summer break. It will be a huge rush to get the Bill enacted without in some way truncating the legislative process.

Which brings me to the question: Which procedural devices are going to be used to get the Bill through in double quick time and what can be done to frustrate this?

What about the Bill’s Committee Stage? How many sessions will there be? Presumably Toronto City Council will be invited to give evidence. What about the candidates for the Regional Chair elections in York, Peel, Niagara and Muskoka? Will they be recompensed for the sums they have already spent on their campaigns?

Retroactive

The Better Local Government Act allows for retroactivity. The nomination day as set out in Section 31 of the Municipal Elections Act 1996 (the fourth Friday of July in the year of the election) “is deemed not to have occurred”.  

And the Bill allows the Minister to make Regulations “varying the operation of any provision of this Act”.

I can already see the Minister walking behind the cart horse cleaning up the mess of unforeseen and unintended consequences.

It seems to me it will be quite impossible for the Government to get this Bill through in time if it goes to a Standing Committee for scrutiny in the usual way.

More likely, after the Bill gets its Second Reading, it will go straight to a Committee of the Whole House (that is, the entire legislature sitting as a committee) which will consider amendments. I can already hear the yelling and ya-booing and accusations of dirty tricks. 

As I tap this out, we neither know the timetable nor the plan to get this hugely contentious Bill onto the Statute Book.

For the moment, I am in the dark.

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We meet in a Tim Hortons to talk about Ansari’s bid to become the next Mayor of Newmarket. (He likes to be known by his surname.) To my shame I know next to nothing about the man. He agrees to talk about his vision for Newmarket.  

Man of Mystery

He likes the blog I wrote about him earlier and wants me to stick with the label “Man of Mystery”. Fair enough, I say.

I ask him to outline his platform and he hesitates. He is going to be putting it on his new website in a week’s time and he doesn’t want to give the game away. His rivals may steal his ideas.

Hang on! I say. I am here to talk about your ideas. Just give me the main bullet points.

Reluctantly he gives me the headline:

“A New Vision for Newmarket”

Hmmm.

To get the ball rolling I ask when he decided he wanted to be Mayor. The idea apparently came to him at the candidates’ orientation meeting run by the Town. Before then he says he didn’t know the Mayor’s name.

Ansari says he hasn’t paid much attention to municipal politics preferring to concentrate on Federal and International. Hmmm. 

Ansari tells me he lives in Copper Hills with his wife and two daughters. He is 50 and describes himself as a number-cruncher. For relaxation he reads financial statements in bed. You’ve gotta be kidding! He spent five years in New York, seven in Los Angeles before coming to Canada – five years in East Gwillimbury and four in Newmarket.

He runs his own one-man business and says he will off-load it to one of his accountant colleagues so he can do the Mayor’s job full time.

Entry level job

I ask if being Mayor is an entry level job. What about all the glad-handing and speechifying? Does Ansari have the skill-set to chair meetings and get through the business? Is there anything about the job that gives him the terrors? No.

In his previous jobs he regularly gave power-point presentations to groups of 80-100 people and “running meetings is no problem”.

I ask if he is confident in handling the job with absolutely zero experience in municipal politics. He tells me he has

“confidence with modesty but not to the point of grandiosity or arrogance.”

He says he likes the idea of municipal politics being free of political parties – though that makes it more difficult for your average voter to place candidates on the political spectrum.

Ansari confesses he became a member of the Progressive Conservatives about six months ago but became disenchanted after being “swamped by phone calls asking for donations”. He tells me:

“I don’t want to be labelled a PC”

and says he has voted Liberal in the past.

I say that’s fair enough.

Man with the Money

Now Ansari is talking about his time working for OMERS and the Ontario Teachers. On the financial reporting “everything went through me.” 

He says he knows how to raise money for major capital projects and he knows where to go. The Town’s Treasurer, Mike Mayes, may soon be quaking in his boots. 

Now Ansari is talking about Newmarket property taxes (they’re too high) and Mulock Farm (which he says is a good environmental project but he has questions about its financing). I ask if he has heard about the Clock Tower controversy. Yes he has. 

But Ansari insists the October election is about the future. It is not about race nor Party. It is about uniting the community not dividing it. There is a special place for our elderly. Looking at me intently he declares:

“We must not forget them!”  

213 Harry Walker Parkway South. Flextronics out. Celesitica in.

He is already effortlessly slipping into the oily lexicon familiar to all practising politicians.

Now he shocks me by stating bluntly that people vote on ethnic lines:

“They have a natural bias.”

My face gives the game away. Did I really hear that? Surely it is not quite that simple?

Now he is telling me he is not a big fan of dynastic politics, citing Justin Trudeau. What about John Taylor?  

He frowns. He doesn’t know his Mayoral rival, John Taylor, is the son of Tom Taylor, a previous Mayor of Newmarket.

Flextronics? Celestica? What's the difference?

Now Ansari is mocking John Taylor for claiming the arrival of Celestica in Newmarket is a great victory. He tells me the company is a contract manufacturer that is occupying the same old factory in Harry Walker Parkway that was home to Flextronics – before it pulled up sticks in 2014 and went to Mexico. 

Now I hear him going on about the costs of doing up the former Flextronics building at 213 Harry Walker Parkway South to accommodate Celestica.

Now it is my turn for my eyes to glaze over.

Ansari wants to bring new industries to Town.

“Something brand new.”

Just like our latest Mayoral candidate. 

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Ansari emails me after our meeting with his view on cutting the size of Toronto City Council by half (he is opposed) and asylum seekers arriving in Canada. He says “the current approach to accepting large numbers of refugees does not make sense”.  He adds:

“The province elected Doug Ford for his family name without digging deeper into his educational accomplishments. A quality decision comes from quality leadership, not from family name or dynastic politics. I hope the residents of Newmarket will elect their next Mayor based on merit with objective and subjective understanding of numbers.” 

The Deputy Leader of Ford’s Progressive Conservatives, Christine Elliott, yesterday voted in favour of the Better Local Government Act which will cut the size of Toronto City Council and axe the upcoming elections for the Chairs of four Regional Councils.

How did she vote in 2010 in Durham's referendum?

But how did she vote in 2010 when voters in Durham Region were asked if they wanted a directly elected Chair of the Regional Council?

At that time Elliott was MPP for Whitby-Oshawa in the Region of Durham and lived there.

Voters in the eight municipalities that make up Durham Region were asked:

Are you in favour of the Council of the Regional Municipality of Durham passing the necessary resolutions and by-laws to change the method of selecting its Chair from appointment by the members of Regional Council to election by general vote of all electors in the Region?”

79.7% of electors voted in favour. 20.3% voted against.

A report to Durham’s Finance and Administration Committee on 8 May 2012 sets out the history of the campaign to get the chair of Durham Region elected by the voters at large.

”In 2010, the total number of eligible electors Region-wide was 432,256. The total number of votes cast was 119,666, representing a voter turnout of 27.68%. Since less than 50 per cent of all eligible electors voted on the question, the results of the vote were not binding and there was no legislative requirement for Council to implement the results.”

A clear majority of voters in each of the eight Durham Region lower tier municipalities were in favour of direct election. 

The Region went on to secure the backing of the Minister for Municipal Affairs for a change from indirect election of the Regional Chair to direct election by the voters at large. The first direct election took place in 2014.

I have today written to Christine who is my MPP asking if she was in favour of the direct election of the Chair of Durham Region and if she voted in the 2010 Referendum.

I shall post her reply as soon as I get it.

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30 July at 5.30pm. 

Ford takes a bow after Horwath misses an open goal

Andrea Horwath was not on her best form today.

Instead of a scalpel, forensically dissecting Ford’s policies - on Toronto Council and the abolition of direct election for Regional Chairs - she used a mallet to whack him over the head. It was never going to work.

Horwath yelled he was a bully. Ford lapped it up, laughing.

The Leader of the Opposition has got to raise her game. Staged indignation doesn’t cut it anymore. We need laser-like, focussed questions. Not vaudeville.

She had the material.

Horwath could have asked Ford why the Minister bringing in the legislation to abolish direct elections for Regional Chairs (Steve Clark) previously supported them.

She could have pointed to Ernie Hardeman, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affair, who likewise was “100% in support” of direct elections for the Chair of York Regional Council. Has he had a change of heart? And if so, what prompted him to turn turtle?

A foot in both camps: Christine Elliott

The Better Local Government Act was given its first reading on a division in the Ontario Legislature today. And as I tap this out I am wondering if my own MPP, PC Deputy Leader Christine Elliott, had the gall to vote to abolish the direct election of chair of York Region – which includes her new riding Newmarket-Aurora. (I haven’t seen the division list.)

In Durham, where she comes from and still lives, they have elected their Regional chair since 2014.

If Ford’s legislation goes through there is nothing in the Better Local Government Act, published today, that would stop Regions - after the 2018 election - from seeking to change the way they elect their Regional Chair.

It can be done but it is not easy. Members of Regional Councils have got to support the change when many of them have a vested interest in the status quo.

Following a referendum in the municipal election of 2010, Durham Region asked the Minister of Municipal Affairs to enact a regulation authorising it to change the method of selecting the Regional Chair. And the Province complied.

In Waterloo Region the Regional Chair has been elected by Region-wide vote since 1997. And in Halton Region Council since 2000.

48 years

By contrast, York Region has now been saddled with an appointed Regional Chair for 48 years. And once they are in place they are almost impossible to shift.

If we had a direct election for Regional Chair in York it would involve 750,000 voters making it the fourth largest municipal election in Canada.

I’d like Christine Elliott (who happens to be my own MPP in Newmarket-Aurora) to explain why Durham with a population of 672,000 can have a directly elected Regional Chair but York Region, with a population of 1,109,000 is, apparently, too "immature" to have one.

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Update on 31 July 2018: Deputy Leader Christine Elliott, Ernie Hardeman and, of course, Steve Clark, voted yesterday to abolish the planned elections for Regional Chairs in York, Peel, Niagara and Muskoka. Here is the full Division List for the Ayes:

Anand, Deepak; Baber, Roman; Babikian, Aris; Bailey, Robert; Barrett, Toby; Bouma, Will; Clark, Steve; Coe, Lorne; Crawford, Stephen; Cuzzetto, Rudy; Downey, Doug; Dunlop, Jill; Elliott, Christine; Fedeli, Victor; Fee, Amy; Fullerton, Merrilee; Ghamari, Goldie; Gill, Parm; Hardeman, Ernie; Harris, Mike; Hogarth, Christine; Jones, Sylvia; Karahalios, Belinda; Ke, Vincent; Khanjin, Andrea; Kramp, Daryl; Kusendova, Natalia; Lecce, Stephen; MacLeod, Lisa; Martin, Robin; Martow, Gila; McDonell, Jim; McKenna, Jane; McNaughton, Monte; Miller, Norman; Mulroney, Caroline; Nicholls, Rick; Oosterhoff, Sam; Pang, Billy; Park, Lindsey; Parsa, Michael; Pettapiece, Randy; Phillips, Rod; Rasheed, Kaleed; Rickford, Greg; Roberts, Jeremy; Romano, Ross; Sabawy, Sheref; Sandhu, Amarjot; Simard, Amanda; Smith, Dave; Smith, Todd; Tangri, Nina; Thanigasalam, Vijay; Triantafilopoulos, Effie J.; Wai, Daisy; Walker, Bill; Wilson, Jim; Yakabuski, John; Yurek, Jeff;

(MPPs Doug Downey and Mike Harris Jr were amongst those PC candidates personally appointed by Doug Ford to run as PC candidates in the June 7 election.)

Sunday 11.30am

Paul Calandra’s views on direct elections for chair of York Region is fake news. 

The Progressive Conservative MPP for Markham-Stouffville says it was a solid move to streamline Toronto Council and put a pause on the direct election of a York Region Chair. 

He says wants to consult on the latter but not on the former. He claims:

“the community did not want this.”

Where is the evidence for this assertion?

This is straight out of 1984

Ford should appoint Calandra to run a new Ministry of Truth. He would be at home there.

The former Liberal MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, Chris Ballard, insists support for the direct election of York Region Chair came from across the political spectrum:

(My Private Members’ Bill 42) received unanimous support by all Parties before being sent to an all-party committee for consideration. At committee, residents of all political stripes came forward to testify in support of my Bill. 

Previous versions of my Bill 42 had been introduced by York Region MPPs Reza Moridi and Helena Jaczek. They, too, had received all-party support, including from my predecessor, Frank Klees, a Progressive Conservative. Julia Munro, Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe North spoke in support of my Bill in the Legislature, as did MPP Gila Martow, Progressive Conservative, representing Thornhill.” 

The PC MPP leading for the then Opposition, Ernie Hardeman, (now Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs) said in Committee on 24 February 2016:

“I support the bill 100%, and I do hope that we can get it through as quickly as possible.”

and on 2 March 2016:

“… we all have to accept that there’s a cost to democracy. To talk about what’s the best way to elect a regional chair, to put it on the cost of doing it, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Obviously, if we really believe that, then why don’t we just have eight-year terms instead of having four-year terms? You could save half the money by doing that. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Hardeman – the PC’s wise old owl - shouldn’t give Ford any ideas.

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