Tuesday, May 3, 2016

In six months, the Liberals have gone from sunny ways to governing hypocrites

 
 
 
Oh, how quickly the sunny ways have come and gone from our nation’s capital.
 
Take, for example, the parliamentary proceedings of just one day, April 19, 2016 – the six month anniversary of the Liberals being elected to office.

The day started on a poor note for the Liberals.  Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has been on the defensive for more than two weeks now over her hosting of an intimate and private fundraising event at a Toronto law firm, and Conservative MP Michael Cooper moved that the House of Commons debate why Wilson-Raybould wasn’t following her own Prime Minister’s guidelines to avoid actual and potential conflicts of interest. The entire day was filled with Liberal MPs and ministers apologizing for and defending the minister. Mere months ago, these then-candidates were elected under the banner of hope and transparency and “better is always possible.” But on this day, what the Justice Minister did was apparently good enough.

But the debate went even lower when the Democratic Institutions Minister spoke. Maryam Monsef boldly complained that those mean Conservatives were really debating this issue because the Justice Minister is a successful aboriginal woman. She implied, several times, that the Justice Minister’s race was true reason for the day’s debate. It was something else to watch an MP who was elected just six months ago on a positive message come so close to complaining of racism in the House of Commons – no less the MP who is also in charge of Canada’s democratic institutions.

The day only continued to get worse for the Liberals.

Speaker Geoff Regan, a Liberal MP, ruled that the Liberals had potentially committed a prima facie breach of privilege by leaking advance copies of the assisted suicide bill to members of the media before that bill was tabled in the House of Commons. “There was a direct contravention of the House’s right to first access,” Regan concluded before sending the matter to a parliamentary committee for investigation.

This is not a small matter: the Liberals brought down the Conservative minority government in 2011 over a question of privilege. According to their logic at the time, Parliament had been so deeply disrespected by that breach that the only remedy was to call an election.

Shortly after the Speaker’s ruling, Liberal House leader Dominic Leblanc tabled a notice of time allocation for a government bill dealing with Air Canada. Time allocation, you might recall, “is undemocratic and a type of abuse, as a rule, of the House of Commons of Canada” according to Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux, “undemocratic” according to Liberal MP Arnold Chan, and not only “prevent[s] business and debate” in the House of Commons, but “hurt[s] the ability of committees to do their work” according to Liberal MP Wayne Easter. At least it was when the Conservatives were the ones who did it, lest the Liberals be exposed as hypocrites. Even the Liberal platform specifically promised “We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny” and yet the Liberals moved their motion for time allocation anyway – because hypocrisy should be no barrier to governing.

Keep in mind that this all happened in the course of just one day in Canada’s Parliament – no less on the six month anniversary of the Liberals being elected to office to supposedly do things better, differently, and more transparently.

Of course, the following day was April 20, or “4:20,” where people across the world smoke marijuana in defiance of the current drug laws. Despite promising to legalize marijuana, the Trudeau government has made zero headway on the matter. They did conveniently announce that Canada would begin the process of legalizing marijuana in spring 2017, but that still means that anyone who indulged in the 4:20 festivities was still breaking the law.

How quickly hope and change have given way to governing as hypocrites.

Daniel Dickin is the author of Liars: The McGuinty-Wynne Record, available in e-book and paper copy through Amazon or direct from the publisher.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Two very different Liberal responses to fundraising scandals

Published in the Ottawa Sun

A Liberal government on its way out and a Liberal government on its way in: two very different ways of dealing with fundraising scandals.

On the same day as Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne promised “tough” new legislation on electoral financing, one of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet ministers was defending her decision to attend a private $500-a-plate fundraising dinner that put her neutrality as a minister in jeopardy.

Talk about irony.

But it gets better. Trudeau’s cabinet minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, defended her fundraising gala because – even though she’s the Attorney General of Canada, the main attraction at an event exclusively advertised to lawyers, held at a private law firm – she says she escaped her cabinet position for the night and attended just as an ordinary Member of Parliament.

If that line passed the smell test, Wynne’s cabinet ministers would have used it weeks ago. Both the federal and provincial Liberals are facing similar scandals, yet their handling of them is markedly different.

In January, the Toronto Star revealed the Ontario Liberals set aggressive fundraising quotas for cabinet ministers – so aggressive that the newspaper implied the “price of admission” to cabinet is to continue meeting these targets. Even lobbyists complained that they were told to buy a ticket to a fundraiser if they wanted to pitch their proposals.

“Want to chat with the Energy Minister? That’ll be $7,500” is a despicable way of running a government.

Yet Premier Wynne has offered no apology, and in fact her only justification has been “we all do it” – the same excuse Wilson-Raybould has offered.

It’s interesting that one Liberal Party has promised “tough” changes while the other continues to arrogantly stand up and defend its selling of access to cabinet ministers. It’s as if Wynne is taking a page from Stephen Harper while the federal Liberals are ignoring her.

Harper was rocketed into the Prime Minister’s office in 2006 with the simple but effective message that money has no place buying influence in politics. His message resonated with people disgusted with the Liberals’ use of taxpayers’ money for partisan purposes, which culminated in the Sponsorship Scandal.

Wynne seems intent on following Harper’s lead and avoiding the same demise the federal Liberals faced. Her “seven-piece” legislation proposal is quite similar to the federal Accountability Act. Banning corporate and union donations, capping donations at the federal limits, changing third-party advertising rules, and limiting loans and loan guarantees to parties, candidates, and leadership contestants are all consistent with Harper’s Accountability Act.

Some of Wynne’s proposals go further than the Accountability Act because she needs to demonstrate she’s now serious about fixing a system that has remained broken under her party’s watch for the last 13 years.

Some of her reforms are only necessary because the Liberals made them necessary: introducing by-election donation limits comes after the Liberals raised $1.6 million on a by-election with a $142,000 spending limit. (They lost the by-election anyway and the money went to the provincial party.)

And it’s convenient that these revelations only came after the Liberals held a $2.5 million fundraiser.

Meanwhile, the Trudeau Liberals should rightly face the same skepticism, especially when their ministers continue to use excuses like “I took the night off from being the minister to attend this event,” and “we all do it, so it’s okay.”

Trudeau’s government is still fresh and high on sunny ways, but they could learn a lot from Kathleen Wynne’s government, on its way out for precisely the same scandals and arrogance.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Forget 4 months, the Liberals have already amassed a decade’s worth of scandals

Governments come and go when the people get tired of them. The recently-deposed Conservatives were removed from office because some people thought they were big meanies, and because Canada had been doing well for so long that, hey, why not lose a couple thousand jobs and depress the economy for a few years? Before that, the Chretien-Martin Liberals were caught stuffing their friends’ pockets with taxpayer money for mysterious “advertising” contracts.

But those governments took a decade each for people to tire of them and decide that it was time for change. That’s one of the most impressive things about the Trudeau Liberals: in a short 120 days, they have amassed a laundry list of scandals that could have easily sunk the governments before them.

It started with the promise that the cabinet would be 50-50, equal parts men and women. In fact, the cabinet contains 16 men and 15 women, which is not 50-50 unless you settle with being off by a few people for the fun of it. While this might be dismissed as no big deal, the attitude that it shows can be used for all of the other scandals as well: “we made the promise, we didn’t meet it, but, meh, close enough. It’s 2016, am I right?!”

That was quickly followed by NannyGate, perhaps the most hypocritical of all the scandals so far, wherein Trudeau hired two full-time nannies to take care of his kids at public expense. Contrary to the Liberals’ rebuttals, the scandal wasn’t an issue with nannies or public servants. The issue was that a self-acknowledged multi-millionaire who claimed “rich families like mine” didn’t need and shouldn’t receive child care benefits was getting us to pay for two – two! – full-time nannies for his kids.

Or consider the environment file. One of the Environment Minister’s first actions in her position was to allow Montreal to dump eight billion litres of raw sewage into the Saint Lawrence River. Literally days later they spent $1 million flying to Paris to show how progressive and understanding they were about climate change. Because irony is apparently not a thing in the Liberal Party.

The promise that 25,000 Syrian refugees would be settled by the end of 2015? The end of February 2016 is close enough, right?

The promise that Canada would see some “modest” $10 billion deficits? They’re now approaching $30 billion a year, with banks estimating that the Liberals could amass $150 billion in debt from now through 2021.   Divided amongst Canada’s current population, that’s $4,167 per Canadian. Just on new debt. That doesn’t include the taxes we already pay or the new taxes the Liberals are working on implementing.

Aboriginal chiefs can breathe easier though, since the Liberals won’t be enforcing the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. No, they’re not repealing that law – they’re just not enforcing it.

Speaking of new taxes, how about that “revenue neutral” plan to increase taxes on some Canadians while lowering taxes for others? It turns out that plan won’t be revenue neutral at all: it will cost the treasury an estimated $1.5 billion.

Marijuana users – already a confusable and paranoid bunch – have been left in “legal limbo” over the status of their favourite pastime. “We elected the Prime Minister who smoked pot with The Prince of Pot Marc Emery! Why isn’t pot legal yet?!” I’m sure they ask.

Selling access to influential Liberals is nothing new to the party responsible for AdScam. Even before the election was over the Liberal Campaign Co-Chair was caught trying to sell access to the future Liberal government. He gave advice to TransCanada on how to get an “early entry point” to make sure the new Liberal government would make favourable decisions. Translation: I’ll hook you up. Before that it was a union that paid its members to attend a pro-Trudeau rally – a no-no according to the Elections Commissioner, since unions can’t make donations to political parties. But the Liberals seemed to last a few months in office without this same scandal rearing its head again, until it was revealed that the spouse of a cabinet minister had registered to lobby his wife’s department.

Many of these scandals are not exactly surprising to observers of the Dauphin. Justin Trudeau was well known for his gaffes, errors, and noticeably light presence before he became Prime Minister. But what is particularly disturbing is the sheer volume of broken or delayed promises mere months into government. This is an accumulation of scandals far beyond what any government should have experienced within a short 120 days in office. These are the scandals of the tired, weathered Liberal government from a decade ago; so many scandals of such significance should not have already accumulated in a short four months.



If these are the “sunny ways” Canadians voted for, we’re in for a long four years.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dickin reminds Whitby-Oshawa voters to remember the McGuinty-Wynne legacy when voting in Thursday's byelection

WHITBY-OSHAWA VOTERS NEED TO REMEMBER THE MCGUINTY-WYNNE LEGACY
WHEN VOTING IN THURSDAY'S BYELECTION


OTTAWA, ON – With the provincial byelection in the riding of Whitby-Oshawa on Thursday, February 11, 2016, Daniel Dickin, author of Liars: The McGuinty-Wynne Record, released the following statement:

"The voters of Whitby-Oshawa have an important choice to make in the byelection this Thursday. They have the opportunity to send a clear message to Kathleen Wynne: that the Liberals' mismanagement and corruption will not be tolerated, that their days in office are numbered."

"Whitby-Oshawa voters need to remember the Liberals' negative and destructive legacy, hijacking Ontario from a time of prosperity, jobs, and low taxes, for a decade-plus of massive job losses, constant tax hikes, and scandal after scandal after scandal. The McGuinty-Wynne policies have turned a once great province into one of the worst jurisdictions in the world."

“Ontarians should never forget the McGuinty legacy. And they should never forget that these destructive policies are continuing to be implemented and enforced by the current Liberal administration. Premier Kathleen Wynne has continued the McGuinty legacy. That’s why it’s called the McGuinty-Wynne Record.”

"Thursday's byelection will send a clear message to the Liberals that their days in office are numbered. I encourage all Whitby-Oshawa voters to get out and vote on Thursday."

-30-

Liars: The McGuinty-Wynne Record is published by Freedom Press Canada. It was released in 2014 and remains the only book on the market that examines the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals’ record. It is available on Amazon.ca or direct from the publisher.

Quick Facts
·         Provincial debt has more than doubled, from $138.8 billion in 2003 to over $288.1 billion in 2013-2014
·         At approximately $10.56 billion per year, interest on that debt is the third-largest expense, behind only health care and education.
·         Ontario has lost approximately 300,000 manufacturing jobs under the Liberals’ watch.
·         The Liberals wasted $1 billion through eHealth’s repeatedly-failed attempts to create electronic health records
·         The Liberals were responsible for the ineffective and incompetent management of Ornge, Ontario’s air ambulance service which reports to the Minister of Health. The scandal included shady dealings with Liberal insiders and abuse of taxpayers’ money. The Liberal minister responsible, Deb Matthews, maintained the support of Premier McGuinty and continues to enjoy the support of Premier Wynne.
·         The Ontario Liberals are under a disturbing number of police investigations for potential criminal activity. These include:
o   Police investigation into the Ornge scandal
o   Charges laid and further police investigations ongoing over the alleged bribery of an election candidate by senior Liberal officials[1]
o   Police investigation into whether deleting emails surrounding the gas plant scandal was a criminal cover-up[2]
·         The Liberals are implementing an expensive and unnecessary Ontario Pension Plan, which forcibly takes money from Ontarians with no choice of how to invest or manage their own money.
·         The Liberals are implementing yet another tax grab by allowing municipalities to charge a land transfer tax on top of the same tax already charged by the province. This has been roundly criticized by industry professionals and would add over $4600 to the average Ontario home purchase.[3]


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Would anyone who still supports the Ontario Liberals please stand up?

Published for the Prince Arthur Herald

It must not be easy being a Liberal in Ontario these days. The governing party is failing at every turn, the province is drowning in debt, and the leader has made increasingly concerning categorizations of her opponents as “racists” or “homophobes.” The notoriously anti-conservative, pro-Liberal Working Families Coalition seems to have completely disappeared from the web since their appearance in the 2014 election. Even Kathleen Wynne’s political staffers have fled the provincial capital for the national capital, hoping that Team Trudeau will offer them a better chance of remaining employed and staying out of jail past the year 2018. (Team Trudeau is formerly Team McGuinty.)

The Liberal scandals have compounded into at least a full book’s worth of material, and a summary of those same scandals written this spring shows no sign that the Liberals have learned their lessons or attempted to change course. Just since this spring we’ve seen two of the Premier’s staff criminally charged for allegedly deleting emails surrounding the gas plants scandal. We’ve seen the Deputy Minister who worked to revamp Ontario’s sex education under then-Education Minister Kathleen Wynne sentenced for child porn crimes. Debt continues to climb. Our credit rating was downgraded (again). Even missing snow plows the government (read: taxpayers) paid for have become a scandal in recent months! When the government spends multiple Question Periods trying to explain its snow plow financing scheme, it can no longer focus on big, important issues, for instance health care or education. The provincial government is completely imploding on itself, devoid of new ideas, new supporters, or even really the legitimacy to continue.

To repeat this list over and over and over again should be in and of itself enough reason to throw the bums out. What will it take for Ontarians to finally demand change and elect someone to clean up the mess? The Opposition Conservatives and New Democrats have shot themselves in the foot in previous elections by failing to properly articulate this horrible record, allowing the Liberals to change the message into “yeah, but what about what those guys might do?” Even Liberal supporters must agree that there is a turning point where they simply cannot support them any longer.

Maybe it’s their latest scandal. On Saturday, the Toronto Star exposed the latest scandal: the Ontario Tire Stewardship has been using taxpayers’ money to dine on fancy wine and steak dinners, luxury outings, and – most seriously – making donations to the Ontario Liberals and New Democrats.

This is wrong on so many fronts, but it’s just business as usual for the Liberals. The Stewardship has already responded that their lavish dinners are a minor “administrative cost” – the big expenses are in check, so let us enjoy our wine, steak, and vineyard tours in peace, they say. And the Liberal Party doesn’t seem to care at all – they claim the Stewardship isn’t controlled by the government, despite the fact that the Stewardship falls under Waste Diversion Ontario (which reports to the Minister of the Environment), was created by a law passed by the legislature, and collects a tax from taxpayers when they purchase tires (the Stewardship admits they are a trustee for these fees).

The revelations that these same lushly-treated executives have been making political donations to the provincial Liberals and New Democrats smell of a potential kickback scheme, where the government has mandated the Stewardship to collect taxpayers’ money and the Stewardship conveniently thanks the governing party by making generous donations. It is too early to tell whether this is the case, but the Auditor General must be called in to investigate.

This has all the makings of your typical Liberal scandal. The Auditor General will be called in to investigate the mess, will issue a damning report that will make headlines for a few weeks, maybe the Liberals will fire the head of the Stewardship, a few ministers will make statements, and then they’ll close the books and expect Ontarians to forget about it. Like their eHealth or Ornge scandals, they will attempt to claim that the Tire Stewardship is a “private” company not affiliated with the government – those darn capitalists were operating right under the Environment Minister’s nose without authority! A fancy-sounding “action plan” will put the issue to bed and the Liberals will expect Ontarians to move on.

But Wynne’s Liberals are only right if we let them be right. Where is the outrage from Ontario’s citizens? Where is the outrage that this is what we’ve come to expect from the Liberals’ 15 years in power? Where is the outrage that this isn’t the first, or second, or third, or fourth scandal, but rather a proven history of scandals and corruption? It’s the same old record playing over and over again, but what if, this time, instead of shaking our heads and turning the other way in disappointment or disgust, we actually did something about it? What if we actually held the Liberals accountable? What if 2016 for the provincial Liberals becomes what 2004 was for the federal Liberals, and there is only one clear direction for the government to go in but two years’ time?


2018 cannot come soon enough. In the time between now and then, the Liberals had best clean up their act and at least attempt to put a new face on their party, and the Opposition had best be preparing to take government and fix this mess.