A creeping arrogance and sense of entitlement has seeped its way into the depths of the Government of Ontario. At a fundamental level, they do not seem to understand the value of a taxpayer’s dollar. Ontario is 315 billion dollars in debt, and is paying a billion dollars a month in interest. That is 12 billion a year not going to health care, education or other services. It is more debt, than all Canadian provinces combined. So given that context, you would think the government would be very focused on spending restraint and improving the provinces’ finances. Instead, mismanagement continues. Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk reported last December that Ontarians paid $37 billion more than necessary from 2006 to 2014 on hydro bills, and, said consumers will spend an additional $133 billion by 2032 due to global adjustment electricity fees on hydro bills. She also noted that Ontario’s electricity consumers are being charged for tens of billions of dollars due to overpriced green energy, poor government planning and shoddy service from Hydro One, and that the province’s energy ministry — which is overseeing the sell-off of Hydro One, the provincial electricity transmitter — was a mess. She asserts, “Hydro One’s customers have a power system for which reliability appears to be worsening while costs are increasing”, and said that, “more frequent power outages are happening mostly because assets aren’t being fully maintained.” More troubling, is that Hydro One is currently owed 175 million dollars because 10 percent of its customers can’t afford to pay their hydro bills on time. The government response to this was to set up another program so lower income Ontarians can apply for a hydro subsidy. Of course, more government money will be spent to administrate that system. Let’s not get into how demeaning it is for families to have to go through this process. Ontario’s push to promote wind and solar energy has proven wasteful and unnecessarily costly because the government ignored warnings from the now-defunct Ontario Power Authority, that some power plants (like a biomass-fuelled station near Thunder Bay), were prohibitively expensive. One wonders then, why Ontario Power Generation Chief Executive Tom Mitchell is the highest paid public servant in the province, for a second straight year. He earned $1.6 million in salary and benefits in 2015. In 2014, he was the leader with $1.55 million. Had Mitchell been in the private sector he would have been terminated, not rewarded. It is one thing if the taxes we pay are being used…Responsibly. But, the Wynne government is paying public servants and political hacks salaries and bonuses, that are obscene. They spent 20 million to begin setting up the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP), and the “administration corporation”, that was supposed to run it. When they reversed-course and did not precede, they then paid an orgy of severances and bonuses to the people they hired to set it up. Neala Barton, the plan’s senior VP of communications, received $316,819, for less than 3 months’ work. Anne Slivinskas, a lawyer, was paid $341,418, for just three weeks’ work. Brian Gill, the pension plan’s CTO received $414,050, for less than two months’ work. Jennifer Brown, senior VP of operations, got $445,000, for less than three months’ work, and, (finally), CEO Mary Anne Palangio, was remunerated $465,938, for less than three months’ work. The worst: They also hired Saad Rafi and paid him $827,925 for less than three months’ work. Previously, Rafi and other PanAm Executives were paid millions in bonuses for running a taxpayer-funded game of sorts, that went 342 million dollars over budget. Why would any of them get bonuses and why would Rafi be sent from one disaster to another? Closer to home, there is the case of Constables David Weir and Daniel Montsion — who managed to beat to death Abdirahman Abdi (a man of Somalian heritage with mental health issues who was accused of groping customers in a Hintonburg café) — both are regulars on the Ontario Sunshine List. Constable Daniel Montsion made $163,251.09 in 2014 and $158,677.73 in 2015. Both officers are under investigation by the Special Investigations Unit. We deserve much better judgment, training and conduct from our police, especially when we consider what we are paying them. Why are we paying them so much? Something is very, very wrong, in Ontario.
By all counts things are going well for Canada’s new Liberal government. Aside from Prime Minister Trudeau’s brief off-side when he unintentionally elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in Parliament, leading to a possible Oscar or “Golden Raspberry” for her and Thomas Mulcair for best performance for feigned outrage. It was a last sorry moment for Mulcair, who was earlier unceremoniously dumped as NDP leader. In contrast, interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose stole the show and surprised just about everyone with her exceptional performance and holding the government to account. Still, the Trudeau Liberals did well. They signed the Paris Climate Accord, met their target of bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees, passed tax relief measures for middle income Canadians, passed Bill C-14, the controversial bill on assisted dying, announced a plan and process to decriminalize marijuana and outlined the methodology they will use to ensure Bill C-5, Canada’s controversial anti-terrorism law, has more Parliamentary oversight, scrutiny, review and more protection for the public.
Trudeau also met his election pledge to increase public works spending for infrastructure projects across Canada, which will significantly increase Canada’s debt in the short term. The Conservatives were upset at the plan, saying the increased spending was not required while the NDP complained it was not enough. So it appears the Trudeau Liberals landed squarely in the middle, which is where they like to swim.
However, the rubber really hits the road for the Liberals in the fall. The government swore up and down during the election in 2015 that it would follow evidence-based decision-making. The first real challenge will come when the government decides whether or not to stand behind the National Energy Board (NEB) decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline plan. The NEB is recommending the multi-billion dollar pipeline be constructed if 157 conditions are met, including 49 environmental requirements.
Another looming issue rests with officials at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) who have requested and been granted a three-month extension by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to finish the review of the detailed construction work plans and schedule by Pacific Northwest to export liquefied natural gas from Lelu Island in British Columbia. The island, near Prince Rupert, is the site of a proposed $12.4-billion export terminal.
The CEAA has expressed concerns about the project’s impact on juvenile salmon habitat on Flora Bank, a sandy area located next to Lelu Island, and has already concluded that Pacific Northwest LNG’s project would likely harm harbour porpoises and contribute to climate change.
Proponents say the export terminal could be built and operated without causing major ecological damage. However, more than 90 of the world’s leading climate change experts have signed an open letter to Trudeau and McKenna, signaling their alarm at the significant adverse effects that will be caused by a dramatic spike in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if the Pacific Northwest LNG project gets a green light. McKenna says the decision will be based on science and evidence and Canada’s commitment to climate change.
Many First Nations and organizations like the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition are adamantly against the project and have also warned that the project will have a devastating impact. Even if the CEAA approves it, Cabinet can override the decision. It’s a classic economy versus environment argument. The issue is whether or not there is room to swim in the middle. The Skeena Watershed Coalition has been strategically using its resources to challenge Prime Minister Trudeau to walk his talk. This poster has appeared in key locations in Ottawa in recent months. OLM was so impressed with the design of the work, we asked the artist to design the cover of this issue. We thank them for their excellent cover image.
Ottawa Life Magazine has been writing about the problems with the Ottawa Police for the past five years. In 2011, we said that Councillor and Ottawa Police Services (OPS) Board Chair Eli El-Chantiry should resign over his all too cozy relationship with then Police Chief Vern White. El-Chantiry saw no reason why he or anyone should be concerned about him socializing with the Police Chief he was supposed to be overseeing. When current Chief Charles Bordeleau was accused of allegedly interfering in a court case involving a careless driving charge against his father-in-law, El-Chantiry did nothing. His chummy, wink wink, nod nod relationship with the police management team and complete misunderstanding of his role as OPS Chair has now crossed into gross incompetence.
The OPS Board was later forced to send the case to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) after the accusations were reported by Postmedia. When referring it for investigation, El-Chantiry said that the board was not passing judgment on what the Chief did but, acting in the interest of “openness and transparency.” He does not even seem to comprehend that the entire point of oversight is to monitor and pass judgment on a regular basis to ensure that the police are operating at the highest possible standard. Chief Bordeleau vehemently denies the accusations and El-Chantiry has further damaged the Chief’s reputation. El-Chantiry should have sent the original accusations to OIPRD and let them do their job. By not doing so, Bordeleau’s reputation has been damaged in the public eye. Bordeleau has been trying to bring change to OPS. He has a small mutinous crew of undisciplined officers on his force and continues to deal with an unacceptably high number of incidents of police misconduct by Ottawa constables, including cases of spousal abuse, driving under the influence and police improperly accessing personal data on police computers. There are also investigations underway involving 11 Ottawa police constables allegedly involved in fraudulent reporting activity. Under the current Police Services Act, Chief Bordeleau cannot terminate any of these constables. If the accusations are true, they should all be fired.
Related: Why Police Fear Evidence-Based Research.
Ottawa Centre MPP and Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi will soon introduce changes to reform the Police Services Act, but until then, Bordeleau must work with the current Act which is outdated and does not have the provisions to allow Police Chiefs to fire officers for criminal or inappropriate activity. The Ottawa Police Association, like most others, circle the wagons and protect their own, even when criminal behaviour is involved. This harms the good police officers and creates an environment where some police think they can commit crimes and are untouchable. In Ottawa, there have been five violent murders since January. All of them are gang and drug related. Otherwise, overall crime across the city is down. After the fifth murder, Chief Bordeleau issued an open letter asking the public to help the police. A day later, one of “Ottawa’s Finest,” Constable Paul Heffler, sent out a cowardly email to the entire force criticizing Chief Bordeleau. It was a breathtaking and insolent act of insubordination that should have resulted in his immediate termination with cause. Heffler, who has almost 30 years in policing, sent it knowing full well there was little at risk for him as he will soon retire on a fully indexed, taxpayer-subsidized fat cat pension. He actually wrote in his email that “there are few services and businesses that pay their employees $100,000 salaries and treat them like they are dime store security guards.” He raises an important point. Why are we paying police constables like him and others such high salaries, amongst the highest salaries of any public servants in Ontario, when private sector companies are available to cover these duties at one-third of the cost? If we did that, then the Ottawa Police would have the money to pay for intelligence gathering, equipment and extra resources they require to combat the serious and growing issue of gang violence in Ottawa. Instead, we have a head of Police oversight who is dumber than a bag of hammers and police constables who have become so arrogant and entitled that they now think they don’t even need to listen to the Chief of Police.
Update: Today all 31 charges were dismissed against Sen. Mike Duffy. Below you can find an article Ottawa Life Magazine publisher Dan Donovan wrote last May, arguing that Duffy was being unfairly targeted by the media. Today, the judge confirmed this suspicion.
21st Century Lynching and Shakespearean Tragedy Take Centre Stage
The Mike Duffy trial is a public showcase for all the secrets and lies that are the realpolitik of the capital. Duffy has already been tried and convicted in the public eye. For theatre, he was first drawn and quartered by Canada’s national media in what can only be described as a 21st century lynching. I worked for many years on Parliament Hill as a speechwriter, legislative assistant and political staffer. The place has its own rules and more importantly, its own governing conventions. The Parliamentary press can be a self-involved and pretty sanctimonious bunch. Duffy’s trial at the Ottawa Courthouse is having the dual effect of bringing out the real story about his expenses while exposing the shallowness and callousness of the Parliamentary press and the elitism of the “pundit class” at Canada’s major broadcasters.
The national media narrative is that Senator Duffy pilfered taxpayers dollars and broke spending rules and got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. In fact, it goes further and suggests that he took the whole cookie jar…whatever that is. Even though these journalists work in the parliamentary precinct and have access to the players and procedures or conventions that govern the Senate, few, if any of them took the time to investigate or explain the conventions of the Senate related to spending. The trial is exposing much of this and shedding some new light on Senator Duffy. He, like all senators seems to have run his affairs as a senator using the vagary of Senate rules and conventions. The issue about his residency and related expenses is key. He has been consistent that he expensed these within the rules. Ironically, the Senate still refuses to release to the public several audits which show how other senators dealt with housing expenses.
The release of this information could greatly help bring clarity to the Duffy affair. If the convention was that it was ok to claim part of housing expenses in various ways and all senators did this, than Duffy has done nothing to break the rules. Duffy’s problem was that he was both popular and ambitious, which can be a deadly combo in Ottawa. He is a former award-winning and respected journalist who, for years, was one of the most popular political broadcasters in Canada. MPs from all parties and their staff would seek him out and share information or give him stories that they wouldn’t give to others. He had a great reputation, was always gracious and never betrayed anyone’s trust. People genuinely liked and trusted “Mike.” He loved Parliament and he knew “the game.”
The evidence to date seems to indicate his Senate expense claims were not for personal enrichment but were used to pay people for tasks he was involved with as a senator. The duplicity of the press regarding their outrage and the amount of time they have spent over the expense receipts for his makeup is laughable. This, coming from the very same people that use makeup in their jobs on a daily basis, understanding that makeup is as important to a broadcast journalist as a stick is to a hockey player. It would have been far more responsible for at least one journalist covering the Duffy case to get the RCMP to explain why he was charged with bribery. Bribery requires a “bribee” and a “briber.” According to the RCMP investigator, Duffy is apparently the person accepting a bribe…yet no one was charged with giving him one.
Duffy maintains he never accepted any bribe and it appears his lawyer is making that case for him. Proportionality and fairness in broadcasting must be put back into play regarding Senator Duffy. Regardless of what you think of Mike Duffy, his rise to prominence and fall from grace are like a Shakespearian tragedy. The Shakespearian comedy in this is watching broadcasters, especially those at the CBC (who are paid with taxpayers’ money), sanctimoniously rail away at Duffy for betraying the public trust when they themselves have accepted large personal payments from private corporations to give speeches and attend conferences. Talk about a hand in the cookie jar.
For years the National Capital Commission (NCC) has been the most inept, closed, secretive, elitist and incompetent organization in the federal government. Their tagline should be “The NCC—We Never Miss an Opportunity to Miss an Opportunity”.
The NCC board of directors has 15 members, including the chairperson and the chief executive officer (CEO). Thirteen members represent the regions across Canada. Five are from the Capital Region. They are appointed by the minister responsible for the National Capital Commission (now the Hon. Melanie Joly), with the approval of the Governor-in-Council. Their role is to oversee the corporation, ensure that the corporation’s resources are used effectively and efficiently; to monitor, evaluate and report on performance; and to foster relationships between the NCC and other levels of government and the public. In all cases they get an F.
The NCC’s continuous incompetence over decades is mind boggling. Where to start? They botched the memorial to Victims of Communism project, interfered and tried to delay Ottawa’s $1 billion light rail, against the wishes of the democratically elected Ottawa City Council. In 2011, they spent 5.2 million taxpayers’ dollars to install seven new ice chalets at a cost of $750,00 each (shacks) along the Rideau Canal which is double the value of most families homes in Canada. They messed up the so called Metcalfe Grand Boulevard plan, the King Edward Avenue redevelopment plan in the 1980s, spent decades fighting with Public Works Canada and the City of Ottawa over the development of Sparks Street, embarrassed the entire country by making a complete mess of the Millennium Celebrations in 2000, tried to unilaterally expand the Champlain Bridge against the wishes of every local city council in the region, destroyed the town of Hull in the late 1960s with the horrible development of federal buildings on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. In 1998, Rhys Phillips, in his book Great Gaffes of the National Capital Commission said of the NCC and Hull: “what emerged from the rubble was a textbook example of the twin horrors of postwar urban renewal and late-modernist architecture. Brutalist concrete buildings encase a soulless mall that spans a bleak, six-lane street; they cruelly mock the former humanely scaled cityscape. Four thousand people were displaced. The new ‘city centre’ turns a cold shoulder to the river and the parliamentary precinct across the water.”
The NCC board members are largely unknown. One is a forest industry person, another in general management and marketing, a philosopher and the rest are all either government administrative or education management bureaucrat types. There is not one serious entrepreneur or businesses corporate executive like a Terry Matthews or Jim Balsillie. This explains the insanity of the current Lebreton Flats redevelopment proposal. NCC conditions for applying were so ridiculously secretive and onerous that only two bidders stepped up. Of these, only the Rendezvous LeBreton, 100 per cent private money proposal led by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is credible. The other, the LeBreton Re-Imagined by Devcore, Canderel and DLS Group (DCDLS) is not a serious bid. Their plan is built around an NHL arena and reliance on existing government incentives (whatever that means!). DCDLS does not own an NHL team and will not own one. This should disqualify them immediately from consideration. If the NCC board is dimwitted enough to proceed with the DCDLS LeBreton Re-Imagined proposal (and we know from their track record that they are foolish enough to do this) it will create the biggest white elephant in the region’s history. DCDLS is jesting in the media that they can build and then sell their rink to the competition. This is unprofessional and disrespectful to what should be a serious process. Their glib remarks about Mr. Melnyk are in poor taste to the Ottawa Senators organization who has put hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy over the past quarter century, including millions to local charities. The Rendezvous LeBreton proposal should be approved and given the fast track to proceed as soon as possible. Heritage Minister, Melanie Joly should introduce a bill to disband the NCC and set up a new agency that can better serve Canada’s capital region, of which the Mayors of Ottawa and of Gatineau should be permanent ex-officio members. The incompetence of the NCC does not serve the public interest and continues to destroy the soul of our great city.
There’s no place like home for the holidays and that’s where our “cover girl” likes to be at Christmas. The immensely talented mezzo-soprano singer Wallis Giunta is a global tour de force and renowned Ottawa photographer Paul Couvrette captured Wallis perfectly in our stunning cover shot. We have a wonderful story by Ottawa’s well-known fashion designer Justina McCaffrey and we begin our Canada-Turkey Friends series with an interview with Turkish Ambassador Selçuk Ünal. We thought it would be appropriate to offer the newly elected MPs a Christmas gift in the form of an op-ed with some sage advice from the legendary Patrick Gossage, author and press secretary to Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau in the late seventies and early eighties.
MPs and Ottawa Media – Some Advice
By Patrick Gossage
As new Members of Parliament, you will be wondering if you have any role with the national media who crowd around cabinet ministers and opposition leaders and critics every day in the lobby of the House of Commons.
The short answer is you do, but it’s one that does not come automatically. Some MPs over the years with strengths in particular issues of concern to the public have in fact become go-tos for the national media. Often this has been a result of innovative private members’ bills that received wide media attention.
Conservative MP Michael Chong’s Reform Act is a case in point. Through sheer will and perseverance and lots of support from the national media, his bill was passed just before Parliament broke for the last election.
So, in the new Parliament, if there is a cause you are dedicated to, think of a private member’s bill to give it substance.You will not lack for media attention.
In the more day-to-day setting, you can be useful to the media in a number of ways, or you can be damaging to your party. So be careful.
If you are in opposition and a government action has definite negative consequences for your riding or your part of the country, your opinion is as good as anyone else’s. Talk to the media and help your cause.
If you are part of the governing party, the reverse holds true. You know how beneficial a government policy can be to your riding in specific human terms. Letting the media know can be helpful to the government.
Being well-prepared and asking articulate questions in committee can get you attention from the national media, as can a solid performance in Question Period.
In the new session, however, spewing out the party line or being belligerently partisan will no longer get you good marks with the media or the public.
Warning! The media is obsessed by signs of fracture or divisions among MPs. You are most vulnerable to being a hero with the media but a villain to your fellow party members if you get sucked into negative comments emerging from caucus.
All in all, the Ottawa media are not out to destroy anyone, unless you deserve it! You can help them with your knowledge of how government or opposition actions are going down in your riding.
A good rule too is to always answer when reporters call. Listen very carefully to the question and see what the reporter may be trying to make you say or a supposition he or she is trying to make you agree with. There are all sorts of ways of saying: “I can’t really comment on that...” if you are uncomfortable with the question.
Finally, never go “off the record.” This apparent means of protecting yourself from a quote doesn’t exist on the banks of the Rideau.
Photo courtesy of Jean-Marc Carisse.
Voters Decided It Was Sunny Ways Rather Than Rainbows and Unicorns
Ten years is a long time for any government to be in power. Stephen Harper led Canada through some tumultuous times. He deserves a great deal of credit for guiding Canada through the 2008 global recession that threatened the very underpinnings of the Canadian and world economy. However, the record is less stellar internationally. The Harper government made no bones about where we stood on most issues. However, our bravado on the Ukraine or the Syrian crisis was not matched with meaningful contributions on the ground that made a significant difference. The Harper government was in denial about climate change and its shameful and mean-spirited response to do more to provide for certain Syrian migrants sealed Mr. Harper’s fate.
The Conservatives’ perceived callousness on that one issue upset millions of Canadians who viewed the response as both vulgar and contrary to core Canadian values. The Harper response, that Canada was doing more on Syria than it was being credited for, was blown to pieces by Canada’s former Chief of the Defence Staff, retired General Rick Hillier. Hillier said that not only was the response wrong, but that Canada could bring in 100,000 refugees by Christmas. Hillier’s heft contrasted against the lightweight and at times nasty Minister of Immigration, the now defeated Chris Alexander, only highlighted the need for change.
Enter Justin Trudeau. His discipline in the campaign is a good harbinger for things to come. His positive message contrasted sharply against the angry and negative approach of the Conservatives. His call for a government with a greater spirit of generosity and one focused on hope rather fear resonated big time with Canadians. Thomas Mulcair came across as creepy at times or smug and short-tempered. Trudeau seemed to have his pulse on the mood of the country. The biggest loss to Ottawa in this campaign was the defeat of Ottawa Centre NDP MP Paul Dewar. They don’t make MPs much better than Dewar. However, Mulcair’s misreading of the niqab issue and lax campaign combined with the tough battle with the talented Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna proved too much.
In the dying days of the election, Harper referred to Trudeau and the Liberals as “all unicorns and rainbows” while Trudeau talked about “Sunny Ways.” Obviously, Canadians prefer sunny ways.
We hope you enjoy our 15th Annual TOP 25 People in the Capital issue. Kevin Vickers leads the list for his actions during the terrorist attack on Parliament Hill last year. The CBC’s Catherine Cullen has proven her mettle as one of Canada’s top national reporters and Ottawa Sens GM Bryan Murray is revered by Sens players and fans alike and beloved by all in our great city. Pierre Poilievre was the lone Conservative in Ottawa to win his seat. We applaud his achievements and hard work but note that sunny ways for him and his party may have to wait. His days may soon be filled with unicorns and rainbows. Enjoy.
One of my favourite quotes is from U.S. President John Kennedy. He said: “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”That is a question every person in Canada should reflect upon as we watch the disastrous human tragedy unfolding before our eyes in Europe as millions of innocent people flee the wrath and pure evil of both ISIL and the despotic regime in Syria.
As the chaos unfolds and world politicians sit by dimwittedly, wringing their hands and passing the buck, thousands die tragic and horrible deaths. To complicate matters, the United Nations and other world “leaders” have shown no stomach or courage to use all the tools at their disposal to combat and destroy ISIL and the Syrian regime and to bring them to justice at the International Court in The Hague. The Saudi, Egyptian, Turkish and Jordanian governments are allowing the carnage to continue while the Western countries, including Canada, have shown little appetite to do anything significant to help.
The victims, of course, are the innocents. Consider the heartbreaking case of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach on September 2nd. He died along with his brother, Ghalib 5, and mother Rehan as they were trying to escape the civil war in Syria by paying smugglers for a dangerous boat trip from Turkey to the Greek Island of Kos. The boys’ Canadian aunt, Fatima Kurdi, who lives in Coquitlam, B.C., was heartbroken as she described how their father tried to save Aylan and Ghalib when the rickety ship they were on flipped in the Mediterranean, plummeting everyone into the water and his family to their deaths. Kurdi had been desperately trying to sponsor other members of the Kurdi family to come to Canada.
Canadians are angry that Canada is not showing more compassion as this tragedy unfolds. We can and must do more. Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has proven in spades that he is a bureaucrat and not a leader. When there is war and death and genocide and families are fleeing in terror, the most important focus should be on doing the right thing and not focusing obsessively like Alexander does on doing the right paperwork….Agh. Alexander has the full authority and discretion under the Immigration Act as the Immigration Minister to allow anyone into Canada on compassionate and humanitarian grounds. In years past, this instrument has been used to allow over 10,000 people into Canada per year. Yet he dithers. Mulcair and Trudeau both would pull Canada out of supporting the military mission against ISIL and the Assad regime. They are Chamberlain-esque in their desire to appease rather than confront and defeat pure evil. Canada needs to show its spirit of generosity and accept more migrants and get them here quickly while meeting our military commitment to work with coalition forces to repel ISIL and the Assad regime. These are not incompatible objectives. The only way to stop the migrant crisis is to stop ISIL and Assad.
If only Canada had an Immigration Minister who had some of the talent, skill, compassion and leadership qualities of Ottawa’s great former Mayor, Marion Dewar. In 1979, Dewar led Project 4000, in which Ottawa residents sponsored 4,000 Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian refugees. Ottawans overwhelmingly opened their doors, wallets and hearts to the “boat people.” If Ottawa could take 4000 people, surely Canada can take 40,000. Marion Dewar simply did it and people followed. People will follow if someone trustworthy will lead. As a nation of immigrants, we should all remember when seeing the suffering of those migrants that there but for the grace of God, go I.
As I watch the frenzied, over-the-top media coverage of the supposed Senate scandal, I’m reminded of the famous Will Rogers adage. “All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.” Lost in this mass media morass is balance and proportionality. There must be a recognition that while the Senate has some issues, Canada has also greatly benefited from the service of numerous senators, past and present, who have had distinguished careers as parliamentarians. Senator Eugene Forsey, the renowned intellectual and constitutional expert, Allan MacEachen or Pat Carney all spent years contributing to public service. There is Senator Michael Kirby whose groundbreaking work on mental health revolutionized mental health treatment for all Canadians. Serge Joyal is another senator who has greatly contributed to constitutional and democratic reform issues.
Ask anyone from the Inuit community and you will hear nothing but respect for Senator Willie Adams, who retired after over 32 years of federal service to the Canadian Arctic. What about Ottawa’s own senator, the globally respected and renowned heart surgeon Dr. Wilbert Keon? These parliamentarians have made great contributions to the public interest in Canada and their service should be lauded rather than shamed. There is much more that is good about the Senate than is bad. It is true that there was a need for expense reform within the Red Chamber. The House of Commons did so a decade ago by posting all Member of Parliament expenses online. When the actions of a few rogue senators were magnified to “crisis proportions” by some elitists in the national media, it caused the Senate itself to call in the Auditor General to clear the air.
Who would have ever thought that the actual cost of the audit would be 25 times costlier than the problematic expenses it uncovered. Auditor General Michael Ferguson, whether through ego, hubris or incompetence, owes all Canadians an explanation. He spent over $23 million of taxpayers’ dollars on the Senate audit to find $976,000 in questionable expenses. That is out of $180 million worth of expenses investigated. The Auditor General, a person tasked with protecting the integrity of public spending, deemed it reasonable to spend $23.5 million of taxpayers’ money to find out that 0.5 per cent of Senate expenses were questionable. Ferguson flagged 30 senators (23 current and seven former senators). However, 12 of these senators were reported for questionable expenses of under $11,000 which means the apparent expense scandal in the Senate involves only seven senators and a half a million dollars in total. And of those seven senators, five of them are no longer there. This means only the expenses of two sitting senators were deemed serious enough to send to the RCMP for possible investigation. The majority of the senators named in the report have very forcibly defended themselves, stating that they believed these to be simple administrative errors, or that the Senate rules, as they stood at the time, allowed the expenses. All deny personal enrichment or premeditated wrongdoing. Clearly, there is no massive fraud or crisis in Canada’s Senate. The real scandal is the Auditor General.
When questioned about his spending for this audit, Ferguson said: “It’s easy to add up what we found and to look at the cost and do that strict comparison, but I think there’s a lot more behind that to get to understanding.” However, in the words of Oscar Wilde: “It is always with the best intentions that the worst work is done.” Ironically, Ferguson uses the same justification for his spending of taxpayers’ dollars that the accused senators do for theirs. Well, if that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black. It would be good for our democracy in Canada if some sober second thought was brought back to the media coverage of our Parliamentary institutions.
Pierre Poilievre was first elected to Parliament in 2004 for the riding of Nepean-Carleton at the young age of 25, upsetting then Liberal Defence Minister David Pratt. As a parliamentarian, he has demonstrated an unwavering loyalty to Prime Minister Harper, Conservative values and a centre-right ideology. He has been very feisty, opinionated and is never shy to duke it out in the House of Commons, in interviews or in debates with opponents. Poilievre made a few missteps in his first parliamentary session. He quickly recanted and apologized for some ill-timed comments about Aboriginal people on the very same day the Prime Minister made a heartfelt apology to Canada’s First Nations for the decades of abuse and neglect they suffered at residential schools. It was an early sign of political maturity that did not go unrecognized.
In 2006, he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to John Baird, who, at the time was President of the Treasury Board. He also served as Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Minister of Transport. In the 2006, 2008 and 2011 elections, Poilievre beat his opponents by a margin of almost 20,000 votes each time. He is popular with his constituents and his colleagues and after 9 years of hard work and paying his dues in the trenches, in July 2013, Poilievre was appointed to the Cabinet as Minister of State for Democratic Reform. John Baird served as a mentor to Poilievre and for the past decade has involved Poilievre in many of the key files he was working on in the national capital region. Whether it’s been federal money for the Queensway Carleton Hospital, Strandherd Bridge, O-Train expansion or other money to fix critical environmental and infrastructure projects, Pierre Poilievre has been involved.
The Harper government made Poilievre its point man when it decided to go after the big unions to try to stop them from providing funds to political campaigns. PSAC, PIPSC and other unions were rankled by the young MP’s zealous attacks on their contributions to political campaigns as undemocratic, while rank and file Conservatives lapped it up and cheered him on.
With the sudden departure of his friend and mentor John Baird, Pierre Poilievre has been passed the mantle as the political ‘go-to’ minister for our region. Poilievre has matured greatly on the job in the past decade as both a national politician and constituency MP and he deserves a chance to see what he can do in the role.
In January 2013, Ottawa Life Magazine featured Kathleen Wynne on its cover with the headline A Few Good Women. Wynne was running for the provincial Liberal leadership which she would end up winning later that month. Today, she is Ontario’s first female Premier and the first openly gay Premier in Canadian history. Wynne has said many times that “I don’t believe the people of Ontario judge their leaders on the basis of race, color or sexual orientation,’ and that ‘I don’t believe they hold that prejudice in their hearts.” Back then we believed her. So how disheartening it is when Wynne and her political operatives show such callousness and toss aside a credible, professional and tested candidate as if he were that morning’s muffin wrapper. Andrew Olivier is talented, hardworking, smart and principled. He is also quadriplegic. He ran for the provincial Liberals in the June 2014 election losing by less than a thousand votes to the NDP’s Joe Cimino. That Olivier came so close to winning with all the challenges he faces with his disability is an exceptional achievement in and of itself. Cimino decided only 6 months into the job to quit the post leaving the riding in limbo and setting the date for a February 2015 by-election. Olivier was gearing up to run again for the Liberals when Wynne’s advisors and then Wynne herself told him she wants a different Liberal flag-bearer in the race to fill Cimino’s vacant seat. When Olivier balked, he was told the Liberal party would bypass the normal nomination process and appoint a candidate the party brass in Toronto wanted. That candidate is Glenn Thibeault, the NDP federal MP for Sudbury who resigned December 16 from the NDP Caucus in Ottawa to announce he was running as the provincial Liberal candidate in the February 5th by-election in Sudbury.
If Ontario’s so-called progressive party and Premier will toss a credible, proven candidate with a serious disability in front of the bus so early in its term in office, all is lost. What is most disappointing is that the Premier’s own moral compass did not compel her to shut this down in its tracks. Instead, she opened the door and gave the push. What are we to think if the premier of this province has that in her. It makes all the stuff she says about watching out for the poor and for those struggling seem insincere and pious. Approximately 1.85 million people in Ontario have a disability. That’s one in seven people. Over the next 20 years as the population ages, the number will rise to one in five Ontarians. The Premier may wish to reflect on that and the people of Sudbury may wish to reflect on how they can right a wrong and send a message to a Premier early in her term that wrong is wrong no matter what her aides tell her. Ontario needs a person like Andrew Olivier in the Legislature to remind us all that integrity matters…every day. He is now running as an independent Liberal in the by-election.
As we go to print, we like many others around the globe are following the tragic events in Paris. The pen is always mightier than the sword and we stand in solidarity with our colleagues in France who died defending the very principles for which we all live.
Two things I really love in life are playing pickup hockey with my pals and working at the magazine. The past couple of months have seen sad events on both counts. Harvey Chartrand, a longtime editor of Ottawa Life Magazine passed away suddenly last month. Harvey was a funny, gentle and generous soul who had a very quirky sense of humor and loved anything old—especially films and the film noir genre. He loved to do impressions and I laugh every time I think of On the Waterfront or The Godfather, because instead of seeing Marlon Brando, I see Harvey doing his impressions of Marlon Brando, same for Pierre Trudeau , Al Pacino and Pewee Herman. He was the only person I ever met who could do a good impression of Meryl Streep (he’d yell the dingo got my bay…by). Harvey was a fine editor and features writer. He struggled with mental health issues (depression) and addiction for many years. His awareness of these challenges made him sympathetic to the plight and pain of others and he wrote many great pieces on these topics.
In the early years, Ottawa Life Magazine would never have made it without the dedication, loyalty and hard work of Harvey Chartrand. To honour Harvey, we will continue to put him on our Masthead as Editor Emeritus. He would have liked that, as he was so committed to the written word and to Ottawa Life Magazine. Rest in peace Harvey. We will miss you.
Another man I want to call attention to is Joe Thomsen. On a regular basis since 1989, Joe put together a Monday night nine p.m. hockey scrimmage at Brewer rink on Bronson Avenue. The core of the group was about 15 guys who would come out each week, along with a few guest skaters and the occasional ringer. Over time we’d start to call it Joe’s Monday nights or ask, “Are you playing on the Monday Night Joe’s?” Joe always took care of booking the rink and made sure we got an additional six weeks in at Tom Brown arena each spring. After each game, like thousands of other “Joe’s” across the region, we’d all go out for beers and wings and talk about work, family, politics, life and anything else.
Joe was the epicenter of the group and respected by all. If any hotheads came out he would gently pull them aside and tell them to chill—usually he’d say “Listen, we’re all working tomorrow and this ain’t for the Stanley Cup. It’s about friends having fun, so relax.” That always worked. Joe was one of those rare people that everyone liked. He had a great smile and hearty laugh. He came to Ottawa as a researcher for the Federal Liberal Caucus in the mid 1980 from his cherished Saskatchewan and decided to stay. He loved Ottawa and with his wonderful wife Patricia and two great kids. Joe passed away suddenly while cycling in the Gatineau’s in early July. As his good friend and fellow Monday Night Joe, Mike Pearson said at a recent gathering in his honour, “Joe was the just the best of the best.” Hear hear. To honour Joe, the guys now wear a Monday Night Joe’s hockey jersey. It truly reflects our love for Joe and for our national sport. To all the thousands of other ‘hockey Joe’s’ out there, remember his advice: “We’ve all got to work tomorrow so have fun and don’t be so serious. This ain’t for the Stanley Cup. It’s about friends having fun”
Finally, this is the issue where we begin our nine part series on the Métis Nation in Canada. We are excited to bring you the history of one of Canada’s founding peoples. We hope the insights provided by this series will ensure all Canadians support the Métis as they continue to fight for their treatment and rights in the Canadian Federation. Merry Christmas to all.
Illustration: Claudia Salguero
This is Ottawa Life Magazine’s 14th Annual Top People in the Capital list. This year our theme was “under the radar.” We wanted to select people who make great contributions to our city but who often go unnoticed or unrecognized. Take, for example, our number one pick this year: Ottawa Art Gallery President Alex Badzak. She is leading the project to quadruple the size of the gallery from its current 12,000 square foot size. Badzak is a talented whirlwind of energy and her business savvy coupled with her deep commitment to artists has had a major impact in the city. A+ to the selection team who hired her too. Richard Auger and Brenda Hollingsworth are a married couple who run one of the city’s most successful law practices…now that takes skill. All public servants should read about Ishbel Solvason-Weibe because she makes public servants look good…really good. She has built the social housing program in Ottawa from the ground up and done it by “treating everyone with fairness and respect”. We need more of that everywhere! Juno winner and Aboriginal singer songwriter Lawrence Martin is one of the capital’s best secrets. Tanya Bracanovich goes well above and beyond the responsibilities of most other dentists. She has been able to maintain a successful business with Sparks Dental, while offering complimentary dental work for people in need. Ken Hughes, the City Auditor General has proven to be Mr. Accountability in Ottawa. His report on the Orgaworld waste contract highlighted the massive incompetence of the senior city civil servants—they wasted tens of millions of dollars. Darryl Davies is a criminology professor at Carleton University who stared down the bullying tactics of the cerebrally-chilled Ottawa Police Association and has led the cause for reforms to policing in Canada. John Gordon is Ottawa’s building-it-right contractor with a solid reputation in the renovation and trades industry. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is probably the only person on this year’s top 10 list who is not under the radar but we felt compelled to add him. After 8 years as Prime Minister, his steady-at-the-helm approach has guided Canada through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. He has been a strong global leader for democratic values, has stood up for Ukraine and has been unwavering in showing Canada’s support for the democratic state of Israel. At home, he has overseen the creation of millions of jobs and will bring Canada a balanced budget this fall- the first for Canada since the global financial crisis of 2008. This past year he (and Canada) saw the tragic passing of his dear friend and political ally, former federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Stephen Harper has an admirable record for Canada. Finally, the article, The Fifth Floor about patient abuse at Ottawa’s Saint-Vincent Hospital is upsetting. With the abuse, first reported by CTV and now by us, the hospital board remains silent. The province needs to step in and take over the hospital, fire the management team and board and figure out why this patient abuse continues.
It’s summer, and for many that means heading to the cottage, to the beach or to the local park to enjoy the sun, to read and to relax. This summer issue has something for everyone, whether it’s Lainie Towell’s sole-searching piece on Fluevog shoes or our Wood in Weird Places story. The Law and You series has some good advice on personal injury matters, the recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program announced by Jason Kenny have Paul Meinema, the National President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada), crying foul. The cover story is focused on Ottawa mom Sara Nita and her son Marcus whose Type 1 diabetes is being managed much better because of their ability to access Canada’s digital health highway.
Candice Vetter looks at Lac-Mégantic a year later and our Building a Better Canada series features stories on two of the most important Canadian cultural and institutional projects in the past decade; Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (CSHOF) and the Mother Canada Memorial Project. The CSHOF building opened in Calgary on July 1, 2011 and is dedicated to preserving and celebrating Canada’s impressive and inspiring sport history. It is a true feather in the hat of the Conservative government that they managed to support the building of this national institution that is as important to Canada’s heritage as any of the national museums in Ottawa. The Harper government via Parks Canada is also backing the Mother Canada war memorial project in Cape Breton. The project will honour war dead from Canada and will be unveiled on the 100th Anniversary of the end of WW1. We’ve got three great travel stories — so take a journey with us to Ireland, Miami’s Eden Roc Hotel and Saint Lucia, then think about going there yourself. Finally we have a new guest columnist, Dr. Ian Milne, who is writing a feature as part of our Reason to Smile series about oral surgery and orthodontists and what they do. The advances in recent years in oral surgery and dentistry, both cosmetic and medical are astounding. Many of the world’s best dentists are right here in Canada and we are going to spend a year exploring their world, because everyone likes a smile.
photo by Frederic DekkalTrains are as much a part of the fabric of Canada as the maple leaf. The railways are the steel ribbon that has connected Canada economically and socially from the post-Confederation days to the present. The majority of Canadians have been on a passenger train at some point in their life. We like trains and we respect the businesses and workers who manage this industry. But there are problems.
It is quite evident that there are serious management and communications problems at VIA Rail. When one of Canada’s most senior cabinet ministers calls for the VIA President to walk you know there is a problem. Foreign Affairs Minister and Ottawa West-Nepean MP John Baird was so concerned enough about VIA’s mishandling of safety issues on rail crossings in his Ottawa riding that he publicly called for a change at the top. The bottom line is that VIA must have really screwed up how it handled the safety concerns expressed by Ottawa residents, including Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. Here’s the lesson in this for VIA. Don’t be so cavalier with the concerns of local residents or you might find yourself going toe-to-toe with their representative who happens to punch way above your weight. You’d think they would get that in a post-Lac-Mégantic disaster world, any concerns regarding rail safety raised by a community should be taken very seriously. Each day thousands of railcars travel through communities across Canada carrying combustible fuel and other dangerous materials. Most municipalities have no idea what cargo is in the freight car rolling through their communities. The Lac-Mégantic disaster last year that killed 47 people and destroyed a small town brought this issue to national attention.
In Ottawa the collision of a VIA Rail train and OC Transpo bus last fall resulting in 5 deaths and several serious injuries resonated with citizens. The silver lining in that story was the excellent response of rail workers, city emergency services workers and other civic leaders in the aftermath of the tragedy. It’s the same for the freight rail issue. Teamsters Canada, The Canadian Federation of Municipalities and the Railway Association of Canada have all expressed a resolve to do what is required to ensure the safety of all citizens impacted by the movement of dangerous freight across Canada. Over the next year Ottawa Life Magazine is going to follow this issue and cover it in some detail. Freight trains roll through our community every day, through neighbourhoods just like Lac-Mégantic. Passenger trains also roll through rail crossings impacting local traffic. We will keep you abreast of legislated changes to the rail system regarding safety in the transport of goods (and passengers) that will ensure Ottawa and other Canadians cities and towns are fully protected from the type of disaster that befell the small community of Lac- Mégantic. As we near the first anniversary of that tragedy we hope our series will contribute to something positive coming out of that sad occurrence.
It’s been a busy season for politics during the deep freeze of winter. Ottawa West- Nepean MP and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has been busy on the home front addressing the needs of his constituents while ensuring he represents Canada with a strong voice internationally. He leveled a stern rebuke to Uganda for its draconian anti-gay laws, continues to provide a robust defence of Canada’s strong support for Israel and has visited Mexico and faraway places like Kazakhstan to enhance relations and build better bilateral ties. However, Baird has particularly stood out in presenting Canada’s response to Russia’s incursion in the Ukraine. With so many Canadians of Ukrainian descent living in Canada (over 1.3 million) and with many of those living in the capital, it was good to see Canada leading on this issue. Baird took the usual step of visiting Kyiv within days of the collapse of the former corrupt regime of President Viktor Yanukovych to express Canada’s condolences at the deaths of over 80 protestors at the hands of the Yanukovych regime and support for the new democratic government. Baird had the full support of both Opposition parties for his actions, including Ottawa Centre NDP MP and Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar, which is a rare occurrence. Ottawa Life Magazine interviewed Baird to get his take on events at home and abroad.
The other big issues this past winter have been Senate reform and changes to the Elections Act. Pierre Poilievre, MP for Nepean-Carleton and Minister for Democratic Reform has been at the centre of both these issues as the lead spokesperson for the Harper government. Poilievre announced measures that will fundamentally change the powers at Elections Canada. His bill will see an independent body created to examine any future malfeasance in elections. The Opposition parties and many union leaders were critical of the bill suggesting it was undemocratic. They maintain it is a continuation of the government strategy to weaken a union’s ability to participate in elections or to collect dues from their members. They say it is the same vein as a previous Poilievre bill, Bill C-377, which was an attempt to stop unions from collecting dues from their members. We asked Mr. Poilievre to submit an article on his new electoral reform bill and we are pleased to present it in this issue. The other hot topic this cold season has been Senate reform and in particular the decision by Justin Trudeau to boot all Liberal senators out of his caucus without notice. Trudeau’s reasoning was that it would diminish the partisanship of the Senate by releasing senators from the constraint of voting in line with caucus colleagues. We shall see. Instead, Trudeau suggested that should he be elected Prime Minister he would appoint a committee of distinguished Canadians to vet and recommend a list of potential senators. From this list of candidates, Trudeau would then select and choose one for appointment to the Senate. Trudeau argued that absent any chance of real Senate reform by re-opening the constitutional debates with the provinces, it was important to take some steps, however small, toward reestablishing the Senate as a viable, accountable body of sober thought. Pierre Poilievre criticized Trudeau’s stance, claiming that appointing an unelected committee to then select unelected senators was worse than the current system. Ouch! One thing they might both agree on is that true Senate reform is not as simple as it might seem.
There’s lots going on in the pages to follow as we continue with our Building a Better Canada and Patient-Centred Health-Care series. We begin a new series on Aboriginal Youth and Education. Finally, this is Ottawa Life Magazine’s 2nd Annual Spaces issue. We once again present Ottawa’s premier homes designer Tanya Collins with her take on good living.
Welcome to 2014. This issue marks the beginning of our series on Building a Better Canada. Ottawa is where politicians and senior civil servants make the key decisions that directly impact the type of country we want Canada to be.
How do we improve health care by making it more patient focused? How do we care for those who are struggling? How do we build safe yet affordable transportation infrastructure to support our growing population?
Then there are those more difficult questions related to fairness and equity in our society. What can we do to address the growing gap between the very wealthy and the very poor? What accounts for our diminishing middle class? As the federal government uses over-reaching omnibus bills to fundamentally change the structure of Canadian society and corporations seem to be gaining more influence over government business, many people are questioning the fundamental premises about Stephen Harper’s vision of Canada. Is the PM on the right track or do we need to reassess the situation?
Ottawa MPs play a critical role in this debate. John Baird, the affable and popular Conservative MP from Ottawa West-Nepean, is the PM’s closest confidant. Pierre Poilievre, Conservative MP for Nepean-Carleton, is also at the top of the PM’s Rolodex. David McGuinty – Liberal MP for Ottawa South – is one of the most influential MPs in the Liberal Caucus, while Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar is the NDP’s go-to guy on numerous national and international issues. However, their views about what we need to do to Build a Better Canada are as diverse as their political parties.
So we are going to chip away at those views and see where we end up. Throughout 2014, our series will focus on workers and workers’ rights, fair wages, the federal Conservative government’s attempts to curtail unions’ and workers’ rights, while unions supported by the Liberals and New Democrats in the House of Commons try to derail that process. The series will also examine restrictive employment laws that are keeping Canadian workers from achieving a middle-income position in society; the erosion of the social safety net over the past decade; the contractingout of vital public services to private firms; the trend by many employers to reduce workers’ pensions and rights while paying themselves excessively high compensation; and the outsourcing of manufacturing and trades to cheap-labour jurisdictions.
The series will examine Canada’s overall competitiveness, job training and skills. We will examine why large companies such as Walmart and McDonald’s are not paying their workers higher wages and how government policy allows this to occur. Who are the loudest voices in Canada’s large pool of workers and what are their priorities? Who is most effectively fighting the battle for the maintenance of rights, benefits and pensions for workers in the 21st century?
The Building a Better Canada series begins in this issue with a focus on patientcentred health care. We look at the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre and its groundbreaking treatment and support for cancer patients. We examine the amazing progress being made by Canada Health Infoway in bringing e-health to the Canadian health-care system.
As we begin the slow burn heading into the 2015 election season, the Building a Better Canada series will give readers much to think about.