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For Massoudi and the Greenbelt bill, timing is everything
Also: Staff shakeup in PO, Mideast conflict plagues OLP, fine print for Official Plan and real estate changes, the ol' college try, "Weston tax," let Ford eat cake
Presented by Ontario’s Universities
ABOVE THE FOLD
HOOTING AND HOLLERING — Oppo NDPers are accusing the ruling PCs of muzzling the public over the Greenbelt-codifying legislation — but DOUG FORD says most people “don’t give two hoots” about it.
The Premier dropped the fresh Ford-ism in Monday’s Question Period, where sparks flew over Bill 136. The legislation — which enshrines the PCs land-swap reversal — is chugging through due process and is poised for committee study, where stakeholders typically have their say.
But the NDP isn’t happy there’s only one hour slated for testimony — and that Housing Minister PAUL CALANDRA seems inclined to take up the whole time.
“I think I’m a pretty entertaining guy when I get up there,” Calandra quipped. He added that people can still weigh in via the Environmental Registry, as part of the requisite 30-day consultation period.
NDP Environmental critic SANDY SHAW isn’t buying it. “Ontarians are rightfully outraged by this government’s actions on the Greenbelt, so why are you blocking the public from being heard?”
Ford pivoted to his favourite subject of late: the anti-carbon-tax crusade. That’s the “number one issue on every poll,” according to the Premier.
UPDATE: Mystery motion solved — An earlier version of this edition noted there was a new motion for public hearings on Bill 23 — yes, that Bill 23! — which is now law. Turns out, it was erroneously posted to the top of the list, and there’s actually no public hearings on the docket.
DOUBLE DIPPING — New Democrats are also raising questions about the timing of AMIN MASSOUDI’s departure, pointing out that Ford’s embattled ex-principal secretary and longtime right-hand man left his gig on August 27, 2022 — while his consulting firm billed the PCs $237,300 for comms work between July 2022 to March 31, 2023.
“Did the Premier’s friend double-bill the taxpayers for speech-writing services because he was, indeed, a close friend of the Premier?” Oppo Leader MARIT STILES wanted to know.
Ford, noticeably upset, punted to Calandra, who offered a curt “No.”
Massoudi — who made headlines for taking the infamous Vegas trip — told the Star his contract with the quasi-partisan PC caucus services bureau started after he left the Premier’s Office, and that he cleared his plans with the Integrity Commish.
BRINGING DOWN THE HAMMER —The Israel-Hamas conflict is rearing its head again in the Liberal leadership race.
Emotions are running high around the globe. In provincial Liberal land, it’s no different — amplified by the added tension of a looming leadership contest (voting for which kicks off this weekend).
This time, BONNIE CROMBIE was yelled at in a tense exchange at the Hamilton Mountain mosque where attendees demanded she call for a ceasefire. The fracas was captured on video and made the rounds on TikTok.
“You will not get the Muslim vote,” a woman is heard screaming, telling Crombie “do not talk down to us” and “your tactics won’t work, it’s done.”
“Are you with the Muslims or are you with the Israelis?” another person demanded. They pushed her to condemn Israel’s actions in the war.
Crombie was clearly strained. “I hear you, I see your passion. You’re hurting, I can see that…We are asking for the killing to stop,” she said, before promising to put up a statement.
I asked Crombie for that statement. She provided the same one she read last night at the mosque: “I would like to appeal for all killing to stop and for hostages to be released, for the war to end, and for peace efforts to resume. My prayers are not just for the Middle East but also for all of us at home. I urge us to listen and learn from each other so that we can build a better and stronger Ontario — one that embraces everyone — no matter a person’s culture or faith.”
No regrets: Crombie’s camp said she was “grateful” to accept the invite and “to hear firsthand the concerns of the community during this extremely difficult time.”
Card-carrying Liberals cast their ballots this weekend. The winner will be crowned December 2 at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre.
9:30 a.m.: NDPers GUY BOURGOUIN and LISE VAUGEOIS are in the Media Studio to pump up their forthcoming private member’s bill, known as Chad’s Law. Teaser: The PMB would outlaw the overtaking of another vehicle on two solid yellow lines and beef up penalties for scofflaws. It’s named for CHAD BÉLANGER, a constituent who was seriously hurt in a collision on Highway 11.
10 a.m.: Advocacy group Ontario Place for All follows, to talk about its next step “to stop the destruction” of the West Island.
1 p.m.: Labour Minister DAVID PICCINI will deliver a keynote speech at the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s Talent Transformation event. Invite.
Over on the Hill, Finance Minister CHRYSTIA FREELAND tables the feds Fall Economic Statement.
ON THE ORDER PAPER
A few possibilities on today’s debate docket: MPPs could kick off second reading on Bill 151, which would restrict certain organizations’ ability to deal with real estate and property, and hand more control over to the Minister of the day. That includes the Science Centre, ROM and more. (Read on for the fine print.)
Ditto third reading of Bill 131 — which allows municipalities to fund the design and construction of new GO stations and lets the TTC sign cross-boundary service agreements with neighbouring transit agencies — and Bill 139, the PCs latest red-tape reduction package.
Bill 149, the Working for Workers Four Act, could also go for another round of second-reading debate.
Passed: The PCs motion calling on the feds to scrap the carbon tax from all home heating fuels, with support from the NDP and lone Grit STEPHEN BLAIS. The other six Liberals and Green voted against. (The PCs are also fundraising off of the matter: “Will you help fuel our fight against the carbon tax? Chip in here.”)
Off to committee: Bill 150, the Official Plan-reverting legislation, will go under the microscope at the Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy committee after clearing second reading on a voice vote. (Read on for the fine print).
Tabled: Green Leader MIKE SCHREINER’s anti-grocery-gouging motion to create the cheekily dubbed “Weston Tax,” an excess profit tax on major grocery retailers.
Killed I: The NDP’s backbench Bill 40, to beef up penalties for careless drivers who harm vulnerable pedestrians, cyclists and more.
Killed II: MARIT STILES’s special Oppo Day motion calling on the government to subsidize the cost of heat pumps and other energy-saving retrofits.
ON THE COMMITTEE CIRCUIT — A jam-packed agenda as the winter recess draws near (Hallelujah!). 9 a.m.: At the Social Policy committee, Health Minister SYLVIA JONES will speak to Bill 135, which overhauls home care (her scheduled appearance last week was cancelled). Also on the docket: Deputy Minister CATHERINE ZAHN and fellow bureaucrats. Later on, the committee gets cracking on clause-by-clause consideration.
9 a.m.: At SCFEA, Finance Minister PETER BETHLENFALVY will be the opening act for public hearings on Bill 146, which enshrines the Fall Economic Statement. Also on the witness roster: Deputy Minister GREG ORENCSAK, Bethlenfalvy’s political staff EMILY HOGEVEEN and COLIN BLACHAR, the Ontario Road Builders' Association, Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Canadian Cancer Society, Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario and more. Full lineup.
9 a.m.: Over at Justice Policy, Public and Business Service Delivery Minister TODD McCARTHY tees up public hearings on Bill 142, the consumer protection package that makes it easier to get out of gym memberships and timeshare agreements, among other things. Also on the witness roster: DM RENU KULENDRAN, the Canadians for Properly Built Homes, Ontario Bar Association, CanAge and more. Lineup.
COCKTAIL CHATTER — The Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l'Ontario is putting on a morning reception in the Dining Room. Later on, the Chicken Farmers of Ontario takes over, while the Ontario General Contractors Association schmoozes in Room 228.
— “EFFICIENCIES”: It’s DOUG FORD’s favourite word — and his Colleges and Universities Minister is signalling to post-secondary institutions that that’s what they’ll have to find before the tuition freeze is lifted and more funding is on the table. JILL DUNLOP says that means “greater efficiencies in operations, program offerings and sustainability of the sector.”
The calls for the Ford government to implement recommendations from its own expert blue-ribbon panel — including a five per cent tuition hike and a 10 per cent boost in operating grants — are getting louder.
The latest: Colleges Ontario has joined the Council of Ontario Universities in urging the PCs to act on the panel’s recommendations. Colleges also want to lift the cap on high-demand programs to bring in more students.
“These investments in student success will help ensure Ontario’s future workforce has the expertise to succeed in a rapidly evolving labour market,” Colleges Universities president MARKETA EVANS told the Canadian Press.
Meanwhile, ALEX USHER, who leads the post-secondary consulting firm Higher Education Strategy Associates, had this to say, via the CBC: “Ontario is a long, long way below what’s being spent in the rest of the provinces. We want a world class system, but we don't want to pay for it.”
What’s more: “Usher says the government would need to spend $4 billion annually to meet the national average for provincial funding to universities, and says there's no way that can be found through operating more efficiently.”
— ELECTRIC SHOCKER: Labour Minister DAVID PICCINI was cagey when asked about the 1,600 South Koreans expected to arrive in Windsor to work at the heavily subsidized Stellantis and LG Energy EV battery plant, which was praised as a bringer of jobs for Canadians.
Piccini pinned it on Ottawa. “This is a federal process,” he told reporters at Queen’s Park. “The work that we know needs to be done can be done by Ontario workers.”
More from the Globe: “It is expected to open next year and was touted to create 2,500 jobs in Windsor and the surrounding areas. But MPs, unions and construction trades groups are ringing alarm bells after a Korean company began recruiting in Windsor for jobs at the factory.”
Over on the Hill, Conservative Leader PIERRE POILIEVRE wants a “full inquiry” and for Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU to make the contracts public.
— NUKE ‘EM: “DUSTIN DUNCAN, Saskatchewan’s minister responsible for SaskPower, was joined by Ontario Energy Minister TODD SMITH Monday morning as SaskPower announced it had signed a master services agreement with Ontario Power Generation and its subsidiary Laurentis Energy Partners. The five-year deal between the two Crown corporations will allow them to co-ordinate the development of a Canadian fleet of small modular nuclear reactors.” CBC digs in.
— PARKS AND WRECK: WALTER KEHM, a “prominent landscape architect, known for designing Trillium and Tommy Thompson parks, has walked away from the redevelopment of Ontario Place, citing his opposition to clearing hundreds of trees to make way for a private spa and waterpark on Toronto’s waterfront.” The Star has the story.
— MORE ON THE MIDEAST: “Several educators in Ontario are under investigation after posting comments about the war in the Middle East, as school boards grapple with how to balance their social-media policies and the heightened emotions surrounding the conflict.” The Globe reports.
— RISKY BUSINESS: “Ontario drivers will soon be able to reduce their auto insurance payments by opting out of certain coverage. However, experts warn the risk isn’t worth the potential rewards.” Details from CTV News.
— NURSE!: The Tories are boosting the number of training spots for new nurse practitioners, including 24 positions at the University of Windsor, which is getting the biggest chunk of the 121 extra placements.
A message from Ontario’s Universities
After a 10% tuition cut in 2019, four years of a tuition freeze, and pressure from inflation, Ontario’s universities are at a breaking point. Without ending the tuition freeze and providing additional government funding to universities, the programs and services that Ontario’s students rely on and deserve are at risk.
The time for government action is now. Find out more about how government, businesses, community partners and universities must work together to ensure that universities have the resources to continue to support students, lead innovation, and drive economic growth for Ontario here.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
First in Observer — PO SHAKEUP — On DOUG FORD’s team, CAITLIN CLARK goes from press secretary to director of media relations. AMY D’AMBOISE is back as social media manager. STEPHANIE BELLOTTO is out as regional press secretary (that’s been in the works for a while).
ON THE CIVIL SERVICE SIDE — AMY MESSINGER is now team lead for the community outreach unit at Municipal Affairs and Housing.
MEA CULPA! Yesterday’s edition was missing JULIANA VAN GAALEN’s new digs: She’s actually hopping from the Finance Minister’s office over to Treasury Board President CAROLINE MULRONEY’s team, as deputy director of policy.
Lemon meringue cake served for Premier DOUG FORD’s birthday…Tossing the coin at the Grey Cup kick-off: Sport Minister NEIL LUMSDEN, Lieutenant Governor EDITH DUMONT, Governor General MARY SIMON, Steeltown Mayor ANDREA HORWATH and CFL Commish RANDY AMBROSIE…Ex-NDP MPP CHERI DiNOVO in the House and at the Trans flag raising ceremony (DiNovo’s PMB established the provincial day of remembrance)…The Tragically Hip’s ROB BAKER making campaign calls on behalf of Liberal leadership hopeful TED HSU…OPP lassoing a llama off Highway 400.
THE HIGHLIGHTS: “Did the Premier’s friend [AMIN MASSOUDI] double-bill the taxpayers for speech-writing services because he was, indeed, a close friend of the Premier?” — “When will this government admit that their private, for-profit surgery scheme is increasing the cost to taxpayers and worsening wait times?” — “What is the Premier’s plan to address the fragile and financially unsustainable situation of Ontario’s colleges and universities?” — “Ontarians are rightfully outraged by this government’s actions on the Greenbelt, so why are you blocking the public from being heard?” — “The Premier claimed that teachers and school boards were indoctrinating children about gender identity.” Does he regret it? — Will they fund the TTC, “or will they continue treating bus riders as an afterthought?” — “Why is the Premier choosing to put profits for private clinics before care for patients?” — “When will this government acknowledge the duties that conservation officers undertake and commit to reclassify them accordingly?”
On Tuesdays, we sum up the government’s latest proposals on the regulatory registry — where the nitty-gritty of policymaking is hammered out.
NO PROPERTY FOR YOU — Proposal: More corresponding fine print, for Bill 151, the government’s move to restrict certain organizations’ ability to deal with real estate and property and hand more control over to the Minister of the day. That includes the Science Centre, ROM and more. Refresher. Deadline: December 31.
BETTER BROADBAND — Proposal: “Require local distribution companies…to ensure that qualified professionals conduct make-ready work and that they are held accountable for any potential damage that their work may cause.” Deadline: December 7.
🥳 HAPPY BIRTHDAY: NATALIE PIERRE, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Colleges and Universities and PC MPP for Burlington…COLIN D’MELLO, Global News bureau chief, Press Gallery president, and the Premier’s favourite muckraker.
🍽️ ON THE MENU: Chicken stir-fry with rice and vegetables is on special in the basement cafeteria.
⏳ COUNTDOWN: T-minus 9 days until the byelection in Kitchener Centre…11 days until the Liberal leadership contest…23 days until the House breaks for winter…137 days until the Premier has to call a byelection for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.