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Liberals take all the credit, but accept no blame

There are literally hundreds of agencies, boards and commissions in the province of Ontario.  They are the ABCs of government, but few know exactly what each of them do.  They are set up for a multitude of reasons, but the most common one of these reasons is to remove politics from governance.   That is, there are certain functions that governments preform that should be devoid of political meddling.

This sounds pretty good in theory, but in practice, it has actually created a governance problem.  What it has tended to produce is a system where the government takes all the credit for the decisions these bodies make to the liking of the government, but accept no blame when the tables have turned.

The latest example of the ‘take all credit, but accept no blame’ Liberals comes to us via Metrolinx.  As John Michael McGrath writes, Metrolinx was set up a decade ago to deal with the urban transit challenges in the GTA and Hamilton, which was being done piecemeal and haphazardly.  The idea behind Metrolinx was to move political decision-making out of the transit planning and become much more purposeful and make decisions based on coordination and evidence.

Well, as we found out recently, not only is Transportation Minister, Steven Del Duca, taking credit for a new GO stop in his riding, the unelected Liberal candidate for a new Vaughan riding, Councillor Marilyn Iafrate, is taking credit for her lobbying efforts of the new Kirby GO stop.  This goes against the advice that Metorlinx provided for GO station placement.  That’s political maneouvering at its best.  However, when I tried to get a GO train station for my riding in Cambridge, it was Metrolinx that said they didn’t have the billion dollars to do it, but let us get some buses there instead.  You see how this works, right? The Liberals take all the credit for transit expansion but let Metrolinx wear all the blame when they can’t fulfill a community’s dreams.

There is an established pattern to this.  Local Health Integration Networks were set up by the McGuinty Liberals to better manage health care.  When hospital boards, which are usually made up with distinguished community leaders, got upset at the mandated balance budget requirements, it was the LHINs who held those accountability agreements.  But when it came to new budget lines or hospital expansions, it was always a government making an announcement, or a series of announcements about the same thing.  In fact, I always appreciated being copied on letters that the health minister would send to organizations in my riding that received money from the LHIN, but I only heard about the organizations that didn’t get the money when those organizations would pick up the phone to call me.  The Liberals were quick to take all the credit and none of the blame here too.

Then, let’s not forget the debacle of the gas plants.  The Ontario Power Authority had the responsibility for siting new gas plants to deal with the power shortfalls we were experiencing.  Former Premier Dalton McGuinty said that of the 19 gas plants, they only got two wrong in explaining the fiasco away.  He forgot to mention that most of the 17 he supposedly got right were in non-Liberal-held ridings.  In those ridings, residents were told they couldn’t change the plants.  However, in Oakville and Mississauga, right in the Liberal’s suburban fortress in the GTA, in those cases, the government decided to intervene.  And they took the credit for it to the pleasure of thousands of cheering voters, while the rest of us remain stuck paying the billion dollar bill.  Nothing to see here, people.  Move on!

Some of you might be saying, meh, what’s the big deal?  Yes, this is politics, but the whole point of putting up these ABCs is to ultimately make better use of limited resources, to build things that need building based on evidence and not politics, and make the decisions based on a fair process that is easily understood by everyone in the province.

Of course, fairness is not what happens, and the winners praise the government while the losers in the system have nobody to blame except the nameless, faceless people that work in these far away ABCs. Those that have lost feel hopeless that nothing can change for them and either continue to lobby in futility or become apathetic.  Both of these outcomes challenge our democracy in unique ways, but we seem stuck in this rut without a way of getting out.

This article appeared in Queen’s Park Briefing.  Visit to subscribe to this publication and stay on top of all things related to Ontario government and politics!

The Tories can be their own worst enemy

We are a year away from the election, and by most metrics, Patrick Brown is poised to become Ontario’s 26th Premier.  For one, the polls show he still has a commanding lead.  He’s amassed significant by-election wins in places that haven’t elected a Tory in years.   The party has out-fundraised the Liberals and the New Democrats, and Brown largely erased the party’s debt by doing endless events before the end of last year.  At conventions, there is a new enthusiasm and a multi-ethnic demographic that is now deeply embedded with the Ontario Tories.  Brown himself has nudged toward the centre to appeal to a broad cross section of voters.  On these metrics, Brown has positioned the party to a better place than it has been in years.

But that’s not the entire picture.  You see, we can’t possibly have a runaway election a year away from it.  Sure, Martin Regg Cohn wrote about the contrast between the PC leader and the newly minted federal Conservative leader.  One, apparently, the man of conviction and steadfast values.  The other lost and having not found his way.  One, apparently, a conservative’s Conservative, and the other a sort of lesser conservative, as if we can definitively and conclusively come to a determination of what that means.

A former MPP once told me that the Ontario PCs were like the 12 Tribes of Israel.  You’ve got the so-cons, the fiscal conservatives, the progressive conservatives, and so on.  Leading this party of tribes is probably the most difficult job in politics, for if a tribe feels you’re not one of them, they pounce on you and want you to go.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a PC lead in the polls can evaporate.  Sew the seeds of discord, and an implosion occurs.  Approval ratings tend to tank when your own party’s supporters aren’t standing behind the leader.  This is Premier Wynne’s problem right now.  Supporters of her party haven’t figured out whether she’s got the stuff to lead and win. And, with time, if Brown doesn’t turn things around inside his own party, his approval ratings will start to tank, and with them, those impressive polling numbers.

This isn’t just a media conspiracy to rig the election to a closer contest.  Before Cohn’s article was published, I received an E-Mail from a Paul and Deb.  In their words, they are “salt of the earth parents” who love Andrew Scheer, the new federal Conservative leader, and think we have a problem with Patrick.  But more tellingly, they write “many of us [read members of the tribe] are committed to working extremely diligently to encourage others to reject the Ontario PCs until we see real and sustained change within the party, change which reflects the time-tested values of decent moms and dads, rather than those of a few elites who are endeavouring to bring about radical social change which serves no one well.” You see, some people’s conservatism is just more righteous than the rest.

Then, I get an e-mail from the purportedly “Concerned PC grassroots activists for a better Ontario” who speak about the PC Leader’s inner circle in not so pleasant terms.  They said, “If we don’t act now, we risk these thugs further alienating our‎ members as well as Ontarians thinking of voting for our party; we risk allowing Wynne’s Liberals to win again and further damage our great Province.”  Thugs?  Luca Brasi of The Godfather would be proud.  The grassroots tribe has spoken and they want action. Funny how they’re concerned about Wynne’s Liberals winning again and take the time to write an e-mail undermining the guy best positioned to deliver a defeat to her team.

Here’s the thing Brown and company need to do.  First, keep the focus on the government and premier, and remind the Tribes that they are worse off with the Liberals in charge. You do this by vigorously opposing the Liberal agenda.  Two, don’t’ give the Tribes reasons to rebel, because they will if given a reason. Policies and decisions that will inflame tensions should be avoided, and supporters do have legitimate concerns in this regard.    Policies and decisions that address and correct Liberal shortcomings are all that should be discussed.  Remember, tens of thousands of Ontarians voted for the Harris governments in the mid-1990s that haven’t bothered to vote PC since.  Third, Brown needs to define himself and the party before the Liberals do.  Nobody pays attention to provincial politics in between elections, so this challenge is difficult to overcome.  These three things, among others, are needed to avoid the PCs bleeding off more of their tribal support to deliver Wynne another victory.

It’s worth reminding PCs that a perfect leader does not exist.  While my conservatism hasn’t always been articulated by the new PCs under Patrick Brown, I sure as heck prefer a half a loaf than no loaf at all.  And believe me when I say the path that Patrick has taken – one that was hard right during the leadership race and then pivoting to the centre for the general election – is a tried, tested, and true strategy for almost every successful Conservative leader we have ever seen.  It wouldn’t be my strategy, but it is not “unpresidented” either.

Conservatives need to close ranks before it is too late, and that starts with the leader getting the followers on board.  There isn’t time for any more fumbles. Tories shouldn’t let themselves be their own biggest threat to victory in 2018.

This article appeared in Queen’s Park Briefing.  Visit to subscribe to this publication and stay on top of all things related to Ontario government and politics!

Ladies, the fate of the government is in your hands

Budgets are typically analyzed for the policy ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts.’  However, we often take for granted the political aspects of budgeting as it, more than anything else the government does, provides us with the greatest glimpse of the political direction of the government.

This budget is interesting because it makes it clear who the Liberals hope to woo.  And on that measure, what the budget makes perfectly clear is that it is women who will make or break whether the Wynne Liberals remain in government after the next election.

Ladies, the ball is entirely in your court.

Let’s take a look at the budget.  There is a nice little video that you can watch, which I stumbled upon through Google and YouTube ads by the way, that outlines the great virtues of the budget.  They include money for prescription medicine for kids so there isn’t a choice between medicine and other essentials.  There is a $7 billion boost to health care to reduce wait times.  The government wants to help with everyday costs like free tuition, affordable housing, and energy costs.  Next is a new career kick start, where the video points to helping young people and recent grads get good jobs (and move out of mom’s basement).  And finally, it’s a balanced budget so there is now more money for investments in education and health care.

Scroll the budget propaganda some more, and you can see, ladies, that you are squarely Wynne’s target.  There is an entire budget brief that is titled “Empowering Women and Girls.”  What’s in the brief? Well, there will be the first ever stand alone ministry for women, a gender wage gap strategy, help to have more women in corporate leadership, women’s economic empowerment, addressing human trafficking, an end to violence against Indigenous women, stopping sexual violence and harassment, and support for domestic violence survivors.  In a nutshell, we have in our midst one of the most pro-women budgets ever.  A vote against the budget is a vote against women.  You see where this is going?

Taking a read at the other budget briefs, it becomes quite interesting to see how much of the language is geared toward women.  The “Making Life More Affordable” brief talks about pharmacare, hydro and affordable housing, which the video also mentioned, but in addition to these it highlights pro women policies of investments in child care, cheaper public transit for grandma and grandpa (so their daughters don’t have to burden with driving them to the senior’s aquafit class), and a new caregiver tax credit (to help women care for their ailing loved ones).

It’s also important to note what is not in the budget briefs. The environment, carbon pricing and infrastructure aren’t highlighted in the budget briefs, and these used to be hallmarks of Ontario Liberal policy. Isn’t that interesting?

This budget is a full court press to maintain the support of women.  The electoral calculus is that if the Liberals don’t bleed female votes to either or both of the two main opposition parties, then they have a fighting chance to holding on in 2018.

Of course, this strategy is all the more successful when the Liberals can usher in a set of policies while making the alternatives unattractive to women.  Rhetorically, the PCs response to the budget focused on the predictable.  By trying to demonstrate the phantom menace of a fake balanced budget, the Tories are missing the set of cohesive policies that purport to woo women who are now, more than any time in the last couple of decades, inclined to vote for them.  And so, to sow the seed of discontent, imagine why the Liberals were so inclined to continuously trumpet funding for a new abortion pill for all women.  See too how the Liberals are wedging women by suggesting that the NDP pharmacare plan doesn’t cover as many drugs for little boys and girls as the Liberal plan.  Wedge and demonize the opponents only works when you have something better to offer.  The Liberals know this best, which allows them to say they aren’t negative campaigners when they indeed are.

While we may not have access to the final results of Liberal polling on these issues, given what this budget contains and doesn’t contain – or highlights and doesn’t highlight – we can see where the polling and focus groups are guiding the government.  If the opposition is seeing what I’m seeing, then they must put together a comprehensive plan to address issues important to women.  Failing to do so could help the Liberals hold on to government one more time.

This article appeared in Queen’s Park Briefing.  Visit to subscribe to this publication and stay on top of all things related to Ontario government and politics!

Forget the ‘Big Move,’ what about the ‘Big Stay?’

At some point, every day when I commute to Toronto, I think about how much productive time I lose sitting in traffic.  It’s not just the loss of a half a day’s work stuck in traffic, and the non-productive time spent in my vehicle during the commute.  It’s also a matter of understanding that products, as well as people, are stuck in the mess, and this all hurts the economy.

Every day, commuters are faced with the question: Do I take inadequate transit (which increases my commute time but allows me to at least respond to email) or drive in my car (which is faster and more direct, but one cannot get much work done)?

Others have undoubtedly made the calculation.  They figure they are better off buying a condo in Toronto to stay at during the week, and retreat to their non-Toronto properties on weekends.  There is no doubt that Toronto has a hot housing market, and this can only make a hot market hotter.

With those stratospheric housing prices in Toronto, it only pushes people further away in search of housing affordability.  This pushes people to Durham, Barrie, Waterloo Region and so on.  More and more GTA residents are moving away to find a property they can afford.  We on the urban fringe had only heard about the ‘Toronto housing market’ until it arrived with a vengeance over the past couple years.  Now bidding wars are common place in many markets outside of Toronto, and housing affordability is becoming the Ontario nightmare rather than dream.

Realtors will tell you that demand is robust and supply is weak, which creates a crazy market where prices are skyrocketing.  More and more of our family budgets are being spent on financing homes rather than put into the broader economy.  This spells trouble down the road for our consumer economy.

At the same time, rural areas are losing their young people and their talent.  Graduates are fleeing for the areas that have jobs.  Property values in rural Ontario are on the decline, schools are closing, downtowns abandoned, and communities are losing their sense of spirit.  And rather than encouraging a reversal, public policy seems to encourage further urbanization.

The policy response is ‘build Ontario up,’ but that building hasn’t reduced gridlock or tamed the housing market.  It also hasn’t tamed our addiction to cars, which has obvious implications for Ontario’s climate change action plan.  We’re now into the third fiscal year of the ten year $31 billion plan for transit around the province.  This follows more than $10 billion spent on “the Big Move” – Metrolinx’s nick name for transit investment in the GTA.  Things aren’t getting better fast enough.

The other thing that comes to mind on my drive into Toronto is this question: Do all these people really need to be at their desk?  Can some of these people do some or all their work at home?  Reframing the question invites us to brainstorm ways to shift our behaviour away from a commuting culture to one that allows us to do more work at home.  It also invites us to think about ideas where the private sector plays some role in fixing the congestion problem along with government, not in opposition to it.

Instead of funding “the Big Move,” what if we repurposed that money to fund “the Big Stay?”  The twin effects of technological improvements and the fact that now three quarters of all workers are employed in the service sector make the idea of telecommuting much more practical.  It’s also an employment trend.

By encouraging more employees to work from home, employers don’t need as many of those expensive office towers.  A 2011 report by the Telework Research Network says that companies with 250 telecommuting employees would save about $3 million, which works out to roughly $12,000 an employee.  These are some real numbers to boost economic competitiveness.

Statistics Canada reports that telecommuting is a growing phenomenon, but the growth is tepid.  The data are dated, but the interesting thing to note is that the portrait of a telecommuter typically is a professional, university graduate, with men slightly more engaged in telecommuting than women.  These are exactly the sort of people that make up swing voters in Ontario suburbs, and given that the objective is to have higher university degree attainment rates in the future, the number of millennials that may engage in telecommuting will likely grow as well.  In addition, the explosion of technological innovation over the last decade suggests that telecommuting is getting easier.  We likely now have ‘an app for that!’

At some point, one must ask why governments are stuck in their old ways of thinking rather than embracing a trend that will likely take hold anyway.  Why can’t the government turn tepid growth into a viral phenomenon?  For example, there could be tax incentives or grants applied to businesses who successfully get more people to work from home at least one day a week, which would take the pressure off our highways, cool the urban housing market, and keep young people in rural communities that need them.  It also is environmentally responsible.

The point is to help employees achieve a better work-life balance and employers to boost their bottom line, all while reducing the pressure for governments to deal with transportation and housing challenges.  Applying a bit of policy foresight can allow us to pursue ideas that embrace the future and create win-win-win scenarios for people, business, and government.

This article appeared in Queen’s Park Briefing.  Visit to subscribe to this publication and stay on top of all things related to Ontario government and politics!

Drafting an alternative hydro plan

With the Liberals and the NDP laying out their marquee pocket book policy of reining in hydro costs, all eyes are focusing on what the front-runner Tories might do to reduce the sizeable costs.  However, despite repeated questions, the PC Leader Patrick Brown seems content to wait it out.

I have to admit, this hydro-palooza of policy talk has got me energized! So in the absence of an official PC policy on hydro, readers will be stuck with some version of the Rob Leone plan.

Here are my coal’s notes on what a conservative energy policy might look like in 2018.

First, we’re paying astronomically more because of the policy decisions of the Ontario Liberals.  The Tories must aggressively make many of the points Bryne Purchase outlined in his recent QP Briefing article.  The bulk of the $50 billion in new energy generation that the government has spent has been caused by Liberal policies.  Rates in Ontario were stable until the Green Energy Act started escalating all kinds of costs from generation (feed-in-tariff program), to transmission (all this micro-generation was scattered all over the place), and time-of-use pricing didn’t shift nearly enough people to use electricity during off-peak hours thereby forcing people to pay more.  There’s more, but you get the drift. Make sure the Liberals don’t shift the blame.

Second, we need to restore some economic principles back into the electricity sector.  Hydro is in this odd place where we have an oversupply of energy, yet costs continue to rise, when the opposite should happen.  Demand for electricity has dampened over the past 10 years, and we are still paying more, when the opposite should happen.  Energy policies need to get back to market principles.

Third, if the green energy contracts are the problem, do something about the contracts.  Here the Tories must channel a bit of Trump.  The Wynne Liberals are just bad negotiators.  This government can’t negotiate its way out of anything without costing taxpayers billions.  Reason enough to get rid of them, and if the Tories are smart, this could emerge as a dominate narrative for them in 2018.  Don’t sign any more contracts, and plan to do something with the existing ones.

Fourth, a PC government could explore the creation of new diversified generation companies.  The idea here is to let contract holders convert their contracts into shares of a generation company and make payments to shareholders in the form of dividends.  With diversification, the shareholders would have more steady revenue.  Wind blows most when the sun doesn’t shine (please don’t read a pun into that) and when the sun is blazing, wind is often still.  Peaking plants are needed when there are sudden weather shifts and such but otherwise stay dormant.  The reality is that we still pay when these generators aren’t pumping out electricity.  Creating companies that combine wind, solar, and peaking plants would be a way to end the costly policy of paying producers for no energy production and selling surplus energy to the US at a severe discount.  And, if you need more generation in the future, a series of these new companies could bid for the right to generate allowing Ontario to choose the best price (and maybe even the greenest mix).

Fifth, since Trump is offering a window of trade renegotiation, perhaps it’s high time we pressure the federal government to create a free tariff zone with countries that have clean energy grids.  The fact is that many Ontario businesses are suffering due to high energy costs, and this could be a way of taking their concerns to heart and fighting for them.  Products imported from ‘dirty grid’ countries are obviously going to be cheaper, so imposing a carbon tariff (doesn’t that sound better than a carbon tax?) would give made-in-Ontario products a fairer shake.

By the time the next election rolls around, all the easy stuff will be done. It’s time to be innovative and forward thinking. Energy policy could use a hefty dose of common sense.

This article appeared in Queen’s Park Briefing.  Visit to subscribe to this publication and stay on top of all things related to Ontario government and politics!

Ontario’s Art of the Deal

Open up the flood gates! It’s time to play let’s make a deal.  Last fall, Premier Wynne released her mandate letters to the newly reconfigured cabinet and among the noticeable changes in the new directives were the absence of the words ‘net-zero’ from the negotiating parameters of the government and its employees.

The phrase ‘net-zero’ came into the lexicon of Ontario budgeting to suggest that if the government were to negotiate deals with its employees, any extra money in compensation would have to come at the expense of some other spending within the ministry.  In other words, the ministry budgets were not going to increase to account for increased costs to collective bargaining.

For many public employees, this meant only very modest increases.  For senior managers and administrators, it meant a freeze.  And for a select few – ahem, the province’s doctors – there was a roll back on fees, which is just a polite way of cutting compensation.

But this, friends, is the lead up to an election year, and the purse strings must undoubtedly be loosened. Now, as details emerge that at least one teachers’ federation has negotiated a 4-per-cent raise over two years in their pre-election top up, one must seriously call into question whether the budget will indeed balance itself. It is difficult to envision a path to balance that does not address public sector compensation.

We may end up calling it another stretch goal, which is the Ontario government’s version of alternative facts.  Move over, Kellyanne Conway; we have better wordsmiths here.

Balance shmalance.  Far more important than the province’s fiscal position, which isn’t great according to the long range projections posted by the government, is what a deal means for the government.

With both the NDP and the PCs courting public sector employees, the Liberals have little choice but to make friends now.  It’s a signal to public sector employees that the government is ready to negotiate with all of them to make them happy and more likely to support the Wynne Liberals in 2018.

Well, maybe not all of them.  Doctors and college administrators aren’t feeling the love, but hey, they are one percenters, right?  It isn’t like you can see doctors and college administrators stomping on the stump deriding the government.  They will all likely take what they can get now because the cupboard is bare.  Any new government always starts off by saying things are worse than they first thought.  Sign up and shut up.  It’s the new M. O.  It’s also the Ontario Liberals’ version of the art of the deal.

We have seen this before.  When the government is in a hole, they pander to the special interests that help get them elected and appease dissent by opening up the public purse.  In the last election, businesses were upset about hydro costs, so the government puts a couple billion up in corporate welfare up so they can’t criticize it if they want the money.  PSWs were upset at their deplorable working conditions, so the Liberals promised them a $4 an hour raise, which probably told their patients how great it is to finally be recognized – more bang for the buck.  I wonder how many seniors’ homes the Liberals actually lost.  Whether it all works out after the fact doesn’t really matter.  They need to get over the hump first.

All of these groups of voters are carefully selected and strategies formed to micro-target them with tailor-made messages and promises.  It’s the art of a deal, and Ontario Liberals drive a hard bargain.

The goal, of course, is to appease dissent if not to outright garner support.  The deal is sealed when you make your option more palatable than the others.  The goal is to get Ontarians to think ‘he or she is terrible, and things are not so bad for me personally with the Liberals.’ This requires a massive investment in negative advertising, to which the Liberals do better than most.  Don’t be fooled by them telling you otherwise!

Some have suggested that the Liberals will no longer benefit from the legions of third-party advertising that they had invested in.  Fear not, Ontarians – the Liberals have figured this out too.  You will have a reprieve on endless negative radio and TV ads from third party sources. But, guess what? Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Youtube don’t cost much money, and, if done well, they are more effective in micro-targeting their coalition of voters.  Be prepared to be bombarded by digital messaging, mostly negative of course.  It’s the other necessary element in sealing the deal on Election Day.

You see, people foolishly count the Ontario Liberals out.  They have been down this road before.  In both 2011 and 2014, they came into the election wildly unpopular only to emerge victorious.  Most have chalked this to the terrible campaigns run by the opposition without giving due credit to the Liberals for engineering their success.  Regardless, the Liberal campaign wheels are in motion.  We will soon see if history will repeat itself once again.

This article appeared in Queen’s Park Briefing.  Visit to subscribe to this publication and stay on top of all things related to Ontario government and politics!

#FakeNews is why we have democratic government

The presence of ‘fake news’ is nothing new.  The fact that the world is in a tizzy over President Donald Trump’s latest foray in the constant battle for the truth is quite remarkable.  It’s like we’re trying to give him credit for inventing something that is as old as the human need for power and dominance.

One need not look further than former President Obama’s farewell address and President Trump’s inaugural address to see the difference.  President Obama painted a picture of a thriving America using facts that speak to that prowess – record job creation, a stronger social safety net, and diplomatic breakthroughs in Cuba and Iran.  And, for the millions of Americans who have seen their prosperity grow, there was much to be proud of that legacy.

Contrast Obama’s version of the truth with President Trump’s speech last week, where the new President talked about torn cities, rampant drug, crime, and gangs, porous borders, and foreign countries poaching jobs, the difference couldn’t be more stark. President Trump’s version of America was bleak.

Unsurprisingly, the main street media, who by the way have a viewership and readership that is decidedly more educated and wealthy – that is, the sort of people that have prospered under Obama’s America – were quite harsh. But to the millions of Americans who have not prospered in America, the speech couldn’t ring truer.

Both presidents spoke the ‘truth’ with facts and anecdotes that reinforce their narrative, but it is precisely that narrative that is so hotly in dispute.  An election was called, and the divisions of versions of America bore out in the electorate.  To the ‘other side’, the going narrative is contestable garbage, and it’s that narrative that infiltrates political discord and informs political debate.  In democracies, we allow opposition to contest those ideas.  We have a free press to keep a watchful eye.  We set up accountability and transparency mechanisms to try and provide unbiased information to inform that debate.  We encourage freedom of association to protect the right of citizens to gather, discuss, and protest if need be.

Who is right largely depends on the information as each individual sees it. President Trump’s attack on the media based on the number of people who attended the inauguration wasn’t destined to appeal to consumers of the media, but it did serve the purpose of reaffirming to the American people that the elites will not soon start to view his presidency favourably.  Not at all.  The President’s Twitter will keep going, and it should.

Back home, the missives exchanged by Conservative leadership candidate Kevin O’Leary and the Wynne government are an extension of the democratic feud.  O’Leary got his name out there, politically speaking, by issuing a series of ‘open letters’ to political opponents, including Premier Kathleen Wynne.  In those letters, O’Leary blasts Wynne for a variety of what he undoubtedly sees as measures of incompetence.  On hydro, on deficits, on everything, O’Leary paints a bleak picture of Ontario. Judging by public polling figures, that narrative speaks to millions of Ontarians.

However, the new strategic direction of the Wynne government has been issuing rebuttals to O’Leary via ‘open letters’ on social media.  I’m not sure O’Leary is a follower or a friend of Wynne and her cabinet, mind you, but that’s not the point.  Those messages were directed at Wynne’s supporters.  In these rebuttals, Wynne and her cabinet ministers focus on the narrative that the government is doing quite fine.  Ontarians are working.  The economy is growing.  Finances are under control. Hydro rates rose to deal with competing problems and are now the focus of decline. And so on.

Is O’Leary wrong or is Wynne? The answer is that it depends on how you see things.  If you are an Ontarian who struggles to pay the bills and eat, your Ontario is in disarray.  Conversely, if you’re educated, seeing the onset of cheap (or free) tuition, and like reducing your carbon footprint, then hey, you’ve got nothing to complain about – other than ‘fake news’ O’Leary perhaps.

In O’Leary, the Wynne government clearly sees a vehicle to get their positive narrative out, which it can’t seem to do without a vocal provincial opponent and a federal prime minister whom the Premier happens to really support.  The end game is to frame the dialogue that will inform voters’ attitudes in the year leading up to the next provincial election.

The point is that ‘fake news’ has always been with us.  The people who have power will use selective information to keep wielding it. Some even call it propaganda, especially when information appears to be distorted. The opponents will use alternative information (which is now seen to be a gaffe!?!?!?) to try and seize power.   Most voters actually don’t know what is true.  In fact, I spend a great deal of time to try and filter past the clouded mess.  Frankly, I tabled an historic contempt motion in the legislature because I felt we weren’t being told the truth, and in many respects, that did indeed became a real problem for the government.

We must be careful about everything we hear. For example, Minister Glenn Thibeault said Boston has 60% higher hydro than Ontario.  However, statistics from Hydro Quebec, which looks at average rates, taxes, delivery charges, and the whole picture, puts that increase at about half of that.

Facts are funny, aren’t they? Used to counter my favoured narrative, they can also be ‘fake.’