Thursday, October 22, 2009

Haldimand "Warning, Reading this Could be Hazardous"

Make yourself a coffee before you read this, or maybe something a bit stronger. This is the hard core reality, and we will all be paying the price. Both articles are very well written.

This might just clarify why even though the people of Ontario seem to not want McGuinty to implement the new HST come July of 2010, it seems that there is a substantial reason why he is still persistent that this tax will come into force.

What is really interesting is the second article had 154 comments when I read it, if you have the time read some of the comments that are being posted they are quite interesting, just go to the link at the end of the article.

Consultants cost '$1M a day'
Dalton McGuinty blasted over 'bloated fees' to experts and hushed-up pay for top bureaucrats
Rob Ferguson Queen's Park Bureau
Published On Wed Oct 21 2009

The Ontario government's consultant "habit" extends further than the $1 billion eHealth scandal, with new figures showing the provincial ministries alone spent $389 million on help from consultants last year, the NDP charged Tuesday.

The payouts gave the opposition parties another financial weapon to use against the Liberals, also under fire for hiding the salaries of highly paid bureaucrats in hospital budgets. That includes Premier Dalton McGuinty's $320,695-a-year climate-change guru.

The cash for consultants shows a free-spending attitude that taxpayers can no longer afford as the provincial deficit deepens in the recession, said New Democrat MPP Paul Miller (Hamilton East-Stoney Creek), who got the numbers in a request under freedom-of-information legislation.
"When is this premier going to say enough is enough? When is he finally going to end this government's $1-million-a-day addiction to consultants and their bloated fees?" Miller said during the Legislature's daily question period.

McGuinty brushed aside the questions, saying the government has reduced spending on consultants by 34 per cent since coming to power in 2003 and noted "governments of all stripes" have been relying on consultants "for some time" when special expertise is needed.

"I don't think it's particularly news."

The premier also defended the salary of his associate deputy minister Hugh MacLeod, who heads the climate-change secretariat, but was unable to point to any tangible achievements of the man who reports directly to him.

"That's a very important responsibility. It's one that hasn't received a lot of attention lately but as somebody once said, `the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment' and we've been spending a lot of time talking about the economy lately. But as the economy grows stronger, more and more of our attention, that is the attention of humanity, will focus on the single greatest long-term challenge confronting us, and that is global warming and climate change," McGuinty told reporters Tuesday.

"So we think it's very important to have the capacity as a government to understand what is happening in the world, to understand our contribution to this challenge, to develop plans where we assume responsibility to reduce our contribution to climate change," he added.

"We're funding an office which is carrying out a very important responsibility for all of us."

An official in McGuinty's office said MacLeod coordinates the government's policies on climate change and sits on a cabinet committee studying the economy.

The new consultant figures, for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2008 and the latest available, served as a reminder of the eHealth Ontario scandal, which saw consultants who were paid up to $3,000 a day expensing for snacks like tea and cookies.

In a report two weeks ago, Auditor General Jim McCarter found the province has spent $1 billion to create electronic health records for patients – with little to show for it.

As well, McCarter found a too-heavy reliance on consultants who can cost more than hiring staff.
McGuinty agreed with that point and said the government is bringing more experts to work in-house.

Miller noted the $389 million does not include money spent on consultants at provincial agencies, boards and commissions, which could push the actual total higher.

Ontario faces "cuts to vulnerable kids, to unemployed workers, to community hospitals ... while well-connected consultants feast at the McGuinty government trough."

The biggest bill – $104 million – was for the ministry of government and consumer services. The health ministry, which was in charge of eHealth, spent $89 million.

"There are some things we need to hire consultants to do because it's a project" but other things should be done in-house to keep costs down, said new Health Minister Deb Matthews, appointed to the job earlier this month after the resignation of David Caplan over eHealth

Ontario deficit billions more than expected
Largest-ever deficit in province
$24.7B - means difficult choices ahead, says Finance Minister Duncan

Ontario's already record budget shortfall has ballooned to a staggering $24.7 billion – billions higher than economists expected – and "difficult choices" loom, warns Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.

In the fall economic statement tabled Thursday in the Legislature, Duncan revised the deficit projection upward from the $18.5 billion he had announced in June (and the $14.1 billion in the March budget.)

Until earlier this year, the ignominious record was a $12.4 billion shortfall in the 1992 budget introduced by NDP finance minister Floyd Laughren.

"Due to this global recession, our economy is now the same size as it was in 2005. Tax revenues are also now at 2005 levels," Duncan told the House.

"Corporate tax revenues fell last year by an unprecedented 48.1 per cent – or over $6 billion," he said.

"At the same time the recession has driven up demand for government services."

That accounts for the deficit being far worse than the $22 billion leading bank economists had anticipated.

"The governments of Canada, the United States and some other provinces have all adjusted their deficit projections upward for the coming year," said Duncan, noting Ottawa's is $56 billion and Washington's is $1.5 trillion.

"Due to the impact of the global economy on Ontario and our government's desire to invest in the people of this province, the projected deficit is $24.7 billion in 2009-10," he said.

That's on a $113.7 billion budget, which includes $104.3 billion in spending on programs and $9.4 billion on interest paymentsto service a provincial debt that has skyrocketed to $137.9 billion.

Despite the gloomy picture, Duncan emphasized that the Liberals would continue their focus on the big-ticket priorities of health-care and education.

To that end, the government will announce its long-anticipated plans Tuesday for all-day junior and senior kindergarten for four- and five-year-olds.

"This initiative will further increase the competitive advantage already found in our highly skilled and educated workforce," the treasurer said.

"Full-day learning for our four- and five-year-olds will also help parents take advantage of new job opportunities," he said, conceding that the government will be "phasing in" the program, which could take years.

"Making this investment will require difficult choices on our part," said Duncan.
"And we will make them."

While he was vague Thursday, in a speech on Tuesday, the finance minister said a sweeping review of government programs would be coming in the next few months to determine where cuts can be made.

"We will call on our partners in the public and the broader public sector to help us sustain public services in the long term. We will also review all agencies, boards and commissions to ensure they are meeting Ontarians' needs and expectations," he said.

"We made the right choices for today. As Ontario comes out of the recession, we will eliminate the deficit and pay down debt to ensure the sustainability of the public services we all value."
However, Duncan did not offer a timetable for deficit reduction and elimination.

Opposition parties were flabbergasted at the new $24.7 billion deficit figure, which Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak called "a historically dismal performance" and warned it would boost each Ontario household's share of the total provincial debt to $13,500.

"The government was living high off the hog," Hudak thundered in the Legislature. "The McGuinty government is the problem. The problem will not be fixed until we replace the sad, worn out McGuinty government."

New Democrat finance critic Michael Prue said a deficit this large cannot come without dire consequences for both the public and public sector workers.

"I can read the code words," Prue said. "They can expect to get whacked in the months ahead."
On Wednesday, Premier Dalton McGuinty left open the possibility of unpaid furloughs for public servants, including teachers, bureaucrats, and nurses.

That echoed former NDP premier Bob Rae's "social contract" in 1993, which introduced the phrase "Rae Days" into the vernacular.

While the Liberals privately insist "Dalton Days" are not on the horizon, McGuinty has steadfastly refused to rule them out.

"We're just beginning this discussion," the premier said Wednesday when asked about Rae's response to a recession.

"I don't know. We've all got our own particular approaches obviously. I'll let people judge, but what I would say is that ... the next several months will be very important as we come up to our own particular approach to this."

Wayne Samuelson, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said Wednesday he's worried the Liberals "are so freaked out about the deficit" they will force workers to take involuntary leave.

"They're heading for a $20 billion deficit and it doesn't look like they're ready to raise taxes and it's pretty clear that the economy is not going to grow so there's not going to generate extra money there," said Samuelson.

"You can (have furloughs for public servants) or you start privatizing services and selling things off."

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) urged the Liberals to resist the temptation to privatize or cut.

"Every dollar spent in the public sector not only provides a service that people need, but also provides income that supports families, communities and local businesses," OPSEU vice-president Patricia Rout said in a statement Wednesday.

"The track record of privatization is one of higher costs, reduced services, poorer jobs and structural deficits," said Rout.

Haldimand "Healing Bruised Egos and Next Years Election"

Grice Speaks on Motion
Donna Pitcher
Dunnville Chronicle Staff Writer
October, 21, 2009

“This motion has less to do with cohesiveness and the messaging that Council provides to Provincial and Federal officials, than it does with healing bruised egos, and next year’s election”, said Councillor Craig Grice in an interview with the Chronicle last Friday.

Grice was speaking about a motion that was narrowly passed by council last week that puts in place protocol for Council members in regards to meetings with Provincial and Federal Ministers and their staff. The motion requires that all formal meetings with Provincial and Federal Government Ministers or their staff include an agenda of issues and that the meeting be arranged through the Mayor’s office after first being sanctioned through resolution by a majority vote of Council. The resolution also requires a verbal report to Council.

Councillor Leroy Bartlett who was not in attendance when this motion was debated at the previous Council meeting had a concern about what happens if they are in a meeting with a government official and the discussion leads to something that has not been previously sanctioned by Council. Don Boyle, CAO of Haldimand County answered Bartlett’s concerns by saying that a Council member can only discuss what is on the agenda, they cannot report any personal opinions. Councillor Buck Sloat stated that this motion moves Council forward on a united front with a united voice and shows that they are working as a team.

Councillor Lorne Boyko asked for clarification on the meaning of a formal meeting, Mayor Marie Trainer’s response was that a formal meeting was one that is arranged through the Mayor’s office.

Boyko asked for an amendment to the motion in reference to a verbal report to council, to read a written report to council. Boyko said the amendment does not create a paper trail for current and future councils, we have way to many verbal reports now. The motion to amend the amendment was defeated.

“We are a board of directors” let’s start acting like one, said Councillor Tony Dalimonte during council’s lengthy debate. Boyko later said in an interview with the Chronicle that he disagreed with Dalimonte’s statement. A board of directors meets with their stakeholders usually four times a year, and bottom line is a board of directors is dollar driven.

As far as Grice is concerned each Councillor has a job to represent his or her constituents and that's exactly what he will continue to do. “The argument that Council speaks through resolution is non deniable, but to say a Councillor once a vote is taken is no longer allowed to speak in opposition is not only wrong, its arrogant”, said Grice.

Grice is of the opinion that the motion as passed is seriously flawed. What happens when a Councillor has an immediate opportunity to meet with someone in authority? Any meeting now would be against Council resolution, no matter how well intended. A County’s approach or view is not always the same as wards views or needs. Some issues are not of countywide concern, therefore this motion could be seen as removing the autonomy of ward representation which the Municipal Act currently authorizes. In the end the local voice could be lost or altered as the intent of the original meeting request is forced to change to gain approval, said Grice.

Council passed the resolution with a vote of 4-3, Councillors Boyko, Bartlett and Grice voted against it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Haldimand "An Open Letter to McGuinty"

An excellent read from the Barrie Examiner today! Kudos!

An open letter to Dalton McGuinty
Posted By Stu McMillan
Posted 7 hours ago
An open letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty

Dear Mr. McGuinty:

I’m going to call you mister as I firmly believe that Premier McGuinty is inaccurate. A premier would have had the guts and fortitude to stop the absolute waste of taxpayers’ money in regards to the e-Health mess.

A billion dollars and very little to show for it! What a complete sham!

Ordinary citizens are working their tails off and this is what we get? I’m sorry, but the odd firing and the resignation of your minister in charge is not enough!

These people should be charged with fraud. Taking our money, promising to do something with it, and knowingly giving us nothing in return is grounds for jail time. Kick those responsible out, charge them accordingly and use their pension money to pay back every taxpayer in Ontario.

This at least might show that you have some compassion for the little guy trying to make ends meet.

It might also show the next bunch put in charge of these projects that you are serious about stopping the bellying up to the taxpayer trough (you are aren't you?).

There has to be a limit (dare I say a budget) and a time- line firmly attached to these projects. It’s done all the time in construction, why not here?

In construction you are told to hold back a percentage of the agreed price until you are satisfied that the job is done correctly. Unfortunately, in this case the money just never stopped flowing.

We cannot afford to continue this way.

A premier would have been aware of and stopped the redirecting of funds to high level bureaucrats through health care facilities, (most of us would call this money laundering) and when it is brought out into the open would have had more gumption than to merely say, ‘I guess I should have known’ and ‘We’ll try to do better next time.’

What an absolute crock of hooey. How can this happen? Who oversees this? Why was nobody fired or even slightly reprimanded? How can we have faith in a government that has allowed this thievery to exist and simply turn a blind eye to it?

Please don't try to blame previous governments for this because even if they were involved in this scheme previously, it should have been up to a premier to do something to put an end to it.

A premier would have not filed a lawsuit against the producers of a legal substance looking for cost recovery for money spent trying to heal those affected by this dangerous product, while at the same time pocketing millions of dollars in tax revenue from this exact same source.

Why have you not sued the casinos and the OLG for cost recovery from gambling addiction?

Why have you not sued the LCBO for distributing a product that leads to alcohol addiction?

I’m sorry, but you just can't have it both ways. Let's just say you win this lawsuit (although I doubt you will). How many jobs are going to be lost due to the price that will have to paid by these companies? How many manufacturers are going to stay in Ontario if the government is going to sue them whenever the whim hits them? Why would anybody invest in such a province?

I have tried to keep this letter somewhat civil, but in closing I cannot begin to describe my utter disgust with you and your government.

I pay my taxes with the expectation that I will receive value for the money that I send in. Up until now, I have not been entirely happy with the results I see, but have been quiet and reluctant to voice my opinion.

No longer!

I will now do everything that I as a single vote can do to see that you and your government do not continue to rip us off and I will try to convince everyone that I meet that you do not deserve to be our premier and your time in office will come to a permanent end in the next election.

Article ID# 2120719

Haldimand "MPMP Coming Soon"

County forms not filed
October 14, 2009

The Provincial Municipal Performance Measurement Program (MPMP) is now in its tenth year. It requires all Ontario municipalities to file an annual report to the Province and to the public, setting out performance data on solid waste, sewers, water, transportation (roads and public transit), fire, police, land use, planning and general government. All Ontario municipalities are required to report MPMP results to local taxpayers no later than September 30th following the reporting year.

According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website the benefits of reporting performance measurement results to the public are significant: ranging from improved accountability to improved service delivery. The MPMP program should generate public interest into the decisions their councils make, encouraging further communication.

Municipalities are required to report MPMP results to the province through the Financial Information Return (FIR) by May 31st following each reporting year. Municipalities must also publish results for local taxpayers by September 30th using a format of their own choosing.

Many municipalities provide this information on their web sites. Others take out newspaper ads, mail the information or include performance measurement information in the property tax bill.

In a letter to all heads of Council from Minister Jim Watson in August of this year, he states "By publicly reporting their MPMP results, Ontario municipalities are achieving a level of transparency and accountability that has gained both national and international recognition".

In an interview with the Chronicle, Mayor Marie Trainer was under the impression that Haldimand County was in fact complying with the Province in respect to the MPMP program reporting requirements.

The treasurer of Haldimand County, Mark Merritt confirmed in an interview that Haldimand County does a Financial Information Return (FIR) every year but has never filed an MPMP return. Although the FIR and the MPMP are part and parcel of the same return, Merritt stated that due to timing and the lack of resources the county has never filed an MPMP.

Merritt anticipates that by the end of the year the MPMP results for 2008 will be completed and available for the public to view on the county website.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Haldimand "What is the Duty of a Councillor?"

Motion from council may change procedures
Posted By Donna Pitcher
October 7, 2009

Councillor Tony Dalimonte brought forth a motion at Monday's Council in Committee meeting that had some council members feeling that their voice within their wards would be taken away and that this motion is a direct hit on the democratic process.

The motion by Dalimonte states; "That in order to ensure consistency and clarity with respect to Council's position on County business and issues, the following Protocol be adopted".

"That all formal meetings with the Provincial and Federal Government Ministers or their staff, for the purpose of advancing County Corporate business through discussions or presenting County Corporate business or issues, be first sanctioned through resolution by a "majority" vote of Council and co-ordinated through the Mayor's office".

"Council speaks with one voice, we speak by resolution only, and there is no other way around this, we need to table this motion and cast it in stone", said Dalimonte. Dalimonte feels that the voice of council needs to be conveyed through the Mayor's office, with a majority voice.

"With this motion my community voice is gone," said Councillor Craig Grice, this motion makes no sense". Grice was disappointed with Dalimonte's philosophy behind the motion, as Grice understood that this motion was to ensure continuity with respect to conferences not individual councillors. The spirit of this motion can not go forward according to Grice.

"It took the Mayor three years to ask if anyone on council wanted a meeting with a minister" said Grice. Grice had requested back a few months ago for the Mayor to arrange a meeting with the minister of infrastructure, and a meeting with MP Diane Finley, to date nothing has been arranged through the Mayors office.

Grice has been very successful in arranging many meetings with Ministers and their staff over the last couple of years. With this new motion Grice will no longer have a voice to contact a minister on his own, he will need a "majority" vote through council first before a meeting could be arranged through the Mayors office.

Councillor Lorne Boyko spoke of the major differences between a Mayor and a council member. "A Mayor has too support the position of council, they have to regardless of what their personal opinion is", a Councillor does not have to do that, Boyko feels that this motion is censoring council members. "I think you are seriously undercutting the duty and the role of a Councillor", said Boyko.

The motion was carried with a vote of 4-2, Grice and Boyko voted against the motion. Councillor Leroy Bartlett was not present when this motion was discussed.

In an interview with Grice after the council meeting, Grice said this motion was ego vs. politics".

Haldimand "Council Makes First Nations Motion"

Posted By Donna Pitcher,
October 7, 2009

Councillor Buck Sloat submitted a notice of motion at Monday's Council in Committee meeting in regards to Haldimand County committees dealing with First Nation's issues. Council also voted to wave procedural bylaws to deal with this motion at Monday's meeting.

The motion deals with all First Nations established Committees in Haldimand County, and that all such committees be dissolved. Future meetings with First Nations will be co-ordinated through the Mayor's office with the applicable Ward Councillor, Council Committee Chair and Staff.

According to Sloat's motion these committees have held few meetings addressing issues that are directly related to their "initial" mandate and that agendas have not been established prior to the meetings.

Councillor Lorne Boyko was under the impression that this would be a reconsideration of a motion, that these committees have already been dissolved. Sloat clarified that this motion would encompass three committees that have not been dissolved. The three committees cover Planning issues, the Recovery Plan and the Native Relations Committee.

Boyko disagreed with Sloat's statement that there have been no agendas for these meetings. "This makes it look like to the public that we attended meetings with no agendas," said Boyko. Boyko was also concerned with the continuity of this motion if an issue crosses ward boundaries.

Councillor Tony Dalimonte supported the motion, and sees this as giving the Mayor's office as much flexibility as possible. Dalimonte also believes that there should be two or three issues on the table before a meeting is planned. "We need to sit face to face", to call one Councillor at a time is wasting our time, "lets get going here and do something" said Dalimonte.

"We have accomplished nothing, absolutely nothing with these committees," said Sloat. "Every time we go around and around and around the issues go beyond what the scope of the meeting was and we need to focus" said Sloat.

Boyko once again disagreed with Sloat's statements, and talked about some issues relating to the differences between our cultures.

In the reading of the final motion the statement was removed regarding agendas. Council voted in favour of the motion with a vote of 4-2, Grice and Boyko voted against the motion, Councillor Leroy Bartlett was not in attendance when this issue was discussed.