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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


Ontario Premier Doug Ford is hitting the cities of Toronto and Ottawa with a wrecking ball that will undermine accountability and democracy.

The Ford government introduced Bill 39 as an attempt to break the gridlock often experienced on city councils in Toronto and Ottawa. The major reason Ford introduced the legislation is to prioritize the speedy approval and construction of new housing in some of Ontario’s most dense communities.

The main feature of the bill is that it gives the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa so-called strong mayor powers.

On the surface, the bill looks promising. Bill 39 would allow mayors in Toronto and Ottawa to have more control over appointments and establishing priorities for council. It would also allow those mayors to have more control over the budgetary process. And, by allowing mayors to establish priorities and have more control over council’s agenda, it could, in theory, help with the housing issue.

But that’s where the good parts of the bill end.

The most dangerous element of Bill 39 is that it would allow the mayor to pass laws that only receive the support of one third of council.

In a democracy, allowing just one third of council, if aligned with the mayor, to pass any law under the sun is extremely dangerous.

From Ford’s perspective, this bill also makes little sense. Right now, John Tory is the mayor of Toronto and Mark Sutcliffe is the mayor of Ottawa.

Both men appear to be amenable to parts of Ford’s agenda.

But, in theory, both mayors could also hold the province hostage. Imagine a scenario in which a duly elected mayor and a small minority of councillors choose to pass policies that run directly counter to provincial priorities.

Not too long ago, David Miller was mayor of Toronto. He pushed through some of the largest property tax hikes in the province’s history.

If Miller had only needed the support of one-third of council to raise property taxes, tax hikes could have soared. Instead of a 10 per cent hike, homeowners could have been looking at a 20 per cent increase.

The need to win the support of a majority of councillors is a key mechanism in ensuring that extreme policies don’t turn into ill-fated laws.

Ford claims Bill 39 is democratic. According to the premier, mayors are duly elected by voters, so giving them more control over the agenda isn’t undemocratic.

Giving mayors more of a say in setting the agenda is a good thing. But there’s a reason that we don’t elect municipal dictators. We elect councillors to help shape the agenda, allow for more diverse voices at the table, and ensure that every corner of the city is represented at city hall.

Handing one third of council the power to pass any law they want so long as they have the mayor’s backing is minority rule. In no other democratic institution in Canada do we allow a minority of elected representatives to impose an agenda opposed by a majority of elected officials.

If he finds this new mayoral power system successful, Ford plans to extend these powers to municipalities across the province. Democracy in Toronto and Ottawa isn’t only at stake – Ontarians all across the province have a stake in this fight.

Bill 39 needs a fundamental re-write. Today, mayors all across the province don’t have enough power and influence. Ford’s desire to give them a stronger voice is sensible. But allowing one third of council the ability to hold the cities of Toronto or Ottawa hostage is a major mistake.

Jay Goldberg is the Ontario Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


Public sector unions, especially connected with education, have been intermittent thorns in the sides of all of Conservative, Liberal, and New Democratic governments of Ontario for the past several decades.

In late November 2022 the Ford government’s standing up while also conceding to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, acting on behalf of striking non-teaching education workers, may finally win decisive support from parents too long haunted by children out of school.

Yet the province’s tentative deal with CUPE  (still to be ratified by education workers) does raise questions about just where the Ford government is going in its second term.

Is the current incarnation of the Ford Nation PC Party really “building a stronger province  … just like Bill Davis did so many years ago” — as finance minister Peter Bethlenfalvy urged in his recent Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review speech?

Or does the Ford government still have all the wrong basic instincts to seriously cover itself in the mantle of the William Davis Progressive Conservatives, 1971–1985?

On the side of the angels, 11 days after it was passed Premier Ford did repeal Bill 28. It had imposed a contract on striking CUPE education workers, banned  them from further striking, and then invoked the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution Act, 1982, lest anyone claim Bill 28 violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The likes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed alarm at the Ford government’s almost casual invoking of the notwithstanding clause in Bill 28. Opinion polls like the one published by Abacus Data on November 6 may have influenced the premier’s decision to repeal as well.

In response to the question “Ultimately, who do you blame the most for schools being closed due to the education worker strike,” 38% of the Abacus Ontario respondents said “Education Workers” and 62% said “Provincial Government.”

This Abacus poll also captures the Ford government’s democratic dilemma in a deeper sense. The 38% of Ontario respondents  who blamed Education Workers for closed schools is not much different from the less than 41% of the province-wide popular vote the Ford PC s won in this past June’s election.

With now four parties in a first-past-the-post electoral system, this clear minority of the popular vote was enough to give the PC s a two-thirds majority of the seats in the Legislative Assembly — in the lowest voter turnout election in Ontario since 1867!

Meanwhile, in the fall of 2022 the 62% in the Abacus poll who blamed the Provincial Government  for closed schools is not much different from the more than 59% who voted against the Ford government this past June 2.

The William Davis Progressive Conservatives of the 1970s and 1980s — or even the long Progressive Conservative dynasty from 1943 to 1985 — may at least have advice to offer here.

Like the Ford Ontario PCs of the 21st century, the historic PC dynasty never quite won a majority of the province-wide popular vote. The average over the 12 elections from 1943 to 1981 was 43%

But the PC dynasts remembered  that the majority of the people of Ontario regularly voted against them. They stayed in office for 42 years by skillfully exploiting the traditional electoral system in a three-party legislature — and by keeping an eye on the real majority of the electorate.

Bill Davis and his peers similarly knew that over the longer term it is unwise to get too rough with your opponents when the majority of the people vote for them.

Whatever else, it is not easy to see much of the Premier Davis who stopped the Spadina Expressway in 1971 in the Ford Nation Ontario PCs a half century later.

The initial design of Bill 28 in the dispute between the Ford government and CUPE was a glaring example of what Bill Davis would resolutely avoid.

On the more complex sides of the dispute — beyond dismal worker wages — this past summer the Financial Accountability Office did report reductions in Ontario education spending.

The broader history of Ford Nation budgets is similarly intriguing. In the government’s first budget for 2019–20 the “Health Sector” accounted for 38.9% of Total Expense, and the “Education Sector” for 18.2%. In the budget for 2022–23 the Health Sector accounts for only 37.8% and the Education Sector only 16.3%.

There are no doubt a few possible deeper meanings for such raw statistics. Yet in any of them it is hard to see much that the former 1960s Minister of Education William Davis, who helped pioneer Ontario’s present-day health and education sectors, would welcome with open arms.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


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Duelling ideological media headlines greeted the September 28 release of a report on Ontario public sector employment from the provincial legislature’s Financial Accountability Office.

According to the (somewhat lefty) CBC News: “Ontario needs more public sector workers and might have to raise wages to attract them: FAO.”

According to the (more right-wing) Globe and Mail: “Ontario wage cap bill could save province $9.7-billion, new report shows.”

The province’s only seven-year-old Financial Accountability Office itself has somewhat lefty origins. It was first proposed by NDP leader Andrea Horwath in 2013, as the Liberal minority government Kathleen Wynne inherited from Dalton McGuinty was looking for budget support.

A first Financial Accountability Officer started work in March 2015. The current Officer Peter Weltman (a graduate of the Parliamentary Budget Office in Ottawa) was appointed in May 2018. He has some staff: 18 + Mr. Weltman make up “Our Team” on the FAO website today.

Not exactly accidentally, the report released on September 28, 2022 — “Ontario Public Sector Employment and Compensation : Historical Trends, Projections and Risks” — bumps into contract talks between unions and the provincial government, and a court challenge to the province’s Bill 124 of 2019, which legislated a 1% public sector compensation cap.

For its main part the document offers a current snapshot of a significant chunk of the economy in Canada’s most populous province.

All told the FAO’s “public sector” includes 24.6% of “Total Paid Workers in Ontario in 2021.” The remaining 75.4% are still in the “private sector.”

One-quarter of the work force is no small amount. But this Ontario public sector of 24.6%, includes 3.6% of total paid workers in “Municipal Government” and 2.5% in “Federal Government (in Ontario).” Even the remaining 18.5% of paid workers in the “Ontario Broader Public Sector” are further subdivided.

At the core is 10.3% of total paid workers in the “Ontario Public Sector.”  This group is “financially controlled by the Province.” It is further subdivided into School Boards (4.5%), Hospitals (3.7%), Ontario Ministries and Agencies (1.4%), and Colleges (0.7%).

The Ontario Broader Public Sector includes another 8.2% of paid workers in “Other Provincially Supported Organizations.” They “receive significant funding from the Ontario government but are not considered to be financially controlled by the Province.”

Logically enough, the FAO report concentrates on the Ontario Public Sector that employs 10.3% of the province’s work force and is “financially controlled” by Queen’s Park.

The report ponders the historical data on this sector,  and comes up with a base-case scenario of near-term growth. On this scenario “the FAO costed the impact of Bill 124 and estimated that it will save the Province a cumulative total of $9.7 billion in salaries and wages costs … through to 2026-27.”

At the same time, the report notes three “risks” to this base-case scenario : (1) “Inflation Could Lead to Higher Wage Increases”; (2) “Successful Court Challenge to Bill 124 Could Lead to Higher Spending on Salaries and Wages”; and (3) “Staffing Shortages Could Lead to Reduced Service Levels and Higher Wage Increases.”

It could be argued that the still somewhat murky character of the second Ford Nation government elected this past June 2 will be revealed as it navigates these risks over the near future ahead.

The government that launched Bill 124 in 2019 was open to the criticism that conservative parties in our time, deeply rooted in private sector interests, can never operate effective public sectors, because they are ideologically averse to the paid workers who earn their living this way.

(It could also be said that the only good public services, on this view, are cheap public services.)

On the other hand, the 2022 FAO report on “Ontario Public Sector Employment and Compensation” does lend some support to the case for “moderation” in Ontario public sector pay. The 2021 average annual salary of paid workers in the Ontario private sector, for example, was not much more than $59,000. For the 10.3% Ontario public sector it was somewhat more than $69,000!

(The Other Provincially Supported Organizations in the broader public sector, on the other hand again, are another story — with average annual salary at less than $51,000 in 2021.)

Meanwhile, back at Queen’s Park key current headlines suggest various straws in the wind: “Ontario just increased its minimum wage by 50 cents”; “Big salary increases expected for many Toronto workers next year”; “Ontario CUPE education workers vote 96.5% in favour of strike mandate.”

Whatever else, the latest report of the legislature’s Financial Accountability Office of Ontario does shed some light on the deeper background to all these kinds of  headlines — right, left, and centre.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

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This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.