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An NDP government would not use back-to-work legislation to end strikes, leader Andrea Horwath says

May 22, 2018 10:32:00 AM

andrea horwath live at noon ontario ndp leader andrea horwath answers your questions at the toronto star editorial board 22 05 2018 queenspark news thestar dam content www.thestar.com  https:

No striking workers — including teachers — would be legislated back to work if an NDP government is elected June 7, New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath says.

“It’s a pretty heavy hammer...it’s very much against our values,” Horwath said Tuesday, citing her party’s labour roots in a wide-ranging, one-hour session with the Star’s editorial board streamed live on the internet, including questions from readers.

She also addressed a $1.4 billion “error” in the NDP’s platform, concerns about the party’s ability to govern, her plan to buy back Hydro One, standardized testing in schools and lessons learned from Ontario’s only New Democrat government under Bob Rae, soundly defeated after one term.

“The most important piece is that this isn’t 1990. It’s a completely different environment and this is a completely different election. And I’m certainly not Bob Rae,” Horwath said.

“People can read into that what they like.”

The NDP leader has been gaining momentum in the June 7 election campaign, outpacing Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals to grab second place behind Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford in a number of polls.

A new Ipsos Public Affairs online poll of 1,000 Ontarians conducted for Global News between Friday and Monday shows Horwath at 37 per cent, Ford at 36 with Wynne at 23 per cent. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The improved fortunes of the New Democrats have put Horwath, her platform and candidates under increased scrutiny from rival parties. Voters seem to be checking her out as an alternative to Ford, who is offering cuts to gasoline and income taxes and unspecified cuts to government spending of $6 billion.

Horwath said back-to-work legislation, particularly with public-sector workers, can be avoided with better funding of the education system, for example.

“If we had been better funding these institutions, we wouldn’t have the labour strife that we have,” added Horwath, whom the Liberals slammed in a press release Tuesday for blocking back-to-work legislation two weeks ago to end a strike at York University.

Read more:

As Horwath’s poll numbers rise, Doug Ford focuses his attacks on the NDP

Opinion | Martin Regg Cohn: The referendum on Andrea Horwath’s NDP is just beginning

Opinion | Tim Harper: Consigning the Bob Rae monster to the pages of history

“While no one wants or likes to order parties back to work, the public interest sometimes demands the government’s leadership when all else fails,” said a statement from the Liberal campaign.

Horwath added “I can’t imagine that there would be” a scenario where back-to-work legislation would be used, as Wynne’s government did last fall to end a community college strike that put the term at risk for tens of thousands of students. Horwath and her caucus voted against the legislation.

The NDP leader who represents Hamilton Centre blamed the government for moves that “tightened up” funding for colleges and universities and said back-to-work legislation abrogates the constitutional rights of workers to free collective bargaining.

In past years, the New Democrats have voted against sending striking TTC workers back to their jobs, but now that the transit agency has been deemed an essential service, Horwath said she would not restore the right to strike.

One of the 200 questions received from Star readers zeroed in on the accounting error in Horwath’s platform, which involved a $700 million reserve fund counted as revenue instead of an expense.

“We regret it, absolutely,” Horwath replied. “What we didn’t do is pretend that it didn’t happen and what we didn’t do is try to spin our way out of it.”

Horwath, however, did not admit the mistake until Sunday. On Saturday in Thunder Bay she tried to deflect questions on it, saying “I don’t have specifics.”

She acknowledged the accounting error will “leave people worried about the deficit,” which would rise to almost $4.8 billion from a projected $3.3 billion in the first year.

“This makes things a little bit harder than what we had initially anticipated,” she acknowledged, promising to forge ahead with her promises such as ending “hallway medicine” in hospitals.

Horwath admitted her plan to buy back the 47 per cent of shares the Wynne government sold in Hydro One, now worth about $6.4 billion, with $248.5 million in annual dividends from the remaining shares is ambitious.

“Nobody thinks this is going to be easy…it’s not going to be a quick effort,” she said. “It depends on the share price.”

She also signalled standardized testing in schools has gone too far and needs to be scaled back because there is too much focus on “teaching to the test.”

Tim Harper: How Andrea Horwath has consigned the Bob Rae monster to the pages of history

May 22, 2018 4:38:56 PM

bob rae consigning the bob rae monster to the pages of history 22 05 2018 star columnists opinion thestar dam content www.thestar.com  https:

“Pink Floyd” and the Clampetts.

Rae Days and massive deficits.

With Andrea Horwath’s NDP showing continued momentum in the Ontario election, is it time again for the Bob Rae monster to burst out of the bedroom closet at night? Will he do an encore as a scary apparition at the stroke of midnight around the spooky electoral bonfire?

Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative team are trying to let the Rae bogeyman out of the cage for one more tour.

Why not? It has worked before.

It was used by Stephen Harper to push back Jack Layton’s 2011 Orange Wave at the Ontario border, by Ontario Tories and Liberals to great effect any time a provincial NDP leader so much as showed a pulse, and it was a strong counter-current to Rae’s attempt to run for permanent leader of the federal Liberals.

Read more:

As Horwath’s poll numbers rise, Doug Ford focuses his attacks on the NDP

An NDP government would not use back-to-work legislation to end strikes, party leader Andrea Horwath says

Opinion | Martin Regg Cohn: The referendum on Andrea Horwath’s NDP is just beginning

It has even been used by a federal NDP leader, Tom Mulcair, who told 2015 election audiences that New Democrats could be fiscally responsible “with one exception — but he’s a Liberal.”

Rae is not the only former NDP premier to be effectively demonized. British Columbia Socreds effectively did the same with the Dave Barrett government of the early 1970s, but that hex, while powerful, did not have the legs of the anti-Rae effort.

Mockery, mythology and mendacity have been the hallmarks of those who have practised the Rae voodoo over the years.

New Democrats have been reticent to defend the Rae record, and federal Liberals had little appetite for defending his NDP legacy as a potential federal leader.

In short, the ghost of Rae as this province’s only New Democrat premier has shown enduring resilience over almost 28 years since his Sept. 6, 1990 election.

But we may be witnessing the end of an era in this province. The monster, it would appear, can be put in a historical box, and we can move on.

The end of the bogeyman — which has been used by all parties to frighten voters by embellishing and embroidering the shortcomings of a government run by an opposing party — can end quietly, but this bogeyman does not depart these earthly bonds easily. This year, it is going out with a bit more noise.

Its death can be attributed to the simple passage of time.

On the day Rae was elected, Horwath was 27 and working at a Hamilton legal clinic, where she advocated for low-income earners, single mothers, injured workers and people with physical challenges .

She had yet to start a family. Her son, Julian, would be born two years later.

She has no relationship with Rae, and never has.

“I’m not Bob Rae. And this is not 1990, this is 2018,” she told the Star’s Kristin Rushowy.

Any voter under 23 casting a ballot on June 7 was not even born during Rae’s government, and a huge voting cohort was playing in sandboxes or grappling with Grade 5 math tests at that time. They have no memory of the Rae government.

Part of its death can come from the messenger invoking the ghost. Ford and his team of Harper veterans may not have the needed credibility to pass along fright because many voters find them plenty frightening themselves.

With the passage of time, as well, has come a more nuanced view of that government, which was born in a global recession and became mired in a national constitutional crisis.

Others now look back and acknowledge Rae was ahead of his time in promoting diversity, gender equality and same-sex benefits. He established midwifery in the province and expanded green space in the GTA.

Given ongoing issues in today’s campaign, one could argue Rae was also ahead of the curve on deficit spending and his opposition to privatizing Ontario Hydro.

You could also argue that the Rae government deserved much of the toxicity that has enveloped its legacy.

Rae is now a special envoy for the Justin Trudeau Liberals and is remaining above the political fray, but he says he governed during a “tremendously challenging” period.

“I remain very proud of my government,’’ he said. “We made difficult choices at a difficult time.’’

His treasurer Floyd Laughren was dubbed “Pink Floyd” after he tried to spend his way out of the deepest recession in half a century, adding $6.7 billion to the provincial deficit in his first budget.

Their early foibles earned the government the nickname “the Clampetts,” a nod to The Beverly Hillbillies, a once-popular television show about country bumpkins who strike oil, move to Beverly Hills and bumble through their days in the big city where they are out of their depth. It, too, drifts in the mist of time.

Rae had to jettison a promise of public auto insurance. One of his rookie cabinet ministers resigned in a “sex” scandal that, as it turned out, involved aspirational sex, but not the actual act itself. Another caucus member posed as a “Sunshine Boy” in a local tabloid.

But this government will always be remembered for its infamous Rae Days, which became for New Democrats what the National Energy Program was for federal Liberals in its Alberta wasteland years.

In 1993, with his government drowning in red ink, Rae imposed up to 12 unpaid days a year for public-sector workers earning more than $30,000. He may have saved almost $2 billion, it may have been a program that has been replicated in other Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions, but it sunk Rae politically.

Unions that resisted the move had their collective agreements unilaterally opened by a government it had supported and the betrayal ran deep and persists to this day.

Rick Smith, the executive director of the Broadbent Institute and former chief of staff to Layton, was involved in those negotiations as a student unionist.

“It was not an easy time dealing with a government intent on doing this when I was a partisan of that government,’’ Smith said. It was a government, he said, that picked fights with important stakeholders, and the lessons from those mistakes have been taken to heart by provincial NDP governments elected since then.

Rae has said his social contract, as he formally named it, aimed to save jobs and have everyone share the pain.

“Firing a bunch of nurses and teachers, young people, would have been a big injustice,” he said recently. “The reality is that in Ontario, as many as 20 per cent of the workforce works for the government. And about 70 to 75 per cent of the cost of government is wages.

“So, if you don't deal with those costs somehow, you're not going to get to a better place.”

Unions saw it differently and the rupture was complete.

When Rae was defeated in 1995, he was left to twist in the wind, the pain of that decision severely limiting any desire among traditional NDP supporters to defend that legacy.

Even those sympathetic to him were too busy fighting the policies of the incoming Mike Harris PC tornado.

When Rae became a Liberal in 2006, any NDP impulse to defend his provincial government died — and the Rae monster continued to grow in stature.

“This was also a government that did not do a very job of defending itself,” said Robin Sears, a longtime party strategist. “They accepted the thesis that they were fiscally incompetent, instead of pointing out that they were governing during a crippling recession.”

It came back to bite Rae himself when he contemplated another run for the Liberal leadership after expertly keeping the party afloat with a strong performance as its interim leader following the 2011 Michael Ignatieff implosion.

On the eve of the 2012 Liberal convention, he delivered a full-throated defence of his government to his federal caucus because the Harper Conservatives were preparing to revisit Rae the NDP premier one more time, gathering documents and media reports showing fiscal incompetence, ready to fire on the would be Liberal leadership candidate.

"Better a Rae Day than a Harper lifetime," he told the caucus.

It didn’t work. He stepped aside to allow the ascension of Trudeau.

Regardless of his status as provincial bogeyman, Rae has never had any trouble getting elected. He was elected three more times as a federal Liberal and left federal politics (for a second time) of his own accord.

He has carved out a long career in public service that has included work with tainted-blood survivors and First Nations. He has been called upon by governments to resolve a fishing crisis and study the state of post-secondary education in Ontario.

He has helped oversee constitutional negotiations with the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers, presided over an inquiry into the Air India disaster and is now Trudeau’s envoy to Myanmar and the Rohingya refugee crisis. Last week, he was honoured with a lifetime achievement award by the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians.

For the next two weeks, however, his role will be that of an observer — instead of frightening apparition — as Horwath becomes the first NDP leader in a generation who can campaign without the weight of the Rae government on her shoulders.

Tim Harper is a former Star reporter and freelance national affairs columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @nutgraf1

Almost half of Toronto tenants paying ‘unaffordable’ rent, study finds

May 22, 2018 7:53:59 PM

barb livesay almost half of toronto tenants paying unaffordable rent study finds 22 05 2018 gta news thestar dam content www.thestar.com  https:

Almost half of Toronto tenants are paying too much in rent and are one health emergency or lost job away from losing their homes, in a city where rental rules favour profits over people, according to a new study.

Where Will We Live? Ontario’s Affordable Rental Housing Crisis, released Tuesday by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, found that 46.9 per cent of Toronto renter households are spending 30 per cent or more of their income on rental costs and that a tenant would have to earn $24 an hour to comfortably pay the going rate.

The 30-per-cent line is a common benchmark used to determine if rental housing is in fact affordable, or if tenants will have enough to afford a decent quality of life once their rent is paid.

In Toronto last year, the average rent for a one-bedroom condominium was about $1,800, while the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $1,200, according to the report, which analyzed rental rates from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., as well as demographics and cost of living.

“It is worse than it looks from these figures,” said Kenn Hale, director of advocacy and legal services at the advocacy centre. “These are not the average rents of units that are available, these are average rents of units that are occupied.”

Ontario landlords can charge whatever they want for empty apartments, and unless the rules are changed the number of affordable units will continue to shrink, Hale said.

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“It is extremely difficult and getting worse,” said Hale.

With a provincial election looming June 7, the study also contains recommendations for candidates on how to better protect Ontario tenants. Included in their list: the creation of more affordable, purpose-built rental homes; new social housing and the preservation of existing stock; recognizing housing as a legal right; and decreasing financial incentives for landlords that result in them pushing out existing tenants.

The advocacy centre is also calling for all candidates to commit to cost-matching any money put forward by the federal government, as part of the national housing strategy, a 10-year, $40-billion plan created with the goal of lifting 530,000 families out of unaffordable and substandard housing and reducing chronic homelessness by 50 per cent.

Hale said continuing to allow landlords to put whatever price they want on empty units will only encourage landlords to push out lower-income tenants and contribute to rising rental rates across the province.

“There is really no reason to it, other than to allow landlords to charge more rent and make more money,” Hale said. “There is nothing in it for tenants and nothing in it for society at large.”

Part of the problem is a lack of available apartments. Toronto’s vacancy rate for one-bedroom apartments was at about 1 per cent last year. Purpose-built rental units, or apartments that were designed strictly as rental stock, have counted for less than 9 per cent of new homes built across the province since the 1990s, the authors reported.

Groups representing landlords have warned that telling property owners exactly what they can charge could backfire, or result in less rental housing. The Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario, in the build-up to a provincial decision to eliminate an exemption that allowed landlords in buildings built after 1991 to freely raise the rent, argued that rent control was not the solution to the city’s affordable housing issues and that clamping down put development dollars at risk.

A dearth of affordable rental housing was why Barb Livesay moved to Parkdale about four years ago. She became a member of tenant advocacy group Parkdale Organize last year, after her landlord told residents that their rent would be going up 3 per cent each year, over three years, to cover the cost of repairs.

“We can’t afford the increases in rent that the landlords are asking for and we know the government won’t do anything about it,” said Livesay, 59, who relies on the Ontario Disability Support Program and Canada Pension Plan to pay about $800 for a bachelor apartment.

Livesay ended up taking part in what was dubbed a “rent strike,” where tenants withheld their rent and held public rallies to protest that proposed increase. The landlord eventually agreed not to raise the rent.

Everybody should have access to affordable housing, said Livesay.

CP24 News

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