Doug Ford: The First 100 Days event sees Liberal, PC speakers spar

Hart House Debate asks how Ford’s government has performed, what it has in store

Doug Ford: The First 100 Days event sees Liberal, PC speakers spar

On September 19, Hart House played host to former Deputy Premier of Ontario Deborah Matthews and the campaign manager for the Progressive Conservative (PC) party that ousted her, Kory Teneycke.

The event was organized by the Hart House Debates and Dialogue Committee and also featured Jaime Watt, an expert in government relations, and Tiffany Gooch, a public affairs consultant.

The sold-out event aimed to discuss the actions taken by Premier Doug Ford and his government since being in office for almost 100 days. The topics touched on included Ford’s climate strategy, his decision to reduce the number of city councillors in Toronto, the threat of the notwithstanding clause to achieve that aim, and the repeal of the basic income pilot project. Their opposing views and political positions came to a head on the debate room floor.

In response to a question about Doug Ford’s intention to “scrap cap and trade, scrap the federal government’s carbon tax, and cancel nearly 800 renewable energy projects,” Matthews brought up how these large and provincial-wide decisions could have a very real impact on students and the U of T campus.

“The money that was raised through cap and trade, every penny was going back into [greenhouse gas (GHG)] reduction. For example, U of T would have received significant money to retrofit buildings to reduce the GHG emissions. That money was earmarked for colleges and universities… to make the buildings more comfortable, but most importantly, to reduce GHG emissions. That money is not available anymore.”

Teneycke responded by supporting Ford’s actions, saying that cap and trade raises costs for consumers at home and results in jobs being driven to “places like China and Mexico” at Canada’s expense.

“If you believe climate change is a global problem, then it’s about global emissions. And if you’re driving jobs from environmentally cleaner jurisdictions to environmentally dirtier jurisdictions — that are using coal power and other things — you’re not actually having a positive impact on global emissions as a whole.”

The back-and-forth dynamic of these two speakers dominated the event.

Their differences were most apparent when the issue of the basic income pilot project was addressed. This experiment was meant to look at the effects of a universal basic income on poverty reduction, but it was discontinued by the Ford government earlier in the year.

Teneycke compared the guaranteed income strategy to the politics of Venezuela, a socialist country that is currently embroiled in an economic crisis.

“It is a bad approach, it’s killed more people than any set of ideas that humanity has ever come up with. So, yeah, an experiment with communism is not something the government is going to double down on.”

Although he later described the use of this comparison as “in part, flippant,” he reaffirmed his criticism of the project.

“People having more money, having more choices that affords them, is a wonderful thing,” he said. “And part of how we do that is called getting a job. I know that’s not possible for everyone in society, but more people that are employed — gainfully employed — means more money we have to help those who are in a position, whether it’s through disability or through other circumstances, to be assisted.”

In opposition to this stance, Matthews said that “if you think that a market-driven economy, a capitalist market-driven economy, has no room for taking care of those that are most vulnerable, then you are wrong.”

Matthews went on to say that the basic income pilot was, at its core, about answering one question: “If people have a little bit more money, would they actually be more likely to go back to school, to get a job, to reduce their reliance on the health care system, to reduce their reliance on the justice system?”

Because the pilot project will not be allowed to run its course, Matthews asserted that we might never know the answer to this question.

Throughout the debate, profanity was thrown around, interruptions were made, and the numerous personal comments verging on attacks “disappointed [Watt] profoundly.”

From all this, Gooch’s response to an audience member, who asked what incentives there are for young people to enter politics, sums up this chaotic event best.

“You need to enter it because it needs you.”

Comparing free speech policies across Ontario universities

Less than half of publicly funded universities confirm they are working on a policy

Comparing free speech policies across Ontario universities

In the wake of the provincial government’s announcement that all universities must have freedom of speech policies in place by January 1, The Varsity examined the state of such policies in Ontario. Out of the 21 publicly funded universities represented by the Council of Ontario Universities, only three have posted freedom of speech policies and six others have confirmed with The Varsity that they are currently taking steps to develop one. U of T is among the universities with an existing policy.

The remaining 12 universities have no confirmed plans to develop the required policies nor do they have a publicly posted freedom of speech policy.

According to Premier Doug Ford’s government, these policies must contain a definition of freedom of speech, principles of free expression, disciplinary measures for actions contrary to the policy, and mechanisms for complaints and compliance.

Failure to comply with the provincial mandate, both in the development and enforcement of the policy, may lead to the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities reducing the institution’s operating grant. In addition to the development of free speech policies, student unions and governments are required to abide by these policies and are also encouraged to develop their own guidelines on freedom of expression.

Existing policies

U of T, McMaster University, and Wilfrid Laurier University are the only publicly assisted universities in Ontario that currently have freedom of speech policies that would theoretically conform to the mandate of the provincial government.

U of T has the oldest policy in the province, released in May 1992 under the title “Statement on Freedom of Expression.” It was established by Governing Council and acts as the university’s policy on freedom of speech.

This was reaffirmed by President Meric Gertler in September, following the Ontario government’s announcement.

“These are the principles that guide the advancement of knowledge and enable academic excellence,” said Gertler in a press release.

The U of T policy is not as fully-formed as the other universities’ ones; it serves mainly as a guideline without fully establishing the principles of free expression that are required by the provincial government.

Published in June, McMaster’s policy is outlined in the “Guidance for Event Organizers and Participants,” which was developed in collaboration with its Ad Hoc Committee on Protest and Freedom of Expression as well as the McMaster community. The policy is much more detailed about the specific elements of protest and free speech, including outlining examples of “acceptable protest and dissent.” Within the policy, roles and responsibilities are defined for audience members, organizers, and facilitators. The policy also includes a specific section to define the “Promotion of Dialogue,” which specifically addresses the inclusion of opposing viewpoints and dialogue within the context of controversial material.

After a censorship controversy in November last year, the Senate of Wilfrid Laurier University published its “Statement of Freedom of Expression” in May.

The document lays out the idea of “inclusive freedom,” which defines the role of marginalized communities and actively assures “that all members – including those who could be marginalized, silenced, or excluded from full participation – have an opportunity to meaningfully engage in free expression, enquiry, and learning.” Unlike U of T and McMaster, the statement defines the role of marginalized communities within the context of the free speech policy, encouraging active opposition through an “educational and intellectual approach.”

In progress

The University of Ottawa, the University of Windsor, Carleton University, Trent University, Nipissing University, and the University of Waterloo all confirmed with The Varsity that various degrees of progress have been made toward developing a free speech policy.

Windsor and Nipissing have both formed committees to develop policies that would abide by the mandate set forth by the provincial government.

Ottawa, Carleton, and Waterloo all endorsed a general statement by the Council of Ontario Universities that welcomes “further discussion” with the Ontario government to “balance the right to free expression with universities’ duty to maintain a civil campus environment.”

Trent confirmed that a draft is being circulated within its community. All six universities mentioned above have also committed to consultations with their provincial counterparts and cooperation with the government.

No confirmed plans

Queen’s University, University of Western Ontario, Ryerson University, Algoma University, and York University all either echo or directly endorse the statement by the Council of Ontario Universities, but have no publicly posted information on their free speech policies. They have confirmed with The Varsity that they will take action to meet the Ontario government’s mandate.

All universities have committed to meeting the deadlines set by the provincial government and pledge a thorough commitment to freedom of expression and speech.

In statements to The Varsity, a main concern of all the universities above was ensuring the maintenance of the universities’ policies on civil discourse, physical safety, and security — as well as finding a balance between freedom of expression and an inclusive environment.

Western’s Director of Media and Community Relations added in his statement to The Varsity, “We need that framework to balance the right to freely express with Western’s duty to offer a civil and inclusive campus environment, along with considerations for the safety and security of our campus community.”

The University of Guelph, Lakehead University, the Ontario College of Art and Design University, Royal Military College, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Brock University, and Laurentian University did not respond to requests for comment.

A closer look into the ‘80,000 Ontario jobs lost’ report

Readers need to interpret data beyond the headlines, especially to prevent its use as a political football

A closer look into the ‘80,000 Ontario jobs lost’ report

On September 7, Statistics Canada released its monthly labour report. Soon after, the media was flooded with the same headline: Ontario loses 80,000 jobs in August. Politicians then rose to action, sparking a quickfire blame game across Queen’s Park. But did Ontario’s economy really come to a sudden slowdown? While the data seems alarming, it does not give a clear enough picture. To make sense of all of this noise, we need more than just a single number.

For starters, many experts are still mystified by the data, providing only a host of speculations. In a Global News article, U of T Economics Professor Angelo Melino attributed the drop to a change in the sample size of the survey.

On the other hand, U of T History Professor Christo Aivalis admitted that the cause of job losses is “unclear,” telling CBC that it is “difficult to say why (job losses) would be happening.” However, Aivalis was not quick, as some may be, to lay blame on the minimum wage hike at the beginning of this year.

According to him, job growth was already slow before the wage hike took effect. His stance is supported by low unemployment, which some experts like Royal Bank of Canada economist Josh Nye also see as a sign that the wage hike is not an economic foe.

Although the cause of this job loss may be unknown, the labour report does provide insight into the most impacted sectors. Major shrinkages occurred in two sectors: from July to August, 71,500 jobs were lost in the services sector and 8,600 jobs were lost in the goods-producing sector on a month-to-month basis. While the seasonality of summer workers may attribute to volatility, experts have yet to identify it as the main culprit of unemployment. Evidently, there is more to these numbers than meets the eye.

While the labour report appears to have indisputable data, it can tell two different stories. Under the lens of politics, it is a sign of a government’s weakness in developing Ontario’s economy. However, through the eyes of an economist, the data is still far from a cautionary tale. Before turning to either side, a thorough examination of the data is required.

In July, Ontario added 60,600 jobs. Coupled with the 80,100 job losses in August, the data points to a “reasonable” level of growth. Melino noted that an average of three months from June to August levels out the month-to-month volatility. It is also important to consider long-term trends in the data. While Ontario’s unemployment rate was recently touted as the lowest in 18 years, it should not be the only figure to rely on.

From August 2017 to August 2018, there was a 10.4 per cent increase in the number of unemployed people aged 15–24, an unfortunate warning sign for students and young workers. In addition, the number of unemployed Ontarians increased by 4.5 per cent. Although some sectors have experienced massive growth, the majority have only seen changes between 0.6 and 3.3 per cent. Full-time employment has increased by three per cent, while part-time employment has fallen 6.7 per cent. Overall, the total number of employed Ontarians has increased by 1.1 per cent.

On a month-to-month basis from July to August, there was a decrease in the participation rate of the workforce from 64.8 to 64.2 per cent. This participation rate is the percentage of people from our total population who are 15 and older and capable of working. Furthermore, there was a slight decrease in the employment rate, which fell from 61.3 to 60.6 per cent. Full-time employment has experienced no changes since July.

It is easy to see how the jobs report could spur such a strong reaction. A huge influx of conflicting data is not easy to digest. From a year-to-year perspective, the sharp August job losses have little effect on the long-term trends in full-time and overall employment numbers. Evidently, part-time employment bore the brunt of the steep losses.

This is not to say that the losses should be ignored. While the monthly measurements do not foreshadow the future, they provide a good snapshot of changes in our economy. A shrinking labour force is certainly not going to fuel growth in the long-term. Adding a lower employment rate and no increase in full-time employment does not make the picture any better. Although monthly measures may reflect some volatility, there are some warning signs hinting at a slowing labour market.

Instead of playing the blame game, Queen’s Park should be focused on breaking down the data. No party could provide a proper explanation as to where and why the job losses occurred. Politicizing the issue by passing the responsibility around does not help our economy.

With a shrinking labour force, young workers are key to Ontario’s economic success. Instead of parading a single number around, all the data must be analyzed. Only through a holistic lens will the picture of Ontario’s economy become clear. While the August jobs report is not a sign of complete economic destruction, it is certainly something worth paying attention to.

Andrea Tambunan is a second-year Math and Statistics student at University College.

Ford’s handling of Toronto city politics, while reckless, is justified

The premier’s determination reflects a new approach to governance which should not be prematurely dismissed

Ford’s handling of Toronto city politics, while reckless, is justified

Premier Doug Ford’s government has proven to be unusual in the tradition of Ontarian politics. Past premiers have tended to err on the side of caution, operating on a moderate, consensus-based program. They have typically prioritized competent and pragmatic governance over grand ideals and purposes. Ford’s firm, populist, “for the people” style, in contrast, translates to an aggressive, uncompromising decision-making process.

Ford’s decision to cut the size of Toronto City Council — and invoke the notwithstanding clause to defend it — is the most recent example of this novel approach to governance. Objectively, the proposal is a justified one: City Council is far from the most efficient and agile institution it could be. While his headstrong pursuit of this quest is reckless, he is fully exercising the government’s legal rights. He is simply pushing the boundaries that no premier has ever thought to go near.

The Better Local Government Act, also known as Bill 5, which passed in August, began the process to cut City Council from 47 members to 25. Ford argues that the measure sought to end the “culture of waste and mismanagement” around the council. He believes that the high number of members entails a redundant and ineffective process, and by reducing its size, it will be “easier to get things done.”

As an idea, this claim is inherently reasonable. City Council is notorious for its inefficiencies. There is an inherent difficulty in having an efficient decision-making process with 47 independent, outspoken voices. When Toronto is compared with other major cities, the council’s size seems excessive. Los Angeles, for instance, has only 15. Philadelphia has 17, Houston has 16, and Vancouver has 10. These cities have established that effective, capable, and democratic local governments can exist in smaller sizes.

Critics argue that the decision is, at best, reckless and, at worst, anti-democratic. Although less efficient, more voices may be more effective in providing representation. For the average citizen, it is much easier to influence a representative of 60,000 than one of 100,000 people.

The strongest critics challenge the legality of the law, accusing Ford of having sinister intentions. In this view, the decision is an autocratic intervention into Toronto’s affairs that compromises the city’s democracy and silences its citizens, and it is also a vendetta against the council for his own negative experiences as a councillor.

These concerns about effective representation come down to a matter of balance. Of course, the city needs several councillors to ensure representation. But with that being said, it surely should not have too many. The claims about Ford’s intentions seem somewhat far-fetched. This decision is simply the result of Ford’s long-held values of smaller and less costly government.

It would also be an exaggeration to call the general proposal an attack on democracy. Municipal governments are well understood to be under the ‘constitutional authority’ of the provinces, thereby justifying provincial jurisdiction over municipal functions, finance, and governing structure.

Critics, however, are right in pointing out that the particular timing and conduct of the decision is reckless. With the municipal election coming up in October, this decision throws the process into a chaotic situation. There is no reason why the decision had to be made now. The move was also done in a very top-down and unrespectable fashion. Mayor John Tory and the council were given no consultation, let alone any warning, that this was coming. It would have been better to propose this policy first as part of a broader, public consultation with the municipality on the various ways City Council could be improved.

This quick, reckless decision also overlooked the potential illegality of the decision, made clear by the Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba’s ruling, which found that Ford’s decision to “suddenly and in the middle of this electoral process impose new rules” compromised both candidates’ and citizens’ freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, Belobaba bases his ruling only on the timing of Ford’s decision, therefore leaving open the possibility that, if done at a latter and more reasonable point, the cuts to the council would be legal and receive no objection from the judiciary.

Ford’s response was unprecedented: the invocation of the notwithstanding clause. As Section 33 of the Charter, this allows the provincial government to overrule certain portions of the Charter. This initially seems to be an overreaction. Although the courts have brought all governments grief, no previous premier has felt Section 33 to be necessary. The clause does have negative connotations, suggesting a disdain for the judicial system and for the Charter itself. The fact that it could be theoretically used to compromise various rights and freedoms has made premiers regard it as too dangerous.

Regardless of the unorthodoxy and recklessness of Ford’s approach, he has the full legal right to follow his course. Section 33 of the Charter was put in place for the exact situation Ford is claiming this to be. The clause, as requested by several provinces, was designed to be an accountability mechanism to the substantial amount of power granted to the courts by the Charter. It also ensures that the legislature, as a democratic and representative assembly, had the final say. Regardless of whether or not this is actually an overreach, the clause allows the Progessive Conservative government to make that determination.

This ability to shrug off convention is consistent with Ford’s ideology and aggressive, populist style — the very thing he promised he would bring to Queen’s Park. Ford is claiming that the good of ‘the people,’ from whom he has, in his own view, received a universal mandate, justifies an aggressive push to get things done regardless of the obstacles in the way. Thus, it is likely that we will continue to see more convention-breaking actions in the future. 

Given that the Ontario Court of Appeal has recently overturned Belobaba’s ruling, the notwithstanding clause has not been used. Nevertheless, the premier’s willingness to do so indicates a new approach to governance in Ontario. 

Sam Routley is a fourth-year Political Science, Philosophy, and History student at St. Michael’s College.

Doug Ford, stop trying to be the Premier of Toronto

Ford’s first months in office culminate in an assault on Toronto city politics, reflecting a faux populism that threatens Ontario's most vulnerable

Doug Ford, stop trying to be the Premier of Toronto

Last September, Doug Ford announced that he would again run for Mayor of Toronto in 2018 — having lost the 2014 election to John Tory. Ford’s experience in City Hall, however, was never commensurate with his eagerness for the mayoralty. As a city councillor, Ford had one of the worst attendance and voting records among his colleagues, often spoke of his frustrations with the council as “dysfunctional,” and even spoke about “running away” from Toronto politics.

Ford first expressed interest in running for Premier of Ontario in 2013, and so he did successfully this past year. His platform was particularly focused on eliminating the “inefficiencies” in government. He also promised to represent Northern Ontario and everyday Ontarians, as opposed to the elites.

But instead of “running away” from Toronto politics, Ford dove right in. One of his most targeted “inefficiencies” seems to be the size of the Toronto City Council, which he tried to halve earlier this summer with the passing of Bill 5.

Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba recently struck down Bill 5 as unconstitutional, ruling that it violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Belobaba’s ruling states that the cuts “undermine an otherwise fair election and substantially interfere with the candidates’ freedom of expression.” In response, Ford is attempting to invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Charter, which would enable him to override certain portions of the Charter and overwrite the judge’s decision.

The number of wards is being debated and contested in the middle of the campaign cycle, with the municipal elections just five weeks away. Opposition and protest against the council size cut has intensified. Former Chief City Planner, U of T instructor, and 2018 candidate for mayor Jennifer Keesmaat even expressed support for Toronto’s secession, though she later retracted this, saying that it was in “frustration.”

Ford claims that he is standing up for the 2.3 million Ontarians who elected him, “because it is the people, not the judiciary, who should ultimately decide how we are governed.” Ford’s reasoning that he is entitled to push through legislation because he was elected, whereas the judge was appointed, is fundamentally flawed.

In an imperfect but functional liberal democracy, it is not sufficient to govern based on the will of the majority, as represented through the government. Rather, there are checks in place to protect individual and minority rights and freedoms. The independence of the judiciary reflects a separation of powers, which is intended to hold the government accountable if it tries to breach those rights and freedoms in the name of ‘democracy.’

It is vital to remember that judges are not elected because the insertion of politics into the judicial system would undermine the very impartiality needed to hold governments accountable. Ford’s disrespect for the judge’s decision undermines the very rule of law upon which our society functions, and sets a dangerous precedent to further invoke the notwithstanding clause whenever he sees fit.

His appeal to majoritarianism is also questionable. Only a plurality, not a majority, of Ontarians, voted for his government; he was handed a majority of seats in the legislature because of the first-past-the-post system. He should therefore be careful when trying to use majoritarian rhetoric, and should understand that his mandate is to govern Ontario, not Toronto.

Like US President Donald Trump, Ford is a faux populist. He claims to be challenging the elites, when in fact he is a millionaire businessman who is very much one of them. Thus far, his policies have not attempted to dismantle the elites, but rather have targeted democratic norms and Ontario’s most vulnerable communities.

His interference with Toronto’s election, for instance, happened without any consultation or electoral mandate — it was never a part of his campaign platform. Furthermore, the impact of the council size cut promises to be devastating. Fewer wards translates to more residents per ward; this means that each individual resident has less representation and voice in government.

This particularly worsens conditions for marginalized communities, who already lack voice when it comes to issues related to low-income and race. They would have benefitted from the 2016 decision to increase the number of wards from 44 to 47, as well as the emergence of newcomer candidates from those communities. Instead, they are left with less access to city democracy than ever.

Ford’s intervention, by adding confusion and uncertainty about the fate of the election, has also shifted public attention away from the actual content of the election. Issues like affordable housing and transit, which are key for students, have unfortunately taken a backseat.

Some argue that Ford’s obsession with Toronto is revenge for his mayoral loss to Tory four years ago. But this understates Ford’s ideological scope. Since the beginning of the summer, Ford’s pursuit of “efficiency” has meant cuts to social, educational, and environmental policies that would have benefitted marginalized communities. He scrapped the basic income project and made cuts to welfare increases; reversed the 2015 sex ed curriculum, which addressed LGBTQ+ issues; cancelled a curriculum update that would have included more Indigenous content; and is challenging the federal government over climate change on the carbon tax plan.

While making cuts, Ford has invested in disciplinary surveillance tactics that threaten marginalized communities. For instance, creating a ‘snitch line’ to report teachers committed to the 2015 sex ed curriculum; threatening universities into adopting ‘free speech’ policies at the risk of losing funding, which invariably targets critics of oppression; and investing millions into the Toronto Police Service in response to a violent summer, even though racialized communities have indicated the need for socioeconomic investment.

Ford’s assault on Toronto parallels his attack on universities, schools, and marginalized communities. All reflect an anti-democratic agenda, which exploits ‘for the people’ rhetoric, but in reality stands up for no one but the most privileged in society.

Democracies function by achieving a fine balance between the will of the majority and the protection of minorities. Ford does neither: he has failed to respect the will of Torontonians and engage in fair democratic processes, and through strongman politics he has made an aggressive assault on vulnerable communities in Ontario.

If Ford is truly committed to the people, he should stop making harmful cuts in the name of “efficiency” and spending time on unconstitutional power plays. He should stop trying to be the Premier of Toronto and undermining the city’s jurisdiction, and focus instead on improving the lives of all Ontarians.

Students’ political, social, and economic interests are at stake. We should be aware and ready to resist Ford if there is no end in sight to his faux populism.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

Chaos erupts at legislature amid protests against Ford government decision to cut size of city council

Protesters arrested, MPPs walk out from heated debate

Chaos erupts at legislature amid protests against Ford government decision to cut size of city council

The Ontario legislature descended into chaos on September 12 after members of the opposition and the public spoke out against Premier Doug Ford’s decision to invoke Section 33 of the Canadian Charter, also known as the notwithstanding clause. This landmark decision comes after a Superior Court ruling struck down Bill 5 on September 10, which would have downsized Toronto City Council from 47 to 25 seats. The invocation of the notwithstanding clause by the government overrules the court decision, and allows Ford to continue with his plan to cut down city council. The provincial government is also appealing the Superior Court ruling.

Ford will be the first Ontario Premier to invoke Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the province’s legislative history. This section of the Charter allows the federal or provincial government to override certain sections of the Charter; in this case, Ford is using it to bypass the court ruling. Most instances of its enactment were in Québec as a form of protest.

Ford made the sudden announcement to use the notwithstanding clause hours after Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba ruled against Bill 5. After he invoked the clause, Ford boasted of “not being shy” to pull such a move.

As a result of this bill, a single city councillor would be representing 120,000 residents in a riding — up from around 70,000–95,000 residents currently. Ford said that by doing this, he will be “saving taxpayer dollars.”

“By invoking the notwithstanding clause, he should expect the people to respond and that the people of Toronto are not going to take their rights being ignored very simply,” said Kate Schneider, a second-year Political Science student who showed up to protest the bill. “They’re not going to just let him override their rights.”

Most protesters were escorted out of the public gallery, and none remained after the first reading. Two protesters were arrested by security, one announcing that she was a “77-and-a-half-year-old woman.”

Members of the opposition criticized the arrest, calling it an attack against democracy.

ANN MARIE ELPA/THE VARSITY

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP), was especially critical of the premier’s motives, calling his move a vendetta against Toronto City Council and the people of Toronto.

“All this time to get back at, to get revenge on NDP city councillors that he didn’t like — that’s not what a Premier is supposed to do. And then to use this heavy hand, to use the notwithstanding clause to attack people’s charter-protected rights?” said Horwath later in a media scrum. “It’s a black eye on our province. It’s a shame that our premier is such a petty, vindictive human being, whose focus is on himself and his own quest to ‘show those folks in Toronto that he’s the boss of them.’”

Horwath also questioned Ford on why there was no mention of such an initiative in his 2018 provincial election campaign, claiming that he is “tramping over people’s right to override the initiative that he did not have the guts to run on.” She, like many other members of the opposition, were ejected from the chamber for disrupting the reading of the bill by banging on desks, coughing, and yelling words such as “democracy.”

Speaker of the House, Progressive Conservative (PC) MPP, Ted Arnott, Ford, and members of Ford’s cabinet left the chamber abruptly at around 10:50 am, reconvening roughly 20 minutes later.

When asked about the events that took place in the galleries, Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney said, “I am fully supportive of our government’s decision to appeal the decision of the Superior Court, which we believe was wrongly decided, and so, we’re appealing that case. And because time is of the essence — there’s an election in the City of Toronto in a few short weeks — we have decided to use a tool that is a available, a legal tool that is available to the legislature.”

“We are using that tool to ensure that… the people of Toronto have rules they need and the clarity that they need for this election.”

Her father, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, was a staunch advocate against the notwithstanding clause. When asked what she would say to her father, she replied, “With respect to my father, his views on the notwithstanding clause have been well documented. He is open to the opportunity to speak to those, and he was opposed to the notwithstanding clause when it was introduced — but he recognizes and said yesterday that it is a legal tool available for democratically-elected legislatures to use.”

Steve Clark, PC MPP for Leeds—Grenville, commented on the decision to invoke the notwithstanding clause, saying that “we came here with the mandate to reduce the cost and size of the government.” Clark said that constitutional experts have indicated that the government is “well within” its rights to invoke the clause.

When asked if six hours was enough time for a thoughtful, measured response to the judge’s decision, Clark responded, “Time is of the essence. We’ve got, on October 22, a municipal election. We need to be able to have some certainty around those 25 ridings and that’s why we’re reintroducing the bill.”

All Ontario universities must develop free speech policies, says provincial government

Policies must be in place by 2019

All Ontario universities must develop free speech policies, says provincial government

The provincial government has mandated that all universities in Ontario draft a policy on freedom of speech by January 1, 2019. This follows Premier Doug Ford’s campaign promise that he would “ensure publicly funded universities defend free speech for everybody.”

In a press statement released on August 30, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities announced that every publicly-assisted college and university will have to develop and publicly post a policy that includes a definition of freedom of speech and principles based on the University of Chicago Statement on Principles of Free Expression, developed in 2014.

Free speech policy

According to the government, the policy must apply to faculty, students, staff, and management alike and uphold principles of open discussion and free inquiry.

The policy should also explain that “the university/college should not attempt to shield students from ideas or opinions that they disagree with or find offensive.”

“Speech that violates the law is not allowed,” according to the press release.

For student groups, failure to comply with the policy in the future could mean a severance of financial support or recognition.

The release also states that schools should “encourage student unions to adopt policies that align with the free speech policy.”

In order to ensure that universities are following through, all schools must prepare annual progress reports for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, beginning in September 2019.

“If institutions fail to comply with government requirements to introduce and report on free speech policies, or if they fail to follow their own policies once implemented, the ministry may respond with reductions to their operating grant funding, proportional to the severity of non-compliance,” according to the press release.

U of T has had a free speech policy in place since 1992. SCREENSHOT VIA FREESPEECH.UTORONTO.CA

U of T’s response

U of T has had policies on freedom of speech in place since 1992. Titled the Statement of Institutional Purpose and the Statement on Freedom of Speech, they state that freedom of speech means “the right to examine, question, investigate, speculate, and comment on any issue without reference to prescribed doctrine, as well as the right to criticize the University and society at large.”

The 26-year-old policy also states that “every member should be able to work, live, teach and learn in a University free from discrimination and harassment.”

In a press release from U of T, President Meric Gertler said, “Our principles have served us well and must continue to guide our practices. It’s important that members of our community understand the university’s policies on how we address these issues.”

“We have a responsibility as a university community to ensure that debates and discussions take place in an environment of mutual respect, and free of hate speech, physical violence or other actions that may violate the laws of the land,” he added.

In response to the Ford government’s announcement, U of T club Students in Support of Free Speech (SSFS) told The Varsity that it is “happy to see the Ontario Government making a commitment to the cause of free speech in Ontario universities and colleges.”

SSFS is a club that fights for the rights of students in regards to freedom of expression. It has hosted some controversial events in the past, including a rally in support of the Halifax ‘Proud Boys’ in July 2017.

“We remain cautiously optimistic as we await the full policy, and look forward to the work of Minister [of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee] Fullerton,” said the SSFS. “We hope this policy ensures the rights of students to express themselves freely while maintaining a respectful environment free from harassment and discrimination.”

The politics opposing the cap and trade plan are bad science

Ford’s climate change initiatives are damaging at best

The politics opposing the cap and trade plan are bad science

“We are getting Ontario out of the carbon tax business.”

One of Premier Doug Ford’s first moves was to scrap the cap and trade plan in Ontario and challenge the federal government. The cap and trade program rewards businesses and corporations for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to below the provincial government’s set threshold.

Now, the Ford government promises to eliminate the carbon tax as early as next month.

Environment and Climate Change Canada also scaled back its carbon tax plan, and Ford has used it as a political tool to divide Ontario from the federal government.

Starting in 2019, however, the federal government will tax Ontario companies $20 for every tonne of greenhouse gas emitted and up to $50 per tonne in 2022.

According to Matthew Hoffman, U of T political science professor, “The federal government will collect the carbon tax for the province and then funnel the tax back into the province” to aid companies and individuals with higher costs of living. However, the main issue with the federal government’s design is how exactly that will be achieved.

The carbon tax is meant to be revenue neutral, contrary to Ford’s claim that the tax is a business.

Climate change should be of greater concern to Ontarians, and scaling back the cap and trade program and rewarding corporations that pollute heavily should not be endorsed.

The Liberals had introduced the cap and trade system to Ontario, setting a long-term goal to reduce emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, as well as several interim objectives.

With Ontario under cap and trade, over three-quarters of Canadians would live in a province with some form of carbon pricing. However, Ford is erasing this progress.

Incidents like the Ford government’s scrapping of cap and trade are microcosms of a growing issue where climate change has become one of the most polarizing issues in Canadian politics.

Climate change is a unique issue in Canadian, American, and Australian politics, says Hoffmann, because in most places in the rest of world, it is not a partisan issue.

Unlike the rest of the world, where the political debate is about what should be done to stop climate change, the debate in Canadian politics is whether anything should be done at all, he says.

Despite this divide, the Progressive Conservatives have promised to unveil a climate change plan in the upcoming months.

Hoffmann believes that the Ford government’s promise to come up with an alternative climate change plan shows that Ontarians are concerned about climate change. In fact, voters have already been impacted by climate change. According to Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy, the 2013 ice storm in Southern Ontario inflicted approximately $1 billion in damages.

According to a 2011 report by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, climate change could cost Canadians up to $91 billion by 2050.

“Ontario voters also expect that the government should have a climate plan,” says Hoffman. “You don’t see massive protests in Ontario that are against the environment.”

The growing story is whether Justin Trudeau’s federal government will impose a carbon tax on the Ontario government if the Ford government loses the battle.

This can already be seen in the Trudeau government’s recent action to ‘soften’ the carbon tax in order to keep businesses competitive in Canada. What will become of Ontario and Canada’s greenhouse emission initiatives may be determined by next year’s elections.

If the Liberals choose to impose the carbon tax on Ontario, it could set off a political battle that may not end anytime soon.