Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Duncan takes heat over $81M, OLG-owned power plant in his riding

No problem....were getting hit with the HST!

September 29, 2009
Maria Babbage
The Canadian Press
TORONTO — The Opposition Conservatives are demanding to know why the province spent $81 million to build an energy plant that powers a Windsor casino in a senior minister’s riding.

The staggering figure attached to the Windsor Energy Centre, which emerged in the government’s annual spending numbers Friday, raises a lot of questions, said Tory critic Peter Shurman.

“First of all, why was this power plant built? Why does a lottery and gaming corporation own a power plant?” he said.

Shurman raised the plant’s cost in the legislature today and called on Finance Minister Dwight Duncan to explain why so much cash went to his “pet project.”

Duncan wouldn’t elaborate about the cost of the plant, which is owned by the OLG, citing a recent lawsuit over its ownership.

But any suggestion that the plant amounted to political pork-barrelling in his Windsor riding are “wrong,” he said outside the legislative chamber.

Buttcon Energy Inc., which operated the plant until recently, announced Aug. 31
that it had filed a $355-million lawsuit against the OLG.

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract, “misfeasance (and) misrepresentation,” among other claims which have not been proven in court. The OLG said it will fight those claims in court.

Duncan seemed displeased today with the plant’s large price tag, saying it was one of the reasons he cleaned house at the problem-plagued Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

“That’s an example of another issue that caused me great concern when I was given the file two months ago, and as a consequence, we’ve taken some steps,” he said in an interview.

Duncan announced Aug. 31 that the OLG board had been replaced and its CEO, Kelly McDougald, had been fired. That same day, the government released thousands of pages of what were deemed “unacceptable” expense claims filed by lottery executives.

McDougald has launched an $8.4-million wrongful dismissal suit against OLG, the Crown and Duncan, claiming breach of contract, moral and punitive damages, defamation and “loss of opportunity to enhance reputation.” The Ontario government has said it will dispute the claim.

Duncan said there were two casino projects approved by the province’s auditor general, which were designed to create jobs in the province.

“There are legitimate questions,” he acknowledged. “Why did we do it in the first instance? Second of all, why did OLG say it would be 40 and it came in at $80 million? And these are the kinds of issues that I’ve been tasked to deal with.”

The power plant is just another fiasco for the governing Liberals, who’ve been dogged for months by spending scandals at other Ontario agencies, Shurman said.

The Tory critic said Duncan is hiding behind a lawsuit instead of giving straight answers about why the OLG spent taxpayers’ dollars to build the plant.

“I have never seen anything so mealy-mouthed as Minister Dwight Duncan on this question,” he added.

OLG spokesman Rui Brum said he couldn’t comment on why the corporation had the plant built, as it may come up in litigation stemming from the Buttcon lawsuit.

The OLG-owned plant provides heating, cooling and backup power to the new hotel tower, convention areas and entertainment centre at Caesar’s Windsor casino, which opened in July 2008, he said.

Buttcon Ltd. started construction on the plant for the OLG in 2007. Buttcon Energy Inc. operated it until recently, he said. Angus Consulting Management Ltd. is currently operating the plant in the short term.

The Spec

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Toronto police officer who works as an investigator in the traffic services division has been charged for allegedly leaving the scene of a crash.

No doubt a great community leader!!!

A Toronto police officer who works as an investigator in the traffic services division has been charged for allegedly leaving the scene of a crash.

Det. Const. Paul Higgins, 49, was charged Sunday with failing to stop after an accident, Toronto police said in a news release on Monday.

At 1:13 p.m. ET on Saturday, police were called to a two-car collision on the Gardiner Expressway near Jameson Avenue.

Both drivers exited the highway and pulled over. A passenger in one of the cars approached the other car, asking the driver for his name and telling him that police had been called.

The driver said his name was Paul and drove off.

Higgins, who has served on the force for 24 years, is scheduled to appear in court at Old City Hall on Nov. 10.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Two more quit scandal-ridden eHealth board

Hudak charges that premier allows 'Liberal friends to sneak out back door' ahead of auditor's report

Sep 24, 2009 04:30 AM
Rob Ferguson
Queen's Park Bureau
Two members of the board at eHealth Ontario – including a prominent Liberal – have quit, just before more heads are expected to roll over a spending scandal at the troubled agency.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said the timing of the departures is suspicious, with the auditor general's report on the expense account scandal due early next month and results from more Tory freedom of information requests on untendered contracts on tap for next week.

"We'd like to know exactly what circumstances suddenly changed," he told the Legislature yesterday, comparing the departures with the recent firing of Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. chief executive Kelly McDougald earlier this month.

"Why is the premier allowing his Liberal friends to sneak out the back door rather than making a big show like he did with the OLG?"

Leaving the board at the provincial electronic health records agency are Geoff Smith, a former chair of the Ontario Liberal Fund, and Khalil Barsoum, who was widely criticized for charging taxpayers $4,600 for flights to Toronto from his Florida vacation home for board meetings.

Premier Dalton McGuinty deflected Hudak's questions to Health Minister David Caplan, who said he did not know why the two men were leaving, other than for personal reasons.

"It is with regret that we have accepted their resignations," Caplan said, noting the departures first revealed yesterday by Hudak were not requested by the government.

"This is like Hogan's Heroes," shouted New Democrat MPP Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay), referring to the 1960s comedy about a dim-witted sergeant at a German prisoner-of-war camp run by an ineffective commandant. "We've got Schultz and Klink ... `I know nothing.'"

Smith, whose last major fundraiser for the Liberals was a March dinner, told the Star he resigned effective July 6 because his position as chief executive of construction firm EllisDon required more time, given the challenges of the recession.

"During the period of time I was on the eHealth board, I did not feel I was doing either job well enough, and I therefore resigned from the eHealth Board in order to focus on my day job."

Barsoum, a retired IBM executive, formally submitted his resignation early this month after tipping his hand weeks earlier, said new eHealth chair Rita Burak, who was brought in by the government after the scandal exploded last spring and resulted in the departure of then-chief executive Sarah Kramer.

As for the reimbursement of his flight receipts, "he took advice from the people of the day and he in good faith submitted his expenses and they were paid," Burak said.

Hudak said the Conservative freedom of information requests include a search for any details of untendered contracts awarded to EllisDon by the government.

Caplan suggested there aren't any, and noted the company is one of several building new hospitals in the province, all jobs awarded through a public bidding process.

Toronto Star

Ontario can't drop new tax

Daddy Dalton's nose just poked out Dwight's eye, as it just grew 3 feet.

Sep 24, 2009 04:30 AM

Robert Benzie
Queen's Park Bureau Chief
Ontario's controversial harmonized sales tax is here to stay – no matter who wins the next federal or provincial elections, documents confirm.

Buried in the fine print of the accord signed last March between Ottawa and Queen's Park is a clause that ensures the new 13 per cent tax, which takes effect July 1, remains at that rate until at least 2012.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said yesterday he was not up on the minutiae of the four-page memorandum of agreement, which also stipulates the HST must be in place through 2015.

"I'm actually not familiar with that stuff," McGuinty said. "I'm sure that (Finance Minister Dwight Duncan) will be of help."

He said it was important for both levels of government to give the levy, which blends the 8 per cent provincial sales tax with the 5 per cent federal goods and services tax, a strong foundation.

"Our intention is simply to put in place a tax system that is modern and efficient and that enhances our competitiveness and enables us to create more jobs – that's what it's all about," the premier told reporters.

"In no jurisdiction that they have put this into place have they ever repealed it.

"There's a broad consensus among economists and, in their hearts of hearts, politicians as well, that this is the right thing to do," he said.

Duncan, who co-signed the pact with federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, said Ottawa insisted upon the provisions that entrench the business-friendly HST.

"That was something the federal government wanted. The Canada Revenue Agency will now collect the tax and it's enormously complex," said Duncan.

"We agreed to it. Ontario political parties, if they choose, ... can start changing it – either raising it or lowering it, frankly –in 2012," he said, noting that any modifications would have to wait until nine months after the October 2011 election.

In exchange, the federal government is giving Ontario $4.3 billion in transition funds, most of which will be passed along to lower- and middle-income families in the form of rebate cheques.

Duncan's comments came after federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff finally admitted Monday he would not repeal the tax if his party defeats Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Tories.

Ignatieff's view of the tax has national implications since an almost-identical deal with British Columbia means that province will have a 12 per cent HST as of next July 1 in exchange for $1.6 billion in federal funding.

Designed to be business-friendly, the streamlined HST will raise the price of a slew of goods and services in Ontario that are not now subject to the provincial sales tax, including gasoline, fast-food value meals, tobacco and funerals.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak expressed alarm at the emerging details in the Flaherty-Duncan accord.

"It certainly sounds like Dalton McGuinty is trying to lock Ontario taxpayers into a bad deal – a deal that will see some $2.5 billion sucked out of their pockets and into the government treasury," Hudak said.

With provincial Conservative sources suggesting the party might campaign in 2011 on cutting the tax to 12 per cent, the Tories' policy-making could be hamstrung by the agreement.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who also opposes the tax but hadn't studied the accord, said it is further evidence "why we have to stop the tax from even going in."

"We have to become more vigorous in our opposition to the tax and we have to get the people of Ontario to join the campaign against it because ... we have to make sure the tax never sees the light of day in Ontario," said Horwath.

As opposition parties strive to derail the HST, proponents have formed the Smart Taxation Alliance to help sell it.

It is made up of tax boosters like the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters Ontario, the Certified General Accountants of Ontario, the Ontario Road Builders' Association, the Ontario Trucking Association, the Retail Council of Canada, TD Bank, and the Toronto Board of Trade.

The group said the tax would slash red tape and save businesses $500 million a year in administrative costs alone.

It notes that getting rid of the separate PST and GST will remove $5 billion in "layers of embedded taxes" and increase competitiveness.

Toronto Star

Friday, September 25, 2009

Officer rapped in case involving Star reporter

This officer should make a great leader of the union..........

Sep 25, 2009 11:42 AM
Robyn Doolittle
Crime Reporter
Const. Michael McCormack, who is running for the Toronto Police Association presidency, was convicted of insubordination at a police tribunal this morning.

Supt. Jane Wilcox said she did not believe McCormack's testimony that he was carrying out police business when he ran a former Star crime reporter's name through law enforcement databases.

McCormack was charged with insubordination under the Police Act after checking reporter John Duncanson's name on three police databases in January 2008.

Duncanson, who died in January, wrote extensively about police corruption in the service – including stories involving McCormack's brother, William Jr.

Earlier, McCormack told the hearing that Duncanson wanted to meet.

"He (said he) had information for me," McCormack testified. Duncanson also mentioned he was facing impaired driving charges.

McCormack testified he checked databases "to see if John was wanted or should be in court."

But prosecutor Insp. Scott Gilbert alleged it was done for personal reasons.

McCormack will likely lose three days pay. His lawyer, Peter Brauti, who could not appear today for personal reasons, will meet with Wilcox next week to set a date for sentencing submissions.

Outside the hearing, McCormack said he felt the wrong decision was made and it should not affect his run for the union.

The Star.com

Ontario deficit $2.5B worse than expected

Ontario's deficit for the last fiscal year was $2.5 billion higher than expected, driven by a 48 per cent drop in corporate tax revenue.

The provincial budget in March forecast a deficit of $3.9 billion in the 2008-09 fiscal year ended March 31, 2009.

But according to financial statements released Friday afternoon by the government, the deficit for the year stands at $6.4 billion.

Corporate tax revenues for the year totalled $6.7 billion, the statements show. In 2008, the government had pegged that number at $12.3 billion.

'Difficult choices ahead'
"As I've indicated in the past when we had numbers, we were very careful to say that there is enormous volatility in the economy," Finance Minister Dwight Duncan told CBC News. "Corporate taxes are historically the most volatile tax, and that volatility has come through."

Duncan also hinted that the government's projections for next year's deficit may go up. In March, he forecast a $14.1-billion deficit in 2009-2010.

"It'll depend on whether or not what we have seen up until March of this year continues on and it also depends on how quickly government revenues get restored to where they were," said Duncan, when asked about a possible change in that projected figure.

"One thing we know is that both growth in employment and growth in government revenues tend to lag growth in the economy. That's been the experience after every major downturn in the last generation."

The Ministry of Finance has predicted Ontario's GDP will contract by 2.5 per cent for 2009 before growing by 2.3 per cent the following year.

The government has some "difficult choices ahead," Duncan said, adding he would elaborate during his fall statement, expected in October.

He would not say if the government would stick to its plan to eliminate deficits by fiscal year 2015-2016.

Opposition questions Liberal credibility
The Progressive Conservatives said "it was no surprise" the Liberals waited until Friday afternoon to release the public accounts.

"Premier Dalton McGuinty has lost all credibility when it comes to managing the province's finances," said Opposition finance critic Norm Miller.

"We fell faster and harder than other provinces in this recession."

The New Democrats charged that the government was always playing politics with its budget forecasts and should agree to set up an independent budget office like the federal government's.

"Ontarians should expect an impartial budget document, not one clouded by partisan political spin like we've gotten from the McGuinty government," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

"Each and every update out of the mouths of the premier and the finance minister was rosy. It turns out their spin was far from the truth," she said.

The province's debt grew this fiscal year by $14.7 billion, which included some accounting practice changes, to $113.2 billion, according to the documents.

But Duncan touted his government's management of finances, saying spending growth was brought to its lowest level in eight years.

Total spending for the year stood at $96.9 billion, an increase of 0.37 per cent from the previous fiscal year.

With files from The Canadian Press


Toronto officer charged with sexual assault

A Toronto police officer with four years' service has been charged with sexual assault.

Const. Richard Akunyili, 35, is alleged to have sexually assaulted a female victim at her home Wednesday. The officer was off-duty at the time, police said.

Akunyili works in the Toronto Police Service's 52 Division, which covers a central downtown area south of Bloor Street.

Akunyili, who was arrested and charged Thursday, is due to make a court appearance Monday.


Police officer cleared in crash that killed colleague.

September 25, 2009
Canadian Press

LONDON, Ont. — Ontario’s police watchdog has cleared a provincial police officer of any criminal wrongdoing in a crash that killed her colleague.

On July 6, Const. Alan Hack died when the cruiser in which he was a passenger collided with a tractor-trailer in Elgin County.

The Special Investigations Unit says the driver, Const. Lynn Neale, drove through a stop sign moments before the crash.

The SIU says it appears Neale never saw the truck until the last moment due to her focus on a suspect trying to elude police.

The agency adds that Neale did nothing a “reasonable person” in a similar situation wouldn’t have.

Hack, who was 31, was in the back seat and neither he nor Neale was wearing a seatbelt. Both were thrown from the cruiser.

The Spec


Sharon Bamford photo

No Spin and from The Toronto Sun, props for Connie Woodcock
I wonder what Fantino's fan club at the Sun thinks of this article?

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino is well known for taking his religion seriously.

I realize that makes a lot of people nervous in our secular society but as an active Anglican myself, I rather like it. Surely it's a good thing that the most influential police officer in Ontario is a happy warrior when it comes to the major Christian prohibitions -- no killing, for example, and no stealing. What can be wrong with that?

But a couple of weeks ago, he said something that bothered me to no end.

He was commenting on the decision of an Ontario judge that struck down a particularly contentious section of the law against stunt driving that allows police to seize a speeder's vehicle and licence immediately -- before the driver has been found guilty in court.

The judge found the seizures to be unconstitutional since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees a person is considered innocent until proven guilty.


But the OPP are going to continue seizing vehicles while the decision is under appeal and Fantino justified it by calling it "the Lord's work."

"When you look at the carnage that we're experiencing on our highways, the kinds of injuries we're having to deal with, the extraordinary health costs, the loss of productivity, the loss of a loved one, all of which is preventable, and you look at speed being a causal factor," he told a Sun Media reporter. "I think we're doing the Lord's work, personally. And we'll continue doing it."

Seizing vehicles is the Lord's work?

Oh really? Funny, but I don't recall the Almighty making any references whatever to "stunt driving" and I wasn't aware He got involved in constitutional matters, although I'm pretty sure that "thou shalt not steal" is up fairly high on His list of priorities.

And seizing the car of someone who has not been proven guilty seems a lot like stealing to me.

The particular case involved an Ontario grandmother who was caught doing 51 km/h over the limit. The stunt driving law kicks in at 50. She says stunt driving was about the farthest thing from her mind. She was just trying to get past a big truck as quickly as she could and who among us hasn't done that?

Professional drivers will tell you that you really don't want to be in the trucker's blind spot any longer than necessary.

There's a big difference between a woman passing a truck quickly and a bunch of kids in hot cars out street racing, but the law doesn't allow for differentiation. When you cross the 50 km/h threshold, you're done and the fine ranges up to $10,000.

The law has been called everything from ridiculous to odious and to hear the OPP commissioner say enforcing it is doing the Lord's work is offensive.

I wonder what he calls that other ridiculous and odious practice that allows Ontario cops to seize a vehicle when the driver blows .05 on a breathalyzer test even though the law draws the line on impairment at .08?

Now I don't like Bible "proofers" -- those objectionable people who are forever quoting scripture to prove whatever they want. But this time, I can't resist.

So here are a few words for the commissioner straight from the horse's mouth. "Blessed are those who show mercy; mercy shall be shown to them."

And better yet, "Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of right; the kingdom of heaven is theirs."

So no, I don't think Fantino is doing the Lord's work on this one. Maybe that other guy's, though...


The Toronto Sun

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saying what needs saying!

Ontario has added one more journalist to a very very very small group, who will actually report a story the way it is!

Bryant and bike courier a class issue

Sep 18, 2009 04:30 AM
Antonia Zerbisias
"A journalist's job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Attributed to American critic H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

On Sept. 1, after former Ontario attorney-general Michael Bryant was charged with "criminal negligence causing death" and "dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death," there wasn't much comforting the afflicted.

Anyway, bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard was more than afflicted.

He had been left bleeding from his nose and mouth on Bloor St., only to die in hospital after allegedly being bashed against a mailbox while hanging on to Bryant's convertible.

These are the claims that Toronto has learned from witnesses, police and media reports.

There is no dispute that, not only did Bryant engage one of the best criminal lawyers money could buy, he lined up a top-tier communications firm called Navigator to handle his public representations and, as the Star reported, shopped for a private investigator to dig up evidence.

It's very difficult not to remark on the unfair physical match between a cyclist and a motorist.

It's also tough not to notice the imbalance between a once-promising politician and the unfortunate product of just about the very worst sequence of disadvantages any Canadian can be born into.

So yes, this is very much a class issue.

Since that tragic late summer evening which has divided this city – cyclist v. motorist, rich v. poor, right v. left, pitbull lover v. Bryant's hated legislation – there's been much ink spilled on whether Sheppard was drunk, whether he grabbed Bryant's wheel, whether he slammed his backpack on the hood, as well as his past.

Just this week in Maclean's, for example, there is no sympathy spared for the victim.

But, as former Olympic cyclist and cycling lawyer Bob Mionske outlines on Bicycling.com, it's all spin.

"Why do I think it's spin?" he asks. "Because details about Sheppard's ancient run-ins with the law over stolen cheques had nothing to do with what happened the night of his death. Neither did stories about noise complaints from neighbours, or his problems with alcohol ... But they had everything to do with shaping public opinion, turning the public against Sheppard, and in support of Bryant."

That's why you can't help but get the impression that some people are more equal than others.

Except that now, Twitter and YouTube have brought yet another perspective. Which brings us to @BryantTruths and HonestEdits.

HonestEdits, who has been posting surveillance videos from the scene on YouTube, prefers to remain anonymous. HonestEdits' videos, compressed for clarity, string together two clips in a chronological sequence that the corporate media have not presented.

True, they're not exactly high-definition. (Try an iPhone.) And they may not tell the whole story. In fact, last week, when the first video popped up, the Bryant camp, via its blog, denounced its narration as "inaccurate and one-sided."

Now that post is gone – but I have screen grabs.

Interestingly, what's not gone is the video, plus others since added, now viewed some 40,000 times, collectively, and on various blogs.

PR pro and and cycling advocate Don Wiedman is @BryantTruths, tweeting what he calls "the other side of the story."

He does it because he feels that the PR profession is getting a bad name – and also because he has found himself in street face-offs with "guys in their 40s in big black cars."

As he told me, "I want a better world. I want to fight for the underdog."

Which is what journalism should be about.

Meanwhile, the Navigator-produced bryantfacts.wordpress.com and tweets (@BryantFacts) have scaled back – with the former now containing only a terse announcement that it "will be used for the release of any official statements."

Bryant will have his day in court next month – and, presumably, a trial will eventually follow.

As both Weidman and Honest-Edits tell me, Sheppard may be dead – he won't be silenced.

Antonia Zerbisias is a Living section columnist. azerbisias@thestar.ca. She blogs at thestar.blogs.com.

Toronto Star

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

McGuinty accused of misleading public

Karen Howlett

Toronto — From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Last updated on Tuesday, Sep. 15, 2009 02:59AM EDT

.The Ontario Legislature's fall session began yesterday with the opposition formally accusing Premier Dalton McGuinty of misleading the public over a provincial agency embroiled in a spending scandal.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak set the tone during Question Period by asking the Premier about his “summer of scandal.” It was Mr. Hudak's first opportunity to confront Mr. McGuinty face-to-face in the legislature since he became leader in June.

The Conservatives have kept the Premier on the defensive all summer over lavish spending at two provincial agencies, and government officials were bracing for a fresh round of revelations from the opposition when the legislature returned.

“I just kept waiting and waiting,” a government source said yesterday.

But Mr. Hudak confined his attacks to scandal-plagued eHealth Ontario and statements made by Mr. McGuinty that, Mr. Hudak says, are “demonstrably false.”

The Tories and New Democrats together lodged a formal complaint with the Speaker's Office, accusing the Premier and Health Minister David Caplan of deliberately misleading the legislature about a review of eHealth.

The matter dates back to early June, when Mr. McGuinty said accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers had been retained to conduct an independent review of lucrative contracts the agency had awarded to consultants without competitive tenders.

But there never was a contract in place to retain the accounting firm, Mr. Hudak said.

“He misled Ontarians,” he said. “It is clear that Ontarians cannot trust him to fix the culture of entitlement that he himself created.”

Mr. McGuinty said during Question Period that the Pricewaterhouse review was called off because the provincial auditor was already conducting his own review of eHealth.

“It was certainly my understanding that PWC had been retained,” Mr. McGuinty said. “There is no nefarious plot afoot, as my friend may intimate.

The government has been under siege over eHealth since last May, when the Tories obtained documents through a freedom-of-information request, showing that the agency awarded sole-sourced contracts to consultants, many of whom submitted nickel-and-dime expense claims. The revelations led to the resignations of CEO Sarah Kramer and chairman Alan Hudson in June.

The Premier's Office released several letters, showing that Mr. Caplan had, in fact, asked Dr. Hudson to undertake an immediate third-party review of eHealth's management practices.

“I am troubled by inadequate reassurances following reports about eHealth Ontario's spending practices,” Mr. Caplan says in the letter, dated June 1.

But the audit was called off after Auditor-General Jim McCarter wrote to Rita Burak, Dr. Hudson's successor, on June 29, saying that having Pricewaterhouse do a review would amount to a potential duplication of his work.

Mr. McGuinty has taken steps to rein in agencies that operate at arm's length from the government, after spending scandals at eHealth and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. The government fired the lottery corporation's CEO, Kelly McDougald, with cause, and the entire board resigned amid revelations of wining and dining by employees. Ms. McDougald has launched a lawsuit against the government.

Yesterday, the government announced that senior executives at 21 of the province's largest agencies will be required to publish their spending on travel and entertainment online, beginning no later than April 1.

“We're going to shine a light on expenses so Ontarians will know who exactly is spending what exactly,” Mr. McGuinty told reporters.

Globe and Mail

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I see it, the jury surely can't miss this

National Post editorial board: The beginning of the end for a stupid law

Posted: September 11, 2009, 8:30 AM by NP Editor

So the Attorney-General of Ontario says he believes -- contrary to an opinion handed down last week by Ontario Court Justice Geoffrey Griffin -- that the province's stunt-driving law is wholly constitutional, and will be upheld on an appeal he intends to make. Well, perhaps it is all for the best that appellate courts will quickly get to review, and trample, the odious provision that makes exceeding the posted speed limit by 50 km/h an "absolute liability" offence that effectively allows for no defence by the accused. Judge Griffin's ruling is only binding on justices of the peace; by taking the matter to a higher court, Attorney-General Bentley is risking a more permanent, unconditional and thorough reversal.

One says "risking," but the outcome is as certain as any such matter could imaginably be. The absolute liability provision in the stunt-driving law could not be more obvious or ostentatious in its unconstitutionality. The Charter of Rights says that an accused person is "to be presumed innocent until proven guilty," but the norms underlying the notion of proof of guilt are much older -- in a way, more deeply entrenched in our common understanding of the law and our relations with the state. Since time immemorial, prosecutors seeking to convict on an offence have had to meet a dual test; that the illegal act or omission actually happened and that the accused intended to do wrong, or was somehow careless or negligent. In short, that they possessed mens rea. It's in Latin, which is a useful hint at how old the concept is.

The law dismisses the requirement to prove intent when it comes to lighter penalties such as the loss of driving privileges, but it is platinum-clad Canadian law, established in the B.C. Motor Vehicle Reference of 1985, that absolute liability cannot lead to a risk of imprisonment, or indeed to any penalty that impinges upon the "life, liberty and security of the person." The attorney-general who created the stunt-driving law ought to have known that it would collapse the first time it was challenged -- indeed, that no judge who was aware of Charter jurisprudence would have any other choice. But Michael Bryant is, understandably, too busy with personal matters at the moment to offer an explanation of why he wasted the time and effort of Ontario courts framing and debating legislation that was patently unconstitutional.

Mr. Bryant is an easy target here, but one notices that the case which led to Judge Griffin's ruling exhibits signs of a sickening failure of human sympathy and social reasoning on the part of police and prosecutors. Jane Raham was caught just one km/h over the stunt-driving limit while trying to pass a truck on Highway 7 near Kaladar, Ont. She could have based a defence on the inherent inaccuracy of a measurement of her speed taken from a moving police car; instead, she and her lawyers --pardon the metaphor -- took the high road, acting for the benefit of all citizens.

As Justice Griffin observed, Ms. Raham is not, in any ordinary sense of the word, a "stunt driver"; she is a grandmother who didn't want to stay in the blind spot of a truck, or in the passing lane of a highway, any longer than necessary. This seems not only natural, but indicative of a positive, sensible road awareness and concern for safety (not to mention a willingness to step on the gas that is quite laudable in an older person).

But inexplicably, nobody decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and revise the stunting ticket before this matter even reached a courtroom. Why not? Are Ontario's police nothing but unthinking automatons determined to see the law upheld at any cost in human suffering and fear? We certainly hope not -- and think not in most cases. But the danger that some of them might be is one more reason the law should not stand in its current form.

National Post

Julian Fantino: Business as usual!

I love what "Mr Accountabilty" calls it!
This is same Comissioner who's on his second adjudicator and the THIRD appeal to have the second adjudicator tossed in the internal hearing up in Orillia..........That's hysterical nonsense
Hat's off to you Mr. Clarkson for asking some decent questions.

Judge declares part of stunt-driving legislation unconstitutional but law will still be enforced, OPP Commissioner says


OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino calls it "the Lord's work."
He said his officers will "make no apologies" for continuing to enforce a law that gives police the power to impound vehicles, suspend licences, and slap high fines against drivers before the driver has a chance to appear in court.

After a Napanee judge ruled a section of the provincial anti-stunt driving law to be unconstitutional, Fantino defended the legislation as the "greater good" and said police shouldn't be regarded as the "bad guys" for trying to save dangerous drivers from themselves and others.

"We're saving lives," Fantino said. "The people who need to get their act together are those who are driving aggressively, who are driving dangerously, who in this case are driving in excess of 50 km/h over the posted speed limit. They're the ones who are the problem, we're not it.

"We're just trying to save them from being killed and killing other people," Fantino said.

Fantino's comments came after Justice Geoffrey Griffin ruled in a Napanee courthouse on Friday that a section of the province's stunt-driving legislation is unconstitutional.

Jane Raham, 62, was returning from Kanata when she was clocked at 131 km/h in an 80 km/h zone. She was charged with going more than 50 km/h over the limit and had her licence automatically suspended and her car seized for seven days.

Griffin's ruling focused on whether convicting Raham solely on the basis of her speed alone made the law an absolute liability offence, one in which an accused can't advance a defence that they acted reasonably or were mistaken in fact.

Because he found it did just that, Griffin ruled it was unconstitutional as it allows for up to six months in jail.

Fantino spoke with the Sun today about the court's decision and the legislation itself.

TORONTO SUN: An Oakville woman's conviction was overturned on Friday after a judge ruled that a section of the stunt-driving law is unconstitutional. Your thoughts?

OPP COMMISSIONER JULIAN FANTINO: This is the ruling of one court on one case. It doesn't strike down the law, nor does it prevent us from continuing to enforce the law, as is our authority to do. So we'll continue to do that and I'm sure that as with every other new law that we've seen come around, there's always this initial phase of appeals of appeals and so forth.

Contention is always on the forefront of new pieces of legislation. We had that happen with the RIDE program, there was all kinds of challenges about the the helmet law, the seat-belt law...we're going to keep enforcing it.

SUN: The argument was that a charge (under the legislation) can automatically lead to a fine, the vehicle being impounded, possible jail time. The lawyer (Brian Starkman) argued that there's no way to advance a defense under this law.

FANTINO: With all due respect to the court, the defense is to not speed over 50 km/h from the posted speed limit. That's the absolute defense. We make no apologies for continuing to enforce this until the issue is ultimately resolved. That will be something that will take place, for sure, in time.

And just for your edification, on OPP-patrolled highways, speed-related fatalities are down 30% since this law came into effect.

SUN: So you think that data speaks for itself?

FANTINO: I think it does. It's a greater-good kind of initiative. We don't consider this a frivolous piece of legislation, nor do we see it as a abuse of due process or peoples' rights or entitlements.

When you look at the carnage that we're experiencing on our highways, the kinds of injuries we're having to deal with, the extraordinary health costs, the loss of productivity, the loss of a loved one, all of which is preventable, and you look at speed being a causal factor, I think we're doing the lord's work, personally. And we'll continue doing it.

SUN: Surely you've heard the argument that it gives police the power to be judge and jury at the side of the road?

FANTINO: I totally disagree with that, because the judge and jury in this particular instance are the people who decide to drive at such an aggressive and dangerous speed.

They're the ones who are making the decision. We're just holding them accountable. That's what police do. We do that with the RIDE program with impaired drivers — we suspend their licenses, we impound their vehicles. That's all before anyone's convicted in court.

SUN: But that's the problem that people would have, that before they're convicted in court, their car is taken away.

FANTINO: That's fine but we also take away other tools or implements people use to break the law. No different — before they're convicted.

You know, we have to stop pointing the finger at police as the bad guys here. We're saving lives.

The people who need to get their act together are those who are driving aggressively, who are driving dangerously, who in this case are driving in excess of 50 km/h over the posted speed limit. They're the ones who are the problem, we're not it.

We're just trying to save them from being killed and killing other people.

SUN: Are you confident that the judicial system in Ontario will reflect your viewpoint — that the law is just in terms of protecting people?

You've said this is one court and one case. That said, do you feel confident that when all is said and done, the law will survive?

FANTINO: I think once the issues are flushed out and people in authority — the lawmakers, those who interpret the law — take a look at the carnage, the absolute tragedy of so many of these preventable situations...I think the greater good will prevail.

If it doesn't, well, you know, we don't make the law, we just enforce it. And we will indeed. And if there's modifications to be made, we will do that as well.

If there's one profession that's always adjusting to societal norms and standards, it's the police, and we'll do it in this case, too. But in the meantime, the legal advice that we have is that this decision does not prevent us from continuing to enforce what we believe to be a very valid, greater-good kind of legislation, and until we're told otherwise, this is the way we're going to go.

Toronto Sun

Saturday, September 12, 2009

'Stunt-driving granny' surprised by ruling

Oakville woman no legal maverick, she says

September 12, 2009
Nick Aveling

There are a few things Jane Raham, alter ego "stunt-driving granny," would like to make perfectly clear.

First and foremost, she is not a legal maverick. It was never, repeat never, her intention to "take on the law," as some media outlets have suggested. "This granny did not, and would not, even though I felt a great sense of injustice," the 62-year-old woman said yesterday.

Raham found herself at the centre of a landmark legal ruling earlier this week, after an Ontario Court judge overturned her guilty verdict and ruled a section of the province's stunt driving law is unconstitutional. She had been charged under the law for passing a truck near Kaladar at more than 50 km/h past the limit – the speed at which drivers receive an automatic conviction.

As happy as she is, Raham said she can't take credit for the decision. That belongs entirely to a paralegal association, retained by Raham to help guide her through the court process, and lawyer Brian Starkman.

"The paralegal said the association really wanted to appeal this case because they thought the law was written badly," said Raham. "I said, `You can appeal it, but I'm going to pay the fine.' Based on what had happened, I had no hope that there was going to be any room to manoeuvre there."

Enter Starkman.

According to court documents, Raham's paralegal filed a motion that included the lawyer's submissions from a similar case. Fearing the paralegal was in over his head, Justice G.J. Griffin invited Starkman to take on the appeal.

Ten months later, Raham received a call from her paralegal, who congratulated her for making "provincial history."

"I said, `What?'"

Raham hadn't paid Starkman a cent; he did it for free. Nor had she heard from him until after the appeal was won.

"The law defines stunt driving in several different ways," Starkman said. "One of them is driving a car while you're not seated in the driver's seat. I'd say that's a pretty good definition of stunt driving.

"But why should driving 50 (km/h) above the speed limit be stunt driving? It's speeding. There's another section that deals with speeding, and it already includes penalties for going 50 past the limit and more."

At this point, what worries Raham even more than the stunt driving law is the lack of regulation around impound lots in Ontario, where private operators are free to charge what they please.

She said she was quoted a fee of $100 a day, a price she challenged after a local taxi driver told her it was far above average.

In the end, said Raham, she paid a total of $588 over the course of a week. The cost was knocked off the $2,000 fine she paid before the LPA launched its appeal. "If the municipality has enlisted operations to (impound vehicles), why aren't they regulated?" she asked.

The Spec

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jim Say's it best!

Political Grandstanding is what is!

September 09, 2009

There is none so blind as he who will not see
A Napanee Ontario Court judge, G. J. Griffin, has come to the only conclusion that anyone with even a passing familiarity with the English language, our legal system or basic fairness could come to - that the Julian Fantino street racing/stunt driving law which makes a police officer judge, jury and executioner in a certain class of speeding infractions is unconstitutional.

Of course it is. How did this ever get through our legislature? Does somebody have incriminating photos of our M.P.P.s or something?

But O.P.P. Sgt. Dave Woodford, who seems to have been saddled with the sad task of trying to defend the indefensible, says Fantino's minions are going to keep laying charges.

Sgt. Woodford was quoted on Breakfast Television this morning as saying that they believe it applies only to this individual case.

Um, Dave: I know you have more than a passing familiarity with the English language, and I understand the bit about you having to obey orders.

But do you - does anybody within the O.P.P - not have a passing familiarity with the concept of judicial precedent?

This law never stood a chance of passing judicial review.

And I would have thought that the role of our police forces is to defend and uphold our constitutional rights, not to deny them to the citizens they allegedly (and have been sworn to) serve and protect.

Never mind that the entire concept of speed limit enforcement is totally bogus.

It doesn't work.

It has never worked.

It CAN never work.

Why? Because no amount of speed limit enforcement we can begin to afford, especially of speed limits that are artificially low, will ever have a marked effect on the speeds we drive.

The fact that over 7,000 speeding charges were laid this past weekend alone proves that. If it DID work, why are we all still "speeding"?

And even if speeds could be reduced, there is zero evidence it would have any positive effect on our traffic casualty statistics.

Because speed per se is considered a factor - by the police themselves, according to the crash reports they are required to fill out - in only a relative handful (something around ten percent) of fatal or injury-causing crashes, vastly disproportional to the number of speeding charges laid (which comprise something around seventy percent of all traffic tickets issued).

Why don't the police lay charges against the driving behaviours that DO cause crashes?

Because they are all too busy playing "King Canute".

"Going with the flow" is the only speed that makes sense, the only speed at which we can all be safest.

And "the flow" is way faster than our current limits, at least on our freeways where most of this unconstitutional activity takes place.

Speed limit enforcement as it is currently implemented is a complete and utter waste of scarce police resources, as even a cursory examination of the statistics proves.

And a cursory examination of some of the comments that have been logged on at least one web site dealing with this issue reveals that many in the public don't get it either.

To wit: "Clearly this judge and those of you who disagree with this law have never had a loved one killed by dangerous speeding."

I don't know about Judge Griffin. But I have indeed had a loved one killed in a traffic incident, which by definition involved "speeding", although I guess my five-year old sister could have run into a stationary ("non-speeding") truck hard enough to kill herself.

That bit of family history is in fact one of the main reasons I campaign so hard for traffic law enforcement that IS effective, and not political grandstanding, which is the sum total of this inane - and now officially unconstitutional - law.

Can't anyone but Judge Griffin see that Emperor Fantino has no clothes?

Kenzie's blog

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ont. Liberals block committee probe of eHealth chiefs

Does this surprise anyone at all?
It's a joke what our elected leaders do, and then the opposition parties get all up in arms because they want they same power.
I thank the CBC for being on top of stories like this.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ontario's Liberal government used its majority Tuesday to block opposition attempts to force top brass from eHealth Ontario to appear before a legislative committee.

The Conservatives and New Democrats wanted the committee to dig deeper into spending and expense abuses at eHealth, a problem that has since cropped up at other agencies and boards.

But the Liberals unanimously out-voted the opposition parties without offering an explanation.

The opposition has been complaining about eHealth since June, after it was learned the agency awarded $16 million in untendered contracts to consultants.

It was also discovered that some consultants who were paid up to $2,700 a day billed extra for snacks and beverages.

The government subsequently fired Sarah Kramer, CEO of the electronic health records agency. Kramer reportedly received nearly $317,000 in compensation, the equivalent of 10 months' salary.

The Liberals also promised an independent review of procurement practices at eHealth by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. But in July, Health Minister David Caplan quietly dropped the review at the request of eHealth, saying it would duplicate the work of Ontario's auditor general.

In August, Premier Dalton McGuinty denied intervening in Kramer's appointment over the objections of some civil servants.

McGuinty appealed to everyone paid with taxpayers' money, whether in government or at an arms-length agency, to follow the rules.

The premier has dismissed suggestions his government has lost control over the 600 agencies, boards and commissions, and warned against tarring all public workers with the same brush.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Poor Mr. Bryant.

Poor former AG of Ontario Micheal Bryant sits in the back of a cruiser.

Poor Mr. Bryant is facing some serious charges
Poor Mr. Bryant claims he's innocent.
Poor Mr. Bryant has hired a PR firm for damage control.
Poor Mr. Bryant has hired his own forensic investigators
Poor Mr. Bryant resigned from his position as CEO of Invest Toronto.
Poor Mr. Bryant can't leave the country or drive a motor vehicle.

I hope a few "Damn Street Racers" and former Pit Bull owners who's dogs have been euthinized sit on the jury and decide your fate!

Dalton Gang scrambles to control OLG scandal damage

Another Scandal for the "Dalton Gang"
Big sweeping changes and a house cleaning at the OLG is to little and to late!

Perhaps Dalton should hire the same PR firm that Mr.Bryant has for damage control!

Premier Dalton McGuinty will be returning early from a holiday break to speak on the latest scandal involving board members of a provincially-controlled organization and how his government intends to rein in such spending.

The entire board of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) resigned Monday. They were replaced temporarily by provincial civil servants. Their first act involved the firing of Kelly McDougald, the agency's CEO.

"I am disappointed with what has been brought to my attention," Finance Minister Dwight Duncan told a news conference on Monday. "The expenses are a symptom of a much larger problem."

McDougald was "dismissed with cause," Duncan said and therefore will not receive a severance package. Former board chair Michael Gough said he wasn't asked to quit, but did offer his resignation last Thursday.

The Liberals publicly released two years worth of expenses that were filed by OLG board members. They include:

•gym memberships worth $250
•Weight Watchers memberships
•club link golf fees
•a $1,500 bar tab at a $3,700 dinner for 38 people
•a $500 nanny fee so that a vice-president member could attend meetings, an amount since repaid
The OLG acknowledged Monday that the spending was unacceptable for a public agency.

In the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2007, OLG had more than $6 billion in revenues, with net income of about $1.7 billion.

Duncan, who took on responsibility for OLG said the government is launching a province-wide review of accountability procedures for the government's agencies, boards and commissions. He hinted a new "mechanism for accountability" would be able to offer early detection of brewing problems, he suggested.

He also dropped another bombshell -- OLG had been issuing untendered contracts.

Such contracts were a major part of the controversy surround eHealth Ontario, the electronic health records agency that also saw its CEO and board chair depart after revelations of excessive spending and the issuing of sole-source contracts.

McGuinty announced the end of sole-sourced contracts and new restrictions on the types of expenditures for which consultants can seek reimbursement.

"This is the right (step) to take in terms of the public and across government, we need to make sure that we have rigorous accountability for all Crown agencies," Duncan said.

Opposition MPPs say the reason the government is acting now is because Monday was the deadline for releasing the results of Freedom of Information requests made by them months ago.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said the newest scandal shows the McGuinty government isn't in control.

"Dalton McGuinty said the eHealth scandal was the exception to the rule. What we learned today is that it is the rule," he said.

"They went out and fired the last group and brought in a group to clean it up. And this group seems to be even better at getting into the pork barrel," said the NDP's Michael Prue.

McDougald had joined OLG in 2007.

Controversy plagues OLG

The gaming corporation has been scrutinized for the last two years after questionable insider wins, malfunctioning slot machines, spoiled scratch-and-win tickets and a controversial decision to purchase foreign cars as lottery prizes at a time when the Ontario government agreed to a financial bailout for its struggling auto industry.

An audit of the OLG was completed in February. The corporation had until September to report to the ombudsman about changes it had made to improve accountability.

"We've been trying to create change in this place for some time," Duncan told reporters. "Frankly I'm not satisfied with performance to date at the OLG so we took steps over the course of the last few weeks to ensure that the direction given in the past is followed moving forward."

The temporary board "will work with a mandate to maximize OLG's performance," said Duncan.

He added that he hopes the OLG will operate with "better oversight and better credibility" in order to "enhance taxpayer protection."

The shake-up comes just weeks ahead of a provincial byelection in the midtown Toronto riding of St. Paul's, which has been a Liberal seat since 1999.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Paul Bliss and files from The Canadian Press