In a land of confusion, taxpayers must tell government where to go
When in doubt, consult, or blame somebody else for real or imagined problems. While most Glengarrians no doubt agree with the province’s shift to the right, the Conservatives’ direction on many issues, such as education and marijuana, remains unclear. Plus, it seems that the local governments that will be elected October 22 will have to grapple with cannabis sales, as if councils did not have enough to do already.
The lack of a concise plan prompts the default delay tactic way out: Ask the taxpayers to tell the government what it should do.
Yes, folks, The Planning For Prosperity Consultation permits anyone with a device to tell Ford Nation where to go. “Ontario's Government for the People is continuing to take action in restoring trust and accountability in the province's public finances,” Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy said in announcing “the next step in engaging with Ontarians by launching a three-week online public consultation.”
September 21 is the deadline for people to “have a direct say in how government can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of provincial programs and services, while avoiding job cuts.”
Well, since the government asked, for starters, what happened to the cheap beer law? Evidently, one of the many scourges left behind by the horrible Liberals was the high price of suds. Thankfully, Premier Doug Ford dropped the floor price, proclaiming the dawn of the bucka-beer era in Ontario. The problem is that few breweries jumped at the chance of cutting its retail prices, and suffering huge losses. Another minor consideration is that you get what you pay for; it is hard to produce a drinkable brew for $1 per unit.
While the popular, yet short-lived, diversion fell flat, the Tories’ outlook remains hazy about another form of medication.
Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MPP Jim McDonell notes in a press release that the province is taking steps to “bring efficiency to the new cannabis retail framework” in preparation for October 17, when recreational pot use becomes legal.
“The province did not need the expensive and bureaucratic system the previous government put in place when working models exist elsewhere in Canada and even within Ontario for controlling, distributing and selling age-controlled products,” says Mr. McDonell. “Our priorities remain guaranteeing Ontarians’ safety, fighting impaired driving and keeping age-controlled products out of the hands of children. This is why when cannabis becomes legal, the Ontario Cannabis Store will follow the model currently in use for medicinal cannabis. Ontarians will be able to purchase cannabis online through the Ontario Cannabis Store and have it delivered to them, just like medicinal cannabis, with their age and identity verified on delivery, or the product is returned. We will also consult with businesses and community stakeholders on the right way to implement a private retail model by the spring of 2019. Now elected councils will have the right to opt out of the private retail framework, which would make cannabis available to residents only through online purchases.”
Given the conservative leanings of their electors, the “new” North and South Glengarry councils will likely “opt out” and avoid all the hassles of trying to regulate private, legal weed vendors.
So we will be left with a mish-mash of different rules that vary from place to place. Confusion also reigns about the government’s approach to poverty. One in eight households in Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry, Prescott-- Russell and Cornwall does not have enough money to buy groceries. Province-wide, one in seven Ontarians lives in poverty.
Advocates for a basic guaranteed income suggest that social assistance payments be increased so that an individual on Ontario Works receives a minimum of $1,320 per month, non-taxable, with an opportunity to keep partial additional income earned from a job.
About 17 per cent of North Glengarry households have low incomes, or less than half of the revenues of most other households.
“Food insecurity” has become a daily problem for more and more people, a survey by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit has found.
But the province, which has canned a minimum wage hike, has axed a basic income research project, a test that would lead to important social assistance reform.
“We have a broken social service system. A research project that helps less than four thousand people is not the answer and provides no hope to the nearly two million Ontarians who are trapped in the cycle of poverty,” said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. “We are winding down the basic income research project in a compassionate way.”
Payments to eligible participants will continue until March 31, 2019. “This will allow participants enough time to transition to more proven support programs without putting an undue burden on Ontario taxpayers,” the minister said.
“The research project had an extraordinary cost for Ontario taxpayers which, according to the Ministry of Finance, would require increasing the HST from 13 per cent to 20 per cent if implemented across the province,” she said in announcing a 100-day review of social assistance and poverty reduction strategies.
The prescient minister somehow knows that, even before the project has been completed, that the test offers “no hope” to low-income citizens.
As it continues to consult, the government has been busy trying to erase the final vestiges of the 15-year Liberal regime.
“It was an exhausting but productive first 40 days for the new government,” reports Mr. McDonell.
Hydro has been sorted out, carbon taxes are toast, top public sector salaries have been frozen.
“When Ontarians struggle to pay their bills and have to choose between eating and heating, secret deals for golden goodbye executive packages were an affront to the people of the province,” he says.
While it definitely is not easy to be green in Ontario these days, the province is waffling on its pledge to abort wind farm developments.
“Communities’ fights against large wind projects will continue as the government takes steps to control the cost of electricity. Rest assured our government is looking into these projects to determine if cancellation is in the best economical interest of Ontarians,” the MPP comments.
“Ontarians at last have a government that cares about their money being spent well and making a difference. This principle will continue driving my efforts and those of my colleagues to make Ontario prosperous and the best place to call home.”
Whew! Those words of comfort may help allay growing concerns that the Conservatives have taken a “ready, shoot, aim” tact to governing our affairs.
Still, as our summer of confusion lingers, we are left thirsting for clarity.