Credibility of Government Once Again at Stake

The alleged bribery investigation surrounding the Sudbury by-election reignited earlier this month with furor. Pat Sorbara, the former deputy chief of staff to Premier Wynne and Gerry Lougheed Jr, a political operative and fundraiser in Sudbury, were officially charged with violating the Elections Act. They allegedly  offered a previous Liberal candidate a public appointment in exchange for not seeking the party’s nomination, allowing today’s Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault to be nominated unopposed.

The essential principle of public appointments is that they are not to be sold, traded or exchanged. Neither of the two charged individuals have the authority to grant such an appointment on their own, so the question is simple; who instructed Ms. Sorbara to make the offer. Despite repeated questions from the Official Opposition, the Premier refused to answer. Then, as the month dragged on, new allegations surfaced that the current Minister had sought benefits as a condition of running for the government. While charges have not been laid due to a technicality that it is not illegal to accept a bribe, only to offer one, it does raise serious ethical questions. This government campaigned on accountability and transparency, and it is time the Premier restored some semblance of credibility to the office by asking the Minister to step aside until the investigation is complete.  Previous ministers named in investigations have done so in the past and it is time this government showed some integrity.

On November 21st, a large number of people from across rural Ontario, many from Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, converged on Queen’s Park to demand the Government stop the current Pupil Accommodation Review that proposed the closure of up to 600 schools in Ontario. I have tabled a motion calling for the suspension of the current process until a review of rural education is conducted, engaging rural school boards, school communities and municipalities. The Government continues to blame the school boards, but it is clear that the boards are simply taking the fall as they follow government regulation and react to severe funding cuts. The agri-food industry is Canada’s number one industry. It depends on sustainable rural primary and secondary education. It's time it got the support it deserves.

The Environment Commissioner report highlighted how the Government’s Cap and Trade plan will do little to reduce emissions and protect the environment, but will make life harder and more unaffordable for Ontario families and businesses. The plan will result in businesses sending $300 million per year to California to buy offsets that will end up costing Ontarians more. The Financial Accountability Officer released his report confirming that the Cap and Trade plan, scheduled for implementation January 1st, is about raising revenues and not about cutting emissions. The Government needs the additional revenue, along with the cash received from the sale of provincial assets, such as the sale of Hydro One, to balance the budget in the 2018 election year. Ontarians will not be fooled by such shallow moves and know that once this one-time cash is gone, the reign of deficits will return and further drive the world’s highest sub-national debt even higher. As the Auditor General previously stated, the interest payment required to service this huge $300+ billion debt is resulting in cuts to essential programs, such as health care.

And, of course, the month would not be complete without a new revelation of more government waste. After spending $70 million on the failed Ontario Pension Plan, sources revealed through freedom of information that this government spent nearly $800,000 on advertising the plan, after it had been cancelled. With such rampant waste and mismanagement, small wonder schools are forced into closures and hospitals into canceling operations due to lack of appropriate funding. We deserve better!

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