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Kathleen Wynne will be sworn in this afternoon as the 25th Premier of Ontario.

Her new cabinet will represent a significantly new face for government in the province Read our full analysis.


At 8:45PM, after three rounds of voting, Kathleen Wynne was elected as the 31st leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and, once she is sworn in, the 25th Premier of Ontario.

This was a historic occasion: Wynne will be not only the first female Premier in Ontario’s history, but the first openly gay Premier in Canada. Read our full analysis.


Premier McGuinty's resignation and what it means for Ontario's political landscape.

After 16 years as Liberal Party Leader and nine years as Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty shocked everyone at Queen’s Park by announcing his resignation late yesterday. Read our full analysis.


Counsel analyzes Ontario's By-Elections.

After provincial by-elections, the status quo holds at Queen’s Park as Liberals retain Vaughan and the NDP take Kitchener-Waterloo. Read our full analysis.


Counsel examines Quebec's provincial election

In yesterday’s Québec election, the sovereignist Parti Quebecois defeated the incumbent Liberals but failed to win a majority. The PQ won 54 seats to the Liberals 50, and came in only 0.7 points ahead in the popular vote (31.9% vs. 31.2%). The new Coalition Avenir Québec finished a very strong third at 19 seats and 27.1% of the vote. Read our full analysis.


Charles Beer Receives Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal

It is with great pleasure that Counsel congratulates Charles Beer on receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, presented to him on June 28th. This distinguished honour highlights Charles’ lasting achievements over a more than 35-year career dedicated to public service. Download PDF here


Three new players. One great team.

Counsel Public Affairs is thrilled to announce the addition of three new members to our team. Download the pdf to view the full announcement. Download PDF here


The 2012 Drummond Report

On February 15, 2012 the Report of the Commission on the Reform of Public Services, prepared by economist Don Drummond and his colleagues, was released. The Report contained a variety of recommendations aimed at cutting costs and promoting efficiency. This document provides our analysis of the key themes in the report and the emerging issues. Download PDF here


The 2011 McGuinty Cabinet: Experience, Experience and Experience

On October 20th Premier McGuinty unveiled his new-look, streamlined Cabinet. In this document we assess the composition of the new Cabinet and discuss the implications this will have on the most important policy areas. Download PDF here


The 2011 Ontario Election: The Liberal Minority and What It Means For You

In this document we review the 2011 Ontario election results, assess the priorities of the new government and provide initial observations on how stakeholders can successfully engage with the new Liberal minority government. Download PDF here


A Review of the Leaders’ Debate and Campaign to Date

The 2011 Ontario election is fast approaching: we are three-quarters of the way through the campaign, we have had the Leaders’ Debate and we are only 8 days away from what is shaping up to be the closest Ontario election in decades. This document reviews the Leaders’ Debate of September 27th, evaluates polling trends over recent weeks, reviews the highlights of the campaign to date and provides an idea of what to watch for in the remaining days of this election campaign. Download PDF here


The 2011 Ontario election: key riding profiles

This document provides details of what we believe will be some of the most fiercely contested seats in the GTA in October’s provincial election. Information on the riding, the demographics of the electorate and the individual candidates running in each seat will provide you with greater insight to the election and those ridings which will prove decisive in determining which party will form the next provincial government. Download PDF here


2011 Ontario provincial election: an assessment of the party platforms

The October 6th provincial election is shaping up to be a real three way race: based on a weighted aggregation of the latest polling data, ThreeHundredEight.com’s seat projection model on September 12th 2011, puts the Progressive Conservatives and Liberals on track to win 44 seats apiece, with the New Democrats taking the remaining 19 seats in the 107-seat Legislature. With less than 4 weeks to go until the election, it is time to review all three electoral platforms and draw attention to what are likely to be key issues in this campaign.

Forward.Together: the Ontario Liberal Party platform

Past Liberal election platforms have contained ambitious proposals for government: the 2007 platform, Moving Forward Together, detailed plans for Full Day Kindergarten in Ontario and committed the party to developing the Green Energy Act, while the 2003 platform launched a host of major initiatives, including establishment of the Greenbelt. By comparison, Forward.Together, offers a relatively modest number of new commitments: the document makes 45 new commitments and reaffirms support for 23 existing ones. A separate costing document was also produced by the Liberals, identifying the cost of Forward.Together at an initial $200 million annually rising to $1.5 billion by 2015, with identified budget offsets so as not to impact the deficit elimination target.

The platform is clearly designed to attract support from seniors, post-secondary students and their families and parents with young children. The five initiatives which the party chooses to highlight in the “door knocker” handout summary of the platform include two new initiatives and three extensions of previous announcements:

  • 50,000 new jobs in clean energy making Ontario a North American leader
  • 30% off the cost of tuition for students from families with total income under $160,000 to help keep college & university affordable for all [new
  • 10% off the cost of electricity from the new Clean Energy Benefit
  • 15% seniors renovation tax credit to help seniors stay in their homes longer – plus doctor’s house calls and property tax increase deferrals [new]
  • 250,000 students in North America’s first full-day kindergarten program by 2014

The document attempts to portray Premier Dalton McGuinty as the only leader capable of helping Ontario continue the transition to the new high skill, high wage economy. Only a creative, cutting edge and competitive economy can generate the necessary revenue to enable government to invest in first class schools and hospitals. This vision is used to justify programmes which are designed to create jobs and enhance education in the province – such as the Green Energy Act and Full Day Kindergarten.

Changebook: the Ontario PC platform

Changebook was released in May along with a backgrounder which demonstrates that a PC government would increase spending on healthcare, education and tax relief by $7.9 billion by 2015, with expense reduction in non-priority areas and projected increases in government revenue paying for these spending commitments. Changebook shows that the party will focus on pocketbook issues in this election campaign by promising the following:

  • 5% income tax cut on the first $70,000 of taxable income
  • A provision to allow couples to share up to $50,000 of their income for tax purposes
  • Removing the provincial portion of the HST from hydro bills and the cost of home heating
  • Removing the debt retirement charge from home hydro bills

To neutralize criticism from the left that cutting revenue streams in the ways outlined above would inevitably result in fewer public services, Changebook sets out ambitious targets to increase spending in healthcare by $6.1 billion by 2015 while also spending an additional $2 billion on K-12 education during the same period. The main commitment on the healthcare file is to create an extra 40,000 extra long-term care beds in hospitals across the province, while on the education file the party has committed to fully implementing the government’s full day kindergarten program by 2014.

The party would pay for the tax cuts and spending promises above through finding efficiency savings elsewhere in government, reducing the number of government agencies, boards and commissions and an unspecified cut in the size of the Ontario Public Service.

On the energy file the PCs outlined proposals to dismantle a number of provisions of the Green Energy Act: although Changebook details plans to “invest in an affordable clean energy supply mix” (pg. 5), it also states that the FIT program, Smart Meters and the $7 billion deal with Samsung will all go if October 6th delivers a Tory government. So too will the Ontario Power Authority.

Plan For Affordable Change: the NDP platform

Plan for Affordable Change is fully costed, and anticipates that an NDP government would find $8.76 billion in savings over the next 4 years, with the vast proportion of additional revenue coming through restoring a higher rate of corporation tax. The NDP priorities, detailed below, would cost $5.95 billion to implement, leaving a surplus of $2.81 billion, which the party would use to pay off Ontario’s deficit. Pocketbook issues are central to the NDPs platform and the party commits to taking the following measures if elected in October:

  • Removing the provincial portion of the HST from hydro bills, the cost of home heating and gasoline
  • Cracking down on ‘gas gouging’ at the pumps, a promise likely to play well with the base given the recent volatility associated with gasoline prices

Healthcare is another central aspect of Plan For Affordable Change. The NDP have made commitments to cut emergency room wait times in half and end ambulance fees if elected. While not offering as much detail as the Liberal position on seniors, the party also pledge to give seniors the support they need to live in their own homes.

The NDP support the Green Energy Act, although the party recognises that aspects of the FIT program need to be improved. The central tenet of the NDPs energy platform is to provide homeowners with up to $5000 in home energy retrofit rebates: the party considers conservation to be a critical aspect of energy policy. Like the Tories and the Liberals, Plan For Affordable Change commits the New Democrats to phasing out coal fired electricity plants if elected.

Interestingly, on the question of Ontario’s $14 billion deficit, all parties offer fairly similar timelines by which the deficit would be eliminated: the PCs have committed to eliminating the deficit just a year ahead of the other two parties, by 2016-17. Recent elections in other jurisdictions have seen competing deficit reduction plans as the central issue during the campaign. This issue will not be anywhere near as important in this Ontario election.

For an in-depth issue by issue platform comparison, please visit the following article at The Globe and Mail


May 11 2011 - What do the federal results mean for the Ontario election?

To state the obvious, the May 2nd federal election results were shocking and historic. The achievement of a majority government by the Harper Conservatives, the massive shift in support to the NDP (particularly in Québec), near decimation of the Liberal party under Michael Ignatieff, the defeat of the Bloc Québecois and the first election of a Green Party candidate will all be analyzed endlessly over the coming weeks.

With the provincial election looming in Ontario on October 6th, many observers are now parsing the results to try to determine what impact trends observed federally may have on the provincial campaign. Certainly no one will have more interest in dissecting the federal results than Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

There has long been a school of thought that a Conservative majority in Ottawa would improve provincial Liberal chances for a third term, given the historic antipathy of Ontario voters towards electing the same party federally and provincially. This may well be a factor, especially since any Harper majority honeymoon is likely to be short-lived as his government moves to address federal fiscal challenges and impose policies, such as the elimination of the long gun registry, which may not play well in urban Ontario.

At the same time, the Premier and his Liberal colleagues will be very concerned about the degree to which the surge in NDP support may translate at the provincial level. While NDP leader Andrea Horwath is little-known, she is a warm and positive politician who may be able to ride some of the same wave that carried Jack Layton to his unprecedented success. And any significant increase in NDP support provincially could cripple the Liberal prospects.

The McGuinty Liberals are more vulnerable than the federal Conservatives were to pressure from both sides of the spectrum. Ridings where Tim Hudak's Conservatives hope to make gains in the fall are essentially two-way Liberal-Conservative battles, so the PCs do not need to turn a lot of attention to the NDP and can focus all their guns on the Liberals. The Premier's party, by contrast, must fend off NDP advances in traditional battlegrounds like Hamilton, Windsor, northern Ontario and large parts of Toronto, while simultaneously turning aside Conservatives threats in the 905, Eastern Ontario, certain parts of Toronto and rural farm country.

Of course, no one has ever suggested it will be easy for McGuinty to win a third majority government. There hasn't been a majority three-peat since Leslie Frost’s Conservatives in 1951, 1955 and 1959. To even come back with a minority government would be a feat not seen since the Bill Davis years of the 70s and early 80s.

But if the federal election results tell us anything, it's that no one should assume results are predetermined. So, what lessons can we draw for the upcoming Ontario race? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Campaigns matter - Yesterday's federal election was hardly the first in recent times where initial trends shifted dramatically, polls were consistently wrong and the final outcome was dramatically different than expected. At the start of the 1985 campaign, Frank Miller was expected to easily continue the PC’s 42-year governing streak, but his complacent campaign was overtaken by David Peterson’s Liberals; in 1990, David Peterson was supposed to cruise to another majority, only to see the shocking election of Bob Rae and the NDP; in 1995, Liberal Lyn McLeod was seen as the obvious replacement for the discredited Rae, yet election day saw Mike Harris’ Tories at the top of the lists; and in 2007, John Tory was widely expected to present a formidable challenge to Premier McGuinty, before his campaign died of self-inflected wounds.

    In politics, even more than in everyday life, trend is not destiny. Actions matter.

  1. It's all about the Leader - More accurately, it's all about how the leader presents to the public. There is not a single model of leadership or one style of campaigning. Stephen Harper and Jack Layton are near polar opposites in style – cool imperialism versus folksy street appeal – yet both were highly successful on election day.
  2. What is clear is that a party cannot win with a leader who does not connect with the public. Michael Ignatieff, for all his intelligence and world experience, simply lacked the ability to make a human connection with the average voter. This was apparent when he became Liberal Leader and could not be overcome during the ensuing years, despite much effort.

    The Ontario public has never entirely warmed to Dalton McGuinty. People respect him as Premier, they like many of his policies yet he has consistently trailed his party in popular appeal. He keeps his distance from everyone, and that comes across to the public. Yet he has fashioned his own approach to campaigning which has been highly successful and which he has honed to a fine art over 20 years in politics. He has been making the rounds lately with a polished speech-and-slide-show on the accomplishments of the government that is compelling and suits his presentation style. There is little doubt that he will go into the campaign comfortable with his team and approach and thoroughly prepared to speak not just to his record but also to his vision going forward.

    As for the opposition leaders, both Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath seem comfortable in their own skins. Hudak is strong on the attack yet does not present the cold demeanour of his mentor, Mike Harris. Whether either opposition leader can present a positive vision, in both policy substance and style, may well dictate the course of the campaign.

  1. Rookies often struggle – It is a rare thing for party leaders to be highly successful in their first campaign. Sometimes they achieve modest success, learn valuable lessons and build for future victory, as with Mike Harris in 1990 and Dalton McGuinty in 1999. In other cases, they go down in flames, like Kim Campbell, Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff federally or Frank Miller, Ernie Eves and Lynn McLeod in Ontario.

    Hudak and Horwath will be undertaking their first campaign as leaders and the challenges cannot be overstated. Every word they utter, every candidate or staffer they appoint, every photo of them that is taken, will be subject to a degree of scrutiny that vastly exceeds anything they have yet experienced. The crowds will be exponentially larger, the reporters more aggressive.

    As the election has drawn closer, they have begun to experience some of this. This is particularly the case for Hudak, as any PC leader is automatically viewed as a Premier-in-waiting. The critical reviews of his keynote speech at the recent party fundraising dinner in Toronto gave him a taste of what is to come.

    Only time will tell whether either leader will be able to overcome the rookie jinx.

  1. Micro-targeting works - In this election, the federal Conservatives did a remarkable job of targeting a range of voter demographics with specific policies, language and communication techniques.

    The outreach to traditionally Liberal ethnic communities, led by Jason Kenney, has been widely cited. Conservatives were ruthlessly pragmatic in courting different communities. If it meant engaging leaders or allowing candidates whose past comments or support for independence movements were not in line with government policy, politics won out.

    The Conservatives used different brochures and robo-call scripts on a house-by-house basis to ensure that voters would hear the messages to which their demographic would be most responsive. Tory candidates appealed to seniors with policies intended to "crack down on rising crime rates" (despite the lack of statistical evidence of such a rise.) They calculated that the elimination of the long gun registry would have greater salience to rural voters who opposed the registry than to a larger number of urban voters who opposed it.

    The Ontario Liberals have been doing their own micro-targeting for some time. A perfect example was the recent Budget announcement of a Risk Management Plan for livestock producers. Meaningless to most urban residents and reporters, it was overlooked on Budget day. Yet in farm communities the RMP program will be a huge boon to Liberal candidates.

    With the release of the PC and NDP platforms expected soon, it will be telling to see the degree to which they focus on smaller scale policies with targeted appeal as opposed to sweeping across-the-board programs.

  1. And so does traditional pork… - Pork barrel politics has been a campaign feature since time immemorial. The federal Conservatives employed it shamelessly in the election lead up. Tony Clement's extravagant spending of G 20 summit and border security funds to spruce up his Muskoka riding may have attracted a few newspaper headlines, but it did the trick locally.

    Pork is one area where an incumbent government can wield a tool unavailable to the opposition. During recent months, NDP and Conservative MPPs and candidates have been forced to watch from the sidelines and shout “me too” as the Liberals have rolled out a host of individual program announcements. This will accelerate over the coming months, including major infrastructure projects to be announced in many communities following release of the ten-year infrastructure plan.

From now until October, the polls will continue to bounce around in response to many factors including the federal election spillover. However, the reality is that no one can say with any degree of certainty what will happen on October 6th. The public has yet to turn their minds collectively to the provincial alternatives. Most importantly, we have yet to see how the leaders will perform and what the campaigns will put in the window for voters.

We certainly observed in the federal race, as we have in Ontario in the past, that surprises are often waiting around the corner. So hold onto your hats!

 


March 29, 2011 - 2011 Ontario Budget Analysis “Turning the Corner”
Overview and Analysis

With a provincial election just six months away, the McGuinty Liberals used today’s Budget to deliver four key messages to Ontario voters:

  1. The provincial economy has turned the corner, having regained 91% of the jobs lost during the last recession
  2. The province is on the right track
  3. The McGuinty government has a plan to bring the fiscal plan back into balance by 2017/18 and understands the serious challenges that long-term provincial debt creates
  4. Only the provincial Liberals can be trusted to protect our hospitals and our schools.

While this is largely a “stay-the-course” Budget, the government did include a small number of targeted new spending initiatives. These initiatives, most of them strategically leaked ahead of the Budget, included:

  • The creation of 60,000 new spaces at Ontario’s Colleges and Universities over the next 5 years.
  • The establishment of a risk management insurance plan (RMP) for Ontario’s cattle, hog, sheep and veal farmers, and a self-directed program for fruit and vegetable farmers. The government also made permanent its pilot project for Grains and Oilseeds farmers.
  • New money for a comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Program, starting with children and youth. Funding will grow to $93 million per year by 2013-14.
  • $15 million in new funding for breast cancer screening for 90,000 high-risk women, including extending screening to high-risk women between the ages of 30 and 49.

The Budget contained no major tax cuts or tax increases.

Restraint

The government also outlined its growing concern with the provincial debt, which has ballooned to $241 billion and will result in growing debt interest payments that will be sure to squeeze the availability of operating funds from all ministries in the future. To address this concern, the Budget committed to $1.5 billion in savings over the next three years and a series of restraint measures, including:

  • A 10% reduction in executive office expenditures at major agencies
  • A further 1,500 person reduction in the Ontario Public Service, on top of 3,400 cuts in 2009
  • Cancelling construction of the Toronto West Courthouse, saving $181 million; and
  • The creation of a blue-ribbon Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services, chaired by TD Bank’s chief economist Don Drummond.

The Drummond Commission is not expected to table its findings until after the election, providing the Liberals with an answer to questions about how they are dealing with the deficit while allowing them to avoid the potential unpopularity of the hard decisions that will follow the report until long after the votes are counted.

10-year Infrastructure Plan

While many had expected the Budget to rely heavily on new infrastructure projects to give the budget its political bounce, the government instead decided to leave the details to be unveiled with the release of its 10-Year Infrastructure Plan. This strategy allows the government to continue to roll out good news closer to Election Day, while at the same time ensuring that local announcements do not compete with the federal election for voters’ attention.

The Budget papers referred extensively to the “historic” increase in infrastructure spending since the Liberals came to office in 2003, totalling $62 billion. Infrastructure spending for 2011/12 is forecast to remain high at $12.8 billion and $35 billion cumulatively over the next three years.

The Budget tables demonstrated that infrastructure spending rates during the last eight years exceeded any period in modern history except the boom of the 1960’s.

Political Positioning

To be clear, this was a pre-election Budget that sought to take advantage of the government’s credentials as protectors of public health care and education while positioning their Budget plan as “responsible.” At the same time the Liberals tried to contrast their “responsible” fiscal approach with the “risks” they claim will be in the Progressive Conservative’s yet-to-be-released campaign platform.

In fact, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan went out of his way in the lock-up to challenge PC Leader Tim Hudak to “come clean” on what he intended to cut to make up for the billions of dollars his still undeclared tax-cut promises could cost the treasury. The Budget speech noted that a one percentage point reduction in the HST, widely speculated to be a Tory platform commitment, would cost the equivalent to laying off 33,000 teachers, 12,000 doctors of 37,000 nurses, or cutting funding for 62,000 of Ontario’s 78,000 long term care beds.

Opposition Leader Tim Hudak can be expected to single out the growth in the debt as a result of accumulated deficits, noting that debt payments will use up 9.5% of revenue, up a full percent point over three years. Liberals will respond that the necessary stimulus to deal with a worldwide recession was directly accountable for this growth, and that debt as a percentage of revenues is still well below the 13% level they inherited from the Tories in 2002-03.

In many sectors, the Budget plan was very much “stay the course”, with the rhetoric reiterating the benefits of previously announced programs like the Long-term Energy Plan, the Affordable Housing Strategy and $100 million for enhanced pharmacy services to seniors and social assistance recipients. Liberals portrayed this as sticking to a comprehensive, well thought-out plan; the opposition parties will attack it as complacent and lacking in support for struggling Ontarians.

At a Glance:

  • The 2010/11 deficit is projected to be $16.7 billion, $3 billion less than previously forecast
  • In 2011/12, the deficit will fall to $16.3 billion
  • The budget is not expected to be balanced until the 2017/18 fiscal year
  • Private sector growth forecasts are 2.6% for 2011/12 and 2.8% for 2012/13
  • Employment growth trails economic growth, at about 1.8% annually
  • The unemployment rate is forecast at 8.2%, 7.7% and 7.1% for 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively, down from 9.0% in 2009.
  • The biggest cost pressures remain in Health and Long-term Care, where total spending is forecast to rise 4.87% to $47.14 billion
  • Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has one of the highest rates of spending growth at 34.4%, though the total magnitude of spending ($1.235 billion) pales in comparison to Health and Education

Rather than simply repeat all the details of the Budget, we have focused on the political highlights. The full Budget speech and Documents are available on line at www.Ontario.ca/budget


Clearing the Party Decks – Resignations as of March 1, 2011

In the time leading up to an election, we are almost guaranteed to see more movement than usual within Government and Opposition as all parties prepare and gear up for their campaigns, and incumbent MPPs decide whether or not to seek another term. The months leading up to October 6th, 2011 have proven to be no different.

On December 16th, 2010, then Ontario Labour Minister Peter Fonseca announced his resignation from Cabinet. The announcement was forced by the Premier after a report leaked that Fonseca would be running for the federal Liberals in the next election. This was news to the Premier, OLP officials and Cabinet colleagues. Later that same week, federal Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff announced Fonseca’s official appointment as a federal candidate to succeed retiring MP Albina Guarnieri in the electoral district of Mississauga East-Cooksville.

The transition to federal politics was poorly handled by both Fonseca and Ignatieff, alienating the provincial Premier and election team whom the Liberal Party of Canada will need in the upcoming federal fight.

Fonseca is credited with helping to double the number of workplace inspectors, reduce the number of lost-time injuries in the workplace and increase the minimum wage. He was elected to the Ontario Legislature in 2007.

Another notable retirement is that of Cabinet Minister Monique Smith. Current Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs and Government House Leader, Smith has served eight years in the Northern electoral district of Nippissing. A former Minister of both Revenue and Tourism, and Chief of Staff to Premier Dalton McGuinty in his early years in Opposition, Smith is credited with dispersing millions of dollars in funding to various organizations, the development of a new hospital, and the four-laning of Highway 11.

Her election in 2003 signalled the ending of a 22-year Tory reign in the region. However her narrow win over PC challenger Bill Vrebosch in 2007 demonstrates a potential turning of the tides in Nippissing, as the riding is one of the Liberal seats most vulnerable to an upswing in Tory support come October.

Although perhaps the highest-profile announcements to date, Fonseca and Smith’s are only two of several announcements by incumbent MPPs who will not be seeking re-election in the Fall. Many are older Members stepping down after years of public service, including:

Ontario Liberal Party

  • Wayne Arthurs (Pickering-Scarborough East)
  • Jim Brownell (Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry)
  • Aileen Carroll (Barrie)
  • Bruce Crozier (Essex)
  • Pat Hoy (Chatham-Kent-Essex)
  • Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London)
  • David Ramsay (Timiskaming-Cochrane)

The Progressive Conservatives are also contending with movement in their bench, most recently the announced retirement of Joyce Savoline in late February. While only elected to the Ontario legislature in a 2007 by-election, Savoline has a long political past, elected in 1982 as a local and regional councillor for Halton before serving as the region’s Chairwoman for twelve years. Savoline served as the Opposition’s Municipal Affairs and Housing Critic and her departure has left the Progressive Conservatives searching to find a candidate in Burlington.

With Savoline carrying the riding by only 3.5% in 2007, the now-open seat will likely be a Liberal target in October’s election. The PC party approached highly-respected former Burlington mayor Rob MacIsaac, but he made his disinterest very public in order to squelch any rumours that he would abandon his current job as President of Mohawk College.

The pending vacancy has stirred interest from Cam Jackson, the long-time former MPP and one term mayor of Burlington who was trounced in the recent municipal elections. However, there is a decided lack of enthusiasm for a Jackson candidacy among the PC caucus and party insiders.

The full slate of PC candidates who have so far announced retirement includes:

Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario

  • Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge)
  • Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound)
  • Joyce Savoline (Burlington)

So far, no NDP incumbents have stated an intention to resign.

Third Party Child Care Providers are back in the fold!

As part of the Government’s full-day learning initiative that began its first phase of roll-out in September 2010, Third Party Child Care Providers, like the YMCA Ontario, were prevented from offering before- and after-school programs for 4-5 year olds. A few months later, after a targeted government relations strategy, community-not-for-profit child care providers had reason to celebrate.

It was an uphill battle to climb for the Not-for-Profit Community Childcare Coalition, but on December 15th, 2010, the government announced its decision to include third-party child care providers as an option for extended-day programs, where they are located in schools.

Counsel worked with the Coalition to help the government address a real challenge – the realization that the proposed school-based model for child care delivery would, on its own, be unable to deliver the government’s commitment to a seamless day and meet the needs of Ontario’s families.

By introducing these changes, the government is recognizing the important role of third party not-for-profit community providers in making seamless full day learning a success in Ontario and ensuring that it meets the needs of Ontario’s children and families.

As part of its targeted government relations strategy, the Coalition developed and successfully implemented a broad-based and effective grass roots campaign to ensure the ongoing role of community not-for-profit child care providers as an option for the Government’s new extended-day program.

As a result of its campaign and prior to the December announcement, the Coalition had also secured several Government and Opposition champions, stabilization funding, amendments to Bill 242 and regulations to ensure the ongoing role of the community not-for-profit sector through a transition period.


February 3, 2011 - COUNSEL PUBLIC AFFAIRS ANNOUNCES ACQUISITION OF bespokePR LIMITED
Appoints Stefan Baranski and John Beaucage as Principals

(Toronto, ON) – Counsel Public Affairs Inc., a leading Canadian public affairs and public relations company, is pleased to announce that it has acquired bespokePR Limited, a full-service public relations firm, to address a tremendous growth in Counsel’s business and further enhance the company’s ability to provide clients with an integrated suite of services.

Counsel and bespokePR share a core philosophy – that every client matter deserves personalized, hands-on attention from the company’s Principals, who believe in providing premium service and deliver all day-to-day client work.

Stefan Baranski, bespokePR’s founder and Principal, will be joining Counsel Public Affairs as a Principal, effective immediately.

Stefan brings a wealth of experience to Counsel, including over a decade of political experience at all three levels of government – including serving as a senior advisor to Progressive Conservative leaders Tim Hudak and John Tory, as well as a former Premier, Deputy Premier, cabinet ministers and MPPs.

Stefan is a recognized expert in media relations and social media and founder of the provincial news aggregator, OntarioNewsWatch.com. He has honed his strong strategic and crisis communications skills serving political offices, diverse clients in the PR world and as an in-house senior communicator for two large health care organizations, the Ontario Hospital Association and the Ontario Medical Association.

Quite simply, Stefan has an intimate understanding of the types of communication strategies that work and what it takes to get a message out in an increasingly frenetic world.

John Beaucage, one of Canada’s most respected First Nation Leaders, is also joining Counsel as Principal.

John is the former Grand Chief of the 42-member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation (Union of Ontario Indians) and previously Chief of the Wasauksing First Nation for four consecutive terms. He is currently serving a one-year appointment as the first-ever Aboriginal Advisor to the Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services.

An economist trained at the University of Western Ontario and the University of British Columbia, John has special expertise in governance, housing and energy development. He is the CEO of the Lake Huron Anishinabek Transmission Company and an advisor to green energy projects with several First Nations across the country.

Among his many public service roles, John has been a strong advocate for First Nations health and environmental responsibility and sat on the Premier’s Cabinet for Smoke-Free Ontario, Ontario’s Expert Panel on Climate Change and the Ontario Biodiversity Council.

“We are all thrilled that Stefan Baranski and John Beaucage have become part of the Counsel team,” said Philip Dewan, President of Counsel. “Their professional records and personal integrity speak for themselves.”

Managing Principal Caroline Pinto added, “This acquisition and the addition of John and Stefan to the roster further strengthens Counsel’s ability to provide clients with a multidisciplinary team of experts able to bring leading edge approaches to the practice of contemporary communications and public affairs.”

John and Stefan join an extraordinary collection of Principals at Counsel who draw on their political and communications expertise to assist clients in virtually every sector of the economy:

  • Charles Beer has been a Minister, MPP, senior public servant, Chief of Staff to the Minister of Health and CEO of several non-profit organizations.
  • Don Cousens was the highly successful Mayor of Markham for 13 years, Minister, MPP, business leader and philanthropist.
  • Philip Dewan was Chief of Staff to then-Opposition Leader Dalton McGuinty, CEO of a major industry association and Director of Policy for Premier David Peterson, and co-founded Counsel in 2004.
  • Charles Harnick served as Attorney General of Ontario, Minister of Native affairs, MPP, and a land claims negotiator and continues many roles as a mediator, public affairs advisor and Bencher of the Law Society.
  • Bob Lopinski was for fifteen years a senior advisor to Leaders of the Liberal Party, including Director of Issues Management to Premier McGuinty, and has been a very successful public affairs consultant for six years.
  • Dorenda McNeil is a PR veteran of almost 20 years experience at agencies and as in house communicator for two large professional services corporations.
  • Caroline Pinto practiced at a major law firm, served as senior advisor to the Attorney General of Ontario, and as VP and Director of a large management consulting firm. She has practiced in public affairs consulting for almost a decade.
  • Mary Ellen Richardson is an energy sector specialist who has served in senior executive roles with the Ontario Power Authority, the Association of Major Power Consumers of Ontario and the Canadian District Energy Association, among others.

For Additional Information contact: Philip Dewan, President (416) 522-6107 pdewan@counselpa.com


McGuinty’s Shuffles Cabinet One Year Out from Election – August 18, 2010

On August 18th, 2010, Dalton McGuinty announced changes to his Cabinet just over a year before the October 2011 election. The shuffle was expected, as rearrangements in Cabinet are often done leading up to an election year. That said, it is quite likely that this will not be the last shuffle before the election. The new Cabinet is being promoted as focusing on the economy, health care, and education, reflecting Government directions for the next year.

Changes and priorities reflected in the Cabinet shuffle are as follows:

  • As expected, the Ministry of Energy & Infrastructure was split into two independent ministries. Brad Duguid remains as Minister responsible for Energy, while Bob Chiarelli is the new Minister of Infrastructure. This separation is reflective of the Government’s major focus on infrastructure and renewable energy initiatives in recent months and in the coming year. With its Ten Year Infrastructure Plan currently under development, this split also alludes to what will likely be an infrastructure-heavy pre-election Budget in March 2011.
  • Rick Bartolucci was appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Mr. Bartolucci represents a Northern Ontario riding (Sudbury), suggesting that increased focus will be given to Northern issues, particularly in the realm of municipal affairs and housing.
  • Glen Murray was appointed as Minister of Research and Innovation. Both he and the other “newcomer”, Bob Chiarelli, are considered political veterans who will give the Cabinet a good sense of how policy priorities in their new ministries will be received by voters in the lead up to the next election.
  • John Wilkinson was appointed Minister of the Environment. Fresh off his successful effort to sell implementation of the HST to a sceptical public, the appointment of the very competent Wilkinson reflects the Government’s plan to overcome the eco fee controversy and intensify its focus on environmental initiatives in the following year.
  • Veteran Jim Bradley is now the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
  • Sophia Aggelonitis was appointed Minister of Revenue and Minister Responsible for Seniors, a further boost for the up-and-coming Hamilton member.
  • Kingston’s John Gerretsen steps down from Environment to Minister of Consumer Services
  • Priorities and Planning Committee: This committee has been reconstituted to ensure a more specific focus to government priority areas and objectives. The Committee will steer the Government’s Open Ontario Plan and is made up of six current Ministers that have worked with Dalton McGuinty for many years. These individuals are the Premier’s most trusted, senior cabinet ministers. Their appointment to P&P reflects the importance of the committee itself, the core issues it is meant to advance, and the Premier’s intent to achieve these objectives. They include:
    • Dwight Duncan, Minister of Finance
    • Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry
    • Sandra Pupatello, Minister of Economic Development and Trade
    • Chris Bentley, Attorney General and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs
    • Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Transportation
    • Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-term Care
    • Leona Dombrowsky, Minister of Education

For more information on the new Cabinet, please see the Premier’s press release: http://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2010/08/economy-health-care-and-education-the-focus-of-new-cabinet.html


March 25, 2010 - What a difference a world financial crisis makes!

Not many years ago, any Ontario Finance Minister proposing a deficit of $21.3 billion would have been the target of sweeping scorn and attacks from media, financial experts, bond rating agencies, and, of course, the political opposition. Today, Dwight Duncan's deficit forecast was received with almost a breath of relief.

The news that the deficit forecast had dropped by 14% from the $24.7 billion predicted in the Fall Economic Statement just five months ago was actually leaked a day early to set the tone for media coverage of today’s Budget.

Strong economic growth in the last quarter of 2009 paved the way for additional revenue growth, aided by fortuitous savings such as hundreds of millions reserved for a flu epidemic that never materialized. The real challenge, though, will be trying to hit the deficit forecast in future years, starting with $19.7 billion in 2010-11. Duncan has laid out an eight-year forecast (he would argue it is a “plan”) to bring the province back to a balanced Budget by 2017-18, including cutting it in half within five years.

The Budget describes a range of cost control measures, such as freezing non-bargained salaries in the Ontario Public Service and broader public sector for two years. There is little real detail about how program costs will be held down, though keeping program spending to the forecast 1.9 percent in the next three years will not be easy.

The forecast calls for total program spending in government to increase from $108.8 billion in 2009-10 to $115.9 billion in 20010-11, then drop to $112.9 billion in 2011-12. The drop is accounted for largely by the end to a host of short-term program costs such as the one-time $4 billion auto industry support booked in 2009-10 and HST transitional assistance, infrastructure-related program support, pension adjustments and other expenses added in 2010-11.

The essence of the recovery strategy is not cost cutting but reliance on increased tax revenues from a return to growth. After a 0.5 percent decline in GDP in 2008 and a whopping 3.4 percent plunge in 2009, the economy clearly turned around at the end of the year. Ontario is banking on it staying that way, with growth forecasts of 2.7 to 3.2 percent for the next four years. There is little new in the Budget, since the government had done a thorough job in leaking the details on post-secondary expansion, northern development, and international marketing of water technology in speeches over the past month. The only major new program was a three-year, $150 million electricity cost reduction for northern industry to assist the hard-hit forestry and mining sectors.

Infrastructure Support

  • Notes infrastructure spending at record levels in 2009-10 and will increase further next year.
  • Infrastructure spending created or preserved 300,000 jobs over two years.
  • Total provincial infrastructure spending for both stimulus projects and traditional infrastructure is $11.07 billion in 2009-10 and $13.2 billion in 2010-11.
  • Budget highlights the findings of the March 2010 Conference Board study giving a huge boost in jobs and economic growth in Ontario in 2009 and 2010.
  • Reiterates 5,400 stimulus projects approved and on track for completion by March 31, 2011.
  • States that “The Government will undertake a comprehensive review of capital by the end of 2010. Following this review, the government is committed to introducing a 10-year infrastructure plan in 2011.” In other words, just in time for the election campaign!
  • Highlights major infrastructure associated with the 2015 Pan Am games, including completion of the Georgetown GO expansion to facilitate the Pearson-Union link.

Transit

  • Hidden in the budget but revealed in questioning by media: the government is asking Metrolinx to save $4 billion over five years by delaying some of the $9.3 billion worth of Transit City projects previously announced for Toronto.
  • Projects likely to proceed include those associated with the 2015 Pan Am games, including completion of the Georgetown GO expansion to facilitate the Pearson-Union link, as well as the Sheppard light rail transit line and the York University line.
  • Delays will likely affect five planned projects:rapid transit lines for Finch Ave. W., Sheppard Ave. E. and the Scarborough RT, along with the Eglinton Ave. cross-town line and an expansion of York Region’s Viva service.

Housing

  • No specific measures directed to the housing sector.
  • Starts forecast to rise from 50,400 in 2009 to 58,000 in 2010, 50,000 in 2011 and 70,000 in 2012 (compared to 75,100 in 2008.)

Green Energy

  • No new announcements.
  • Budget points to the success of the Green Energy Act and again anticipates 50,000 green jobs to result from it.
  • Emphasises the success of the FIT process but also remains fully committed to the Samsung deal and the promised 16,000 green energy jobs.

Full Day Learning

  • Replaces $63.5 million in annual child care funding “cut” by the federal government on expiry of the program, assisting 8,500 children.
  • Moving forward with full day learning for 4- and 5-year olds starting this September, with goal of full implementation by 2015-16.

Post Secondary Education

  • The Budget commits the government to the goal of increasing the number of Ontarians with post-secondary education or training from 62 per cent today to 70 per cent. As a first step the budget provides $310 million in new funding to create 20,000 new spaces in colleges and universities this year.
  • The government pledges that “every qualified Ontarian who wants to go to college or university will find a place”.
  • Will create a new Ontario Online Institute.
  • The government sets a goal of increasing the number of international students by 50 per cent.

Health

  • Health spending increases to $46.1 billion, representing 46 per cent of overall program spending.
  • Hospital transfers increase 1.5 percent.
  • The government made clear the main target of their Drug System Review stating “Ontarians pay too much for generic drugs.” Legislation to be introduced to cut generic prices and make other drug price changes.
  • At the same time government pledges to “increase support for pharmacies in rural and underserviced areas and support the expansion of clinical services provided by pharmacies.”
  • Will introduce legislation making health care professionals and executives more accountable for improving patient care and undertake a review of the Public Hospitals Act.
  • On dental care, trumpets the earlier expansion of the Children in Need of Treatment program to cover to age 17, but no costing details or new commitments.

Public Sector Compensation

  • Among the most contentious items included in the Budget is the decision to legislate a freeze for two years on the compensation structures of non-bargaining employees in the Broader Public Sector and the Ontario Public Service, including all political and legislative staff who fall in this category.
  • While the government will respect all collective agreements – it will provide no funding to partners to cover increases in compensation negotiated in future collective agreements.
  • The government says these moves will redirect $750 million in our schools, hospitals and other public services by 2011/1012.

For more information, contact:
Counsel Public Affairs
416-920-0716


January 18, 2010 - McGuinty's New Look Cabinet

As expected, Premier Dalton McGuinty has shuffled his Cabinet to plug the holes caused by the departures of George Smitherman and Jim Watson, move out a number of veterans and showcase new talent in the 18 month lead up to the October 2011 election. Coming off a challenging year and facing huge fiscal limitations, the shuffle, provides an opportunity for the Premier to inject new energy into the Cabinet and recast the public face of the government.

Three women from the backbenches, representing different areas of the province, have been promoted to Cabinet: Sophia Aggelonitis (Hamilton) as Minister of Consumer Services, Linda Jeffrey (Brampton) to Minister of Natural Resources and Carol Mitchell (Huron-Bruce) as Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Not surprisingly, the successful star candidate who succeeded Michael Bryant in Toronto’s St. Paul’s riding, Dr. Eric Hoskins, has also been given an “Honourable” before his name as the man in charge at Citizenship and Immigration.

In one of the most dramatic moves, the Premier has given a huge promotion to Scarborough’s Brad Duguid, moving him from Aboriginal Affairs to Energy and Infrastructure, the super-ministry specially created for Smitherman.

Many groups in the construction sector had pushed to separate the two parts of the Ministry, arguing that the scope of major decision on the energy file meant infrastructure was getting short shrift. Those disappointed that the marriage of the two sectors was maintained may be somewhat mollified by Duguid's appointment. In a prior role as Minister of Labour, Duguid dealt extensively and fairly with the construction and infrastructure communities.

Nevertheless, he will have a daunting task on his hands, given some of the major decisions pending in the super-Ministry: marketing the Green Energy Act, including attracting new renewable investment, dealing with NIMBYism over wind farms, and selling the public on rising energy costs for green electricity; dealing with local concerns around new gas-fired plants in Northern York Region and Oakville; determining the fate of Ontario’s next-generation nuclear procurement; establishing a framework for long-term infrastructure planning; moving forward on Smitherman’s commitment to introduce new legislation to ensure long-term self funding for water and waste water infrastructure; rolling out the $2.3 billion transmission line expansion; completing the massive federal-provincial stimulus spending; and much more.

Perhaps the most surprising change was the shift of power house Kathleen Wynne from Education to Transportation. This may reflect a feeling that Wynne had become too close to the education stakeholders, though it is being sold as a chance for her to steer the expansion of transit initiatives important to Toronto as well as some time freed for her to co-chair the election campaign.

Long-time Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky will take over the Education portfolio.

Three current ministers have been dropped from Cabinet, several of whom had been expected to retire at the next election: Aileen Carroll, Ted McMeekin and Donna Cansfield.

As is always the danger in these situations, a number of strong backbenchers who did not receive promotions may now rethink their intentions for 2011.

Despite the changes, the major players remain in their places: Premier McGuinty himself, of course, along with Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, Health Minister Deb Matthews and Economic Development and Trade Minister Sandra Pupatello.

Some commentators had speculated last week about Greg Sorbara returning to Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio and Deputy Premier. While McGuinty would have welcomed his voice in Cabinet again, Sorbara is serving a more valuable role as Chair of the 2011 election campaign. To give him a Minister without Portfolio role, complete with car, driver and Ministerial salary, while he devoted his time to the Party’s election effort, would have been politically untenable.

There may be some additional Cabinet material to consider before long. High profile candidates are running to replace Smitherman in Toronto Centre – former Winnipeg Mayor Glen Murray is the candidate for the February 4th by-election – and Watson in Ottawa-Nepean – former Ottawa Mayor, Regional Chair and MPP Bob Chiarelli is seeking the nomination for the yet-to-be-called race – and they may be possibilities for some of the doubled up portfolios, or replacements for any rookies who falter.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the old and new Cabinets, with changes highlighted:

Portfolio
Old Minister
New Minister
Premier Dalton McGuinty Dalton McGuinty
Aboriginal Affairs Brad Duguid Chris Bentley
Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Leona Dombrowksy Carol Mitchell
Attorney General  Chris Bentley Chris Bentley
Cabinet (Chair of) Gerry Phillips Gerry Phillips
Children and Youth Services Laurel Broten Laurel Broten
Citizenship and Immigration Michael Chan Eric Hoskins
Community and Social Services Madeleine Meilleur Madeleine Meilleur
Community Safety & Correctional Services  Rick Bartulucci Rick Bartulucci
Consumer Services Ted McMeekin Sophia Aggelonitis
Culture Aileen Carroll Michael Chan***
Economic Development and Trade Sandra Pupatello Sandra Pupatello
Education Kathleen Wynne Leona Dombrowksy
Energy and Infrastructure Gerry Phillips* Brad Duguid
Environment John Gerretsen John Gerretsen
Finance Dwight Duncan Dwight Duncan
Francophone Affairs (Responsible for) Madeleine Meilleur Madeleine Meilleur
Government House Leader Monique Smith Monique Smith
Government Services  Harinder Takhar Harinder Takhar
Health and Long-Term Care  Deb Matthews Deb Matthews
Health Promotion  Margarett Best Margarett Best
Intergovernmental Affair Dalton McGuinty Monique Smith
Labour Peter Fonseca Peter Fonseca
Management Board of Cabinet (Chair of) Dwight Duncan Dwight Duncan
Municipal Affairs and Housing John Gerretsen** Jim Bradley
Natural Resources Donna Cansfield Linda Jeffrey
Northern Development, Mines & Forestry Michael Gravelle Michael Gravelle
Research and Innovation John Milloy John Milloy
Revenue John Wilkinson John Wilkinson
Seniors (Responsible for) Aileen Carroll Gerry Phillips
Tourism Monique Smith Michael Chan***
Training, Colleges and Universities  John Milloy John Milloy
Transportation Jim Bradley Kathleen Wynne
Women’s Issues (Responsible for) Laurel Broten Laurel Broten

(For the sake of space, we have omitted the title “Honourable” from each name in the chart)

* Interim Minister since George Smitherman’s resignation in November 9th

**Interim Minister following Jim Watson’s resignation on January 12th

***Chan is Minister of a new combined Tourism and Culture Ministry.

Full biographies for each Minister as well as the Premier’s press release can be found at: http://www.premier.gov.on.ca/news/index.php?Lang=EN

 


 

December 17, 2009

First, we are thrilled that Mary Ellen Richardson has joined the firm as an Associate. Mary Ellen has worked with the Ontario Power Authority in various senior capacities including VP, Corporate Affairs, VP, Conservation Programs and External Relations & Executive Adviser to the CEO and Executive Team. Ms. Richardson was also the President of the Association of Major Power Consumers in Ontario (AMPCO) and previously held roles at Ontario Hydro, Enbridge, TransCanada PipeLines and Petro Canada.

Second, Counsel Public Relations, originally a separately incorporated joint venture, has now been fully merged with Counsel PA. Counsel's integrated PA/PR capacity is reflected in our new logo. Dorenda McNeil, formerly President of Counsel PR, becomes our seventh Principal, and will be responsible for guiding the public relations side of our business. More than ever, Counsel is a full-service public affairs shop with the capacity to help you with everything from a product launch to a province-wide political advocacy campaign.

And third, we have launched our new website to tell everyone about the COUNSEL team and our valuable resources to our clients and friends. Visit us regularly to access a full calendar of upcoming events, and get information on our soon-to-be-launched Counsel Debates series. While these developments are exciting for all of us, the really important news is the value they bring to you as clients or prospective clients. Whatever your public affairs needs, we can help — effectively, efficiently and professionally. Happy Holidays — to you and your family!


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