SCOOP: Grits big platform weekend
Plus: Chief of staff mini-shuffle, NDPers slam Eglinton-Lawrence nomination, a hint on a mystery candidate, the coalition question, Ford charged up on EVs, Liberals react to a spectacle-less Del Duca
ABOVE THE FOLD
First in Queen’s Park Observer — It’s a big weekend for the Grits, who are gearing up for the spring campaign at a meeting in downtown Toronto.
Platform planks are expected to be unveiled on Saturday, sources tell me.
Card-carrying Liberals will descend on the Chestnut Conference Centre to hear updates from the campaign team — including the launch of fresh (already leaked) branding.
The day features candidate training sessions, a special address from captain STEVEN DEL DUCA, and a social. A professional photographer will also be on hand, and party brass want attendees to “please choose your attire accordingly.” That’s according to a memo obtained by Queen’s Park Observer.
Breaking last night — NDP NOMINATION DRAMA: The NDP’s riding association in Eglinton—Lawrence is calling out the provincial party for black-listing a would-be 2022 candidate as part of what they call “arbitrary, unintelligible and inconsistent vetting standards.”
SAM KAPLUN, president of the local riding association, was rejected by the party’s candidate vetting team for “inappropriate conduct.” The only example they provided Kaplun was that he had liked a tweet from last year calling Premier DOUG FORD a “murderer.”
“To see a highly dedicated and principled young person living with disabilities be refused the opportunity to seek the Ontario NDP nomination due to his ‘social media comportment’ is a great disappointment to all of us and an indication of our party’s unwillingness to stand beside and support equity-seeking candidates through even the smallest instance of controversy. We cannot help but notice the unusual lack of young Ontario NDP candidates in this election cycle,” the riding association wrote in a scathing open letter.
They want the decision reversed so Kaplun can run for the nomination in PC-held Eglinton—Lawrence, or at the very least, further explanation of “what the party deems to be ‘inappropriate conduct.’”
They also said Kaplun should get the chance to explain himself and apologize, and called out party HQ for “a complete lack of regular communication between candidate search and prospective candidates; no right for rejected candidates or their riding association to appeal or litigate vetting decisions; [and] no input from riding associations on the vetting of prospective candidates.”
For his part, Kaplun says that while it’s been a “difficult few weeks” he’s sticking with the NDP and will have more to say soon.
Eglinton—Lawrence NDP @EgLawNDPThe Eglinton—Lawrence NDP is unanimously opposed to the Ontario NDP candidate search team's decision to bar @SamKaplun from seeking our nomination for the provincial election. Our statement (full text also below in thread): https://t.co/UJiOy3P88Q
I’ve reached out to the NDP for comment and will update this space with any response.
DOUG FORD’S WEDNESDAY — 11 a.m.: The electric vehicle announcements keep on coming. Ontario and Ottawa will jointly announce funding as part of a $4-billion plan from automaker Stellantis and LG Energy Solution to create an EV battery plant in Windsor that would create up to 3,000 local jobs. Premier DOUG FORD, Economic Development Minister VIC FEDELI, federal Transport Minister OMAR ALGHABRA, Industry Minister FRANCOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE and Mayor DREW DILKENS will unveil details in Windsor.
— 10 a.m.: Green Leader MIKE SCHREINER is in the Media Studio for a “major announcement on immediately addressing the soaring gas prices and affordability crisis.”
FUNDRAISING WATCH — 6 p.m.: A $1,500-a-head PC fundraiser in Toronto (the party didn’t disclose the lineup, but in the past, that has indicated Premier DOUG FORD will be in attendance). Invite. — Grits who cough up $1,000 can rub elbows with Leader STEVEN DEL DUCA in Toronto, while those who fork over $250 can hang with candidate NADIA GUERRERA (York South—Weston) and local councillor ANA BAILAO at Junction Craft Brewery. RSVP.
ON THE ORDER PAPER
— First up for debate is second reading of Bill 93, a.k.a. Infrastructure Minister KINGA SURMA’s Building Broadband Faster Act, which is aimed at spurring broadband infrastructure projects.
— After Question Period, MPPs will vote on second-reading of Bill 88, Labour Minister MONTE MCNAUGHTON’s worker-friendly omnibus package that includes some rights for digital app-based employees (it’s the second time around for this bill, since it was amended to scrap the deregulation of traditional Chinese medicine amid backlash).
— Later on, it’s Oppo Motion Day 3. NDP captain ANDREA HORWATH will move her motion calling on the Ford government to “immediately fund and implement a plan to attract, train and retain nurses, physicians and specialists in Northern Ontario” including the repeal of wage-capping Bill 124.
— Evening debate features ousted-NDPer, now-Independent PAUL MILLER’s private member’s bill to establish a Social Assistance Research Commission, something he’s re-tabled several times.
BILLS, BILLS, BILLS — Don’t forget to check out Bills On The Table, our handy legislation tracker, which has been updated with the latest bills from the backbench, including a proposal from ex-PC LINDSEY PARK to develop a strategy to reduce loneliness and social isolation.
ON THE COMMITTEE CIRCUIT — Pandemic support programs for businesses go under the microscope at the Public Accounts Committee today, including a closed-session briefing from Auditor General BONNIE LYSYK, who previously found more than $200 million went to ineligible biz. The committee then opens its doors to hear testimony from a slew of officials, including deputy ministers from Finance and Treasury Board. Full roster.
— Meanwhile, a slew of private bills go for study at the Regulations Committee.
— THE BIG COALITION QUESTION: “Liberal Leader STEVEN DEL DUCA says that he has not spoken with his NDP counterpart about a formal or informal coalition following June’s election but will have an open mind when it comes to keeping DOUG FORD’s Progressive Conservative party from forming government.” More from CTV News: “Del Duca made the comment to reporters at Queen’s Park on Tuesday, following the news that the federal Liberals have reached a deal with the NDP that will allow them to continue governing until the end of their current term in 2025 in exchange for moving forward with a handful of policies.”
One political operative suggested the federal Liberal-NDP coalition puts Del Duca and NDP leader ANDREA HORWATH in a tough political position provincially. “Why wouldn’t TRUDEAU wait until the June election is done? Savage move,” they told me.
— BABER’S IN: Ousted PCer ROMAN BABER is officially in the running for federal Conservative captain, now that the party’s Leadership Election Organizing Committee has approved his candidacy. There was some speculation in PC circles that his ouster at the provincial level could hurt his chances federally. Says Baber: “I am grateful to the Conservative Party of Canada for approving my application. Canadians should never be afraid to speak. Respecting diversity of opinion is how I will unify the Conservative Party and our country.”
— ESCAPE FROM UKRAINE, WITH PC HELP: “ANDERSON ABANULOR is a graduate student originally from Nigeria who has been studying business management at Kharkiv National University in Ukraine. He was living in Kyiv when the Russian attack on Ukraine began. With the help of Mississauga MPP NATALIA KUSENDOVA he was able to escape to Poland. He shares his harrowing story with the CBC’s Gill Deacon.”
— POLL WATCH: “A new poll suggests former Quebec premier JEAN CHAREST has the advantage in the all-important electoral battleground of Ontario over Conservative MP PIERRE POILIEVRE, his primary adversary in the Conservative leadership race.” Story from CBC News.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
First in Queen’s Park Observer — CHIEF SHUFFLE — MICHAEL THOMAS is now chief of staff to Associate Transportation Minister STAN CHO; Thomas previously worked as Cho’s policy director and is replacing KYLE SHOLES.
PROMOTION — TYLER LIVELY goes from director of policy to deputy chief of staff to the Energy Minister. SHOSHANNA PASTERNAK is now full-on director of policy; she was previously the deputy.
EXIT — ROB ELLIOTT has left the Transportation Minister’s office where he worked as associate director of policy. DOMINIC ROSZAK is no longer deputy chief and director of stakeholder relations to the Energy Minister.
BEYOND THE BUBBLE — KYLE JACOBS has landed at Navigator, as a senior consultant in the firm’s executive office. Jacobs has worked for the PCs since 2018, most recently as Premier DOUG FORD’s issues manager.
2022 — Star candidate incoming? Word on the street is the Grits are set to appoint a high-profile contender for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, currently repped by the PCs CHRISTINE HOGARTH. That could happen imminently, as wannabe contestant LIAM HANCOCK has bowed out of the race.
— The PCs have enlisted former Toronto Police chief MARK SAUNDERS to carry their banner in Don Valley West, long-held by ex-Liberal premier KATHLEEN WYNNE, who’s not seeking another term. Saunders was named by Premier DOUG FORD, who gets to make a certain number of candidate appointments thanks to new party rules. The former chief goes up against another high-profile contender, ex provincial child advocate IRWIN ELMAN for the NDP, and banking exec STEPHANIE BOWMAN for the Grits.
— A pair of Liberals have joined the ticket. In Dufferin—Caledon, it’s BOB GORDANIER, a farmer and former president of the Beef Farmers of Ontario. Over in Oxford, it’s teacher MARY HOLMES.
A big anti-Ford government campaign from the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, “Know More”…Fresh opposition to controversial Highway 413, signed by MARGARET ATWOOD and more…Vaccine Hunters Canada says goodbye, again…
Liberals react to STEVEN DEL DUCA ditching his glasses, including one insider who told me it’s “desperate,” and another who suggested tongue-in-cheek that Grit pollster “DON GUY’s focus groups must have been really bad.”
New Democrats hammered the PCs on everything from a scathing report showing 90 per cent of principals found the pandemic difficult to navigate, to allegations that the PCs handed out MZOs to boost the property values of their donors.
Before the debate, MPPs paid tribute to the late CLAUDE BENNETT, who represented Ottawa South at Queen’s Park from the 1970s to mid-80s.
THE HIGHLIGHTS: Where is the plan to recruit and retain desperately needed health care workers? — People for Education’s report showing 90 per cent of principals found the pandemic “extremely difficult” to navigate — Handing out MZOs to boost the property values of friends and donors to the PC Party? — Crackdown on money laundering in real estate — Ending financial discrimination for survivors of human trafficking, via a Liberal PMB — Release secret ministerial mandate letters — Stop dragging your feet on a deal for $10-a-day child care — Patient Ombudsman report — Give gig workers equal employment rights — End postal code discrimination in auto insurance. TRANSCRIPT.
Here are the new, renewed and amended registrations over the past 24 hours:
— Jenessa Crognali, Navigator: Legacy Private Trust
— Jeff Dean, Aurora Strategy Group: Ontario Crown Attorneys Association
— Kevin Richardson, Heartland Solutions Group: Zebra Technologies Corporation
— Adam Yahn, Summa Strategies Canada: Golf Canada, Convenience Industry Council of Canada, Ivaco Rolling Mills, Genesee & Wyoming Canada
— John Capobianco, FleishmanHillard HighRoad: Metropolitan Plumbing & Heating Contractors Association
— Jeff Melanson, Creative Change Management Consulting: Stratagem Group
— Alex Simakov, Sussex Strategy Group: Potentia Renewables
In-house organizations: Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association — Teva Canada Limited — Cisco Systems Canada Co. — Electrobac.
🥳 HAPPY BIRTHDAY: ROBERT BENZIE, Queen’s Park bureau chief for the Toronto Star…Conservative strategist and commentator MELANIE PARADIS.
🍽️ WHAT’S ON THE MENU: Wondering whether to pack a lunch before heading to the Pink Palace? Here’s what’s on tap at the Quorum Cafe’s basement cafeteria — Green curry buddha bowl: marinated chicken or tofu, carrots, onions, peppers, broccoli and edamame over a bed of seasoned rice.
⏳ COUNTDOWN: T-minus 71 days until the Election…42 days until the official start of the campaign…38 days until the budget is (legally) due out.