Warren (Smokey) Thomas' full letter to the Editor at the Toronto Sun:
August 12, 2016
Premier Kathleen Wynne’s trip to northern Ontario last week took her far, far away from downtown Toronto, where she enjoys the comfort of her own elite crowd.
To deflate criticism of her infrequent visits, she brought along more than $500 million in announcements — some of them long overdue investments — which is Politics 101 for how to increase your popularity.
But another guess is that she owed a favour to the federal Liberals to butter up a region in the days leading up to a big visit from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his cabinet.
Could the favour be that Trudeau bailed her out of having to introduce an Ontario pension plan?
By the prime minister agreeing to enhance the Canada Pension Plan, the premier got to abandon her go-it-alone undertaking of her once-proposed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan.
What she can’t abandon is the money we are now on the hook for — $70 million for a plan that never saw the light of day.
This was $70 million that the premier could have invested in northern Ontario.
Some have said this cost is justified, but the only description I’ve heard is arrogant and careless.
It is an outrageous price to pay for a now-defunct policy, and frankly speaking, we could have reached the same goal at a fraction of the cost.
The premier set up an entire bureaucratic wing to manage this fizzled policy: An arm’s-length corporation, a board of directors, new staff with large compensation packages, bonuses and generous severances, and a whopping $1.7 million on government advertising.
The head of the corporation, Saad Rafi, received a $525,000 contract plus a performance bonus of up to 25%, or $131,250.
Tell someone from northern Ontario — who can’t get a health service in the local hospital because it has been cut — that Rafi’s salary for a fizzled policy was so important.
Shockingly, this comes at a time when the Liberal government is cutting services that people actually need — all across the province — and putting hard-working frontline public sector workers out of jobs.
It makes matters worse that the Liberals have flushed taxpayer dollars down the toilet for other failed plans, such as the $1 billion spent on gas power plants that never got built.
Or $44 million to prepare for a jail strike that never happened.
Or the millions spent on the fiasco known as the Social Assistance Management System, which left thousands of families receiving social assistance high and dry.
The Liberals should understand that big investments can be popular with voters, if the funds are solid investments to improve communities and will positively affect the lives of Ontarians.
What voters cannot tolerate is the abuse of power, the squandering of money, or the cosying up to elite Torontonians ready to hand out massive fundraising dollars.
— Thomas is president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union