Transcript: Ep. 115 - Stage 1 (again) | Jun 08, 2021

STEVE:
Welcome everyone
to the
#onpoli
podcast.
I'm Steve Paikin.
JOHN MICHAEL:
And I'm John Michael McGrath.
STEVE:
Ontario will enter
the first stage
of its reopening plan on Friday,
and yes,
that's earlier than expected.
What will that mean for business
and your weekend plans?
We'll discuss that.
Also, less than a year
from today,
Ontarians will be heading
to the polls
for the Province's
43rd general election.
As we've all learned recently,
a lot can change in a year.
Where do things stand now?
Plus, the legislature has
wrapped up for the summer
and we'll take a look at some of
the bills that passed
that you might have missed.
It's Tuesday, June 8, 2021,
so let's get to it.
Well, JMM, however
your past weekend was,
we can now say you'll have more
options for the next one.
The government announced
on Monday
that Ontario is going to enter
Stage 1 of its reopening plan
on Friday, June 11.
That's several days earlier
than initially planned.
This is, I presume,
unambiguously good news
for a change?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Uh, you know, the short version
is that things are getting
better faster than anticipated
driven by vaccinations and,
you know,
some of these continuing
public health measures.
Uh, just as a, for example,
on Monday, Ontario reported just
525 new cases of COVID-19.
Mondays are usually low
in our case counts,
but that is still the lowest
number of new cases we've seen
since September of last year.
So, you know,
things are moving well.
The Province has also moved up
its vaccination schedule
so that people over 70
or those who got their
first shots before April 18
can start booking
their second shots as of Monday.
That is also substantially
earlier than expected.
You know, so the government
clearly feels that,
you know, we as a province,
have got a good wind
in our sails for once
and they are ready to start
reopening a few days early.
They had talked about waiting
until June 14,
so they're moving it up
about three days early,
so that, you know, maybe people
can have some drinks
on a patio this weekend
if they can find a table.
STEVE:
Yeah, that sounds pretty good
right now actually.
So, let's nail this down.
Stage 1 means what in terms
of what people
will now be allowed to do?
JOHN MICHAEL:
So, we discussed the whole
three-stage reopening plan
I believe two
or three weeks ago now
and people may remember
Stage 1 is still,
you could fairly call it still
very tightly controlled.
Most indoor activities are still
either prohibited
or very tightly controlled,
but a lot of outdoor activities
start to become legal again,
you know, I mentioned finding
a patio somewhere,
dining and drinking outdoors
become legal.
Outdoor fitness classes,
outdoor religious services,
outdoor pools and zoos,
and campgrounds
and overnight camping
in Provincial Parks
are allowed.
Day camps can open,
but overnight summer camps
cannot open yet.
STEVE:
Now, I'm asking this
next question for a friend.
There's no self-interest
here at all.
I just want to put
that on the record.
Are indoor haircuts allowed yet?
JOHN MICHAEL:
That comes in Stage 2,
so not yet.
Not as of Friday.
STEVE:
How about outdoor haircuts?
JOHN MICHAEL:
(Laughing)
Are you asking me to come over
to your backyard
with a set of clippers, Steve?
STEVE:
No, no, as I say,
I'm asking for a friend.
I'm not asking for myself.
I mean, it's a coincidence
I haven't had a haircut
in four months, but really,
this has nothing to do with me.
Okay, how long will we be
in Stage 1
before we get to move on
to Stage 2?
JOHN MICHAEL:
The plan as the government
announced it
was that we would spend no less
than 21 days between stages
giving plenty of time for
the government to be confident
that, you know, as we open up
different parts of the economy,
you don't get A,
a massive spike in new cases,
but if we're honest, I think
the government is very likely
to cut Stage 1 at least
a day or maybe two short,
because if you count forward
21 days from June 11,
you get to July 2
and I think that there's going
to be a lot of pressure
both from the public and from
within the PC caucus
to have us move into Stage 2
on Canada Day itself.
STEVE:
Right, that makes sense.
Well, the government wants at
least 70% of people
with their first dose and 20%
with their second dose
before moving onto Stage 2.
Have we got those numbers right?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Yes, that's exactly right.
We have already hit
that 70% number by the way
and actually, by the time this
gets to our listeners' ears,
we should be about halfway
to the second dose target.
We were at 9% as
of Monday morning.
It is likely that we are going
to hit both benchmarks by,
I think the end of next week,
so something like
Friday, June 18,
if not the Saturday.
Um, which would mean
that we would be
qualified for Stage 2
with something like
two weeks to spare
even if we did open a bit early.
You know, there is still
the possibility
of some unpleasant surprise,
because COVID has had lots
of those for us
over the last year and a bit,
but right now, it is, um--
it's pretty hard to find
an indicator in Ontario
that's heading
in the wrong direction.
The one exception,
and I have mentioned it before
on the podcast,
is a pretty severe outbreak
in Timmins-James Bay
in what's called the
Porcupine Public Health Unit.
They continue to have in terms
of per capita,
they have really
the most severe outbreak
in the province right now
and just before
we started recording this,
I learned that
it looks like actually
the Porcupine PHU
will not enter Stage 1
with the rest of the province.
STEVE:
Hmm, interesting.
Okay, one last thing on this.
Did you find it odd, you know,
this is a good day.
Did you find it odd
that such a big
and apparently encouraging
announcement,
the premier did not have
a news conference?
None of his cabinet ministers
went to a microphone on Monday.
There was, there was nothing.
JOHN MICHAEL:
I mean, it is pretty odd given
how many bad new announcements
the premier has had
to make lately.
This would be one of those times
I would assume
that cabinet ministers would be,
you know,
fighting each other to get to be
in front of a microphone,
in front of the TV camera,
but yeah,
all we got was
a press release and then
some cabinet members tripping
over themselves
to tweet out the news
early on Twitter.
STEVE:
Mmm-hmm, right.
Okay, what we're going to talk
about next,
I'm going to go
on record right now
and promise our listeners
we're not going
to be doing this every week
for the next 52 weeks.
Because there is a tendency
among media
to breathlessly report
on every little nuance
and how it affects
the upcoming election campaign
for the year proceeding
the campaign,
but we're not going to do it,
but we do want to note
this is a fairly significant
anniversary on the calendar.
We're a year away from,
I guess, finding out
who's going to form
the next government of Ontario.
More than likely,
because of course,
there's always the possibility
of a hung parliament
that could require negotiations
as to who will form
the next government,
but basically, we're T-minus
one year and counting
until the 43rd general election,
so where do things stand now?
JOHN MICHAEL:
You know, in the last few weeks,
we have seen three horse-race
polls of Ontario politics
from three different pollsters.
In this case, Leger, Mainstreet,
and Campaign Research,
and they all show more or less
the same picture.
Their results agree
pretty closely.
The Tories are ahead
in the polls,
but bouncing around in,
I guess you would call it,
like, the low to mid-30s,
between 33 and 36%.
Worth noting here that these are
different pollsters
than the ones who back in April
showed the Liberals in the lead
after people probably recall
Premier Ford's
really disastrous week
early that month.
You know, I think it's still
fair to say that
based on these polls,
the PCs look down
from where they were before that
very bad week in April.
But, you know, still ahead
of the other two
or the other
three parties rather.
STEVE:
Now, let's ask about them.
The NDP are
the official opposition.
Have they been able to chip away
at any of the
government's support?
JOHN MICHAEL:
They don't seem to have yet.
The NDP have been very stable
for months now,
which is both a plus
and a minus.
They seem to be bouncing around
in the mid-20s.
Not a ton that's new there.
They don't seem to be making
major inroads
against the government, against
the Progressive Conservatives,
but they also don't seem to be
losing support either to
the Tories or to the Liberals
or Greens either.
STEVE:
Well, I suppose
it's worth mentioning
that the NDP is rarely the place
where people
park their votes
between elections.
They are at where they usually
are between campaigns,
but when they do well, it's
because they've usually
caught fire during a campaign.
All of which is to say it
wouldn't surprise me
if there's very little dynamism
in the NDP vote
over the next 11 months.
And we do have to remember that
a few weeks ago,
Pollster Greg Lyle from
the Innovative Research Group
was on the podcast and he said
one of the challenges
for the Ontario Liberals
is that people
have no idea
who their leader is.
STEVE:
And we're actually going to have
some of our own polling on that
in the next couple of weeks,
so stay tuned,
come back, revisit us for that.
But let's look at the
third-place party at the moment.
Where do the grits stand
right now?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Uh, you know, we mentioned
there's this bunch of polls
that we saw in April that showed
the Liberals in the lead.
These are different polls
from different pollsters
and so, they really show
the Liberals basically
neck-and-neck with the NDP.
Again, bouncing around
in those mid-20s.
I wouldn't necessarily expect
these numbers to change hugely
in the next month
or the next three months.
It's, you know, really going
to be the period in,
you know, a month to three
months before the election
where we might see
some really significant swings.
STEVE:
Right. And how about
Mike Schreiner
and his Green Party?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Uh, you know, sort of
a familiar story here for now.
Never less than 5% and never
more than 10%.
Regretfully for the Greens,
I'm sure.
You know, there is some
interesting stuff happening
with the Green Party and I think
we should definitely
talk about getting some
representatives on the podcast
because they are recruiting
new candidates
and I know we've had them
on
The Agenda
as well.
They had the former
environmental commissioner
as a deputy leader now. Uh--
Some interesting stuff happening
with the Green Party
just doesn't seem
to be translating
to popular support
in the polls yet.
STEVE:
Well, having said that,
the one comment you always hear
about Mike Schreiner,
the leader, is--
that he always punches
above his weight.
JOHN MICHAEL: Yes.
Considering he's only one
lonely member in
that Ontario Legislature.
That's saying something.
Now, the most
important thing I think
we need to remind people of
and we may do this more
than once as well next year
and that is if
I've said it once,
I've said it 100 times,
polls tell you what people
thought yesterday.
They are not predictive of what
people will think tomorrow,
so we've got a long way to go
before the race
truly crystalizes.
Let's just remind
everybody of that.
Okay, JMM, you know--
You do know, because we've
talked about this before,
how amusing I find
political advertising, right?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Uh, is it like nails on
a chalkboard for you?
STEVE:
(Laughing)
Well, nails on a chalkboard, um,
I think only halfway
gets there, because--
here's, okay, I'm not meaning
to sound insulting here,
but just some of the stuff that
people in this province do
to raise money for political
parties sometimes--
Well, here's the latest e-blast
from the Chair of
the PC Ontario Fund.
His name is Tony Miele
and he writes the following.
This is in an e-blast
that goes out to whoever
is interested in following
Ontario PC Party politics.
The Liberals left behind
a legacy of 15 years
of political corruption,
higher taxes,
and out of control hydro rates.
It is a mess we are still
cleaning up today.
Can you imagine what would come
from an NDP government?
We're seeing that
the NDP and Liberals
are starting to prepare
for next year
by launching attack ads
and hosting virtual rallies
and we cannot just stand by.
And of course, after that,
after my breathless
and very dramatic rendering
of that e-mail blast,
they go on to ask you for money.
Now, a couple
of things worth noting.
First, the only party
running attack ads right now
are the Provincial Conservatives
who are attacking
the federal government
for not closing the borders
tightly enough.
You can have a debate
about whether they are
or whether they aren't,
but facts are facts,
and right now the only ones
running attack ads on TV
during the hockey games,
which I watch every night,
it's the PC party
attacking Justin Trudeau.
So, that's number one.
Second, and let me ask you this
in the form of
a question to you.
One of the truisms
in politics is
you gotta know
your enemy, right?
It's not enough to know
what you stand for,
you gotta know
who you're going against.
Who's your prime target?
Does it look to you like
the Tories
know which one
of their opponents
is ultimately going to be their
real enemy come election time?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Uh, you know, it reads to me,
or rather,
I take from your extraordinary
retelling of that email.
STEVE:
Thank you, sir.
Shakespearean in my performance,
wouldn't you say?
JOHN MICHAEL:
(Laughing) Um--
you know, it reads to me like
the Tories are,
they're at least
entertaining the idea
that the NDP could remain
their primary opposition
in the next election and I think
some of the commentary
about the election
coming next year
is almost treated
as a given that things
will return to the mean in
Ontario, that the Liberals will
become the sort of default--
party for people who want
to unseat the Tories.
Um, but if you take this email,
sort of,
at face value
and maybe we shouldn't.
Yeah, the Tories seem
to at least be
entertaining the idea
that they may end up
having to go hardest
against the NDP.
Um, you know--
I think the warning that nothing
is really settled
a year out from an election
is still a good one
to remember here.
I mean, and your point about
the attack ads against
the federal government, I mean,
it's almost novel at this point
for the Progressive
Conservatives to attack a party
that is actually going to be
running in the next election,
because, you know, whatever
one thinks about Justin Trudeau,
I am 99% certain he is not going
to be running
to be an MPP next year
one way or another,
so maybe not the best use
of campaign dollars.
STEVE:
You're only saying 99% sure, eh?
You're just holding out.
You sound like that guy
from
Dumb & Dumber.
JOHN MICHAEL:
(Laughing)
STEVE:
So, I've still got a chance!
So, you're saying
I've got a chance.
JOHN MICHAEL:
You know, 2018 and 2020 were
both really weird years.
STEVE:
Yeah, you got a point there.
You got a point there.
I just, let me add, you know,
another 30 seconds on this,
which is to say, you really do
in politics
have to know who
you're running against.
You gotta know
who your enemy is,
because I well remember in 1990,
there was a massive
Liberal majority government
at Queen's Park
and they were so certain
that the third-place
Conservatives
were actually going
to be their opponents
that they took out, you know,
a huge chunk of ads
in the first part of
that election campaign,
you know, demonizing the Tories
and what they didn't realize was
the public wasn't
going to put the Tories back in,
they just kicked the Tories out
five years earlier.
The party they should've been
going up against was the NDP.
They didn't and the NDP just
very quietly snuck up the middle
while the Liberals were taking
ads out excoriating the Tories,
Bob Rae's NDP went right up
the middle
and ended up winning
on election day.
And by the time the Liberals
figured out,
"Oh, darn! We should've been
taking out ads against the NDP,"
election over,
majority government for Bob Rae,
so this, that's why
it's important.
Anyway, my two cents on that.
JOHN MICHAEL:
No, and I mean,
we saw something similar,
slightly different
in 2018 where, you know,
every time the Liberals hammered
away at Doug Ford,
the main effect was that
the NDP's numbers increased.
Right, you know. Voters were not
going to re-elect
the Liberals in 2018
one way or another
and so that was in part why
you saw Kathleen Wynne's
campaign
basically pivot towards
attacking the NDP,
because attacking
Doug Ford simply
was not helping
Liberal fortunes at all.
STEVE:
There you go. Exactly.
All right, let's also remind
people that the legislature
has now wrapped up
for the season.
The MPPs go on
their summer break
even though COVID has become,
and rightfully so,
the focus of a lot of
the reporting at Queen's Park.
There were actually other bills
that were passed this year
and that are going to make,
um, you know,
a splash in people's lives.
So let's, I'm going to have you
take us through
some of the highlights,
the ones that are going
to have the most impact
on people
and let's start with highways.
What can you tell us on that?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Minister of Transportation,
Caroline Mulroney,
introduced a bill.
The Moving Ontarians
More Safely Act,
or I suspect we're expected
to read it as the MOMS Act.
Um, and it does a few main
things in the area
of sort of road safety
and transportation
in general, there is language in
there about increasing penalties
for stunt racing
and adopting new rules
for electric bicycles and--
one of the big things
that it does is--
really overhaul the rules
for the towing industry.
I don't know how closely
our listeners
have been following the issues
of the tow truck industry,
but especially in the GTA.
There's been some really
incredible reporting
and some very eye-opening
investigations
in terms of, you know,
corruption and violence even
in the tow truck industry,
so the government is pretty
clearly trying to tackle that
with a big new law.
STEVE:
Now, frequent listeners
to this podcast will know,
but I occasionally like to tease
my co-host about
what he does at two o'clock
in the morning,
which usually involves reading
the Planning Act,
so I raise this next issue,
because this one's right
in your wheelhouse, McGrath,
because it does include changes
to the Planning Act
and it was brought in by
the Red Tape Reduction Minister
Prabmeet Sarkaria,
and it's called
the Supporting Recovery
and Competitiveness Act.
What's the 411 there?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Well, with a bill given that
kind of a generic name,
you know that it can touch
almost anything
and this one almost does.
It's more than 20 different
schedules in the bill
and I really hate to disappoint
our eager listeners,
but the stuff about
the Planning Act
is so arcane,
even I haven't been able
to quite parse it all out
and I'm not gonna
try and do that live
on a hot mic,
but, you know--
in some ways it's the kind of
normal piece of legislation
you would see in any other time,
like in pre-COVID times.
It's again, certainly, I can
remember Liberal bills that were
about, you know,
business-friendly changes
to regulation
that just touched
all sorts of things.
It is what you would call
an omnibus bill. Pardon me.
You know, it does change
so many different bills,
but, you know,
I would say there's, you know,
there's the
business-friendly stuff,
there's some COVID response
in there,
some changes
to legislation that, you know,
because so much has changed
and so much in government
has had to change
because of COVID.
Um, and then there's
some very sort of technical
bookkeeping stuff like
the Planning Act stuff.
Yeah, it is not exactly
the most--
enthralling piece of legislation
we've seen since COVID started,
but, you know,
there are lots of bits
and pieces in there
that for businesses
all over the province,
could end up being
very important.
STEVE:
Now, some bills got passed
in this past session
and some other bills got just
newly-introduced
right before the legislature
wrapped up.
Anything we should
have our eye on
when the MPPs
come back in September?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Well, you do know
how we love
our independent officers of
the legislature on this podcast.
STEVE:
Oh, yes, indeed I do.
The Auditor-General,
the Financial
Accountability Officer,
the Ombudsman.
We can't get enough
of them here, JMM!
JOHN MICHAEL:
So, Liberal MPP John Fraser
has introduced a bill
to add someone to their number.
The Patient Ombudsman.
Listeners may remember
that Christine Elliott
was the Province's first
Patient Ombudsman for a time
before she returned to electoral
politics in 2018
and when the Liberal government
of Kathleen Wynne
created that position,
they expressly decided not
to make it
an officer of the legislature.
The way the Auditor,
Ombudsman, and FAO are.
The distinction here
is basically that
the government can--
the government cannot fire
an officer of the legislature
without a big full vote in,
you know, at Queen's Park.
But in theory, you know,
people who work for
the government,
like the Patient Ombudsman,
can be dismissed.
There are legal protections,
et cetera, et cetera,
but Fraser's bill
would change that,
would make the Patient Ombudsman
a formal officer
of the legislature,
an independent officer,
but of course,
it's an opposition
private members bill.
These very, very rarely
become law,
so it may go nowhere, uh--
or it might come back.
It might see the light of day
if Liberals form
the next government.
That kind of thing
has happened before.
STEVE:
Right. Any other thing that you
want to put on our agenda
that the MPPs got up to
before they went home
to their ridings for the summer?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Well, I do know that some MPPs
do listen to this podcast
and I think some of them would
be irritated at us
if I didn't at least mention
that one of the last votes
in the last few weeks
of the session
was to extend the government's
sort of COVID emergency powers.
The legislature was presented
with a motion
that extends the powers
until December 31 of this year.
That is basically, you know,
it extends the orders
that were already in place
and it lets the government sort
of tinker with those orders.
You know, in principle,
the government could,
you know, use that power
very broadly.
The government says this is just
about managing
the reopening process
over the next several months,
but certainly,
some opposition MPPs said that,
you know, this was a dramatic
extension of the power.
You know, in theory, it lets
the government make orders,
you know, abrogating certain
labour rights.
That kind of thing.
So, the opposition opposed it.
They are, of course,
in the minority,
so the government won the vote
and at least some
of those powers
could be still being used
until the end of December
of this year.
STEVE:
Good enough. There we go.
All right.
We always conclude this podcast
with our favourite quotes
of the week
and we will have those
for you immediately
after we ask you,
as we always do,
to give us a rating
on Apple Podcast.
We'd sure like to know what you
think about this little venture
that we're up to here.
JOHN MICHAEL:
You can also shoot us an email
at onpolitics@tvo.org.
STEVE:
Here is my quote of the week
and we are going back
to last week and the schools.
There were questions
from members of the media
as to why the government
has decided in its wisdom
that there cannot be any more
in-class education
to the end of this school year,
which of course, ends in June.
You're going to hear
two voices here.
The first reporter,
Kris Rushowy,
and then Premier Doug Ford
with the answer.
KRIS RUSHOWY:
Why is it that other provinces
can reopen schools,
but Ontario can't?
DOUG FORD:
Well, we're really,
when it comes to
all the different provinces,
there's no comparison
to any province in the entire
country like Ontario.
We're 15 million people.
The closest is Quebec
at 8.5 million,
but all the rest are
one-quarter of our size
and probably
one-tenth our size.
They don't have 134,000 people.
134,000 people crossing
their land borders.
They don't have 30, 40,
50,000 flights coming in
to the largest airport
in Pearson.
They don't have Buffalo Airport
as their second
international border
that thousands of people
are flying into Buffalo,
taking a taxi,
walking across the border,
which is unheard of,
and again--
implore the federal government
to tighten up the borders.
STEVE:
That's Premier Doug Ford
last week
on why the schools
will not reopen until the fall.
JOHN MICHAEL:
And my quote of the week is
from Minister of Health
and Deputy Premier
Christine Elliott
who was asked by
CTV's Colin D'Mello
about whether the government
was going to announce
an earlier reopening
on Monday morning.
Here's what she told
Colin on Monday.
COLIN D'MELLO:
Is it going to be June 11,
Minister?
CHRISTINE ELLIOTT:
Well, I can tell
that that's something
that we're looking at.
We're still looking
at the numbers
and the numbers are looking
quite favourable,
but there's still other factors
that we have to take
into consideration,
so that's something that we're
going to be considering today.
Today in our meetings
with the cabinet.
JOHN MICHAEL:
That was Minister of Health
Christine Elliott
and, you know,
I picked that clip
in part because
it's sort of newsy
and also because then as
the government announced
the reopening, reporters were
given an embargoed copy
of the press release
and we stuck to the embargo
and then a bunch
of cabinet ministers didn't
and I found that
really funny on Monday.
And it also just played
out there in public
and sometimes
that's fun to watch too.
STEVE:
It's funny when reporters stick
to the rules
and cabinet minister don't.
JOHN MICHAEL:
Well, they get to make the rules
I guess so--
STEVE:
I guess, I guess.
Well, that was Episode 115
of the
#onpoli
podcast.
Produced by Katie O'Connor
and Matthew O'Mara.
Editing from Donny Swanson,
who like me,
needs a haircut pretty badly.
We've also got production
support from Nikki Ashworth
and Jonathan Halliwell.
JMM, as my dad likes to say,
stay positive, test negative.
JOHN MICHAEL:
Stay safe, Steve.

Watch: Ep. 115 - Stage 1 (again)