Ontario’s Liberal Leader, Steven Del Duca, deserves a round of applause for pledging to ban handguns within a year of taking office if the Party wins the  Provincial Election on 2 June. 

The Provincial Liberals say they would ban the sale, possession, transport and storage of all handguns in Ontario. 

Research on public attitudes to firearms, commissioned by Public Safety Canada and published last year, shows that 63% of Canadians want a complete ban on handguns.

A substantial majority of Canadians (70%) support moves to give municipalities the right to further restrict on prohibit handguns. (The Government though has now abandoned the idea of giving municipalities the power to ban handguns in their area. The Liberal 2021 Federal Election platform instead pledged to give Provinces the power to ban handguns within their jurisdictions).

Del Duca’s announcement will put gun violence into the heart of the campaign, drawing a sharp distinction between the Provincial Liberals and Doug Ford – who says he will never ban handguns.

Few details

However, the Toronto Star says the Liberal leader offered few details on how this would happen

No surprises there. 

The Federal Liberals have been working on their handgun policy for years, unwilling or unable to explain in simple, straightforward terms how the ban would operate in practice. We have all been treated to the dance of the seven veils.

Personally, I am strongly in favour of a national ban but the Liberals won’t go that far, preferring to download responsibility to the Provinces and Territories who would decide if they want a ban to apply in their patch.

No answers

In his December 2021 taxpayer-funded flyer, Newmarket-Aurora Liberal MP Tony Van Bynen told his readers the Federal Government would:

“Work with the provinces and territories that want to ban handguns”

Over three months ago I asked him if this would require Federal legislation and, if so, when we could expect it. I asked him to explain the process. Would the Minister of Public Safety reach out to the Provinces and Territories or does he expect them to approach him? 

Van Bynen – who sees his job primarily as a conduit between the government and the governed – couldn’t explain the process but said he would get in touch with the Minister. Now - weeks away from the start of the Provincial election campaign - I am none the wiser. 

The Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendicino, is keeping his cards close to his chest just like his predecessor, Bill Blair, who was useless. As a former police chief, Blair's deeds never matched his words when it came to gun violence. (Photo right: Danielle Kane left paralysed by the Danforth killer, Faisal Hussain)

"Reinforcing the commitment"

On 1 March 2022 Mendicino told a meeting of the Commons Public Safety and National Security Committee that he was committed to working with the provinces that wanted to ban handguns but offered no details other than the promise of new firearms legislation:

“I want to reinforce the government's commitment to collaborate with the provinces who want to take action in banning handguns, an issue I discussed with my provincial and territorial colleagues last week at our federal, provincial and territorial conference.”

“While this committee studies the issue of gun control, illegal arms trafficking and the increase in gun crimes committed by members of street gangs, I look forward to your consideration and debate on new firearms legislation that we will table soon.”

Neither the Government nor the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Conference released a transcript of Mendicino’s update which was presented to the meeting on 23-24 February 2022. The most we have is this note from conference staff:

"At the request of provincial and territorial ministers, the federal government provided an update on its commitments to implement a mandatory buyback of banned assault-style weapons, and its intention to collaborate and provide financial support to provinces or territories that implement a ban on handguns." 

Where on earth is the sense of urgency?  The Federal Government endlessly kicks the can down the road when people - including Steven Del Duca - are hungry for the details.

Despite the foot-dragging in Ottawa, Del Duca has made it a campaign issue in Ontario.

Good for him.

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Update on 21 April 2022: Toronto Star editorial: "A step in the right direction"

Click “Read more” to see the exchanges in Committee which touch on the proposed handgun ban.

Brampton Mayor and Conservative leadership contender, Patrick Brown, says he will end Canada’s terrorist designation for the Tamil Tigers if he becomes Prime Minister. 

The Toronto Star says it has seen a short video in which Brown appeals for the support of the Tamil community. He says he needs their help to win.

In the video, which has not been posted on Brown’s website, he pledges to open up immigration: 

“to any Tamil family that wants to come to Canada”.

Like Canada, the UK has proscribed the Tamil Tigers (aka the LTTE or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) since March 2001, describing them as:

“a terrorist group fighting for a separate Tamil state in the North and East of Sri Lanka.”

War Crimes

Brown says the Tamil community in Canada has been stigmatized and stereotyped. He accuses the Sri Lankan Government of war crimes. 

Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in May 2009 with the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers. There were allegations at the time that the Sri Lankan military had committed war crimes. But similar accusations were made against the Tamil Tiger forces. Thirteen years after the war ended the UN Human Rights Council and countries around the world including Canada and the UK still want justice for the victims of the civil war and reconciliation.

No mixed messages

Brown cannot have two messages in his leadership campaign, one directed at Conservative members at large and another, secret one, tailored specifically to appeal to Tamil Canadians and other diasporas.

Patrick Brown should put everything on the table - and on his website. 

No secret agendas.

The Conservatives need an open debate on what kind of party they want to be.

And the candidates for leadership must be open and honest about what they believe.

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Update on 19 April 2022: "If you show up I win."

Update on 21 April 2022: From the Globe & Mail: Patrick Brown is in dangerous waters

The 2021 Report of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights is here. The introduction, which gives context, says this:

"In Sri Lanka, armed conflict emerged against a backdrop of deepening discrimination against and the marginalization of the country’s minorities, particularly the Tamils. The 30-year war between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), as well as earlier insurgencies in the south, were marked by persistent and grave human rights violations and abuses by both parties, including extrajudicial killings, widespread enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence, which affected Sri Lankans from all communities. Thousands of children were systematically recruited and used as fighters and in other roles by LTTE and other armed groups. Muslim and Sinhala communities were forcibly expelled from the north, and civilians were indiscriminately killed by LTTE in terrorist attacks on public places and vehicles. Successive High Commissioners have consistently condemned those acts."

Dawn Gallagher Murphy refuses to explain how she was selected as PC candidate for Newmarket-Aurora. 

I laughed out loud when I read in Newmarket Today that Dawn Gallagher Murphy won’t talk about her selection as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Newmarket-Aurora.

Obviously a deal was done between Doug Ford and her boss, sitting MPP Christine Elliott. 

There was a trade-off but we don't know the details.

Internal Party Matters

Dawn says she can’t talk about “internal party matters” as if selecting a parliamentary candidate is akin to a Papal Conclave.

Why can’t she tell us what qualities Doug Ford saw in her that persuaded him to appoint her?

Is she comfortable being imposed on the local party as their candidate when they had no say in her selection?

Dawn is a candidate with no political past. Has she ever run for election before? At any level. Dawn leaves no footprints in the sand. No letters to the local press. No articles. A thin Facebook presence (photo right is from her Facebook page).

She joined Twitter last month and has tweeted once. 

Blank sheet of paper

I cannot find any evidence of Dawn expressing a personal opinion about any controversial issue, local or national. She echoes her employer's view of the world. But that's only to be expected. Perhaps she was the ghost writer for "Christine’s Chronicles" and the MPP’s newsletters. I don't know. Maybe she was more than the MPP’s gatekeeper, arranging appointments and managing the office.

Dawn says she believes in the government’s record over the past four years.

I would love to see her on a public platform defending that statement against all comers.

Dream on.

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The latest polls show Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives way ahead of the opposition in the run up to the Provincial Election on 2 June. 

The respected polling aggregator 338canada.com regularly shows the PCs getting over 35% support with the Liberals and the NDP jockeying for second place getting support around the 26% mark. Because of our First-Past-the-Post system this translates into a majority Ford government. But, of course, a lot can happen during the campaign which doesn’t officially start until 4 May 2022.

Bribing the voters

For the moment, Ford is hard at work bribing the voters, targetting motorists. Ford's decision to abolish the license plate fee and send out refunds (costing the Province $1.1B in lost revenue) was a taste of things to come. We’ve seen the abolition of road tolls on Highways 412 and 418 and go-aheads for construction of Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass. Then there’s the cut in gas duty and raising the speed limits on some 400 series highways. 

"Ironclad guarantee"

We can expect more eye-popping announcements in the Provincial budget which has been postponed until later this month to get closer to the election. The PCs passed a new law in 2019 requiring the delivery of budgets by March 31 – described by the then Finance Minister, Vic Fedeli, as “an ironclad guarantee”.  

So much for that.

Ford has promised the health sector millions. Bringing down the deficit used to be the standard war-cry of the Progressive Conservatives. But it doesn’t seem to matter these days. Ontario’s budget deficit amounted to $1,597 per person in 2020, the fifth highest in the country.

A new Southlake

Here in Newmarket, we are promised a new Southlake. Like everyone else in Town I want to see a new hospital. The one we have is overcrowded and there is no room to expand. So, we are told the solution lies in two sites: the current one at Davis Drive is to become a walk-in centre with the acute facilities going to a new – as yet unidentified – greenfield site, ideally within 10km of the Davis Drive site.

Personally, I think the two-site solution is a second best. There are synergies when medical facilities are clustered together. But the land simply isn’t available for Southlake to grow on its present site – and over the years no-one took the trouble - nor had the insight - to acquire it.

In the bag 

The PCs talk about the new hospital as if it’s in the bag. The back-slapping and whoops of congratulation have been deafening. But, in reality, all Southlake is getting is a cheque from the Province for $5M to help it work up its plans. The hospital’s January 2020 Master Plan is not publicly available nor is the Province’s response. We don’t know where the promised acute hospital will be located nor when it will be built. Not even a provisional date.

The same formulation (promising a new hospital but giving a few million dollars to work up the plans) is used elsewhere – for example, in Barrie and Brant – coupled with gushing quotes from local PC MPPs.

We need to spend more on health. Not just talk about it.

Ontario has lowest health spending in Canada

Last week the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario published a report comparing Ontario’s fiscal results with the other provinces after the first year of the COVID-19 Pandemic. It shows that, on a per person basis, Ontario’s total program spending in 2020 was the lowest in the country, with the least amount in health spending.

“Health spending per person in Ontario was $4,800 in 2020, the lowest in Canada and $536 (10.0 per cent) below the average of the other provinces… Since 2008 when the data is first available, Ontario has consistently had among the lowest levels of per person health spending in the country.”

Buck-a-Beer certainly knows how to spin a tale. 

And, for the moment, it looks like the voters will buy it.

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The big news out of the UK this week was the jaw-dropping revelation that Akshata Murty, the wife of the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, is “non-UK domiciled” for tax purposes. This means she does not pay UK tax on her worldwide income despite living in Number 11 Downing Street, rent free, paid for out of the public purse. 

She claims domicile in India where she was born and her parents live.

She says she will now pay full UK taxes on her worldwide income but the UK's Guardian newspaper reports that Murty will retain her non-dom status:

"which could in future allow her family to legally avoid an inheritance tax bill of more than £275m".

India does not have an inheritance tax.

The Guardian reports that:

“Under non-dom rules, Murty did not legally have to pay tax in the UK on the estimated £11.5m (CAN$18.6M) in annual dividends she collects from her stake in Infosys, her billionaire father’s IT business. UK tax residents would be expected to pay about £4.5m (CAN$7.2M) in tax on the dividend payment.”

It was an astonishing admission. But, in one sense, it didn’t surprise me. The super-rich have long benefitted from complex rules designed specifically to lighten their tax burden – or eliminate it entirely.

"Little people"

The late New York real estate heiress, Leona Helmsley, famously remarked 

"only the little people pay taxes." 

Then she went to jail.

Here there is no suggestion Murty broke the law, only that she used the arcane rules on domicile to her clear advantage. It is estimated that Murty may have avoided paying £20M (CAN$32.4M) to the UK Treasury, which her husband heads as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Despite saying yesterday that she would be paying UK tax in future on her worldwide income there are still questions to answer.

Time to get rid of non-dom status

But after this latest scandal it is surely time for the UK to get rid of its special category of taxpayers, the non-doms, which is an absurd hangover from the days of Empire

We know the overwhelming majority of UK taxpayers play by the rules. 

The super-rich, by contrast, play the system.

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Updated and this from the Observer 10 April 2022: Top Conservatives say Rishi Sunak's chances of becoming Prime Minister are over. And from Andrew Rawnsley: The Stench of Entitlement