Critics call for ‘robust’ oversight of CBSA following CBC reports on staff misconduct

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Advocacy groups are again calling for « robust, independent and external oversight » of the country’s border service following reporting by CBC News on misconduct at the Canada Border Services Agency.

CBC News recently reported that the agency investigated around 1,200 allegations of staff misconduct between January 2016 and the middle of 2018. Alleged offences recorded in the records released to CBC News include sexual assault, criminal association and harassment.

« We were not surprised, » said Josh Paterson, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. « My main reaction was, this just makes [it] even clearer why there needs to be independent oversight for this agency. »

The BCCLA is one of three groups behind a letter to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale asking when the government will introduce CBSA oversight legislation. The presidents of the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers also signed the letter.

The CBSA’s sweeping powers include the right to search travellers, use firearms and conduct deportations. It’s the only major federal law enforcement agency without external oversight of employee conduct.

The groups’ letter also cited a recent CBC News report that said the agency had lost a USB key containing a refugee claimant’s personal information.

« We have had our own experiences of bringing very serious complaints to the CBSA, and they go nowhere, because there is no independent accountability measure, » said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

The groups call in the letter for an oversight body that can « investigate complaints » and « conduct proactive assessments of CBSA policies and practices. »

Dench said the oversight agency also should be able to hear complaints from third parties, such as non-government organizations.

« Often, we are in a position to say, ‘Look, we’ve seen a pattern of disturbing behaviour, or we have heard from somebody who’s not in a position to complain themselves,' » she said.

Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Goodale, sent CBC News a statement Thursday that was identical in some respects to a statement the department issued last month.

« CBSA officers processed 95 million travellers in 2017, and only a very small number of these interactions led to a formal complaint, » Bardsley said in an email.

Bardsley said in a statement last month that the government was « working on separate legislation to create an appropriate mechanism to review CBSA officer conduct and conditions, and handle specific complaints. »

But the government’s window to introduce legislation is closing, with a general election due this fall.

« The CBSA … does not have independent review of officer conduct, and that is a gap that definitely needs to be addressed, » Goodale told a Senate committee in 2016.

Following the recent CBC News story, Goodale said the government is preparing legislation that would create « another unit … that looks specifically at the issues of officer conduct or incident investigation.

« We continue to work at it as rapidly as we can. »

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Ontario’s survey on alcohol retailing is open to abuse, critics say

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If you really want the Ford government to allow corner stores and big box outlets to sell alcohol, you can give that feedback to the province many, many times over. 

Ontario’s new online survey about changing the alcohol retailing rules in Ontario does not limit the number of times a person can respond.

I did the survey 10 times in the space of an hour on Tuesday from the same computer, sometimes filing exactly the same answers as a previous survey, sometimes different ones. 

That could allow interest groups — whether favouring greater privatization in alcohol sales or opposing it — to skew the results, experts say. If a politician can hire a troll farm to influence an election, or if scalper bots can buy up tickets to resell at a profit, a company or union could pay a firm to generate thousands of responses designed to look like public input.

« Have your say on modernizing the rules for the sale and consumption of alcohol in Ontario, » says the government’s online survey. It asks Ontarians what changes they would like to see in alcohol retailing, with such options as more locations, more private retailers, and more stand-alone stores that only sell alcohol products. The survey is open for responses until Feb. 1.  

Experts in research methodology question why the government set up the survey in a way that could cast doubt on the accuracy of the data. 

The survey is open to abuse, said Margaret Brigley, CEO of Corporate Research Associates, a national market research firm headquartered in Halifax. 

One question in the Ontario government’s online survey about expanding alcohol sales.

« There’s the opportunity for people to influence the results, if they’re a lobby group that is so inclined, » Brigley said in a phone interview Tuesday. 

The government will for the most part be able to identify repeated and duplicate entries through what it calls an « in-depth analysis of submissions, » says a spokesperson for Finance Minister Vic Fedeli. 

« Online consultations can help people to provide feedback on government decisions and policies, quickly and easily, » said Fedeli’s press secretary, Robert Gibson.

« We are inviting the public to share their views on how we can increase choice and convenience in a safe and responsible way, » said Gibson in an email Tuesday to CBC News. « We look forward to hearing what all participants have to say. »

The fundamental problem with such an online survey is that it does not give the government a statistically accurate sample of public opinion in Ontario, says Matthias Schonlau, a professor of statistics at the University of Waterloo. 

The province’s online survey on alcohol sales asks: ‘Do you have any other comments or suggestions about how we can modernize Ontario’s alcohol sector?’ (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

« It’s fine to collect that data but it’s not a scientific survey, » Schonlau said Tuesday in a phone interview.

« People could give multiple answers, you could have specific agendas by individuals or companies that sponsor internet trolls to generate a lot of data, » he said.  

Both Schonlau and Brigley said to truly get an accurate representation of public opinion on the issue, the government should conduct randomized polling. 

The online survey is only one way the government will get public input, said Gibson. He said the province will also hold roundtable discussions with key groups such as « alcohol producers, public health and safety organizations, retailers, municipalities, consumer groups, and restaurants and bars. »

Premier Doug Ford himself cast doubt on the accuracy of another online survey conducted by his government. Last month, Ford claimed « certain groups » flooded the government’s consultation website on education reforms on its first day. The initial response, obtained under the freedom of information act, showed widepsread support for the Wynne government’s sex-ed curriculum, something Ford has promised to scrap. 

The Ontario government is conducting this online survey about changing the rules on alcohol sales and consumption.

NDP deputy leader Sara Singh says the government’s online surveys amount to « phony consultations » because the PCs are only interested in answers that justify the moves they want to make.

« This [alcohol convenience survey] is again another one of those fishing expeditions to get the type of responses they were looking for, » said Singh in an interview Tuesday. 

Singh said she is concerned the government will use that data to make its case for more private sector involvement in alcohol sales and potentially privatizing the LCBO. 

« You can answer this survey an unlimited number of times; you absolutely can skew the data, » she said.

The Ford government has already promised to allow the sale of beer from corner stores. However, it must first renegotiate an agreement with Brewers’ Retail, owners of The Beer Store, prohibiting further expansion of retail outlets for beer beyond a limited number of supermarkets until the deal expires in 2025.

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Critics accuse PCs of making ‘misleading’ claims about lower gas prices in Ontario

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Drivers in Ontario have been enjoying relatively low gasoline prices this holiday season and, according to a number of Progressive Conservative MPPs, they have the provincial government to thank for it. 

Over the past week, some big names in the PC caucus, including Premier Doug Ford, have taken to social media to tell Ontarians that the cancellation of a « carbon tax » is fuelling a drop in prices at the pump. 

« Taking the carbon tax off gas prices has helped lower the cost of driving your car across the province! » Ford tweeted in response to one of his MPs, Natalia Kusendova‏, who had just posted her own tweet documenting the price board at a Mississauga gas station. 

Other PC MPPs, including Vic Fedeli, the province’s finance minister, and Christine Elliott, minister of health and long-term care, quickly followed suit with posts of their own. Some garnered considerable criticism from Twitter users, many of whom pointed out that the price of gasoline has dropped throughout Canada

An environmental advocate says the messaging campaign amounts to « intentionally misleading » the public by claiming credit for a decrease in the cost of gasoline in Ontario. 

Keith Brooks, programs director at Environmental Defence, a non-profit based in Toronto, says low prices are primarily due to external, global factors — not provincial government policy.

« The idea that getting rid of cap-and-trade is responsible for this big decrease in gas prices is just not true at all, » Brooks said on Sunday, noting that the provincial government did indeed repeal Ontario’s cap-and-trade system.

« I don’t think that the government has a great matter of control over gas prices, quite frankly. It’s market forces at play here, » said Keith Brooks. (CBC)

It has also vowed to challenge the federal government’s impending carbon tax, but the province’s cancelled cap-and-trade program and Ottawa’s carbon tax are two different things. 

« What’s happened here in Ontario with gas prices is no different than what’s happened across the rest of country. Cap-and-trade is a very small factor, » Brooks said. 

‘Market forces at play’

The PC government is « confusing » the situation by equating its cap-and-trade climate change program with a carbon tax, he added. 

Cap-and-trade is a form of carbon pricing that Ontario eliminated in October. It aimed to lower greenhouse gas emissions by capping the amount of pollution companies in certain industries could emit. If companies exceeded those limits, they had to pay for it. 

« From the get go, this new government has conflated the cap-and-trade system with a carbon tax. They know ‘tax’ is a word that sets people off, » Brooks said.

Michael Ervin, senior vice-president of Kent Group Ltd., a consulting firm that provides data and analysis on the downstream petroleum sector, said in an interview from Victoria that low gasoline prices are largely a result of wholesale gasoline prices. 

Michael Ervin, senior vice-president of Kent Group Ltd., said gas prices have been dropping across North America in recent weeks. (CBC)

« It is very correct to say that the reduction in gasoline prices in Ontario are partly a result of the Ontario government getting out of the cap-and-trade system, » he said.

But that move accounts for a drop of only about five cents per litre, he added.

According to GasBuddy.com, an online aggregator of gas prices, a drop in oil prices caused a 22-cent-a-litre drop in overall gasoline prices in recent months.

« Most of the reduction has nothing to do with getting out of cap-and-trade and much more to do with the fact that wholesale gasoline prices are declining right across North America right now, » Ervin said.

« Fundamentally, gasoline prices go up and down as a result of changes in wholesale gasoline prices. The retail market follows wholesale prices quite closely. The wholesale price, being just driven by supply and demand, is really what causes the volatility in prices. »

In an interview earlier in December with the Canadian Press, Ervin said there’s a glut of gasoline on the North American market brought on by lower than expected demand and refineries being forced to produce excess gasoline in order to manufacture diesel — a gasoline byproduct that is in high demand.

In an email statement sent on Sunday afternoon, a spokesperson for Ford’s office said the provincial government is following through on its promise « to make life more affordable » in Ontario.

« Under the leadership of Premier Doug Ford, our government moved quickly to eliminate the ineffective cap-and-trade program, » Laryssa Waler said. 

« Since then, refiners have removed the additional 4.6 cents per litre, cap-and-trade fee they had perviously been passing onto consumers. Recognizing that gas prices fluctuate based on a variety of reasons, drivers in Ontario are now saving an additional 4.6 cents a litre that they wouldn’t otherwise be saving. »

Meanwhile, many twitters users continued to respond to tweets from MPPs throughout the weekend. Elliott’s post seemed to draw particular ire, with some 800 people voicing an opinion on her message. Some suggested that she was not presenting factual information. 

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For sale: a skinny $3 million Toronto home that neighbours and critics say doesn’t ‘fit in’

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It’s an unusual-looking house.

Sandwiched behind homes on either side, the tall, skinny house at 154 Hamilton St. is set back more than a dozen metres from the sidewalk.

The home at 154 Hamilton St. in Leslieville, sandwiched between two houses and set back several metres from the street, is listed for about $3 million.
The home at 154 Hamilton St. in Leslieville, sandwiched between two houses and set back several metres from the street, is listed for about $3 million.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

It’s selling for $3 million but depending on who you talk to, the property near Dundas St. E. and Broadview Ave. is either a wonder of modern architecture well worth that amount, or an ugly, overpriced monstrosity.

The 1,300-square-foot house is four storeys tall, with floor-to-ceiling windows. A portion of the house is cantilevered — protruding and elevated from the ground. It was built after a protracted battle that pitted owners of the property against the local councillor and several nearby residents — including a next-door neighbour who had limbs from her elm tree cut off two years ago during the home’s construction.

Bitter feelings linger. “It’s a really sad story,” said Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 14, Toronto-Danforth). “Everyone has been in a state over this particular house.”

It’s a story that began with an infill house that was a tiny garage long ago, and was later turned into a small, one-bedroom cottage.

In 2012, the city’s committee of adjustment approved the “minor variance” sought by Toronto architect Michael Mantzoris, who then owned the home. In 2016, Mantzoris, with business partner Gordon Kipping, sold the property to Cyril Borovsky, who built the existing four-storey home, which recently went on the market.

For homeowners Linda Bourgeois and Linda Clowes, who both live in a house on Munro St., one block west of Hamilton, their concern has always been the height of the house.

Four storeys is not in keeping with the heights of the other homes in the area, the two argue.

“This sets a precedent. The next thing you’re going to see is an eight-storey house,” Clowes said in an interview at their home this week. She and Bourgeois have lived in their home for 22 years and were part of the unsuccessful fight to stop the construction of 154 Hamilton years ago.

“It’s a slippery slope,” Clowes adds, referring to the height issue.

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Clowes and Bourgeois were among a group of alarmed residents who came together after Mantzoris applied to build a four-storey home on the tiny 15-by-86-foot lot.

A small cottage, left, occupied the lot at 154 Hamilton until 2012. It was replaced by a four-storeys tall, 1,300-square-foot house.
A small cottage, left, occupied the lot at 154 Hamilton until 2012. It was replaced by a four-storeys tall, 1,300-square-foot house.  (Toronto Star Composite Image)

Mantzoris purchased the cottage at 154 Hamilton in 2011 for $295,000 and later applied to rebuild on the lot. He and Kipping, a New York-based architect, designed a new house, but didn’t build it.

“We were interested in developing some interesting architecture,” Mantzoris said in a recent interview.

Mantzoris said he had a “more elegant design” in mind than what was eventually built. He said he wanted a house that would “disappear” into the fabric of the street more, and certainly not a white structure.

The zoning bylaw allowed for a building four storeys tall, Mantzoris added, arguing the roof peaks for some Victorian houses on Hamilton St. matched the four storeys he and his partner envisioned.

According to property records, Kipping and Mantzoris sold the property for $530,000 in 2016 to Borovsky, who constructed the existing house.

Borovsky didn’t reply to repeated requests from the Star for comment.

The house landed in controversy again in 2016, when Borovsky cut off a large limb of a neighbour’s 100-year-old silver maple, which hung over a fence onto Borovsky’s property.

According to a CBC report at the time, Borovsky said that overhanging limbs impeded the construction of his home.

But the city had turned down his bid to trim the limbs.

After it was cut, the city issued a stop-work order, but Borovsky argued he had a building permit that allowed him to override city rules on the protection of trees, the CBC report said.

The listing refers to the home as “truly unique” and a “modern marvel with four levels of functional minimalism.”

The white, four-storey east-end house was built back from the curb. It's listed for $3 million.
The white, four-storey east-end house was built back from the curb. It’s listed for $3 million.  (Dave Dunnville/Vimeo)

But John Richards, a resident on Munro St., called the house a “foolish design” built in the wrong place, and scoffed at the $3-million price.

“It looks like something that belongs in a trailer park,” says Richards, an architectural design specialist who does lighting designs for properties in Southeast Asia, the U.S. and Canada.

He believes the homeowners could have applied for a variance and done concrete foundation work that would have allowed the home to be built closer to the curb, preserving the backyard.

“The backyards around here are secret assets,” Richards says.

But Mantzoris said that scenario wasn’t possible.

“It wasn’t possible due to their roof eaves encroaching on either side of the property, and structurally we would be limited by the integrity of (the neighbours’) foundation walls and footings.

“Don’t get me wrong, we had investigated building closer to the curb, but after reviewing a few different design proposals with the senior (city of Toronto) planner for the area, we all agreed to develop the scheme at the rear of the lot, replacing the existing foundation and going up,” Mantzoris says.

Hans Ibelings, lecturer at the Daniels faculty of architecture, landscape and design at the University of Toronto, said taller homes are needed to “densify the city,” but in architectural terms, 154 Hamilton is “totally bland.”

“I have looked up images of the interior, and that confirms that this is not exactly a masterpiece of domestic architecture,” he said.

“Given the pressure on the housing market, it would be great if infills would lead to affordable projects. I don’t think there is a real shortage of $3-million homes,” he added.

Fletcher points to other houses in her ward that are built on tiny lots but fit with the other homes nearby, unlike 154 Hamilton, she argues.

“That should be the expectation — that a tiny house should fit well with the rest of the street, the rhythm of the street, the setbacks of the street,” Fletcher said.

“This one (on Hamilton) doesn’t fit, but others fit. It’s the difference between fitting and not fitting on these really small lots. Why do the others work and this one doesn’t?”

Donovan Vincent is a housing reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @donovanvincent

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Ontario’s dental watchdog bares sharp teeth against critics

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Describing a toxic work environment fuelled by bullying and favouritism, more than two dozen current and former staff and executives of the province’s dental regulator have been waging a quiet war against their leadership.

In response, lawyers for the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario and its top executive — registrar Irwin Fefergrad — have issued letters threatening legal action and promises of repercussions. In recent months, the college has also launched an internal investigation seeking to identify employees they suspect have leaked documents to the Toronto Star.

That investigation has targeted one former employee with threats of legal action should he not cooperate with college lawyers. The man, who left the college last year, was blindsided and says the ordeal is “affecting my work life, my personal life, my health.” The former college employee — who has not provided documents to the Star — has hired a lawyer.

Over the past year, the Star has obtained internal college documents and letters and interviewed current and former employees and board members of the college who allege secrecy surrounding the college’s finances, conflict of interest and abusive treatment of staff. A former senior executive at the college filed a $1-million wrongful dismissal lawsuit last year that also cited bullying behaviour.

Lawyers for the college — which is mandated by the government to regulate Ontario’s 10,000 dentists including investigating public complaints — have denied any wrongdoing by the college in a series of written statements since May and warned of legal action should the Star publish the allegations.

“The college takes seriously the spreading and publication of false and defamatory information,” reads a written statement to the Star Friday from college lawyer Linda Rothstein with the law firm Paliare Roland. “We reiterate our concerns about the veracity of the information you have received, the motivation of the individuals providing it to you, and the legal implications to you and the Toronto Star in publishing that information, or opinion based on that information.”

Fefergrad, a lawyer who was appointed college registrar 18 years ago, had a salary rate of $607,497 in 2017, according to documents obtained by the Star. He declined requests to be interviewed, referring all questions to the college’s lawyers.

Read more:

Ontario’s dentist watchdog plagued by ‘toxic culture,’ lawsuit alleges

The ‘radical paradigm shift’ that’s changing Ontario’s oversight system for health professionals

The college’s lawyers have issued warnings to critics, threatening defamation suits for public statements that question college leadership.

“In my opinion, Irwin Fefergrad goes to great pains and uses his extensive legal resources and connections to resist change and deflect reasonable, legitimate questions,” says Natalie Archer, a Toronto dentist and former college executive council member who has been publicly critical of the college. “In my opinion, the college has a history of threatening to sue dentists and anyone who questions them. This has been very effective.”

In 2013, Archer, former college president Dr. Tom McKean and dentist Dr. Dick Jones received libel notices from college lawyers after being quoted in the London Free Press criticizing the college’s controversial in-house insurance arm. They alleged the arrangement (which is unique among medical colleges) represents a conflict of interest because the college both disciplines and insures dentists.

Beginning in September of last year and continuing into this year, 20 current and former staff and former executive council members sent letters to the provincial health ministry and MPPs alleging a “culture of hostility” within the college that presents “serious repercussions for the (college’s) ability to protect the public,” including preventing staff “from responding to patient complaints in a timely manner.”

In February, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wrote to then premier Kathleen Wynne and health minister Eric Hoskins urging them to take “immediate action to investigate these serious allegations.”

Horwath’s press secretary confirmed there was no response to the letter.

The college’s annual legal bills have risen from about $672,000 in 2012 to more than $1 million this year as of Sept. 30 — a rise that has exceeded projections the past two years, according to college records.

In Friday’s written response, the college said rising legal expenditures were related to an increase in college members, the complexity of issues coming before its committees and the costs of investigations and proceedings against dentists.

Legal costs have exceeded budget in the past two years, the response said, because of “unforseen civil litigation costs” including defending a “significant civil action” and investigating a “potential breach of confidentiality.”

In a letter sent Sept. 17 to the former employee at the centre of that investigation, college lawyers ask him to voluntarily meet with them or “we will ask a court for assistance if you are unwilling to co-operate.”

The man worked for the college for several years and left a little more than a year ago. “When I left the college, I thought I was leaving behind all of their antics, politics and what they do there.” He is speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of compromising his current job.

“I thought I was turning over a new page … More than a year later, they’re accusing me of these things. It was shock, disbelief.”

The letter reads:

“We have reason to believe that the breach occurred during the period of time that you were an employee of the college, and furthermore, that you are one of certain former college employees who might have information that could assist us in identifying the person or persons who are responsible for the breach.”

Attached to the letter is a draft notice of application that college lawyers said was ready for submission to court. It asks a judge to require the man to identify “every person to whom he provided the confidential documents” during his employment, along with the “particulars of the occasions on which he provided those documents and/or information, including the date and the method by which they were provided.”

Citing “circumstantial evidence,” the draft notice of application says the former employee “may be involved in, or have documents or information relating to, the theft of the Star documents from the college.”

It also asks for a court order permitting a forensic examination of his electronic devices — computers, mobile phones, tablets, hard drives and USB memory drives — on which “confidential documents are or were at one point stored.”

The application names the Toronto Star and two Star reporters, saying they provided the college with copies of documents — internal college emails, Fefergrad’s calendar entries, expense claims and regulatory records — upon which they based questions during reporting.

The reporters “refused to identify the source or sources,” the draft reads.

The man says he has repeatedly denied through his lawyer that he is the source of the leak.

“It’s had a profound effect on me that I didn’t know stress could have on the human body. It’s a devastating blow to basically have an employer make those types of allegations and come after you when there’s no tangible or real evidence. It’s based on hearsay. They’re turning lives upside down,” he said.

The “circumstantial evidence” includes allegations that the former employee was passed over for a promotion several months before he left the college and that he became “disgruntled.”

The man says he left the college because of a poisonous work environment where bullying is rewarded with promotions and those who speak out face reprisals.

“I spoke out against my own manager and I paid the price for it,” he says. “They’re spinning it back on me. We were all walking on eggshells, worried and stressed because that was the environment there … I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

In the Friday response to the Star, Rothstein said the college does not “target” individuals.

“The college investigates all allegations against it and its employees and council members seriously, regardless of the source … The college also takes carefully considered, appropriate and measured steps to mitigate the harm done by the spreading of false and defamatory information, particularly when that conduct appears to be ill-motivated. This may involve the delivery of a libel notice.”

The college sent three separate letters threatening libel suits to Archer, Jones and McKean in October 2013 in response to their comments in the London Free Press. The letters alleged published comments by the three dentists — two of them former executive council members were “false, misleading and patently defamatory” of Fefergrad and the college.

The college demanded written apologies and retractions of their statements “in a form satisfactory to us.”

Jones refused and, in a six-page response, dismissed the college’s claims as “frivolous, vexatious and without merit.”

In a recent interview, Jones, a Waterloo-area dentist, said he, Archer and McKean were “bullied for simply expressing our legitimate concerns” about Fefergrad’s leadership.

“It’s a toxic situation that’s gone on for far too long.”

The libel notices to Archer and McKean were the second each had received within two years after they had made comments critical of the college.

“Dr. Archer regards your communication as a wholly unreasonable personal attack made in the face of legitimate and necessary criticism,” reads the response from her lawyer. “Moreover, threatening to take legal action on notice of one business day hardly seems like notice at all.”

The college never pursued legal action against any of the three.

In an interview, Archer said her attempts to raise concerns about Fefergrad’s management during her six years on the college council were met with “hostility, attacks and the most inhumane, unprofessional behaviour and tactics I have ever been exposed to.”

In October 2017, 16 current and former college staff anonymously wrote to Hoskins, then provincial health minister, asking for the ministry to appoint a supervisor to oversee the college because of “serious systemic problems,” including a “toxic culture” that included sexual harassment in the workplace, “abuse of power” and a “failure to protect the public.”

“We have reached the conclusion that the deficiencies in the (college) cannot be fixed under the present leadership or within the current system,” it reads.

In a response to questions from the Star in June, the college “cautions the Toronto Star about publishing any of the anonymous, speculative and factually untrue allegations contained in the anonymous letter.”

In December 2017, Archer also wrote Hoskins alleging “financial mismanagement,” conflict of interest in the college’s dual role as disciplinary body and malpractice insurance provider, and “interference in the regulatory processes” by Fefergrad who, she alleged, “inserted himself into (disciplinary) panel deliberations.”

Archer wrote that during her time on college council as vice-president and member of the finance committee, her requests for detailed information about major expenditures were routinely refused.

“I observed very significant legal expenses,” she wrote, including large budget items for which she sought greater detail. “The request was rebuffed … A forensic audit must be conducted to identify and remedy any fiscal oversight issues at the (college).”

A written statement from the college to the Star in July says Archer is “actuated by malice in the defamatory statements she makes about the college, its employees and its council members.”

The ministry never responded to the letters, the authors say.

Also last year, the former head of the college’s insurance arm, Rene Brewer, filed a $1-million wrongful dismissal suit against Fefergrad and the college alleging a “systemic culture of harassment and workplace bullying,” conflict of interest and sexual harassment toward staff.

In a statement of defence, the college and Fefergrad cited Brewer’s “abusive management style” as cause for her firing and said her “false and reckless” allegations have “maliciously and vindictively” impugned their integrity.

The dispute remains before the courts and none of the allegations have been proven.

The Star investigation has found other examples of swift college response to public criticism.

Marco Caminiti, a prominent Toronto oral surgeon, strongly criticized the college’s online self-assessment tests in a June 2016 opinion piece published in a dentistry magazine.

“Even our great regulators, the Colleges, fall short in assessing our competencies. The farcical attempts to ensure practitioners are up to date and ‘educated’ using online competency exams … highlights our ignorance even more,” Caminiti, who was then president of the Ontario Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, wrote. “Unbeknownst to them, they are, to a certain extent, allowing and enabling the incompetency of some of our colleagues to grow and fester, creating a dark stain on this great profession.”

The tests are composed of about 200 multiple choice and case study questions. Virtually every dentist who takes the assessment is successful on their first attempt.

In an email exchange with Fefergrad, obtained by the Star, the college’s then quality assurance manager Michael Gardner writes: “Did you see Marco Caminiti’s editorial in the most recent issue of Oral Health? He called the College’s assessment farcical.”

Fefergrad says he had not read it. He then writes 11 minutes later: “Pisses me off to no end.”

In a June 2018 written statement to the Star, college lawyers said Fefergrad “endeavours to maintain open and courteous dialogue with (dental) associations and their leadership. (His) response to the criticism in respect of the Oral Health article was made in that spirit and was resolved amicably.”

In an interview, Caminiti said he received a call from Fefergrad about the opinion piece.

“Irwin was very succinct in his discussion with me about the article that I wrote, he was not pleased with the comments,” Caminiti said, adding that he stands by what he said in the opinion piece.

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‘Our government sold us out’: Critics at Ontario agricultural fair fearful of USMCA

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With major concessions from Canada on dairy, some Ontario critics say they’re concerned about what NAFTA’s proposed replacement means for the industry.

The provisional deal known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has plunged some dairy farmers into uncertainty, with some now concerned that they might not be able to survive.

The new deal would give U.S. farmers greater access to Canada’s dairy industry, worth about 3.6 per cent of Canada’s current dairy market, according to the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Dairy farmer Vicki Cork has heard from Dairy Farmers of Ontario that the number could even be as high as 3.9 per cent and says the higher figure gets her worried.

« The bigger the number, the worse it’s going to be, so we’re just sort of [bracing] for the worst, » she told CBC News Saturday at the Norfolk County Fair in Simcoe, Ont. — one of the largest agricultural fairs in the province.

« We’re a sixth-generation dairy farm, and we’re probably not going to survive this, so I guess it just sucks to be us. »

Dairy farmer Vicki Cork speaks to CBC about the impact of the USMCA trade deal. 1:36

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday that farmers will receive compensation from the federal government, but details weren’t immediately available.

Cork claims that she hasn’t received any communication on what compensation may look like outside of a « pretty vague » email she got from the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.

« I look after the books for the farm, so I’m terrified, » she said. « Until they actually say something official, we really have no idea what the compensation will look like. »

Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture Ernie Hardeman told CBC News that consultations will be made with the province’s agriculture community to determine the cost associated with the new deal. He said he plans to ensure the federal government foots the bill.

Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture Ernie Hardeman says consultations will be made with the province’s agriculture community to determine the cost associated with the new deal. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

« It is quite obvious that opening up the market to the American market is going to hurt our producers, » he said at the Norfolk County Fair. « They made the deal, they should pay for the penalty that is caused by the deal. »

Some critics say the deal also erodes the supply management system, which puts quotas on the amount of milk farmers are allowed to produce. The quotos prevent overproduction that would otherwise hurt prices and farm incomes.

The system also put high tariffs on foreign producers trying to sell in the Canadian market, limiting foreign products on Canadian shelves.

Cork says Canada’s supply management system has been successful and the envy of countries around the world.

« The quota system was put in place because the government told us to manage our own system and we did and we were successful. We were too successful, » she added. « Other countries wanted into that. They wanted access to it, and our government sold us out. »

Cork says she has no animosity toward other dairy farmers or American dairy farmers, but rather the government.

The new USMCA deal would give U.S. farmers greater access to Canada’s dairy industry. (CBC)

« [Americans] envy our supply management and they want the government to help them implement supply management in the United States, » she said. « So why not help them do that instead of taking away from us because we had something successful? »

The deal would also eliminate Class 7, which essentially created a discounted price on Canadian-produced milk ingredients, so they could compete with similar products exported into Canada from the United States. The pricing system was introduced in March last year, which made the American equivalents uncompetitive.

Now with the new trade deal in motion, Cork is asking that Canadians specifically look for products that are made in Canada to help farmers at home.

« I would really hope that the general public would just really support your Canadian farmers, » she said. « You might pay a few cents more, but it was grown here. It was grown ethically and safely, and you’re supporting your neighbour. »

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