Job posting for city agency seeking former staff from mayor’s office prompts ‘cronyism’ complaint


A posting for a senior position at the city’s new body overseeing its massive real estate portfolio appears tailored to former members of Mayor John Tory’s staff or that of previous mayors.

The job qualifications for CreateTO’s senior vice-president of stakeholder communications and relations included this line: “Experience at the highest level with regards to the City of Toronto’s political realm, ideally having had experience working in the Mayor’s office.”

None of the other more junior postings, including for a director of development, included that qualification. The deadline for applications is March 4.

After being contacted by the Star, CreateTO changed the qualifications to say: “Experience working within a political environment at either the municipal, provincial or federal level.”

CreateTO spokesperson Susan O’Neill told the Star on Friday the wording would be adjusted to the online posting to attract a larger pool of candidates. She said there was no involvement or influence from the mayor’s office.

In 2017, council voted to create a new super realty agency responsible for nearly 8,500 properties, representing more than $27 billion in public assets — which city staff reported then was one of the largest portfolios in Canada — as well as future real estate transactions.

As a public agency of the city, it folded together responsibilities from the city’s real estate division, as well as the former Build Toronto and Toronto Port Lands Corporation. It was called the Toronto Realty Agency and later branded CreateTO.

Several senior members of Tory’s staff left the mayor’s office shortly before or just after his re-election last year.

They include chief of staff Chris Eby, who is now an executive at Downsview Metro Development. Asked if the posting was intended for him, Eby noted his new job in a message and said, “Not for me.”

Siri Agrell, the mayor’s former director of strategic initiatives, is now the managing director for OneEleven Toronto, a startup accelerator where she confirmed Friday that she is “happily and productively employed.”

Amanda Galbraith, who left her post as the mayor’s director of communications in 2016, is now a principal at communications firm Navigator. “While I’m flattered you reached out, I’m happy in my role with Navigator,” she said in a message.

Tory’s former principal secretary, Vic Gupta, has remained “happily unemployed,” he told the Star’s David Rider last week. Gupta left the mayor’s office as the second most senior staffer at the beginning of the second term after co-chairing Tory’s re-election campaign.

Gupta, in an email, said: “I’ve just reviewed the job profile you forwarded and I can confirm that I have no intention of applying for that job.”

Tory was invested in the creation of the new agency to better oversee the city’s real estate portfolio, calling it one of the “most vital, strategic assets that we have in the city” and advocating for less bureaucracy in its governance.

“As long as I’m here, I will be watching this like a hawk,” he told city council in May 2017 when the new body was approved.

“Because I don’t want to have had responsibility for creating something that’s either a monster or that works worse, if there’s such an expression, than what we had there now with that entangled system.”

Tory spokesperson Don Peat said Friday that the mayor’s office had “no involvement in the posting” and referred questions to CreateTO.

City spokesperson Brad Ross said the city “does not provide recruitment support or advice to agencies, boards and commissions,” when asked about whether there are hiring guidelines. “Those matters are handled directly by the agencies themselves.”

Councillor Gord Perks said a posting specifying someone with experience in the mayor’s office was “outrageous.”

“It’s fine to say that you have to have experience in government,” Perks said. “The list gets a lot smaller and a lot more intimate when it’s people who have dealt with Mayor John Tory . . . That narrows it down to about five people and that’s the worst kind of cronyism.”

Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags


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‘We promote the best person for the job and, quite often, that’s a woman’: A surge in Shuswap female firefighters – Okanagan


According to several online statistics, less than five per cent of firefighters in Canada are women.

However, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District says it is working hard to ensure that gender doesn’t define a great firefighter.

Case in point: Kara Slous, an on-call firefighter at the Tappen-Sunnybrae Fire Department.

“I was a South Shuswap first responder first. It’s our first aid medical association,” Slous said. “And there were a few firefighters on that association that noticed my dedication and they told me to come try out the department, and it escalated from there.”

Slous was immediately hooked.

“It was really exciting and I liked being with a group that worked so well together,” Slous said.

In the four years she has spent at Tappen-Sunnybrae, Slous quickly moved up the ladder, even making captain at the young age of 24.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Slous said. “Your main role is to run the fire practices, so you’re telling everyone what to do. And, on the scene, you’re the team leader. You’re calling the shots.”

Edmonton’s first female firefighter Shirley Benson gains another first

Most recently, Slous has moved to a training officer role.

She’s also a member of the Shuswap emergency program structural protection unit, a co-chair of the fire services occupational health and safety committee and is certified as the district’s live fire instructor.

“Women bring a completely different dynamic to the fire department and, with all of our separate skills, we really bring the department up,” Slous said.

For the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, recruiting and promoting women just makes sense.

“We have a number of women in our fire service. It’s not 50/50 at the moment, but certainly we have a lot of women,” said the district’s protective services team leader, Derek Sutherland. “And we have a lot of women in leadership roles. We’ve had three women as fire chiefs, deputy chiefs, captains, training officers.”

So, what exactly is the district’s philosophy on gender equality?

“Quite frankly, we don’t give it a lot of thought,” Sutherland said. “We’re inclusive as a regional district and we promote the best person for the job and, quite often, that’s a woman.”

Sutherland says that it’s not necessary for firefighters to be able to do every role.

“We don’t ask everyone to be everything to the fire department,” Sutherland said. “There’s certain people that have specialties that enjoy doing one or two things really well, and we just ask them to come out and do that.”

The 13 fire departments in the district are made up entirely of paid, on-call volunteer firefighters.

“So we get paid for our practices, and any call we go to we are paid for that. And it’s pretty exciting,” Slous said. “All of a sudden, the tones will go off. You’re in the middle of dinner, you could be with your family, you could be out at work and you get to run off and fight a fire.”

The amount of calls vary by station but Slous says the Tappen-Sunnybrae Fire Department received about 90 calls last year.

“It’s bigger than yourself. It’s bigger than your neighbours and your community,” Slous said. “It’s for everyone.”

Slous has some advice to women who have an interest in firefighting.

“It is physically demanding, but it’s just about figuring out how to do it with your body and your momentum,” Slous said. “Go in, be persistent, be determined and just do the work and you’ll get through it all.”

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District is encouraging anyone interested in becoming an on-call paid volunteer firefighter to attend a Tuesday evening training session and test things out.

Candidates must be 18 years of age or older, possess a valid driver’s license, live and/or work in the district, and be physically able to perform the duties of the job and commit to weekly training sessions.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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She broke three ribs on the job. Now this Toronto bike courier is helping others take time off for injuries


When Leah Hollinsworth was hurt on the job she didn’t get any time off to recover.

“I remember it because it was one of those cold grey November rainy days when you have that Guns N’ Roses song in your head,” she recalls of the accident almost 15 years later.

Hollinsworth was coming down Blue Jays Way on her bike with a delivery when a car turned left in front of her, and she crashed into its rear-view mirror. She broke three ribs.

“I was a single mother the entire time I was a bike messenger so taking that time off work wasn’t an option for me,” she said, “I just couldn’t walk away.”

Her employer let her make some adjustments, walking to deliveries around the downtown core instead of cycling because that hurt too much. But she knows not everyone is so lucky.

It’s one of the reasons why the now 39-year-old is devoted to the charity Bicycle Messenger Emergency Fund.

The global non-profit donates money to bike couriers injured at work, who are mostly independent contractors without health benefits, disability leave or even sick days.

The transient nature of the industry makes it hard to pin down exact numbers of such couriers in Toronto.

But the rise of food service delivery apps means more independent contractors and a shift toward the gig economy that leaves many workers without the safety net of a traditional employer, despite the risks that come along with cycling through Toronto’s often treacherous streets.

Most courier companies and app-based delivery services don’t pay into the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board for messengers because they classify them as independent contractors, Hollinsworth said.

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“Other jobs that are dangerous generally have some sort of pay that goes along with that,” says Toronto-based Hollinsworth, one of two volunteers who run the non-profit, which was started in 2004-2005.

The wages of a bike courier vary widely from city to city depending on how many shifts they work, but she said the average is about $80-100 a day — wages that were decent in the ’90s but have stayed stubbornly low with inflation.

“Most messengers are pretty hand to mouth, so the idea of not having two or three paycheques in a row is pretty devastating,” she added.

“If you get hurt on the job oftentimes that meant not only were you out of work but you could potentially lose your job indefinitely.”

The fund takes personal and corporate donations. But Torontonians contribute the lion’s share of the funding through an annual May Day bike race event, which has raised more than $25,000 over the years.

To apply for a $500 (U.S.) grant, bike couriers need to be working full time (more than three shifts a week, according to Hollinsworth), be injured on the job and unable to work using their bike for at least a month. The money, which is the same amount for everyone, is meant to help with costs of food and medicine.

The funds made a difference for Emily Glos, 32, a former bike messenger who had to stop work in 2010 after she was rear-ended by a car and broke her arm.

“It was pretty isolating,” she said of the incident, over the phone from Sayulita, Mexico, where she is now living.

Glos couldn’t ride with her injured arm, and turned to family for financial help. She also applied to the emergency fund, which gave her money to help cover costs for food. It also made her feel less alone.

“I think it’s so wonderful that it’s there to help financially. But it also adds a sense of community, knowing that there’s something you can dip into,” she said.

“That aspect of it is really beautiful.”

After she recovered, Glos helped start the May Day races as a way to give back. The fundraiser has grown over the years and allowed the charity to contribute $500, up from the $300 she had received, toward bike messengers who need help getting back on their feet.

A few companies are starting to recognize the gap that those two-wheeled messengers can face when they fall or are hit by a car.

At Foodora Canada, one of the most visible food delivery services in the city with its bike couriers bringing Thai food, pizza and burgers in bright pink containers through snow, sleet and rain, the company pays into WSIB (or provincial equivalents) on the riders’ behalf, said managing director David Albert in an email.

“This covers them for loss of earnings in the event they get injured while working. We feel it’s important to protect our riders to the best of our ability while they are on the job,” he said.

Facing court challenges in the European Union on its relationship with its drivers, Uber announced in spring 2018 it would partner with insurance company AXA to provide insurance coverage there — including sickness, injury and maternity and paternity payments.

But nothing like that exists for its drivers and couriers in Canada.

Xavier Van Chau, spokesperson for Uber Canada, wrote in an email they are “currently in active discussions to see how we can further support coverage for our delivery partners,” in Canada “and look forward to share more on this when possible.”

Andrew Cash, co-founder of The Urban Worker Project, an organization that fights for the rights of precarious workers, said he applauds the Bicycle Messenger Emergency Fund, but its existence highlights a growing underlying problem.

“It’s a good example of how the economy is continually loading all the responsibilities and all the risk on to individual workers themselves,” he says.

“Many of them would completely fall through any kind of safety net.”

The bike courier system is also set up so that it incentivizes people to bike faster, make more deliveries and more money, which can put them at risk for collisions, he said. And the rise of delivery apps has meant that many restaurants now go that route instead of paying their own employees.

A 2018 report from the Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario research group, a collaboration between university researchers and community groups like the United Way Greater Toronto, found just over 37 per cent of workers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area have some degree of precarious employment.

That’s defined as part-time, temporary and contract, self-employed or full-time employment without benefits, regular hours or a guarantee of at least one year’s work.

“This is a brave new world,” Cash said, where the “matrix of rules and regulations” that governed employer-employee relations has been upended.

As that world shifts, we need to start thinking about new tools to adjust to the new reality, he said. For example, extending short- and long-term disability benefits to independent contractors.

“So that fewer are a bike accident away from the financial abyss.”

May Warren is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11


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BC Hydro lineman fired over legal pot grow-op wins back job


A BC Hydro lineman who was fired after being accused of stealing electricity to feed a cannabis grow-op on his property should get his job back, the Labour Relations Board has found.

The board recently upheld the decision of an arbitrator, who found BC Hydro had failed to prove that employee Lawrence Petersen had covertly installed a transformer and second electrical line to feed the operation on his Comox Valley property.

And Petersen actually had a licence from Health Canada to grow medical marijuana for sick family and friends, the board heard.

Petersen was fired from his job as a power line technician on June 27, 2013, after an internal investigation prompted by a tip from police, who suspected he was involved in illegal grow-ops at multiple sites.

His union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, grieved the dismissal, and in an August award, arbitrator Wayne Moore said he found Petersen’s defence more believable than his bosses’ claim that he was stealing electricity.

« In the final analysis, BC Hydro had little basis, beyond speculation, for this allegation. It follows that I find the employer has not met its onus to provide clear and cogent evidence with respect to a diversion or theft of power, » Moore wrote.

The arbitrator found that Petersen was entitled to reinstatement without loss of wages, seniority or benefits, a decision upheld by Labour Relations Board vice-chair Andres Barker on Nov. 30.

‘Unsatisfactory’ evidence from BC Hydro investigator

BC Hydro’s case largely relied on evidence from investigator Barry Hurrie, a former police officer who looks into electricity theft and power diversion for the utility.

But Moore described Hurrie’s testimony as « unsatisfactory in a number of ways, » describing him as overly confident, defensive and sometimes aggressive, and unwilling to consider facts that conflicted with his theory of what was going on.

« It was apparent from the outset that, when he received information from the RCMP in March 2011, he was predisposed to believe that the grievor was guilty of marijuana related offences, » Moore wrote.

Petersen testified that the property had two power lines when he bought it in 2007. (CBC)

The BC Hydro investigation found Petersen’s property wasn’t serviced by the transformer listed in the utility’s database. Instead, it was using a more powerful transformer that was missing a serial number.

But other employees testified that BC Hydro’s records were unreliable, and the transformer installed at Petersen’s property wasn’t unusual.

Hurrie also submitted an image taken from Google Street View in October 2011 that appeared to show just one electrical line to Petersen’s property. Hurrie said that when he visited four months later, there were two lines.

But a Google Street View image taken from a different angle in 2009 showed two lines. A contractor who visited the property testified that he noticed two lines when he visited the property in 2010, and Petersen said they were already there when he bought the land in 2007.

Finally, BC Hydro alleged that Petersen had violated policy by not disclosing that he was growing cannabis under a licence from Health Canada. As it turns out, however, Health Canada had advised licensees not to reveal grow-op locations for security reasons.

« Accordingly, I find that this ground for discipline should also be rejected, » Moore wrote.

Though BC Hydro appealed Moore’s award, arguing it was right to fire Petersen, the Labour Relations Board found that the utility had been given a fair hearing and the decision was in line with provincial regulations.


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Liberals looking at national basic income as way to help Canadians cope with job instability – National


The Trudeau Liberals haven’t shut the door on a guaranteed-income program in their search for ways to help workers adapt to an unsteady and shifting labour market.

In separate interviews, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos appear warmer to the idea than they have before, when they argued the Canada Child Benefit, among other measures, amounts to a guaranteed minimum income.

WATCH: Basic income would be the best way to help families reliably put food on the table: 2017 report

A guaranteed minimum income at its core is a no-strings-attached payment governments provide instead of an assortment of targeted benefits.

Trudeau says it’s one of the tools the government is looking at to help Canadians who are struggling.

Duclos says the current suite of federal programs could one day be enhanced to provide a minimum income of sorts to all Canadians, particularly those without children who aren’t eligible for federal family or seniors benefits.

However, both are clear that the federal government won’t step in to revive a minimum-income pilot project Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government cancelled shortly after coming to office.

Jagmeet Singh says feds should take over Ontario basic income pilot scrapped by Ford


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Concern over conflicts of interest would hurt Ron Taverner in OPP job, policing experts say


The odds are against Toronto police veteran Ron Taverner ever being able to effectively lead the OPP because controversy over his friendship with Premier Doug Ford has done irreversible damage, policing experts say.

Concerns about potential conflicts of interest will always linger, several law enforcement sources said Sunday.

“You’re not doing any favours putting him in that job,” former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson told the Star, echoing remarks from others in the field.

“I don’t see how this can be fixed,” said a retired senior police executive who requested anonymity to speak freely.

“If there’s any perception of a linkage like the pictures of him arm-in-arm with Premier Ford, how is the public ever going to have confidence?”

One potential pitfall cited is a situation like the Ontario Provincial Police criminal investigation into deleted documents from the gas plants scandal during the government of former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty.

That probe led to criminal charges against McGuinty’s former chief-of-staff David Livingston, who was convicted a year ago and sentenced to four months in jail. He is free on his own recognizance pending an appeal. McGuinty was not under investigation and co-operated with police.

While that probe conducted after a complaint from Progressive Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli — now Ford’s finance minister — was high-profile and widely reported in the media, it is not unusual to have lower-key investigations into government, politicians, bureaucrats or agencies that do not make headlines, said the retired senior police executive who recalls as many as 10 such probes in the last decade.

“Every investigation of the government is going to be tarred.”

Paulson said he kept a close eye on “risky” files as the top Mountie and for Taverner to do the same could raise suspicions.

“People will be wondering why the commissioner wants to know what he wants to know, which he’s quite entitled to know because he’s got to run the force. It just sounds like a mess,” Paulson added in a telephone interview from Ottawa.

He noted the “lions share” of his job was managing the RCMP’s relationship with the federal government while maintaining proper boundaries for both sides.

“There’s investigations into the government, into the bureaucracy or into departments, things that if they’re not the government that the government would surely want to know and be able to manage,” Paulson said.

“The government knowing about things in advance is not a good idea, particularly in those kinds of investigations. Because then you get into all sorts of shenanigans of tainting evidence and tainting your investigation.”

Michael Armstrong, who was chief superintendent of the OPP’s organized crime division until retiring in 2014, said the challenge for Taverner is overcoming what is widely seen as a flawed interview process that has left him a target.

“One thing I took out of being in a leadership position is people want to look up to you. Don’t be somebody that they’re making jokes about. They want you to be the person they can look up to and aspire to be.”

Career police officers with higher rank than Taverner were rejected in favour of him, including a former Ontario head of the RCMP with more experience in managing a large staff, confirmed one source from the OPP, the country’s second largest police force.

“From the angle of why was this decision made, you question it,” said Armstrong. “There’s two things they’re saying – the talent isn’t there in the organization to lead it, or this guy is so great that they’ve stepped over the organization.”

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said controversy will continue to swirl around the Ford government as MPPs return from a Christmas break that began Dec. 6 to debate legislation to prevent a strike by unionized workers at Ontario Power Generation.

The premier will face pointed queries from opposition parties during question periods on Tuesday, Wednesday and likely Thursday, with the New Democrats pushing for an “emergency select committee” of MPPs investigate the hiring and Liberals requesting a retired judge be appointed to lead an independent inquiry.

“Whatever happens now has to instill confidence – not just in the hiring process, but the interaction of the premier’s office and police forces because that’s in question right now, too,” said Fraser.


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Women in precarious job situations vulnerable to workplace harassment


A Toronto legal clinic dedicated to female victims of violence now has some extra financial backing to advocate for women facing harassment and coercion in the workplace due to their precarious job status.

The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, which uses its legal might to advocate for women’s rights, is one of seven agencies benefiting from an extra infusion of funding — $1.5 million — from United Way Greater Toronto over three years as part of the United Way’s effort to tackle a range of community challenges linked to poverty.

Amanda Dale is the executive director of the Barbra Schlifer Clinic. The clinic offers various help and advice for women in difficult situations and those who have been victims of violence.
Amanda Dale is the executive director of the Barbra Schlifer Clinic. The clinic offers various help and advice for women in difficult situations and those who have been victims of violence.  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star)

The cash allocations, being pulled from the United Way’s annual fundraising campaign account, are being divvied up among community agencies spearheading initiatives tailored toward taking on a broad scope of community issues: from youth homelessness, to supporting LGBTQ2S survivors of violence and affordable housing.

Barbra Schlifer is charged with the women’s issues file, and the clinic’s executive director, Amanda Dale, said the $300,000 earmarked over three years will go a long way to fuelling a campaign against workplace harassment, which comes on the heels of a surging #MeToo movement.

“The United Way’s tone-setting study — Getting Left Behind — shows that those who are stuck in the labour system at low levels of compensation are racialized women with precarious work,” Dale said. “In our experience, women in those jobs are more prone to harassment, coercion and sexual violence.”

Since #MeToo began, Barbra Schlifer’s has seen an 84 per cent hike in its overall request for services.

Dale speculates a key driver in the spike “is the overall climate in being able to finally speak out.”

The number of women seeking a variety of assistance jumped to 7,000 in March 2018 from 4,700 in the fiscal year ending March 2017.

“One of the notable areas of growth is specifically from women in precarious work situations who are being harassed and coerced,” Dale said.

“We know that it’s likely these women are mostly racialized and the situations they are in make the usual legal protections of limited value,” Dale said. “That is, when you are most vulnerable to losing work, and the consequences of doing so are dire, challenging your boss through the usual legal means is much harder.”

Barbra Schlifer’s project will stir up advocacy aimed at curtailing sexual assault, harassment and coercion in the workplace by launching research, focus groups and a public campaign.

“We will convene a table of common purpose first, and then select a prone industry (like restaurants or hotel or cleaning work) and with our partners devise outreach and legal information,” she said.

In addition, Dale and her team will “also work with affected women to devise some scaled policy or legal reform to specific areas that trap women (this may be in immigration, municipal bylaw or labour codes) to reform,” Dale said.

She emphasized that while the #metoo movement is gaining strength, the reality for many women has not improved and the number of precariously employed women requesting law-related help has increased.

Dale has rallied some extra support.

“We therefore decided to work in partnership with other community agencies serving at-risk groups of women to consult women themselves, as well as their trusted community supports (including our own ancillary services), to devise outreach that can gather creative and safer ideas for intervention over time,” she said.

She said women in need of safer intervention strategies include those with tenuous immigration status, women in non-unionized jobs and females working in part-time or temporary roles, and they may be fearful about repercussion of filing complaints about harassment in the workplace.

In many cases, taking a legal route to fight those battles, unfortunately, “can cause more harm than good,” she said. “We need to find more creative ways to assist them.”

Barbra Schlifer has recently dedicated much of her efforts toward legal reforms to labour, housing and criminal laws for sexual abuse survivors.

“This project will build on this as well as our role as front line adviser and work with other United Way funded service providers to build support pathways for these vulnerable workers,” she said.

The project envisions several phases over the three-year duration including data gathering, coalition building, a support an outreach phase — culminating with a service and system change phase.

Daniele Zanotti, president and CEO of United Way Greater Toronto, said the $1.5 million earmarked for the program is on top of the funds already allocated in 2018 to the selected agencies.

Tortstar President and CEO John Boynton and publisher of The Toronto Star(left) and Daniele Zanotti, CEO of United Way Greater Toronto at the Toronto Star cheque presentation representing Star employee donations.
Tortstar President and CEO John Boynton and publisher of The Toronto Star(left) and Daniele Zanotti, CEO of United Way Greater Toronto at the Toronto Star cheque presentation representing Star employee donations.  (Vince Talotta)

“To reduce poverty we’re going to need to address some of the deeper systemic barriers in a new way,” Zanotti said of the driving force behind the additional help being doled out. The aim is to foster collaboration between lead agencies and other groups to work in tandem in taking on the issues.

Barbra Schlifer has now brought together groups like the Centre for Research and Education, Osgoode Law School, The Equal Pay Coalition and UNIFOR Women’s Rights division, partners they have worked with on past initiatives.

“It not only diversifies who’s at the table, but solutions and how we’re going to address it,” he said.

United Way raised $105 million in 2017, surpassing its largest goal ever. The money raised was then dispensed to 270 agencies — to address needs such as food insecurity, homelessness, mental health, seniors programs and domestic violence — across Toronto and Peel regions. This year’s campaign goal is $110 million, with final amount raised to be announced Feb. 7.


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Government staffer named in Mark Norman document leak case suspended from job


A junior procurement official named in the criminal case against the military’s former second-in-command has been suspended from his federal government position, a House of Commons committee has been told.

Matthew Matchett was identified in court documents filed by the lawyers defending Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, who has been charged with a single count of breach of trust.

The revelation is the latest twist in the high-stakes prosecution of Norman, the former vice chief of the defence staff, who is accused by the RCMP of leaking cabinet secrets.

Les Linklater, an associate deputy minister at Public Services and Procurement Canada, told the Commons government operations committee late Thursday that Matchett has been suspended from his federal government job.

He said he was unable to state when it happened and refused to discuss the circumstances of Matchett’s suspension, including the reasons for it.

« I’m not at liberty to get into personnel management issues, » Linklater said when questioned by Conservative MP Kelly McCauley.

Les Linklater, a senior government official, disclosed the suspension of Mathew Matchett during a Commons committee on Thursday 0:54

Matchett has not been charged with any offence.

The Mounties acknowledged at the outset of their investigation into Norman that they were looking into more than one breach of secrecy linked to a cabinet committee meeting on shipbuilding early in the Liberal government’s mandate.

In asking the court last month to force the federal government to disclose documents, Norman’s lawyer Marie Henein claimed the federal police force had identified another source for the leak.

« The RCMP’s investigation discovered that a government employee, Matthew Matchett, gave a lobbyist then working for Davie the classified Memorandum to Cabinet (« MC ») and slide deck relating to the Liberal Government’s November 19, 2015 iAOR Cabinet committee meeting, » Henein wrote in an October court filing.

The Mounties refused to comment when asked about Matchett in October, saying that the investigation into the breaches of cabinet secrecy was ongoing.

In a subsequent court filing, Henein claimed that the Mounties had not yet interviewed Matchett.

Email exchanges released by the court this month suggest Matchett leaked a memorandum to cabinet and a slide presentation to an Ottawa lobbyist, Brian Mersereau, in the days leading up to the cabinet meeting in question.

At that meeting, the newly elected Liberal government chose to put a $668 million program to lease a supply ship for the navy on hold. Word of the decision immediately leaked to the media and cabinet eventually reversed course and allowed the project with the Davie Shipyard, in Levis, Que., to proceed.

Cabinet ministers were furious, however, and after an internal government investigation failed to determine the source, the RCMP were called in.

A detailed reference to Matchett was contained in over 700 pages of documents linked to Norman’s case and released by the court two weeks ago.

The documents include excerpts of emails and RCMP witness statements — records that have not been tested in court and may not be entered as evidence by the Crown.

In one email, Matchett allegedly tells Mersereau on Nov, 17, 2015, that he had « got everything — the motherload. »

Mersereau, of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, told the Mounties in an interview that a brown envelope with the cabinet documents appeared the next day at his downtown Ottawa office.

At the time, Matchett was working for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, but later moved on to a position at Public Services and Procurement Canada.

CBC News has reached out to Matchett on several occasions since his name appeared in the court documents and has not received a response.


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Qualifications lowered for OPP commissioner job, allowing Ford family friend to apply


When the top job with the Ontario Provincial Police was posted in October, Ron Taverner couldn’t apply, because his rank was too low.

Two days later, the job requirements were changed — paving the way for the Ford family friend to apply.

He got the job.

The job postings were obtained exclusively by iPolitics late Monday evening.

The first job description was posted to the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police website in October and — according to a search of the document’s web history — was last modified on Oct. 22.

That posting required all applicants to hold, at minimum, the rank of deputy chief or assistant commissioner.

The candidate should have a “track record and demonstrated ability to provide executive leadership in a complex policing organization at the rank of Deputy Police Chief or higher, or Assistant Commissioner or higher in a major police service,” read the posting.

Taverner, a superintendent with the Toronto Police Service, sits two ranks below that threshold.

Two days later, a document entitled “OPP Commissioner Updated” was modified on the association’s site. The only difference between that posting and the first is that the minimum-rank requirements were removed.

The candidate should have a “track record and demonstrated ability to provide executive leadership in a complex policing organization,” read the new posting.

NDP questions appointment of premier’s friend to head OPP

The change made Taverner eligible to apply for the job, which he was ultimately awarded on Nov. 29.

Sal Badali of Odgers Berndtson, the head hunting agency that “supported” the commissioner selection process, said “eliminating the rank requirement was done to broaden the potential pool of applicants.”

“It turned out that over half the pool of applicants were not at the Deputy Chief level,” Badali said over email.

The premier’s office refused comment on the matter when reached by iPolitics, saying the selection process was managed by the “public service in its entirety.” The commissioner’s job is an Order-in-Council appointment, meaning it must be approved by provincial cabinet.

The premier’s office said requests for comment about Taverner’s appointment should be directed to the cabinet office, which reports to the premier. A request to explain who asked for the change in job requirements was not returned by deadline.

Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones said in Question Period on Tuesday that the posting was changed to broaden the pool of prospective applicants.

“We wanted to make sure the best person to handle the position was going to apply,” she said, adding that the decision was made by the “hiring crew.”

Taverner’s appointment — announced late Thursday — immediately raised eyebrows.

“The fix was in from Day 1,” former OPP commissioner Chris Lewis told CP24 on Thursday.

“The decision’s the premier’s,” Lewis said. “There’s old relationships there; we all know it, and I think it was a travesty that this occurred.

“And I don’t want to show any disrespect to Ron Taverner. He got the job, good for him. I don’t think it’s good for the OPP, and I don’t think it was a good decision on the part of government whatsoever.”

The opposition seized on the appointment during question period Monday, calling on the Progressive Conservatives to explain how Taverner was chosen.

“The choice was made by an independent commissioner, and it was approved by cabinet on Thursday,” Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones said in response.

That wasn’t good enough for NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who told reporters early Monday that she thinks Lewis’s concerns are legitimate.

“Come clean and outline — particularly and specifically — what the process was,” Horwath said. “Let’s figure out why the process left us with a candidate that leaves so many people scratching their heads.”

Taverner has served in the Toronto Police Service since 1967. As superintendent, he is the unit commander for three divisions that overlap with Ford’s home community of Etobicoke.

With his new job — which he will start Dec. 17 — Taverner will leapfrog over the OPP ranks of chief superintendent and deputy commissioner to become commissioner.

Asked about the multiple promotions in rank early Monday, Jones said, “We are looking for someone that understands front line officers, that understands the challenges that are there and the hiring process saw that clearly.”

The promotion means Taverner will go from being responsible for more than 700 uniformed officers and civilian staff to approximately 8,000 uniformed officers and civilian employees.

Jones told reporters that 27 people applied for the job and 15 of them were interviewed.

In its Thursday press release, the government said Taverner’s appointment was unanimously recommended by a “selection committee comprised exclusively of members of the Ontario Public Service and supported by Odgers Berndtson.”

In spite of Ford and Taverner’s personal relationship, Jones said she can “absolutely” guarantee that there will be a separation between the premier’s office and the commissioner.

However, Horwath told reporters she’s skeptical any separation will be maintained because she said Ford’s office has previously tried to direct police operations. In November, the Toronto Star reported that Ford’s chief of staff asked senior officials to ask police to raid illegal dispensaries on the day cannabis was legalized.

“We’ve already seen, as you know, a government that doesn’t understand that that’s not supposed to happen,” Horwath said.

The Ford government is already facing questions over its involvement in appointments in the electricity sector.

Ford’s chief of staff, Dean French, was accused of interfering with hiring at Ontario Power Generation last month. He reportedly asked the provincial Crown corporation to fire Alykhan Velshi, who held a key post in the office of former PC leader Patrick Brown, according to reporting by the Globe and Mail.

And last week, the Globe and Mail reported that the premier’s office is in a standoff with Hydro One over the selection of its next CEO.


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He left his job as a Toronto city councillor in 1994. Now he’s about to resume it


He’s Italian, but in the space of 10 minutes two different people call newly elected city councillor Mike Colle a mensch.

True, they’re both in a restaurant at Lawrence Ave. W. and Bathurst St. where Yiddish can still be heard, and where Colle is holding court, in the provincial riding he represented as a Liberal MPP for 23 years, near the neighbourhood where he jogs 60 kilometres a week, where he shops for groceries, where he and his wife raised four children and where he just spent six months knocking on doors in a provincial election campaign and then a municipal one.

He lost provincially, but won municipally, and officially starts work as Toronto’s councillor for Ward 8 (Eglinton-Lawrence) Dec. 1, returning to a job he left in 1994.

“At the province, my biggest frustration was that you had to deal with the corner office all the time, you know, the premier’s office,” says Colle, leaning back from a table at United Bakers Dairy Restaurant, originally founded by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe in 1912, as he explains the difference between working at Queen’s Park and city hall.

“Really, as an MPP, you have to go out of your way to have any kind of influence. You’re just basically a vote and a number to them.

The lack of party structure is the biggest difference between provincial and municipal politics, says Colle, and it’s why he is glad to be returning to city hall.

“At the city you’re answerable to the people, much more directly.”

The busy restaurant in Lawrence Plaza is one of Colle’s stomping grounds. He is here often, meeting with people who want to bend his ear, ask for help, get advice or give it.

“Italians don’t like to sit at home, they like to get out,” says Colle, in a rare reference to his heritage.

“I mean, I am a people person. I like people, I like socializing. I like being in public places. I like walking the streets. Where else am I going to meet people? They can see me, I can talk to them, I can find out what’s going on.”

Colle greets a longtime supporter by wrapping an arm around his shoulder and reciting the man’s family history — Ernie Lustig’s father was a musician who came to Canada from Poland nearly 100 years ago, and worked as a violinist before movies with sound put musicians who worked in theatre orchestras out of work and he became a barber.

“I would do anything for him. He’s such a mensch,” says Lustig, 88, a local contractor with his finger on the pulse of the riding, and who supported Colle’s provincial and municipal runs for office this year.

“You know what a mensch is? It’s a good-hearted person.”

The granddaughter of the family that founded the restaurant in 1912 drops by Colle’s table to talk about an issue in her neighbourhood.

“He makes sure that he gets to know people, he understands people and he’s a mensch,” says Ruth Ladovsky.

“He is a man of action, that will take action. Honestly, he means it when he says: ‘Let me see what I can do for you.’”

Colle says there is no way he could keep tabs on what is going on in his ward without meeting with people at art galleries and synagogues and churches, at the local flea market and grocery stores.

“There’s a lot of people that are very involved. And it’s critical that I meet and see them. They can be your eyes and ears. I make sure to touch base with them.”

It’s not that Colle has had an unblemished career. He was ousted as citizenship and immigration minister from former Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet in 2007 after a scathing report from the auditor general over $32 million that was dispersed without sufficient controls to community groups under his watch. The Ontario Cricket Association received $1 million after asking for $150,000.

A followup review found most of the groups had used the money properly or were planning to. Colle said then and says now that the money was supposed to make up for years of underfunding.

He was returned to office following the scandal, but lost his seat in June when the PC Party swept into office.

A former high school teacher, Colle served on York council before moving to Metro council in 1988, where he served as TTC chair, but he’s not interested in chairing the TTC this time around.

He says his first task will be to talk to the city’s planning department about a yearlong pause in new development at Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave., in order to conduct a review of the area.

“It’s almost impossible to keep pace with the scale of change that is happening,” says Colle.

“Right now, you’ve got to wait four or five trains to get on in the morning at the Yonge-Eglinton subway. It’s like Tokyo.”

He wants to change the way infrastructure capacity testing is done to make it less site-specific and more comprehensive, taking into consideration not only how services in the immediate area of a development will be affected, but also how adjoining areas will be affected.

He believes the current system is too narrow and focused.

“It’s almost too myopic.”

He wants to get a review of Section 37 of the Planning Act conducted, because he’d like to see it used more systematically. That section 37 of the provincial act makes it possible for developers to secure zoning exceptions in exchange for payments for improvements in the ward where the development is located.

He wants to put an end to weekend demolitions of heritage buildings, like the one that took down the Bank of Montreal building on Yonge St. and Roselawn Ave.

And, after jogging in cities in Portugal, Italy, Spain, Israel and China, he wants to focus on making Bathurst St. — which used to be a dividing line between two wards — to life as a main street, where people like to meet up and walk or shop or dine.

His ties to Mayor John Tory go way back — he said they were co-chairs of former mayor Mel Lastman’s election campaign.

“That is where I got to really know John. We had this kitchen cabinet, we used to meet every Monday morning with John Tory and a few other people to look at how to best direct the mayor and give him advice,” says Colle.

He plans to be an independent voice on council, but he thinks he may find himself on Tory’s side often enough.

“In most cases, I suspect I’m going to support a lot of the things that the mayor is going to do because he is a decent person and he understands the city.”

He plans to work closely with Josh Matlow and Jaye Robinson, councillors in contiguous wards. He didn’t like the way premier Doug Ford did it, but he doesn’t think it’s a bad thing that there will be 25 councillors at city hall instead of 44.

“We’ve got to remember, people want us to work together and get things done, and you may disagree with John Tory or I may disagree with you, but in the long run were all going to be judged on how we get along and get things done.”

Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF


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