Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wall government changed minimum age of employment to appease Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association

Premier Brad Wall (centre) accepts personalized
chef jacket from lobby group and Sask. Party contributor
Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, Nov. 2010

When the Saskatchewan Party government announced it was lowering the minimum age of employment in hotels, restaurants, educational institutions, hospitals and nursing homes from 16 to 15 a few years ago, the primary reason was that it would give more young people the opportunity to gain valuable work experience.

“Lowering the minimum age of employment gives Saskatchewan young people valuable opportunities to obtain work experience, while filling gaps in our labour market,” then-Advanced Education, Employment and Labour Minister Rob Norris said in a news release on December 23, 2008.

The change would be reviewed in May 2009, following a consultation process starting in January, the news release said.

The decision was made without prior public consultation or legislative debate.

Saskatchewan Federation of Labour president Larry Hubich at the time suspected the changes were being rushed through in order to appease the business community.

“I have no doubt in my mind that the government is doing this because they’re getting pressure from certain business lobby groups to open up the door to allow younger workers,” Hubich told the Leader-Post, adding that some businesses are finding it hard to attract workers because they’re paying low wages and little or no benefits. [Age drops for teen workers (Leader-Post, December 24, 2008)]

Thanks to Saskatchewan’s information and privacy commissioner we now know that Hubich was right. It wasn’t about doing something positive for young teens; it was about placating the business and industry lobby groups that had been pressuring the Wall government to make changes.

According to a briefing note dated October 8, 2008, by the policy and evaluation branch in the former Ministry of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour, a number of business organizations and business owners had been requesting a lowering of the age of employment in their industries.

“In particular, the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association and some of their members have expressed dismay that retail stores and gas stations can hire individuals the age of 16 while they cannot,” the document says.

“Business stakeholders have suggested that a more realistic minimum age limit would be 15, with further allowances for younger adolescents under prescribed conditions.”

(The CRFA donated $732.19 to the Saskatchewan Party in 2008 and purchased two tickets for Premier Brad Wall’s dinner on April 29, 2010, in Saskatoon. The lobby group was also against raising the minimum wage in Saskatchewan and supported introducing a training wage for new employees for the first 500 hours of work, a regressive measure that the Province of British Columbia recently abandoned.)

The argument seemed to be that a lower limit would recognize the current situation across Canada, by which all adolescents have some rights to seek employment if they are under the jurisdiction’s general minimum age restrictions.

However, the briefing note gives no indication it was young teenagers or parents that were seeking changes to the legislation. On the contrary, it was the business community – looking for a new source of cheap, expendable labour to fill vacant positions – that was demanding the law be amended.

“The current employment shortage have put increased pressure on businesses when recruiting workers and there have been requests for this age limit to be reduced,” the briefing note says.

The document notes that some media linked the issue to the Wall government’s Ontario trip to recruit workers to Saskatchewan.

“The Province needs employees of all kinds and the Government is looking at all ways to ensure an adequate workforce,” it states. “That includes working within the Province, throughout Canada and throughout the world.”

Apparently, the solution includes young teens.

The business community was unhappy with section 8 of The Minimum Wage Regulations, which required an employee to be at least 16 years old to work in educational institutions, hospitals, nursing homes, hotels or restaurants.

“Critics of this section point to other industries where there are a significant number of young workers and there is no similar age restriction, such as the retail or gas stations,” the briefing note said. In other words, these other industries wanted the opportunity to exploit cheap, young labour too.

In September 2008, the news media stirred up controversy when it reported that 20 15-year-old employees at two Dairy Queen stores in northwest Regina were laid off after an investigation by labour standards officers found they were underage. Premier Brad Wall shamelessly used the situation to promote his desire for changes to the legislation.

The briefing note confirms that the province was already reviewing the legislation at the time of the incident “as part of an overall review of labour legislation.” (Note: The Workers’ Compensation Act is currently under review and, according to the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety strategic plan for 2011-12, the “occupational health and safety regulatory regime” is the Wall government’s next target.)

What the public wasn’t told is that the story began on September 19, 2008, when the labour standards office in Regina “received an anonymous complaint from an upset father about his under-aged son working at the local Dairy Queen. The father was concerned about the risk of injury and, in particular, that his son would not be covered by the Workers’ Compensation Board (labour standards officials subsequently confirmed that Worker’s Compensation would cover a worker, even one that was under aged). The father said he would be going to the media with his concerns.”

A labour standards officer contacted the company to advise them of the requirement for employees to be 16 years of age. The employer contact was not aware of the provision, which had been in existence since 1971. The officer informed the employer that to be in compliance they would have to terminate the employment of those employees that were not 16 years old. The company representative understood and said that they would do what was necessary to comply.

“The father called back indicating he was very pleased with the outcome and thanked the labour standards officer for the quick response,” the briefing note states.

So it was simply a case of a parent looking out for their child. The media and Wall government withheld this information and instead turned the story into one about labour regulation run amok.

The briefing note clearly states: “The purpose of the regulation is to allow youth to focus on the successful completion of their education.” But for the Wall government and its friends in the business community it became about filling gaps in the labour market.

On July 22, 2009, the Wall government established age 16 as the general minimum age of employment in all sectors of the Saskatchewan economy. An ‘absolute’ minimum age of 14 was also established, provided those 14 and 15 year old workers fulfill certain requirements.

Unfortunately, the public was forced to endure another round of then-AEEL Minister Rob Norris trying to sucker anyone who would listen into believing the change was made so young people could gain some work experience. Yeah, right. It had nothing to do with the business community.

The briefing note was obtained through an access to information request submitted to AEEL under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in December 2008. Former AEEL deputy minister Wynne Young denied the request in its entirety claiming the responsive records contained confidences of cabinet and advice from government officials. Young’s decision was appealed to the information commissioner for review.

In a letter dated March 11, 2011, Mike Carr, deputy minister of labour relations and workplace safety, said that the information commissioner asked LRWS to review the file. As it turns out, only one record responsive to the original request was located. Carr noted that section 16(1)(a)(c) “should not have been applied as an exemption since the record does not relate to a Cabinet document.”

Carr added: “Upon review of the file, I agree to provide partial access to the record pursuant to section 8 of the Act.” This section is mandatory and requires government institutions to give access to as much of the record as can reasonably be severed without disclosing the information to which the applicant is refused access.

Carr did not explain why his predecessor falsely claimed the record was cabinet-related and failed to apply section 8 – an offence that has been committed in almost every ministry since the Wall government took power.

Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister
Don Morgan (centre) with CRFA officials, Nov. 2010

Saturday, March 19, 2011

City of Saskatoon withheld concerns over the viability of a hotel at River Landing; consultant hired did not conduct market assessment

For nearly seven years Saskatoon city council has been obsessed with forcing the private sector development of a luxury hotel at River Landing regardless of market demand.

Records recently released by the city in response to access to information requests submitted in February 2005 and May 2006 show that the city was advised of industry concerns about the viability of a hotel on the former Gathercole site, but failed to tell the public.

The documents also show that much of the city’s discussion on the matter was conducted behind closed doors and that the consultant hired to guide the concept planning process for the area did not conduct a market assessment of the hotel industry to see if additional rooms were necessary.

On July 21, 2004, city council’s executive committee met in private to discuss the marketing and disposition of Parcel “Y” (then known as Block E16) at River Landing. An excerpt from the minutes of the meeting indicates that the city solicitor circulated copies of a memo dated July 20, 2004, from Victoria-based consultant Gwyn Symmons.

The purpose of the memo was to provide an opinion on the disposition of Parcel “Y” for a hotel and other uses. Council had two choices for the land, either sale or lease.

Symmons noted that the private sector generally prefers sale over lease.

“It is less complex and leasing can sometimes cause problems with lenders,” he said. “The presence of the city on title may be a deterrent to some lenders. Lenders are generally conservative and will need to examine and accept the lease wording. This may be an added complication to obtaining a hotel.”

Symmons said developers sometimes also express concerns with regard to the marketability of projects built on leased land where residential development is a component.

“In competitive markets, individual home purchasers (with legal advice) may have concerns over leasing. In markets where leasing is uncommon, there may be buyer reluctance where the property is leased, which may affect a developer’s interest in the subject,” he said.

After considering council’s objectives for the site, Symmons concluded: “The subject site is an excellent site and we feel confident that it will attract the interest of developers. On balance, sale of the lands seems more appropriate in the Saskatoon market where leasing has been less common and where the development market place is smaller and perhaps less robust than larger metropolitan centres.”

However, it is important to note that Symmons did not study the Saskatoon market to see if the downtown could handle another major hotel. And yet, he appeared to support the idea nonetheless: “We have not undertaken a market analysis of the hotel industry but continue to believe that the location is an excellent one for this use. Only a competitive call to the private sector will determine the interest or viability and/or the type and size. There is no guarantee that a hotel will be forthcoming.”

Conducting a market assessment early on might have saved the city a lot of grief. Because it wasn’t long before the red flags started to appear.

The executive committee met behind closed doors again on August 6, 2004. It was at this meeting that councillors determined the hotel site “will be sold rather than leased.” There was never a resolution or vote on the matter at a public meeting of city council, only a short mention in a report by the committee for the August 16, 2004, council meeting. The public never had a say.

On November 15, 2004, council awarded a realtor services contract to Colliers McClocklin Real Estate Corp. to assist in the sale of the Parcel “Y” beating out JJ Barnicke, ICI Commercial Real Estate, and Royal LePage.

“Colliers McClocklin submitted one of the top overall proposals that highlighted their experience and in-depth knowledge of hotel marketing on a national basis,” the city manager said in a report to council.

The decision to hire Colliers McClocklin was made at a private meeting of the executive committee held October 15, 2004.

As part of their nine month term contract, Colliers McClocklin provided the city with regular verbal and written progress reports. The city recently released one of these reports, that being a letter from Colliers McClocklin president Tom McClocklin to the city’s then special projects manager, Chris Dekker, dated January 31, 2005.

In the letter, McClocklin indicated that his company had electronically distributed marketing information to 1,429 prospects, created a webpage, Flash TM presentation and a marketing brochure.

Two rounds of advertisements were placed in the Globe and Mail, National Post, StarPhoenix and Leader-Post.

“We did not receive any direct response,” McClocklin wrote.

The company also distributed 25 expressions of interest for Parcel “Y” and received 15 signed registration letters.

“We have not received any concerns relating to the format or procedure of the EOI,” said McClocklin. “We have made note of all comments and/or feedback that has been communicated to us through face-to-face meetings.

McClocklin went on to say that after meeting “with all of our top prospects” there were “three recurring comments.”

“Proponents are convinced that the site does not allow for adequate surface parking which will result in the public areas not being used,” he said.

“The second common concern relates to the overall viability of the project. Proponents are concerned about the need for additional hotel rooms in the Saskatoon market and the ability to achieve required room rates and occupancy levels. In addition, proponents are concerned about the ability to achieve the necessary price per square foot for luxury condominium sales.”

The third concern raised was “the question of site subdivision and the concept of bringing in partners.”

None of these concerns were included in the city manager’s report to council on March 7, 2005.

The city received a total of four EOI’s by the February 11, 2005, deadline.

At a closed door meeting of the executive committee on February 28, 2005, councillors informally decided to invite Remai Ventures Inc. and VPMI Hotel Group to proceed to the request for proposals stage.

The decision was made official at the March 7, 2005, city council meeting. The identities and proposal details of the two unsuccessful applications were not revealed.

However, on February 17, 2011, the identity of one of the proponents was disclosed: Airline Motor Hotels Ltd. of Saskatoon. This was made possible when the city agreed to release the company’s EOI following a review by Saskatchewan’s information and privacy commissioner, who obtained permission from Airline Motor Hotels to disclose their 2005 submission.

Airline Motor Hotels proposed a two stage development. Phase I included a spa complex with restaurant and lounge. This phase would be designed to accommodate a minimum 200 room hotel, as a Phase II initiative in the future, when market demand in the downtown can support this.

“Over the past few years, there have been pro formas done for a mineral spa hotel. This research indicates to us that the downtown area of Saskatoon cannot support another full service property (i.e. one with a hotel) at this time,” the document says.

Future considerations for the site included “another retail operation” and “multifamily/residential development.”

The city has never officially said why the Airline Motor Hotels proposal was rejected.

Money or success can’t be the problem. The company has been around for nearly 40 years and operates the Saskatoon Travelodge, Hilton Garden Inn (Saskatoon) and Four Points by Sheraton Edmonton South.

At the deadline for RFP’s on May 25, 2005, only Remai Ventures had submitted a detailed proposal. VPMI Hotel Group pulled out because major lenders weren’t convinced of the viability of building another major hotel downtown with so many already operating, the StarPhoenix reported.

“It’s a matter of evaluating the risk and lenders aren’t willing to sign the (financing) document this time,” said Shaun Ng, VPMI vice-president of development. “There’s enough hotels downtown, that’s our main problem.”

Charles Misouri, a commercial lender with Saskatoon Credit Union, told the newspaper that downtown is close enough to being overbuilt with hotels that any lender may require a third-party feasibility study to prove another one is viable.

“I know a lot of the banks don’t like to do financing on them,” he said. “For something down on the riverbank, you’d probably need a few banks (to come up with financing).” [One spa bid remains: Bankers sink competing proposal for mineral spa (StarPhoenix, May 26, 2005)]

The fatal blow to the city’s plans came on February 26, 2007, when Remai Ventures wrote to then special projects manager Chris Dekker to advise that they would not be proceeding with their proposed development of Parcel “Y”. The company said the project was “no longer economically viable” due to rising construction costs, the difficulty in obtaining skilled labour, and the considerable costs and risks associated with developing a mineral spa.

StarPhoenix business columnist Murray Lyons said at the time he was surprised that most people didn’t see Remai’s decision coming.

“Let’s face it, a hotel-spa was always more a city hall pipe dream than a business case study. Remember, the Remai proposal was really the only serious reply the city got to its flawed request for proposal process,” he said.

“If city leadership had been less entranced by the idea of a spa, it might have attracted real interest from across Canada in a more open-ended development call.”

Lyons spoke with major players in the downtown hotel industry who said they didn’t believe a full-service hotel and spa would ever generate much of a return.

Andrew Turnbull, general manager of the Delta Bessborough and past president of the Saskatoon Hotel Association said city council was made aware of the hotel association’s skepticism.

“We were quite pointed in our advice that what they (city council) thought was right for the site was unlikely to happen,” Turnbull said in the article.

Sheraton Cavalier’s then general manager, John Bevis, said that while downtown hotels were doing better as of late, adding 200-plus rooms “would saturate the market.” Bevis noted a recent study done by the owners of the Sheraton and the adjoining Cavalier apartment complex found that “the market is not there for a new build.” [Back to reality downtown (StarPhoenix, March 9, 2007)]

Even Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce executive director Kent Smith-Windsor said at the time that the Saskatoon market could not support another hotel complex as hotels struggle to get room rental rates near the national or even Prairie region average.

“If it’s going to cost in excess of $100,000 to build one hotel suite and you’re getting less than $100 (a night) in the marketplace, that won’t work,” said Smith-Windsor. [Remai backs out: Investor pulls plug on hotel, spa project (StarPhoenix, March 8, 2007)]

Still, Mayor Don Atchison stubbornly insisted that a hotel on Parcel “Y” was viable.

“There’s still a strong viability, I believe, for a hotel here. We’ll find out what the market actually says,” Atchison told reporters at a press conference on March 8, 2007. [River Landing hotel viable: mayor (StarPhoenix, March 9, 2007)]

In an interview the previous day, Atchison said the city would “go out to the private sector once again and, hopefully, we’ll be able to have someone build us a wonderful facility there.” [Remai backs out: Investor pulls plug on hotel, spa project (StarPhoenix, March 8, 2007)]

Sure enough, on May 1, 2007, the city issued another EOI for Parcel “Y”. This time only two submissions were received by the June 15, 2007, deadline:

1) Lake Placid Investments Inc.
2) WAM Development Group/Concorde Group Corp.

Concorde president David Dube said at the time that the project would have to be cost-efficient in order for his group to proceed.

“It’s got to be an economically viable development for us,” he said. “We’re not going into it as a charity. We’re going into it as a business.” [Developers line up (StarPhoenix, June 22, 2007)]

On June 25, 2007, city council approved the selection of both companies to proceed to the RFP round.

At close of deadline September 4, 2007, WAM Development Group/Concorde Group Corp. declined to submit a formal proposal, while Lake Placid Investments Inc. submitted a complete proposal.

According to the StarPhoenix, the city received a letter from WAM Development Group/Concorde Group Corp. saying they were no longer interested. No reason was given. The smart money says the project wasn’t viable.

The StarPhoenix said Atchison expressed no concern over the fact that only one developer came through with a serious bid for the property. [River Landing site attracts one proposal (StarPhoenix, September 5, 2007)]

On September 17, 2007, council instructed administration to proceed to negotiate the necessary agreements with Lake Placid Investments Inc. for the development of River Landing Parcel “Y”.

Council approved the sale agreement on January 14, 2008. And for the next 2 years and 9 months there was nothing but excuses, missed deadlines, special treatment, secrecy, hypocrisy and poor decisions by council. By November 1, 2010, Lake Placid had sold its interest in the project to its partner, Victory Majors Investments Corporation, because it apparently couldn’t get financing.

As of March 19, 2011, Parcel “Y” is still empty. The city only has itself to blame.

If there was a need for additional rooms, that time has probably come and gone. Within the last year four new hotels totaling 438 rooms were being readied for the Saskatoon market: A 179 room Holiday Inn at Pacific Avenue and 22nd Street (under construction), a 119 room Four Points by Sheraton in Stonebridge, a 100 room Best Western in Blairmore, and the 40 room Bridgewater West at 1414 22nd Street West.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Appalling lack of transparency in decision by Saskatoon police service and board to pursue larger, more expensive new headquarters

Excerpt from Police Chief Clive Weighill’s
Nov. 1, 2010, report to police board

Here we go again, another big ticket capital project with massive cost increases on the horizon.

Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill dropped a bombshell recently when he revealed that the long-planned new police headquarters would be bigger and more expensive than originally thought.

According to the StarPhoenix, Weighill told the board of police commissioners on February 24, 2011, that the police service is less than two months away from unveiling the construction company and architect for the project as the three bidding firms continue to prepare detailed drawings and cost estimates.

The previous estimate for the 5.74 acre site located north of 25th Street and west of Ontario Avenue was $91 million, but police and the city have reassessed the facility’s size due to the accelerated population growth in Saskatoon, Weighill said in an interview with the StarPhoenix after the meeting.

The facility’s total size has grown a whopping 64 percent to 328,000 square feet from 200,000 square feet. Underground parking is responsible for most of the extra space.

“The last thing (the board) wanted was to put out a large expenditure and move in and it’s already too small for our needs,” Weighill said in the article.

The final cost of the project won’t be known until the bids are submitted, Weighill said, but he admitted the $91-million figure is outdated.

“We won’t get that new price until April, but the price we were working with, it will probably be higher than that,” he said.

The three remaining firms in contention for the project are all joint partnerships between construction companies and architecture firms. PCL Construction is bidding with Stantec, Graham Construction with AECOM and EllisDon Corp. with Toronto-based CS&P Architects.

Weighill said separate meetings have been held with the bidders while more meetings are planned in March. [Police HQ supersized (StarPhoenix, Feb. 25, 2011)]

So in a nutshell, the city, police service and board, and project bidders have been working on this latest development without the public’s knowledge.

It should be noted as well that CS&P Architects Inc. (formerly Carruthers Shaw and Partners Limited, Architects) are the firm that prepared a comprehensive 10-year facilities plan for the police service in 2002. The final report was presented to the police board on December 13, 2002.

The $91 million figure first appeared in a November 12, 2007, report from Weighill to the police board that was subsequently tabled with the city’s budget committee on December 10, 2007. In the report, Weighill notes that consultants Carruthers Shaw and Partners estimated the cost of a replacement facility was $42 million in 2002.

“This cost has increased by more than two times to an estimated cost of $91 million dollars today,” Weighill said at the time.

Weighill recommended “that the construction of a new Police Headquarters building, to be completed by 2013, be approved.” The board did just that. Interestingly, no dollar figure was attached to the recommendation.

If the cost of the new headquarters rose 116 percent between 2002 and 2007, you can imagine how much it has escalated since then. Add to that a 64 percent increase to the facility’s size. The price tag for this monster could easily top $120 million.

The lack of transparency on the subject is appalling.

Weighill’s report to the police board was verbal. The agenda for the February 24 meeting posted on the city’s website contains no information whatsoever on the topic. If it weren’t for the StarPhoenix the public would likely still be in the dark.

Just as outrageous is the fact that Weighill appears to have presented the idea as a done deal. The new police headquarters will be bigger and it will cost more, end of discussion.

The police board consists of five members: Mayor Don Atchison as chair, councillors Bev Dubois and Myles Heidt (absent), and the public, represented by Dr. Vera Pezer and Gordon Martell.

If there was any discussion or debate at the meeting about Weighill’s update the StarPhoenix failed to report it. If any board members were interviewed that wasn’t reported either. In fact, the StarPhoenix hasn’t bothered to publish a follow-up article or editorial. Why is that?

The whole thing reeks of a controlled leak to prepare the public for what comes next.

On November 18, 2010, Weighill presented the police service’s preliminary 2011 capital budget and 2012-2015 capital plan to the police board. The chief’s report, dated November 1, states that the estimated “total project cost” of the new headquarters is $91 million.

The “projected needs for the next 20-30 years” were taken into consideration as was “adequate parking… to accommodate the public, a large operational vehicle fleet and staff parking.” Construction is to begin in 2011 and project completion for 2013, the report states.

The board adopted the chief’s recommendation to approve the budget, which was then forwarded to city council’s budget committee for consideration.

The minutes for the December 14, 2010, budget committee meeting show that Weighill “reviewed his budget submission and answered questions of the Committee.”

Presumably, there was no discussion about the police service wanting to super-size the new headquarters; otherwise it would have been reported.

According to the minutes, all the committee did was pass the following resolution: “that the Board of Police Commissioners be requested to consider reducing Saskatoon Police Service operating budget estimates by $150,000.”

On December 20, 2010, city council approved the 2011 operating and capital budgets, subject to a report from the police board regarding reducing the police service operating budget.

That matter was put to rest on February 7, 2011, when city council received a letter (dated Jan. 20, 2011) from the secretary of the police board advising that the board approved the $150,000 reduction.

The city’s 2011 budget document even states on page 79 that the new police headquarters “will cost approximately $91 million, and will be entirely funded through a combination of cash and borrowing.”

Through all of this there was no hint that the city or police service and board were considering drastic changes to the new headquarters. This leaves plenty of unanswered questions.

▪ Why did Weighill wait until the 11th hour to bring forward the new information?

▪ Why did Weighill not submit a written report?

▪ If Weighill knew the current estimate was outdated why wasn’t it updated?

▪ When did the city and police service first discuss changing the plans?

▪ Who initiated the idea – the board, the police service or the city?

▪ When did the police board first become aware of the new plans?

▪ Did the police board direct the chief to pursue the new plan?

▪ When did the city’s executive committee first become aware of the new plans?

▪ When were the three bidders informed about the changes?

▪ Why was the public not consulted?

Excerpt from city’s 2011 Business Plan & Preliminary Budgets (Dec. 2010)

Excerpt from Police Chief Clive Weighill’s Nov. 12, 2007, report to police board

Thursday, March 03, 2011

After months of stalling, Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services finally release Blair-Bartolucci G20 Summit correspondence

Eight months later and still no one has been made to walk the plank over last summer’s G20 Summit nightmare.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who lied to the public about a five-metre rule on the security fence around the site, seems to think he’s untouchable and refuses to resign. Former Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Rick Bartolucci, who applauded police for showing “remarkable professionalism” and commended Blair and former OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino for their “remarkable leadership,” has no intention of stepping down either and continues to collect a cabinet minister’s salary in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government.

McGuinty admits mistakes were made but won’t apologize and says he still has confidence in Blair.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott defended police actions at the summit saying they “exercised restraint” and “acted professionally,” while Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, whose department the RCMP reports to, denies knowing anything about the Ontario government’s decision to give police in Toronto heightened powers during the summit.

Other G20 players like Chief Supt. Alphonse MacNeil, head of the Integrated Security Unit for the RCMP, the aforementioned Fantino, and PCO Special Advisor Ward Elcock, who was coordinator for G8/G20 security and reported to Prime Minister Stephen Harper through former National Security Advisor Marie-Lucie Morin, seem to have flown under the radar.

Most of the attention of late has been focused on Blair and Bartolucci, thanks largely to the damning report by Ontario Ombudsman André Marin, released Dec. 7, on his investigation into the origin and subsequent communication of the controversial security regulation passed by the province prior to the June 26-27 G20 summit.

Marin found that Regulation 233/10, made under the 71-year-old Public Works Protection Act (PWPA) to apply to parts of downtown Toronto near the summit meeting site, was “probably illegal,” “likely unconstitutional” and “never should have been enacted.”

“The decision of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to sponsor the regulation was unreasonable,” Marin wrote. “It was also almost certainly beyond the authority of the government to enact.”

In the days leading up to and over the course of the G20 summit weekend, some 1,105 people were arrested; the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, Marin said. Many people were beaten, punched, detained, strip searched, humiliated and shot at with rubber bullets, tear gas or pepper spray.

It all leads back to May 12, 2010, when Chief Blair wrote to Minister Bartolucci requesting a designation under the PWPA. The Marin report examines the letter as well as Bartolucci’s reply on June 15, 2010. But up until now, it appears that copies of the correspondence have not been made public.

On July 9, 2010, a request was made under Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to Community Safety and Correctional Services for copies of any formal letters, memorandums or briefing notes between the ministry and Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair since January 1, 2010, regarding or relating to the PWPA and the G20 Summit.

Despite promising to respond by November 2, 2010, to advise whether or not the information would be released, the ministry dragged out the process until February 14, 2011, before deciding to grant full access to the two letters, the only records ministry officials identified as being responsive to the request.

Marin’s team faced at least two significant obstacles during the probe: The Toronto Police Service refused to cooperate; and, a number of the documents supplied by the ministry for review were protected by solicitor-client privilege, so were therefore “heavily redacted.” This prevented Marin from “exploring the legal advice the Minister received about the lawfulness of Regulation 233/10,” and so was “left in the dark about what actually occurred.” [p. 39, 89-90]

Fortunately, Marin was still able to make some interesting observations about the decision making process:

▪ Based on OPP documentation, it appears that by late March 2010 the provincial PWPA was seriously being discussed as an alternative to the federal Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, which Public Safety Canada seemed reluctant to enter into a security agreement under with the province. [p. 51]

▪ Internal OPP email communications, dated March 28, 2010, relating to “G8/G20 - Public Works Protection Act,” indicate that the OPP was not particularly interested in exercising authority under this arcane legislation in connection with the G8 summit. [p. 52]

▪ Ministry records indicate that it was known well before the Toronto Police Chief’s letter was received on May 12, 2010, that the Toronto Police Service was looking for a designation under the PWPA. Internal Ministry documents suggest that the approval process relating to this designation was already being planned for by April 9. [p. 52]

▪ On May 20, several Ministry officials met to brief the Minister concerning the Chief’s request. Two senior OPP officials also participated by way of teleconference. [p. 54]

▪ Ministry officials told Bartolucci that to deny Blair’s request outright “would be perceived as not supporting TPS [Toronto Police Service].” [p. 55]

▪ An OPP superintendent who also represented the OPP on the ISU took part in the Minister’s briefing. [p. 56]

(The job of ensuring security for the G20 summit was assigned to the Integrated Security Unit, a joint security team led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in partnership with the Toronto Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Canadian Forces and the Peel Regional Police.)

▪ The regulation went to Cabinet’s Legislation and Regulation Committee on May 31 as initially planned. In the confidential briefing note prepared for the committee, in a section entitled “Stakeholder Consultations,” it was noted that the OPP, RCMP and Public Safety Canada were aware of the Toronto Police Service request for the regulation. [p. 57]

▪ On June 2, the regulation was discussed and voted on at a special five-member meeting of Cabinet. The following day, the Lieutenant Governor formally signed off on it. [p. 58]

▪ The Minister did not officially inform the Toronto Police Chief that the regulation had been issued until he wrote to him on June 15. [p. 58]

▪ While individual OPP, RCMP and Public Safety Canada members may have had some involvement during the Ministry’s review of the Chief’s request, the time period between the request and the issuance of the regulation was very short, and there is no record of there having been any formal consultation process engaging the ISU or other parties. [p. 61]

▪ There was some suggestion following the summit that the ISU had been the driving force behind the request for the public works designation. However, the evidence obtained during Marin’s investigation indicates that it was indeed the Toronto Police Service that led this initiative. While some officials involved with the ISU were aware of the Toronto Police Chief’s request, it does not appear that the designation request nor the regulation were general knowledge within the Unit. ISU spokespeople did not mention the Public Works Protection Act when specifically asked about their authority for the G20 security measures by the media in advance of the summit, and there was no reference to the Act or the regulation on the ISU’s website. Marin found no Ministry records confirming that the ISU had been provided with official notification that the regulation had passed, and email exchanges amongst the ISU Public Affairs Communications Team (PACT) dating from June 24 suggest that they were completely unaware of the Act or the regulation until that day. [p. 61-62]

▪ Although Regulation 233/10 affected a large segment of downtown Toronto, the Ministry made no attempt to consult city officials about the impact of the public works designation. Ministry records indicate that the Commissioner of Community Safety had asked the Chief whether he had briefed City Hall. However, a May 25 Ministry email confirms that the Chief said he had not consulted Toronto council “due to time limits.” During Marin’s investigation, city officials maintained that they too only learned of the regulation after it was reported in the news. [p. 62]

▪ Aside from Ministry and Toronto Police Service officials, it appears that only isolated staff – predominantly lawyers from other organizations involved with G20 planning – knew about the regulation, and that this information had not filtered up to the senior operational level of either the city or the ISU. The Ministry appears to have taken a “hands-off” approach with respect to G20 security organizers, leaving it to the discretion of the Toronto Police Service to notify its ISU partners and others about the regulation. [p. 63]

▪ The ISU steering committee lead had no idea that the regulation had been proposed, let alone enacted, until he learned about it along with the general public. [p. 96]

McGuinty, Bartolucci and Blair have acknowledged that a better job could have been done in communicating the intent of the regulation, however, no one involved has come right out and said it should never have been enacted.

Marin’s investigation found that some OPP, RCMP and Public Safety Canada members were involved with the McGuinty government’s review of Chief Blair’s request. It’s clear that only a comprehensive provincial-federal, public inquiry can address any outstanding concerns about the summit.