santa presentUnder the cover of COVID, Christmas came early this year for the friends of Doug Ford.

The owners and directors of Long Term Home corporations (including Mike Harris) are off the hook for liability for their well-documented shoddy operations during COVID.

Ford’s friend and funder Charles McVety will, somewhat magically, likely get his Christian College turned into a university.

His developer buddies will like Mr Ford’s new rules for Conservation Authorities whose authority is now much diminished.

And what did Santa Doug do to make all this happen? He stuffed the stockings hung by the chimney with care. Every one of these treats was snuck into omnibus bills designed to deal with the pandemic.

The legislation limiting peoples’ ability to sue LTC homes was stuffed into the Supporting Ontario’s Recovery and Municipal Elections Act. You now have to prove the home was not merely negligent, but ‘grossly’ negligent.

There’s plenty of evidence of negligence. Just ask the army. Or personal support workers who have come forward with tales of poor infection control, lack of personal protection equipment, low staffing levels and abysmal pay. But ‘gross negligence’ is harder to prove.

Those factors have contributed to horrible statistics: For-profit homes have logged ten times the deaths per bed as non-profit homes. Residents in for-profit homes are three times more likely to catch COVID and staff twice as likely – a record worse than European countries and even the US.

Of course it may have helped that the LTC association lobbied the government hard in the months leading up to the passage of the Act. And no doubt lobbyists’ donations to Mr Ford’s party got the attention of MPPs. And that many of those donors used to work for the Tories.

The legislation for rebranding McVety’s Canadian Christian College as an accredited university was tucked into the stocking labelled Bill 213, an omnibus bill dealing with urgent pandemic matters. Schedule 2 of the Bill simply declares, much like a papal bull, that the college can now grant Bachelor-level degrees.

It doesn’t upgrade the academic qualifications of Mr McVety and his staff – which are questionable. It doesn’t elevate the low standards for graduates. And it doesn’t whitewash Mr McVety’s homophobic and racist speech. But it does give Mr McVety, a long-time supporter and funder of the Ontario PCs, what he wants for Christmas.

Finally (for now at least) is legislation which practically eviscerates the ability of the Province’s conservation authorities (CAs) to regulate development to protect the environment. Schedule 6 does the damage and it’s buried in omnibus Bill 229, an act to implement the Conservatives’ 2020 pandemic budget.

The government spin is that it simply increases transparency of what CAs are up to. It does that, but it also expands the authority of the Minister to override decisions made by a CA. It narrows the authority and scope of what CAs can do to protect the environment. And it restricts the ability of CAs to act on things like flood control and protecting clean water sources.

Bill 229 (the Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act – I love the titles of these things) also has a bonus stocking stuffer. This one is for the logging industry. As the Canadian Environmental Law Association notes, Schedule 8 exempts them from prohibitions against destroying the habitat of endangered species. That covers logging operations on nearly two-thirds of the Province.

Mr Grinch didn’t steal Christmas. He gave it to his friends.

David McLaren

Doug Ford’s government is making it almost impossible to sue long-term-care homes   22 October 2020

85% of Ont. nursing homes break the law repeatedly with almost no consequences, data analysis shows

Inside Kennedy Lodge (a Revera home), The Scarborough Home Where 31 People Have Died Of COVID-19 17 Nov 20

For-profit long-term-care homes once again seeing significantly worse outcomes in Ontario’s second wave, Star analysis finds 13 November 2020

Ontarians Suffered 'Agonizing' Weeks While Nursing Home Group Hired Lobbyists   2 December 2020

Ontario PCs Have Raked In $30K From Big Nursing Home Lobbyists   30 November 2020

A plea from a Grey Bruce Personal Service Worker   12 October 2020

A little help for Charles McVety’s Canadian Christian College

McVety and his family borrow heavily from his Christian College charity

Bill 213: "Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, See Schedule 2.
Ford moving to permanently exempt logging industry from endangered species law in same Act 13 November 2020

Brief of the Canadian Environmental Law Association on changes to Conservation Authorities in Bill 229, the Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2020

Links to CELA’s written submission here:

Updated to 4 December 2020 to include PC additions to the Bill: