Browsing the archives for the Ontario Government tag.

Prorogued or Paid?

Canadian Politics, Legislative Gaps

Dalton McGuinty’s decision to use his minority position to prorogue (i.e. suspend) Ontario’s legislature is the latest in a series of disturbing tactics by Canadian politicians that threaten our democracy.

The act of proroguing a legislature supposed to be used to end one session of a parliament so that another can be started under a new legislative agenda.

  • The new session starts with a Speech to the Throne that outlines the legislation that a government plans to bring forward during that session.
  • The session normally ends when the government has met its stated legislative objectives and needs to table a new agenda.
  • Prorogation is used to provide the time required to prepare the new agenda.

Prorogation is not intended to be used to abrogate democracy.  Both McGuinty and Stephen Harper have used loopholes in the prorogation procedure to escape public enquiry that might lead to a vote of non-confidence in their minority governments.

Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.

The date of the next session of parliament / legislature should be announced when the previous session is prorogued.  The amount of time between sessions should be reasonable (60 to 90 days) so that a new legislative agenda can be prepared.

Unfortunately the Ontario Legislative Assembly Act does not require the date for the new session to be announced at the time of prorogation, and allows the Assembly to be suspended for up to a year.

The Ontario government doesn’t pay teachers for not teaching during the summer, or doctors who don’t see patients, so why do we pay our elected representatives for not representing us?

It’s time we closed these gaps in our democracy by amending the Legislative Assembly Act:

  • Members of the Assembly should be paid only when the Assembly is in session or is prorogued for less than 90 days.
  • The Lieutenant Governor should be required to proclaim the date of the next session at the time of proroguing the current session of the legislature.
  • In the event that a minority government requests prorogation before completing all of their objectives as declared in their most recent Speech to the Throne, the Lieutenant Governor should be required to ask the other leaders in the Assembly if they can form a government which can carry out its objectives.  Only if no other leader can form a government should premature prorogation be granted to a minority leader.

If every legislature and parliament in Canada made similar amendments, the likes of McGuinty or Harper would think twice about using prorogation to escape the democratic process.

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Ontario Just Killed Contracting

Canadian Politics, Economic Reality

The surprise changes made to the Ontario Employment Standards Act has effectively killed the contracting option for unemployed professional or white collar staff.

Under the new changes to this law, there is no such thing as a “contractor” unless an individual works for his or her own independent consulting company.  Anyone reselling the services of another is deemed to be an employment agency and the contractor is deemed to be an employee of that agency.

This means that the “agency” must provide the “employee” with severance even if they have not been on assignment when the “employment” ends and holiday pay even if the contractor does not work on a statutory holiday!! The “agency” cannot protect themselves by charging a finders fee in the event that the client ultimately hires the contractor.  So who in their right mind would ever contract out work to an Ontario resident?

In the past, The Lanigan Group and a great many other small consulting businesses would subcontract out overflow work that they could not handle with their staff.  Often this work would go to subcontractors who more often than not were temporarily unemployed professionals.  These assignments would often help bridge that professional until they could find a full time job.  In fact, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, fully 22% of all “self-employed” persons in Ontario pursued contract work because they were in-between full time jobs.

However, the Ontario government, in their zeal to “protect” temporary employees, has now made it prohibitive for small consulting businesses to continue that practice.  Now overflow work will either be directed outside of Ontario to contractors, or to another incorporated consulting company.

Over 60% of small businesses in Ontario are sole proprietors who are unincorporated.  In fact there are 21% more unincorporated sole proprietors than paid employees in Ontario.  As a result of this new law, NONE of them have any hope of obtaining contract assignments unless they are fortunate enough to find their own contracts.

It’s difficult to see how these changes to the law help reduce the high unemployment rate in the tech sector in Ontario.  Perhaps if the Ontario government had actually taken the time to consult with industry before killing the practice of technology contracting, the economy might actually have recovered next year for those in the tech sector.

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The day the music on hold died

Canadian Politics, Economic Reality, Virtual Reality

Helping Nortel

Today Nortel became another casualty of the deepening financial crisis by filing for creditor protection.  Amazingly the Canadian federal government, fresh from extending billions of dollars of credit to the auto industry of the past, managed to scrounge up all of $30 M in credit financing for the digital industry.

What a joke.  $250 Million for GM vs $30 M for Nortel.  GM with all of 19,000 employees in Canada is smaller than today’s Nortel that weighs in with 26,000 employees (mostly in Canada) – let alone the Nortel of yesteryear that once employed 95,000 with over 20,000 in Ottawa alone. 

Perhaps the fact that our federal finance minister is the member of parliament representing the GM employees in Oshawa has something to do with the smell of conflict of interest in this.

Meanwhile, McGuinty’s Ontario government is actually bragging about how they turned down Nortel’s application for financing under the NGOF pork barrel.  But McGuinty can find easily find $8 M to create 133 jobs at some outfit called Cyclone Manufacturing – is this a way to ensure that Ontario is a global leader in anything?

When, Nortel, the largest and one of the oldest companies in Canada is in trouble, our politicians don’t give a shite.  As recently as 2001, Nortel alone was 1/3 of the entire value of the TSX.  If job creation was actually important to our provincial government, a reasonable person might expect them to consider helping companies that actually have proven that they can employ Canadians in high tax-paying jobs.

Nortel’s Legacy

The impact of Nortel on the global economy across the 115 year history of the company is impossible to count. 

Every time you pick up a touch tone phone, use digital communications of any kind, experience broadband Internet access enabled by optical technology, or DSL, or high speed wireless – you are using technology invented by Nortel.

Every time you access your bank or brokerage account online, or use your mobile phone, you are riding on one or more protocols designed by Nortel. 

The first corporate email system in the world was built by Bell Northern Research.  So was the first use of digital packet communications, high-speed fibre optic rings, etc.  These are the very foundations of the Internet.

Nortel’s impact on the tech sector extends far beyond communications.  Engineers at Bell Northern Research contributed enabling technology to the electronic design community, distributed computing, advanced man-machine interfaces such as speech recognition, visualization graphics, dignital signal processing, etc. 

Nortel’s patent portfolio extends across Wireline, Wireless, Datacom, Enterprise and Optical technologies and services.  As of December 31, 2007, Nortel had approximately 3,650 US patents and approximately 1,650 patents in other countries. In fact Nortel has consistently ranked in the top 70 in terms of number of granted U.S. patents since 1998. 

Nortel has received patents covering standards-essential, standards-related and other fundamental and core solutions, including patents directed to CDMA, UMTS, 3GPP, 3GPP2, GSM, OFDM/MIMO, LTE, ATM, MPLS, GMPLS, Ethernet, IEEE 802.3, NAT, VoIP, SONET, RPR, GFP, DOCSIS, IMS, Call-Waiting Caller ID and many other areas.  The term “standards-essential” means that the technology would not be viable without the contribution of Nortel’s engineers.

My own career at Nortel was relatively brief, but in the less than 10 years that I was there I personally witnessed meetings where Nortel’s engineers educated IBM, HP, Intel, Cadence, Mentor Graphics, Microsoft, and a hundred other companies on advanced technology.  The spin off impact of those meetings alone on the tech industry was incalcuable.  Intel actually modified silicon designs, HP introduced new products, and Cadence & Mentor acquired new technology to rev up their revenues.  These were non-patent related discussions.

Nortel was the largest spender on R&D in Canada through both direct investment in its own labs and through leveraged investment in university interaction.  Literally thousands of doctoral degrees in Canada were made possible though collaborative research with Nortel over the years.  Even the scaled back Nortel of today spends more than 1/3 of its salaries on R&D jobs for Canadians.

Yet McGuinty is proud of denying Nortel’s call of distress?  Shame on him.

Broken Backs

We get what we vote for.  Our politicians both federally and provincially have demonstrated that they would rather prop up the resource sucking industries of the past than enable a modern Canadian economy of the future.

The fact that the digital economy can create more numerous, more interesting, and higher paying jobs for Canadians compared to the back-breaking and mind-numbing jobs of the resource and manufacturing sectors is completely lost on our politicians. 

Perhaps it is because we elect lawyers and not engineers to parliament?

Is the real problem with Canadian voters who sleepwalk their way to the polls if they bother to vote at all? Do Canadian parents not care about the quality of jobs that will be available for their children? 

Why do we tolerate this ineptitude from our politicians?

Yes Nortel’s management laid the seeds for its destruction.  John Roth in particular is to blame, as is his successor Frank Dunn who is now facing charges for misleading shareholders and gross stupidity. 

Nonetheless, allowing Nortel to die is the wrong policy decision for both the Canadian economy and the high technology sector of Canadian industry.  Write your MPP and MP and give them a shake!

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