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Ontarians, we’re all living in a Dukes of Hazzard show now

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Lately, whenever I see Ontario Premier Doug Ford on TV I think of Boss Hogg, the villain in The Dukes of Hazzard, a TV series that was popular in my youth.

Boss Hogg was a larger-than-life loudmouth, the sole lawful authority in Hazzard County, a self-dealing villain who was always out to get the good-hearted moonshine-running Duke brothers.

Boss Hogg’s only redeeming feature was his incompetence, which allowed the Duke boys to get the better of him every week, often leaving him in a manure pile or some other undignified position while the Dukes sped off in their souped-up Dodge Charger.

Many of Boss Hogg’s unethical plans came apart when his flunky, Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, his naive and bumbling sidekick, somehow messed up, allowing the Duke boys to get away.

RELATED: Premier to Ford Nation: You voted for this, and eventually we’ll tell you what ‘this’ is

Rosco came to mind this week when Ford made his friend Ron Taverner the commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, while denying that he had any role in the process.

Taverner is no Rosco Coltrane, of course. He has had a perfectly fine 50-year career on the Toronto Police Service, but his appointment is such a bad idea that I am filled with wonder at the crude thinking that brought it about.

Police have a monopoly on the lawful use of violence. They are uniquely empowered to stop citizens on the street, snoop on their phones, search their cars, homes and offices, arrest, prosecute and lock them up. Because of that, we cannot afford to have the slightest question about what motivates them.

But there are plenty of reasons to worry about what motivates Taverner, particularly in the very sensitive political files that are waiting on his desk at the OPP’s headquarters in Orillia.

Taverner is a Toronto Police Service superintendent in Etobicoke, in the heart of Ford Nation, where last year he made $186,662.92. At 72, after many years in the same job, he is getting a huge promotion and a $90,000 raise. (The last OPP commissioner made $276,000.)

Taverner must be very grateful to Boss Ford for arranging his late-in-life rise to prominence.

Ford told reporters that he had nothing to do with the decision, but there is no reason to give that statement any weight. He and Taverner are old friends, which raises questions about Taverner’s judgment, given that Ford’s brother was the subject of repeated high-profile police investigations. The Toronto Star reported that police brass did not ask Taverner’s officers to play a role in that investigation although it was taking place on their turf, and Taverner backed a a casino project at the Woodbine Racetrack that the Fords were pushing. Boss Ford says that the committee that selected Taverner was independent, but two of its members report to him and the third was a hired headhunter. Ford did not recuse himself from the cabinet decision to appoint Taverner. And Taverner only qualified for the appointment because the job requirements were mysteriously lowered.

We learned later in the week that Taverner lives in a home that he bought from a Ford associate in a private sale. Why did Taverner get the job?

It does not seem to be as a result of his academic qualifications, which do not compare favourably with his predecessors, or his management experience, which wouldn’t seem to provide him with the experience necessary to run an organization with 7,383 employees, a $1.1-billion budget and serious challenges providing services in remote and Indigenous communities, subjects that Taverner will need to quickly master.

He will also need to study up on the best way to handle sexual harassment complaints from dozens of members, preferably without telling any of them to have a “tough skin,” which he is alleged to have told a female officer who reported to him.

The one obvious thing going for him in the competition was his close friendship with Ford, which raised questions during the police investigation into Rob Ford.

The long friendship between Ford and Taverner is now a matter of urgent public concern, given the enormous power the two men wield and the potential for serious conflicts of interest.

Consider the important role that the OPP played in the prosecution of David Livingston, Dalton McGuinty’s chief of staff, who was sentenced to four months in jail for illegally deleting email records related to the disastrous billion-dollar decision to cancel two gas plants in the middle of an election campaign.

Boss Ford has only been in office for five months, but he is accumulating scandals quickly enough to warrant comparison with the 15-year Liberal regime he ousted, incurring steep costs by forcing out people he doesn’t like.

Getting Alykhan Velshi pushed out of Ontario Power Generation only cost $500,000, but forcing out the CEO of Hydro One messed up the planned acquisition of a utility in Washington State, which will cost $185 million.

With these kinds of moves, Ford seems to be trying to wrest control of arm’s length bodies staffed by qualified people and replace them with loyalists, treating Ontario as if it were Hazzard County.

Given his seeming disinclination to properly consult with lawyers before he tears up contracts, he may end up violating some law he doesn’t know or care about—like the record-retention law that Livingston violated—and the file may end up on the desk of Sheriff Rosco P. Taverner.

The public must have confidence in the impartiality of the OPP but can’t have confidence in Taverner. This is not how Ontario ought to be governed.

Taverner can either refuse the job or accept that he will always be viewed with deep suspicion.

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Future of Ottawa: Chefs with Kathryn Ferries

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Kat Ferries on the future of chefs, or read posts from Quinn Taylor on bars or Justin Champagne on fine dining.

Kat Ferries is Sous-Chef at Stofa Restaurant and a 2020 San Pellegrino North American Young Chef Social Responsibility Award Winner.

Apt613: What is the current landscape for chefs in Ottawa?

Kat Ferries: There is such great talent in Ottawa with so many chefs either being from here originally or have returned after traveling and have since opened some incredible restaurants. Many chefs have focused menus that really highlight their strengths, their heritage, and their passion for food. Dominique Dufour of Gray Jay, Marc Doiron of Town/Citizen, Steve Wall of Supply & Demand, Daniela Manrique Lucca of The Soca Kitchen, and so many more are all cooking up beautiful and delicious food in this city.

If you care to make a prediction… Where is the food industry in Ottawa going for chefs in 2021?

The industry right now is, unfortunately, in a really tough spot. The pandemic has been so devastating on mental, physical and emotional levels for so many and I know that many of my friends in this industry are burning out. There are many discussions happening on work/life balance and what is healthy for everyone. Some may never return to the long, hard hours we are expected to put in day after day and instead opt for a more flexible schedule or hire more staff to lighten the load on everyone, with some even leaving the industry indefinitely. Some may throw themselves back into this industry 10x as hard and create some of the best restaurants and concepts we’ve yet to see. I think all that will happen after the pandemic though.

For this year, it’s mostly about survival and finding happiness in creating what we can in the spaces we have while following all the laws and guidelines from public health officials. I think we will see more chefs creating experiences for guests that we otherwise wouldn’t have: think pop-ups, virtual dinner clubs, cocktail seminars, collabs, etc.

Where in your wildest dreams could the Ottawa culinary community grow in your lifetime?

I would love to see the Ottawa community support more small, local restaurants so our streets are bustling late into the nights like they are in Montreal, New York, or Europe. Having a local restaurant to frequent should be so much more commonplace, where you can enjoy a night out more often than just Friday or Saturday night. I would also love to see many more of our local chefs highlighted for the amazing food they create!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

Turning all our restaurants into mini-markets for customers to enjoy the food and wine of their favourite places at home. We have bottle shops for all your wine, beer and cocktail needs as well as menus that reflect what each restaurant does best. Some have even pivoted to a point where they are 100% a store and have paused any type of “service-style” dining.

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Future of Ottawa: Fine Dining with Justin Champagne

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Justin Champagne on the future of fine dining, or read posts from Kathryn Ferries on chefs or Quinn Taylor on bars.

Justin Champagne went to culinary school at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. He got his start in fine dining restaurants at C Restaurant under Chef Robert Clark, then at Hawksworth Restaurant under Chef Eligh. He staged at three-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn under Chef Dominque Crenn before moving to Ottawa and spending five years at Atelier, working his way up to Sous-Chef. He’s now the Head Chef of Bar Lupulus.

Apt613: What is the current landscape of fine dining restaurants in Ottawa?

Justin Champagne: Ottawa punches well above its weight class when it comes to quality restaurants in general. Fine dining is no exception to that—we have some amazing chefs here that are doing really great things. We also have some phenomenal sommeliers in town that are a huge factor when it comes to a guest’s experience in a fine dining restaurant. While there are some fantastic fine dining restaurants in town I do believe there’s room for more, and definitely room for more creativity and unique styles of cooking! I think we’ll see more small fine dining restaurants opening up, “micro-restaurants” where there’s maybe 20 seats. This will be over the next few weeks as the industry did take a big hit financially with COVID-19, but we still have a lot of great young chefs who have the fire inside of them to open their own location!

If you care to make a prediction… Where is fine dining going in Ottawa in 2021?

I’m not sure it’ll be 2021 or 2022 with the way the vaccine rollout and stay-at-home order is going, but I do expect there to be a wave of people looking to go out to fine dining restaurants. We’ve been cooped up cooking for ourselves or ordering takeout for over a year now. People are getting antsy and ready to go out and have fantastic meals again with exceptional wine and not have to worry about doing all the dishes afterwards!

Where in your wildest dreams could fine dining go in Ottawa in your lifetime?

That’s the fun part about “fine dining,” it can go anywhere and it can mean many things. Fine dining is about amazing service and well thought out, unique food that the kitchen spent hours fussing over, being meticulous in execution. Outside of that, you can have a lot of fun and be creative in different ways. My wildest dream I guess is that fine dinning restaurants begin to thrive and are able to charge without backlash the kind of prices that they need to charge in order to keep the lights on and pay their staff a proper living wage!!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

I’m not sure if I would really say there’s been a best “innovation” in my industry during the pandemic, but I will say that seeing the “adaptability” by all the restaurants in Ottawa has been incredibly inspiring. Ottawa’s food scene has always been a tight-knit community, “everyone helping everyone” kind of mentality. And this pandemic has really helped show that—restaurants helping restaurants through all of this!

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Ottawa’s Giant Tiger chain celebrating 60 years in business

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa staple, along with what might be the most famous cat in Canada, are celebrating a milestone Monday.

Giant Tiger is 60 years old.

“It all started with a very simple idea,” says Alison Scarlett, associate VP of communications at Giant Tiger. “Help Canadians save money every single day. Bring them products that they want and need. When you focus on those core principals, it really is quite simple to succeed.”

In 1961, Gordon Reid opened the first Giant Tiger in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. The company now has more than 260 locations across Canada and employs roughly 10,000 people.

“If you were at our store on opening day 60 years ago, the in store experience would be a little bit different from your local Giant Tiger store today. So that’s changed. A lot of our products and offerings have changed or expanded as Canadian consumers wants and needs have changed or expanded,” says Scarlett.

The homegrown department store continues to be a favourite for many shoppers looking to for the best deals on everyday products.

Helen Binda has been shopping here for decades.

“Many years. I can’t remember when. I’ve always loved Giant Tiger. It’s always been a good store for me.”

“I think its amazing and I think that we need more department stores,” says shopper Fay Ball. “And if it’s Canadian, all the better.”

The Canadian-owned family discount store carries everything from clothing to groceries, as well as everyday household needs. They’ve also expanded their online store and like most retailers provide curbside pickup during the pandemic.

“Doing what is right for our customers, associates, and communities. That has enabled us to be so successful for all of these years,” says Scarlett.

To celebrate, Giant Tiger is hosting a virtual birthday party at 7 p.m. Monday with live musical performances from some iconic Canadian artists.

You can visit their Facebook page to tune in. 

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