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The 5 most dramatic moments of the year in Ontario politics

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There’s no shortage of memorable moments in Ontario politics in 2018. The challenge is trying to pick just the top five. 

It was bound to be an interesting year, with the unpopular Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne facing an election, and the Progressive Conservatives, after 15 years in Opposition, looking to regain power under leader Patrick Brown.

And then, stuff happened, and 2018 unfolded in a way that nobody predicted last December.

Here’s my list of the five most dramatic moments of the year. 

5. Midnight sitting

Premier Doug Ford’s move to cut the size of Toronto city council came out of the blue when he announced it in late July, with the municipal election campaign already underway. The battle moved from the Ontario Legislature to court, and after a judge ruled the move violated the Charter of Rights, Ford announced that the province would for the first time in history invoke the charter’s notwithstanding clause. 

Anger over the use of the notwithstanding clause by Ontario Premier Doug Ford is creating chaos in the Ontario Legislature and Toronto city council. There were plenty of disruptions as protesters and NDP MPs had to be removed. 3:36

To push that through the legislature, Ford called a rare overnight sitting at Queen’s Park on Sept. 17. As MPPs debated from midnight onward, people watching from the gallery started shouting, and were led away by security guards, some in handcuffs. The Speaker cleared the chamber, prompting the protest to move outside and gain in volume. 

Despite all the fuss, the bill passed, the number of Toronto city councillors was cut in half, and the municipal election went ahead as scheduled. 

4. Wynne won’t win

By the final weekend of the election campaign, most pollsters and pundits had concluded that Wynne’s Liberals were not going to win. Still, when Wynne publicly said so herself five days before voting day, it made for a remarkable moment. Wynne’s declaration was the official word that 15 years of Liberal government had come to an end. 

Wynne’s voice trembled with emotion as she was asked to describe what the moment was like for her.  

Liberal leader acknowledges her party won’t win June 7 vote 1:24

“I have thought long and hard about this, believe me,” she told the Saturday morning news conference. “It’s hard, because I know there are Liberals who believe in us, and believe in what we’ve been doing and some are going to be mad. Some are going to be sad.” 

3. Election night

Election nights are often dramatic and suspenseful because of the time it takes for the results to be clear. This election, with electronic tabulators counting the ballots that had already been fed into the machine, and with the Progressive Conservatives’ strong showing across the province, the CBC Decision Desk projected only 14 minutes after the polls closed that Ford’s PCs would form the government

PC Leader Doug Ford addresses crowd at his headquarters in Etobicoke on election night. 0:46

The June 7 election night brought the first Ontario PC campaign victory this century. It also brought Andrea Horwath’s NDP to Official Opposition status for the first time since 1987. Wynne resigned as Liberal leader. And Ontario elected its first Green MPP, party leader Mike Schreiner.

When such a historic election night is not the most memorable moment of the year, you know it’s been a roller-coaster.  

2. Patrick Brown’s downfall

In 2017, PC Leader Patrick Brown was still struggling for recognition, even though he was poised to become the next premier. That all changed on Jan. 24. Brown called reporters to Queen’s Park for an urgent late-night news conference. Mere minutes before CTV News aired a report in which two women accused Brown of sexual misconduct, he delivered an extraordinary and emotion-filled statement denying the allegations, then dramatically walked away, refusing to answer questions. 

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown denied allegations of sexual misconduct at an unexpected news conference at Queen’s Park Wednesday night. 1:27

Despite Brown’s denials, he lost the backing of his caucus and top staff and was forced to resign, in a statement sent out in the wee hours. It plunged the PC Party into chaos, with the start of the election campaign barely three months away.

But Brown did not let that be the end of his political career. He ran for mayor of Brampton last October, and won with about 44 per cent of ballots cast, unseating 4-year incumbent Linda Jeffrey.  

1. PC leadership

Leadership races usually happen within parties that are out of power, or are trying to cling on to power. The PC race was a rarity, given that the party was favoured to win the coming election after 15 years in Opposition. The battle between Ford, Christine Elliott, Caroline Mulroney and Tanya Granic Allen was therefore bitter and topsy-turvy, in no small part because of Brown’s on-again, off-again attempts to get back his old job.

Ford was named the new leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives on March 10 in Markham. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

But the biggest drama came on March 10, the day for announcing the results. It was supposed to happen at 3 p.m., but time ticked by with no official explanation from the party. Reporters learned that lawyers and senior campaign officials for Ford and Elliott were in locked rooms arguing about the vote count. 

Then, sources with direct knowledge of the results told me that although it was extremely close, Ford had won, and Elliott was disputing his victory.  

A couple more hours passed, with no official word about anything from the party. Then officials announced to the PC members that they had to clear the hotel ballroom and go home. Finally, some six hours after the result was supposed to be announced in front of hundreds of cheering supporters showered by colourful balloons, party officials anti-climactically read the numbers in a tiny meeting room to a smattering of applause, declaring Ford the new PC leader.

While the day was packed with drama, it was also the most politically consequential day of the year. The result was so close: Ford beat Elliott by just one percentage point. Had Elliott squeaked out the victory, she would be premier now, instead of Ford.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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