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Open letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Part 2

Posted: Updated:
Don Dixon

Hi Premier Wynne,

I'm worried.

I asked you to keep me informed about the $1.9 billion you are extracting out of the Ontario economy in new carbon taxes. I was excited when you promised lots of new jobs and reductions in carbon emissions. Then I saw the July jobs report. Wow, 36,100 Ontario jobs lost in a single month, the worst decline since the recession, and you still haven't told me any good news about carbon emission reductions. I guess your new plan is not working.

Maybe it would have been better to leave that $1.9 billion in the hands of the Ontario businesses that were using it to hire employees before you taxed it away from them.

However, I hear it's not all bad news on the Ontario job front. While the private sector is losing jobs by the tens of thousands under your new tax policies, you have been busy creating some really interesting opportunities for your staff. I don't know how I missed this, but apparently you lost $70 million setting up and then cancelling the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) in June. While in operation only six months, you hired some really special people that walked away with millions of taxpayers' dollars for apparently doing nothing. It sounds so ridiculous that I am assuming I must have it wrong, and that's why I'm putting pen to paper.

So here goes, true or false?

•Did you spend $8 million marketing the ORPP even though it didn't exist? That sounds so crazy it can't be true.

•Did you give Neala Barton, the plan's senior vice-president of communications, $316,819? She started in March. Just exactly what was she communicating for 90 days?

•Did you pay Anne Slivinskas -- the pension plan's general counsel -- $341,418 for working there just three weeks? That's $2,845.15/hr. You don't fool around with taxpayers' money; You hire the best lawyers!

•Did you pay a tech guy named Brian Gill -- the pensions plan's CTO -- $414,050 to work for two months! (Note to self: Send Premier Wynne my comp committee's North American average salary report. Her laptop must have been hacked.)

•Jennifer Brown -- your choice for senior vice-president of the plan's operations -- was a lifer. She started March 21 and lasted until the end of June. So, with that kind of long-term commitment, no one should complain about the $445,019 you gave her.

•Did you really pay ORPP CEO Mary Anne Palangio $465,938 for 90 days' work? Who says you can't get a great job in Ontario.

•This one is my favourite, it's so out there! Did you give $485,000 to Saad Rafi when his job running the Pan Am Games ended and then hire him again to run the ORPP even though he has never had an investment mandate before? And then did you pay him an additional $827,925 to walk away a few months later? If this is true, I bet some taxpayers are unhappy about it.

Maybe it would help if you spin this as an inspirational story. You search the province for a seasoned financial money manager to be the fiduciary of the new ORRP but in the last minute hire someone who has fallen on hard times and is out of work, even though they never managed money before. It's so Rocky-esque!

Rafi could have been great as a pension plan manager but we will never know. Giving him the $827Gs for taking this bold new step in his career is the least we taxpayers can do. After all, it's hard to live off a measly $485,000 severance when taxes are so high in Ontario, but I know you are not spending any time worrying about that.

These must be very special people! No one in the private sector could ever get a deal like this: Thank goodness they know you. Some Ontarians might see this and assume you don't give a damn about their hard-earned money. Is that true? Frankly, if I gave away $2.8 million to employees that did nothing in my businesses, I would go bankrupt. Come to think of it, your government has a long history of starting projects, spending millions and then cancelling them -- you know, like gas plants, "green" projects and now pension plans. That's why Ontario is $308 billion in debt, so you are kind of bankrupting us, in your own special way.

Still I get it, perhaps from your point of view, why should anybody give a damn about the $70 million you just wasted, it's just a rounding error.

Well, maybe the voters do. Have you seen the latest polls? Perhaps at this point in your mandate you may want to think about delivering a little more transparency and performance instead of dreaming up new ways to tax people and businesses and then spending it this way.

I'm just trying to help.

Anyway, I don't want to be negative so I hope you are having a great summer. I know the 36,100 people in Ontario who just lost their jobs in July are feeling a little down but I'm sure they will go from sad to glad when you tell them about all the carbon emissions you have reduced. Best you get that good news out soon. In the meantime, next time you are paying people on your staff to do nothing for $827,000, maybe you could show a little compassion and hire one of your 36,100 constituents who just lost their job.

There will be an election soon and when that's over and you start your new career, I'm going to bet it won't be one where you manage money.

Yours respectfully,

Kevin O'Leary

Ontario taxpayer, voter and your employer, for now.