Ontario’s pandemic response spawned a secret regulatory compliance bureaucracy

The ‘regional regulatory hubs’ evolved from a pandemic-born initiative to create a permanent regulatory compliance mechanism that utilizes behavioural science to achieve its goals, with little (if any) public oversight.

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Cobourg clerk Brent Larmer briefly mentioned the secretive initiative during a Town Council meeting in February. Referring to an Eastern Regulatory hub, Larmer noted that the mysterious bureaucracy meets every six weeks to discuss regulatory enforcement including building trust in response to protests, misinformation and anti-government sentiment.

It sounded chillingly similar to the building of an insider Ministry of Truth, reminiscent to that depicted in Orwell’s 1984 dystopian novel detailing a world governed by surveillance, propaganda and censorship.

To garner information on this hub, Rebel News filed an access to information request to determine what was being discussed by this new bureaucracy.

The backgrounder explains that in March 2020, when the provincial government declared an emergency, Regulatory Compliance Ontario (RCO) became a hub to coordinate efforts across ministries and agencies under the Re-opening Ontario Act – a similarly Orwellian name given that the act restricted businesses from fully reopening.

“This collaboration led to inter-ministry protocols and safety training for inspectors. The Multi-Ministry Teams (MMT) campaigns effectively addressed shared problems through coordinated solutions. Building on MMT's success, RCO is now exploring further collaboration opportunities through RRHs. Discussions with agency partners about lessons learned and future collaboration were overwhelmingly positive,” it reads.

The pilot project will “adapt a Malcolm Sparrow Risk based regulator approach that moves away from a program-centric approach that is grounded in evaluation, policy development, planning and operational management.” Instead, the focus is “problem-centric” to "identify problems, find solutions to shared problems” and “promote ongoing communication among regulated agencies.”

The main purpose of this hub is to “support the collaboration of regulators, to promote more efficient and effective action compliance.”

The objective section appears updated from the original under the CONFIDENTIAL stamp, which makes sense since this document was noted as withheld in the index of records. No pages were explicitly redacted, giving the illusion of full release when it wasn't. It seems the regulatory compliance hub is conducting some sneaky business.

This is even clearer when the hub states it “will use email initially but then transfer to a top-secret SharePoint Platform." The clause specifies that information "will not be shared outside of the hub without express permission from the authoring ministry or agency."

The ministries involved are broad in scope – 18 of the 29 Ontario ministries partake in this, from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of the Environment, Long-Term Care, Education, Colleges and Universities, Labour and Immigration, Finance, etc.

On a slideshow presentation created by RCO, key players include the above as well as public health units, police boards, and by-law.

This is supposed to create a “One Ontario approach within a modern regulator community,” because “RCO is a nimble organization that can build networks across government quickly to achieve results that drive deliverables that benefit all regulatory ministries.”

RCO has partnered with the Ontario Police College to ensure training is “high quality, defensible and consistent.” Some “development projects” include handling evidence, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, search warrants, and investigations vs. inspections.

“The collaboration was born out of COVID-19 campaigns to strengthen community response by coordinating with the police, public health and bylaws,” the documents read.

In March 2020 the provincial emergency saw public health, by law and provincial regulatory resources strained. The RCO ran campaigns with public health units based on locally identified areas of concern, which were then shared across ministries and agency partners and police to focus on safety awareness and compliance assistance. Compliance information was then shared back to Public Health Units.

Goals include enhancing business understanding of government regulations, attaining regulatory mandates, and promoting consistent compliance. Shared problems include unlicensed businesses, information sharing, and diverse compliance tools.

A January 30 meeting slideshow for the Eastern Region highlighted issues like public trust, sector challenges, unlicensed businesses, bad actors, information sharing, and program delivery.

Public trust concerns involve protests, misinformation, anti-government sentiment, mental health, and officer safety. Program delivery challenges include training, retention, and recruitment, with a new compliance program focusing on inspector tools, policies, decision trees, and using behavioural insights to improve outcomes.

The list of regulatory compliance speakers includes key figures heavily vested — emotionally and financially — in the climate hysteria space, such as Graham Russell, Campbell Gemmell, World Bank consultant Florentine Blanc, and two Lithuanian ministers.

An email from Project Lead Lina Cimarrusti was sent to Cobourg clerk Brent Larmer and Cobourg Bylaw Manager Mark Faegan on November 3, 2023, after receiving their contacts from the local health unit. She invited them to discuss participation in the eastern regulatory hub.

Lina Cimarrusti, with over a decade of bureaucratic experience, is an equity and inclusion advocate and a member of AMAPCEO's Equity Committee, specifically the LGBTQ+ caucus. In 2022, she was a senior project coordinator at the Ministry of Agriculture, earning over $100,000.

According to additional email communication from Lina, Avian Influenza was already a topic of discussion within the RCO in March 2023.

In terms of compliance, one way that the RCO conducted what they call “Joint investigations with other agencies,” was by using “local by-law officers” to “track down the location of a HBFP” [home-based food premise], “by placing an order through their website.”

This sneaky, elusive bureaucracy lacks transparency and accountability. It evolved from a pandemic-born initiative into a mechanism for enforcing top-down orders, with minimal public oversight. Using behavioural insights in compliance programs raises concern for psychological manipulation, suggesting this tool is for unchecked bureaucratic control rather than to serve the public interest.

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