An Election Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted June 6th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
About eight years ago, I had an opportunity to do a one-on-one interview for the better part of an hour with Kathleen Wynne during a break at a conference in Niagara-on-the-Lake, when she was serving in the cabinet of Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty as his Minister of Transportation.
In that interview, Wynne was the first Minister of Transportation I can ever remember in the province who said she wasn’t interested in building more highways because she wanted to focus on making communities less car dependent and friendlier to walking, biking and public transit.
Everything about that part of the interview and the rest had me feeling that I was in the presence of someone who refreshingly candid and who embraced a green, progressive vision of where she wanted Ontario to go.
How could I ever imagine then that Kathleen Wynne would become so unpopular that even members of her own Liberal Party, now fighting for their political lives, don’t want her campaign bus showing up in their riding? The only question left is why her party didn’t dump her as their leader one or two years ago.
Then there is Doug Ford whose Trump-like antics were well recorded before the real Trump (if there is such a thing) ever became U.S. president – leaving many wondering why the Ontario PC Party picked him as its leader in the first place, when they had other, far less volatile candidates (especially Christine Elliott) seeking the job.
“Mr. Ford is unfit to be premier,’ wrote The Globe and Mail’s editorial board – a board with a history of ‘small c’ conservative leaning – sin an election editorial published this June 6th. “No one should be fooled by his performance in the election campaign.”
Trouble is, there may be enough people out there – angry and feeling screwed by a Liberal government about to melt down – who allow fury to cloud their judgement enough to deliver Ford the vote he needs to form a majority government.
They may also be lured by Ford’s down-home rhetoric about being on the side of the little guy and by all the lines taken from the two decade old Mike Harris (a fellow Tory and good friend of Ford) “common sense revolution” playbook about slashing taxes and spending and firing government bureaucrats, and putting the money “back in our pockets again” and about making Ontario “open for business again,” which is code for cutting labour, environment and other regulations so that we can go back to the wild west and businesses and others can, more or less, do whatever they want.
“Oh good, he’s going to give us a tax cut,” I’ve heard some people say during this election – the same line that was uttered by many, including members of well-paid professional groups like teachers, in the mid-1990s when Harris and his provincial Conservatives won their way to power on a promise of big cuts. There was an assumption that many also went along with that Harris and his gang would never cut their jobs or their services – it would be someone else – the proverbial ‘fat cat bureaucrats’ (whoever they may be) and ‘welfare bums’ who would rather live on the dole’, so we are led to believe, than go out and get job.
Come to find out, that Harris came after their jobs and their services and before you knew it, all those teachers and others were out on strike fighting to save what they had left. Older people who voted for the promise of those tax cuts and lower hydro and gas bills found health care services they need on the chopping block.
My daughter was just starting elementary school when the Harris government was sworn in and within no time at all, the size of her classes were swelling from 22 or 24 students to more than 30, and we were doing bake sales and pizza days over and over again to keep library and other services in the schools open.
The Ontario Ministry of Environment’s water and air testing labs and enforcement services were gutted, then we had the deadly water contamination tragedy that killed seven people and made a couple of thousand others ill in Walkerton, and the government blamed the two incompetent people running the town’s water system – people that would have been caught messing up and falsifying water test reports had the proper policing and testing been left in place
But the government made a big production out of mailing out some tax rebate cheques for a couple of hundred bucks, alright, while the upper one or two per cent were making a killing and services for the rest of us were going to rat shit.
I can’t believe that there are people out there – especially members of an aging population of people who are going to need more money invested in health care than ever before – are falling for this again – this time dished out by a Doug Ford team that is offering even more details on how it is going to get done than the Harris bunch did.
Where do they think that the money to pay for the services they need is going to come from? If they are older people, do they think it is going to come from younger people who are coming out of school with ever more massive debt loads because of past cuts to education and are having more trouble than people now in their 50s, 60s and 70s ever did finding a stable, decent-paying job.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who, this time out is ready to say that anyone who votes for Doug Ford and his billions of dollars’ worth of tax and spending cuts should not be taken as seriously as they were the last time if they start to complain.
In summary, you are putting a virtual gun to your head and to the services you want and need if you vote for Doug Ford and any of the candidates running for the PC Party in this election.
For God sake, don’t be foolish enough this time to vote against your own self-interest, let alone the good of the community.
That leaves Andrea Horwath and her Ontario New Democrats which, far from being ‘the lesser of however many evils’ that some people, as if by rote, cynically say they are, represent the one and only opportunity Ontario voters now have to support a platform that embraces a common good for everyone.
In stark contrast to the last provincial election where Horwath came into it with little or no meat in the sandwich, this time her party has tabled one of the most detailed, costed out books of programs that any party has in Ontario in decades.
Unlike Ford, she has put it all out on the table for voters to see.
And of any Ontario party leader, none of them have made more visits to Niagara over the past decade than Horwath, standing in support of people fighting to save their hospitals or schools, and always granting members of the public, the media and people on all sides of the issue generous amounts of time to ask her questions and share their views.
She and members of her NDP caucus, most notably Niagara Centre (Welland) MPP Cindy Forster, have worked hard with Niagara area citizens to fight for more accountability from public bodies like the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, and join citizens in their efforts to save green spaces.
Unlike any NDP leader, provincial or federal, I’ve followed over the past 30 or 40 years, Horwath has reached out far beyond the party’s historic union base to address the issues of non-union people, including younger people who may never be part of a workforce that has the protections of a union.
Andrea Horwath is not promising the reckless tax cuts that Ford and is even talking about more taxes for some of the wealthiest in the province who, contrary to claims from the PC side, are being treated pretty darn fairly in the tax department compared to many of their counterparts in the United States, even when the recent Trump cuts are taken into account.
Actually, what we need and what Wynne’s Liberals never had the guts to do to raise the money needed for necessary services (instead they resorted to disastrous measures to get money like privatizing big pieces of our public hydro system, and raise user fees like drivers licence fees, etc. which post a disproportional hardship on lower income people), is to get back to income taxes that are set according to a person’s ability to pay.
Andrea Horwath is smart, experience and has the fighting will to serve in the top political job in Ontario. If she can keep the character she has shown us for years together, she could be the best premier this province has had in decades.
We are fortunate in this June 7th election to have a leader and a party we can truly vote for, so be sure that you exercise your right in our democracy to do just that.
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