What we see from Simcoe North is the same MPP (Garfield Dunlop), the same Legislature, the same (conservative) Liberal Government, and the same unfair electoral system.
It’s as if everything is hunky-dory when in reality a day of reckoning is near. Put in terms Albert Einstein would appreciate: the kind of thinking that produced the problems we face is not the thinking that will likely solve them.
Locally, the voters have affirmed that pork-barrel politics gets one elected. I have observed this at work at all 3 levels of government. The local councillor boasts of the sidewalks he got for his ward; the MPP boasts of a Highway 12 improvement; the MP boasts of money spent on the Trent-Severn Waterway (on which he happens to operate a resort). ‘What have you done for us lately?’ is the question that submerges broader issues.
Locally we see that it will again, or still, be left to the citizens to do battle on important environmental issues like incineration, pesticides, Site 41, and brownfield developments posing unecessary risks to human health and the environment.
Provincially, we see no recognition in the Liberal Government that we are heading for an environmental precipice and that a provincial government can do as much as any federal government to slow down our lemming-like rush or even turn us away. Business as usual is not the way.
We see no recognition that the 39th Legislature is going to come to grips with structural economic weaknesses. A recent auto industry agreement (in the USA) provided for a pay cut for new employees. Ontario cannot insulate itself against the ailing economy in the USA (including suicidal fiscal and monetary policies), which appears headed for a disaster, but it would be comforting to think that our politicians are at least thinking about a plan of action. Another Japanese car assembly plant is not the answer.
On education, the view is just as bleak. The faith-based funding issue has managed to drown any debate about the principle of separation of church and state. The principle is lost and will not be debated. Even more unfortunate is that Liberal labour peace in “education” has diverted attention from fundamental debate about training versus education, the influence of the corporations’ needs for trained and unthinking workers versus society’s need for liberal arts education and thinking about tomorrow’s society, not yesterday’s.
The existence of the Education Quality and Accountability Office EQAO which perpetrates mass testing is a huge issue. Even more important than the cost of diverting teaching and learning resources and dollars, is whether it helps in any way to “educate”. One teacher I know has said that the standardized testing does what it was intended to do, which is to test for literacy and numeracy. It tests for the tools of education, not education itself, and that was never raised in the election campaign. The status quo is not good enough.
Finally, Dalton McGuinty, less than 24 hours after his Party won a large majority of seats with a lower percentage of the popular vote than in 2003, has decreed (I use “decreed” advisedly) that the issue of electoral reform is now dead. His action epitomizes all that is wrong with the present system and the way he set about keeping his promise while making certain that the Citizens’ Assembly would lead to failure. McGuinty has decreed that 8% of the voters (Green Party supporters) can remain without a representative while 42% can have almost 70% of the seats and 100% of the power.
I find it curious that a decision on something as important as fair representation can be left to the vicissitudes of electoral politics. Was it disingenuous to combine the referendum with a general election? When people inured to the old way are asked to vote in the traditional form and handed a ballot to change what they have just done on the other ballot? To say that the question was “yes” or “no” when it wasn’t?
I feel cheated. All my life my vote has been, almost literally, thrown away because I did not happen to vote for the “winner”. Now McGuinty has decreed that my vote will never be counted. Do I join the 50% who don’t see any point in voting? I, and hundreds of thousands like me, will never be represented. That is neither fair nor democratic.
There is a solution. The Government could elevate fairness and representative democracy to the level of fundamental principles. It could do the right thing. It could listen to its conscience. But it won’t, not in the 39th Legislature or any future Legislature in which the first-past-the-post gamble has produced a “majority” government.
Editor’s note: are questions like our energy future (more nuclear it seems) and electoral reform (apparently rejected), dismissed by the election results? What should be read into the growing Greens, the NDP perpetual plateau, the depleted Tories, and Dalton redux?