September 28, 2023   ·   0 Comments

Though some people at the Plowing Match and the Saturday Creemore market may have wondered for a second why we were back again with our Greenbelt Broken Promise signs, they were happy to join the celebration. To the lucky ones who passed by our table at the IPM, we handed out close to 200 pieces of cake before our supply ran out! What fun!

Some thought that now is the time to give Doug Ford (and his enablers) some rope. ‘It took a big man…’ By the stoney looks on cabinet faces lined up behind the Premier, many might disagree. 

Over 12 months to five years, holes have appeared in the blue fabric of cabinet and caucus solidarity on this issue. (I couldn’t help but notice that Tuesday at the IPM, the Premier boasted that Ontario was not just 1% better than when they took power; not just 10%, but 1000%! [= 10X better]. He upped the boast in Niagara Falls to 1000X better, repeating it in the House on Monday in the face of opposition ire. I am thinking that his hyperbole will not help his cause, belying the humble pie theatre.)

If anything, with the wind in the sails of an activist citizenry, this is the time to continue the work of turning right-side-up the org chart of power in this province. The politicians we elect to office are to serve us, not their corporate masters. Anger—well-informed and expressed nonviolently—is the appropriate emotion. The diversion of public dollars into profit-hungry private pockets is shredding the safety net that is meant to ensure high-quality education, a robust health care system, shelter and food, income support for the most vulnerable amongst us, and infrastructure that works. And, of course, our piece of the planet. The planet is suffering from a global gob-smacking lack of leadership in a time of climate catastrophe. We have failed to protect, choosing instead to continue the monetization of every aspect of life, the assault on Creation that was to be the Greenbelt giveaway perhaps exhibit ‘A’ for this province.

Over weeks of engaging with people from near and far, here to enjoy the delights of the Orangeville Saturday market, our little group collected 1,000 signatures in protest of the billions promised to the already over-wealthy. The plan was to deliver the petition to our MPP at the end of the summer. Following seven weeks of polite requests for a meeting and a reminder to the constituency office staff that part of the Member’s ministerial responsibility is to meet not just with those who agree but, perhaps even more importantly, those who hold dissident views. A few days before our meeting was to take place, it was cancelled. So, we made alternative arrangements for one of the opposition parties to present the petition when the House resumed sitting. Perhaps the point is now made.

The work is far from over as we contemplate the Bradford bypass and the 413 (for which other solutions are available, including a new arrangement with 407 and a studied rethink of the wholesale ripping up of railway lines in favour of trucks and asphalt beginning in the late 1950s).  

Privatization of health care continues apace with surgical units detached from hospitals and public oversight; privatized long-term care showed its true colours during the pandemic. This week, the lawns of Queen’s Park were filled with thousands of health-care-sector protesters and their allies. The Conservative playbook, for as long as I have paid attention to politics, has always included the debilitation of the public sector through funding cuts, followed by an invitation to the private sector to fix the problem with privatized delivery. The planned surgical units are a good example. While our government sits on a surplus, including hundreds of millions of unspent COVID funds, they hand over more pieces of our supposedly universal health to the profiteers, draining the public sector of staff and funding. If you had been at Queen’s Park this week, you would have left with a much longer list of the ongoing debilitation of our national treasure.  

We can’t forget the underfunding of education to the point that this province can now hang our heads from our position of tenth in ten provinces in terms of per-student funding (cut by $1200 per student since 2018—to say nothing of Ford and Lecce’s dishonourable change-the-channel attack on measures meant to protect all school children). Then there’s Ontario Place and 800 trees up for execution to make way for Therme’s glass and steel luxury spa and the Ontario Science Centre’s proposed move. And more. 

Meanwhile, we celebrate. With thanks. 

Rev’d LeeAnn McKenna


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