Three ways to improve her image

March 2, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Tom Claridge

WITH RECENT OPINION POLLS showing support for Ontario Liberals far behind that for the Progressive Conservative, Premier Kathleen Wynne clearly needs to find ways to improve both her government’s and her own popularity.

With just 19 months left before the next provincial election, a recent poll conducted for Postmedia suggests that if an election were held today, the Progressive Conservatives would be the choice of 39 per cent of decided and leaning voters compared to 29 per cent for Wynne’s ruling Liberals and 27 per cent for the New Democrats. In Southwestern Ontario, the difference for the Liberals was even more stark, with 39 per cent supporting the PCs, 37 per cent the NDP and only 19 per cent the Liberals.

In the circumstances, you’d think Ms. Wynne would be eager to find ways of shoring up support without breaking the bank, particularly when her government is committed to balancing its budget next year.

Well, we have suggestions for her in three areas where, for some thus-far-unexplained reason, she and her government have been loathe to come up with reforms directed at mistakes made by previous governments.

Two of the mistakes were made in the 1970s by the government of then-premier William Davis.

One of those was in response to a move in the United States to reduce speed limits on all federally funded highways to 55 miles an hour, as a means of reducing the consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel.

Premier Davis went a step further, replacing speed limits based on actual road and driving conditions with new limits of 60 miles an hour (100 km/h) on the 400-series freeways and 50 m.p.h. (80 km/h) on other provincial highways.

Since then, local lobbying efforts have seen the legal limits on municipally owned rural highways cut even more, with beautifully paved roads that once were a uniform 50 m.p.h. (80 km/h) now sporting signs setting limits as low as 40 km/h (the maximum on Caledon’s Highpoint Sideroad between Highway 10 and Melville hamlet).

We think the current government would win widespread praise by restoring speed limits that were once based by police studies of actual conditions – rimarily the speed not exceeded by 85 per cent of drivers – and having those limits imposed and maintained by a commission composed of police and road safety experts.

The second erroneous move was also made by the Davis regime. In 1973 it replaced annual issuance of licence plates with “permanent” plates never designed to be permanent, which today are the worst to be found anywhere in North America – a single colour, with paint that has faded on most of the plates now in use.

What we surely need is a new plate design that’s as colourful as those in most provinces and U.S. states, which could and should be introduced this year as part of the province’s Canada 150 celebrations.

The third area crying out for redress is the decimation of the provincial highways system by the government of Mike Harris, where the only true rationale was a need to balance the provincial government. The claim that all the downloaded highways were “primarily for local use” was based on the same lack of evidence as Donald Trump’s recent claim that millions of votes for Hillary Clinton were cast illegally.

A wise move by the Wynne government would be to replace the current hodge podge of provincially and locally owned highways with a new system based on actual use of roadways, which could be determined by making the new licence plates scannable by monitors.

The result could be to have tourist-friendly, continuous provincial highways, with all or most of them maintained by counties and regions with provincial grants being based on the percentage of through traffic they carry and costliness based on local terrain, weather, etc.

Gone forever would be the ridiculous ‘intermittent’ highways like No. 9, which ‘disappears’ between Orangeville and Harriston.

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