Whose Province is this Anyway?

September 7, 2023   ·   0 Comments

I was born into a very red Tory household, raised by two historians, my father a conservationist and one of the founders of the local Conservation Authority. More than 40 years ago, most of the family abandoned the rapidly shrinking ‘big tent’, voting thenceforth for the most worthy candidate. One Tory relegated to the margins of his party remained a guru, smart, and good for a laugh—Dalton Camp. It was 1997, a couple of years after he published his seminal cri-de-cœur, Whose Country is this anyway? that I cut out one of his regular columns entitled, ‘Do politicians listen only to business folk?’ Excellent question. Timely. 

He was writing during the era of Mike Harris, who polished the Tory playbook to a high sheen, debilitating the funding and delivery of public services at the behest of corporate masters and privateers who then presented themselves as the long-awaited saviours. Eager to win the next election, Harris sold off the 407 for a song to a Spanish consortium so that he could have a few million to bring his budget into the black. While we who dare to use the road pay outrageous fees, the 99-year owners are raking in billions. Nice.

To quote Dalton Camp, ‘I cannot remember a time… when the political community has been so out of touch with the public that elects them and pays their keep. This estrangement is the more ominous when it becomes clear that politicians have abandoned their constituents to seek the indulgence of the rich and famous.’ Renowned scholar of the day, Dorothy Smith, suggested that ideology is not so much a ‘specific set of beliefs as a biased method of enquiry that entails a systematic means not to know and not to see the situation of others.’ Camp cites data from a then-recent survey to back up his claim that ‘nothing is being done about the priorities most people are concerned about.’ 

Today, here in this province, we have prime examples of the same phenomenon. While the banks, fossil fools, the Westons et al are making billions, social services are left wanting, health care dollars left unspent. Think Therme. 

Privatized surgical units. The 413. And the Greenbelt. Since all of these initiatives involve privateers—a veil of secrecy falls over everything, with apologists piously citing the proprietary interests of private companies. My view is that we should challenge the deeply questionable right of private business to override our democratic right to information about how public dollars are spent.  

The sign at the bottom of my country road laneway says, ‘The Greenbelt is to feed our air and water—not developers’ pockets.’ 

The outrageous transfer of public dollars into private pockets is the intended endpoint of that Tory playbook. 

And then come the political denials from our leaders, the fiction, the obfuscations, expecting us to believe that they knew nothing about anything—as if that plausible deniability play will somehow erase the fact that this country chose at its inception the Westminster form of government. Paramount in that model is ministerial responsibility. A federal, 2004, Privy Council document called ‘Governing Responsibly’: states that ‘Ministers are individually responsible to Parliament and the Prime minister for their own actions and those of their department, including actions of all officials under their management and direction, whether or not the Ministers had prior knowledge.’ 

Ditto for the provinces and territories. They knew. 

Adding to all of this injury to a deeply frayed safety net is the insult of treating Ontarians like morons. Steve Clark needs to go; Premier Ford needs to reverse the swap and build on those two million spaces ready for housing in urban areas—something recommended by Ford’s own Housing Taskforce—and disappoint his friends. 

(Rev’d) LeeAnn McKenna


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