By Jenn Watt
Published Sept. 18, 2018
The PC government has taken Ontario by storm since winning the last election, reversing course on many initiatives that were underway. Most of the changes were unsurprising, though perhaps more swiftly implemented than expected. However, it’s unlikely anyone would have predicted last week’s incredibly controversial decision to invoke the notwithstanding clause.
Its usage on a bill to cut the size of Toronto city council in the midst of the election, contrary to the ruling of an Ontario Superior Court judge has triggered opposition from across the political spectrum.
(Among them, former PC premier Bill Davis, former NDP premier Bob Rae and former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien.)
And although there must be some PC MPPs who have misgivings about the way this is being done, voting along party lines at Queen’s Park has continued unabated.
While there has been plenty of criticism to the PCs’ policies in the last several months – from the elimination of cap and trade to reversing course on the sex-ed curriculum – nothing has raised as much ire as the government’s intention to use the notwithstanding clause.
At least some of the disappointment is that it doesn’t seem to matter how severely this decision is criticized, it’s moving ahead regardless. It appears there’s no room for nuance, discussion or compromise either between parties or within them.
And this is the crux of people’s problem with politics.
As much as you might vote for an individual member of provincial parliament (or federal parliament), in the end, you are truly voting for the party.
and whatever that party decides to do.
Contrast that to the much more responsive system of local municipal politics.
Last month, Haliburton County council was presented with a letter from the health unit board expressing its dismay at the cancellation of the basic income pilot project.
About 4,000 low-income people in the province were told that by March they would no longer be receiving a government subsidy, which was to have supplemented their income and could have improved their economic prospects as well as health and wellness.
The Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit board weighed in on the basic income project cuts. Calling the cancellation unjust, the letter from the board reminded the government that the purpose of the project was to evaluate over three years what benefits could be garnered by guaranteeing a minimum income to people.
County councillors said they wanted to put it on the record that they didn’t agree with this decision. Some council members are more conservative in their political leanings, but voted to support the board of health’s letter.
Since they didn’t run for council under the banner of a particular party, each member is free to voice his or her position, reflecting personal views or those of constituents.
It didn’t matter what party they normally vote for, or whether there were previous affiliations with the PCs, Liberals or NDP. Everyone expressed their own thoughts, made their own choices and voted their conscience.
Politics at all levels could use a dose of this independent thinking and less party politics.