Sunday, December 04, 2011

Welcome to Queen's Park

Our new MPP Todd Smith (Conservative - Prince Edward - Hastings) is just now learning that holding office involves a lot more than just showing up at all the Santa Claus parades in the region. He recently criticized the Liberal government for its deficit, and what he calls a 'jobs crisis'. He need look no farther for an answer than his boss, Tim Hudak, who should know all about a jobs 'crisis'. Tim Hudak worked directly for Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, and when they were finally ousted from office, they had left the unemployment rate in the province at near 7.6%, not far from the 8% it is now. To note, also, they left more than $9 Billion in debt that they effectively tried to hide on the books before they were voted out in landslide elections.

Considering the global recession and failure of the markets worldwide, there is good reason to have high unemployment in 2011. Mike Harris had no such excuse. He had only his own failed economic policies to blame. One could go farther and show that with only three provinces posting growth in their economies over the past year, Ontario's Liberal success is in part fuelling the limited success of the Harper government. Federally, after all the talk of stimulus and corporate tax breaks creating employment, we have just this week soared to 7.4% unemployment nationwide. So where did all the money go that Conservatives provided to private enterprise in the form of tax breaks? Not in my pocket, nor yours. It's hard for any MPP sitting in a Conservative riding to point fingers at a Liberal Provincial government that has kept up growth, and also kept campaign promises not to cut services, while expanding both Health care and Education funding.

I feel for Todd Smith. I have heard he is a very personable and family-oriented guy.  (As an aside, I wonder why, then, he ran as a Big-Business Conservative?) It must be very difficult being a rookie MPP. There is immense pressure to produce results, especially following the footsteps of someone like Leona Dombrowski, who tirelessly fought for the people of Prince Edward - Hastings in legislature. With no knowledge of the interior workings of Queens Park, save for reporting from afar with scripted news, he tabled a private members bill just this month aimed at amending the Ontario Green Energy Act of 2009. It is very different being a critic, than it is being involved.

In reading the text of the bill, which is a short and sweet repeal of several sections of the Green Energy Act, I can't help but see that it was most likely handed to him from up high. I say that because the bill was in the works, written, and prepared long before the election, when they had no reason to believe that the rookie MPP, formerly a radio personality, would unseat a 12 year veteran MP who was the Minister for education. This "plum" private members bill could then be tabled as if it was his own idea, making him look good to constituents, but not be egg on the face of Tim Hudak, who knew it would fail.

Even before the election, leading environmentalist David Suzuki had much to say about the Conservative plan to cancel the Green Energy Act. He warned that the Tory scheme was ‘absolute insanity’. “I don’t get it, because it’s a job creator," Suzuki is quoted as saying. "I would have thought that the Conservatives would be banging away at the need to create jobs."

In the end, and rightfully so, the Tory plan was voted down.

AYES - 32
Arnott, Bailey, Barrett, Clark, Dunlop, Elliot, Fedeli, Hardeman, Harris, Hillier, Hudak, Jackson, Jones, Leone, MacLaren, McDonell, McKenna, McNaughton, Milligan, Munro, Nicholls, O’Toole, Ouellette, Pettapiece, Scott, Smith, Thompson, Walker, Wilson, Witmer, Yakabuski, Yurek

NAYS  – 45
Albanese, Armstrong, Balkissoon, Bartolucci, Bentley, Berardinetti, Best, Bisson, Broten, Cansfield, Colle, Coteau, Craitor, Damerla, Delaney, Dhillon, Dickson, DiNovo, Flynn, Forster, Gravelle, Hoskins, Jaczek, Leal, MacCharles, Mangat, Marchese, Miller, Milloy, Moridi, Murray, Natyshak, Orazietti, Piruzza, Qaadri, Sandals, Schein, Singh, Sousa, Tabuns, Takhar, Taylor, Wong, Wynne, Zimmer

Todd Smith then tweeted : "Can't believe the opposition parties wouldn't support their local municipalities and constituents"

Aside from the obvious blunder of calling opposition to the bill the "opposition parties", which is by definition the PC's and the NDP, inherent in the one tweet was a naive hope to think that anything other than the defeat of the bill would happen. If it was good politics, with the support of the people, they could have easily defeated the Nays if they had the right momentum and the right interests of the people of Ontario on their side. Only 45 voted against. With 53 Liberals, 37 Tories and 17 NDP, they only needed convince nine other MPP's to vote for the Act. In reality, they couldn't even drum up one third of the Legislature to vote for it, not even all their own party, with five PC's abstaining.

Why? With so much at stake for the futures of our children and our grandchildren in weaning ourselves from fossil fuels and nuclear energy, no politician from any riding that has concerns for our future would vote yes for it. Hudak, with his big money coming from corporations like Shell, and Exxon, needs to table things like this to keep the campaign dollars flowing. Poor Todd Smith bought the party line, and his idealism of going in to do something for his riding was the first casualty.

His tweet, about the other parties not caring about municipalities is a common complaint in rural areas, and serves him well in his bid to win over the hearts of Hastings-Prince Edward residents. However, in his laments that the Provincial government overstepped its boundaries in limiting the discourse (I should point out there is already a lengthy consulting process for solar farms and wind farms), he is ignoring the history of party politics in Municipal affairs. It was Mike Harris who downloaded debt on the Municipalities, crippling their ability to provide services. In Todd Smith's own riding, the County of Hastings had to disband its road department, leading to layoffs of all employees because Mike Harris nearly doubled their debt. Our debt. When the Tories were in power, they did much more damage to the Municipal infrastructure than any Liberal ever has. They continued the trend of doing the same for Health care, and for Education as well.

Stark reality is that in the past eight years, the Provincial Liberals have uploaded municipal costs, saving the Municipalities over $1 billion, and will reduce them another $500 million by 2018. Hardly the ignoring of concerns Todd Smith would like us to think, and must convince us, is happening, before the Liberals take this riding back in 2015. That, I believe, is the reality of support for the Municipalities, and in refusing to address this, Todd Smith is playing the game of partisan politics, not supporting his riding.

If he follows Tim Hudak's lead, this will not be the only game he learns to play.

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