Government for the People?

As a northern MPP I freely admit to readers that my northern NDP colleagues and I have a natural tendency when in Queen’s Park to primarily focus upon how matters affect the people living in northern regions of this province. Of course we care deeply about what is going on all across the province as we are all dedicated to the welfare of all Ontarians. However, in recent days the flurry of events revolving around the changes to the Toronto electoral system has garnered the attention of all Ontarians far and wide. I can’t help but think, if Doug Ford is confident enough to take on the strongest, largest city in the nation, what has he got in store for the rest of us – especially in the North? I know that weeks ago I said everyone better buckle-up for a wild ride, but I certainly didn’t foresee a hairpin curve such as violating our Charter of Rights on the horizon.

There is no need to rehash the entire scenario here. But let’s be very clear. No matter how much he denies it, Ford’s resolve to reduce the number of counsellors in Toronto City Hall is entirely based upon seeking revenge on a handful of his former municipal opponents. This became evident this week when things got heated in the Legislature when Ford was challenged by Andrea Horwath during Question Period. Doug Ford made no attempt to disguise his motives. He responded to her question saying, “The leader of the NDP is here to protect her crony buddies: Mike Layton, Joe Cressy, Gord Perks,” referring to left-leaning Toronto councillors – right off the tip of his tongue.

When Judge Belobaba’s handed down his ruling on Bill 5, to put it mildly, Doug Ford had the “China Syndrome” of meltdowns. In the blink of an eye he vowed to invoke section 33, the Notwithstanding Clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It’s called the Notwithstanding Clause because it permits a government to pass a law that can operate, notwithstanding certain provisions in the Charter. As a result, no one is able to challenge the law on the basis that it violates the Charter. In short, Doug Ford is willfully suspending the Charter of Rights of Ontario people in order to plow ahead with his revenge plot against his political enemies at Toronto City Hall.

When questioned why he believed he has the right to act contrary to the decision of our justice system, Ford said, “was elected. The judge was appointed. He was appointed by one person, (former Liberal Premier) Dalton McGuinty.” In other words, Ford believes that the knowledge and designs of a rookie premier with no provincial experience of any kind, outweighs the worth of a respected judge with years of experience, education and impeccable character conducive to dispensing blind justice.

What’s worse, Ford has openly stated that he will not hesitate to use the “tool” as needed in implementing any future Conservative changes in this province. Bill Davis, the highly respected former Ontario Premier, emphatically stated, “That it might now be used regularly to assert the dominance of any government or elected politician over the rule of law or the legitimate jurisdiction of our courts of law was never anticipated or agreed to.”

After serving almost 7 years as an MPP, it was extremely disturbing to watch Assembly security guards as they handcuffed and removed moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas from the public gallery who were there to make their displeasure known to the Premier. So much for being Ontario’s first ever “Government for the People.”

Speaking to protestors outside the Legislature, Andrea said, “In the most paternalistic and insulting way possible, Doug Ford has interfered in municipal and regional elections.   Without any consultation and ignoring the wishes of democratically elected municipal leaders he is ripping up Ward boundaries, and cancelling elections in the middle of the campaign. This is an assault on local democracy, and shows a fundamental lack of respect for municipal governments and local decision-making.”

Andrea Horwath and the NDP have been clear that we won’t stand idly by while Doug Ford attempts to revoke people’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ford’s rights-revoking bill is an attempt to override the court decision which concluded that a bill to rig Toronto’s municipal elections violates those rights due to its ill-timed passage.

Without question or debate, it is the duty of every elected official to act in the best interests and for the good of all the people he or she represents. We are elected to serve all the people in Ontario. We are not there for personal gain or to use any influence to undermine or diminish others. My staff and I pride ourselves in helping people to overcome government hurdles they may face. We work to make life better for the people of Algoma-Manitoulin.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters.

Mike Mantha