The last thing we need are self-serving elected officials

A while ago I was bemoaning to my former teacher friend how exhausting my schedule has been this summer. But I also realized that travelling and attending meetings and events six days a week is really just a part of the job. My friend said immediately that he understood what I was saying because back when he was a teacher he sometimes would feel quite overwhelmed. That’s when he said with his sly smile, “Teaching would be a fantastic job if it were not for the kids.” Of course, he was just trying to get a smile on my face – which he did.

As much as my friend was just kidding around, the truth is that there are lots of examples in life where people are doing jobs that they may not be the best candidate for. I was tossing a few silly examples around in my mind like the nurse who can’t stand the sight of blood when it hit me – politicians are not immune to such situations.

Call me an idealist if you want, but the way I see it, there are a pile of varying traits and skills that are advantageous for a politician to have. They have to be able to listen well and speak well, of course. They also need to have pretty thick skins as well as the ability to pick themselves up and move on. But to me, one of the most important traits they need to have is they need to genuinely care about people no matter who they are or where they are from. The last thing we need in this world are self-serving elected officials.

The People of Ontario need and deserve to be represented by a government that truly has their best interests of ordinary families at heart first and foremost. I’m not certain that is what the People of Ontario are getting what they bargained for.

One of the most glaring examples of not putting the needs of the people first is the long list of appointments made by Doug Ford to family, friends and party supporters. Just last February, Doug Ford appointed his close ally Jenni Byrne to an executive position with the Ontario Energy Board – a position for which she did not begin to meet the posted qualifications. This gravy train appointment saw Byrne bring home a tidy $197,000 salary – not bad for an underqualified worker. To be sure, being underqualified and being paid that much was not in the best interest of the People of Ontario. It was a self-serving move by Doug Ford to bolster his support. Now we learn that after just 8 months on the job, Byrne is quitting so that she can work for Conservative candidates in the upcoming federal election. She’s quitting with a very tidy sum in her purse only because provincial regulations prohibit order in council appointees from participating in partisan political activities. But with her padded purse she can do so comfortably.

How about the fiasco of appointing his long-time (over 20 years) friend and supporter Ron Taverner to be the head of the Ontario Provincial Police? Like Byrne, he too was unqualified for the position until Ford had the posted job requirements lowered to meet Taverner’s level. Can Ford honestly say that appointing a person to be the head of the entire OPP was in the best interest of the People of Ontario? Or was the move merely a self-serving way to bolster support for Ford and the Conservatives? Fortunately, enough whistles blew and red flags flew to embarrass Ford and he was forced to put a kibosh on that appointment.

The Conservative self-serving decision making is not limited only to patronage appointments. Consider Ford’s decision to challenge the Federal Government’s efforts to slow down climate change by encouraging Canadian corporations to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Saskatchewan took the Feds to court and lost as did Ontario. But Ford is determined to help out his federal counterpart. It’s wrong for Doug Ford to continue his losing legal battle against the carbon tax, and force Ontario families to foot the multi-million-dollar bill for his political stunt. He is blowing $30 million dollars to cover legal fees. He has forced all fuel retailers to post misleading, partisan anti-environmental stickers on every fuel pump in the province and threatened them with fines of $10,000 per day if they fail to display them. Worst of all, Doug Ford is dragging us backwards in the fight against the climate crisis — condemning us, our kids and our grandkids to see even more devastating fires, floods and tornadoes.

Now, just days ago, CBC reported that Doug Ford has, for a third time, attempted to punch holes in Ontario’s Greenbelt — this time, by holding secret, backroom meetings with a developer whose family members have donated more than $100,000 to the Conservative party. The thing is that Ontarians have made it clear that they do not want holes punched in our cherished Greenbelt.

The first time Doug Ford got caught soon after the last election promising developers he would open up a ‘big chunk’ of the Greenbelt, Ford said he would leave the Greenbelt alone. The second time Ford tried to break up the protected land, by sneaking legislation into his omnibus Bill 66 that would have scrapped environmental protections and handed over Greenbelt land to developers, the outrage of municipalities, environmental groups and the public pushed Ford to back down — publicly, at least. But he got caught again.

It now seems more than apparent that without constant supervision, Doug Ford will just keep cooking up backroom deals to mow down chunks of the Greenbelt for developers. Again I ask, how is selling off green-belts in the urbanized jungle of Southern Ontario in the best interest of Ontario families? It’s not. It’s in the best interest of investors, corporations and friends of Doug Ford who support the Conservatives.

It’s now very clear that Doug Ford never does the right thing until he gets caught. And that’s why New Democrats have taken the unprecedented move of creating new critic portfolios including an Ethics and Accountability portfolio headed by NDP MPP Taras Natyshak. The Ford Government has been mired in cronyism and scandal since they took office a year ago. And no matter how many times he’s been caught, the antics never end.

In her announcement, Andrea Horwath said, “From Doug Ford’s cronyism appointment scandal to the attempt to buy a pimped-out super van for himself and hide the costs, to secret and sketchy meetings, it’s clear that a critic for Ethics is now a necessity in Ontario.” The Liberals were scandal-plagued — with the gas plants scandal and a bribery trial — but Doug Ford is quickly taking things to a whole new level of boldness.

Ontario families deserve so much better than a government that is mired in scandal after scandal, that declares war on the environment and puts our very future at risk. We need a government that is committed first and foremost to ensure the prosperity and welfare of the People of Ontario.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected]or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free 1-800-831-1899.

Mike Mantha

Michael Mantha is a politician in Ontario, Canada. He is a New Democratic member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario who was elected in 2011. He's the NDP critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and critic for Northern Development and Mines. He represents the riding of Algoma—Manitoulin.
Mike Mantha