Frank Klees

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Frankly Speaking
Article by Frank Klees, MPP
Newmarket-Aurora
As published In the Auroran

July 3, 2012

Dalton McGuinty's "Major Minority"

While the fall of dictatorships around the world makes headlines and pundits report that the new democracies will empower millions through their new-found right to vote, what goes unnoticed is the erosion of democracy in our own legislature.

When the votes were counted following the last election, one thing was clear. Ontario voters had denied Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Party another majority government. The combined  PC and NDP votes on any matter before the legislature would win the day. No longer would every vote be a guaranteed win for the Premier and his Liberal Caucus. So what did Mr. McGuinty mean when he declared on election night, that he would be heading up a "major minority" ?

The term had a confusing ring and no one knew what the Premier meant when he made this rather odd pronouncement. It would not be long though, before his actions would define his carefully chosen words.

The Premier would ignore the fact that Ontario voters had elected a minority government. He would simply carry on as though he had a majority.

The first clue came when just a few days into the legislative session, PC Members voted to support an NDP Motion to remove the HST from hydro bills. The motion passed. The Premier smirked, shrugged and ignored the results of the vote. You are still paying the HST on your hydro bills.

The next revelation came when I put forward a Motion to strike a Select All-Party Committee to investigate the Ornge Air Ambulance scandal. After extensive debate, the vote was taken and with the support of the NDP, the Motion passed. Once again, the Premier simply shrugged, ignored the vote of the legislature and moved on. There would be no Select Committee to investigate the Ornge scandal.

In the absence of a Select Committee, MPPs were left to review the Auditor General's Report into the Ornge scandal within the limited scope of the Public Accounts Committee. After several frustrating weeks of hearings under the cumbersome procedural protocol of this committee, I moved a Motion to expand the terms of reference of the Public Accounts Committee. This would at least broaden the scope of the hearings and would provide meaningful whistle blower protection to employees who wanted to testify. A reasonable proposal, we thought.

The Committee voted . The Motion was passed. The  Premier ignored it.

The Premier's blatant disrespect for the legislature and the democratic process is not limited to ignoring the votes of MPPs in the legislature. The public is included as well.

Bill 13, the government's anti bullying legislation, is another disturbing example of the  the McGuinty government's lack of respect for the democratic process. An essential step in the development of legislation are public hearings, where stakeholders and the public have the opportunity to give input and propose amendments. After three weeks of public hearings, ninety delegations had made submissions to the committee. Eighty percent of those submissions opposed the legislation as it was written. Parents, students, anti-bullying coalitions and faith groups, pleaded their case and proposed reasonable amendments that would remove divisive sections of the legislation and strengthen the anti-bullying provisions.

Those delegations were ignored. Their proposed amendments were dismissed outright.

The arrogance and disrespect for due process reaches beyond the walls of the legislature. The Ontario Medical Association and the thousands of physicians it represents are in disbelief that the Minister of Health is imposing cuts to fee schedules without considering the consequences to patient care. They acknowledge that healthcare costs must be controlled and want to be part of the solution. Their request of the Premier is ultimately reasonable. Consult with us and negotiate a reasonable solution. They too are being ignored.

Over the past month, my office has been bombarded with postcards and emails from teachers who find themselves in a similar predicament as their union leaders attempt to negotiate the next round of contracts. Take it or leave it, is the message from the self-proclaimed Education Premier to these loyal campaigners, to whom he owes his successive election victories.

Welcome to Dalton McGuinty's "major minority".........

What emboldens a Premier to demonstrate such disrespect for the institution of parliament and the people it serves ? I ask that question - not as a partisan politician - but as a citizen of our great province who is concerned that the most fundamental expectations of how democracy should work, is being eroded under Dalton McGuinty's major minority.

As always, I welcome your comments and advice.