More than a decade ago in Toronto, at that most anxious of times, Ontario’s Liberals came close to plunging the province into another political catastrophe.
The caretaker Progressive Conservatives under Mike Harris — though in thrall to the populist right — had elected a minority government, only to be ignored by the shaken Liberals. But it was in that moment that leader Dalton McGuinty unveiled the government’s Reform Act.
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Taking the high road, McGuinty announced that reforms to kick-start the economy, including the creation of fair labour rules for employers and workers and the rule of law for politicians, were things that either struck a chord or were ignored. The legislation served to protect the institution of political plurality as its bedrock. It wasn’t perfect, but Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives would never have matched McGuinty’s sense of proportion, foresight and compassion.
Thirty-two years later, Ontario has chosen to turn the page on history, risking the Tories back to power under Doug Ford’s G.O.P. The PC’s hubris apparently blinded them to just how scared many Ontarians still are after Doug Ford’s announcement to “stop the gravy train”– a simple enough vision of government, yes, but one that was entirely absent from Kathleen Wynne’s time in office.
The sun rose on the Saturday of the election and the sun set in the next few days. Welcome back, Ontario. This is the party whose previous leader crushed the province’s first black premier with his claim to office. This party that reduced Ontario’s teachers to secondary school lemmings as they followed their leader (Bob Rae), and, as we see with Ford today, still actively panders to the populist right that helped sink the Liberals earlier.
Ontarians, no matter your political affiliation, should be comforted by the fact that this most unruly of seasons is drawing to a close. Ontarians can use the knowledge they’ve gained to fight not just the next election, but to shape the future of this province into a more equitable and prosperous place for all.