Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Failures of Leadership and Stagnation in Ontario

This afternoon I was reading on the Toronto Star website trying to get ideas on what I might want to write about for today. I think it is fair to say that I have been feeling disappointed in politics over the last few months. Since the federal election there has been little to be too excited about from my point of view. While I lean more towards the policy and ideas side of politics I still want to be inspired and like my political leaders, and I feel a distinct absence of that.

I've spent nearly all of my life in the province of Ontario. It is my home, it a place I love, but at the same time if feels more and more like a place that is failing. I think it is more than fair to say that the provincial political system is broken. The Toronto Star recently reported on what can only be seen as corruption, or dangerous blurring between politicians and big donors. Cabinet ministers in Ontario's government have been given fundraising targets and must appeal to big corporate donors in areas they are responsible for to achieve their goals. This stinks. The Liberals held a fundraiser and raised $3 million in one night. I am naturally very suspicious of money in politics, I think it has a corrupting influence and distorts the principles of our system.

Premier Kathleen Wynne (OLP - Don Valley West) had promise in my eyes when she was elected. A left-of-centre Liberal, I thought she had the approach to clean up the McGuinty years and change Queen's Park for the better. The longer her term in office goes it seems like the rot may be going even deeper. Billions of dollars are added to the deficit and Ontarians have little to show for it. Indeed, our public services remain strong, but infrastructure investment continues to lack behind.

The alternatives offer little hope in my eyes. Patrick Brown, the new Progressive Conservative leader comes from a more right-wing section of the Conservative Party. He speaks like a moderate and has made gestures towards the middle, but I have to wonder if the young leader promises anything else other than budget cuts, fee increases and public strife were he elected. Does he offer any meaningful change to reform the problems in Queen's Park? I have my doubts.

I am a New Democrat, with the membership card and everything, yet I have been left very cold by Andrea Horwath's (ONDP - Hamilton Centre) leadership. The zag to the populist right in the 2014 election campaign and the NDP strategy during the minority years did not greatly inspire me. Nor for a bunch of internal party reasons am I particularly enamoured with the central leadership at this time. Nor do I  see the NDP making clear policy choices to fix the problems in this province.

I'm sure this is clearer to Ontarians elsewhere, but it feels more and more that this province is stuck in the muck. The old industrial economy has essentially vanished and nothing has really filled its place. If it wasn't for the public sector and the Toronto economic engine I wonder if the place wouldn't have already fallen off the proverbial cliff. How much of our economy is being driven by a housing bubble, which while creating jobs gobbles up farm land and puts housing out of reach of the poor and the young?

Sometimes this is when looking to mayors would offer more hope. I didn't vote for my current mayor and I was unsure of her. I remain mixed on Brampton mayor Linda Jeffrey, I have real questions about her policy directions, but mostly it is the rest of council's positions on transparency, city management, development and transit that has me grinding my teeth. In an odd way John Tory might be the Ontario politician I have the most faith in, but it isn't motivated by any excitement, more of a basic competence. Even that opinion is given pause when I consider issues like Smart Track and the Scarborough Subway.

In a recent conversation with a friend I launched into a tirade about the status quo. There are so many things wrong in Canada, Ontario, and the GTA that are perpetuated mostly by a fear of change and acceptance of the status quo. Things could be so much better. The lack of inspiration I feel about our current political class may reflect more of my own cynicism than their actual capabilities. Given the sea change on the federal scene perhaps there are some MPs out there who could make a difference. I'd like to be proven wrong. Who is out there to believe in?

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