When polling firms do surveys every so often on who society trusts, there is a typical list of professions that finds itself at towards the bottom; politicians are usually one of them. It’s a reputation that while not fair to all politicians, is not one that hasn’t come unearned. There are many great, hardworking, honest politicians out there of all political stripes, and I’ve been blessed to get to know a few of them. But there are others, whose actions and words, tar and feather the others with their actions.
And let’s face it, we can all point to examples where politicians have made firm, declarative statements with no ambiguity in their words that made a solemn promise to voters during an election, vying for their support. “Read my lips, no new taxes”. “I say we will replace the tax. This is a commitment”. “As Prime Minister, I’ll make sure the 2015 election will be the last under first-past-the-post system”. I could go on, but there are many examples out there.
It’s one thing for someone to make a promise then not be able to follow through on it, but it’s a very different thing to make a clear, explicit commitment to win votes, that you know you won’t follow through on or know is just dishonest. That is the kind of behaviour that is inexcusable, and if that person wins, it has serious consequences for many people. During the last Ontario provincial election, we heard an explicit, clear as day commitment from the Ontario Conservatives and Doug Ford, one that fits in this category very well. Remember what he said?
That’s right folks, not a single person would lose their job. That statement was a clear as it was full of B.S. There was no way that any government could promise to do all the cutting they planned, balancing the budget, all while cutting taxes without major job losses. It was a realistic as offering to give every man, woman and child in Ontario their own pet unicorns. But yet Doug Ford and his candidates continued to make that incredulous promise, and have continued with it into government. Since then we’ve seen many different examples of the Ontario government laying off people, firing them or eliminating their whole departments.
But this week we’ve started to see the big hit start to come, in the education sector. After lifting the caps on classroom sizes and basically freezing the education budget to 1% growth, well under inflation, we knew what was coming. It was clear as day, as much as Ford and his Education Minister Lisa Thompson denied it would. So this week, we started to see this:
Yes folks, that’s a lot of jobs losses that we were promised would never happen. And you know what makes this worse to me? It’s the refusal of this government to be straight and honest with people about what they are doing. Being in government means making tough choices, but it also means facing the people and taking responsibility for those promises. So being this government “for the people”, we can assume that’s what Mr. Ford, his Education Minister and their MMP’s are doing, right? Right?
Amazing huh? What kind of chicken-ish language and behaviour is that? For starters, your job as an elected person is to meet with your constituents, in good or bad times. What’s this “Sorry, we’re not allowed to talk about Education” crap? These are MPPs, not errand boys and girls. That is just unacceptable, yet is how many Conservative politicians have learned to behave over the past decade.
As for Minister Thompson’s reply, this “there will be no involuntary job losses” statement? Are you kidding me? By definition, getting laid off is involuntary. Being made surplus as a teach is involuntarily losing your full time job, including all the health benefits that come with it. Sure, you may then be on the supply list but have you tried to make a living as a supply teacher in Ontario before? It’s far from having full time work, and many supply teachers that I know also have other jobs to keep themselves afloat. And of course, supply teachers don’t have benefits and they don’t have a pension that full time teachers do. You know what happens to a lot of people who are having trouble getting full time work from the supply list? They leave Ontario to go work elsewhere. Other provinces, including British Columbia, are facing serious teacher shortages, so you’ll see highly qualified and dedicated teachers simply leaving Ontario to go to greener pastures. How does that help make our education system any better? Promises made, promises broken.
Folks, we are not even at the one-year mark yet with this government, so there is going to be much more pain to come. We’re starting to see more in the health care sector, and there will still be more to come in Education as teachers’ contracts are up at the end of the summer and Doug Ford is already threatening teachers in the media not to strike. And through out it all, I doubt we’ll see this government act responsibly, take responsibility for their actions and face the people that elected them. It’s politicians that government like this, hiding scared in the shadows, refusing to face the consequences of their choices, that truly give politicians as a whole a bad name. I’d like to think that we could shame this group to get them to be better, but as each day goes by at Queen’s Park, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that shame is a quality that this government lacks.