Careful, the chil­dren may be watch­ing

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey

Point too many fin­gers and the cen­tral is­sue will be ob­scured Ev­ery topic is a po­ten­tial con­tro­versy when par­ti­san­ship rules

The safety of chil­dren and bet­ter ac­cess to booze. Talk about your moth­er­hood is­sues, eh? There is no way that the well­be­ing of young­sters and mod­ern­ized al­co­hol poli­cies could ever be­come causes for dis­cord. Right? Wrong.

In a po­lit­i­cally-charged, hyper-an­gry, su­per growly world, even the most sane and log­i­cal idea is go­ing to set some­body off. The riled rarely ac­tu­ally en­gage in a di­a­logue with the al­leged of­fend­ing party. Peo­ple just talk past each other.

For ex­am­ple, let us look at the ver­bal shots fired by Stor­mont-Dun­das-South Glen­garry Con­ser­va­tive MPP Jim McDonell and the Lib­eral cau­cus “fact check­ers,” strate­gists who claim to be con­stantly ex­pos­ing the “whop­pers” ut­tered by Tory leader Pa­trick Brown and his fol­low­ers.

“MPP Jim McDonell De­lay­ing Pro­tec­tions for Chil­dren and Se­niors,” reads the header on a press re­lease from the Lib­er­als.

“Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives stonewall bill aimed at community safety,” the state­ment says.

“Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, par­ents and stu­dents have called on the government to take strong ac­tion to help stop speed­ing, tar­get un­safe driv­ers, and pro­tect school chil­dren, and se­niors in Stor­mont, Dun­das and com­mu­ni­ties across On­tario. In response, the On­tario Lib­eral government in­tro­duced Bill 65, the Safer School Zones Act, which if passed, would pro­vide com­mu­ni­ties with stronger tools to keep lo­cal stu­dents safe.”

But Mr. McDonell and the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives have “made a cal­cu­lated po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion to pre­vent the pas­sage of this crit­i­cal stu­dent safety leg­is­la­tion – leg­is­la­tion that par­ents say can­not come soon enough,” the Lib­er­als charge.

The re­lease quotes Toronto trus­tee Jen­nifer Arp: “Any­thing we can do to in­crease safety in our school zones should be a non-par­ti­san is­sue. We shouldn’t have one party try­ing to ob­struct and hold-up the pass­ing of this leg­is­la­tion.”

The Lib­eral cau­cus claims, “MPP McDonell had an­other op­por­tu­nity to take a stand up for stu­dent safety and he chose, once again, to stand against it. In­stead of lis­ten­ing to calls from mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers, par­ents and stu­dents look­ing to pro­tect chil­dren and the el­derly on lo­cal roads, MPP McDonell is de­lay­ing this leg­is­la­tion and pre­vent­ing it from be­ing in force by the start of the new school year in Septem­ber.”

The blast ends with, “One life lost on On­tario’s roads is too many. Tell MPP Jim McDonell that you care about chil­dren and se­niors in our com­mu­ni­ties.”

So Mr. McDonell coun­ters, main­tain­ing that Con­ser­va­tives care more for chil­dren than the Lib­er­als.

“Government Votes Against En­hanc­ing Stu­dent Safety,” states a com­mu­niqué from the mem­ber.

He raises con­cerns about “blow-by driv­ers,” those sick mo­torists who il­le­gally over­take buses when chil­dren are get­ting on and off the vehicles.

“Dur­ing the Com­mit­tee stage of Bill 65, the Government voted against a Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive amend­ment that would have sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased stu­dent safety – os­ten­si­bly the rea­son for Bill 65 in the first place,” says Mr. McDonell.

“School bus cam­era ev­i­dence against reck­less blow-by driv­ers should be ad­mis­si­ble in court,” he ar­gues.

“We sub­mit­ted an amend­ment to Bill 65 that would have in­cor­po­rated a pro­vi­sion into the Bill that the Lib­er­als them­selves sup­ported on the record just a few months ear­lier. In­stead of be­ing con­sis­tent, the government chose to pick politics over stu­dents and voted the amend­ment down. If it’s not a Lib­eral idea, they will vote it down, re­gard­less of its ne­ces­sity.”

Sup­port for chang­ing school bus cam­era ev­i­dence pro­ce­dures has come from both mu­nic­i­pal and law en­force­ment stake­hold­ers.

“The government is try­ing to paint a false pic­ture with blow-by smears that only serve blow-by driv­ers,” MPP McDonell stated. “Let’s set the record straight. The PCs wanted reck­less driv­ers who do not re­spect school bus stop signs to be pun­ished promptly and re­li­ably. The Lib­er­als said no. It is time they stopped play­ing politics and spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion, and fo­cused on de­liv­er­ing bet­ter out­comes for On­tar­i­ans.”

In fact, every­one makes sense on this is­sue. The Tories con­tend that of­fend­ers caught on cam­era ought to get tick­ets in the mail.

The government has not ditched the cam­era idea com­pletely; it has just pumped the brakes a tad to en­sure the no­tion will work from the get-go.

“We’re go­ing to make sure we get it right, says Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Steven Del Duca.

Mean­while, the par­ties are ac­cus­ing their op­po­nents of play­ing po­lit­i­cal games.

Sadly, with all the fin­ger-point­ing, the cen­tral point -- stu­dent safety -- is be­ing ob­scured.

The sher­iff of Queen’s Park

“Re­verse Robin Hood Lib­er­als steal­ing from pub­lic to pay off rich friends” is the lead-in to a real corker of an out­burst from the On­tario Pub­lic Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees Union.

“With polls in­di­cat­ing the Lib­eral government's days are num­bered, Kath­leen Wynne seems to be try­ing to make the most of the time she has left to pay off debts to the wealthy in­sid­ers that have bankrolled the Lib­er­als over the past decade,” OPSEU fumes.

The right to sell beer, wine, and cider has been given to an ad­di­tional 76 gro­cery stores comes after the an­nounce­ment of the sale of a fur­ther 20 per cent of the shares in Hy­dro One. Taken to­gether, a clear pat­tern is emerg­ing, OPSEU Pres­i­dent War­ren (Smokey) Thomas warns.

“The Lib­er­als see the writ­ing on the wall, and so do the cor­po­rate in­sid­ers that have sup­ported them over the years,” says Mr. Thomas. “Now these wealthy in­sid­ers have come to col­lect on what the Lib­er­als owe them – and the Lib­er­als are pay­ing them off with the pub­lic as­sets that be­long to all On­tar­i­ans. Whether it's Hy­dro One, the sale of which will cost On­tar­i­ans $500 mil­lion a year in lost rev­enue, or the LCBO, which last year pro­vided more than $2.4 bil­lion in rev­enue to pay for pub­lic ser­vices, at the end of the day On­tar­i­ans are the ones los­ing out,” the union charges.

“The Lib­er­als are pulling a re­verse Robin Hood – they're steal­ing from the pub­lic to fun­nel money to their rich friends.”

The chair of the OPSEU bar­gain­ing team for LCBO work­ers said that the lat­est ex­pan­sion of al­co­hol sales, com­ing while the LCBO and its work­ers are at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble, un­der­cuts any trust that man­age­ment wants to reach a ne­go­ti­ated deal.

“One of the most im­por­tant is­sues fac­ing work­ers is the threat of the loss of this pub­lic as­set to piece­meal pri­va­ti­za­tion,” says Denise Davis. “We've been clear on that from the start. Yet at the ex­act same time that we're dis­cussing this is­sue at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble, the government is push­ing ahead with fur­ther pri­va­ti­za­tion. Ac­tions speak louder than words. When this is hap­pen­ing, how are we sup­posed to trust any­thing the LCBO is say­ing at the ta­ble?”

Not sur­pris­ingly, the union is tak­ing a nar­row view of the LCBO’s de­ci­sion. It is not paid to look at the big pic­ture or con­sider op­pos­ing po­si­tions; its job is to de­fend the in­ter­ests of its mem­bers.

Like­wise, politi­cians can­not be ex­pected to fairly as­sess stances that do not mesh with their re­spec­tive doc­trines. They must stick with their par­ti­san mes­sages; they must ap­peal to their base.

In the midst of the hy­per­bole, there are some fair-minded peo­ple who re­al­ize that, when seen through a wider, more ob­jec­tive lens, most is­sues are not black and white.

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