Careful, the children may be watching
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.