Prov­ince wide protests

Seaway News - - OPINION - NICK SEE­BRUCH ni­cholas.see­[email protected]

The largest protest that I’ve ever seen in Cornwall took place this past Satur­day in front of Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive MPP Jim McDonell’s of­fice.

Over 400 Franco-On­tar­i­ans and their sup­port­ers made their dis­plea­sure heard af­ter On­tario Pre­mier Doug Ford an­nounced cuts to Fran­co­phone ser­vices in the prov­ince. Ford said he wanted to cut the of­fice of the French Lan­guage Com­mis­sioner and he has de­layed the con­struc­tion of a French lan­guage uni­ver­sity in Toronto.

Ford even­tu­ally back­tracked to a point on the is­sue of the lan­guage com­mis­sioner, fold­ing those re­spon­si­bil­i­ties into the of­fice of the Au­di­tor Gen­eral. This didn’t sat­isfy MPP Amanda Si­mard, who left the Con­ser­va­tive party to sit as an in­de­pen­dent and it doesn’t seem to have sat­is­fied many other Franco-On­tar­i­ans.

There were ma­jor protests across the prov­ince on Satur­day, not just in Cornwall. Dianne Poirier, one of the or­ga­niz­ers of the demon­stra­tion in Cornwall, told me that this was just the be­gin­ning, given that the Ford gov­ern­ment has a ma­jor­ity in the leg­is­la­ture and can do what it likes for the next three and a half years, I hope so for the sake of their cause.

It is go­ing to be dif­fi­cult for them to keep this is­sue on the agenda un­til the next elec­tion es­pe­cially with­out a strong voice of sup­port within the gov­ern­ment. The more I think about it, the more I think it was un­nec­es­sary for Si­mard to leave the Con­ser­va­tive Party, es­pe­cially this early.

I doubt that Ford would have kicked her out of the party no mat­ter how loudly she spoke out, and by stay­ing in the gov­ern­ment, she could have been a voice of con­tin­u­ous dis­con­tent on the way her party was han­dling Fran­co­phone is­sues. By leav­ing, I worry that Si­mard has left her rid­ing, and her cause in a weaker po­si­tion.

Jim McDonell for his part, did ad­dress the protest in front of his Cornwall of­fice, which was a brave move, be­cause they were not warm to him. McDonell tried to ex­plain that the rea­son for these cut­backs all came down to dol­lars. His ex­pla­na­tion was met with a cho­rus of boos from the crowd.

I don’t think that de­lay­ing one uni­ver­sity or cut­ting one per­son’s salary will make that much of a dif­fer­ence in the grand scheme of things for the bud­get, es­pe­cially when you con­sider that the cost of the uni­ver­sity was less than one per­cent of the pro­vin­cial bud­get. So that begs the ques­tion, why would the Ford gov­ern­ment make a move like this that would cost them so many po­lit­i­cal points with the Franco-On­tar­ian de­mo­graphic? Does Ford think that Fran­coOn­tar­i­ans only vote Lib­eral, so they’re of no po­lit­i­cal use to him any­way? When you boil it down, I think that the Ford gov­ern­ment cal­cu­lated that by do­ing this so soon in their man­date, they can win points with their base, and that most Franco-On­tar­i­ans will have for­got­ten about it three and a half years from now.

Un­less Franco-On­tar­i­ans can keep this on the pro­vin­cial po­lit­i­cal agenda, which in it­self will be a great feat, I doubt it will have any bear­ing on Doug Ford’s po­lit­i­cal for­tunes even in a few months from now. How Fran­coOn­tar­i­ans fight against a ma­jor­ity Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment on this is­sue I don’t know, but what I do know is that this week­end showed that at the very least, they are po­lit­i­cally or­ga­nized.

What do you think of the Franco-On­tar­ian protests from this past week­end and the Ford gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to cut Franco-On­tar­ian ser­vices? Email me a Let­ter to the Edi­tor at ni­cholas.see­[email protected]

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