‘I wasn’t elected to sell cuts that vot­ers op­pose’

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page -

The fol­low­ing state­ment was is­sued by Glen­garry-Prescott-Russell MPP Amanda Si­mard.

Since my stand in Novem­ber against the On­tario gov­ern­ment’s uni­lat­er­ally im­posed cuts to Franco-On­tar­ian in­sti­tu­tions, my of­fice has re­ceived count­less mes­sages of support. I thank you all for the kind words of en­cour­age­ment.

I placed my con­stituents and my in­tegrity ahead of my po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions, and quit the provin­cial Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive cau­cus to sit as an In­de­pen­dent. No elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive, be they fed­eral or provin­cial, should be kept in the dark by their party about poli­cies that hurt their rid­ing. MPs swear al­le­giance to Canada, not to their party. The peo­ple of my rid­ing voted me in to rep­re­sent them at Queen’s Park, not to sell them Con­ser­va­tive cuts they over­whelm­ingly op­pose.

There is more to pol­i­tics than party vic­tory. The ob­jec­tive is not to turn into losers the mil­lions of peo­ple who did not vote for you. It falls on gov­ern­ing par­ties to con­sult the elec­torate and pro­pose sound and prac­ti­cal poli­cies that ben­e­fit all of so­ci­ety, not just those who support their ide­ol­ogy. Gov­ern­ing is not about ad­vanc­ing party in­ter­est or only bal­anc­ing the books; it’s about bal­anc­ing the mul­ti­ple in­ter­ests in so­ci­ety.

The peo­ple of my rid­ing voted me in to rep­re­sent them at Queen’s Park, not to sell them Con­ser­va­tive cuts they over­whelm­ingly op­pose.

A mem­ber of Par­lia­ment or of the provin­cial leg­is­la­ture rep­re­sents both party and con­stituents. When the party at­tacks them, the MP must stand tall. It’s called coun­try, prov­ince, re­gion be­fore party, and I sure hope Cana­di­ans agree it’s good pol­i­tics. Elected of­fice must be about serv­ing a pur­pose higher than party pol­i­tics.

If there is one pos­i­tive as­pect to On­tario’s lin­guis­tic cri­sis, it is that the gen­er­a­tions who have not lived the pre­vi­ous crises can see the fragility of Fran­co­phone rights and ser­vices. Our young peo­ple are liv­ing this mo­ment. And they will re­mem­ber – just as I re­mem­ber the rally to save Mont­fort hos­pi­tal in 1997. This his­toric mo­ment is part of me and, 20 years later, it was part of my de­ci­sion to leave the Con­ser­va­tive cau­cus. We could not let ig­no­rance of our his­tory and of our con­tri­bu­tion to this prov­ince, in­deed this coun­try, tram­ple our rights.

Cana­di­ans should judge po­lit­i­cal par­ties on the mer­its of their plat­form and can­di­dates on their cre­den­tials and the strength of their char­ac­ter – for MPs and MPPs stand as the only safe­guards against a ma­jor­ity party’s ex­cesses. The is­sue is not re-elec­tion in four years, but a fair so­ci­ety for all.

So far, the On­tario gov­ern­ment has lacked clear and fair con­sul­ta­tion mech­a­nisms for MPPs and con­stituents alike. Re­cent ad­mon­ish­ments of the demo­cratic role played by the me­dia re­in­force the gov­ern­ment’s grow­ing au­thor­i­tar­ian rep­u­ta­tion. Many groups decry the par­o­dic or out­right ab­sence of pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tions in key sec­tors such as health care, ed­u­ca­tion, autism and Franco-On­tar­ian af­fairs, while oth­ers cringe about po­ten­tial at­tacks on the en­vi­ron­ment, unions and the arts – all with deficit-fight­ing as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Too many in this gov­ern­ment are new to demo­cratic power. Has its 15-year hia­tus ren­dered the PC gov­ern­ment so power-hun­gry it has for­got­ten about a gov­ern­ment’s higher pur­pose? Un­der the reign of this blue Con­ser­va­tive in­ner cir­cle, too many demo­cratic in­di­ca­tors are in the red.

Luck­ily for Franco-On­tar­i­ans, we have spo­ken loud and clear and this gov­ern­ment will think twice be­fore im­pos­ing on us fur­ther harm. Un­for­tu­nately, too many On­tar­i­ans may suf­fer un­der the heavy-hand­ed­ness, un­bal­anced swing of a 15-year ab­sence pen­du­lum.

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