ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
Well for those that watch, the first week of the Federal election campaign was anything but boring. First, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn comes out swinging against Prime Minister Harper. Given that her approval rate in the Province is at 27%, I am sure that there are folks in the Harper camp that hope she keeps it up! She chastised the P.M. for dropping an early Writ, which is really none of her business and then lit into him for refusing to pony up taxpayer’s money to support her election promise to introduce an Ontario Pension Plan on top of the Canada Pension Plan. She didn’t ask him first, she just ploughed ahead and hoped she would bully him into participating. He didn’t bite and so she says,” their relationship is deteriorating”. You betcha!
Most Provincial Premiers, during a federal election campaign, give their support to the political party that they represent in their own jurisdiction. Seldom however, do you see the bitter animosity and outright vehemence displayed by the Premier of Ontario toward the Prime Minister of Canada. At the end of the day, Premiers and Prime Ministers have to work together. They often don’t agree but anything other than a strong working relationship is not good for Canada.
The Wynn Government has managed, in a very short period of time to come very close to creating havoc in Ontario. They now rival California for the most precarious economy in North America. Their credit rating has been slashed, they are spending money they don’t have and are ploughing ahead to create the largest deficit in the history of the Province.
Kathleen Wynn is not so much campaigning for Justin Trudeau as she is out to get Harper and she makes no bones about it. She may get her wish, but given the sorry state of her own back yard, she will need the strong support and cooperation of whoever leads the next federal government. In my view, she may want to think about whether she should be hedging her bet!
We also had the first debate of the Election Campaign this week. There were no earth shaking revelations but it was an early opportunity to observe the Leaders under pressure. Of course, in any debate of this kind, the person under the most pressure is the Prime Minister of the day, because everyone else on the stage wants his job and so the attacks are pretty much all in one direction. I thought Harper stood up well. He stayed on message and he did not get rattled.
I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of Elizabeth May. Compared to the last time she was on a debate stage, I found her articulate, well grounded on the topics discussed, passionate without being particularly partisan and able to make the case that the Green Party is not a single issue pony. My guess is that her party will gain more seats in Parliament, this time around.
If there was a winner in this debate, I would have to give it by a narrow margin to Justin Trudeau. He did not have a government to defend and so perhaps it was easier, but he clearly demonstrated his debating skills and his ability to hold his own. I think he was far better than Tom Mulcair who to me was unconvincing and uninspiring.
One issue that came up this week that is a real concern, is the pledge by Tom Mulcair to legislate proportional representation in future elections, if he becomes Prime Minister. That will be a disaster to all Canadians who do not live in large urban centres from whence the New Democratic Party gets much of its support. Proportional representation means that voters on election day would vote for a political party and not for a candidate. The political parties then, and not the electorate, would choose who sits in Parliament. It means that each political party would appoint members of parliament from a list of their unnominated, unelected, faithful, based on the percentage of votes that Party gets across the country, in a Federal election. Sounds just like the Senate doesn’t it…and we know how well that works!
The bigger problem however, is that with proportional representation, smaller cities, towns and rural communities in Canada will be in real danger of being disenfranchised. Members of Parliament would be appointed by their respective parties where they received the bulk of their votes and that in my view, would tip the balance of power and influence in Parliament in a big way, to the interests of large urban municipalities. All parts of Canada deserve direct representation and we should defeat any politician that seriously believes otherwise!
Perhaps a lighter moment on the campaign trail this week was the leaking of a photo of Justin Trudeau posing with a topless young lady. To be fair, it was probably taken some time ago, but Trudeau was still Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and he must have known that some time and in some way, that photo was going to hit the airwaves.
The story of course was buried by the Toronto Star but it appeared quite prominently elsewhere, especially on social media. Most people did not make a big deal of it and I suppose that is somewhat understandable in this day and age. I can’t help but wonder however, what media reaction would be if it was Stephen Harper standing beside that young lady. It certainly wouldn’t be buried and I can picture the headlines…..’ Dirty old man….exploiting women…sex maniac…yadda yadda’. Two different standards? Ya think?
KEN BLACK AND THE HOSPITAL
I had an interesting exchange this week with my good friend Ken Black, former M.P.P. and Cabinet Minister and a life long resident of Bracebridge. Recently, Roy MacGregor, a national columnist for the Globe and Mail and a Huntsville native, published a great article in his paper about Muskoka and some of the environmental issues that were important to our District. He quoted Ken Black among other things, as saying that he told me when I was Mayor of Huntsville, whenever I flushed the toilet, he was drinking it three days later in Bracebridge! This inspired me to reply to him, that he had just given another good reason why the new single site hospital for Muskoka, should be built upstream in Huntsville, where the water is still pure and refreshing! You can imagine his reply!
I don’t think I have ever seen an obituary published while the individual is still with us, but that is what the Huntsville Forester effectively did last week and I think it was a good idea. I am sure Lyle Payne got a kick out of it and the tribute was greatly deserved.
I have known Lyle since I first came to Huntsville in 1967. I knew his Dad and actually learned an important lesson from him and I was friends with many of his 16 brothers and sisters. Lyle is not a complicated person and he would not mind me saying that. He knows what is wrong and what is right and he has always stood up for what he believed in. He had a strong work ethic and cared more about contributing to his family and his community than accumulating wealth. There was nothing Lyle enjoyed more than a good argument and he never stopped wanting to help others.
When I was Mayor, we were building the Algonquin Theatre, renovating the Town Hall and beginning work on River Mill Park. The construction process provided an opportunity for young people to have some fun up and down Main Street, particularly on skateboards. It caused some problems that were sensitive to deal with. Enter Lyle Payne. He came to me and proposed the creation of the Silver Ambassadors. They were not cops, they were not by-law officers and they were not enforcers. They were retired Huntsville residents, led by Lyle, who casually patrolled our main street. They worked with the young kids, in a non threatening way, making sure that our community was safe and they helped visitors to Huntsville, to find their way. It was all volunteer work and it was extremely effective. It was typical Lyle Payne.
Lyle is in Hospice now, coming to the end of a lengthy, fierce and brave struggle with cancer. I am told that ten days ago, doctors gave him 2 to 4 days to live. At this time of writing, he is still with us. That is Lyle Payne. Determined to the end. And we can say, well done good and faithful servant to the Town of Huntsville.