The provincial election from a Burlington perspective.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 12, 2014


It was a healthy crowd.  They were attentive and at Nelson High to listen to a debate between Progressive Conservative incumbent Jane McKenna, Liberal candidate Eleanor McMahon in and Janet Mowbray representing the NDP.  All want to be elected as the Burlington representative in the provincial legislature.

Other than the debate sponsored by the Canadian Federation of University Women,  debate this turned out to be the only opportunity to see the candidates debating

The audience was attentive with the focus on what each political party would do for the province in terms of education.

The lines between the policies were as clear as any citizen could possibly want them to be.  The Progressive Conservatives were blunt – they want to see 100,000 fewer civil servants on the public payroll which meant cuts at the educational, medical and public services levels.  While cutting in these sectors was to be brutal – the promise was to create 1 million new jobs in the private sector.

The issue for the PC’s was the level of debt the province is carrying.  The Liberals weren’t as constrained with debt – they saw debt as what was needed to fully recover from the 2008 recession.

The differences in the political party decisions are fundamentally clear – and we don’t hear that many people talking about a “great” program from any of them.

The New Democrats are still fighting the collective agreement battle of the 2011 election – the Liberal government  of the day certainly did themselves no favours when they tinkered with the teacher’s collective agreements.  Liberals now argue that the number of teachers needed problem has been fixed and that jobs were not lost – which the Tories say is part of the problem.   They point to declining enrollments but nothing comparable in the way of lowering of the teaching compliment.

The Liberals believe that the only way the province is going to grow the economy – we still are not fully out of the 2008 recession – is to ensure that we have the labour force with the education needed to take up the good jobs they believe will surely come if the province stays the course.

The Tory’s are obsessed with the size of the provincial deficit and are prepared to cut, slash and burn – whatever it takes to get the civil service reduced.

The Liberals argue that cutting those education, health inspector and hospital staff will significantly reduce the quality of life and the life style Ontarians have come to expect.

Three provincial candidates

If you voted the political party – these were your choices – and the differences are stark.

The campaign locally has been harder fought at the door to door level than most people realize.  The Association of University Woman held their debate during which it is reported McKenna did better than the Nelson High event.

The cancellation of the Chamber of Commerce breakfast (they said no enough tickets had been sold) was a blow to the community.  Many suspected the Tories in this town suggested the Chamber event be cancelled – McKenna wasn’t looking all that good at public meetings.

At some point during the campaign Cam Jackson was seen going door to door with McKenna.  Those must have been really old solid Tory polls.

The brilliant cover page ad the Liberals ran in the Post stunned many.  It sure looked like a real front page – but it was a paid advertorial that has McMahon sweeping the election.

Then she Toronto Star report that had Burlington going Liberal after 71 years of Tory rule- that boosted moral at the Liberal campaign office on Fairview.  Some may have been surprised that the Post sold their “front” page – but a buck is a buck – I guess.

There is a time when the quality of the candidate over rides the party choice – and on that level Eleanor McMahon was the most sensitive to the issues, the most persuasive with her arguments and the most able to listen.

McKenna has been backing away from cuts in the education sector. She is reported to have said the PC’s will not be cutting education spending however she did see a need for better allocation of resources in the educational sector.

Jane McKenna has served one term as the MPP for Burlington.  She was a close to last minute choice for the nomination in 2011 and was surely the most surprised and delighted woman in the city when Keith Strong approached her to accept the PC nomination.

The question many have about McKenna is: What has she done for Burlington?  At a city council meeting recently ward 1 councillor Rick Craven asked why they had never once seen McKenna. “We’re paying her” was Craven’s comment “she should at least appear before us.”

Where the Liberals are weakest  is with the profligate spending during the McGuinty years.  There was nothing wrong conceptually with Ornge except that the government forgot they were supposed to keep an eye on what their agencies do.  Where was the oversight?  E-health was necessary but how did the government get hornswoggled into paying the salaries they paid?

At one point during the lead up the vote it looked as if the Liberals might have squeaked through with a slim two seat majority.  That would not have been because they are the best choice – they are all disappointments and the citizens of this province deserve better.

Leadership is supposed to be about hope, promise,  a better day and a better society – having “chicken little” shout at me saying the sky was going to fall in was not something I needed – thank you.

When Wynne said again and again that she was sorry  about the gas plant decisions during the leaders debate I didn’t feel that we were in good hands.

That the gas plants were going to be cancelled was a given – all three parties knew that  -it was the way the government sent good dollars after bad out the window as they settled with the contracting companies.  The public had a right to better stewardship over public funds

At the Nelson High event candidates were given four questions prepared for the candidates taking part in the Nelson High event – they were given the questions before the event which explained why all of the candidates were reading from documents in front of them

Was it a debate?  Not really but it was certainly a chance to see where each candidate and their party stood on an issue.

Other than door to door visits most of the public had not had a chance to see two of the candidates.  The evening at Nelson High was an opportunity to see how much Jane McKenna had grown as a member of the legislature – unfortunately she hasn’t grown in either stature or a sense as to just what being the member of the legislature for a community is all about.

McKenna did however make it very clear what the Progressive Conservatives would do and many in the room felt the shudder of the Harris days.  However, there were many that recalled all too well what Bob Rae did to the province when he was the NDP Premier.

McKenna, who is usually very quick with facts and numbers, got caught up on her some of the numbers she was putting out.

The politeness and courtesy between Liberal candidate McMahon and NDP candidate Mowbray was so distinct when compared to the brashness and hard words used by McKenna.  At one point Janet Mowbray had run out of time answering a question and McMahon turned to her and said – “use some of my time.  It was noted as well that every candidate for the Burlington seat was female.

For those that went to the event as hard core partisans – McKenna did fine.  For those who were reflective and thoughtful – they would have left the room wondering what kind of a society they want and if McMahon represented that society.  The difference between McMahon and McKenna was palpable.

A speaker brought to the audience’s attention that Mowbray was once a Liberal and did not live in the riding.  McMahon was quick to point out that while she lives in Burlington her residence is about six blocks outside the constituency boundaries.

The issue for the audience was those 100,000 pink slips Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak has said he is going to hand out.  McKenna is quick to add that much of that reduction in people on the payroll will come through attrition.

The campaign is over, people are now making their way to the polling stations and by the end of the day we will know what we have in the way of a provincial government for the next four years. 

If it turns out to be Kathleen Wynne – expect her to face two different people the next time out.  Hudak’s leadership will not survive another loss – and the New Democrats will begin looking for a leader who had s a plan and a vision.

Should Tim Hudak prevail and become Premier Ontario then we have to wait and see how far he goes with his plans to significantly change the way the government provides services and support to the taxpayers and how they grow the economy of the province.

Monday of next week A Different Drummer Books and Burlington Public Library will feature a guest with both knowledge and insight on just how parliamentary democracies work.

Michael MacMillan will talk about his book: Tragedy in the Commons that documents the views of former members of parliament who speak out on Canada’s Failing Democracy.   Monday  June 16  7pm at the Central Library.

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1 comment to The provincial election from a Burlington perspective.

  • Zaffi

    The women’s group is Canadian Federation of Iniversity Women (CFUW).

    Editor’s note: corrected – thank you