South Dundas - March 12, 2015 - Distraction has become the new norm in politics in
Ontario. Stir the pot with some wedge issue in one direction, so that
people don’t see other issues in that direction. While the pot stirs,
problems are swept away.
Take the new Sex Education Curriculum, and all of the churn stirring
in that particular pot. While social activists and parents face off
about the curriculum changes, no one much notices that it is budget
season in Ontario, that the province is still in a massive deficit.
No one is paying much attention to the whispers of a partial
privatization of Ontario Power Generation. Nor are people paying
attention to ongoing battles between the province and our doctors over
funding. Nor are they paying attention to the cuts across the board,
that are going to have to occur in order for Ontario not to become the
Greece of Canada, a financial basket case. Instead people are paying
attention to a social, wedge issue.
It’s happened before. During the 2014 Ontario election, Tim Hudak was
tarred and feathered over his 100,000 cuts plan, because the wedge
became how those cuts would occur. No one believed him that it would
be due to natural attrition or retirement. Instead the message, thanks
to Hudak’s opponents, became that he was going to cut jobs, slash and
burn. As a consequence, and lots of advertising funded by the
third-party union groups, the Ontario Liberals won a majority.
The previous Premier of Ontario, the much-loved Dalton McGuinty,
practiced this same tactic. Eco-Fees on everything under the sun,
which were quickly jumped on by the public and the pundits, and
removed by the government, occurred the same time that the scandals at
Ornge (buy a vowel) Air Ambulance and E-Health started to become
public. These issues still percolate on, but does not stick to either
the former Premier or the current one.
Distraction is the Teflon coating for politicians. There is a clear
track record of success. The 15-second sound byte media is as much to
blame for the success of this as the politicians who preach its use.
Circle the wagons. Bar the doors, glaze the windows, throw up the
partitions. A siege mentality is starting to take hold in South
Dundas. As reported in The Morrisburg Leader this week, the South
Dundas Municipal Centre, nicknamed the Taj Mahal, is quickly becoming
The reception area is being moved over safety concerns of its
isolation from the rest of the staff. A security door is being added
to bar access to the public to the rest of the administration areas on
the second floor. Poor design decisions from building the municipal
keep creeping up. However those bad decisions, and the actions of a
few people in the community, should not mean the complete lock down of
township employees from the public. This is a small township, and a
friendly township. The more you start barring the doors and circling
the wagons, the more you lose that feeling.
The changes to the Council Chambers concerns this writer as someone
who works in the press. The press is to be roped off, along with the
public gallery, from the council table. Press has been asked not to
take pictures during delegation presentations to council. The reason
is that it is “too distracting”.
What’s next, the requirement of administration permission to take
pictures at all? To use a recording device at all? South Stormont
tried this route and it was quickly shot down. Any good photographer
can take photos inside without using a flash. Any good photographer
can use a zoom lens so they don’t take a photo two feet from someone’s
face when their talking. But restricting press access, to a public
meeting, goes against Section 2b of the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms. I would not be surprised if there was a charter challenge
launched about this.
What is most concerning to this writer of this term of council is that
some of those elected pledged openness and transparency. They claimed
that some on the last term of council were not open or transparent.
Since taking office, we have seen this siege mentality take hold, the
appearance of less transparency, less openness and more restrictions.
Several in the community have remarked to this writer that they
expected better from this council. Hopefully this council will see the
error in their ways and make a 180-degree correction, if not, this
term of council may go down in the books as one of the most futile in
South Dundas history.