The direction, and even the complexion of Ontario could change this fall.Whether the changes are for the better or worse is up to Ontario electors who live in the ridings of Vaughan and Kitchener-Waterloo.
Byelections are to be held in those two urban ridings Sept. 6, exactly 11 months after last year’s provincial election.
Nothing short of a majority government for the Dalton Gang is at stake, making these among the most important votes in the province’s history.
Last year rural residents throughout Ontario voted overwhelmingly against the Grit government and its policies. Urban areas leaned Liberal far enough to give McGuinty a minority hold on power.
There is widespread fear in the heartland that the anger and dismay that pervades rural Ontario will be ignored by city voters this year, just as it was last October.
Certainly, no matter where you live in Ontario, you have to know that we’ll soon have to start importing red ink by the mule trainload so we have enough to print our financial statements.
The latest news on that front is that Ontario carries almost double the per-capita debt of California.
You might remember that California, with its endless financial crises, is a bit of a laughing stock of U.S. states.
Try laughing at this. In Ontario each resident faces government debt of nearly $20,000, while Californians are dealing with a mere $10,360 per capita debt by comparison.
Is there a chance that urban ridings will pay any more attention to this staggering number than they did last October?
Also, the issues that have rural folks up in arms don’t seem to appear on urban radar screens.
The trampling of individual rights in selecting sites for wind factories is among the most critical of these.
Also threats to the horse racing industry by moving slots out of racetracks and putting 30,000-plus rural jobs at risk don’t seem to resonate.
Were those automotive or hi-tech jobs in an Ontario city, you can rest assured they would play a much larger role in the September vote.
The urban-based Liberal party dismisses concerns about wind factories as nothing but NIMBYism. However, if Grit officials would bother to listen they’d learn that the heart of the matter is the way in which the government trampled basic rights by taking away local decision-making on locating turbines.
Coincidentally the federal Liberals lost rural Canada in a similar way over the long gun registry but they too refused to listen.
The debate about whether to register or not to register wasn’t so much at the centre of the issue as the message that the government didn’t trust rural people. Those Liberals never recovered in rural Canada and there’s little likelihood of a recovery on the provincial level either.
When politics is discussed in the boonies — and it’s a topic second only to the weather in popularity — it’s with a sadness and resignation I’ve never seen in my 45 years of covering politics across Canada.
People just can’t understand how McGuinty can ignore them, take vindictive actions against them when they don’t vote the right way and make them feel like second-class citizens.
It’s no consolation that these folks are heading for second-class status in a third world economy.
Their only hope is that the folks of Vaughan and Kitchener-Waterloo will give McGuinty’s chain the jerk it sorely needs and ensure his government’s minority status continues.