In 1998, I resigned as Ontario’s Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services following the introduction of the mother of a young offender during a Throne Speech. The opposition and some in the media accused me of indirectly revealing the name of a young offender and, therefore, claimed I had violated the provisions of the Young Offenders Act.
I’d had no involvement in the decision to introduce the mother, but given my respect for the doctrine of ministerial responsibility, I stepped down pending the results of an RCMP investigation called by the government.
Over the past nine years, the McGuinty Liberal government in Ontario has opted to ignore the parliamentary tradition of ministers taking responsibility for the decisions or actions that fall within their ministry — even when a minister is found in contempt of the legislature.
Of course, there are other reasons for a minister to resign and I would suggest that at the top of that list is the government instituting significant, wide-ranging policy that does extensive damage to his or her stakeholders without the minister being consulted or even made aware the policy is being announced.
That unfortunate scenario unfolded earlier this year when Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced the cancellation of the highly successful Slots at Racetracks program, an announcement that will result in the loss of at least 30,000 jobs in rural Ontario.
According to press reports, the Ontario cabinet, including the minister of agriculture, was apprised of the policy after the announcement.
The blind-siding of a minister with such a catastrophic impact on his stakeholders is undoubtedly the measure of the minister’s standing in the government. But more important is the reaction, or lack of same, by a minister who has been publicly humiliated by his own government.
The minister in question is Ted McMeekin, an MPP from the Hamilton area. McMeekin is a decent guy, but his abysmal failure to stand up for his stakeholders and his embarrassing acceptance of his diminution in the eyes of all is hard to watch.
The minister has not only betrayed the trust and confidence of his rural stakeholders, but has also exposed himself as an empty suit without, apparently, any sense of pride. He’s opted to keep his car, driver and extra salary over the best interests of the rural economy.
The resignation of Premier Dalton McGuinty has given McMeekin an opportunity to redeem himself and rediscover his backbone. He should call publicly for the cancellation of this damaging initiative and restore the trust and confidence of rural Ontarians.
McGuinty is now a lame-duck premier without the moral authority to implement the job-killing plan to pull slots from racetracks.
Just days after McGuinty shut down the legislature, Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne publicly expressed concern over her government’s decision to prorogue. That was an encouraging sign that, perhaps, ministers are feeling less constrained by the iron grip of caucus and cabinet solidarity.
Let’s hope that McMeekin will follow that lead and at long last stand up and speak out for rural Ontario, and at the same time restore a modicum of personal pride.
— Senator Runciman was an Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP for 30 years