I don’t normally think of provincial politics, which is odd as two of my biggest issues, education and public transit, are provincial matters. I am a radical in that I would reduce provincial powers or completely eliminate provinces in order to grant more Federal unity and municipal opportunities. I feel this way because regional governments have destroyed more homogenous nations than Canada. Municipalities are lacking in resources and legislative freedom to explore all options for a vibrant future. Now may be a time to give them those resources and powers with an equal measure of increased accountability and transparency.
Kathleen Wynne has a Throne Speech to open the next session of the legislature, a chance to shape Ontario’s vision for the future, a chance to build our part of a potentially great nation. Granted lobbyists, opposition parties and even some Liberal back benchers will be trying to get there agendas into the speech. People who think their success is the success of everyone and ignore evidence to the contrary. Ontario needs a vision that accommodates the majority but not at minorities expense, a vision based on need not want.
I was inspired to write this post after an Twitter exchange about public transit. We may want cars but we need public transit not only for the climate change reason but for pure economic and demographic reasons. A large glut of the population is aging and will soon start losing their driving licences, are they to become a burden to their children and grandchildren? Or will there be a pan-provincial mass transit strategy for not only aging Boomers bur for their grandchildren who see driving as an interruption to their texting? Studies I’ve seen show no generation drives as frequently or as far per trip as the Baby Boomers yet the infrastructure focus in Ontario is still mainly for cars.
Today Bell is giving ¢5 for every Tweet for mental health awareness as I recently posted I am aware. This is where buses and mental health merge for me. I used to open McMaster Chapel for weddings on weekends. I would unlock the doors turn lights on and allow the penguin to marry the meringue in a beautiful oak interior. One Saturday I was summoned by the University chaplain to deal with a man who had walked in before a wedding. The man was looking for bus fare and being a dishevelled man I hesitated to offer help. He then went into a bit of panic as he needed to get to Henderson Hospital quickly because McMaster University Hospital closed its emergency psychiatric services on weekends. He had just been released from emergency but still needed help, he then proceeded to pull both sleeves up and show me stitches from just above the palm to above the elbow on both arms. I gave him my last bus ticket and rushed him to the bus stop as guests arrived. I never found out if he made it but I hope he did.
The above story is an example of two things we need in Ontario; 24/7 public transit and 24/7 access to emergency services such as psychiatric services. A crises doesn’t wait until business hours nor are phone services enough. Not everyone can use phones and access to phones is not universal at all times. I myself have problems with using phones that is bordering on a phobia. Multiple forms of communications are needed for those who require help. I used Twitter to reach out recently and it helped. So perhaps a provincial wi-fi network could be explored and resources for those at risk to tap into it when other options are unavailable.
When it comes to assisting local governments to fund their responsibility I have somes suggestions. Stop giving out gas tax revenue for infrastructure projects and replace it with 1% of the HST collected in a jurisdiction. Use the gas tax money Ontario receives for exclusive use for debt payments, deficit reduction and eventually for research into alternatives. This should be extended to First Nations communities in Ontario who collect HST/GST in their jurisdiction. Ontario should also share resource revenues with First Nations as dictated in treaties or we could be more generous than that.
The current funding system of tertiary education in Ontario is a barrier to evolvement for many. Having to have tuition moneys at the beginning of each semester, even for those who get loans or grants, adds to the stress of college or university. Exploring the British system of paying after graduation or five years after dropping out would improve enrolment of less fortunate and reduce the stress of those who actually study. Those on E.I. or Ontario Works should be able to get re-certified with less hassle, the current system does not seem to allow for people with needed skills to get certified. Trade guilds and professional colleges should be forced to open up access to more people and more accountable to public.
The transit discussion earlier reminded me of the anti trust case in the United States around mass transit. This was triggered by someone mentioning the London Transit Commission coming out advocating bus rapid transit (BRT) before all consultation was done or options explored. Taken with the recent allegations of price fixing in Toronto’s concrete market and former RCMP officers saying Ontario is more corrupt than Quebec I feel it is time to face this. To battle corruption Ontario should set up a dedicated anti-corruption unit of various police services, create whistle-blower protection, and launch a commission to get everything out in the open. Perhaps there isn’t as much corruption as some perceive but how are we to know until their is more accountability and transparency at all levels.
On the healthcare system I fail to understand how giving public money to share holders will give us better health care. We need to stop burning out our healthcare workers, create a national purchasing program for equipment and drugs and to innovate. Experimenting with a variety of options until each area finds the fit may be more expensive at first but worth it long term. We have to keep in mind the people are more important than bricks, MRIs and professional egos.
I suggest rolling the whips up and getting back to responsible government. Party discipline is great on confidence votes or preserving rights but is destructive when imposed over and over. The current system does not need radical replacement but the removal of the ‘with us or agin us’ extremism that has crept into all Canadian politics. I would also like the terms Ontarian and taxpayer removed from the lexicon. I am a Canadian citizen who doesn’t identify with which administrative district I reside in, nor am I merely a source of revenue for an increasingly alien government.