Recently I found myself in a local diner for lunch. I try hard to make sure that I avoid fast-food venues. Experience has shown me that while being a patron of such places from time to time is perfectly fine, when you travel as extensively as I do, such behaviour catches up to you quickly. Your overall health deteriorates and you end up having to…shall we say… expand your wardrobe. Not only do places that offer home-cooked style meals generally offer healthy alternatives, but they often provide me with wonderful opportunities to interact with locals and hear what is on their mind.
Last week I was having lunch in a local diner where nearby I saw two young teens at the next table with their dad looking at a book with various examples of what are referred to as ambiguous images or reversible figures. You know the kind of picture in which you can see a black urn in the middle of the page, but if you focus on the white figures on each side you see two people facing each other and the urn becomes a negative background.
I overheard the girls as they showed their dad the pictures as they tried to get him to see both images. One of the young ladies also showed me what they were looking at to see if I could get it. She explained to their dad and I that at first she had some difficulty seeing more than one image in some of the pictures because she just couldn’t seem to wrap her head around both images. But she wisely went on to explain that the more she practised trying to see things from different perspectives the better she got at it.
Talk about coming out of the mouth of babes….
After my, albeit short, encounter with these pleasant girls, it occurred to me how important it is for all of us to practice seeing things from different perspectives. And this is especially true for politicians. To be perfectly honest, I believe wholeheartedly that MPP’s of every stripe actually want to make life better for everyone.
But, as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions sometimes. As such, it is essential that before plans and decisions are made, politicians do more than just go through the motions of consulting with the main players and those whom the decisions and policies will affect. Just as the young girls above learned, the only way for one to broaden their perspectives is to practice and exercise doing so. However, this only comes with cognizant effort.
Here is one of the shortcomings that Doug Ford and his government has. Not only do they lack the ability to see things from various perspectives, it seems that they also lack the will to exercise this ability through meaningful consultation.
Doug Ford falls into the same calibre of the use of superlatives when bragging about his government’s efforts as a certain federal leader south of the boarder. Doubtless you will recall that Ford promised his government would conduct the greatest most in-depth consultation on the issue of sex education in the history of Ontario. Then in early May, NDP Education critic Marit Stiles noted that although the Conservatives spent almost a $1 million on the consolation project, all they did was turn around and totally ignore the concerns of educators, parents and students who said ‘no’ to Doug Ford’s harmful classroom cuts. During Question Period, Stiles asked, “How many people consulted asked for fewer teachers and larger class sizes?” which is what the government ended up putting into place.
Take for example the Ford Government’s commitment to consult with the People of Ontario in regard to the sweeping changes to our healthcare system. Ford announced that his government would be making significant changes to the entire structure of our healthcare system. As well they promised the People of Ontario that they would conduct extensive consultations before any decisions were made. They maintained their commitment to consultation despite the fact that documents were leaked out showing Conservative plans to throw the door wide open to privatizing our healthcare.
But what was the end result of the public consultation on healthcare? The Conservatives held just two days of hearings and limited participation to 30 people. Now we’re learning that they may not even bother to read the thousands of written submissions from people and organizations that were denied the chance to speak. Out of 1,594 applications from groups and individuals who asked for an opportunity to contribute, only 30 were given an opportunity. And to top all of this off, it seems the government didn’t even pretend to read the thousands of written submissions from people and organizations who were denied any other opportunity to contribute.
In addition to the above consultation failures, here are a few more that come to mind:
Failure to consult with First Nations on changes to Far North Act and the Ring of Fire
Failure to consult on Bill 66, the omnibus bill designed to dismantle laws and regulations that were put in place to protect children, consumers, workers, and the environment
Failure to consult with the appropriate ministries or even undertake any studies before deciding to cancel the Université de l'Ontario français (UOF) and scrapping the French Language Services Commissioner
Failure to consult before making decisions to make unilateral decisions on changes to social assistance.
And the list goes on.
Ask some people what politicians do and you’ll hear answers such as they stand up in government halls and at special gatherings and make speeches. Well, that is partly true, of course. But an even more important skill for a politician is to sit, listen and broaden his or her perspective on issues so that he or she can make more informed decisions and policies that reflect broader meaningful perspectives.
I must introduce Mr. Ford to my new young friends.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député