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July 22, 2010

McGuinty - why he should be voted out

The Canadian Charger

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1. The tip of the iceberg in a long list of blunders is the McGuinty government's secret passage of a law invoking the 1939 Public Works Protection Act, which seemed to give police the power to detain and arrest anyone within five meters of the nearly 10 kilometers of security zone fence during the G20.

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Martin is investigating the government's passage of this law.

2. More of the same: Ontario Premier McGuinty was being criticized for not mentioning human rights issues during his six-day visit to Israel (May 22 -27) entitled “Ontario Life Sciences Mission” in Israel. In a written report, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) states:

“Although trade opportunities are an important vehicle by which to address issues of human rights and respect for international law, McGuinty's 40-person trade delegation, including other Liberal MPPs and representatives of some 35 businesses and universities was solely focused on to drumming up new opportunities for investment and trade between Ontario and Israel. In 2008, two-way trade in goods between the two entities totaled almost $1.1 billion, an increase of 86 per cent from 2004.”

The CJPME report characterized this trip as a missed opportunity to engage Israeli officials about Canadians' concerns about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The report states:

“The press releases from the Premier's office make no mention of the paralyzing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, stemming from Israel's military occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 and the subsequent Israeli military stranglehold on 3.5 million Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.”

According to a May 25 Ottawa Citizen article, Mr. McGuinty met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for an hour earlier that day, but did not attempt to raise either the occupation or Israel's ongoing expansion of its illegal colonies in Palestinian territory with Netanyahu.

Mr. McGuinty did, however, make an attempt to justify his silence on these issues.

“The foreign policy there can be complicated and I don't intend to weigh in on that. But we do feel the responsibility to visit the West Bank,” Mr. McGuinty said.

This is the sort of response to a pressing world issue one would expect from a high school student, not the Premier of Canada's largest province.

However, ignoring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be part of Ontario government policy.

Aware that discussion of illegal occupation, and suppression of basic human rights, along with the bombing of civilians in Lebanon and Gaza, is damaging to Israeli's position in the conflict, Zionist organizations in North America have been stepping up pressure on schools and universities to monitor and curtail all teaching and organizing about Israel-Palestine.

3. In response, a group of Toronto-based teachers, professors and university students put together a day-and-a-half long conference entitled “Freedom to Teach, Freedom of Speech: Israel-Palestine,” in the fall of 2009.

Jason Kunin, a Toronto High School teacher and writer said the conference was born out of two events that happened earlier in 2009: “the Israeli bombing of Gaza, and the intensified repression by school board and university officials of all discussion, fundraising, and organizing around Gaza and Palestine in the months that followed. This is repression that has been directed from the highest levels.”

4. The recently invoked HST tax, which puts an additional eight per cent tax on many consumer items, such as gasoline and home heating costs, is another bone of contention with Ontarians.

Many see this as a tax on the poor who must pay a significantly larger percentage of their income for these taxes than the wealthy. Moreover, many taxpayers resent the fact that these additional taxes are necessary to help pay down massive government debt, resulting from government fiscal mismanagement.

5. Meanwhile, the government continues to cut services wherever it feels it can get away with it.

The miserly amount the McGuinty government pays to welfare and disability recipients is actually less, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was back in 1996, when the Mike Harris government cut welfare benefits by 21.6%.

Surprisingly, many Ontarians still don't realize that these cuts to essential services actually cost the taxpayer’s money, when one factors in additional healthcare, court and incarceration costs that these cuts incur.

An Ontario Works' (welfare) recipient is entitled to a maximum of $572 a month, which doesn't even cover the bare necessities of life. If only a small percentage of these people resort to crime and end up incarcerated, at a cost of close to $100,000 per year, the taxpayer is losing money, in a big way.

6. The McGuinty government's policies may be increasing the number of people on welfare, considering its policy of bailing out automakers, while refusing to bail out workers' pension funds.

In late June, Mr. McGuinty said the province's $100 million pension-plan safety net won't be sufficient to cover autoworkers' pensions. And Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan explained that the province's safety net - which is funded by corporations – has been underfunded for 30 years.

7. Education is another area where the McGuinty government has let Ontarians down. Only a  few months ago, the government faced a backlash from Christian and Muslim communities alike when it brought in its new sex education policy, which included teaching sex to elementary school children, beginning in grade 3.

Suad Aimad, president of Somali Parents for Education said there's a big reaction in the Muslim community.

“We believe basically that sex education may be taught by the parents to their children. It's not public; it's a private matter and that's why I don't think (sex) should be part of education, especially as such a young age.”

8. Funding for education became an issue this spring when the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) contested a decision by the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo to apply storm water taxes and fees to school properties. In a July 12 article in the Kitchener Record, WRDSB chair Mike Ramsay explained the negative effect this could have on education.

“Based on the ambiguity in the Municipal Act, the Waterloo Region District School Board could be facing a bill from both cities totaling approximately $245,000 for the first year. Imagine the impact on delivery of education if the other five municipalities that make up Waterloo Region decide to do the same,” Mr. Ramsay said.

It likely that if education funds are depleted, classroom sizes – which critics think are too large now – will swell further and even fewer new teachers will be hired to fill the gap.

9. While controversy continues to swirl around the decision-making process for the G20, Mr. McGuinty should be asked why he agreed to let the Federal government hold the G20 in downtown Toronto, especially when Toronto Mayor David Miller suggested holding it at the CNE grounds, where the potential for damage would have been significantly reduced and lawbreakers would have been much easier to police, in the wide-open setting of the CNE.

10. And let's not forget the eHealth Ontario debacle. EHealth Ontario was created by the Ontario’s Liberals in September 2008 with the merger of Smart Systems for Health Agency (SSHA) and the e-health program at the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. SSHA started operating in 2003.

SSHA, armed with a mandate to create an electronic healthcare system for Ontario in 2002,  reportedly spent $647 million and accomplished nothing before it was disbanded in 2008, in the wake of a damning operational review by Deloitte and Touche LLP.

The total spending for SSHA and eHealth Ontario had escalated to $839 million by the fall of 2009, around the time that eHealth Ontario had published a strategy that outlines its $2.133 billion plan over the next few years. Yet despite nearly a billion dollars spent over seven years, eHealth had made no significant progress in digitalizing Ontario's health records – something that is done routinely, and at a fraction of the cost, all over the world.

Is this the kind of leadership Ontarians should expect or be satisfied with, out of their premier?

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