I was about to comment on the recent McGuinty throne speech, the flack he was taking for his cautious approach, and his frank warning that some Liberal promises will have to be delayed, or dropped entirely.
On a board that I frequent, there is a PC supporter whose appreciation of the previous administration and his dislike of the federal Liberals is less of an informed political choice and more of a matter of cheering and booing rival sports teams. To say that he was bitter about Eves defeat would be an understatement. I have to admit that I and a few other people weren't above baiting him in the days following the election. His familiar refrain was that, now that the Liberals are in charge, we'd better be as harsh on them as on the outgoing Conservatives, and blame them for every rainy day in the weather forecast. This was, of course, a gross overgeneralization of our criticism, and one of the reasons why we so enjoyed baiting him.
I haven't been to the board for a while, but I can only imagine that he must be serving up platefuls of crow, now, demanding that we eat it with a smile. But the fact is, the McGuinty Liberals were still governing in a far different, and far better manner than the Eves Conservatives before them. The discovery of the $5.6 Billion deficit (by an independent auditor) changes everything. The Liberals have hard fiscal questions to face and they're being frank and truthful about that -- unlike the Eves Conservatives who based their balanced budget prediction on $2 Billion worth of asset sales and who probably knew about the higher-than-expected deficit and lied about it.
That's the difference: the Liberals are being pragmatic in policy and honest with the Ontarian public. That's more than enough for me to cut McGuinty some slack.
I was going to post that, but then came the news that a housing development on the Oak Ridges Moraine, which McGuinty promised to cancel, is going ahead as planned. This is my first major disappointment with the McGuinty administration. They did try to negotiate to cancel the development but, in the end, the cost of buying out the developers or facing lawsuits for cancelling contracts forced the Liberals to accept a 5,700 unit subdivision in the headwaters of most of the major rivers of Toronto, just 300 units short of what the developers were demanding.
Most of what I said above still applies here. The deficit means that the Liberals can't handle the cost of cancelling the development, but it still rankles. Part of it may be because this issue is particularly important to me, but part of it is that there is a democratic implication here, over and above a fiscal one. Contracts signed by the outgoing administration trumped the democratic verdict of 12 million Ontarians. Some of the developers who benefited today probably favour such "people power" measures as political recall to bring down duly elected politicians they don't like, but should the democratic decision go against their contracts, watch out! It feels wrong that contract law trumps the democratic process so effectively.
But this is the reality of government. Politics, someone said, is the art of what is possible. McGuinty is quickly learning what is possible and what isn't, but he is still trying to do what he can to help Ontarians. His approach is sound, and far more honest than the Conservatives before him. We the people just have to understand what is possible, and lower our expectations accordingly.