Defending (Oh, God) McGuinty

I am not comfortable defending Ontario’s premier, Dalton McGuinty. Ask me what I think of him, and I’d say he’s an okay guy. Ask me about his leadership, and I wouldn’t give it high marks. What has McGuinty done in almost 18 months in office? Well, he’s diverted a cent of the provincial gas tax to the cities. He’s giving the City of Toronto its own act so it can finally allow the bars to close later without asking for provincial permission. He’s reinvested some money into education and health care, and he’s bit more into our wallets.


He’s had none of the accomplishments of Bill Davis, he’s shown little of the intelligence of Bob Rae and he certainly doesn’t have the fire of Mike Harris. He’s an okay guy. His leadership has disappointed me, twice and any support I can muster for him is, at best, tepid. But he is not, under any circumstances, the anti-Christ that Conservative and NDP supporters paint him to be.

In a field of poor leadership, which includes Paul Martin, Ralph Klein, Stephen Harper, Gordon Campbell and George W. Bush, McGuinty doesn’t even distinguish himself by being spectacularly bad. But don’t tell this to some people.

Hat tip to Bound by Gravity, who quotes Gods of the Copybook Headings.

The Worse [sic] Government in Canada

Since coming to power in October, 2003, the government of Premier Dalton McGuinty has emerged as blundering, mean-spirited, ham-fisted, pandering, petty, vindictive, demagogic and unprincipled. Categorical promises that were at the populist core of the Liberal election campaign — we will not raise your taxes — have been broken. Outrageous election promises — including establishing a permanent and massive greenbelt around Toronto — have been kept, destroying property rights with what one lawyer called an “iron fist in a green glove.”

Now, to be fair, Gods of the Copybook Headings is quoting Terence Corcoran, whose ability to argue with facts is not his strong suit. But so much has been made over McGuinty’s health care premiums and its conflict over McGuinty’s signing of the tax cut pledge that it’s getting annoying. The epithet of “fiberal” is lame and not constructive.

Yes, McGuinty brings a lot of criticism onto himself by trying to duck responsibility for raising taxes by claiming the extra $25 I have to pay per paycheque is a premium, and not a tax increase. (Yeah, whatever!) And when I try to say that McGuinty, and any other candidate in his position, would have little choice given the $5.6 billion deficit the Eves administration left behind, I’m chastized (with fair and good reasons) for coddling a liar. McGuinty promised not to raise taxes. He raised taxes. He’s a lying politician, unlike Mike Harris, who kept all his promises.

Like Mike Harris’ promise not to close hospital beds (broken). Like Mike Harris’ promise to reduce government (by creating bigger governments through amalgamation). Like Mike Harris’ promise to restore people’s faith in their education system (by creating a crisis that didn’t exist in the first place). Like Mike Harris’ promise that amalgamating Toronto would realize savings that could be passed along to taxpayers (he was warned at the time that this was a myth). Yes, Mike Harris served Ontarians honestly, by selling off Highway 407 and using the one-time revenues to claim that he had killed off the deficit and permanently balanced Ontario’s budget.

Maybe it’s a failing, but I don’t vote for politicians on the basis of their specific promises. Politicians can’t predict the future, and I do not vote for them to do so. Maybe they shouldn’t be so foolish as to make promises they’re unsure they can keep, but since every politician (even conservative ones) does this, I tend to vote for politicians on the basis of their approach. Eves would have tried to lower the deficit by putting the screws to the poor. Hampton would have tried to lower the deficit by putting the screws to rich. McGuinty offered a middle-way approach, that raised taxes higher than they ideally should be raised, and reinvested in services less than they should be invested in, but which stood the best chance of fixing the mess Ontario finds itself in while spreading the pain as thin as possible.

Perhaps if we all ignored specific promises, refused to respond to them or report on them, and instead asked leaders to tell us their approach to governance, we’d get better governance. Failing to acknowledge the complex issues that got us into the situation where a politician has to do something different than what he said he’d do is a simplistic approach to politics.

The fact is, McGuinty warned Ontarians that a deficit was coming, and he warned us that we were not going to be able to receive everything we’d like in the first year of his mandate. That’s responsible leadership. Yes, that’s undercut by the fact that he claimed the deficit was only $3 billion when people were warning that it was $5 billion, but let us not forget that Ernie Eves claimed that Ontario had no deficit whatsoever. Who is more dishonest here? Who would have had to break more promises in order to manage the mess that Eves left behind?

And then there is this gem in Cocoran’s quote:

Categorical promises that were at the populist core of the Liberal election campaign — we will not raise your taxes — have been broken. Outrageous election promises — including establishing a permanent and massive greenbelt around Toronto — have been kept,

Let me get this straight: you would have liked McGuinty more if he had broken different promises? You would be okay with the fact that he lied to the electorate, if only he did so in a different way?

Forget about it.

This shows the whole “fiberal” epithet as the schoolyard taunt that it is. If you were okay with the Liberals lying and breaking a promise you didn’t like, you do not get to criticize the Liberals because they “lied” and broke a promise you did like.

That’s not to say that the whole of your argument goes out the window. One can easily say that McGuinty shouldn’t be raising taxes. It stands up well against counter-arguments about the need to reinvest in services short-changed by eight years of Harris underfunding. It takes some debating, but it’s an honest approach. Claiming that the McGuinty Liberals are dishonest when you yourself would have been happy about their dishonesty in other areas makes your argument an intellectual crutch undercut by your own dishonesty.

World’s Best Throat Drops

I’m only just back up from a nasty cold. Long incubation period, takes you down for four days, and stays with your chest and sinuses for six days after that. I’m still coughing. Worse yet, Erin is going under. Greg seems also to have succumbed.

So, here’s a bit of advice you will like. As this cold really rips out your throat, don’t just take throat drops, eat chocolate.

I’ve heard that an active ingredient in chocolate is five times more effective than the active ingredient in throat drops. The darker the chocolate the better, but we’ve found the Lindt 70% cocoa wafers to be very effective in soothing our sore throats.

Try it. You’ll be glad you did.

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