McGuinty’s coup surprised everyone

By Patrick Hunter Wednesday October 24 2012 in Opinion
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The concept of the coup d’état was more popular during the mid-1900s. This is when the military would overthrow the elected government and assume power.

The McGuinty coup takes a different twist.

Premier Dalton McGuinty is taking himself out of the governing process, eventually, once a new leader of his party is elected. Until that happens, he is taking the opportunity to call all the shots, without the encumbrances of the Legislature.

To say that McGuinty’s resignation as premier and leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario was a shocker is an understatement. He not only caught the media, which often gets wind of these things no matter how secretive they may be, by surprise, by all appearances, he also caught his own caucus at Queen’s Park by surprise.

Events such as this in the political world do not go unstudied, taking into account nearly every conceivable scenario. That is why there is a business called “communications”.

Those of us who were around at the time, remember the famous Pierre Trudeau statement that he took a walk in the snow and came to his decision to quit. To do what he did, McGuinty must have done more to take the very calculated risk of not only quitting but proroguing the Legislature as well.

I suspect that many of us expected that McGuinty would not contest the next scheduled provincial election. What we did not expect was the prorogation. From his vantage point, he no doubt prorogued to protect his government. The danger of facing an election leaderless (or with a lame duck leader) would be, to say the least, awkward.

So, to save his party that potential embarrassment, in a nutshell, McGuinty, having failed to get a majority government, decided to take the reins of governing out of the purview of the Legislature – the accepted forum for debate and input of all Ontarians. In an action that can only be best described as arrogance, he declared that he knows what is best for the province at this time, and he can handle it better outside of this forum.

Some may say that his resignation was a sacrifice, anticipating the full backlash to which he and his party would be subject for the prorogation. Others see this as a man who has essentially turned his back on democracy for the convenience of politics.

What this also means, of course, is that the opposition parties have to take to holding news conferences in an effort to get their positions across. This essentially leaves the coverage of opposition to any government policies in the hands of the media.

The election of a new leader is now scheduled for late January, and the new leader will then determine when the Legislature will be recalled. The Liberal government will still be without a majority, and it will be safe to say that the tone and any feeling of cooperation in the Legislature will be at its lowest point.

In all likelihood, we will be facing a provincial election in the spring. If the electorate does not punish the Liberals severely then, I would be very surprised.

If McGuinty has designs on becoming the next leader of the federal Liberals, a possibility which definitely exist, and one of the reasons why he resigned (it would be unseemly for him to seek that leadership while still premier) he will be taking this baggage with him. While the membership of the federal Liberals may be prepared to accept him, the Canadian electorate may not, at least not easily.

Interesting times are ahead.

A word about Lincoln Alexander.

In most of the obituaries and tributes to the Honorable Lincoln Alexander, his chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation was largely ignored. It is where I had the opportunity to work more closely with Alexander, writing some of his speeches on behalf of that organization. Through that experience, I gained a great deal of respect, admiration and affection for the man.

Sure, for the most part, his and my approach to race relations and anti-racism were not always the same. But, the speeches I wrote for him he delivered almost verbatim, only adding personal anecdotes to illustrate a point. He was not afraid to be critical of the police, for example, when he spoke to them. This is significant given that he was honorary commissioner for the OPP and honorary chief to the police services in Toronto and Hamilton.

This was also particularly evident when the Toronto Star released its racial profiling study in 2002. At the “summit” he arranged on the issue, he told the assembled police and government officials:

“I’m not here to argue whether racial profiling exists. It does. What I want to know is what you are going to do about it.”

After the United Nations conference on racism held in South Africa in 2001, the Canadian government of the day, and others, were critical. Alexander, nevertheless, maintained that the conference was a success because, for the first time, it brought the world together to discuss racism.

The Durban Declaration, the agreed on outcome of the conference, was worth incorporating in governments’ action plans against racism.

Our politics and methods perhaps may not have been similar, but he opened doors. May he be welcomed with open arms by the ancestors.


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