Dalton McGuinty has been oh, so quiet lately. It’s as though he knows these are his last months in power.
Even last week, after the premier let slip he doesn’t plan to serve another full term, it wasn’t him who emerged to spin and recant. His underlings did that.
Over the years McGuinty has grown adept at limiting contact with the unwashed. Like Mike Harris before him he understands that as you age in power, less is more.
It’s easy enough now, eight years in, to jump on the “dump Dalton” bandwagon because, well, he’s an incumbent, carrying the baggage of two terms. Even politicians who haven’t presided over multiple scandals and raised taxes and boosted energy prices and broken numerous promises have a tough time after eight years. Right?
But even by these standards, McGuinty is in a league of his own, I would argue – because of the contrast between what he represented when he took office, and what he represents now.
Conservative partisans like to talk about the Mike Harris era as though it was a golden age of no-nonsense populism. That’s wrong. Harris had some good ideas but he was mean, high-handed and divisive. The forced amalgamations, the pitched battles with unions and teachers, left a bitter taste.
That’s why, when McGuinty came along in 2003 promising a different way, Ontarians paid attention. Where Harris Conservatism was hard, McGuinty would be soft. Where Harris Conservatism was unyielding, McGuinty would compromise. Ontarians bought it and gave him a majority. And then another.
For months now, turning into years, Ontarians from one corner of the province to another have raised concerns about wind turbines and the Green Energy Act. I live in Grey County, on the shores of Georgian Bay, where a large wind farm is planned.
For weeks our local newspaper has run letters, guest columns, personal accounts, from people concerned about all aspects of the development – health, property values, the turbines’ inefficiency as a mass power source, defacement of the rural landscape, the impact on wildlife. The list is long.
The local medical officer of health wants a moratorium on wind farms pending further study of the effects on health. The area MPP has called for a pause. So has the MP. Ditto the municipality of Meaford, in which the proposed development, Silcote Corners, is located.
To all this Queen’s Park has responded with deafening, crushing silence. It’s as though they think if they pretend not to have heard, no one can blame them for not listening.
Based on the calls and letters I’ve received, many of those involved in the fight against industrial wind are liberals by inclination. Most are retired professionals. Not many are pleased at the prospect of Tim Hudak, the Conservative leader, taking power.
Hudak remains an unknown. And his own position on the Green Energy Act is weak. He says only that planning power should be returned to municipalities. This does little to address the fundamental problems with industrial wind energy.
But here’s a bet: Come October, voters in rural and small-town Ontario will turn out in droves to vote for Hudak, warts and all. They’ll put his signs on their lawns. They’ll knock on doors for him. NDP Andrea Horvath will get a nice boost also. For the Liberals, it’s decimation time.
That is the future gentle Dalton has wrought, in his soundproof cocoon. So he’s quiet, these days, enjoying the moment. Small wonder.
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