If there's a single hope in rural Ontario in the face of Liberal minority rule, it is that the government will come to understand the price it paid for not listening to rural concerns. If not, there's always the possibility the minority government will fall sooner rather than later and rural Ontarians can try again.
Almost since the day the Dalton Gang took power at Queen’s Park in 2003, rural Ontario has felt ignored.
In the fall of ’04, the government made clear it had little understanding of rural issues and zero interest in learning about them.
Those were the days of the mad cow crisis – which looked to rural residents as if it might wipe the beef industry off Ontario’s map.
Premier Dalton McGuinty used a major visit to that year’s International Plowing Match to talk about education.
Overall, the Gang hasn’t much understood anything north of Highway 7 since that day.
Further north, this was even a bigger problem. The lack of rural knowledge was added to zero understanding of northern Ontario. Over the years, this ignorance about rural life has only gotten worse. Shoving wind factories (others call them wind farms) down the throats of rural residents at the expense of peaceful communities was a main reason that voters turned parts of southern Ontario blue last week.
In the north, this government has done little to nothing about the issues of resources, high electricity rates, dying industries and joblessness, among others. Premier Dad’s refusal to attend a leadership debate in the north added to the outstanding bill that northern residents stamped overdue in the ballot box.
Although the vote of 2011 was a tame affair, it might go down in history as the one where the rural residents of the province finally said, “no more.”
Among the rural ridings that shucked off their red cloaks was Huron-Bruce, held until last week by Carol Mitchell, minister of agriculture.
With the exception of a solid performance recently on the issue of financial stability for farmers, Mitchell’s turn holding the plow handles was marked by declining support for farms and industries, such as small abattoirs that are unique to rural Ontario. She also had a reputation for bringing the government’s message to the people, rather than representing the people’s views at Queen’s Park.
Thus she was little help to residents concerned about the huge wind turbine developments in her riding and regularly defended the Green Energy Act.
Mitchell lost her seat to Conservative Lisa Thompson by some 4,000 votes.
Liberal environment minister John Wilkinson met a similar fate in the riding of Perth- Wellington. As minister of revenue, Wilkinson carried the can for the HST, but it was the wind power disaster that brought him down.
He was defeated by PC challenger Randy Pettapiece by a small margin.
Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky lost her Prince Edward-Hastings riding to Conservative Todd Smith, a radio broadcaster. Wind turbines also have caused major controversy in that area.
In another riding wracked by wind turbine debate, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, the Liberals thought they had a chance since long-time PC Bill Murdoch decided to retire.
A highly qualified candidate, Kevin Eccles, mayor of West Grey and former Grey County warden, was to be the game changer for the riding.
Alas, it wasn’t to be, again because of wind turbines, jail closures and other issues unique to rural Ontario. Eccles fell about 9,000 votes short of Conservative Bill Walker.
If there’s a single hope in rural Ontario in the face of Liberal minority rule, it is that the government will come to understand the price it paid for not listening to rural concerns.
If not, there’s always the possibility the minority government will fall sooner rather than later and rural Ontarians can try again.
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