Thursday, August 19, 2010

On-line grab in lieu of courageous leadership

First, it was licensing casinos (some of them on First Nations lands) as a means to generating income for the inhabitants as well as income for the province (of Ontario, and likely other provinces as well) because, well, the province was running out of cash to provide the services the people demanded.
And, then, more recently, given the evidence of billions of dollars being spent on lottery tickets, and at casinos, the province of Ontario has decided, in its "wisdom" to license on-line gambling, in another cash grab because, once again, the bank accounts are running nearly on empty.
Back in the 1980's, when I had the opportunity to report from city hall, and the city of North Bay needed to replace the infrastructure in its downtown core, it became well documented that the sewer and water pipes along the main commercial district had completely rotted away leaving only the earth "tubes" to facilitate the flow of both raw sewage and storm water, because....well, because the people who had been elected to city council for the past half century plus, did not wish to raise taxes because they knew that if they raised taxes, the voters would turn them out, even though those pipes desperately needed replacing.
Politicans for the last century, in Ontario towns, cities, and in the provincial legislature were almost exclusively men. And those men, appearing probably to themselves if to no one else, as wily and cunning in their own self-interest, were primarily interested in being re-elected. And they knew, without the benefit of focus groups and polling surveys, just from their conversations with the voters, that raising taxes more than a percentage point or two would find them being replaced at the next election.
And so, like the spineless provincial leaders of today, they resisted needed projects, prefering to tinker with the granting of rights of way, and the sale of city property and the developers proposals to "build" new developments, and "grow" the city and in the process generate new revenue, thereby reducing the budgetary need for new levies on their "people" all the while enhancing their chances of being re-elected.
Self-interest, without courage, demeans both the politicians and the voters. And we need men and women who are prepared to step into the breach, even when that breach does not include a formal declaration of war against an invading army, to tackle the highly unsexy construction, and reconstruction of water and sewer pipes, and pumping stations, and snow plows and sidewalk sanders in winter, and city crews for gardens and flowers and landscaping and garbage removal and recycling. Jean Chretien's primary legacy is his courageous decision to resist Canada's formally engaging in the Iraq war and a similar kind of courage is needed by all politicians, even when there is no apparent global conflict at stake.
And the voters, now highly charged and relentless in their contempt for all politicians of all colours and stripes and philosophies, need to wake up to their part in their own sabotage. And that means becoming familiar with the condition of the hard and the soft services in their municipalities, and the capacity of their elected officials to generate both the vision and the strategies to provide in the short, medium and long term for those services.
And in the case of the provincial legislature, if Dalton McGuinty thinks he had a problem with the eco-fee fiasco, that will look like a zit on an elephant, when compared with the eventual outrage, at the ballot box, when people come to realise how spineless it was for their leaders to take the route of robbing the very poor (those who purchase the lottery tickets and who will fill the OLG coffers with their on-line gasping for the golden bail-out) instead of stepping up to the plate and raising taxes and preventing the default position of watching the province slide slowly and inexorably into one giant casino, both in concrete and in virtual reality.
We need a healthy health care system, and a healthy school system and better roads and bridges and, yes, upgraded sewer and water lines, and more arenas, and more and better art galleries, and libraries. And the spectre of the demise of many of these hard and soft services in many U.S. towns and cities is looming on the southern horizon, where the war on big government and high taxes is a religion for the Teapartiers, and their more reasonable and more responsible political leaders know that raising taxes is only a part of the solution to the current fiscal crisis.
Perhaps, it will be, as is so many instances in the last couple of decades, that the women politicians will have to take the hands of their male colleagues and overturn the co-dependent relationship with voters, while they educate and enlighted both those voters and their spineless men in the realities of leadership in troubled times.
When a child is extremely ill, it is not enough to say, give it time, and he will recover, and all women, whether they are mothers or not, know this intimately. Men, on the other hand, will too often seek to defer the problem to another, so that we can look strong in our denial and avoidance of the depth of the problem...
wake up "guys" ....the world is passing us by and we are sleep-walking through the storm!

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