Painting the Premier’s resignation for what it really is

Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) President Warren "Smokey" Thomas on the resignation of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Toronto (17 Oct. 2012) - On Monday night, Premier Dalton McGuinty took Ontario by surprise by announcing he was stepping down as Liberal party leader. While the timing of this announcement may have been unforeseen, we have to be honest and ask: Is anyone really surprised by this?

What took most people by surprise was that McGuinty also announced that he is proroguing the Legislature until a new party leader is chosen. And, to top it off, he will continue as Premier until that happens, which could be as late as next spring.

I’m going to skip any niceties here and leave all the flowery compliments on McGuinty’s dedication to public service to the political pundits. The bottom line is this Premier is ducking responsibility for his government’s failed political schemes.

McGuinty is STILL running this province, and will continue to do so without the checks and balances of the opposition parties at Queen’s Park.

By proroguing the Legislature, McGuinty gets to merrily continue running the government without accountability. He does not have to answer tough questions about the Ornge scandal. The contempt hearings against energy minister Chris Bentley will now go away. But more importantly, he gets to dodge taking responsibility for one of the biggest political conspiracies that has happened in Ontario in recent memory – the gas plant fiasco.

Here’s a government that spent nearly a billion dollars of taxpayers money for one reason, and one reason only: to get enough seats to form a majority government. And they failed. Using public money for political gain is one of the biggest taboos in government…and now McGuinty is trying to walk away from this unscathed.

His government then showed their true arrogance by demanding that working people pay money they scarcely have in the form of wage freezes and benefit cuts to pay for all this, disguising it as cutting down the deficit. But it wasn’t just a demand. They passed a law to strip the teachers of their rights to collectively bargain. And he was getting ready to do the exact same thing to half a million more public sector workers. This was not a democratic government...it was a dictatorship that would set back workers' rights nearly 50 years.

Where does this leave us? Proroguing the Legislature is an unnecessary, and, in my opinion, cowardly move. For the next four to six months, democracy at Queen’s Park is dead. The only thing the government can’t do during this time is pass any new legislation. That means the “Protecting Public Services Act” is history for now.

That means we can now move forward on bargaining contracts in the Ontario Public Service (OPS) and Broader Public Sector (BPS) without a guillotine hanging over our heads. We can put proposals forward that will protect public services and ensure that those who deliver them can do so effectively and efficiently. Let’s be clear…this won’t be an easy chore. It will take creativity at bargaining tables and strong support from the members to reach that goal.

So with all the drama playing out in Ontario politics aside, we will now focus on two things. One is preparing for what will certainly be a decisive Ontario election this coming spring. And two, which is more important to our members, continue to strengthen public services one collective agreement at a time. We will communicate, educate and mobilize. That is what OPSEU has always done. That’s what we owe our success to.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE