stance on Caledonia crisis is 'hypocritical'
Aug. 31, 2006
Dalton McGuinty's decision to refrain from direct involvement
in the Caledonia standoff offers a glaring opportunity
to challenge his leadership. The Ontario Provincial Police
have refused to remove occupiers from the disputed land,
and many voters in Caledonia want McGuinty to demand
that the police enforce the law.
rightly fears that his direct involvement could result
in Liberals being blamed for an Ipperwash-like tragedy,
and he has responded by asserting that he has no constitutional
authority to require the police to take action.
legal experts researching that issue for the Ipperwash
Inquiry have explained that there exist good legal arguments
that a premier can direct police to enforce the law.
those arguments, one could justifiably assert that McGuinty's
excuse for inaction is flimsy and that his leadership
this rare opportunity to so clearly distinguish one's
leadership qualities from those of the premier, one might
expect John Tory to demand that McGuinty direct police
to remove occupants at Caledonia.
Tory has submitted that negotiations must stop until
the rule of law is restored at Caledonia, and he has
condemned McGuinty for not getting involved directly.
Yet Tory has also stated: "(I)t's not the decision
of the government as to when the police move in to enforce
a court order ... it is not my job, or Mr. McGuinty's
for that matter, to order the police to do anything."
Tory's supposedly "hard line" that negotiations
should cease until the rule of law is restored is, in
truth, hypocritical bafflegab: He proposes that McGuinty
restore the rule of law by sitting down with First Nations
leaders and working out a way in which to restore the
rule of law. Now, I'm just a lawyer, but I would call
that a form of negotiation. So why won't Tory "order
the police to do anything?"
decades prior to 1993, the PCs billed themselves as a
management party. However, feeling threatened when the
emergence of the Reform party contributed to the electoral
wipeout of the federal PC party, the Ontario Conservatives
defensively dropped its traditional role as manager.
Under Mike Harris, it adopted a Reform-like, activist
agenda of tax cuts, spending cuts and balanced budgets.
It became a party of change.
transformation helped the party to win a majority in
Ontario's 1995 election. However, proponents of the big-
government status quo — both within and outside
of the PC party — have had some success in establishing
an emotional connection between Harris's agenda for change,
and the 1995 killing of Dudley George at Ipperwash Provincial
Harris resigned in 2002, the old guard of the Progressive
Conservative membership decided that, with Reform now
out of the picture, the party should stop being a party
of change and return to being what it had been prior
to 1993: a party that manages the status quo.
convince the public that the party has gone back to being
a management party, the PCs have elected party leaders
who have implicitly or explicitly distanced the party
from both Harris and his Common Sense Revolution.
the party figures that if it can't beat the Harris bashers,
it should apologize and seek forgiveness from the public
by joining Harris bashers in their condemnation of the
former premier and his revolution.
cannot say that the premier should direct police to enforce
the law. Doing so would suggest that, if Harris did direct
the police at Ipperwash, he was right to do so.
only option is to concur with McGuinty that a premier
cannot direct the police to take action. Doing so serves
as an excuse for Tory's failure to advocate police intervention.
However, more importantly, as an implicit condemnation
of Harris's alleged intervention at Ipperwash, Tory's
concurrence with McGuinty serves the party's sacrificial
strategy to obtain forgiveness.
it matter that the PCs' strategy hampers Tory's efforts
to look like a better leader? To the PCs yes, but to
the voter who wants change, no.
parties do not propose significant changes to large government
programs; they propose only to "repair" and
to "manage" them better. Accordingly, the only
way for the PCs now to distinguish themselves from the
Liberals is by demonstrating that Tory's "leadership" is
somehow better than McGuinty's. That effort will fail
so long as the party's strategy requires Tory to tow
McGuinty's line in response to crises like that at Caledonia.
informed voters who want change, Tory's alleged leadership
is largely irrelevant. It will neither fill their bellies
nor restore order. Such voters will prefer a party that
offers changed government policy to a party that offers
doubtfully better management of the status quo.
McKeever is the leader of the
Freedom Party of Ontario.