Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan
Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan
Boy, do I understand less of the world as I age! Is this a sign of problems approaching? Maybe “the world” is too broad – I’ve always been puzzled by the world’s contortions and acrobatics. I mean, specifically, that the acts of our political leaders appear to be growing less comprehensible, year after year.
Take for example, the Quebec Liberals’ embrace of neo-conservative austerity. Where does this come from, so suddenly? Not long ago, Quebec was instructing us to use local health-care more and depend less on nearby Ontario’s more expensive services. Now we’re told, in effect, that Ontario’s health system is there to protect us from the shortfalls of our own; that’s the message we’ve been getting beneath the announcements of cuts, amalgamations, and firings within our Pontiac health network. Pontiac’s was once the envy of the province, from its GMF
to cooperation with its CLSCs – maybe the only thing the province envied. Now, well, providing health services to the entire population is too expensive. End of story. Bombardier and corporate friends deserve our tax dollars more than our
hospitals and med schools.
While I can’t recommend this line of un-reason from who-we-thought-were-Liberals, we must at least give our government an opportunity to explain it’s priorities and ambitions. Take education, if health is too complicated. When the Couillard Liberals say they are ending popular elections of school commissioners to save money, we should at least listen.
Their argument comes down to this: school board elections cost millions,
yet few people bother to participate and vote. When they do vote, they largely just return the existing commissioners to their seats . . . so what do we lose if we end school board elections? Couldn’t those millions be better used elsewhere – special-needs kids, for example, or reducing class sizes, or anything to raise our province’s dismal student success rate? Well, right, except that those efforts are also being cut, too. To save money.
However, this same government is also promoting elections – for the wardens of the MRCs. Presently, MRC councils are made up of the mayors of every municipality within each MRC, and those mayors elect from among themselves (veteran municipal politicians) their warden. Simple. One meeting.
OK. No school board elections, including for the minority-language regions, such as our own, which have a constitutional right to elect their own leaders and representatives. The Western Quebec School Board has taken a strong position on this point. But why should there be general elections of MRC wardens?
Why one and not the other? Why MRC elections at all? To be more democratic? Are school boards not part of our democracy? And if fewer than 20% of eligible voters “bother to vote” for school management, will the turnout rate be any higher for an office in the MRC? Why would it be higher?
Fewer people (I’m betting) even understand the purpose and powers of our MRC system. But they’ll vote? Hello, Quebec City! Anyone awake?
If this inexplicable measure is to go ahead, the National Assembly has
to explain what MRCs are here to do – their powers, mandate and responsibilities. Right now ordinary citizens see the MRCs as the source of more taxes, fees, rules and regulations; MRCs also act as a conduit (and cop) for the central government’s less attractive policies.
Please tell us what you are doing, Mr Premier, but from the start. Explain the MRCs via a broad information campaign. Who are all those people from
outside our region working there? Explain things. And then ask if we even wish
to have the vote here. Enough ineptness, please!