According to Ontario’s Legislative Assembly, our “124 MPPs are elected to represent the concerns of their constituents regarding provincial responsibilities at the Legislature and in their ridings.” Your MPP is the official go-between the constituent (you) and the provincial government they work for. Presumably, that means his/her job is to listen to our concerns and bring them back to the provincial Legislature.
I recently wrote about Bill 23 to highlight the issues and to publicize the upcoming rally. Versions of my article were published in The Seeker and as an LTE in the Standard Freeholder and the Glengarry News. I attended the local rally and stood for 2 hours with other protesters.
Two and a half hours before the rally, our local Conservative MPP Nolan Quinn confirmed that he would speak to two representatives of the rally. John Towndrow and I were chosen to be those representatives. I went as a private citizen.
It should be noted here that the writing I share with The Seeker and my seat on their editorial board are done on a volunteer basis and not remunerated. All of the opinions I express are completely my own.
I arrived first and was met by Sam McDonell, Quinn’s executive assistant. A few minutes later Mr. Quinn joined us. When I asked if we could sit I was told the meeting would be standing and that I should start. Without Mr. Towndrow – who had not arrived yet.
Mr. Quinn stressed that he was very busy and wanted me to begin.
Instead of the urbane welcome I was hoping for, I was urged to “stand and deliver” in the reception area, with the clock ticking so to speak, feeling like I was a complete nuisance to two men I had never met. Is this how to treat a constituent?
The lack of respect, the intimidation tactics and the overall coldness almost had me walking out the door. But I felt I had to stay as I had been asked to speak for all the protesters.
Rather than a discussion, I began my unanticipated “speech” by reiterating why I was there and why people were protesting. Mr. Quinn mentioned that the Liberals had made changes to the Greenbelt 20 (?) times while they were in power, and asked if I knew that. I said I didn’t. (He would refer to my not knowing this “fact” later in the conversation).
At this point, Mr. Towndrow arrived and to my delight, he did take a seat, albeit an uninvited one. I stood for the full 20-30 minutes I was there. (Note: John and I are both seniors)…
When discussing why the provincial govt wanted to use the Greenbelt land they emphasized how urgent the need for housing was and that this was the fastest way – despite the objections of their own experts and environmentalists.
But still, I noted, on the day Doug Ford announced he wanted to use 7,400 acres of Greenbelt land to build housing, his government also approved more than 14,000 hectares (@35,000 acres) of land for urban development in municipalities around Toronto and Hamilton. Despite this having a direct impact on the matter neither Mr. Quinn nor Mr. McDonell knew this fact. They should have. I offered to send them the link to the article.
John and I continued to try to express our concerns for another 15 minutes or so but the tone from Quinn and McDonell was combative and defensive.
So why am I writing this?
All elected officials are paid for by our taxes. They are supposed to work for us. They are the voice of their constituents and they use that voice to debate and vote on new bills and changes – not to push their own agendas.
If they cannot listen to their constituents, many of whom are experts in their fields like environmentalists – they are not doing their jobs.
I am sick of the royalty feel of politics these days and being asked to respect people who do not respect me – or you.
I also do not think that any politician should be allowed to use bullying tactics or retaliation against the media whose job can include reporting on political issues. If a politician does not agree with how any media outlet has portrayed them, they can use the media to set the record straight. I found out, after The Seeker published pictures/video of the Cornwall protest on their site, that Mr. Quinn’s Executive Assistant urgently requested their business card size “Merry Christmas” ad to constituents be pulled out of the upcoming issue. Really? Is that supposed to be a punishment for reporting on the protest?
As for the 14,000 hectares article? I sent it to them the next morning.
I never heard back.
You can read a follow-up article by the Environmental Defense Group here: https://environmentaldefence.ca/2022/11/28/statement-bill-23-will-unleash-a-firestorm-of-environmentally-destructive-rural-sprawl-it-must-be-repealed/?fbclid=IwAR2PG_MxzZoBH05P3versZIWwRgN4yj1iSi1kA5_N5ptbRbAQGF6VylHkNg
This commentary was initially published as a Letter to the Editor. After reflection, it was moved to opinion and attributed.