2 issues, 2 approaches

Sunday, April 6, 2014

POLITICS works in strange ways. While a party can seem focused on one issue it can appear to fall apart on others.
Ontario’s NDP has been effective in holding the Liberal government to account on the gas plants scandal. Its members have been diligent, like Conservative MPPs, in finding holes in the government’s story and making the most of questions designed to get answers on who knew and did what, when, as Liberals under former premier Dalton McGuinty appeared to recklessly cancel gas plants to save MPPs’ seats, then tried to cover their tracks.
The issue of emails wiped clean from government computers has all the stuff of a mystery movie and the NDP has helped to uncover clues.
In a particularly inventive move this past week they’ve written to British Columbia’s premier asking her to give time off to her party’s executive director to testify about the scandal in Ontario. Police allege that Laura Miller’s boyfriend got access to computers in McGuinty’s office and possibly deleted files. Miller used to work for McGuinty.
A clever and sensible move like that makes a party look good whereas the NDP appears churlish in reacting to another development this week. Northern Development Minister Michael Gravelle says Ontario is keeping the transportation division of Ontario Northland Transportation Commission as a government-owned company. It will sell Ontera, the Ontario Northland’s telecommunications division, to Bell Alliant.
New Democrats have been unyielding in their push to have the ON railway saved from earlier Liberal government plans to get rid of it, removing transportation options for many in northeastern Ontario.
Whether the Liberals are scrambling in advance of a possible spring election that they could conceivably lose, or whether they’ve seen the light on Ontario Northland, doesn’t really matter. What matters is that ON trains and buses will continue to operate as public entities.
What’s more, Gravelle says planned investments in ONTC infrastructure include more than $23 million over three years to purchase new motor coaches for its bus line and to refurbish rail coaches for the Polar Bear Express.
That sounds like a lasting commitment, yet NDP critic John Vanthof said the announcement fails to address the long-term future of the ONTC, adding that the Liberals are selling off Ontario Northland one piece at a time.
The charge doesn’t ring true. Vanthof, who has led this charge, should welcome it and claim victory for his and his party’s efforts on behalf of the 300,000 northerners who use ONTC services.
You won. Embrace it. And give the government credit for seeing things your way, this time.