Published on October 25th, 2012 in the EMC Stitsville
EMC News - Get back to work - that's the message area Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats, and even non-aligned average citizens, are sending to Premier Dalton McGuinty in Queen's Park, with the launching of an online, and hard-copy petition that Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington MPP Randy Hillier intends to deliver to Lieutenant Governor David Onley later this week.
"On Wednesday (Oct. 17), I put up a website called Get Ontario Back to Work," said Hillier during a telephone interview from his Perth constituency office. Online and in person, he is asking voters to phone their representatives, and write letters, online or through old school snail mail, and to sign his petition online, through his web site or his Facebook site.
"Let me just hit the refresh button," said Hillier leaning over to his computer, which then pops up the number that, as of this past Monday afternoon, the petition stands at 1,658 signatures.
Hard copy petitions are available at Hillier's constituency offices in Perth, Carleton Place and Napanee.
But Hillier admits that while the state of political limbo Ontario finds itself in at the moment is unusual, so too is his petition.
"Petitions are generally put to the government of the day," said Hillier. "He (Onley) does not have any legal means to recall the legislature."
But, Hillier hopes that enough signatures on the petition will "demonstrate public pressure in all elected people... to respect the general will of the people," and that since "the premier has his authority from the crown, (and) the Lieutenant Governor is the crown (representative)," if Onley were to call McGuinty in to his office, he could use his bully pulpit to convince McGuinty to recall the legislature.
"We have seen in the past, for example, in Canada in 1926, Lord Byng (the Governor General) refused to accept the advice of his first minister," Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, which prompted the King-Byng affair.
Hillier calls this the "reserve powers of the crown" which are "never intended to be used," but are there in case of an emergency.
Any number of what-if scenarios are be contemplated now, including the possibility of the P.C.'s and NDP joining forces to defeat the Liberal government's throne speech after the Jan. 25 leadership vote. A similar event happened in 1985 when Frank Miller's P.C. government was defeated on its throne speech. Unable to secure a coalition with either David Peterson's Liberals or Bob Rae's NDP, the Lieutenant Governor of the day called on Peterson to hammer out a coalition with Rae, which later became known as the Accord government of 1985-87.
"It's a possibility," said Hillier. "I have no idea and I would not even contemplate giving odds of that."
While any new government would have to have the support of the house, the Lieutenant Governor must also take the longevity of any such government, coalition or not, into account. A government likely to survive less than a year would be of "diminished value" said Hillier, who added that he himself has been getting an earful from constituents who wonder why he isn't in Toronto.
"There is little else on people's minds," he insisted. "Throw away the objectionableness and crass partisanship. This is about our province. This is about Dalton McGuinty covering his (butt)."
Bill MacDonald, the former Liberal candidate in Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington during the last provincial election on Oct. 6, 2011, however, won't be signing the petition himself, seeing it as a necessary "cooling off," valve during a heated session at Queen's Park.
"I think, through history... former premiers have taken the same action," as McGuinty did in proroguing the house, said MacDonald, pointing out that Bob Rae, during his 1990-95 stint at premier, prorogued the house four times. "It seems to be an action...taken when there is a deadlock in a minority situation. It seems that when the agenda of the ruling party comes to a roadblock, this is an option that is open to them. We've got a major issue here in Ontario as a result of the debt, which is because of all of the parties, not just the Liberals. We all have to work together."
McGuinty stated last week that one of the reasons why he had pulled the plug on the legislature session was to allow the government to hammer things out with the teacher's unions. MacDonald noted that the Drummond Report had recommended getting rid of 10,000 teachers and 10,000 education assistants.
"That would have been a fairly Draconian action in the teaching field," said MacDonald. "They (the government) would rather work with teachers."
However, many teachers are still upset with Bill 115, the "Putting Students First Act," passed in September. While things would have been worse for teachers with job cuts, as opposed to pay freezes, MacDonald said that he thought that the government's position was "laid out very well," to the teachers, but admitted that things could have been handled differently.
"I think we can always look back, hindsight is 20/20," said MacDonald. "Should it have been communicated better? We can all look back and say, yes, perhaps."
He joked that he himself will not be running for McGuinty's old job, and does not know who will step forward, but added that "I hope we have 10 or 15 candidates."