Ear plugs and cancellations

Canada Day has many meanings for all sorts of families.

For some it is a national holiday. Others see it as the first (almost) guaranteed warm long weekend of the summer. Regardless of perspective, it often revolves around traditions, whether that be a trip to the cottage, participation in a community event or simply some down time at home.

This year, for those of us burdened with thinking too much about current events, there is much to contemplate.

Take for example the late cancellation of Canada Day celebrations at Queen’s Park. It is a tradition that has united many downtown Toronto dwellers and serves as a reminder what the day truly means. It’s about Canada coming of age in 1867. According to an article in the Toronto Star, attendance last year was a fraction of what it was in 2009 when 25,000 residents made the trek to the legislature

Alas, cutbacks and new priorities have removed this as an option for revelers in the city. Instead, they can travel to other venues, elsewhere. The last-minute announcement, despite claims the cancellation was planned months ago, perhaps speaks to the problems with attendance in the past. Tardy planning is never a road map to a successful event.

While we appreciate the authority of Ford’s government to change its mind on event venues, one part of us is disappointed that the cradle of Ontario democracy will be vacant this weekend. Usually such events are a great time to know “the people,” a populist iteration deployed by Ford on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, in Ford’s Ontario there seems to be two different kinds of people – the people who cheer regardless of what he says and the people who jeer whenever he speaks. By taking a pass on functions like Canada Day at Queen’s Park, Ford loses the chance to hear the voice of “other people.”

This is not new however and certainly not an Ontario phenomena.

In Alberta’s legislature this past week, members of the governing United Conservative Party were given ear plugs during a debate about public sector bargaining rights. It was a sophomoric gag despite the government’s multi-pronged list of excuses for that contemptible behaviour. Despite that observation it probably serves as the most honest illustration of government in modern times. Once elected, politicians lose interest in listening.

In the most egregious of cases, say when the public votes a government out of office and the winner mistakenly believes their populist platform was the deciding factor, public consultation becomes an inconvenience. Legitimate queries from the press are dismissed as targeted attacks. Feedback from residents not on board with proposals are dismissed as cave people (citizens against virtually everything).

This Canada Day let’s pause for a moment and reflect on the greatness of our country and the gift that is democracy – and what might be required of us to preserve both.