Some years ago we were part of a Publisher Day at Queen’s Park. Local MPP Ted Arnott provided a quick personal tour that was greatly appreciated.
On that walkabout, he pointed out the door to the premier’s caucus room. We recall it looked quite regal, with an almost leather-looking covering. At the time, we figured it had to be soundproofing of sorts, allowing its inhabitants the luxury of uninterrupted silence as they laboured over the countless problems facing the province. Any romantic notion we had that day about that fancy leather doorway as a symbol of power leading to a room where thoughtful deliberation and integrity would be practised without fear or favour, has all but been erased.
Maybe a step back is needed to explain the unshakable pessimism with which we find ourselves engaged today. The year was 2000, when Wellington County was host to the International Plowing Match. The Progressive Conservatives were in power at the time, but someone pointed out Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty had just arrived. Generally it is our practice to keep a low profile and listen, rather than worry about autographs or handshakes. At the time, we were working with our staff taking photos around the match. We will never forget the commentary as McGuinty, with his handlers in tow, attempted to choreograph the moment with the insistence of a director making hand gestures, like a photographer framing a picture, with long outstretched fingers. We found it surreal.
Rather than have photographers or his Liberal followers catch a moment that could perhaps define his day at the IPM, he instead laid out his idea of how his image should come across. It seemed fake and a bit disturbing the focus would be on marketing an image rather than letting nature offer a moment where a photographer could catch the essence of leadership qualities.
When we look back on the great pictures of leaders of our time, such as Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy (looking over paper with his brother, Bobby), Ronald Reagan and countless others, we see a moment of history captured – as opposed to a manufactured image.
The constant push for votes continues. We found it incredulous to hear an announcement on the radio that Premier McGuinty now wants to banish beer tents and relax drinking regulations for local festivals. We’re neither for nor against the proposition, just aghast the subject has even gained air time in the media.
That, of course, follows on the tails of opposition leader Tim Hudak’s groaning a week earlier about the price of beer costing more than the good old days – when it was a buck a beer – before McGuinty. What is wrong with these guys? Do they really believe the electorate is that simple?
In the same week, like a beacon of hope, NDP leader Andrea Horwath was actually making some noise on issues of import. Through a freedom of information request she has determined the McGuinty Liberals have gathered up $1.5-billion in HST funds from hydro alone. On another hydro file, she suggested other leaders have lost sight that the series of nickels and dimes grabbed from citizen’s clutches, make it tougher and harder for working families to balance their household budget.
Flipping open the Saturday Star, we see News that Labour groups intend to dig up Progressive Conservative political ghosts of the past, thus giving Hudak a rough time for his past affiliations and opinions.
Rather than plot perception, Premier McGuinty and opposition leader Hudak, would do well to listen directly to the people. There are many challenges ahead, the least of which is beer and the relaxing of alcohol rules.