|The net worth of the richest 1% (including 101 billionaires and a million millionaires) is greater than that of the bottom 90%|
|The Washington Post, July 7,1992|
Ontarians are learning a good deal about what it means to have a 'progressively conservative' government. The most recent lesson is that local governments, ostensibly rife with inefficiency and duplication, have been wasting tax dollars that should be going to service the public debt. The fix has been to drastically reduce the number of municipalities, school and hospital boards; to give them more 'local responsibility' and keep closer watch on their antics.
To say the least, these initiatives have not been universally applauded. Organizations and demonstrations have been voicing opposition all across Ontario ... a notable example being former Toronto mayor John Sewell's Citizens For Local Democracy.
Little use has been made of an argument refuting the province's rationale. Municipalities are created by Provinces and operate in accordance with legislations defined in respective Municipal Acts.
The point is, municipalities are appendages of provincial governments. When a province chastises municipalities for waste or duplication, what we have is a government condemning its own conduct.
In other words, saving money cannot be the agenda driving municipal amalgamations or the elimination of school boards. The provincial government could adjust -- and in fact has often adjusted -- grants to municipalities. The democratic thing to do would be to so proceed and let local politicians make whatever amalgamations or cutbacks deemed necessary.
Rather than do this, the government of Ontario is redesigning itself to reduce meddling by grass-roots interest groups, and terming this disenfranchisement municipal restructuring.
This is chicanery of the highest order. Municipalities cannot be restructured or amalgamated because they have no legitimate existence. The name of the game is to change the political and fiscal landscape, transferring power up the hierarchy and responsibility in the other direction.
If Ontario's voters had been asked whether they wished to further centralize power in the hands of powerful interest groups, and eliminate even occasional dialogue with 'municipal organs' in the bargain, they would certainly have repudiated the notion.
Thus, an important question arises. Why have municipal politicians not responded to this outrage with vigorous repudiations of neo-conservative doublespeak?
We need an analogy: Imagine Ontarians as a flock of chickens sorted into pens, each clucking over nearby events and laying eggs, some of which of which they manage to secret away and even hatch.
These occasional successes -- critical to the flock's well-being -- have been occurring in spite of the best efforts of the Ontario Farmer; who comes by regularly to throw a bit of scratch on the ground and make off with as many eggs as possible while feathers are flying.
There is a problem, however. The Ontario Farmer has not been finding all of the eggs. This is why he thinks all these Municipal Pens are counterproductive.
After all, having two pens when one would do means twice as many opportunities to hide eggs, two pecking orders, two cocks of the walk ....
All of this is too tiresome for words.
So what happened when the Ontario Farmer started taking down the barriers between Ontario's coops? Did roosters fly in his face? No, they flew in the face of reason. Did roosters martial up their hens and organize a sit-down strike? No, there was merely a pandemonium of clucking. Finally, did roosters identify a stalwart spokeshen and egg her on to accomplish fowl things?
No, there has only been an epidemic of standing ovulations.
Finally, what did Ontario's mayors get up to when their coops were threatened? Sadly, they have been preoccupied sorting out new pecking orders.
This is what a chicken in every pot has come to mean.