Ontarians may just not object to McGuinty's culture of entitlement
Reporting on the aftermath of the Ontario Liberal party's recent by-election victory in St Paul's, Toronto Star columnist Royson James has phrased the matter rather succinctly.
"Either the St Paul's riding is incurably Liberal, as defeated Conservative Sue-Ann Levy says, or voters are content with life in Ontari-ari-ari-o," he muses.
And therein could lay the problem -- that Ontario voters have simply become accustomed to scandal to the point where they don't even blink when a seemingly unending flood of it bursts forth.
And indeed these scandals do seem unending.
Yet another contract tendering scandal has emerged, this time in London hospitals. According to accounts, up to $3 million in contracts were awarded untendered, at a cost to taxpayers of $1500 per day. According to these accounts, these contracts were issued to a single consultant.
To make matters worse, the contract was signed by a hospital administrator who lacked the authority to make the deal. The consultant in question was a former employee of the hospital.
"Giving an un-tendered contract to a former colleague — at first glance, it doesn't look very good," said Progressive Conservative party deputy leader Christine Elliott. "We need a full investigation."
"“We have had this culture fostered over six years by the [Dalton] McGuinty liberals. It’s ok not to tender a contract. It’s ok — nod, nod, wink, wink — to give contracts to your insider friends,” said provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath.
Horwath echoed the words of Tory leader Tim Hudak in predicting yet more scandals to come.
“It’s really the tip of the iceberg,” she insisted. “There are all sorts of insider sweetheart deals. We haven’t even scratched the surface.”
"It’s outrageous. It’s just another example of the lack of oversight ... and insiders getting sweetheart deals," Horwath added.
Observers of Ontarian politics know by now that this episode isn't an isolated incident. It follows scandals at eHealth, the Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation, and the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, as well as complaints that Dalton McGuinty misled Queen's Park when he announced that he had paid a retainer to an investigating firm when no such retainer had been paid.
To date, Hudak and Horwath's prediction has unfolded as foretold. There's little reason to think it's going to stop any time soon.
So, if Royson James' assessment rings true, and Ontarian voters remain perfectly comfortable with Dalton McGuinty's government, it's pretty clear that there are very deep problems in Ontario.
As some Canadians may recall, the Liberal party vote in the 2004 federal election remained strong in Ontario despite widespread knowledge of the sponsorship scandal. While the specific scope of the scandal was not yet known to voters -- but would be in 2006 -- the nuts and bolts of the scandal itself were widely known.
Yet Ontario returned 75 Liberals to Ottawa. In 2006, even in the wake of full public knowledge of the scandal -- knowledge that was obtained over the objections of the Liberal party -- Ontario elected 54 Liberals, a majority of the seats in that province.
It may not be unfair to theorize that Ontarian voters are unusually tolerant of scandal. It seems that the politics of self-service -- the ugly handmaiden of what Barry Cooper would describe as the politics of public virtue -- may have taken root deeply in Ontario.
To make matters more disturbing yet, the politics of public virtue may have become deeply distorted in Ontario. One would expect that the politics of public virtue would have room within its enclave for honest, accountable, and responsible government -- government that doesn't allow its various agencies to run wild spending public monies, and doesn't mislead the legislature and cancel independent investigations.
Yet even amidst all of these shenanigans in Ontario, the Liberals were able to walk away with what many considered to be a key by-election in Toronto. If voters in St Paul's had taken a thoughtful appraisal of their government, one would have at least expected a closer race.
It's possible that this assessment may not be entirely fair. Dr Eric Hoskins may well have won the riding based on the strength of his own candidacy. But based on evaluations of the matter by Chris Selley, that doesn't seem entirely likely.
Perhaps voters in "Ontari-ari-ari-o" are simply very comfortable with millions of taxpayers dollars being handed out by people with no authority to do so without so much as a contract tendering.
Perhaps this is more exclusive to voters in St Paul's.
One way or the other, the matter bodes very poorly for Ontarian politics. Then again, perhaps Ontarians will surprise their fellow Canadians by throwing the derelict McGuinty government out in 2011.