Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday August 21, 2018
Provincial government’s assault on democracy deserves jeers not cheers
You’ve got to hand it to Premier Doug Ford, and even if you don’t, he’ll provide the hand — as in a round of applause — himself.
Not content with arbitrarily slashing the size of Toronto council and cancelling regional chair elections already underway in York, Peel, Niagara and Muskoka, Ford recently took another broadside against democracy by limiting the number of questions he and his ministers will take during Queen’s Park news conferences to five and drowning out any additional media queries with loud clapping from dozens of government staffers.
At Ford’s announcement of $25 million to help Toronto combat gun violence on Aug. 9, journalists present noted that 50 provincial employees milled about for an hour or so until it was time to provide the premier and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney with an unhindered exit.
For some reporters it may have felt like déjà vu as similar shenanigans had been employed a week prior when Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod announced plans to end the province’s Basic Income Pilot program.
According to Cynthia Mulligan of CityNews, after Ford and Mulroney left following the Aug. 9 news conference, most of the staffers scurried away themselves and showed little interest in answering questions about their reasons for being there. One of them did, however, let slip they were there on the taxpayer’s dime, which raises all sorts of questions, chief among them: how does permitting 50 government employees to stand around for an hour to clap like trained seals on cue fit with the pledge to reduce waste and make life more affordable for Ontarians?
While we’re at it, how does employing a “journalist” to rhyme off a collection of government-approved highlights in a series of taxpayer-funded videos via the Ontario News Now online channel square with the election promise of greater accountability and to be “the government for the people”?
Although both the Ontario News Now and “clap out” tactics began during the election, the fact the government seems intent on keeping them — and using our money to fund them — is deeply disappointing. Even Deputy Premier Christine Elliott seemed vexed by the clap out, and said she’d discuss it with Ford.
Someone should and remind him democracy isn’t a nuisance that rears its head every few years when the election writ drops. Democracy is about being accountable to the citizenry, and part of that entails answering questions from journalists who are there as proxies for the voting public.
Here’s hoping the government hits the “pause button” it’s so fond of on the clap out and other similar strategies. After all, open and transparent government is something we can all cheer for. (Source: Newmarket Era)