It is nothing short of a slap in the face. A political kick in the groin. A snub from Premier Mike Harris and the provincial Tories. Northumberland should not take it. Not for a minute more.
Last week, the Premier announced the largest, most extensive shuffle of his cabinet since coming to office all because of the back-to-back resignations of former Finance Minister Ernie Eves and Al Pallidini, the old economic development minister.
The shuffle saw a host of high profile politicians moved into strategic portfolios. Jim Flaherty got the prized finance ministry and deputy premier’s job. Bob Runicman moved from consumer minister to economic development and trade. Tony Clement was switched to the health ministry while Elizabeth Witmer moved to environment. Chris Hodgson is now municipal affairs minister.
Northumberland MPP Doug Galt was not given a cabinet post. He was all set to become minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. He had worked his butt off as parliamentary assistant for the ministry, spending a part of last year travelling across the province working on the Premier’s Task Force on Rural Economic Renewal, a report that will be released soon.
Instead, Brian Coburn, an Ottawa-area MPP, got the job.
Who, you say? Exactly. Our man was passed over.
But wait, Galt is at the centre of an investigation for an alleged breach of the Young Offenders Act by reading out the names of young offenders from the Brookside Youth Centre graduation list. His actions lead to the resignation of Rob Sampson, then minister of Corrections and Galt, himself. We are all patiently waiting for the investigation to finish. In the meantime, our MPP’s political career sits in limbo.
Why? Galt is a two-term MPP with solid credentials. He was first elected to the legislature in 1995 as part of the Harris Common Sense Revolution. He was parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment and Energy before the last election and was moved to agriculture for his second term.
Galt has lots of experience. He is a former county warden, reeve of Cramahe and a former school board trustee. He chaired the Colborne-Cramahe Community Economic Development committee and headed discussions for the Cramahe-Colborne amalgamation in 1991. He had a distinguished private career in the Brighton Veterinary Services lab, where he retired a year before entering provincial politics. He also worked with CIDA on overseas veterinary projects in 1988 and 1992. Then there was all the volunteer work on United Way, Applefest, Lions and the local architecture advisory committee.
As county warden, he ran a tight ship and held the respect of his colleagues. He also showed uncanny patience during the Cramahe-Colborne amalgamation talks. He has plenty of political savvy. Hence his move to provincial politics.
It is not impossible to imagine that the investigation played a role in Harris’ decision to pass Galt over during the shuffle. The Ministry of the Solicitor General is twiddling its thumbs waiting for the OPP to finish its investigation. Nobody from the government dares to call the police to find out what is going on or else they would be accused of political interference. So we wait. And a man’s reputation sits in purgatory.
Tory advisors and strategists spent lots of time figuring out this shuffle. Along with party insiders, they consider who deserves to have their political careers boosted and who should be left on the sidelines. But like so much of politics, loyalty and decency and handwork get passed over. It is too easy to let ourselves be blinded by a political gamesmanship and forget the individual.
Our system defiles democratic principles. Those who curry favor are rewarded. If one does not play the game, then the riding would be completely ignored and receive none of the government’s largess.
Galt has stood up in the legislature and in this riding defending the Tory platform. He has never broken rank. He has stood up at his share of local meetings getting hammered. Now he has to be asking himself, for what?
Maybe it is time for him to send a message to Queen’s Park that he is tired of putting on a brave face defending lousy policies. Tell us what you really think. Surely he must miss the good old days of being a local politician where the only thing he had to defend was his own ideas.
Tell ’em to take a walk, Doug. Harris is in more trouble than he thinks. Slow down and take it easy for a while. Take off the Tory shackles for they must be so heavy. Maybe even think about retiring from politics. Enjoy life again. In the meantime, maybe voters can find a way to send Harris a message during the next election.
First published: Feb 14, 2001