Simple gesture goes sour for Galt

First published: Dec, 20, 2000

Northumberland MPP Doug Galt is in the doghouse. Facing a criminal investigation for using the names of Brookside Youth Centre graduates of a new provincially sponsored program, Galt is in hot water.

This is not the first time he has been caught releasing information he shouldn’t.
Galt should know better. He is not a rookie MPP anymore. In fact, he is slowly rising up the ranks within the Tory structure. Only recently, it seems he was in the regional newspapers. He was busy representing Health Minister Elizabeth Witmer in Brancroft.  He also goes to many meetings in his role as the assistant to the minister of agriculture.

So it is not surprising to see a mistake like this happen. He could have been rushed or hurried that day. Maybe he didn’t have a chance to review his remarks. It could be that he just wasn’t thinking.

Watching him on the legislative channel, one sees him hard at work. He often asks questions of ministers (mainly to set them up for praise or to give them a chance to blow their party’s horn). He can also take on the opposition in some fiery exchanges. He’s no slouch.

And that is what makes this so puzzling in some ways.

This was a man respected in his profession and in the community. Talk to anyone, and they would tell you about this caring person. To listen to him speak about his trip to the Far East, as part of an exchange program, and he tells stories of compassion for a people and a culture.

Galt was a solid statesman in Northumberland. When he was on Colborne council, he could be trusted to bring some sanity to many discussions. He was a level head, who listened carefully to the community he served.

As warden, he also presented himself as a thoughtful individual, who did his homework. It was not unusual to see some of the elder county councillors reading reports in their packages for the first time when they arrived at the county table for a monthly meeting. Not Galt. He spoke from a position of knowledge and would only rise when he had something to add to a debate – a trait not shared by many. He ran a tight county council. He was respected. He was fair and considerate, even for those who did not deserve it.

So what happened in the provincial legislature does not fit with what we know of his past.

That is not surprising. He has changed. The evidence was during the last provincial election. When his staff attended a meeting of the Northumberland Coalition on Poverty meeting to bark down activist Deb O’Connor, the community could see this was not the same man. To authorize this type of behavior is the strategy of American style politics. Hardball. No room for others or what they have to say and disrupting any opposing message.

This was not the tolerant Galt we knew. This was not the compassionate listener. It reflected poorly on him. If he didn’t agree, then he should have said so, publicly.

Sometimes when he is defending policy, it can be so partisan. It doesn’t sound like the Galt we knew who weighted policy using the community as a yardstick and not a political party.

It would be too easy to be critical of his actions. He did make a mistake. It is on the public record.

The provincial criminal investigation into the incident in the legislature will go the heart of what happened and why. But during this time, it may be a chance for Galt and the community to reflect on the man and his record. He could emerge from this a bit wiser and many levels.

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