Time for “Big Brother” to get busy

If Dalton McGuinty’s new moniker “Premier Dad” pronounced by the Toronto Star earlier this week is true, then Northumberland MPP Lou Rinaldi must be called “Big Brother”.
It appears from media reports, McGuinty is revered by aides. Backbenchers and cabinet ministers seek his favour. But his government’s paternalistic style of governing Ontario must surely be wearing thin with voters.
Critics argue the government’s agenda seems to be focused on an intrusive set of policies, touching on everything from children’s snacks to light bulbs. But, as the record shows, the past seven years have led to the outlawing smoking in cars where children are passengers, removing junk food from school and most recently it is targeted at teens who drink and drive.
While some may expect this from a government that is slightly left of centre, there is also a dark side to this premier that is often forgotten.
It is this government that is gutting fundamental services in local hospital, turning some into regional centres while others, like Northumberland Hills Hospital, are turning things like long-term care and rehab over to the private sector. This is two-tier health care without consultation or public approval.
Then, there is the assault on unionized workers, as civil servants are witnessing first hand. The government was never held to account for skirting labour laws when it went around the Ontario college faculty union to directly negotiate with teachers last year. With 11 universities negotiating agreements currently, it will be interesting to see how those are treated. Nor, does this government seem to care too much about how its plans to freeze civil servant’s salaries will affect those families. I guess this his Dad’s version of tough love.
So, it seems Premier Dad will do whatever he wants, when he want, regardless of it affect. Why? Because father knows best.
But Northumberland has its own version of this.
Rinaldi met with the Northumberland Hills Citizen Health Coalition recently only to confirm the status quo. Meanwhile, the hospital continues to implement its cuts. Three months ago, diabetes and out patient rehabilitation programs were cut and 34 beds were scheduled to be closed. Also, the equivalent of 30 full-time staff were let go.
During this entire crisis at the hospital, Rinaldi has failed to be directly involved or done little to nothing to rectify any changes requested by taxpayers or citizen groups.
The only reason the beds remain open is the lack of private sector interest in taking long-term patients.
It seems Rinaldi is only interested in public relations and photo ops rather than constituency matters. He is spending his summer flipping burgers, touring Quinte West YMCA or taking a power pledge. All of this while standing in the shadow of Premier Dad.
There is plenty he could be working on. His promise to Keystone House remains unfulfilled. The current growth strategy for rural areas is going to hurt many municipalities, but nothing is being done to develop a counter-plan. Then, there is the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax), the eco fees, SuperCorps and a laundry list of bad ideas foist upon the public. The government has eaten crow on most of these policies.
Rinaldi appears to be performing like a lame duck rather than a hungry politician preparing for an election that is only one year away. With retiring municipal politicians like Cobourg’s Peter Delanty and Brighton’s Christine Herrington, there is sufficient talent waiting in the wings should Rinaldi decide he will not run again. If actions speak louder than words, there should be no doubt the contenders will be gearing up.
It will be important to watch if Rinaldi is able to step up to the current set of challenges or whether he will be a good son to Premier Dad.
Just like a big brother, he is all smiles and chuckles when Dad is around. But, when father is gone…look out.

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