You may have heard that our politics are getting more partisan. I hope you were sitting down when you read that.
From coast, to coast, to coast the polarization is getting worse, not better. Even little old Guelph here will bite back if they’re fed by the wrong hand. Ask Mayor Cam Guthrie.
It was observed last week that the mayor, on Twitter, gave an Ontario cabinet minister the benefit of the doubt, and boy, did some people not take that well.
“I fully trust and completely believe @celliottability 100% when she says that she’ll will work with @AMOPolicy, municipalities and front-line paramedics to make our system better. Do we need to know more? Sure. But give it time. Let’s work together,” Guthrie tweeted.
Why is this controversial? Well, “@celliottability” is the Twitter handle for Ontario Minister of Health and Long-term Care Christine Elliott. The “@AMOPolicy” handle belongs to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
AMO is concerned about the potential integration of the province’s 59 ambulance services and 22 dispatch centres, and Elliott responded with a Twitter assurance. Now Twitter’s never been an ideal place for discussing the minutia of policy, but Elliott was easily more persuasive then her boss.
“There’s always going to be the same number of paramedics, that’s a guarantee,” said Premier Doug Ford sounding like a guy in a commercial on CP24 as opposed to a guy being interviewed by CP24.
To Guthrie’s retweet, it was a perfectly fine middle of the road response to an official statement made by an Ontario cabinet minister on a matter of public interest. And yes, Twitter posts are official statements now whether we like it, or not.
Perhaps with a different government, or with a different issue, people might have been able to let it slide; one mayor makes one comment on one issue from one cabinet minister so let’s move on.
Wrong. Here comes Mike Foley, trustee for the Upper Grand District School Board, tweeting, “That’s mind bogglingly idiotic to follow that level of belief.”
One might understand the immediate frustration of a member of the local school board, which, like everyone in this province, heard the promise of no jobs lost, and has seen many members of his organization told that their serves will not be required in the fall. The Toronto Star reported this week that half the teachers in the finance minister’s own riding were getting “surplus notices”.
So Foley’s frustration is understandable, but understanding is a two-way street because at the end of the day, regardless of your feelings about the provincial government, Mayor Guthrie has still got to work with these people.
Now this isn’t actually the first time that the mayor has heard a tweetful about dealing with the Ford government. When Guthrie met with the Premier earlier this year, he posted about it on Instagram and was greeted with a myriad of comments about what he did and did not talk to Ford about.
Did I say “comments”? It was really a laundry list of grievances.
And no matter what you may feel about Ford and his policies, you have to admit that he’s given a lot of different people just cause to be aggrieved. You’ve got students, teachers, environmentalists, the poor, minimum wage earners, people in need of addiction and mental heath services, campus groups, parents of children with autism, and coming soon, paramedics and public health units.
On top of that, Ford is one of those politicians whose manner makes him more unlikable that usual. If you’re with him, you’re good, and if you’re against him, even if it’s just on the one issue, there’s no way to deal with him. Ask Jim Wilson, Amanda Simard, or Randy Hillier.
So when Guthrie sits down with Ford, or is seen publicly giving a member of the Ford government the benefit of the doubt, there’s a visceral reaction in the negative. Not helping matters is Guthrie’s background in local Conservative politics. Despite public statements to the contrary on many matters, it seems that some people in Guelph can’t shake the assumption that Guthrie’s “part of the team.”
Of course, he’s entitled, and if Guthrie wanted to participate in politics at the provincial and federal level, he certainly wouldn’t be alone. Many members of city council have been, or are considering, a run as provincial and federal candidates of all major parties, or have otherwise given public support to a specific provincial or federal candidate.
While it’s not my job to defend the mayor from any form of criticism, I’ll say that he’s acted in a decidedly un-Ford like manner on a many issues; he was a voice of criticism against Schedule 10 of Bill 66, he’s supported the City’s shift to Net Zero, and he’s been an advocate for improving cycling infrastructure.
And if there’s one thing for sure we know that Doug Ford won’t support, it’s more bike lanes.
So yes, the Ford government is working hard at making the 60 per cent that didn’t vote for them more angry, but don’t expect our municipal leaders to react with anger just because you’re angry.
You can’t fight for something if you’re always fighting everything.