Walk around the grounds of Queen’s Park and you are surrounded by monuments and buildings dedicated to former Ontario leaders.
There’s the monument to Sir William Lyon Mackenzie, leader of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion. The fiery Mackenzie aimed to crush the authoritarian Family Compact.
There’s a statue of Oliver Mowatt, the third premier of Ontario. He expanded voting rights to include all men and not just property owners. (It took another generation before women got the vote).
The Whitney Block is named after James Whitney, our sixth premier, who established the publicly-owned Hydro-Electric Commission of Ontario in 1906. Whitney said: “The water power of Niagara should be as free as the air we breathe!”
These leaders weren’t perfect. Their values weren’t all the same as ours today. But they still helped to build Ontario. They still deserve to be remembered.
These days, we don’t erect monuments to political leaders. I think there’s a good reason for this: our leaders have stopped working for the common good. They don’t believe in creating common wealth.
Over the past 20 years, Conservative and Liberal leaders have said whatever it takes to get voters to elect them. Once in power, though, they’ve quickly sold out to their high-flying pals in the private sector.
They’ve contracted out our public services to enrich private operators. They’ve put our public assets – our common wealth – on the auction block.
Imagine if we built shrines to honour their work!
We could rename Highway 407 the “Mike Harris Takes a Toll” Highway.
Premier Ernie Eves was the first to start privatizing our hydro system. He could have an “Eves of Destruction” Generating Station named after him.
Or how about the “Dalton McGuinty University for Ethics” – where no incriminating email ever goes missing?
For Kathleen Wynne, I picture a statue of our Premier handing a treasure chest to Ed Clark, the former banker who is her privatization adviser. Beneath the statue, an engraved plaque says, “Public Private Partnership” and bears the logo of EllisDon, the construction company that is the largest donor to the Ontario Liberal Party.
Just imagine it for a second.
Our leaders today don’t deserve monuments, of course. They’ve been selling us out for 20 years. But some day, maybe we’ll have another Premier who is worth remembering – a Premier who builds Ontario up instead of tearing it down.
That’s a statue I would love to see.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
Ontario Public Service Employees Union