Editorial: Politicians should not duck out on the difficult debates

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When it comes to governing there are a lot of tough choices that have to be made. One of the great things about being on the opposition benches (and there aren’t many) is that you are generally free to lambaste the government on any issue and decry the government’s lack of action to resolve the issue, without actually having to put any skin in the game. Once you find yourself on the government side the game changes dramatically and far too often decisions must be made that are not going to be popular and might be in diametric opposition to what was said when your party was in the opposition benches.

This lends itself to the tactic for the opposition of proposing bills that will not pass muster in the realpolitik world of governing. Perhaps the cost will be too high (although opposition bills can’t spend money, that’s the government’s sole prerogative), perhaps the issue is not as pressing as many others that the government has to deal with. Sometimes the issue being addressed by an opposition bill has been overblown and the bill will needlessly tie up resources or waste taxpayer money. Often, the beauty of a bill is much in the eye of the beholder.

This was the position the Northern Ontario Conservative cabinet and other MPPs members found themselves in this past week, as a mom and apple pie bill brought forward by the NDP opposition dealing with safety on Northern highways was defeated. North Bay’s Vic Fedeli brought forward arguments as to why the NDP bill was a non-starter both before and after the debate. Problem is, he and the other Northern cabinet ministers ducked both the debate and the vote.

Mr. Fedeli and his colleagues’ points might well have been sound and solid. But instead of bringing those points to the floor of the legislature and into the debate where they belong, Mr. Fedeli, Ross Romano and Greg Rickford chose a coward’s way out and simply didn’t show up.

Now it is understandable that Mr. Fedeli didn’t want to have his words thrown back at him from when he did show up in the legislature to lambaste the Liberal government on their decision to reduce highway requirements to save a mere $36 million. But it is patently clear that on a level of scale, the cost of the NDP bill would have been enormous in comparison and might well have been better tackled with some more moderate changes to the regulations and maintenance contracts.

The absence of the Northern cabinet ministers becomes even more odious when viewed through the lens that the legislature has come off the longest break in living memory. That is not how the people of Northern Ontario should be served.

The people of Northern Ontario deserve better and our democracy deserves better than the cold dish we have been served by the current masters of Queen’s Park. Mr. Fedeli and his colleagues would do well to remember that it is often not a scandal itself that brings down leaders, but rather the reaction of a leader to those scandals—be that cover-up or not showing up.