February 21, 2004
Fighting For Democracy
Dalton McGuinty has repeatedly gone on record stating that he would be
bound by a referendum on de-amalgamation, were he in power. Now he is.
The forced amalgamation of the "City of Kawartha Lakes" offers a perfect
example. For the past three and a half years, a significant portion of
the population there have devoted themselves to bringing about a
referendum vote. In a democratic society, a vote should have been held
in the first place. It wasn't. This grass roots movement, called "Voices
of Central Ontario", or V.O.C.O., got to work. They held funerals for
every village, non-binding referendums in each former village and
township, Townhall meetings, and information seminars. They bussed to
Queens Park and filed petitions. They raised funds by organizing
everything from dinners and dances to garage sales, as their V.O.C.O.
website tracked every move. They didn't want to lose their identity, so
they fought to retain it.
And they won!. They got the referendum question on the November 10,
2003 ballot, and the people of the "City of Kawartha Lakes" finally had
a vote. In Canadas' time-honoured democratic fashion, casting their
ballots one by one, they decided to de-amalgamate.
Re-enter Dalton McGuinty. On February 19, 2004, his government announced
that this democratic decision would not be allowed to stand. Such a long
hard battle to be heard is now refused acknowledgment.
Throughout this process, we have been talking to our young sons and
daughters, nieces and nephews. We told them to watch this - to really
pay attention. This, we said, is democracy in action. What do we tell
them now, Dalton? This is politics is action? Do we really explain that
the terms "democracy in action" and "politics in action" are mutually
Hard work and honest debate and working within the system; these are
important values. It has been a privilege to watch so many people apply
them with faith and energy and steadfast perserverence. They said they
wouldn't give up, and they didn't. In other words, Mr. McGuinty, their
word meant something.
Today has been a very bad day for democracy. It has left me angry and
sad and a little scared. V.O.C.O., however, is holding a meeting
tonight, and you can bet they are not deciding to throw in the towel. In
the best of all possible worlds, a groundswell of support for V.O.C.O.
would uphold a democratic system in desperate need of a boost.
We don't all live in the "City of Kawartha Lakes", but we all have a
stake in ensuring that our democratic institutions are not shunted
aside, especially by democratically elected officials entrusted with
This decision is wrong, Mr. McGuinty. Could you just reverse youself one