Letters to the Editor

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 exclusive?

      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 their protection.

      This decision is wrong, Mr. McGuinty. Could you just reverse youself one more time?

     P Sutherland
     Bancroft, Ontario.

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