January 23, 2004-
PREMIER FACES FIRST TEST OF HIS COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRATIC RENEWAL
Closed Door Meeting On De-Amalgamation Vote A Bad Start
Premier Reminded Of His Belief In Local Democracy
The Victoria County Yes! Campaign today told reporters at a Queen’s Park news conference that Premier Dalton McGuinty should not be let off the hook if he breaks an election promise that any remodeling of local governance should be driven by the people and not imposed from on high by the provincial government.
“This afternoon will be the Premier’s first test of his commitment to democratic renewal and local democracy,” said spokesperson Paul Pagnuelo.
Pagnuelo explained that Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen would be meeting behind closed doors late in the afternoon with City of Kawartha Lakes council to discuss the outcome of a provincially mandated referendum that was held during last fall’s municipal elections, which resulted in a majority vote to de-amalgamate the three year old city.
In February 2002, opposition leader Dalton McGuinty committed in writing that a Liberal government would ensure a binding referendum would be held to allow local citizens to determine whether or not to dismantle the amalgamated city. On January 24, 2003, just weeks after former Tory Minister of Municipal Affairs Chris Hodgson announced the de-amalgamation referendum question, McGuinty reiterated that the Liberals were “committed to a referendum” on the issue.
“The question was clear. The threshold of victory was clear. The result was clear. A majority of the ballots cast and a majority of wards voted `Yes’ to de-amalgamate. The only mayoralty candidate who ran on a `de-amalgamation’ ticket was elected,” said Pagnuelo.
He told reporters that McGuinty has only one option: respect the outcome of the vote.
However, he questioned why, if the Premier will be good to his word, his Municipal Affairs Minister is being allowed to hold secret talks with the City of Kawartha Lakes Council, late on a Friday afternoon.
Pagnuelo said the media, MPPs and voters all have a responsibility in holding Premier McGuinty accountable for this and other election promises.
“This is an easy one for him to keep. Today will tell just how committed the Premier is to engaging Ontarians in what he has described as being the most ambitious democratic renewal process in Ontario’s history.