To all of our political leaders: please pledge to work with each other, regardless of your ideological bent, to find solutions to the many problems we face. Photo credit: Freepik
With January 1st comes the time-honoured tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. What might some of those resolutions look like for our governments?
First up, Toronto City Council: stop with the “woke” culture wars and do the job you were elected to do.
Despite a list of serious problems a mile long, including traffic gridlock, lack of affordable housing, homelessness, and serious budget shortfalls, Council decided a top priority was to remove the name “Dundas” from Yonge-Dundas Square, two transit stops and a public library.
Henry Dundas was a powerful Scottish politician in the late 1700s and 1800s, for whom the facilities were named. In a serious misreading of history, Council accused him of prolonging the slave trade when he was in fact a leading abolitionist in his day whose efforts helped bring the practice to an end in the British Empire.
To make Council look even sillier, the new name they chose for the square, “Sankofa,” meaning reflecting and reclaiming the past, comes from the language of the Akan people in Ghana who were themselves active participants in the slave trade.
For the Ontario government: don’t let the critics slow down your efforts to keep building more transit, drive improvements in the education system and fix health care.
None of these files are easy, but major advances have been made. For example, the province’s regional transit agency, Metrolinx, is expanding its Go Train network throughout the GTA with some of the biggest construction projects in North America.
It is true that the projects have resulted in major disruptions to many neighbourhoods and business districts, provoking protest actions and much criticism. But the transit is badly needed if the region is to continue to generate needed economic growth.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce has accomplished something that many of his predecessors of all political stripes have not been able to do – negotiate new teacher contracts without major classroom disruption. This has given the government the opportunity to focus on badly needed improvements in education outcomes with stronger math and literacy programs, more tutoring and more new investments.
In health care, Minister Sylvia Jones has launched initiatives, including training more nurses and doctors and making it easier and faster for foreign-trained health care graduates to practice in Ontario. She is also aggressively expanding hospitals and long-term care facilities. But critics are hyper-ventilating over the government’s plans to move some relatively minor surgical procedures to independent clinics and reduce the pressures on hospitals, claiming that the premier is trying to “privatize” Ontario’s health care system.
Picking a resolution or two for our federal government is a challenge, given the many issues our nation faces. But here is one suggestion: stop with continual tax increases.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to help more people enter the middle class, but his continued tax hikes are causing even more families to fall through the cracks. For instance, 2024 will see increases in Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance contributions, carbon taxes on gasoline, propane and natural gas and alcohol taxes. And that doesn’t include the impact of inflation on the family budget, to which many of the federal government’s policies have contributed.
And finally, to all of our political leaders: please pledge to work with each other, regardless of your ideological bent, to find solutions to the many problems we face.
A good example this past year has seen a notable partnership between Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and a few of Trudeau’s senior ministers, who have set aside political differences to find solutions on important files. Keep it up.
In the meantime, let’s keep our fingers crossed for a better 2024.
Janet Ecker is a former Ontario Finance Minister, Minister of Education, Minister of Community and Social Services and Government House Leader in the governments of Premier Mike Harris and Premier Ernie Eves. After her political career, she served as the founding CEO of the Toronto Financial Services Alliance, a public-private partnership dedicated to building Toronto region into an international financial centre. She currently sits on a number of corporate and non-profit boards, agencies and advisory committees.
Ms. Ecker received the Order of Canada for her public service contributions and was recognized as one of the “Most Influential People in the World’s Financial Centres” by Financial Centres International. She also received a “Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award” from the Women’s Executive Network and the Richard Ivey School of Business, among other awards. She is also one of the founders of Equal Voice, a national, multi-partisan organization working to elect more women.