There are some issues that just should not be used to play politics. With about six weeks to go until a provincial election in Ontario, Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty is considering a petition to rename part of Highway 401 in honour of Canadian soldiers who die in Afghanistan. That's a very noble gesture that I support wholeheartedly, regardless of my own political beliefs and support, and regardless of the timing. Then this afternoon, we got this news release in our newsroom:
FACT CHECK: MCGUINTY AND THE ARMED FORCES
The facts get in the way of Dalton’s story
(Toronto, ON) – A story in today’s Globe and Mail says that Dalton McGuinty is considering renaming a stretch of the 401 the “Highway of Heroes” in honour of Canada’s war dead.
It’s a worthy initiative, to be sure. But it also begs the question of Dalton McGuinty’s sincerity when he says, as is reported in the Globe, that Ontario needs to look for opportunities to lend support to Canada's soldiers and thank them for their sacrifices.
Over the last two years, Dalton McGuinty has had no fewer than two occasions to help out those Ontarians serving in Canada’s Armed Forces in real and meaningful ways, and he rejected both of those options right out of hand.
Opportunity 1: When Dalton McGuinty broke his promise to the people of Ontario and brought in the single largest tax hike in the history of the province he called it a “health premium” and made it so that Ontario’s men and women in the Armed Forces had to pay it.
But they don’t use Ontario’s health care system.
During the spring of 2006, John Tory and PC MPP John Yakabuski led the call in the Ontario Legislature to have the McGuinty government, at the very least, repeal the health tax for our men and women in the Armed Forces. Dalton McGuinty and his ministers were given nine separate opportunities to say that they were going to repeal the tax. Instead of doing so, Dalton refused to answer the questions put to him and his Minister of Finance defended the practice – saying that the families of Armed Forces members used Ontario’s health care system.
So what happened when those families tried to access those health care services?
Opportunity 2: The Phoenix Centre for Children and Families near CFB Petawawa provides mental health services for the children of soldiers who are serving in Afghanistan.
In September 2006, Greg Lubmiv, the executive director of the Phoenix Centre, and Lieutenant Colonel Dave Rundle, the base commander at CFB Petawawa addressed a letter to Dalton McGuinty’s Minister of Children and Youth Services asking for special funding to deal with a huge increase in the need for mental health services for the children in and around CFB Petawawa.
The Minister refused the request and told Mr. Lubmiv and Lt.-Col. Rundle to ask the federal government.
When asked about it , Dalton McGuinty’s minister gave this appalling answer:
“It’s [the increase in the need for children’s mental health services] a direct consequence of federal government initiatives.”
It wasn’t until the Ombudsman stepped in that the Phoenix Centre got the money Dalton McGuinty’s government previously said didn’t exist.
John Tory and the PC Party of Ontario also believe that support for our men and women in uniform must happen 365 days a year – not just at election time.
It is disgusting that the Conservative Party would use the issue to try to score political points. I hope it comes back to bite them in the collective arse.