February 19, 2003
A new political low
While last week's decision by Ontario Environment Minister Chris Stockwell to allow OMYA its full complement of 4.5 million litres of Tay River water per day is a victory for OMYA, it is a defeat for so many others. It sends a strong, negative message to citizens' groups which might think twice about spending personal time and money fighting for their rights through a tribunal. It says beware of the long arm of government.
Sure, the minister is within his legal rights to do what he did, but it smacks of political patronage, not to mention the fact he hides behind his office by not defending his decision, for legal reasons. Obviously compromise is not part of the Conservative government vocabulary.
The hearings were long, arduous and costly, but it was democracy in action, as two sides with opposing views presented their arguments to a non-partisan third party.
The decision by the minister reeks of dictatorship. It sounds a bit like the elections in a Third World country where there is only the appearance of democracy at work.
When a minister, responsible for a government agency, can put him/herself above the fair and unbiased decisions of a tribunal, and particularly above the court of the land, then we, as a free people, have let ourselves sink to new lows. Then there is the issue of free water going to an industry in a rural municipality versus paid-for water by all other industries in Perth. That is another issue.
The Conservative government will have much to answer for during the upcoming election. It is not likely it will be able to hide behind legal advice then. The government may hope the electorate will forget its many errors.