An Open Letter to the Deputy Premier of Ontario

Dear Minister Elliott,

I am writing to you as a citizen of Ontario regarding my deep and thoroughly-examined concerns regarding the direction of this province that I love and have been, generally, proud to call home. I have a particular perspective – as a former educator (from a family of educators) and as someone who now works within the public health care system – that I’d like to share with you.

Please note that this letter is directed to you as Deputy Premier, not as Minister of Health and Long-Term Care (although that is pertinent to my concerns, as you’ll see), since I see no value in writing to the Minister of Education or the Premier, as neither has demonstrated any depth of experience or pertinent insight in the roles to which they have, beyond all understanding, been elected and/or appointed. I’ll abstain from any further comment about their lack of overall competency, since such is self-evident and clearly demonstrated every time they open their mouths.

As health care workers and community members gather in front of Queen’s Park to demonstrate their outrage at the closing of overdose prevention sites, and as Ontario students prepare to use their informed and concerned voices and walk out of classes across the province this afternoon, I feel I can no longer remain silent without asking you – an experienced public servant – to provide the rationale behind your continued support of this government’s increasingly-egregious agenda.

Despite differences in political ideology, I have held you in a position of respect over the course of your career, particularly as you acted as Patient Ombudsman for the province of Ontario. In that role, you acted as a non-partisan representative of the people of Ontario, providing us with a strong voice to express concerns about the direction of our public-funded health care system. I watched the leadership race last year with the hope that your experience and preparedness would assure us of competent direction (despite our differences of opinion – the carbon tax, for one) as we entered a sure-to-be-contentious election.

I was dumbfounded and disheartened by your defeat – not least because, as a resident of Toronto I have far too much experience of the type of politics played and the “leadership” displayed by your opponent. The lack of relevant experience and sound-bite-based campaigning, along with ill-examined irregularities in the voting system, permitted a questionable ‘businessman’ to lead the Ontario PC Party to the Legislative Assembly.

I admit that I, like many who found this turn of events inexplicable, took some comfort in your appointment as Deputy Premier and Minister of the MOHLTC, counting on your knowledge and background to mitigate the most dangerous planks of the newly-elected Premier’s heretofore unexpressed platform. It has taken a remarkably short time for such hopes to be dashed, and I, along with much of the rest of the province, are left to wonder, with concern, at the silencing of the integrity and ethics you demonstrated previously as a long-time participant in public service.

I could go on for page after page regarding my concerns about the policy decisions this government has made (the change to our license plates would barely merit a paragraph – nonsense of that nature is hardly worth the effort of commentary – although I’d like to propose DoFoMustGo as an alternative to the crassly-commercial and self-interested ‘open for business’, since one is as nonsensical as the other), but I will focus on those two perspectives I referenced above – education and health care.

It is more and more apparent that this government is interested in preparing our children for futures that seemingly require no exposure to higher critical thinking skills or to a balance of STEM courses and humanities classes that teach important values that help to describe our society and to highlight the places that call out for improvement. In making cuts to university funding, and imposing online courses for high school students, this government seems to be supporting the creation a future population that would be disconnected from the larger community and what it means to be citizens of Ontario, Canada and the wider world, and blindly accepting of the political rhetoric used to defend policies geared toward the benefit of a minority of citizens.

In my time teaching undergraduate courses at a number of Ontario universities, I saw a steady decline in some basic skills – reading comprehension, argument-support, effective citation of sources, as examples – with the removal of grade 13/OAC under a previous Conservative government. I fear that the results of your government’s proposed changes to our education system will have deeper and more problematic consequences than even that decision.

That said, the students are best-placed to vocalize their concerns about their education, and, despite the claims of the Premier that the walk out is a political contrivance of ‘the unions’, they are making it clear that they will not be ignored when detrimental decisions are being made on their behalf. They demonstrated that with a similar walk out to express opinions regarding the province’s health education curriculum. They were heard then, and once again they are saying ‘no’ – emphatically – and if Ontario Conservatives decline to hear that declaration, I don’t believe that this government’s relationship with the people responsible for the education of our children – or the children themselves – will permit anything other than considered and intentional regression.

I ask you, as Deputy Premier, to ensure that this government starts listening to the relevant stakeholders – with the most to gain or lose – regarding changes to education in Ontario. It seems that the Premier and Minister of Education are unwilling to do so, and it is increasingly apparent that they do not have the expertise to guide progressive reforms without more informed – and educated – support.

With respect to changes coming (regardless of input) to our health care system, I have only one request to share at this time. Please uphold the necessity of consultation with relevant stakeholders prior to the institution of Bill 74. Two-days notice (I’m being generous there) for public hearings – ONLY held in Toronto – is appalling. As is the fact that over 1400 requests to present were received, and 30 representatives were invited to participate. And the fact that the rush to pass this legislation seems unprecedented in its haste. To say more than that may endanger my current job, and being jobless in this government’s Ontario is a terrifying prospect.

I ask you, as one professional, engaged Ontarian to another, to hold to account the Premier and his Ministers in the same way that you have done in your past, much-appreciated, public service incarnations. If you cannot do so, I’d appreciate hearing your reasons why, outside of the environment that requires standing ovations and toeing of party lines, regardless of evidence-based assessment.

Many thanks for your time,

A concerned citizen of Ontario


13 comments on “An Open Letter to the Deputy Premier of Ontario

  1. Well said, and thank you for saying
    it! Your comment about the education system is important; as a parent
    advocate for children with learning disabilities (approx 1 in 10) I know the cuts to education will hurt the most
    vulnerable kids, which in turn has consequences for society. In terms of health care, it’s regressive to remove OHIP coverage on colonoscopies (sedation and removal of polyps). This is such a preventable cancer! And again, it is the most vulnerable in society who will pay the price. “For the people”? The question is: which “people”?

    • colemining says:

      I’m so concerned, Booksy. The depths just keep getting lower. I’m resending this letter to Minister Elliott every day until I receive a response. It was heartening to see the turn-out at Queen’s Park yesterday – so many people who value education and won’t stand for this ‘government’ deconstructing all that we hold most dear. Thanks for reading. xo

  2. bethbyrnes says:

    Here, we have little hope that anyone cares about the education or health of the people. It is pretty obvious to me that Americans are selfish and only extend empathy as far as their immediate nuclear circle.

    The very fact that our Cabinet is packed with lobbyists who are intent on draining the treasury into their own pockets and that of those who fund them rips the curtain back from our three hundred year pretense of democracy.

    Impending re-election of a dangerous despot surrounded by greedy opportunists has plunged me into deep despair.

    The world seems to be roiling and I am at a loss to explain it.

    • colemining says:

      I’m with you, Beth. I am quite concerned that we are about to do the same thing on the national level – while letting the idiot running the province get away with the dismantling of social programs, education, health care and basic human equity and decency.

      Know I’m thinking about you – always lovely to see you. Check in if you want a chat! xo

      • bethbyrnes says:

        If Canada goes the way we have, then things will not be restored in my lifetime. I don’t understand it. Joy Reid (MSNBC) says the issue here is, at its core, old, white, men wanting things to go back to their status of the 1940s through 1960s. Lord help us.

        Always want to chat with you, Cole! I think my blog will return to normalcy if we rid this country of DJT. Until then, writing is more painful than it was previously.

        Do you see that we are letting private prison cronies of his torture children in concentration centres now? What is wrong with America?!

      • colemining says:

        I can’t even watch the news from the States these days. I don’t know how we are in this place of complete unkindness and inhumanity. Selfishness is the only reason I can see – here, at least. For a few extra dollars in pocket, people are willing to see valuable social programs, education and health care disappear up here. It’s really hard to take.

  3. bethbyrnes says:

    This country has finally revealed its true nature under this craven administration, in my opinion. Fifty percent are intelligent, educated, decent people and 40% are the opposite. There is a slim band of indifferent, clueless people who cannot make a decision or who just leave it to others. So, this terrifying situation is likely to continue.

    I will fully admit, I wanted a Biden/Harris ticket. But now, Biden shows himself to be complacent and Harris to be self-serving and opportunistic. The only other possibility is a Warren/Castro ticket. And, I am not sure they can beat Trump because he will simply create false horrors about our candidates and with Russian help and that of the far right Supreme Court, simply hold on to his throne. Then, Katie bar the door — I fear for us with another four years of him.

    • colemining says:

      I don’t know what to make of your system these days, Beth. So many people running – when it seems like the best course would be to work together to defeat the clown and his minions. I’m happy to see Biden fading, tbh. The world needs different voices to take us through the morass in which we find ourselves now. I like Warren – and Harris, for that matter. It’s distressing that women and POC will be dismissed in favour of shoring up the same old boys club that has us regressing by the day.

      • bethbyrnes says:

        I can’t disagree with you Cole. Ordinarily, Biden would not be my choice — I never really warmed to him and he does have antediluvian positions that he refuses to disavow, for some baffling reason.

        It has to be our number one goal to rid the WH of an imposter who is draining our coffers and destroying our Democracy. Why can’t the Democrats see this and do as you say? It is high time that a woman and person of color take the helm. What is wrong with us? It sickens me and has given me many sleepless nights.

      • colemining says:

        The existential angst behind this worldwide trend toward extremities of conservatism – including the religious right (which terrifies me more than I can tell you) – keeps me up nights, too. I don’t know how we are in a place of such selfishness and obstinate backward thinking. I understand that it’s a reactionary last gasp for those who see power slipping away from the status quo, but I can’t believe the extent to which people – white people, let’s be honest here – are willing to go to get a few extra dollars in their pocket and the illusion that they are still ‘better’ than others. I don’t know what to do with it. They seem to be un-teachable.

  4. I’d be interested to know whether you ever received a reply to this letter, Cole, for it seems, all over, that politicians are doing exactly what serves themselves and are devoid of any sense of responsibility.
    A different agenda, it would appear, is afoot and social conscience has become a swear word. I’m at a loss to fully understand it although not at a loss to see the direction of travel. I’ll say no more here but interesting the connections between US, Canada and UK re management of social media and fear tactics. The dots are joining but the picture, as yet, not entirely clear. Or, rather, I don;t want to see the picture in its fullness.
    I do wish we could speak face to face.
    Scotland calls!
    Or give me two years to retire and I’ll head your way!
    Keep the faith – whatever faith – in the ability of humanity to live up to its name. xxx

    • colemining says:

      I didn’t get a response, A-M. Not surprising, sadly, but disappointing nonetheless. In one of the nasty twists in the tenure of this ‘government’ I’m forced to participate in the deconstruction of the health care system – with an ever-more evident move toward privatization. I find myself at yet another cross-road – in which I am torn between trying to contribute to some level of positive change while feeling like I’m supporting all that I find repugnant if I do so.

      Whether next year or the one after that there will be pints and chatter until the sun comes up goes down and comes back up again. 5 years is too long. xo

      • That must be difficult, Beth, caught between two poles. That’s the Tory plan in the UK too. If a deal gets done with the US everything’s up for grabs. Love of money knows no conscience. Disaster capitalism.
        I do hope you make it over again. There’s so much to catch up on.
        Enjoy your trip and forget for a while, if possible, work and worries. xx

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