Steve Clark has resigned as the Province’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, as was announced early last week. He will continue to serve as the local Member of Provincial Parliament. I’ve met MPP Clark, and he’s very approachable and professional. His letter of resignation acknowledges that “mistakes” were made in the handling of the Greenbelt land swap arrangements. He also states in the letter, “I need to take responsibility for what has transpired”. Politicians royally screw up across the country every week. We at least have to respect MPP Clark for owning his mistakes, since not many politicians ever extend that same courtesy to their constituents.
How do mistakes like these happen? Even though politicians tend to make the news only for their errors in judgement rather than for the good decisions they make, we need to keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of politicians have good intentions. It’s usually only in the movies that people who want to destroy the world get pitted against those who want to save the world. In Canadian politics, most politicians have similar goals not rooted in world destruction – affordable life, safety and security, equity for all, etc. – but differ on the best route to take to get there.
Any Liberal, Progressive-Conservative, NDP or Green politician worth their salt would tell you that housing affordability is of the utmost importance. Frankly, I don’t know how some people manage to survive in this economy with the money they make and the rent they pay. Doug Ford’s PC government has been very vocal regarding the importance of housing. The “More Homes Built Faster Act” (which was itself controversial) is ample evidence of that. Choosing to develop parts of the Greenbelt was another big move. The obvious problem, however, is that public opinion on the matter was not sufficiently researched beforehand, and consultation was lacking.
Before I go any further, let me state clearly: I believe that Steve Clark made the right move by resigning from his Minister role. Mistakes were made. But from a sociological perspective, I can’t help but have a desire to question why so many ordinary people were able to find common rage in something that a sitting government could not.
My conclusion: publicity. No, I’m not suggesting that the PC government intentionally made a stupid move to proudly bask in the resulting negative attention. Rather, the PC government wants it to be very well known that it is doing something about the housing crisis, and this one particular move backfired spectacularly.
Ahead of the June 2022 provincial election, I interviewed Nolan Quinn, who is now the MPP in the SD&G political riding to the east, and Steve Clark’s PC colleague. Questions I asked to MPP Quinn before he was elected were largely answered with the Doug Ford mantra, “get it done”. When asked how a PC government would address housing issues, rural school closures, healthcare shortfalls, and more, now-MPP Quinn would throw that familiar phrase back at me, stating that his government would “get it done”. Considering that the PCs have formed Ontario’s government with a majority since 2018, I couldn’t help but think at the time, “what stopped it from getting done in the last four years?”
“Get it done” reminds me of “git er done”, a redneck spin on the phrase that essentially means doing whatever it takes to achieve a goal, even if it isn’t the brightest idea. Is it possible that Doug Ford’s PCs are targeting a specific voter demographic? Conservatives tend to dislike excess government bureaucracy and the so-called “red tape” seen as getting in the way of a job well done. Certainly, that’s what the “More Homes Built Faster Act” is all about, and I believe the “git er done” mindset was also behind the Greenbelt decision making process. Part of “git er done” is a need to be loud and proud. Never mind quiet governing… a government that has endeavoured to get it done, needs to show its loyal voters that it is indeed getting it done.
Is this mentality such a bad thing? Well notwithstanding the fact that “get it done” is a cheap catchphrase that offers absolutely no useful platform or policy information, I can admire a government that really does put the work in to live up to its promises. Even more so, I can respect a government that owns its mistakes. On Tuesday of last week, Doug Ford announced that a sweeping review will now take place regarding the lands in the Greenbelt. This, combined with MPP Clark’s resignation, shows that they’re listening. Could they have listened way earlier? Definitely, and they should have. But listening now is better than not listening at all.
If I am going to turn this article into a general political comment, then let the comment be this: governments need to be accountable to those they serve. I don’t have a problem with political parties, but I refuse to be the fanboy of any particularl party, at any level of government, at any point in time. No matter a party’s platform, when an overwhelming majority of constituents speak the same words, those words need to be taken into account. Forgetting about the party system entirely, any candidate that gets my vote will get it because they remember that their ultimate role is to represent the interests of thousands of ordinary people.
Am I an Ontario PC supporter? No comment – see above. But MPP Clark’s resignation as Minister was the right move. Accountability above all.