Genuine. Responsive. Thoughtful. Pragmatic. Cooperative. Everything voters have been craving in their political leadership came through in Kathleen Wynne’s speech to the Liberal leadership convention.
As more and more voters tune out with every election, sick of disingenuous political spin, partisan brinksmanship, and governments more interested in their own agendas than they are in serving the people, Wynne offered up a fountain of fresh water in a vast desert.
Post victory, Wynne has committed to putting an end to the “rancour and viciousness” of debate in the Legislature and to working with the opposition leaders for the good of the province.
Will those around her rise to the occasion? Perhaps more importantly, will we?
Our hyper-partisan political culture has evolved to a system more focused on attaining and holding power than the desire to serve the people. Faced with complex issues politicians resort to the simple sound bite rather than developing and promoting the necessary complex solutions. Ideas raised by another political party are bad by virtue of who put them forward.
As less and less is done on the issues that matter most to Ontarians, people are losing faith in the role of government. Declining voter participation reinforces our current political culture, and the cycle continues, increasing the gap between the needs of our people and communities and the focus of our governments.
In her speech that won her the Liberal leadership and made her our new Premier, Wynne gave us a glimmer of hope that a new kind of politics just might be possible – that there’s a chance the people of Ontario could be put ahead of political agendas.
A move to thoughtful, consensus building leadership may not sit well with Wynne’s caucus colleagues, more comfortable with the ‘thirst for power model’ they’re used to. Likewise, it will take great courage for the opposition leaders to move beyond the usual search and destroy tactics.
The immediate launch of attack ads by Conservative leader Tim Hudak, that denounce the new Premier before she’s even on the job, suggest our only hope lies with NDP leader Andrea Horwath. Horwath has spent the last year and a half making a name for herself as the leader willing to work together to get things done. The test of her conviction now comes with the possibility of a Premier who will take her up on her offer.
From our Constitution to our healthcare system, most of Canada’s great political achievements come from our political parties working together.
At a time when Ontario’s economy continues to struggle against the backdrop of world economic instability, we need all hands on deck. We need our leaders to come together to address the complex problems we face with more than just ideological rhetoric.
BUT, if we want a new kind of politics, WE have to be ready to question the sound bites. The road ahead is a lot easier for those intent on maintaining the status quo and discrediting their opponent rather than implementing solutions for the people they’re meant to serve. Spinning the simple sound bite is easy when your goal is to discredit – it’s near impossible when you genuinely want to solve difficult problems.
We may be on the cusp of significant change in Ontario politics. If Wynne and Horwath mean what they say about working together they may just go down in the history books as the women who rebuilt a great province. I hope they’re up to the challenge.