Returning to Queen’s Park after spending time travelling Algoma-Manitoulin is always a bit of a culture shock for me.
Going from community to community, I am always uplifted by the engaging conversations that constituents want to have about the issues facing our province. Those who show up to meet with me always come ready to have a meaningful back-and-forth about what they are experiencing, how we can work together to address issues and, most importantly, are always ready to listen as much as they talk.
By contrast, debate in the Legislature can feel hopelessly one-sided sometimes, where each party is dug into their point of view and doesn’t want to hear the other side. This is ironic given the motto of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario is Audi Alteram Partem, literally “Listen to the Other Side.”
These days, it’s not just between political[BG1] parties that counterpoints are discarded as unnecessary distractions; [BG2] there are times where it feels that the government is intentionally avoiding the difficult conversations, they should be having with the people they serve.
I considered [BG3] this when I got up to provide remarks on Bill 71, the Building More Mines Act, that the government brought for final reading in the Legislature this week. This bill will enact a slew of amendments to the Mining Act if it is brought into force, as the Conservatives seem dead set on doing, despite growing opposition.
There is more than one part of Bill 71 that I find concerning. It proposes changes to the powers of the Minister of Mines respecting exploration permits and the rehabilitation of former mine sites. Currently, the powers to make decisions on permits and plans in these areas are [BG4] exercised by a member of the independent Ontario Public Service. The Minister’s office will exercise these decision-making powers under the amendments the Ford government is planning to make. I believe that this move jeopardizes the independence of decision-making [BG5] and will hurt the public’s trust that these decisions are being made with a clear and independent review.
What is most concerning to me about Bill 71 is the condemnation it has received from First Nations across Ontario; and the government seems intent on avoiding engagement with those most affected, especially First Nations. It almost seems like the Ford government believes that if they just don’t talk about it, the problem will just drift into oblivion. It has gotten to the point where at least 13 First Nations are pursuing court challenges against the government for refusing to adhere to the Treaties that govern the Nation-to-Nation relationship. Many more have expressed their strong opposition to the way that this and previous governments have gone about approving resource development in their homelands.
The Ford government seems determined to repeat history on the Ring of Fire. The last Liberal government under Kathleen Wynne walked away from consensus conversations with First Nations in the region when they couldn’t their way. That is the exact same “divide and conquer” tactic being wielded by this government, and it has created an escalating series of challenges that will surely mar any true progress on the Ring of Fire and the path towards reconciliation. [BG6]
Making lasting change is challenging work and one of the hardest parts is being ready to have those difficult conversations with those we do not see eye-to-eye with. Th[BG7] [BG8] e very nature of politics requires debate and challenges, and a key component of that process is listening as much as you talk. After all, the creator gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at my new address, firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député Algoma-Manitoulin
[BG2]Sometimes Mike has this aversion to using terms such as turning a blind eye or deaf ear to something. He says he has had negative comments from disabled people when he/we use it. I don’t think it is too big an issue, but I should raise it for consideration. [BG2]
[BG7]You might consider expanding this thought like this: “The very nature of government and politics requires debate and challenges. Key components of that stage are dialogue and listening. This doesn’t mean just saying and hearing the words, but rather respectful and meaningful engagement. ” [BG7] [BG7]
Maybe say something like, “the bottom line is that a government cannnot and should not substitute respectful dialogue with legislation….. I’m not sure what to suggest here.