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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Will the Liberals target Burlington in the next general election?

I recently spoke with some Burlington political types who told me they are assuming Burlington will be targeted by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals in the next Ontario general election. In other words, the Liberals plan to run a strong candidate against MPP Jane McKenna, with all the union support they can muster.

I was not surprised as this was the impression I got during the 2011 general election campaign. Back then, Liberal Party candidate Karmel Sakran, between taking cheap shots at the Progressive Conservatives, took credit for funding that was clearly election “goodies” that opposition parties, by definition, could not match.

One of the 2011 election “goodies” was a Liberal promise to halt consideration of an unpopular highway, which was being contemplated to run through Burlington’s portion of the Niagara Escarpment—an ecologically sensitive area.

Another came a month before the general election. It was a government promise to increase its funding by an additional $320,000 for Carpenter Hospice’s nursing and personal support services.

The biggest 2011 commitment, by far, came in the form of a perfectly timed decision to approve a $312-million expansion plan for Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, a plan that the hospital first unveiled in 2009.

Sakran also unveiled a laundry list of other Liberal campaign promises. I won’t bore you with them, though, since the Liberals had a sorry record of not keeping pre-election promises, and I doubt Kathleen Wynne is any better at that. To start with, Premier Dalton McGuinty bolted about a year after that election, leaving behind over $1.1-billion in expected costs for the infamous cancellation of two gas plants. He left Ontario’s finances in a terrible mess and, yes, he cancelled the plants to save a couple of seats in the 2011 election.

But I digress.

It feels nice for our community to be liked and for its votes to be courted by a ruling party. It is hard to forget, however, that the Liberals were no where in sight in 2007 when Burlington’s hospital had an overall rate of C. difficile of 2 infections per 200 patients, twice the rate of other Canadian hospitals. And the Liberals were conspicuous by their absence in 2006–2008 while the bacteria was killing 30 patients and contributing to the deaths of 46 others.

Additionally, during a decade-plus of Liberal and NDP governments—before Mike Harris’s PC governments—we saw the highest spending in Ontario’s history up until that time, but we didn’t see Liberals funding Burlington’s hospital that had a “demonstrated need,” to use Sakran’s own words. So much for empty Liberal boasts like, “We build hospitals—not close them like the PCs.”

Ontario Liberals may not have closed Burlington’s hospital, but they did neglect it until they decided they had a chance to win the riding and targeted it for campaign promises.

Burlington has not had a Liberal MPP since about 1943 and not much in the way of specific Liberal government support, yet somehow we have managed to become the best damn community of our size in Ontario. For all but the most recent general election, successive Liberal provincial governments have ignored us, presumably because we vote conservative. Moreover, during the C. difficile crisis of 2006–2008, the Liberal government abandoned us.

Liberals were not there for us then, why should we be there for them now? I plan to stick with our current MPP, Jane McKenna.

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