I had an interesting political debate the other day about the provincial election. It seems that many people in Ontario don’t know that First Nations can’t vote Conservative in this election or any other election, nor the reasons why we absolutely shouldn’t.
The gentleman I was debating was unable to look past the Liberal gas plant scandal and the wasting of millions of dollars over a bad political decision. Fair enough. Certainly, business and politics often don’t mix. I’m sure Dalton McGuinty has learned that lesson.
But I gave this fellow a chuckle when I said: “Well that’s just money. Electing a Conservative government could cost lives.”
In defence of my statement, I brought up the saga of our brothers and sisters in Kettle & Stony Point and the September 6, 1996 death of Dudley George. It was direct political influence, and I argue a political decision, by a Progressive Conservative government that led to the death of the unarmed Anishinaabe activist.
“I want the f*****g Indians out of the park” – Mike Harris
That one statement sums up the intolerance and callousness of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party towards First Nations. From the mouth of their leader and mentor to Tim Hudak, Mike Harris demonstrated unrepentant racism and disregard for our people.
The Ipperwash Inquiry found that Mike Harris, then-Premier and leader of the Progressive Conservative party indeed made the statement. No acknowledgement or apology has ever been offered. As Mr. Hudak likes to point out about the gas plant issue, did anyone in Cabinet or Harris’ inner circle address the behaviour and direction of the government over the Ipperwash affair. No.
Mike Harris’ most senior advisor at the time was none other that Tim Hudak’s wife, Deborah Hutton. The same woman who stated under oath at the Inquiry that she had absolutely no recollection of any deliberations regarding Ipperwash. In fact, she uttered that she had no recollection a staggering 134 times.
During the so-called “Common Sense Revolution”, the Mike Harris government made many unilateral and devastating cuts to social programs and health care including government assistance to seniors and the poor. Those sorts of decisions have certainly led to deaths in Ontario. A smattering of carnage here and there during the 2001 heat wave, the 2003 SARS outbreak and an unprecedented surge of homelessness in Ontario’s cities. In 2000, the Progressive Conservative decision to cut staff and funding for water monitoring, public health and safety may have contributed to the deaths of 7 directly from e-coli poisoning and another 14 from e-coli related illnesses in Walkerton.
Sure, a million dollar political scandal and government waste is intolerable. For a Liberal supporter, it is downright annoying! But what does it really mean in terms of people’s lives?
First Nations have been a victim to Conservative governments cuts for years. During the Common Sense years, First Nations, the poor and the working poor bore the brunt of Progressive Conservative cruelty.
Most recently, Stephen Harper and his cabinet of former Ontario Progressive Conservatives have gutted many First Nations organizations across Canada. Staff of Provincial Territorial Organizations (PTOs) and Tribal Councils have been laid off due to Conservative cuts. Those kinds of cuts in a small community are absolutely devastating. We’re talking about the income and well-being of hundreds of families, children and single parents. These cuts are not cost saving measures but are clearly a punishment to Aboriginal organizations that have spoken out against Conservative, anti-indigenous policies.
At the end of the day, I sum it up this way: Conservative parties care more about money than people. After all, the Hudak plan is all about cuts to corporate taxes and a promise to cut 100,000 public servants.
Incidentally, my home position in the provincial government is in a recently created Aboriginal policy branch. Under a Hudak government, I’m guessing that my position would be first on the chopping block as would the entire Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs. After all, it’s the newest and smallest Ministry in an area that the Conservatives don’t feel is essential. Unfortunately, it’s also the ministry that employs the most First Nations people. More potential shrapnel from the Conservative ticking time bomb.
Conservatives have been shown to be punitive, harsh and uncaring to the First Nations people of Ontario. Their policies of intolerance and callousness have effected the lives of far too many already. Certainly, if Tim Hudak is taking cues from his mentor Mike Harris and his wife Deb Hutton, we can expect nothing less of an Ontario PC government.
That’s something that First Nations people can’t forgive nor overlook.