Kathleen Wynne: Composite of a Good Egg

It’s so easy to criticize politicians when they’re not doing what you want. But when they act in a principled way, no matter how it turns out, any criticism seems petty.

This is how I feel about Premier Wynne now. While trying to establish herself with a new cabinet and a hostile legislature, she had an angry teachers’ union to face down and a succession of crises after that. Lately she has been pummelled over her predecessor’s costly decision to cancel gas plants for political expedience and is now being held hostage by Andrea Horvath over passage of her first budget.

As she treads the tightrope of minority government, with grandstanding Tories on the right and sanctimonious NDPers on the left, it would be understandable if her mind focused too narrowly on political survival.

She didn’t need to take up the Toronto casino file. She could have left the OLG to its devices and let the prudently departed Dwight Duncan carry off the stink. From the sidelines of the debate, she could have maintained the Province’s neutrality and left the municipality in knots over the dilemma.

Instead she stepped up and took reasonable measures to limit the damage. First, she distanced the Province from the OLG’s aggressive campaign to put a mega-casino in Toronto, despite a dire need for new revenue. Second, she forbade the OLG from offering Toronto City Council a cut of casino proceeds that was a bribe in everything but name. Third, she has publicly chastised OLG executives for excessive pay increases and has singled out its CEO, Paul Godfrey, for possible replacement.

There’s something admirable about this, even if you believe that gambling will improve everyone’s life in the City of Toronto. She did it using the reasonable processes of government, without injecting personal preferences or moral arguments into an already overheated issue.

Her reasoning is airtight. Communities should be empowered to decide whether to allow casinos in their midst. A crown agency like the OLG should not be using the proceeds from gaming to buy City Council’s endorsement of a new casino in Toronto. Nor should provincial bureaucrats be exempt from government austerity measures simply because they oversee a form of revenue collection.

Over the past few months, I’ve complained about a lack of leadership and accountability on the casino issue. I’ve praised opponents of the Toronto casino deal and challenged the ethics of its proponents.

However, it’s time to recognize the deliberate but dispassionate way that Kathleen Wynne has sought to defuse the Toronto casino conflict. Credit her with reigning in the greedy, desperate casino promoters and gambling advocates, both within the provincial and municipal governments and without.

Acknowledgement of principled conduct is far less entertaining than ad hominem attacks and diatribes. I hope no readers of this blog feel cheated, but Premier Wynne has done what she can to remedy the ills I’ve identified in previous posts, obliging me to say so.

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