Editorial: Are you listening now?

This week, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne admitted that the high electricity prices users face were her mistake. The rare admission of fault happens just after the results of two by-elections, and  hitting the halfway point in her four year mandate.

To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an elected politician admitting they have made a mistake. It is refreshing, in fact, to hear a politician admit fault, as it happens so rarely.

Usually it is some minister or senior staffer  who is thrown under the bus and blamed for a mistake. Nothing is admitted, just corrected.  Wynne, in this rare public admission, is taking responsibility for the mistake. But which mistake is she admitting to making? There have been several over the Liberal’s 13 years in office – from green energy subsidies to smart meters that read incorrectly.

Admitting a mistake with high electricity rates and accepting responsibility for it is nice. The bigger question should be: “What are you going to do about it?”

In addition to that, how many other mistakes will the premier admit to? Recent popularity polls place Wynne at a 15% approval rating so it may be difficult for her to admit anything further without risking an even lower number.

What is odd about all of this is that the premier has said she is listening now. Was she not listening before? How could she not hear what has been said in the province over the past years? From energy rates to education funding, to the various perceived scandals, at what point did the premier decide to tune into what Ontarians were saying?

As of late, rural Ontarians have been increasingly vocal in opposition to education funding. That funding has put hundreds of schools at risk of closure. There was a protest at Queen’s Park Monday calling for a moratorium on school closures, an overhaul of the funding formula, and for a more transparent process for school consolidation. Many risked the snowstorm and travelled from South Dundas and SDG to attend. Was that loud enough for the Premier to hear?

Opposition MPPs have brought forward issues regarding electricity rates, school funding/closures, and health care frequently during Question Period. Is the premier listening there too?

When the provincial government changed funding for autism programs in the spring, raising the ire of parents across the province, the government changed course and fixed the issue. So there is a glimmer of hope that there may be a fix to go along with the taking of responsibility.

Maybe Wynne has finally learned that paying attention is important, but has she learned this too late? We’ll know in June 2018.

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