Public left out of major policy decisions: business elite backdrop for announcements

When was the last time a major policy announcement was made by government in front of an audience of union members?

On Monday Health Minister Deb Matthews is expected to make a major announcement on health restructuring before the Toronto Board of Trade. Earlier this week Premier Dalton McGuinty made a similar speech before the Canadian Club of Toronto.

With no legislative committees operating at Queen’s Park due a disagreement among the parties as to their composition, Ontario is about to undergo a major restructuring of public services with little to no public input.

“The Drummond Commission will be recommending a fundamental restructuring of how Ontario’s public services are produced and delivered. It would be unprecedented, given the magnitude of change envisioned, if a broad public consultation did not take place,” says Dr. Bryan Evans, professor of politics at Ryerson University.

And who are the politicians speaking to? For McGuinty and Matthews, it is audiences of the business elite.

Evans joined the Ontario Health Coalition and Democracy Watch at Queen’s Park this morning to complain about the lack of democratic process.

“The Ontario Liberals’ budgeting and policy-making process in the past few months violates every democratic, open, good government principle,” says Duff Conacher, Board Member and Founding Director of Democracy Watch. “The public paid for the Drummond report, yet the government has shut down the legislature without forming legislature committees, without any open hearings, and without public input into the major policy changes ahead.”

Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said Don Drummond does not represent the values and needs of ordinary Ontarians.

“He selected a very narrow elite of hospital executives and pro-privatization lobbyists to consult while he was writing his report,” she said. “When we and a few other groups met with him in early December – at our request – the report was already written.”

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