Ontario results warning

Ontario vote a caution for Harper

The last time I bothered to clue in to the state of Ontario politics, which is to say sometime around the beginning of the current provincial election campaign, Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government was in deep doo doo. The government had broken too many of its previous promises, the pundits and the pollsters had already concluded; the Tories, under the wonderfully named John Tory, were poised to take power if only because they weren’t the Liberals. Or so they claimed.

What a difference a campaign makes.

As I write this on the morning of election day, the outcome — if you believe the polls (always a dubious proposition) and the pundits (even sketchier) — is already a foregone conclusion. You will be reading in your newspaper this morning that McGuinty and his Liberals have cruised to a convincing majority victory.

What happened? Well, everything. And nothing. The short answer is that John Tory seized on an issue almost no one in Ontario cared about — public funding for religious schools — and somehow transformed it into the issue that trumped everything else, drowning out any reasoned, or even unreasoned discussion of Dalton McGuinty’s actual record as premier or all of those issues — the province’s troubled manufacturing economy, its crumbling infrastructure and underfunded health care system — that actually matter to people.

Such are the unpredictable, illogical and ultimately unstoppable ways of electoral campaigns.

There is — or should be — a lesson in all of that for Stephen Harper. Be careful what you wish for.

Canadian voters do not appear all that dissatisfied with the current minority government situation; they certainly aren’t clamouring for a chance to give Harper the majority he craves. So merely being seen to be the political leader who triggers yet another unnecessary federal election — and Harper’s recent tough-guy, sabre-rattling, every-vote-is-a-confidence-vote posturing will be seen for exactly what it is — could backfire in ways no one, least of all Harper himself, can safely predict.

As John Tory discovered, the distance between being poised for power and looking for another line of work is short.

***

CBC Radio’s Information Morning has taken up the case of Dr. Michael Goodyear, the oncologist whose five-years-and-counting battle with Capital District Health Authority I wrote about in this space last week.

The Cole’s Notes version of the story: Five years ago, the CDHA suspended Goodyear’s hospital privileges, ostensibly because his continued practice endangered the safety of patients but more likely because he didn’t get along with a supervisor. The case has dragged on and on, destroying Goodyear’s career and personally bankrupting him while robbing the rest of us of his much-needed services as an oncologist.

On Tuesday, Information Morning interviewed Goodyear and Dr. John Sullivan, the president of the district’s medical staff association, which has taken up Goodyear’s case, along with that of Dr. Gabrielle Horner, a cardiac researcher who has endured a similar ordeal at the hands of Capital Health and is currently suing the CDHA over its treatment of her.

Yesterday, the program invited CDHA officials to respond specifically to the question of why it has taken so long to deal with Goodyear’s case.

The answer was pathetically inadequate.

That’s not to blame Dr. Brendan Carr, the interim vice president of medicine at the hospital, who wasn’t even in his current position when the dispute began, but who was handed the thankless task of trying to make sense of the CDHA’s sense-less arguments.

Carr, of course, couldn’t talk specifically about Dr. Goodyear’s case, only hypothetically about the process. While admitting that asking why the case has taken so long to resolve was “a very good question,” Carr insisted that “due process is in play” and that the CDHA was simply “exercising our duty to the public” in order to “maintain the public’s confidence in the health care system.”

For five years?

The “public” was not impressed. The program followed Carr’s interview with a selection of telephone calls and emails it had received in response to its interview with Goodyear. All agreed that five years was way too long for a case like this to drag on.

One caller was a former patient of Goodyear’s, who said he’d been “fortunate” to have him as his oncologist. Another came from the family member of another patient who’d died from his cancer but who described Goodyear as “professional and honest” in all his dealings with the family and added that the case against him seemed like “a waste of time, money and talent.”

Indeed.

Still another correspondent echoed my call from last week that Premier Rodney MacDonald and Health Minister Chris d’Entremont intervene to settle this mess.

Perhaps our premier might now want to take time out from pretending to know what health care workers think about his anti-strike legislation and deal with a health care issue that is not only endangering “the health and safety” of Nova Scotians but that is also clearly crying out for action from the top.

Don’t hold your breath.

Stephen Kimber is the Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism at the University of King’s College. His column, Kimber’s Nova Scotia, appears in The Sunday Daily News.

Available May 13, 2007

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Copyright 2007 Stephen Kimber, Website

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