I really wanted to disagree with this one. I mean I REALLY wanted to. I read Adam Radwanski’s Globe & Mail article “Impossible to please, Ontario ends up with nothing” and wanted to counter with Ontarians’ commonalities, how a recent immigrant working in Walmart in a Toronto suburb is just like a mill worker from Thunder Bay, who has just as much in common with a vintner from Niagara-on-the-Lake as they do with a First Nations member in Attawapiskat.
But they don’t. Of course their lives share class-based commonalities such as fears over paying the bills on time and making sure their kids have a better life than they do, but these issues have no particular Ontario flavour that could not be found in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland, or Burnaby, BC. As Radwanski points out with regards to wooing Ontario, all political promises will “very rarely involve anything that will bring together people from either side of the GTA, let alone from across the province.”
He writes that
with more battleground ridings than any other province, Ontario is the path to a majority government for Mr. Harper’s Conservatives and out of the political wilderness for Mr. Ignatieff’s Liberals. But during elections, as between them, federal politicians know that there’s no point in trying to appeal to Ontarians’ sense of unanimity – because they don’t have one.
In its place, Radwanksi claims that Ontario’s diversity works against us by preventing politicians from feeling they can woo Ontario with large-scale vision projects such as those seen in Newfoundland and Quebec recently. By contrast, we are offered piecemeal infrastructure projects designed to win ridings and – often enough – recent immigrant votes, especially in Ontario. Gone are the projects designed to win our hearts and minds.
But wait a minute – maybe I can disagree with this. In part, if not in full.
The most spirited defence of Ontario that I can muster is that perhaps the defect in our sense of provincial pride can be turned on its head – that perhaps what Ontario brings to the table in our greater sense of being Canadian first and Ontarians’ second is a bulwark against the creeping notions of distinct societies and petty regionalisms that infuse the Canadian cultural and political landscape. Perhaps we cannot be bought off with projects that ultimately enrich one province at the expense of another as we have seen with the Lower Churchill announcement in Newfoundland that set that province off against its neighbour in Quebec, and Quebec off against Ottawa. Our need is to be appealed to as Canadians rather than smaller-scale provincial citizens.
Perhaps Ontario is truly Canadian in a way that other provinces lack, with their ultimate focus on ensuring that they get what’s theirs. I would wager that we are not giving the wrong answers, so much as are being asked the wrong questions.
Appeal to our greater sense of being Canadian, and you may be surprised with the response you elicit from the average Ontarian.