I was talking to the wife of a long-time Tory friend of the family, who was angry with the treatment her husband “Jimmy” got from the Ernie Eves government. The Citizens for Lifelong Learning program was cancelled abruptly after the spring program this year by the provincially appointed supervisor of the Toronto District School Board, Paul Christie, and David Reid, director of the TDSB.
This was shocking news for the more than 30,000 participants in the TDSB programs, 30 per cent of whom were seniors and 75 per cent women. Many were poor women who took the courses for upgrading and learning new job skills. But we’re also talking about voters who have paid education taxes for up to 50 years.
These programs and services, that started over a 100 years ago, ran the gamut from learning upholstery to line dancing and contributed to the social, mental and physical health of participants. When Jimmy approached his Tory MPP for help, he was told that the decision stood and if he didn’t like it, he knew what he could do. This hurt Jimmy. Ontario Premier Ernie Eves, whom Jimmy had strongly supported over Flaherty to get the job as premier of Ontario, couldn’t be interrupted because he was reading How to Improve Your Golf Game by Tiger Woods.
Sad. Jimmy was such an undying, loyal Tory worker. He canvassed, put up signs, attended meetings and Tory conventions. Why, he had even worked like a Trojan for pro-abortion Kim Campbell, the summertime PM, who took the Tory MPs down to a two-handed game of cards in Ottawa. (One of the survivors was our pro-life heroine, Elsie Wayne.) How ungrateful the Tories were, Jimmy thought. It was like being told by his mother that his father had once voted Liberal.
I told Jimmy’s wife that it was time for Jimmy to switch to the Family Coalition Party. She replied: “All politicians are rotten.” I replied: “Yes, but some are more rotten than others.”
Jimmy and his friends got up a petition and got 5,000 voters to sign it. (I signed it.) It was to no avail.
But, good news was just around the corner. Premier Ernie (Bon Vivant) Eves decided to call an election and it looked like it was going to be on June 24, 2003. Suddenly, someone must have reminded Ernie that there were 30,000 screaming Ontario voters who hated the Tories for what they did to Citizens for Lifelong Learning. And they likely had 30,000 spouses, 60,000 children (two per family), 30,000 friends, 30,000 neighbours. A potential disaster was in the offing.
Suddenly, the milk of human kindness streamed through Ernie’s veins. “Fire the bureaucrat that authorized eliminating Citizens for Lifelong Learning. Fire him,” cried Ernie. “Sir,” he was told, “It was you, sir, who signed the authorization to terminate that program.”
“It must’ve been a machine that signed my signature in error. Put them back in the TDSB budget at once. I’ve always loved Citizens for Longlife …”
“Yes,” said Ernie, “Lifelong Learning. But don’t give them everything they want. They’ll think we’ve gone back to the days of good old Premier Bill Davis.”
“Sir, I think we should delay the election call.”
“No way!” cried Ernie, “That 20 per cent lead is just soft Liberal support. Do you think I’m afraid of Dalton McGinty?”
“No, I’m talking about the SARS epidemic that looks like it’s got legs. People are dying of SARS – people are in quarantine. You wouldn’t want to give the impression to the electorate that you were more concerned about getting elected than the dangerous situation the people are facing?”
“Yeah. I wouldn’t want that impression to get out.”
“Neither would we. Delay the election.” “Right.”
“Unfortunately, sir, the train left the station some time ago.”
“Yeah, I can’t go to the postal box without getting a pile of election literature from me.”
“Better you than Dalton.”
“First we had 9-11 hammering the economy. Then we had the West Nile mosquito plague that made people afraid to go out in the backyard. Then we have the SARS epidemic killing the tourist trade. Maybe we should shorten the election period to one week and try to get the campaign in between disasters.”
“Well, we’d better hurry. A dangerous new plague is heading our way from the U.S. west coast. It’s called Monkeypox.”
“Monkeypox! Do you know what I think?”
“I think it’s God’s punishment for us Tories picking on Elsie Wayne.”