With the Ontario budget safely tucked into bed, I guess we're all supposed to forget the histrionics of the last week and how the Liberals lathered themselves into a self-righteous fury over Andrea Horwath's supposed treachery.
Betrayal is such a seductive narrative. Some commentators, given the challenge of reporting on a budget Bill 55 too technical to make tasty, were content to swallow the Liberal reality. Call this a case of convenient amnesia, because back in April Horwath clearly said following her deal with the premier that amendments were in the offing. What part of amendments did the Libs not get?
For four days in all-party Finance Committee meetings, the NDP tried to mitigate the bill's damage. And the fact that the deluded Conservatives, aching for an electoral rematch, voted in zany and unpredictable ways can't be laid at the NDP's feet.
It seems the Lib orchestration of crisis - election threats, the premier's cancelled business trip, ominous scenarios about economic ruin - was all about rushing through the covert parts of the plan. Revolutions these days can be quiet, secret things.
You have to ask why, for example, the Liberals, until Monday, June 18, were so insistent that changes like Schedule 15 and 19 - alterations to the enviro protection regime - were tantamount to ripping up their entire economic plan. I mean, were they? If so, this is interesting.
Schedule 15 would have granted the minister more discretion over exemptions to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, and 19 would do the same for the Endangered Species Act, as well as delaying strategies for species recovery.
Last month, over 50 enviro orgs signed a letter protesting the complex changes to existing regulations. On Thursday, June 14, the NDP, with the Conservatives strangely in tow, voted down 15, and on Monday the Libs yanked 19 from the omnibus bill, allowing it to be debated later. So much for Finance Minister Dwight Duncan's claim that any changes to Bill 55 would topple the fiscal edifice.
The saga of Schedule 28 was similar. A flood of groups expressed fears about the reach of this section purportedly meant to privatize Service Ontario. Were they paranoid? In May, public interest lawyer Steven Shrybman provided a legal opinion that 28 would allow the government to privatize every public service in the province without legislative approval. The Libs have lawyers, too; is this what 28 was meant to accomplish?
On Monday, the NDP won limits on the scope of that section. It's a victory as things go, but barely. That seems to be the stupid but temporary moment we're stuck in.