The Ontario NDP wanted to use a private member's bill to force an independent public inquiry into "government action and spending in connection with the G20 Summit." That bill came up for second reading in the legislature today and I used the webcast from the legislature to watch the debate and the vote. Not gonna happen.
The Dippers only hold 10 of 107 seats in Ontario and the Progressive Conservatives currently have 26 so the bill was never going to advance to committee without substantial support from the government side. In the end, the eight members of the NDP caucus who were on hand were the only yea votes. The Libs and the PCs combined to cast 28 votes against. (Yes there were only 36 of 107 in attendance which is shameful in itself.)
Argument in support of the inquiry came mainly from veteran MPP Peter Kormos and party leader Andrea Horwath. Both stressed the violations of civil liberties and illegal detentions as being the primary motivation for the inquiry and both stressed the need for the authority to summon witnesses and papers — subpoena power — in order to get a complete picture of events. Kormos made the point that the events of that weekend had caused people to lose confidence in law enforcement and government. I wanted to yell at my computer that some of us had lost that confidence long before that weekend in June, but his point was well taken. By me, at least.
The first of two Liberals to speak was Mike Colle and his strategy was simple: blame Ottawa. It was the feds' show. They forced it on us, they ran it and they should be held to account. If you want to criticize the police, blame the RCMP because they were in charge. Apparently everyone who works for the province in an official capacity was ordered home for the entire weekend. If there was to be any inquiry it should be held in Ottawa. Like that's going to happen.
He was followed by Progressive Conservative MPP Garfield Dunlop who was quite pleased to spend most of his time rebutting the Liberal. He spent a lot of time on the infamous five meter regulation. Remember that? That was the one that was passed by the Liberal cabinet behind closed doors, quietly posted on an obscure government website with no other announcement and then purposely misinterpreted to allow police to say "Papers, please! And what's in the backpack?" to anyone who came within five meters of the security fence. Or to anyone whose looks they didn't like. After getting himself quite worked up while insisting that only the McGuinty government could be blamed for this outrage, he expressed his support for the police and said he felt we should really wait and see what the other ongoing investigations had to say. He was very careful to emphasize how terribly expensive public inquiries can be. His leader Tim Hudak has been showing up in TV ads recently telling us that we can't afford the McGuinty government. Apparently we can't afford freedom of speech and assembly either.
It was obvious by this point what the outcome would be. There were a couple of other NDP members who got up in support of their leader but they didn't really add anything new. And there was one other Liberal named Dave Levac who tried to turn the NDP's initiative into a personal insult against those who are conducting inquiries into different aspects of that weekend's events, which completely ignores the parts about the power of subpoena and public proceedings.
And then there was the vote, including panoramic views of empty seats.
So there will be no independent inquiry into the G20. If you're still with me — and I wouldn't really blame you if you're not since most of the legislators weren't — I agree with my co-blogger who has been overheard more than once recently trying out a new motto: Punish McGuinty. Works for me.
Cross-posted at #onpoli.