As I foreshadowed in my recent post about the licence plate refunds, Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy spoke at The Empire Club of Canada yesterday. The speech was entirely political. Bethlenfalvy started by discussing why he recently got into politics, which led into a comprehensive attack on the Wynne Government.
After completing his attack, he then turned to the Ford Government’s record and its platform for the June election. His presentation had a great deal of political hyperbole. One instance that particularly struck me, since I’ve paid attention to the issue, is his advocacy of Highway 413 because it will save drivers “up to 30 minutes in travel time.” This is a well-known statistical trick to exaggerate the benefits of a project by referring to an extreme point of a distribution, rather than a more representative measure such as the mean or median.
In a previous post, I criticized the Ford Government’s “Ontario is Getting Stronger” advertising campaign as using the imprimatur and resources of the Ontario Government to advance the PC Party’s political agenda. This case is identical. Because the election campaign hasn’t officially begun Peter Bethlenfalvy is able to take advantage of his role as Finance Minister of Ontario to give a partisan political speech. If it were during the election campaign, he would have to identify himself as Peter Bethlenfalvy, PC Party candidate for Pickering-Uxbridge.
Stage and Stooge
The Empire Club made the decision to invite Bethlenfalvy in the run-up to an election campaign. They should have known what to expect. In its mission statement, The Empire Club of Canada says that it believes that “open public dialogue is the cornerstone of an informed and healthy society.” It could have demonstrated that belief by inviting speakers from the Liberals, NDP, and Greens. To the best of my knowledge, it isn’t. It might even have demonstrated a belief in open dialogue by its format for Bethlenfalvy’s remarks. Club President Kelly Jackson could have invited questions from the audience. Instead, she asked the questions, tossing softballs like “what’s the rationale behind your infrastructure program?” and “what did and didn’t you like about the recent federal budget?” Perhaps unwittingly Jackson was being the PC Party’s stooge.
Sun Tzu’s Maxim
The Chinese military strategist of the sixth century BC, Sun Tzu, wrote that “every battle is won before its ever fought.” The Ontario PC Party is trying to follow Sun Tzu’s maxim by amending the Election Finances Act to curtail third party advertising before the election campaign while amplifying its own voice through government advertising and speeches like Bethlenfalvy’s.
Sun Tzu laughs. Democracy weeps.