When is equal not equitable? Have you ever looked up the definitions of “equal” and “equitable” in the dictionary? I have and here they are: equal: regarding or affecting all objects in the same way; equitable: dealing equally AND fairly with all concerned.
For the past year I have travelled across our vast riding and talked to people from various walks of life. I have discovered that, what is deemed equal, is not necessarily equitable.
Here’s what I mean: we have funding and service delivery models that are built on southern Ontario demographics, southern Ontario standards, southern Ontario needs and southern Ontario issues. When those funding and service delivery models are lifted out of southern Ontario and placed “on top of” Northwestern Ontario . . . surprise, surprise! they don’t fit.
So, what looks equal for Toronto is really the Toronto-way out and is often not equitable for Northwestern Ontario.
Here is an example: Walkerton. A terrible tragedy that claimed lives in a small community. No one doubts or denies the tragedy the people of Walkerton felt and continue to feel. However, the fallout of Walkerton has not been equitable for Northwestern Ontario.
The truth is that, what seems to be equal treatment in terms of ensuring consistent water treatment methods for all of Ontario, is in truth not equitable for people of Northwestern Ontario.
Our small and struggling municipalities, our small businesses, our small trailer park operators and tourism operators are being burdened unfairly and unnecessarily because of a southern Ontario tragedy.
The far-reaching economic implications for Northwestern Ontario from Justice O’Connor’s recommendations will be felt for years to come. The incredible costs to implement new water regulations will be staggering. So, what seems “equal” by treating everyone the same in terms of water regulations in fact is “inequitable” for the north.
Here’s another example: Federal Gun Registry. The registry may have had some semblance of purpose in its formative stage, when the plan was to get guns out of the hands of criminals in southern Ontario and Canadian cities.
Now, in 2003, the gun registry fiasco continues and while it may have made sense at some point to treat everyone who owns a gun “equally,” it has been absolutely “inequitable” for law-abiding gun owners across the north. Just another example of a poor attempt to treat everyone equally and when the dust settles a portion of the population, in this case northern gun owners, are treated inequitably.
My friends, there are many more examples. . . you probably have your own.
What’s the answer? One answer is to start carrying forward the message that the north IS different, our demographics ARE different and the funding formulas, the service delivery models and programs designed from a Toronto-centric point of view often don’t work in Northwestern Ontario. Our demographics are different, our geography is different, our population base is different, our tax base is different, our natural resources are different . . . need I go on?
I prayed when Walkerton prayed for its sick and dying and I cried for the people of Walkerton. But I also know that until we begin to take a loud and clear message to Queen’s Park and Ottawa that we ARE different in Northwestern Ontario we will continue to get very equal treatment, but still walk away shaking our heads feeling our inequities.
Kenora-Rainy River Riding
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