As Toronto City Hall went into meltdown earlier this week, many looked to a higher power to do something about the pending situation with Rob Ford and his stubborn refusal to step down, and that higher power was the Ontario Legislature led by Premier Kathleen Wynne. This is where politics get even more political though because when you have a left-leaning politician threatening to sanction a right-leaning politician, no matter how justified, fur is going to fly.
Of course, I think Wynne is far too shrewd to put herself in a position to set a precedent like having a Premier turf a duly-elected and sitting Mayor of Toronto, but that didn't stop Ford's allies from playing defense. Still, twice this week, I've heard both Cllr. Doug Ford and the Toronto Sun's Joe Warmington use the phrase "unelected premier," when talking about Wynne. It's a phrase I hadn't heard in a while, but it does two things, suggest that Wynne has no power, and if she does, then she has no authority to use it. I had thought we were past this because it's both silly and incorrect, but here we go again, confusing process for democracy.
Like a lot of good lies though, there's a bit of truth in characterizing Kathleen Wynne as "unelected." Has she been up for a general election as leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario? No, but she was elected twice, she was elected by the people of Don Valley West and then she was elected by the membership of her party to lead them. You see, in our system, you don't vote for the premier or the prime Minister directly, like you would for a governor or the president in the United States, you vote for your local representative. The party that has the most elected representatives becomes the government, and the leader of the party becomes the head of that government. Now that's not to say that party affiliation and who that party's leader is doesn't play a role in deciding who you vote, but neither should it be the exclusive deciding factor.
I'm reminded of when the minority government of Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament at the end of 2009, and a coalition of Stephane Dion, Jack Layton, and Gilles Duceppe had proposed to form a new government. The instantaneous criticism was that this move would be undemocratic, a coup d'etat, but our system does allow for such contingencies in a minority government situation, and, as I noted at the time, a government made up of the parties that represent 65 per cent of the vote can't be any less democratic than a government made up of representatives who, despite forming a majority of a minority, still got just 35 per cent of the vote?
Terms like "unelected" are politically fun to throw around, but serve no useful or practical purpose. I didn't vote for Kathleen Wynne, but she is still my Premier, answerable to me as she is to Doug Ford, Joe Warmington, and every other citizen of Ontario, even though none of us technically voted for her. It will be up to Liberal politicians and Liberal candidates to sell us on her leadership, and their own, at the time of the next election. In the meantime, Wynne is the Premier and she has been elected. Maybe not by you, but that doesn't make her any less the head of Ontario's government. You wanna talk about unelected, visit North Korea sometime.