Trevor’s Take: Whither the Progressive Conservative?

By Trevor Hutchinson

Premier Leslie Frost.

Growing up, Leslie Frost was a hero to me. In our cupboard at home we had some Pyrex flatware — a wedding gift to my parents from Frost. The family connection was that my grandfather, who ran Bill’s Taxi in Lindsay, had driven for Leslie Frost.

Rushing Frost’s forgotten passport from Lindsay to Toronto with police escort was the stuff of legend in my house. That I went to a school named after him only increased my sense of connection to the man.

I follow politicians of every stripe and I’ve found myself wondering lately how a politician like Frost would fare in today’s meme-based, fact-agnostic, political atmosphere. His nicknames were ‘Old Man Ontario’ and ‘The Great Tranquilizer.’

Contributing Editor Trevor Hutchinson.

Would his ‘keep calm and carry on’ approach work now in an atmosphere that seems to crave only anger and division?

And while he was our our local MPP from 1937-1961 (first elected as a member of what was officially called the Liberal-Conservative Party) he was also a lawyer, the first chancellor of Trent University and a board of regent of the University of Toronto. That sounds like like the type of university ‘elite’ that even our current premier doesn’t trust.

Not to mention his policies. Under Frost’s premiership, spending on education went from $13 million to $250 million dollars. Unable to wrest control of the income tax from Ottawa, he introduced the first Ontario income tax.

He introduced the first public health insurance in Ontario (the precursor to our OHIP). He championed legislation that prohibited racial or discrimination on private property and laid all the groundwork for the Ontario Human Rights Code which was passed the year after he retired. He introduced some of the country’s first ‘equal pay’ legislation for women.

And it was under his watch that voting rights were extended to First Nations people in Ontario. Despite his fiscal prudence — and with the resources of a new tax — he oversaw giant investments in big government infrastructure, not the least of which was the 400 highway series. His record is fairly progressive stuff.

As Psychology Today recently questioned in an article, I wonder: “Is social media destroying democracy.” I can only imagine what Frost’s Twitter account, were he alive today, would look like. It would be inundated by the angry social media mob and the radical right-wing trolls and bots would no doubt attack, wanting to “own” him. Given his policies, yellow vesters might consider him treasonous.

I’m not being rosy-eyed about the past here. But I do find myself missing a capable Progressive Conservative like Frost and the others that followed him.

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