Repurposing Wynne’s virtual forum

Through online forums, comment sections and blogs, there is no shortage of soap boxes on which any individual with Wi-Fi and an opinion can stand. Ironically, the Ontario government seems to have created such a platform of discussion and criticism that has amalgamated a range of comments and criticisms of the provincial government, all under the framework of a “.gov” address.

On Feb. 10, the Wynne government launched a web page that asks for residents to “help us make government better”. The site provides a forum on which proposals can be posted and voted either up or down by other users.

While a notable step in the right direction, at least symbolically, this site is not intended to provide a totally libertarian pin board of proposals. Instead, it’s gauged to specific questions, ultimately subjecting the thoughts and opinions of Ontario residents to the Wynne government’s hidden curriculum.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne states, “Ontario was built on powerful ideas, uncommon solutions and fresh thinking. It’s time to spark a new wave of creativity to improve the next generation of government for people across this province”.

However, can this new “spark” of creativity allow any legitimate change when bound to specific initiatives and platform points?

The three questions on which the government invites proposals are:

  1. How should Ontario deliver on the important priorities of investing in people’s talents and skills, building new public infrastructure like roads and transit, creating a dynamic, supportive environment where business thrives and meet fiscal savings targets?
  2. Where should the government invest to create a better province?
  3. How can government operate more efficiently?

Within these questions, we see Wynne’s continued emphasis on transit and public works projects strongly represented, by offering a prompt that could only be interpreted as a “leading question”. There’s an evident corporate spin even on the third question: “more efficiently”? Some might say that it doesn’t operate efficiently at all, as the language of these questions aim to inhibit these thoughts and sensor the possible responses.

Despite the countless marketing think tanks that might have so intricately designed these questions to solicit the “correct” responses, it’s evident that many within the general public can see through these vapid ambitions.

Already, we’ve seen this forum begin to be repurposed. That’s not to say that there aren’t thoughtful, positive proposals that have been posted, but many users are using it as a platform for critiques — an objective for which the government certainly didn’t intend.

Many of the least popular posts range from the understandable demands of defunding the Catholic school boards, to the less practical, regulating the homeless to donate organs. Alternately, many of the positively rated posts offer fierce and critical judgements of the current course of the Ontario government’s initiatives. Many of these posts that attack corporatism and the government’s emphasis on free market interests garner both up votes and a range of supportive comments.

In order to spark the “new wave of creativity” and genuinely “improve the next generation of government” as Wynne sets out to accomplish, popular opinions and ideas must be taken wholly into account. The suggestions of Ontarians must be considered whether they agree with or contrast the current government’s initiatives. For any suggestions and proposals to be useful, they have to be a genuine reflection of necessary action, not a censored political statement.

Visit talk.ontario.ca/home to propose your ideas and see the suggestions of others.

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