By GEORGE MATHEWSON
of The Observer
All ewes rams out there, stand up and be counted.
The Freedom Party's Andrew Falby enlivened an otherwise lacklustre candidate meeting Monday by likening Ontarians to sheep who are ruled by bean-counting civil servants interested only in protecting their jobs.
While the Sarnia-Lambton riding candidates used the forum to stake a claim on the political spectrum, Falby walked right off the end of it.
"A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves. Everyone stand and sing the new national anthem: Baaaaa. Baaaaa," he urged a Rotarian luncheon in Point Edward.
Not everyone was amused. Coast Guard employee Lawrie Lachapelle stood, but it was to object, not sing.
"You have insulted me and every other civil servant," he said.
With the mid-point of the provincial election approaching, no single issue has yet grabbed the interest of local voters. As a result, incumbent Tory Dave Boushy was free to boast of the government's record, while the others took turns attacking it.
Tax cuts have returned $54 million to Lambton and reduced local welfare rolls by 30 per cent, said Boushy, who rhymed off government funding for Marshall Gowland Manor, Highway 402 and new hospital equipment.
But why, asked one questioner, are food banks overwhelmed and homeless people dying on the streets of Toronto if we're so prosperous?
Boushy stuck to the party line: The Harris government has created 540,000 new jobs and 60 per cent of those coming off welfare have found "meaningful" work, he said.
Liberal Caroline Di Cocco said a Grit government would combine fiscal responsibility with a social conscience. While the Tories claim to be good managers, they cut services without thinking and are "now going back to fix the mistakes they made," she said.
The government allowed Ontario's debt to grow so large that servicing it is now its second largest expense after health care, she said.
"It's going to take a while for people to have confidence again in the system."
NDP candidate Mark Kotanen said more, not fewer, civil servants are needed to repair damaged services.
The New Democrats would repeal Bill 160, the Tory education reforms. And they would hire back 500 environment ministry inspectors, said Kotanen, who noted smog was so bad in Sarnia last summer the Blue Water Bridge was obscured.
While it was bribing people with tax cuts, the government was slashing funding to children's services in Sarnia-Lambton, he added.
"It's not acceptable that children must wait months for desperately needed assessment."
last updated on April 28, 2002