Lindsey Park's post-PC life
Plus: Horwath cagey on Miller, Ford goes stateside, a border blockade bill, upshot from the patient ombudsman, fundraising watch, spectators return to the House
ABOVE THE FOLD
Premier DOUG FORD went stateside with the message Ontario is open for business, while NDP Leader ANDREA HORWATH was cagey when pressed on the ouster of longtime MPP PAUL MILLER. But first, I caught up with another forced floor-crosser: LINDSEY PARK.
Navigating life as an Independent has been a challenge. But Park tells me her latest crusade — equal funding for women athletes — has spurred a “refreshing” renaissance.
“I’m thankful I have a very dedicated staff. It’s a very interesting perspective of the Legislature, to get to sit as an Independent for my last number of months as the MPP for Durham — I’m not seeking re-election,” said Park, who stepped down from the PC benches last fall after she was demoted for what the House leader called “misrepresenting her vaccination status.” (At the time, Park claimed she had a medical exemption.)
Procedure-wise, legislative life is freer. “No one tells you how to vote on bills. You have to do all your own research to decide what you want to support and how you’re going to vote as each of the bills come up. You also don’t have to run through as much red tape before deciding to table something. So it’s possible to move from that idea stage to tangible legislation or action in the Legislature a lot quicker.”
“That has been enjoyable — I’ve always been in politics to actually make a change and see laws change. It’s been a refreshing experience, to get to move through that process quicker as an Independent.”
Park’s first move: A motion for equal funding for young women athletes. Tabled Monday, Park’s motion would ensure the government match any financial support for postsecondary scholarships in men’s sports with equal cash for that in women’s sports.
It follows an open letter from Ontario University Athletics slamming the PCs for doling out $3 million to the male-dominated Ontario Hockey League.
“Ultimately, funding choices speak volumes about values. Prioritizing male-dominated avenues, like the OHL, only serves to perpetuate the commonly held belief that women in sport are deemed lesser,” the letter reads. “It is never too late to do the right thing. We call on the Government of Ontario to provide equal financial support to women student-athletes equivalent to what was provided to OHL male students.”
Park, who played college hockey herself, says there’s a case to be made to provide more funding for women in sport than men. At the very least, “the funding should be equal between men’s sports and women’s sports,” she said. “Some would say the funding should go even further, with more for women’s sports than men’s, since women’s scholarships tend to be disproportionately underfunded and women historically have not gone on to make as much money from [professional] sports.” She noted pretty much all postsecondary sport scholarships are backed by private donors.
Why it matters: Motions are non-binding but have symbolic value — and while proposals from across the aisle tend to die on the order paper, thanks to the PC majority, Park’s motion already seems to be on the Ford government’s radar.
Lobbing themselves a friendly softball during the morning’s Question Period, the PCs took the opportunity to pump up recent funding announcements for the sector. “We care about sports and recreation on this side of the House, Speaker…That includes $7 million for the Ontario Sport Network, including female athletes,” said Sport Minister LISA MACLEOD.