From Our Latest Issue: What Happens When You Dare to Disagree?

By Joan Janzen

Here’s a short riddle for you. Question: What do you call a dog that’s been run over by a steamroller? Answer: Spot.

Ontario MPP Belinda Karahalios may have felt like she had been run over by a steamroller after her recent ordeal concerning Bill 195. Bill 195 is known as the COVID-19 emergency bill, and it grants Premier Doug Ford power to extend or amend emergency orders for up to two years without debate. Here’s Belinda’s story.

“I was a parliamentary assistant to the solicitor general; this bill came out of that ministry. I wasn’t part of what the bill looks like and didn’t get a copy of the bill. I got my hands on the bill when it was tabled. When I got a chance to read through it, I felt uneasy about it; there was no talk about voting,” Belinda said, and wondered … “Why couldn’t we have a vote in the legislature if things had to become more stringent again?”

Belinda had the courage to vote against this controversial government bill that many felt was undemocratic. Consequently she was booted from caucus and now sits as an independent.

“By transferring away the ability for Ontario MPPs to consider, debate, and vote on how emergency powers are used on Ontarians, Bill 195 essentially silences every single Ontario MPP on the most important issue facing our legislature today. The fact that there’s no voting, that’s where my issue is. No government should be able to do whatever they want without any kind of oversight.”

Belinda noted that a lot of MPPs who took the time to read Bill 195 were not comfortable with it. “But it’s that fear of punishment or retaliation if you are to go against the government,” she said.

She should know, because she was punished for voting against the bill. Although she tried to get a hold of the Premier to voice her concerns, he didn’t call her, and his only response was to say he felt like he was blind-sided by Belinda’s vote.

Belinda responded, “At the end of the day I was doing my job, and representing the voice of my constituents. Regardless of their political leaning, there was no appetite for this bill. People thought it was overreach, inappropriate and unfair.”

Her constituents weren’t the only ones concerned about the bill. “I’ve had support from former caucus colleagues, from a few NDP, and all the independents. It’s been overwhelming!” Belinda said, referring to the response she received from the public, both out of province and from Ontario. “They were telling me to hold my head up high and stay true even when it’s really hard.”

Chances are you didn’t hear about Bill 195 from the mainstream media, and there’s a reason for that. Belinda explained, “I’m glad people are paying attention because Bill 195 wasn’t given a lot of media attention.”

When the media did interview Belinda she said, “The focus tended to be on how I felt about being kicked out, and less about the bill itself. They almost made it feel like a gossip column.”

But Belinda’s position as MPP hasn’t changed. “I’m still going to advocate for my constituents. That doesn’t change. I just no longer have a party affiliation.”

So what’s the point that MPP Belinda Karahalios is making to Canadians? “This bill allows the premier to do whatever he wants with these changes without any vote at all. I represented my constituents and voted the way they wanted me to vote. The fact that I got kicked out on a vote like this is unheard of. “

“If government is making decisions on behalf of the people of this province, the people of this province need to have a say,” Belinda said.

We need people like MPP Belinda Karahalios who will stand for democracy, even when her attempts are run over like a steamroller.

“At the end of the day I look at myself in the mirror and know that I did my job and I stood by democracy,” Belinda concluded. It’s a sentiment every Canadian should aspire to.

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