By Lincoln DePradine
Former Ontario education minister, Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter, is happy with the outcome of Monday’s Canada Day picnic at Queen’s Park, dismissing claims that the activity may have violated sponsorship and donation rules relating to political events.
“No, we did not. There was nothing,’’ Hunter told The Caribbean Camera when asked whether any rules were broken in the hosting of the July 1 event marking the 152nd anniversary of Canada’s independence. “I was very satisfied with the outcome. People had an enjoyable day and we kept the grounds of Queen’s Park opened and maintained a longstanding tradition.’’
Canada Day celebrations, held for 52 years on the front lawn at Queen’s Park, were cancelled this year by Premier Doug Ford’s government, which cited dwindling attendance and the cost of the event that was put at more than $400,000.
The government instead redirected funding to provide free admission at attractions across Ontario.
“Multi-generations of families’’, who have been attending the annual celebrations at Queen’s Park, were left disappointed at this year’s government cancellation, said Hunter, who led an effort by the Liberal caucus in organizing what was called a “people’s picnic’’.
It was important not to “break the tradition’’ of a Canada Day celebration at Queen’s Park in Ontario’s capital, said Hunter, MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood.
“It’s important that we keep traditions like this alive,’’ she said. “It was members of the caucus that pitched in and participated to make sure that we kept Queen’s Park opened for families to enjoy a people’s picnic,’’ explained Hunter. “We had a number of volunteers that signed up to help run the event.’’
According to Hunter, no one should be cancelling Canada Day celebrations at Queen’s Park.
“It’s a day that we should really come together in national pride and unity,’’ she said. “We’re so grateful to this country for all that it has afforded us and it’s an opportunity to really show that national pride and to celebrate.’’
Laryssa Waler, a spokesperson for the premier’s office, said permission was not granted for the Queen’s Park lawn to be used for the “people’s picnic’’. Hunter argues otherwise, saying a permit was obtained for the day-long event that included music, free ice cream, face-painting and other children’s activities.
“I was getting social media requests and other types of requests from people to do something and then sought to have the permit granted and eventually it was and we held a people’s picnic,’’ said Hunter. “From start to the end, there was a crowd of people that was there. We estimate over a thousand people attended the event throughout the day. They had a joyous experience. It was very family-oriented.’’
Hunter, born in Jamaica in 1971 and moved to Canada as a child with her parents; she has been a member of the Ontario Legislature since 2013.
She’s not ruling out joining the race to replace former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne as leader of the provincial Liberal Party.
“I’m at the exploration stage,’’ Hunter said, promising she’ll be “updating everyone soon’’.