Ford’s PCs governing for some of the people

by Patrick Hunter
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Governments can be frustrating and they frequently are. They can be frustrating for those who support them and for those who didn’t.
In 1990, the New Democratic Party (NDP) was elected to be the government of the Province of Ontario. Bob Rae became premier.
His government focused on instituting a number of policies and legislation aimed at supporting workers, racialized persons and people of moderate or low income.
It was a rough period, economically.
One of the most challenging was the Employment Equity Act, designed to improve the condition of four groups: Indigenous people, women, racialized persons and persons with a disability.
Many of those who supported this legislation and the government’s policies were frustrated because of the delay in implementing them.
In 1995, Rae’s government was defeated, in large part because the unions, which were foundational to the party, withdrew their support because of changes Rae enforced that affected the collective bargaining process.
In came Mike Harris and the Progressive Conservative Party and his “common sense revolution”. They overturned just about every positive policy, repealed every law that Rae’s government had passed. The words “racism” and “racial discrimination”, for example, were removed from general usage within government.
Fast forward to the present. Since the beginning of Doug Ford’s Conservative government, there was a clear indication that his campaign tag, “For the people”, was somewhat misleading. Missing from that line was “certain”, as in “For certain people”. That “certain people” was limited to developers and other keen friends of the premier who were expecting things to flow their way. He didn’t forget the “little people” though – with dollar beer.
The predecessor to Ford’s government, the Liberals, led by Kathleen Wynne, had instituted a pilot project to provide a basic income. Ford cancelled it. That was just the beginning of Ford’s cutting spree. Just about every government-supported program was cut or reduced. For example, the Fashion magazine reported, at the time, that “…there will be 1,558 fewer teachers for the 2019-2020 school year, and the following year, 3,475 teaching jobs will be cut”.
Ford has had a “love” relationship with the idea of cheap beer, which he sees as the drink of the little people and a means of attracting voter support. He has now decided that he wants beer sold at convenience stores, and for that he is willing to spend millions to break the contract with beer stores.
Back when he was first elected, Ford decided to cut the size of Toronto City Council by half. This was his way of reducing the Ontario government’s costs. At the start of his second term, he decided to make just about every member of his caucus who were not ministers, parliamentary assistants, thus bumping up their salaries from that of a basic member.
Well, he has done it again. Following the last sitting of the Legislature until October, Ford has not only done a surprise shuffle of cabinet posts, he has also created the largest cabinet in the history of the province with 36 ministers.
Conservative governments have a fundamental principle: cut the size of government, cut government spending. Ford seems to have forgotten that part of the playbook. It was good for the City of Toronto, not so much for the provincial government.
Based on Ford’s past record, we are unlikely to see the ministerial mandate letters. We, the people, would like to better understand what the government’s program is. How will we know what to expect and how will we know that they are on track to achieving the mandate of their ministry?
If the speculation about a possible snap election comes to fruition, then the mandate letters would be useless.
Ford has had to reverse a number of policies because he was forced to do so by the courts. He wears his reversals and mistakes with an air of “I haven’t done anything wrong”.
And then we look south to the United States. There is a president seeking re-election and, whether or not you agree with his policies, he has acted as you think a president should. He is being challenged by a former president who has been convicted of 34 felonies, lost other cases which spoke to his character and frankly was a failure as president. Yet, he is likely to be his party’s candidate for president. Unbelievable.
Without trying to be too general, there are reasons to feel frustrated as we survey many of the governments around the world. One can only hope that this is a phase which will end soon, without more damage than has already been done.
Email: / X @pghntr

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