If you are anything like me, relentless media predictions of a Tory majority in the upcoming provincial election, with Doug Ford as the next premier, are super depressing.
“A desire for change” is seen as sufficient excuse to elect a government led by a novice of questionable reputation with a penchant for divisiveness and “doing his own thing.” Chosen by courting the extreme social conservatives in his own party, his first action on assuming the leadership was to shred his party’s platform unilaterally. Apparently “The People’s Guarantee” was a personal frolic of the discredited Patrick Brown and did not represent the considered intentions of the Ontario Conservative Party. If it didn’t, then what does? What does the Tory party with its new leader offer to the people of Ontario? Apart from some vague notion of “change,” we’ve heard nothing. Nada. It’s been two months since the Tory party leadership changed and still no platform.
Only a general call “to find efficiencies” in government. What efficiencies? To what programs and services? Doug Ford and the Tories do not say.
But Ford does promise to “fire the C.E.O. of Ontario Hydro,” which business commentators universally dismissed as “naïve, amateurish, and of no utility” in solving the problems at Ontario Hydro. And he promises to “audit the finances of the Liberal government,” an exercise independently completed last week as required by legislation passed by the Liberals themselves and now biting them back before the election itself. But if the Libs went into greater debt than they claimed to finance a reduction in hydro prices, Ford will add to the debt by promising to reduce hydro bills by a further 12%. Duh?
He has absolutely no policy on the environment, but will oppose any carbon tax, and will cut the highly successful cap-and-trade system, which is earning good money for green initiatives in Ontario. And he promises to “shut down” the newly opened drug addiction clinics, which all medical, legal, and law enforcement experts across the country support. Oh yes, and, despite years of parental and professional consultation, he will scrap the existing sex education curriculum for Ontario students. He has to do that, because he must repay the Granic Allen social conservatives who gave him the leadership.
Doug Ford knows nothing about provincial policy and has a track record at the municipal level of disliking the detail and collaboration that good policy development requires. What he seeks is a blank cheque to do what he wants, whatever it might be. Leave it to Ford to “stop the gravy train” in Toronto (and in Ontario), just as Americans were to rely on Donald Trump to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
As it turned out, there wasn’t a gravy train in Toronto, the executive in the White House is a revolving door, and Washington DC is full of Republicans “swamped” by the unpopularity of their own ostensible leader. Doug Ford may not be totally analogous to Donald Trump, but the Ontario Conservative Party has sold its soul to the same inexperience and populist bombast as did the Republicans in the United States two years ago. Former Ontario Premier Bill Davis must be appalled at what his strong and principled political party has become.
If there is a need to curb the current Liberal government, there are other ways to do so than by giving a majority government to a political party that its own interim leader, less than three months ago, said was full of “rot.”
Have you noticed how the Tories are reining in their new leader, clearly scared silly that he might go off message? There is a Tory campaign bus, but the media has been denied access to it. “The media can attend my campaign meetings,” says Doug Ford, but he won’t facilitate their being there. That reminds me of how Mayor Rob Ford, with the support of his enabling brother Doug, denied the Toronto Star notice of the mayor’s agenda. Why? Because the Toronto Star exposed Rob Ford for what he was. Informed journalism is not what the Fords wanted when they were in earlier political office. And apparently not when Doug Ford is running for provincial election either.
When the Tories get their act together, and Doug Ford can be brought up to speed, maybe they will resurrect “The People’s Guarantee” which Ford so abruptly rejected. Saturday’s announcement that the PC’s are proposing a tax-rebate plan for child care may be the beginnings of that. If and when they do, we can look at their platform in greater detail. For the moment, the Tories are offering a pig in a poke, and one wonders why so many people are willing to buy in.
Reading the Sunday Star this weekend brought small signs of hope for better times ahead. It’s nice to read some good news for a change.
* The White House released the Annual Report of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisors, his own appointees, which clearly shows that Trump’s trade figures on NAFTA are out to lunch. They make the point that the US had a trade surplus with Canada when services are included in the calculations. Now that his own advisors have formally stated what Canada has said all along, will it make any difference in the NAFTA negotiations to Trump? to his lackeys in Congress?
* School children and youth in Florida are leading a campaign for gun control. Where their parents have failed, maybe the younger generations will succeed. I love the slogan in one photograph at a recent demonstration: “How dare you push legislation protecting us before we are born and not after the fact!” This may be the beginning of something good, particularly as they are calling for consumer boycotts against the NRA and against states with lax gun laws. David Hogg, a survivor of the recent shooting, is calling on tourists not to take their spring break in Florida.
* Is the National Rifle Association beginning to lose its lustre? American companies are said to be responding. Delta, United Airlines, Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, the Best Western hotel chain, Wyndham Hotels, and global insurance company MetLife have apparently all ditched the discounts they previously made available to NRA members. Other major companies are cutting their ties with the NRA: the First National Bank of Omaha, one of the largest private banks in America, cut its “Official Credit Card of the NRA,” Symantec is leading the boycott movement into the software industry, and Chubb Ltd announced it will no longer underwrite its “NRA Carry Guard,” popularly known as its “murder insurance.” #BoycottNRA is the new rallying cry. Can social media give this plea the same power that #Metoo has gained? Let’s hope so. In Canada, members of MEC are now calling for the co-op to boycott purchases from a company with a division which makes high-powered rifles. So they should.
Economic sanctions led to the end of apartheid in South Africa. Maybe economic sanctions by each of us, and by the companies we patronize, can be the answer to the carnage caused by American gun laws.
* The donnybrook of the current Ontario PC leadership race has highlighted the questionable capacity of the party to govern the province. Their current interim leader has admitted “the rot” in the party and is trying to clean it up. Until Patrick Brown withdrew on Monday, to the audible relief of his competitors and the rest of the party, he seemed hell-bent on discrediting the four candidates who are seeking to replace him as the future Premier of Ontario.
The first leadership debate made it painfully obvious that none of the newcomers has any grasp of policy issues facing the government of the province, and none favours a carbon tax. Patrick Brown at least approved of the party platform which was generally conceded to have been cribbed from the Liberals and he, at least, recognizes that a carbon tax is coming, like it or not. This upcoming election campaign is going to be very interesting. Have the Liberals been so bad that we need to trade them in for this bunch?
* Last but not least, Jean Terauds wrote a marvellous review entitled “Handel’s Alexander’s Feast a marvellous musical meal in Tafelmusik’s hands.” I heard the concert at Koerner Hall on Sunday and was thrilled. This was the first time the Tafelmusik Baroque orchestra and Chamber Choir have performed this oratorio. Secular, taken from John Dryden’s 1697 ode, “Alexander’s Feast or The Power of Music,” it included a concerto for the harp played by harpist Julia Seager-Scott using a triple-strung harp, a concerto for the organ played by Neil Cockburn from Calgary, wonderful arias, stirring recitatives, invigorating choruses, and many highlights by different instruments in the orchestra. The soloists, American soprano Amanda Forsythe, British tenor Thomas Hobbs, and British-Canadian baritone Alexander Dobson, were splendid. Under the deft direction of Ivars Taurins, it was an utterly marvellous performance, wildly received by the audience. And, according to Tafelmusik’s new musical director, Elisa Citterio, next season will feature three full performances by the Choir. That’s just what I need to hear to put joy in my heart and a spring in my step.