Doug Ford is poised to become Premier of Ontario, Canada’s largest province. And it’s not funny.
Back in 2014, Rob Ford was nearing the end of his term as Mayor of Toronto – a term that was, shall we say, chaotic, tumultuous, ridiculous. Mayor Ford had become an international laughing stock, as a result of his erratic, bizarre behaviour both in and out of office, fueled by a not-so-secret fondness for alcohol and crack cocaine. And Doug Ford was at his brother’s side during the whole sordid mess – as designated apologist, denier, cheerleader, co-sponsor of hare-brained ideas, and aggressive challenger to anyone questioning Rob’s ability to oversee North America’s fourth largest city while under the influence.
Doug as comic relief
When Rob dropped out of what would have been his second mayoral race due to health issues, Brother Doug took his place on the ballot. Which prompted comedian John Oliver, on his HBO show, to plead for the people of Toronto to “please, please, elect this man!” Oliver explained that the people of the world were starting to feel bad laughing at Rob. With Doug, they would have no such compunctions. Laugh away! As Oliver explained, “Doug Ford doesn’t have a drug problem – he’s just an arsehole; an un-chemically assisted arsehole.”
Nothing advertises competence and ability like having the host of a comedy show plead for a person to take office just for the comedic entertainment he would provide. Doug Ford is now poised to become Premier of Ontario. A Ford will again become a laughingstock. The province will become a laughingstock. I would also find this funny, if not for the fact that I live here, and would be represented by this buffoon.
What the hell? How did this happen?
The province of Ontario includes almost 39% of Canada’s population, and represents 39% of the nation’s GDP. The Premier manages an annual budget of over $150 Billion (Cdn.), and represents the province in dealings with the federal government, other provinces, and major border states. So, in Canada at least, it’s a bloody big deal.
In normal times, if the Progressive Conservative (PC) party had nominated anyone as laughable as Doug Ford as their leader, they would have been ridiculed, and ignored at the polls. These are not normal times. The governing Liberals are so unpopular, the PCs could even win with Rob Ford as their leader –and he’s been dead for two years.
You might think that the PCs, offered a golden opportunity to unseat the Liberals after 15 years out of power, would elect an experienced, capable leader to head the party. Christine Elliott is an experienced, capable leader. She received more votes (7% more) in the party’s leadership vote than Ford. She won more ridings than Ford (64 to 60). But she will not be Premier. Instead, thanks to a convoluted voting structure that gave greater weight to smaller ridings with fewer voting party members, the PC Party has given us Doug. Thanks a lot.
Doug Ford: He’s just not up to the job
“He’s just not up to the job” was a slogan used by the Conservative Party of Canada to try and brand Justin Trudeau as being inexperienced and unprepared to lead the country. Let’s look at Doug Ford’s background in government, to see if he’s qualified to run a province which constitutes 39% of the Canadian economy.
Doug Ford’s experience in public office amounts to one four-year term as Toronto city councillor. He spent most of that time propping up his brother Rob – when he showed up, that is. Doug had one of the worst attendance records on council, and during his last year in office, was absent for 53% of votes. When Doug did show up, he almost always voted in lockstep with his brother. By the end of the term, Doug and Rob were reduced to opposing measures just for the sake of opposing them – council matters were often passed 39-2, with both Ford brothers voting against. When Doug was allowed out unsupervised, he came up such hare-brained ideas as throwing out the carefully-developed plan for Toronto’s waterfront in favour of a mega shopping mall, the world’s largest Ferris wheel, and a monorail. The proposal was met with the ridicule it deserved, even by Rob’s own mayoral executive committee.
Doug claimed that he and his brother saved over $1 Billion while at City Hall. Bullshit. He subscribes to the Trumpian notion of repeating a statement so often, and so loudly, that people will start to believe it, no matter how insupportable. Doug resurrected the claim for his provincial campaign, so the Toronto Star revisited it to check its validity. The paper concluded that the $1 Billion in savings was “not only untrue, it’s complete nonsense.” For example, the total counted as savings the elimination of a user fee even though the elimination reduced the revenue to the city – revenue that had to be made up elsewhere. When other fees were increased, those were also counted as savings, because they increased the revenue to the city. Raises to city employees were counted as savings because, it was argued, they could have been larger. The $65 million in cancellation fees paid by the city as a result of the Ford brothers’ cancellation of a full-funded city-wide transit plan was ignored.
Previous analysis has shown that fiscal savings achieved during the Ford brothers’ tenure were comparable to those achieved during the mayoral term of David Miller, Rob’s predecessor, who was denounced by the Fords as a free-spending left wing pinko.
Doug’s political experience amounts to a part-time job propping up his brother at City Hall, while pursuing ridiculous development schemes and touting savings that did not exist. He hasn’t spent a day inside the provincial legislature at Queen’s Park, and as evident from some of his initial campaign speeches, is not particularly knowledgeable about the responsibilities of the provincial government.
So Doug does not have the requisite experience – how about his personal temperament and leadership?
He really is an arsehole
Also notable from Doug’s days in council is his willingness to pick fights. After Doug complained that a home for autistic teenagers had “ruined the neighbourhood,” he then told the father of an autistic boy to “go to hell.” He accused any journalist critical of his brother or him of engaging in a “jihadist attack.” He started a public fight with the city’s police chief, after the police force were understandably concerned that the mayor was associating with known criminals and drug dealers. After Toronto’s integrity commissioner determined that Doug had violated the city’s code of conduct in supporting his family business for city contracts, Doug said that the commissioner had “zero authority” and suggested she had a political agenda. (By the way, the only reason Doug was not punished for his ethics violations was that by the time the commissioner issued her report, he was no longer a councillor.)
It didn’t stop with verbal attacks. According to Mark Twohey, Rob Ford’s chief of staff, “Doug is a physical bully. He can be quick to anger, and, when opposed, puffs himself up and attempts direct intimidation—threatening physical violence, or some form of retribution or retaliation.”
John Oliver is right – Doug really is an arsehole.
Doug as Premier – a prelude to chaos
Ok – Doug is an inexperienced politician and doesn’t play well with others. Can he still offer the province some semblance of sane, stable leadership? Not bloody likely.
During the few weeks since he became leader, Doug has already shown the same sort of erratic behaviour and questionable judgement he demonstrated while at his brother’s side. He announced his support for the development of the greenbelt surrounding Toronto, which was established to protect drinking water sources and cap urban sprawl. A few days later, he reversed that decision. He publicly supported the candidacy of Tanya Granic Allen, after videos showing her espousing homophobic and anti-Muslim views were publicized. A few days later, he dumped her as a candidate. He decried the appointment of candidates by the party over the local riding preference, then appointed 11 candidates over the objections of local ridings. One of those appointed by Ford was Andrew Lawton, who has a well-documented history of misogynistic, racist and homophobic comments in far-right media.
Doug’s stated policies are ill-defined, and more than a bit conflicting. He has pledged to find $4 Billion in efficiencies, but has no clue whether there are any to be found. He says he will reduce income taxes and gas taxes and cancel Ontario’s cap and trade system for managing carbon – thus foregoing over $5 billion in annual revenue – but doesn’t have a plan to offset the revenue loss. At the same time he says he will increase health care spending and spend $5 billion to build subways in Toronto (note: that’s nowhere near enough to build subways in Toronto), as well as fund transit networks in smaller cities. All while balancing the budget. He will supposedly fire the board of Ontario’s electricity utility and reduce electricity rates, while not having the power to do either. On the social front, he promises to rescind the province’s sex-ed program, preferring, I suppose, to have schoolchildren get their sex education from traditional sources, such as Pornhub.
John Oliver is still laughing
Ok. So Doug is an inexperienced arsehole without a coherent platform. Can he still make a good Premier? Maybe he can overcome his obvious shortcomings by drawing on other political leaders – people he respects and seeks to emulate.
Unfortunately, the people Doug seeks to emulate include Donald Trump and Rob Ford.
In his campaign to become PC Party leader, Ford boasted that he “unreservedly” supports Donald Trump. Huh? It’s one thing to latch onto Trump’s conservative views on the economy, immigration, the environment, etc. It’s quite another to support Trump “unreservedly” – that’s entering Kellyanne Conway territory of bat-shit crazy. Anyone who “unreservedly” supports Trump should not be allowed to hold any public office, anywhere.
Which brings us back to Rob, and the memories of the chaotic circus that was the Rob Ford mayoralty. Think about how Toronto and the Ford brothers were ridiculed in nightly comedy monologues. Think about “Sideshow Doug” and his leading role in the debacle. Then think about the subtitle of the Ford brothers’ 2016 autobiography – “Two Brothers – One Vision”. That should tell you all you need to know about the ramifications of electing Doug Ford as Premier of Ontario.
John Oliver is laughing. The rest of us won’t be.