As 2018 comes to a close, Doug Ford has been premier of Ontario for six months. Over that time, he and his cronies have made serious assaults on democracy, demonstrated that they have neither compassion nor a long-term vision for this province, the people who live in it or its physical environment. Ford, in particular, has acted like a bully and has made many Ontarians embarrassed to admit where we live because of his often boorish behaviour.
Here are just a few highlights of Ford’s recent activities, not all of which made headlines.
Friends with benefits
It is hard to know what to say about the recent appointment – now on hold – of Ron Taverner to the position of Commissioner of the O.P.P. His age alone – 72 – is reason for concern, but add to that his close friendship with the family and the fact that the minimum requirements for the position were changed to allow him to qualify, and Ford’s protestations that he had “zero influence” in the decision ring just a bit hollow.
The outcome of this appointment now seems to be in doubt, with Taverner rescinding his resignation as superintendent of three Etobicoke police divisions and returning to duty in his old role, pending the outcome of an investigation by the integrity commission.
Call the midwife!
For 25 years, the College of Midwives of Ontario, which is the body responsible for regulating the province’s more than 900 midwives, has received annual operational grants from the provincial government. Earlier this month, the government announced that it would be ending these grants, retroactive to April 2018, leaving the organization with no source of funding other than the fees paid by midwives. The College’s work is mandated by law, so it is not able to cut services or programs, which places it in an extremely precarious position. In a statement issued on December 12th, College President Tiffany Haiden said:
“We will operate with a deficit for the remainder of the 2018/19 fiscal year. We anticipate operating with a deficit until at least 2021. . . These changes will have no impact on the public. . .It is likely that midwives will have to pay more to the College on an annual basis.”
Education: who needs it?
Education Minister Lisa Thompson, already reviled for her rollback of the province’s sex ed curriculum, recently slashed $25 million in funding to programs for school boards across Ontario. This cut will affect some of the most vulnerable kids in the province: kids who need tutors, students who benefitted from leadership programming and Indigenous children.
In October, the government ended 16 years of financial support to OPHEA (Ontario Physical and Health Education Association), an organization of educators that led the development of the new (now old) sex ed curriculum. This funding had supported the implementation of health and physical education curriculum in schools across Ontario.
And a whole lot more
In recent weeks, Ford’s government has also said it is reviewing future funding for the Indigenous Cultural Fund, which was the province’s response to recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, “to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used responsibly and efficiently.” This fund supported First Nation, Inuit and Metis community-based cultural projects.
It has cut $15 million from the $120 million budget of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, which supports 700 community groups across the province.
It is melding a wide and diverse array of tribunals – environment and land, social justice and safety, licensing and standards – into one cluster to be called “Tribunals Ontario,” which will be headed by one executive chair, to ensure “coordinated and efficient leadership.”
What lies ahead?
Ford has been referred to as Trump North or Trump Lite, but I don’t accept this. Calling Ford “Trump North” positions Canada and what happens here in the shadow of the United States. While, certainly, the election of Doug Ford’s Conservative government reflects a concerning global move to the right, his election also reflects attitudes and beliefs held by Canadians, independent of anything happening south of the border. And, there is nothing “lite” about what this government has managed to destroy in its first six months in office.
I am afraid to think about what 2019 holds.