As children and teachers head back to school, Doug Ford’s government is entering its 10th week in office. It has been an alarmingly busy 10 weeks, with Ford moving swiftly to implement a number of his most high-profile campaign promises while slipping a few unexpected announcements into the mix. Here is a check-up of what Ford has been up to and how Ontarians are responding.
“Lengthy, compassionate runway”
Minister of Children and Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod’s announcement to end the basic income pilot came as a shock to many; in particular to those who had signed on to participate. The 4,000 people in three Ontario communities who are part of the pilot are not overly comforted by MacLeod’s claim that they will be given a lengthy and compassionate weaning period, especially as no details of what this might look like have been forthcoming even as the pilot officially ended on August 31st.
It is not yet known whether a court challenge on behalf of participants will be brought. However, those most immediately affected continue to organize and speak out. They are calling on Ontarians to demand that pilot participants be paid as per the terms of the agreement they signed with the previous government. You can join this campaign by signing and sending an email to Lisa MacLeod.
“Calling it out and taking it to court”
These were the words used by Michael Bryant, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, as he announced that the CCLA had filed court documents opposing the government’s decision to revoke the 2015 sex education curriculum. The CCLA has asked the court to hear the case on an urgent basis, given that kids return to school this week.
The CCLA case claims that the government’s decision is not consistent with the province’s Education Act or with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that it violates Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
Running parallel to this challenge is a case being brought by a group of human rights lawyers on behalf of six families who want the 2015 curriculum reinstated.
Ford claimed his decision to cut the $14,000 rebate for new electric car purchases combined with other cuts to green energy would fund his promised 10 cents a litre reduction in the price of gas. While luxury car company Tesla is only a small part of the story, its recent court victory against the government sends a message to Ford that his actions are not without consequences. The court ruled that the government’s decision to end the rebate was arbitrary and singled Tesla out for harm. At the present time, Attorney General Caroline Mulroney is reviewing the decision.
Doug Ford has announced that he will not be, as has become the custom in much of Canada, publicly releasing the mandate letters he has sent to his Cabinet Ministers. Ford spokesperson Simon Jefferies said:
“We campaigned on a plan for the people, and every cabinet minister was given a clear direction to implement this plan and deliver real relief to families.”
Others see the public release of mandate letters as an important element of government transparency. Citizen advocate Ken Rubin commented:
“It’s going to signal a shift to secrecy in the government more generally.”
Disappearing council seats
The City of Toronto has launched a court challenge to Ford’s decision to cut the number of city council seats from 45 to 27, in this fall’s municipal elections. The lawsuit calls for the Better Local Governments Act to be struck and the previous ward structure to be restored for the 2018 election, claiming that Ford’s move was discriminatory, arbitrary and in violation of both the Constitution and the Charter.
Buck a beer
Even Ford’s campaign promise to reduce the minimum price of a bottle of beer to a dollar seems to have fallen a bit flat, with only three of Ontario’s approximately 300 breweries signing on.
Different breweries have given different reasons for their reluctance to be part of this campaign. One craft brewery cited its commitment to paying its workers fare wages and maintaining the quality of its beer.
Much, much more
And there is more: Tourism Minister Sylvia Jones wants Victoria B.C. to send Ontario the statue of John A. MacDonald that it has removed as a gesture of reconciliation, and even suggested that Ontario would pay the shipping costs; increases to social assistance have been halved; a meaningless but no doubt expensive audit has been started; Ford has killed the cap and trade program and is challenging the constitutionality of the federal government’s position on the federal carbon tax, . . .
Ford is off to an aggressive start, and there is no reason to think he will slow down. It is time for all of us to emerge from our summer-long sloughs of despair and figure out what we can do to stop him.