No sunny ways for Ontario

Last week’s election results, while hardly a complete surprise, nonetheless came as a bit of a shock to those of us who had hoped the unprecedented rise in the polls by the NDP might lead to a happier outcome. We thought perhaps the NDP and the Liberals could garner enough seats between them to prevent a majority PC government. If we let ourselves really dream, we might even have imagined a minority NDP government with the Liberals holding the balance of power.

It did not take long after the polls closed on June 7th for reality to set in: by 9:10 p.m., it was abundantly clear that Ontario was going to be led by Doug Ford. As one friend texted me at about 9:09 p.m.: “NOOOOO!!”

Buck a beer

Ontario’s premier-elect has no political experience beyond one term as a Toronto city councillor when his brother Rob was mayor. He is all bluster and little substance and wasted no time in declaring that “Ontario is open for business” on election night.

Doug Ford offers regular Ontarians like you and me nothing that we want or need. He offers vulnerable Ontarians even less. As one friend put it on election night: “We are screwed.”

He campaigned on wild promises to lower the price of gas by 10 cents a litre and to bring back $1 a bottle beer. Aside from the environmental implications of the first promise and the social problems associated with the second, as with everything else in his “platform,” Ford did not indicate how Ontario will pay for these two initiatives.

He plans to roll back the excellent sex ed curriculum introduced by Kathleen Wynne’s government, that would have helped the next generation “competently operate their genitals.”

He says he is going to institute an audit of the province’s books because, he claims, the Liberals have “cooked the books,” engaged in “reckless spending” and “shady tricks,” with the result that Ontario’s finances have been left in a mess. This audit will take months if not longer, cost millions of dollars and offer Ford an ongoing opportunity to trumpet the evils of Kathleen Wynne, but it is unlikely to reveal anything we don’t already know.

But that’s not all

Ford campaigned on the promise to fire the CEO of Hydro One. What he did not mention to voters is that CEO Mayo Schmidt will receive a $10-million-dollar severance package if he is fired. Nor did Ford mention that he does not have the authority to fire Schmidt: he has to replace enough of Hydro One’s Board of Directors that the Board will decide to fire him.

Also high on Ford’s list of priorities are plans to scrap the province’s cap and trade program and to bring a legal challenge to the federal government’s policy to impose a carbon tax on provinces that do not institute their own carbon pricing. More money, more time, in the face of the obvious need to address energy and environmental issues immediately.

Naturally, I am especially concerned about the impact of Ford’s government on so-called women’s issues. Will it become harder for young women to obtain abortions without parental consent? What will happen to the Liberal government’s child care plan? Will the Ministry for the Status of Women quietly disappear? What will happen to the recently Gender-Based Violence Strategy?

Four years of government by Ford and his cronies means lost programs and services in all areas that matter to most Ontarians – health, education, environment, energy, violence against women and more. To rebuild these programs, if it is possible at all, will take much longer than it takes to dismantle them. “I am just sick,” texted a colleague on Thursday night.

“What do we do now?”

No doubt this plaintive cry has come from more than one person over the past few days.

The day after the election, an anti-poverty activist friend counselled against anger, scorn and despair. She may be right in the long run but, for now, I think anger and despair are justified. After all, as another friend said: “Now I live in a province where hate and bigotry are the order of business.”

What do we do? Resistance to Mike Harris and, later, Stephen Harper, seemed to result in little other than the re-election of each of them. In the United States, resistance to Trump has yet to show a positive result.

At the moment, my despair overwhelms my ability to think clearly about what lies ahead for those of us (and there are many) who did not vote for and do not support the politics of Doug Ford and his PC party.

Whatever we do, we need to think and act together if we are to turn our individual anger and despair into action that can resist and fight back against Ontario’s government-to-be, even if it takes us awhile to recover from initial feelings of hopelessness. As another colleague wrote: “We will keep fighting and working together, but right now it is so demoralizing.”

Kudos to Kathleen Wynne

Kathleen Wynne paid the electoral price for being a woman – even worse, a lesbian – who had strong opinions and was not afraid to speak and act on them.

I am not a Liberal, and I did not agree with everything Wynne and her government did, but she offered the province intelligent, progressive and compassionate leadership. She brought integrity and grace to her work. Her decision to admit defeat in the last week of the election campaign was a demonstration of humility and honesty in action.

As my friend Pam Hrick wrote in Maclean’s last week:

“Social justice matters. It matters that over the past five years, Wynne has made combatting gender-based violence an explicit priority (long before #MeToo became a global force), raised the minimum wage, and made post-secondary education more accessible for those who can least afford it.”

Whether or not Kathleen Wynne will miss the often thankless task of running this province is a question only she can answer, but I know this province will miss her. We already do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *