Ontario, Canada is Populist Battleground in Coming Elections

Toronto     The late Rob Ford gave steady and staid Toronto an international profile as mayor that wasn’t at the top of the local tourist board’s wish list.  He had ridden into office on a wave of populist discontent from the outer, working and middle-income districts of the city of Toronto, and he rode out on scandals involving not only his pronouncements and policies, some of which were acceptable to ACORN Canada, but also on his stays in drug rehab and videos of him buying crack on the streets, while mayor.  His excuse is a political classic.  He simply shrugged and said he “was hammered.”  His most consistent defender was his brother, an elected member of the Toronto city council at that time.

Now, it’s brother, Doug Ford who has them shaking in their snow boots with his upset win as leader for the Progressive Conservatives (whatever that oxymoron means as a name for a political party) making him a surprise, dark horse candidate for Premier of Ontario, the Canadian province containing more than a quarter of the country’s population as well as the cosmopolitan city of Toronto.  Pundits and opponents are quickly trying to brand Ford as the “Trump of the North,” and though the comparison is not exact, there are some likely similarities.   He has raised the question of revisiting abortion laws for example and his positions on climate change are questionable, but he is no Trump when it comes to immigrants and immigration, enjoying strong support in his races from the recently arrived, known as “new” Canadians in the north.  Observers believe his success in the party primary indicates that he may be able to tap into the feelings of anger and alienation in deindustrialized sections of Ontario where factories have closed and jobs have disappeared.  His record on issues effecting suburban women would not make him their first choice though nor would his tendency to move political closer to the bullying part of the spectrum.  Whatever might be the case, at the least his name on the list guarantees a very different election in the coming months.

The race is set to determine whether the longstanding government of the Liberals will be allowed to continue.  Polls indicate that there is a lot of voter fatigue with their government, although the current premier had been trying to recast herself as a candidate of change, Ford’s presence in the race is likely to disrupt that strategy.  Whether the more progressive, minority New Democrats can take advantage is also an open question.

The Ontario election seems to be worth following as part of the global contest over populism.  There is no question the election is shaping up as perhaps the least Canadian in terms of classic norms and sensibilities that has been seen in the great north in many decades.


Please enjoy Led Zeppelin’s Immigration Song.

And celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Otis Redding’s Sittin On the Dock of the Bay.

Thanks to KABF.


Let the Children Lead Us on Guns

Toronto   According the Wall Street Journal, more than one-million students walked out of their classes to commemorate the lives of seventeen, mostly fellow students, killed by gunfire in Florida only weeks ago.  The national map of where students undertook the seventeen-minute strike showed clearly that these actions were distributed throughout the country in hundreds and hundreds of communities.  The reports and photographs of a thousand walking out there, another 1000 here, and hundreds and thousands everywhere were powerful.  The signs and posters were moving as they both demanded change and begged for protection, so that they would not be among the next victims of gun violence in the nation’s schools.

Was this student strike significant or simply symbolic?

668 copycat threats of gun school shootings were recorded in the two weeks after the Florida massacre at Parkland.  There was one incident resulting in one death and an arrest for manslaughter on the day of the student strike.

The fear is real.  The need for change is urgent.

Will it matter?

Perhaps not to the old men running Congress, the White House, and many statehouses, but this is a sign of good things to come for a generation rising, rather than the one soon fading.  As the children’s crusade moves forward and demands its voice be heard, parents and even grandparents will increasingly be unable to ignore their prayers and will feel the fear themselves as these unbroken and relentless tragedies pour over daily life in community after community.

These millions may be ignored now by the fear of little men and women hiding behind the claim of “politics,” while trying to divine the shifting sands of their constituents on guns and weather the wind from the NRA blowhards, but they won’t be silenced and ignored forever.

Karl Rove worried in the same back pages of the Journal that held the headlines on the frontpages of the paper that more than a million were marching that in the wake of the win by a young Democratic upstart in a solidly Republican district in Pennsylvania that “Trump 2.0” can’t win against something that is not “Hillary 2.0” even in in such districts if they can not appeal to “soft” Republicans and independents.  He fretted that Republican-lite (pro-life, pro-gun, etc) in an attractive Democratic package could win unless Republicans did the real work on elections.  Rove counseled that it would not be enough to mimic Trump, hip shoot, and rail at the night.  That’s good advice for candidates of any and all parties, and from what we have seen thus far it is not advice that Republicans are yet ready to embrace.

The children can sense the change that is coming.  Democrat heavy and Republican-lite will move away from the NRA and its tirades and extremism.   Reform will come in small steps as we have seen in Florida, but it will come, and the leaps will become longer.  It will be harder for the old men to not seem hopelessly out of step when they continue to have no answer to innocent children being killed senselessly in public schools that are a public and community responsibility.  Tragically, scores more may die, but the millions now and those to come will not be denied their demands for change.