Toronto When last I visited Canada and met with leaders and organizers of ACORN Canada everyone was still reeling at the horror of Doug Ford becoming premier of Ontario, the economic and political core of the country. Ford was a well-known commodity having been a Toronto city councilor and the right-hand of his brother Rob Ford when he served as a controversial mayor of the city. The argument then was whether there could be such a thing as a Canadian Donald Trump. Yes, Ford would be bad, but was it even possible for him to be that bad?
Now almost six months later the answer seems to be, yes, it’s very possible. Different of course, but horrible in its own way. Like Trump, or maybe even better than Trump, he’s getting away with a lot of it.
For example, in a pure political power play he was successfully able to cut the number of seats in the Toronto council in half, eviscerating many of his enemies and settling scores in such an effective way that Trump would have been envious to achieve. In the Canadian version of culture wars, one of his opening gambits was to slice the funding in public schools for sex education. Not sure who that helps in his base, but it’s more like a dog bark than a whistle. In another early move he pulled Ontario out of the cap-and-trade program that had been a hallmark of Canada’s climate leadership, claiming he was helping low income and working families.
There’s way more now with less pretense that it might be helping anyone other than business. The minimum wage increase for Ontario was frozen which no one can pretend helps workers. He abandoned the funding for retrofits that would have aided lower income families in social housing, so much for them as well.
Now among the $22 billion in cuts to provincial resources one of the most controversial has to do with cuts to health care, long a point of pride in Canada. In this instance, Ford has proposed cutting the provincial contribution to Toronto’s public health service including to programs that are 100% mandated by the province and where they had been paying 100% of the cost. At the confluence of math and politics, there’s no agreement of course, but the city is not stepping up to cover the province’s rollback, and the province is trying to argue that it wants to slice it’s share to 50% on programs it had been paying for previously at 100% or 75%. As one councilor says, people in Toronto will die from this game of chicken. Other are arguing that Ford is trying to also privatize some parts of Ontario’s public health care.
The beat goes on and on. Legal aid providing assistance for low income families is being cut by one-third. Indigenous affairs would be cut by half. One-billion dollars will be cut from the Ministry of Social Services, and people are still speculating on which programs will be discontinued or crippled.
Donald Ford or Doug Trump? You call tails, I’ll call heads. What’s scary is that Ford, having some experience in government, may be able to get away with more of his shenanigans that Trump will. Either way, there’s little good news coming from Queen’s Park for Canadians living in Ontario, so keep that in mind before any of you threaten to move to Canada if Trump wins again in 2020.