Meet the new boss... - Shawn Loughlin editorial
That Doug Ford’s a rascal, let me tell you. The last few years almost had me forgetting about the old Doug Ford - the provincial leader who started his own absurd “news” outlet and who threatened to use the unprecedented sledgehammer of the notwithstanding clause to kill the fly of Toronto City Council (settling a grudge with his old workplace) back in 2018.
I’ll admit that he had me fooled for a while. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I think Ford did as good of a job as a premier could have done in Ontario. People will disagree, no doubt, and he most certainly was not perfect, but he took a lot of the right steps, at the right times, to keep Ontarians safe. Compare that to some of the goons running western provinces (past or present) and Ford can look pretty good. Recently though, the Doug Ford of old has come roaring back.
The Premier of Ontario going to court in an effort to escape testifying in an inquiry about what some have deemed a case of domestic terrorism that occurred in Ontario is insanity. Seriously. If you stop and think about what’s happening there, it’s absolutely bonkers.
He has made the case that it is a federal matter, which is true, and that he doesn’t have much to do with it, which is also true, because he saw to it that he was rather uninvolved. His absence during the so-called Freedom Convoy and refusal to talk about it as it dragged on spoke volumes - to the degree that some critics felt that, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lives in Ottawa, Ford needed a refresher course in geography, reminding him that Ottawa is, in fact, part of Ontario.
Ford fighting to not be part of the inquiry is bad enough, but then, of course, you have to wonder what he’s trying to hide. As we all know from our day-to-day lives, whether it’s legal proceedings or investigative journalism, when someone fights hard to avoid telling the truth, it’s not because they can’t get the time off work - they often have something to hide.
Speaking of the notwithstanding clause, it has reared its ugly head once again as the provincial government aims to prevent a strike by some of the province’s education workers, as labour negotiations have hit a wall. Ford’s government has invoked the clause to impose a new contract and prevent a possible strike.
Not even getting into the nuts and bolts of that issue, some say that Ford using the clause in this way, as a trump card in labour relations and circumventing the right to strike, should be more concerning to Ontarians as it could serve as a loophole in union negotiations when the government doesn’t get its way.
That kind of bullying and aversion to any form of discourse (my way or the highway) is the worst of Ford. He showed compassion and a willingness to learn, going against his natural instincts a number of times in recent years (by his own admission), but I fear that version of the premier is gone, perhaps never to return.
Clearly Ford’s honeymoon with Ontario isn’t over, as he strengthened his hold on the province in last June’s election. Inexplicably, he has avoided much of the criticism that has dogged Trudeau on pandemic measures, many of which were made by Ford’s provincial government and not Trudeau in Ottawa.
Like the wise words from “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” or you could always go with the old adage that a tiger never changes its stripes. Either way, the province likely has a challenging four years ahead and we need more care and compassion than we need bullying and evading responsibility.