Opinion by Darren Clarke, May 24, 2022
With election day in Ontario almost upon us I couldn’t help but wonder- Have we been given the opportunity to fully appreciate what has happened the past four years in our province?
I don’t think we have.
So, given the current Conservative campaign slogan is the somewhat generic, “Get It Done,” I thought it would be a good idea to explore exactly what they have gotten done so far, who they have gotten it done for and how that has impacted the average person of Ontario. After four years of Doug Ford’s Conservative government, we probably shouldn’t need a point form list of what has been done to the quality of life for the average person in Ontario. But we probably do.
Against the current Postmedia landscape of traditional media outlets purchased and corrupted by American hedge funds, Canadians find themselves starved for honest information. Postmedia, referred to accurately as a, “cancer on Canadian journalism,” by David Olive via the Toronto Star in a 2016 article, compromised 200-media outlets, including some of Canada’s largest dailies (i.e The National Post, The Toronto Sun, The Montreal Gazette), relaying, “news,” to 21-million Canadians at the time of the article and their influence has only grown since. It’s worthy of note here though that foreign hedge fund interests are one of the entities the Ford government has been getting things done for. Given that, they have no interest in relaying things like the rise in your cost of living, your increased economic vulnerability to exorbitant rent and real estate price points, the chopping up and selling off of natural resources and the escalating privatization of public health care, because- your loss is their gain.
The Ford government has been getting it done for the interests of the few at the expense of the interests of the many so intensely that I cannot list every single compelling negative the Conservatives have created for the average person in one article. I can however focus on this government’s actions/inaction that have been most impactful to the present and future of you and your loved ones. Because if we let them, they are going to keep getting it done to you.
For every Conservative gimmick like removing the cost of licence stickers that save you a few dollars there have been decisions and legislation making your future vastly more expensive and vulnerable. Let’s get to the point form breakdown of the Ford government’s actions these past four years, particularly their agenda of transferring wealth from the low and middle class to corporations/developers, their disastrous handling of- Long Term Care homes during the pandemic (not to mention their playing politics with a pandemic), our energy future, the environment, and their overall lack of accountability-
- Privatizing Public Health Care– The Ford government started a process that will lead to more expensive, lower quality, less accessible Healthcare for the average person as public funds are diverted from the nuts and bolts of a public healthcare that serves you to private profit that doesn’t. Largely this happened amidst a pandemic with the government increasingly introducing Shoppers Drug Mart and various private hospitals to profiting from public funds. This despite the fact the pandemic was the ultimate showcase for the importance of a robust public healthcare system in keeping the average person healthy and yes, alive.
- In 2019 the Ford government announced Cuts to Public Health to the tune of 1-billion dollars over ten years. Progresstoronto.ca summed up the consequences beyond diminishing responses to things like pandemics- “Cuts to public health also threaten student breakfast programs for over 200,000 students, disease and infection outbreak prevention (like the Coronavirus and measles), health clinics, dental clinics, safe drinking water, long term care home outbreak management, daycare safety inspection programs, and much more.”
- Raised the cost of Rent– Early in his tenure the Ford government removed rent control on new apartments and further allowed these landlords free reign on rent increases. The consequences weren’t just higher rent, it also incentivized investors to purchase new and existing homes to convert to rentals, leading to more competition for home buying, leading to higher home prices.
- Oversaw a massive increase in home prices including a 44% rise from 2019 to 2021 alone. It’s worthy of note here that one of the main social media supports for the Conservatives in the 2018 election was Ontario Proud (run by the Conservative party’s Jeff Ballingall) which was funded significantly by developers who have profited at our expense via housing price increases.
- Oversaw Increased Hydro Rates- Remember before the 2018 election Ontario Proud and every Postmedia outlet (i.e. The Toronto Sun and National Post) were railing day and night about hydro rates? Remember Doug Ford promised they would go down? They didn’t. They went up. Somehow though, Postmedia outlets and Ontario Proud have been entirely quiet on the topic this election.
- Cancelled a minimum wage hike in 2019 that would have been meaningful to the roughly 10% of Ontario that it directly impacts (not to mention those indirectly impacted by these hikes) particularly in lieu of the ravages of inflation. While the $1 increase in the minimum wage kicked in two years later it is worthy of note that during that period full-time minimum wage workers lost upwards of $4,000, if not more. And in stalling the momentum of increases it continues to lift significant money from our wallets.
- Oversaw the tragic Covid outbreaks and disproportionate death tolls at our Long Term Care Homes (LTC’s), particularly private LTC’s. Global News reported in February 2022, “Problems like overcrowding, resident neglect, and lack of infection prevention and control, all helped the novel coronavirus spread rapidly through Ontario nursing homes, leaving more than 3,700 people dead.” And while it’s fair to recognize that the previous Liberal government bears some responsibility in the vulnerability of LTC’s it’s also worth remembering the privatization was begun by the Conservative Mike Harris government in the late 90’s. Which brings us to noting the fact that Harris serves as the Chair of the Board for Chartwell Retirement Residences– A private long term care provider. Canadians.org noted in 2021, “Harris has profited a lot from his part time boardroom-based job with Chartwell. According to the Toronto Star, he was paid $229,500 last year.” We should also note one of Doug Ford’s main priorities in the wake of the LTC tragedy was to pass legislation that shielded long term care homes from legal repercussions for their negligence.
- Diverted public money/your tax dollars away from Long Term Care homes to corporate profit with Canadians for Tax Fairness noting this month, “We estimate that for-profit long-term care corporations diverted almost $4 billion in public funding away from improving care for residents to their profits over the last decade, and more than $400 million annually in recent years.”
- Cut Long Term Care Home inspections, from the mandatory one per year down to pretty much zero so that in 2019 only 9 of 626 homes were inspected. Prior to covid the Ford government also cut LTC funding by 34-million, rejected the Ontario Medical Association’s calls for more physician support at LTC’s, removed training requirements for nursing home workers mid-pandemic and ignored calls to limit health workers to a single nursing home.
- Diverted public money/tax dollars away from our Welfare system to foreign corporate profit via hiring a US and Australian firm to run welfare programs. A Toronto Star opinion piece in 2020 by Warren Thomas called it, the “privatization of poverty,” further noting, “All this does is create wealth for a foreign interest. It creates no benefit for people who get social assistance in Ontario. They will simply enter another kind of poverty — the working poor — or they will end up homeless or worse.”
- Lessened transparency in our government– Traditionally provincial government directions to various Ministers have been made available to us via sharing Mandate letters. This Conservative government however has spent our tax dollars looking to prevent us from being able to have a look at what they have planned. Despite multiple judicial decisions that would have forced the Conservative government to comply with the Freedom of Information Request the Ford government has appealed up to the Supreme Court of Canada to allow for the mandate letters to remain secret prior to the election.
- Cuts to Legal Aid– Cuts to legal aid in 2019 mean less access to the Justice system for people. The move was criticized by Ontario’s top judges with Doug Downey pointing out that while it certainly diminished access to the justice system, the savings were less certain, “What we judges can say is that reducing legal representation for the most vulnerable members of society does not save money,” he said. “It increases trial times, places greater demands on public services, and ultimately delays and increases the cost of legal proceedings for everyone.”
- Cancelled alternative energy projects making Ontario’s power supply less clean and more vulnerable to price gouging. Cancelling those projects not only cost the province in the short term, costing a quarter of a billion dollars, it also appears it will be costly in the long term, as Sean Hurley of the Hamilton Spectator noted earlier this month, “Ford didn’t create the energy crisis, but his killing of renewable energy agreements out of ham-fisted ideology have made it worse. His government spent a quarter of a billion of Ontario tax dollars to tear up energy agreements because, he said, we didn’t need the energy. Apparently, we do need it. Get ready to pay more for everything.”
- Made Ontario more dependent upon fossil fuels (their attached cost volatility and environmental issues) via the aforementioned cancellation of alternative energy projects as well as his warring on electric vehicles upon assuming power in 2018. The Narwhal broke down Ford’s actions in 2018, “… the government scrapped an existing buyer incentive program, which provided up to $14,000 on the purchase of an electric vehicle. (For comparison, buyer incentives exist in eight provinces and territories.) Ford also removed a $2.5 million incentive program that helped homeowners install their own charging equipment. The government also deleted electric vehicle charging station requirements in Ontario’s building code and ripped out a couple dozen public electric vehicle charging stations that had already been installed.” Additionally, the government’s lack of ambitious public transit and work from home plans has made the people of Ontario more vulnerable to fuel costs moving forward.
- Aggressively Cultivated Reckless Urban Sprawl and Intensification seeking to undermine any and all local checks on irresponsible development in favour of the limited interests of developers. That recklessness is perhaps best symbolized by the Conservative proposal to build Highway 413. At an estimated cost of 8.2 billion dollars Highway 413 offers commuters less than a minute off their average drive time while enriching developers with ties to the Ford government, devastating the environment and diminishing our ability to feed ourselves. The National Observer noted some of the environmental impacts being, “…the road will raze 2,000 acres of farmland, cut across 85 waterways and pave nearly 400 acres of protected Greenbelt land in Vaughan. It would also disrupt 220 wetlands and the habitats of 10 species-at-risk, according to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.”
- Waged a war on our nurses wages and their working conditions. The Conservative government underfunded our health system during a pandemic which inflamed already stressful working conditions for nurses. The government’s reluctance to provide sick pay further increased that stress. Bill 124 rubbed salt in the wounds with The Financial Post noting in March of 2022, that the bill, “…prevents PSWs, nurses and all other occupations from bargaining the true value of their work, during a time of labour scarcity and as inflation soars.”
- Removed protections for our water– A 2021 article in the Hamilton Spectator outlined just one of the myriad of ways the Ford government undermined the integrity of our drinking water, “On June 11, a series of regulations that set the limits for direct discharges of conventional and toxic pollutants to Ontario’s lakes and rivers for nine major industrial sectors in Ontario were repealed.”
- Lowering the Quality of Public Education via larger class sizes, lowering the amount of teachers, an emphasis on online learning and lower funding overall. A pre-pandemic article by the Ottawa Citizen in 2019 noted the impacts of the Ford government’s education plans, “The average size of a high school class will rise to 28 from 22. High school students will also be required to take four of their 30 credits online, where the average class size will be 35. Students in Grades 4 to 8 will see their classes increase by about one student to an average of 24.5.” In 2020, a Press Progress article detailed concerns with the Conservative Plan to model public education after American methods seen in places (notably not famous for great public education systems) like Arkansas and Alabama. Tony Bates an author of several books on online learning is quoted in the article saying, “Copying the US K-to-12 system in any respect is a backward move for Canada.”
- Stubborn refusal to provide paid sick days in a pandemic– Thus leaving people more economically vulnerable and more prone to forcing themselves to go to work and potentially spread Covid.
- Inflamed multiple waves of the pandemic by ignoring modelling, chosing to reopen in the face of obvious Covid waves. This lead to the overwhelming of the hospital system, preventable sickiness and death. That Ford chose to do make reckless choices to appease business insiders and most recently, cultivate more favourable optics for this election makes these choices all the more damnable.
- In 2019 the Conservative government took the longest summer break in recent memory. While it was suggested that the unprecedented break was political in nature, that Ford’s lack of popularity might have hurt the Federal Conservatives in the election that fall, the end result for the people of Ontario was not having a working provincial government for almost two months longer than normal is undeniable with the CBC reporting, “The Ford government will table a motion on Thursday to extend the summer break to Oct. 28, more than a month longer than the original return date of Sept. 6.”
- Beyond the extra long summer break, Doug Ford himself was often absent from Queen’s Park, absent from performing in the limited time his government was on the clock Ford’s reluctance to work played out over the entirety of his government’s tenure. A 2019 article from Global News advised he’d missed 61% of Question Periods from December to March. A Reddit user charted a similar phenomenon for 2021 late in the year Ford was running at a 61% absenteeism rate as well.
- Doug Ford was not only unwilling to be accountable to the people of Ontario in terms of showing up for his job, he was also massively reluctant to answer to the average person via objective media sources. Ford was the first premier in 50-years to never sit down with TVO (TV Ontario). At the same time Ford indicated his preference for self-created infomercials over objective media creating his own bogus, “news,” Ontario News Now to allow for unchecked propaganda to be foisted upon his constituents.
- Implicitly supported the occupation of Ottawa and blocking of International Bridges by a Convoy lead by established western separatists and white supremicists. With our capital overwhelmed, millions of dollars in trade being lost, with auto workers being laid off due to the resultant supply chain issues- Ford fiddled/skidooed. On February 14, 2022 Ralph Kelplin wrote in Canadian Dimension, “Ford has managed to bolster the convoy while at the same time effectively ignoring it. He’s done this by abdicating his responsibility as premier and its associated legal jurisdiction and creating an opening for the convoy to thrive. Besides taking advantage of either incompetent or complicit law enforcement by the Ottawa Police, the convoy has flourished due to the inaction of the Ford government, which has done little to nothing to deal with, or even address, the occupation.”
- The Ford government made numerous cuts to the Arts and cut library budgets in half.
- As of March 2022 the waiting list for Autism services in Ontario had grown to over 52,000 children.
- The wasteful political exercise that was the redesigned licence plate cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, delivering only plates with visibility issues before the whole undertaking was scrapped.
- Neglect of of Ontario Disability Support Program– With inflation challenging all of us the most vulnerable in our society have been especially hard hit. According to a Guelph Today article from May 2022, “There hasn’t been an increase in Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payments since 2018, and even that one was 1.5 per cent. Statistics Canada reports the cost of food alone rose by 4.6 per cent in 2020 and 2021 combined.”
There’s more of course, much more. And for me, things like privatizing our healthcare system during a pandemic, cultivating massive rent and housing price increases, being the primary source of causing preventable deaths in Long Term Care homes, should be enough individually. It’s important though to consider the pattern- The prioritizing of the profit of the few- corporations and developers, at the expense of the average person’s financial and physical security.
When it comes to picking sides this Conservative government has indicated it will place the profits of developers, party insiders and corporations profits ahead of the most fundamental aspects of our health and welfare. Each time, every time.
It’s worthy of note at this point that the Conservative never had a mandate for this kind of fanatical transfer of wealth and privilege, for this kind of economic and environmental devastation, beyond that provided by the irreconcilable differences between a three party system and a winner take all voting setup.
Which brings us to what we can do now to protect ourselves from four more years of being made increasingly poorer and more vulnerable. Given the sensibilities of Liberal and NDP supporters have always been closely aligned you can vote for whichever member of that party in your area has the best chance to win. Is this ideal? Absolutely not. But it may be the only thing that saves the interests of the average person right now.
If you are interested in strategically voting to try and prevent the escalation of the warring on your interests by Conservatives votethemallout.ca provides a tool to assist you.
It’s either that or we continue to allow the Ford government to, “Get it done.” And as we’ve seen, unless you are a developer, a Conservative party insider, a transnational hedge fund or a corporation, nothing good will be done for you, everything bad will be done to you.