Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday November 1, 2019
Can Doug Ford learn from his mistakes?
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has ended the longest legislative break in a quarter century and his own political exile. He admits his government has made mistakes and vows to find a new “tone” going forward.
“Governing is always hard,” says Ford. “We all mature in the role that we’re in and you just try not to make the same mistakes.”
Far be it for this page to disagree with Ford on any of that. Or his stated desire to “learn by your mistakes.”
His government has been a disaster, and the way Ontario voters cast their ballots in last week’s federal election strongly suggests they also know it.
But putting the wrecking ball that has been the hallmark of the Ford government’s first 16 months down to exuberance is far too simplistic.
The early autism cuts and cronyism scandal, for example, were mistakes. But much of the chaos in everything from education to social services is not the result of haste or blundering. It flows from purposeful policy decisions to cut costs.
So as Ford seeks to reset his government the real question is what exactly he thinks are his “mistakes.” That his policies proved to be more unpopular with the people of Ontario than expected, or that they were the wrong direction in the first place?
If it’s the former, Ontarians can expect to see a slower pace of change with more effort put into finding support for the government’s cuts. If it’s the latter, and we hope it is, it might mean more than that.
Monday’s Question Period, though, didn’t bode well for the idea that the new and improved Ford government is about substance and not just style.
Ford welcomed back NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and thanked her for her questions. Then he launched into the same half-truths he’s always peddled.
On education, Ford said, the government is investing “more money than any government in the history of Ontario.” But per student funding — the primary means of funding schools — is down; some high school students are struggling to get the classes they need for university; and teachers’ unions, furious about job reductions, are set to take strike votes.
On Ford’s appalling taxpayer-funded court battle over the federal carbon pricing plan, he continued to claim people “just can’t afford it.” He ignored, as usual, the fact that most people will get back more than they pay because of the rebates that come with it.
It’s obvious that Ford needs to reset his government’s agenda.
At this point, no one, not even his own Progressive Conservative colleagues, can possibly know even what it is, given all the U-turns and waffles over the last few months.
Ford happily blew up Toronto city council mid-election, supposedly to create better and more efficient municipal government and vowed to extend such thinking to other regions. Then, on Friday, after months of consultation and study the government abandoned that idea; instead, it offered municipalities more money to find efficiencies and improve services.
The province has finally moved to enact legislation passed by the former Liberal government to ban the promotion of vaping products in convenience stores but hasn’t done the same thing on labour reforms needed to protect temporary workers. It has reduced its deep cuts to child care, but not for legal aid. On carbon pricing Ford changed his mind two months ago, only to change it back again last week.
How is anyone to know what this government stands for now?
At the top of the Ford government’s list of legislative priorities is “restoring trust and accountability in government.”
After promising efficiencies but delivering devastating cuts that will be a long road.
And if Ford really wants to avoid repeating his mistakes, this legislative session needs to be about more than softer words. (Toronto Star)