Doug Ford had one helluva party during his first year in office. It was almost like watching one of those college movies like Van Wilder or Animal House — things got out of hand.
Tax breaks and privatization deals for the rich. Endless six-figure jobs for friends and family members. A personal party bus complete with mini-fridge and flat screen. Late night texts. And selfies galore from people in compromising situations.
There was the Dean French debacle. Strapping young lacrosse players with links to the disgraced former chief of staff. A sad subplot about greedy corporations and lobbyists hijacking government cannabis. And social media output that rivals the Kardashians.
There was even a chorus of clapping seals at one point. It was like our house of government had been transformed into a frat house.
And predictably Ford tried to stretch out the party as long as possible, flooding the province with alcohol: booze in grocery stores and convenience stores, buck-a-beers at 9 am on Sunday, tailgating and open drinking in parks and parking lots.
But the party can’t last forever, and Ford’s has come to a crashing halt. Booze has been replaced by boos. And the poll numbers have hit him hard. He’s gone from drunk with power to punch drunk.
The new reality around Queen’s Park must be sobering but it’s nothing compared to the pain inflicted on the millions who depend on our health care, social services, and education. As the party raged on, our public services were put on the chopping block.
But the party seems to be over now. Hopefully the adults have arrived.
Have lessons been learned?
Looking at approval ratings that barely crack 15 per cent, what has little Dougie learned?
Let’s hope it’s this: running a province is a far cry from selling party favours to your high school pals or playing CEO in the family business.
Government isn’t a game for children. Real lives are at stake. Mess it up, people suffer. Do it right, people prosper. Doing it right is not easy, but it’s impossible when you think you can just glide by on bullying, bravado, and absurd boasts.
It’s time for a steady hand Doug. It’s time to drop the personal vendettas and govern for everyone.
And how about us? What have we learned about ourselves and our province over the past 12 chaotic months?
For one thing, we’ve learned that speaking up matters because speaking up works. From autism services to some of the most outrageous pork-barrelling, our calls to account have worked.
But we still have to keep our wits about us. We’re not out of the woods yet. We know that Doug is impulsive. So we must continue to fight smart and resist knee-jerk impulsivity.
As worrisome as the Ford-French show was, the ones we really have to keep our eyes on are Peter Bethlenfalvy and Rod Phillips and the few other Bay Street boys lurking in the background.
I wonder if people have it wrong when they say Ford fired Vic Fedeli as finance minister after the deeply destructive spring budget. Maybe it was a decision that actually came down from the corporate boardrooms downtown.
C-suiters like Bethlenfalvy and Phillips are the ones who really stand to gain from all the chaos, showering themselves in tax cuts and privatization while we’re distracted by Ford’s antics and shenanigans.
And they’re consolidating their power. There was so much bad in the spring budget that few people noticed this: while most ministries had their budgets slashed, Bethlenfalvy and the Treasury Board got a big boost.
But I noticed. After more than eight years being treasurer of an organization the size of OPSEU, the Treasury Board’s 55 per cent budget increase jumped right out at me.
The most potent power any government has is “the power of the purse.” And Bethlenfalvy’s purse just got a whole lot bigger.
It’s up to us to make sure that Ford doesn’t just let that money and power go to Bay Street. It’s our money. It’s our power. And as our premier, we have to force Ford to get it back for us.
Ford tried to have his way with us by plying us with booze. It didn’t work. He is now finding out just how much the people of Ontario enjoy convenient boos. Stay strong and stay focused. Something has to give.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
Ontario Public Service Employees Union