When norms and accepted conventions are blatantly and gleefully run roughshod over, is the best response one that upholds those beleaguered and trampled norms and conventions? Don’t stoop to their level. Maintain precedent. Keep an even keep. The storm will pass.
Or do you fight fire with fire, an eye-for-an-eye? Leave the knife in the drawer because shit just became a gunfight. We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!
We’ve watched nervously from the sidelines this debate engulf our American neighbours, especially since the era of Trump with no satisfactory answer yet offered up. A staunchly middle-of-the-road, standards bearing octogenarian who’s thread the political needle to varying degrees of success just announced he’s running for re-election while his opponent from 2016, now indicted for one thing, on trial for another, with more of both expected to come, leads his pack for a possible rematch next year, alleged criminality be damned. The blatant lies and absurd propaganda propping up the challenger have been exposed to little more effect than a hit to a bulging pocketbook and a token sacrificial lamb or two, the deceit, falsehoods & fabrications, smears, slanders and mendacity will continue.
Playing nice and by the rules seems to have bought the norms and accepted conventions some time but in no way could it be said that they’ve triumphed and turned back the assault.
While we interested onlookers take a modicum of comfort assuring ourselves that we are not them, things aren’t that bad here, the stakes nowhere near as high, it seems dangerously complacent to sit back and thank our good fortune. Nothing to breathe easily about simply because our dumpster fire isn’t a 5-alarm tire fire. Not as bad is still bad.
Even the most cursory glance at the political news here in Ontario over just the recent couple weeks suggests that if our democracy isn’t under direct attack, the integrity of our political and civic institutions absolutely is by the government twice elected to oversee them.
Doug Ford announced plans to demolish the Science Centre, on a piece of property the province doesn’t own with a lease that stipulates the only type of building that can replace it is, wait for it, another science centre. Among other possible snafus. We also learned that the proposed hand-over of public space on Toronto’s waterfront to a private spa company comes with a 95-year agreement. That’s your children, your children’s children and their children’s children, more or less. Locked in. The opening of the highly anticipated Eglinton Crosstown LRT remains delayed, no end in sight, and the ministry responsible has ordered essentially a news blackout on its agency overseeing the project, Metrolinx, while rumblings have started about the agency’s boss getting a nice little bump up in salary.
That’s just here in Toronto, which may represent a hyper-reality of the government’s egregious malfeasance owing to the grudge the premier’s had for his hometown (or certain segments of it) since he popped up onto the scene, riding his brother’s coattails to city council 2010. But there’s plenty of terrible, suspect governance to go around the province. Just ask Waterloo. Or Hamilton. Or Halton Region. Belleville. Barrie. Peterborough. Guelph. The Ford government seems determined to impose sprawl everywhere despite local plans to the contrary.
Such malignant misgovernance should come as little surprise to anyone who’s paid any attention to Doug Ford for the past decade+. An argument could be made that’s part of his appeal to a certain percent of the voting population, helping him to put together back-to-back majorities at Queen’s Park. For everyone else, his Aww Shucks, Folks pretend persona either allowed them to believe he wasn’t all that bad (Take a bow, Martin Regg Cohn of the Toronto Star!) or was exactly that. Pure campaign performance.
Five years in now, nearly a year into his second mandate, there’s little pretense to hide behind.
The question is, at least for those now standing aghast with this government’s tawdry dealings, how to address it?
Business as usual? Just another government, going about its business, good and bad, all part of the nature of the democratic cycle, doing what it sees as the best it can to please as many people as it has to in order to maintain its hold on power? Look. It recognizes we’re in the midst of a housing crisis. Whether we agree with the approach or not, they are trying to get more housing built, fast, better, or whatever the name is of the latest Act they’re trying to pass. There’s no denying that they’re building transit. Who can argue with that?
Business as usual?
How about wishful thinking.
The ambitions and conduct of the Ford government have been pretty naked right from the start, right from the time candidate Ford got caught on video whispering to a room full of developers that once elected, he’d open up the Greenbelt for them to build on. Money, money, money, friends with money, money, money. While no less ideologically right-wing than the previous conservative government of Mike Harris, this iteration, first and foremost, acts and reacts to the colour green. $ green $.
Why waste any space trying to tease out any other types of policy motivations?
Why did this government sign a long, long time term lease with a private company to build a monstrosity on the waterfront?
Why did this government propose razing a building without so much as a thought about if it could, if it should, how much it would cost?
Why is this government forcing municipalities to sprawl out past their boundaries into green space and farmland?
Why did this government crayon over a long-simmering plan to build a much-needed additional subway line through the downtown core, largely discarding previous work, putting forth questionable routing and station locations, with no realistic time frame or budget, both already blown past?
Follow the fucking money and there’s every likelihood you’ll find yourself right at the very heart of the mystery. Such as it is. Because it’s only about, and always has been. Money.
There’s a name for that form of government that we easily hurl at other jurisdictions, despotic national regimes and backwoods tinpot local fiefdoms alike. Those others that lack deep, historical, accountable democratic roots like ours.
The ‘k’ word.
Yet, our discourse doesn’t seem overly interested in that angle. It’s so tawdry. We don’t truck with official banditry. Besides, we need the housing, right? Let’s just take what we get. We need new transit, right? Let’s just take what we get. Make the best of a bad situation. In my day, conservatives used to be good. Maybe they can be good once again.
We can fix it in editing.
Business as usual.
It’s just politics.
The politics of undue influence. Of fundraising galas and daughters’ weddings. The soft corruption and donor-driven decision-making. The colour of money.
In a word, kleptocracy.
How else do you explain what’s happening in this province?
We seem, however, determined to explore every other possibility but that one.