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Ontario deserves better. It's time we demanded it

Five years of Doug Ford’s Premiership has shaken many people’s faith in the impartiality of their provincial government. Since 2018, it has been a tenure defined by a near-constant state of controversy. These concerns have raised serious questions about government transparency, accountability, and the potential influence of special interest groups on the policy decisions of Ontario’s government for years.


 


If that sounds extreme it’s because Ontarians in 2023 face a myriad of difficulties: a nation-wide housing crisis, rampant inflation, burgeoning interest rates, and a highly competitive job market have all created an extremely challenging environment in which to thrive or raise a family. Ontarians need support. They need a provincial government that comprehends their challenges, not a premier whose policies compound them.


 


Whether conclusively proven or not, the below allegations cast a long shadow over Ford’s provincial government. They make a strong case for Ford’s resignation and, in some cases, criminal charges. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the worst of them:


 


Use of Political Patronage


Premier Ford's appointment of Ron Taverner as the new commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) early in his term in December of 2018. The appointment was challenged by former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson. Taverner, a close friend of the Ford family, was alleged to have received preferential treatment during the hiring process, notably in the form of lowered job qualifications, just two days prior to the job’s posting. 



Ford’s attempt to impugn the independence of Ontario’s provincial police force would set a tone of political patronage throughout his premiership. By 2019, Dean French, then Ford’s chief of staff, resigned after it was revealed
two individuals closest to him - Taylor Shields and Tyler Albrecht – were given highly lucrative appointments in London and New York City, with next to no relevant professional qualifications apart from their relationship to French. 


 


Nepotistic appointments and patronage continue to plague Doug Ford’s government even to the present day, and nothing appears to have dissuaded Ford from continuing this behaviour.



Cuts to Toronto City Council


During the 2018 Toronto municipal election, Premier Ford actively took steps to reduce the number of neighbourhood wards represented at Toronto City Council. The Better Local Governments Act, announced by Ford during a municipal election, had been ruled unconstitutional by Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba. Broadly, it was seen as a move intended to consolidate power while silencing local opposition.


 


Doug Ford’s provincial government stressed the move would streamline local government, and save Toronto $25 million. But at Queens Park in Toronto, Andrea Horwath, leader of the Official Opposition at the time, called his actions those “of a bully, not a leader.” Outside the legislature, numerous private citizens, would-be councillors and even the Toronto District School Board decried the decision in town hall meetings and demonstrations across the city. 


 


Ultimately, Ford’s conservatives appealed the judicial decision using the notwithstanding clause, again throwing Toronto’s municipal election process into limbo.  


 


Going Back on the Greenbelt


Stretching 2 million acres from the northern tip of Tobermory to as far east as Kingston, and wrapping around the Golden Horsehoe in Niagara, the Greenbelt is a protected area of green space that encompasses wetlands, forests, farmland and natural watersheds in Southern Ontario. It’s one of the largest protected natural spaces in the world. 


 


Publicly, Doug Ford’s government promised not to develop or open the Greenbelt to development, but only after leaked video footage showed Ford describing to a room full of developers his plans for opening the protected space. In Ford’s view, the creation of the 2003 by the Liberal Dalton McGuinty provincial government was “a failed policy, a flawed policy.”


 


With his intentions out in the open the official opinion of Ford’s government was that land in the Greenbelt was needed to address Canada’s housing crisis, and meet the rising demand for single-family homes – despite his government’s own housing task force reporting that land availability was not restricting the housing supply in 2022. The RCMP are now investigating the potential $8.3 billion dollar land swap.


 


In examining just three of the most egregious examples in the years of the Ford Premiership, even readers outside of Ontario’s provincial political sphere can grasp the scope of Ford’s questionable governance and preferential treatment for lobbying developers. These are the facts, regardless of judicial confirmation: Doug Ford repeatedly shows, to the province and to the country, that his policies are intended to enrich those closest to him.


 


At the same time, Ford’s public persona works overtime to convince the people that these choices are in the best interests of Ontarians despite ignoring their collective voice. In light of the evidence, no reasonable person can remain impartial.


Ontario, and Ontarians, deserve better from their provincial government. It’s time we demanded it.  


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