Sunday Nov 18

Northern Light: Ford More Years

Doug Ford, brother of the late Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, was elected Premier of Ontario, as head of the Progressive Conservative party (PC) winning a majority of the seats in the election held this past June. Besides the sex scandal in the PC party that cleared the field for Doug Ford’s sudden rise to the leadership—I’ll let you Google that, but only if you want to—it was all a fairly predictable campaign result, despite a late surge by the NDP.

Ford’s “For the People” campaign won despite itself, not unlike Trump in 2016. Campaigning on ‘Buck a Beer’ (one-dollar beer sold at the Beer Stores), getting rid of a modernized sex-ed curriculum at public schools, and cancelling a planned minimum wage hike from $14 to $15, Ford was able to win big despite not releasing a budget, a full platform, or answering journalists’ questions on the campaign trail. He borrowed his late brother’s playbook by going after the media and saying he was there for the little guy.

Like Trump, Ford also started moving rashly and wildly once in power.

He cut the size of the Toronto City Council from 47 to 25, just two and a half months before the municipal election, and a day before the cut-off to register as a council candidate. Even when the City of Toronto won its Hail Mary constitutional challenge to the cut (on the grounds it interferes with Torontonians’ right to free expression) Ford still brazenly forced his way. Hours after the court decision Ford invoked the never-before-used-in-Ontario “notwithstanding clause” which allowed him to avoid the Canadian constitution. All this seemingly out of spite for his former council enemies from his days on Toronto council when his brother was our crack- smoking Mayor.

Ford has also axed the updated and respected sexed curriculum one month before classes were to start, reverting back to sex-ed curriculum designed in the 90’s when the Conservatives were in power. Not only were teachers forced to learn outdated curriculum in a short time frame, Ford even set up a snitch line for parents to anonymously rat out teachers still teaching sex-ed from the modern curriculum to their children.

The fights to stop Ford are starting, and they are as noble fights as they are uphill. The focus of this year’s Labor Day Parade in Toronto were the fights to stop Ford from rolling back the large wins from the Fight for $15 and Fairness, as well as the new fight to stop Ford’s move to privatize public transit in Toronto.

Rob Ford won the mayor’s seat in large part by committing to “subways, subways, subways”, especially in Toronto’s large eastern suburb of Scarborough. Toronto’s left is against subways and in favor of surface-level trains. The Ford brothers found out they could win elections by promising subways and chiding the downtown elites and their second-class light rail trains.

Hot take: the only reason the Fords like subways is because it wins them elections. And Doug Ford has doubled down on it.

Ford is going to upload Toronto’s public transit system from city to provincial control. This will give Ford full control to build his fantastical subway system. It is unclear where the subway lines will end up, but it has become clear to the Amalgamated Transit Union that privatization of the subway system is likely. With Toronto ACORN’s track record of winning anti-privation campaigns to keep the electricity and waste collection systems public we are looking forward to this fight and see it as something that may just be stopped - the privatization at least.

The major labor law reforms that the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Workers Action Centre won are also clearly in line for a trip back in time, and that may be harder to stop. Ford is smart enough to understand that he couldn’t roll back the minimum wage increase that was passed in 2015 and still be this fake For the People premier. That was clever on his part. The meat of the highly successful Fight for $15 and Fairness in Ontario was the so-called fairness part, which was the incredibly thorough labor law reform that was won last year. Paid sick days, regulations to clamp down on temporary employee agencies, and increased enforcement systems of labor laws were all won to some degree. A problem now may be that they were never that well-articulated to the broader public during the campaign (the focus was rightly on the fight for
$15). That could make it easier for the government to roll back those reforms because the public doesn’t understand what they are. Even though the minimum wage has not gone up to $15 yet (only to $14), it’s going to be a challenging campaign for labor and their talented friends to tie the fight together again and stop Ford.

Ontario is going to have a resistance against Ford, like our friends to the south do against their orange dictator. But, like in America, people may realize that the resistance isn’t enough to stop the onslaught of destruction that is coming our way.

John Anderson is the Head Organizer of Toronto ACORN. Since 2004 John has helped to develop the ACORN Canada operations in Toronto, Ontario, and British Columbia. He is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg.

 

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