Just starting to probe the mystery of Doug Ford in Canada’s most populous province

May 2nd, 2021 | By | Category: In Brief
Ontario Premier Doug Ford delivers a COVID-19 update from ravine-lot backyard of his late mother’s home in Etobicoke, City of Toronto, April 30, 2021.

SPRING NOTES FROM THE DEMOCRATIC DESKTOP OF CITIZEN X, BUCKHORN, ON. Some of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s continuing rural, small town, exurban, and other supporters may have found it reassuring that the location from which he gave his April 30, 2021 virtual news conference did not look at all like even the suburbs of today’s City of Toronto.

Back in an earlier day visitors from beyond the metropolis (aka “Big Smoke” or even just “The Smoke”) similarly expressed surprise that, as we sat out on a summer evening, there were racoons running along the fence tops in my old streetcar suburban small Toronto backyard, before I moved to the kinder and gentler Kawartha wilderness.

At first I was somewhat confused myself about just where the premier was speaking from in the Ontario spring of 2021. Was he actually in isolation at his cottage, I wondered, as I watched the already blooming springtime foliage stir in the breeze.

“April 27, 2021,” by Michael Seward.

Then my wife set me straight : “He’s just in the backyard of his mother’s place.” (Clearly a classic ravine lot, in the old Toronto west-end suburb of Etobicoke. And the location was later confirmed by a well-groomed lady on CTV News, from her own smartly decorated den at home.)

Quite carefully for the occasion, you might guess, the premier was wearing a black jacket or windbreaker, with an Ontario trillium crest on one side and “Premier Doug Ford” on the other. I tried to make fun of this, but my wife claimed that US state governors often appear in public wearing similar jackets.

“Ford Sick Days Now” (see sign in sky), Michael Seward, Toronto, May 2, 2021.

My hasty Google image research bore this out for jackets with crests. But I could find no other example of such a thing as “Premier Doug Ford” on the other side of the jacket. (Which of course does not mean that my wife is wrong, even about the name tag.)

The premier’s main April 30 argument was that our “porous borders” in Canada are the main driving force behind the third wave of the global pandemic his government has been having so much trouble managing. And this is of course the fault of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal federal government, and not the Conservative provincial government of Premier Doug Ford.

In particular, the premier and others urge, some potential carriers of the dreaded COVID-19 variants so globally potent right now are avoiding Canadian anti-pandemic measures at airports, by flying to Buffalo, NY and then walking across the border to Fort Erie, ON.

Maple syrup in the Buckhorn woods, late March 2021. Peterborough Examiner.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on TV from Ottawa around the same time, arguing that pandemic concerns about Canada’s well-secured borders were misplaced. Workplaces and other public spaces are where the virus is being spread most rapidly, and so forth. (Meanwhile, vaccines do now seem to be coming into Canada on some scale, as the federal government has promised. And even in the remarkably decentralized Canadian confederation even the most populous province doesn’t just get to tell the federal government what to do, especially when it’s just playing the ancient game of blame the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council Building in Ottawa for your own Queen’s Park mistakes.)

I don’t want to wade too far right now into what increasingly seems the vast subject of Why is Doug Ford Premier of Ontario Anyway? But something about his April 30, 2021 virtual news conference, from his late mother’s ravine-lot backyard in the old Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, raised deep questions about the Ford Nation government in an unusually clear way.

Toronto laneway, Alvina Ave between Christie and Bathurst, I. Michael Seward, May 1, 2021.

What I’ve said to my wife on the subject several times over the past several days is just that, to start with, what did the growing numbers of eminent observers suddenly now expressing alarm about how Doug Ford does reprehensible things no Ontario premier has ever done before really expect, even from Rob Ford’s possibly wiser older brother?

On the negative (or to me dishonest, inauthentic, and weak) side that I like to disparage (unlike many of my Kawartha neighbours), there is the Premier Ford who said such things at his April 30, 2021 news conference as : “I talked to a taxi driver the other day ; They had 400 cars down by the border, lined up” ; “And that’s no knock on Quebec because I love Premier Legault”(does anyone now remember Mitch Hepburn and Maurice Duplessis in the 1930s?) ; “I wanna thank all the pharmacists” ; and (to end his prepared remarks, and hard to object to in one way but for me false in the end) “Thankyou and God bless the people of Ontario.”

In case anyone thinks Premier Doug Ford is about to walk off a cliff somewhere in response to all the criticism he’s been taking lately, however, I regret having to report that he also still gave good answers to some questions raised by the mainstream media after his prepared remarks.

A few reporters insisted on dragging up fresh gotcha gadgets about the resignation of former finance minister Rod Phillips, for travelling to the islands when we were all supposed to be staying home, back when. Whatever else, I think the premier gave a near-definitive answer here : “He paid for that mistake. He was the finance minister. He isn’t the finance minister now.”

You might take this as reason not to underestimate Doug Ford yet again, as has so often been said (and sometimes aptly enough). Meanwhile, on Twitter today University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe has posted a map of recent COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in Canadian provinces and American states. And, Prof Tombe reports :“It’s official, Alberta now has more new daily confirmed cases than any other province or state. Here’s the 7-day average.”

Commenting on this tweet eminent pollster Frank Graves added : “That’s just awful . Alberta is now the worst jurisdiction for COVID in all of Canada and the US. Ontario second worst in Canada, and 6th worse of all provinces and states.” Both conservative premiers Jason Kenney and Doug Ford, that is to say, have challenges ahead. But each still has political talents. Despite many recent calls to the contrary, they are not dead yet and … More to come … and probably soon enough …

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