After this throne speech what Ontario needs is 4 years of community organizing

Aug 12th, 2022 | By | Category: In Brief
“Taking the Bait, Every Time” by Michael Seward, August 2022

ONTARIO TONITE. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, FRIDAY 12 AUGUST 2022. Allison Jones’s Canadian Press report on the August 9 throne speech for Canada’s most populous province summarized much of the mainstream media reaction : “Ford throne speech says more can be done on health staffing but offers no new solutions.”

(Aka “Throne speech notes healthcare shortages; offers no new solutions.” And for essentially the same text under yet another title, see “‘No easy solutions’ to health care, economic issues, Ford government says in throne speech … urges Ontarians to prepare for economic slowdown.”)

Ontario health minister Sylvia Jones responds to questions about privatizing health care in the legislature.

Other reactions to the start of the strong-majority Ford government’s second term in office include : “People in Ontario are getting worried about the state of government services … As residents remain apprehensive, they are not confident that things will get better anytime soon, especially with Doug Ford just beginning a new term at the helm.”

And then there is “Jones asked if for-profit health care a possibility in Ont.” And “Ontario health minister won’t rule out privatization as option to help ER crisis … Asked if the government is considering privatization, Sylvia Jones says ‘all options are on the table’” (And for the very latest here see “Ontario health minister says health-care access through OHIP won’t change” and “Doug Ford swallowed a bee while talking about the possibility of privatizing health care”!)

“Together, Let’s Build Ontario”

Looking at this latest throne speech itself (called Together, Let’s Build Ontario) can be something of a strange experience.

“The Beginnings of Consciousness” by Michael Seward, August 2022.

Up front Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell congratulates “the members present today, both new and returning. You have been entrusted by the people of Ontario to ably and thoughtfully represent their interests … The decisions made at Queen’s Park, the people’s legislature, are far-reaching.”

The decisions, however, are not really made by the people’s legislature. With their strong 20-seat majority in the Assembly (based on less than 41% of the popular vote, in the lowest-turnout election since the creation of the modern province of Ontario in 1867 — a mere 43.5% of the registered electorate), Doug Ford’s Ontario PCs have no practical reason to pay any attention to the opposition parties.

And even some backbench PC MPP s who did not support the premier’s choice for Speaker of the Legislative Assembly apparently have reason to believe they have already been disciplined, for misunderstanding how this particular majority government really works.

The high-minded cover (and Doug Ford’s debt to Justin Trudeau)

The August 9, 2022 throne speech does ring the rhetorical changes on the need for more high-minded action in our present circumstances.

“Ontario Premier Doug Ford reacts after a bee flew into his mouth during a press conference in Dundalk, Ont., on Friday, August 12, 2022, in this image taken from video. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Casey.”

It notes how “with the province, country and world having been through so much, and as we face new and looming challenges, now is not the time for partisanship and ideology to trump the virtues of partnership and collaboration. The people of Ontario rightly expect their government to work with others in common cause and in service of delivering real solutions.”

Yet the 59% of the people of Ontario who did not vote for Premier Ford’s party in this past June’s election (the same % who recently voted to keep abortion rights in Kansas) may be excused if their history with this Ontario conservative party still makes them sceptical about Doug Ford’s claims to speak for everyman (and everywoman) in the increasingly diverse Canadian province of Ontario today.

Premier Ford can no doubt take some credit for the indisputable fact that (as the throne speech takes pains to remind us) “Ontario has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world, with booster doses now available for all adults.”

Yet here as elsewhere among Canadian provinces the really heavy lifting has been done by Justin Trudeau’s federal government in Ottawa (the only government, as Doug Ford explains, that has a press to print money in the basement).

This is one of the reasons the Trudeau government wonders if its Canadian taxpayer supporters and voters can now afford to bump up the federal financial contribution to provincial health care programs, as also in the re-elected Ford government’s first throne speech!

Reminders of just what Doug Ford’s Ontario PC government really believes in

Scattered throughout the August 9, 2022 throne speech are finally various reminders of just what Doug Ford’s Ontario PC government really believes in.

“The Devil’s in the Details” by Michael Seward, August 2022.

(Even if Lieutenant Governor Dowdeswell did begin with, in the style of former Premier Kathleen Wynne : “I want to start by acknowledging that we are on lands traditionally occupied by Indigenous peoples. They continue to care for this land, they continue to shape Ontario today — and I want to show my respect.”)

A few examples of Premier Ford’s deeper beliefs :

  • “In the months and years ahead, your government will continue to do what has served this province’s economy so well: cut red tape, keep taxes low, foster an environment that attracts global capital and make targeted investments that strengthen Ontario’s competitive advantage.”
  • “Your government is investing a historic $86.6 billion over the next 10 years to build and expand roads, highways and transit infrastructure across Ontario, including Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass … Widening Highway 3 from two to four lanes between Essex and Leamington. Rebuilding more than 21 kilometers of Highway 101 through Timmins. And twinning the Garden City Skyway bridge along the Queen Elizabeth Way over the Welland Canal..”
  • “With more housing starts in 2021 than in over 30 years, your government’s policies are working to get more homes built faster with the ultimate goal of building 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years … enhanced authorities for the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa … will empower municipal leaders to … reduce timelines for development, standardize processes and address local barriers to increasing the supply of housing.”

A somewhat strange ending … let’s go back to a late 1960s future?

Protest against Spadina Expressway in Toronto, March 1970. Cancelling the expressway helped Bill Davis’s Progressive Conservatives win the 1971 Ontario election.

Together, let’s build Ontario has what at least strikes me as a somewhat strange ending as well. I just quote Lieutenant Governor Dowdeswell directly :

“To mark the occasion of Expo 67, the government of Premier John Robarts commissioned a song to capture the energy, creativity and dynamism of a growing province … Written by Dolores Claman and Richard Morris, ‘A Place to Stand’ helped to define an era during which Ontario more confidently developed its sense of self, its place in Canada and the world …

“Today, more than half a century later and during another time of endless potential, their lyrics still ring true …
Give us a place to stand
Give us a place to grow
And call this land, Ontario
A place to live for you and me
With hopes as high
As the tallest tree
Give us a land of lakes
And a land of snow
And we will build Ontario

“Ontario, let’s get building. Meegwetch. Thank you. Merci.”

If we’re somehow going back to 1967, some would say, what the people of Ontario really need now is four years of many different kinds of community organizing.

There remains very little reason to believe that the 59% who did not vote for the Ford government on June 2, 2022 will be getting what they want from the current rulers at Queen’s Park

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