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Ontario election debate exposes depth of Tory bankruptcy

John Bell

May 28, 2018

According to Doug Ford, if we are wondering who to vote for we should just ask our boss. He made that suggestion twice during Sunday’s Leaders Debate. You have to wonder: does he have the first idea how democracy works?

It was part of his scaremongering effort to portray the NDP as a party of dangerous extremists. Business, he said again and again, was “terrified” of an Andrea Horwath win. Again, you have to wonder: aren’t people tired of governments that put corporate interests ahead of people?

He also said that if we wanted to know which party would be best for healthcare, we should ask a doctor. The doctor he cited as his healthcare advisor is former CEO of Humber River Hospital, Dr. Reuben Devlin. Ford failed to mention some of Devlin’s credentials. He is former president of the Ontario PC Party.

As Humber River’s CEO, Devlin shut down a hospital that served Toronto’s Jane/Finch corridor, a working class neighbourhood. He is a vocal advocate of privatized health-care. The new Humber River Hospital was a P3 (Public-Private Project) that is often lauded for its use of robots and digital technology to replace staff, including nurses and doctors. But according to Ontario Health Coalition spokesperson Dora Jefferies, at the time of building: “They told us that they were going to open a new privatized P3 hospital with 608 beds and the old hospital would be redeveloped as an ambulatory care centre. Now, we have a new privatized P3 hospital with 479 beds at double the original cost. The P3 privatization has driven cost so high that the redevelopment of the old site has never happened.”

Whatever vague or evasive answers Ford gave – aside from grand promises to “end hallway health care” – the real Tory healthcare plan is privatization, 2-tiered care and healthcare worker layoffs.

As for education and child care, the debate exposed Ford’s shocking ignorance. His insistence that “government run” daycare would shut down promptly at 4:30 drew laughs from the audience, and NDP leader Andrea Horwath put the boot in: “Doug, have you ever been to a daycare?”

Rather than fund affordable, public daycare (and the NDP promise of $12 per day per child is still too high) Ford touted a tax rebate of $2000. To deflect from the inadequacy of his promise, he resorted to the Republican Party playbook, portraying public services as authoritarian “government run” dictatorships. He promised “choice” outside the public system for children up to 15, hinting at Tory support for more private schooling, and the voucher school system that is designed to undermine public education.

Besides his sorry attempts at eloquence – “My friends”, “A new day is dawning”, “Blazing a trail” – Ford appeared confused and rattled. No wonder. The entire Tory strategy is to keep their real agenda under wraps, and hope Ford’s folksy Trump-like appeal will hold up. All across the province Tory candidates are skipping public debates. No doubt Doug Ford wishes he could have skipped this one.

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