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Doug Ford (still) sucks

LEFT JAB by John Bell

May 15, 2020

We are coming up to the one-year anniversary of the Toronto Raptors victory parade, notable for having about 1 million people chanting “Fuck Ford” when Tory premier Doug Ford tried to take a bow.

Remember how, during the last election campaign, Ford’s reputation was so toxic that the federal Tories sent him into a bunker somewhere, out of the public eye and media inquisition.

Just before the pandemic hit, in December 2019, polls showed that Ford was Canada’s least popular premier. A meagre 28% of Ontarians approved of his brutal austerity agenda, his targeting of vulnerable communities like people with autism, and his casual disregard for democratic norms.

Doug Ford was a political dead man walking. And then the virus struck. As of mid-April, Ford’s approval rating was 83%.

How is this possible?

First, almost every political figurehead in the nation has received a bump in approval–with the exception of Alberta’s Jason Kenney, who is using the disastrous collapse of fossil fuel production as an excuse to savagely attack public health care and education.

In February Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was wallowing with a 33% approval rating. Today, thanks to his policy of reassuring cottage chats and daily tossing a new crumb to some of those needing support, his rating is near 60%. Quebec premier Francois Legault has an absurd 96% approval.

In times of crisis, especially in the early stages, people tend to rally behind their leaders. But no one has risen as far and as fast as Ford.

Ford declared he was giving a raise of $4 per hour, danger pay if you will, for front line heroes.

But read the fine print. Whole categories of health care workers, like midwives, are excluded. This carries on the Ford government attacks on midwifery that culminated in the complete defunding for the College of Midwives of Ontario in December of 2018. The CMO not only regulated midwives but was a strong advocate for public health care.

Also denied the raise are lab technicians, paramedics, respiratory therapists and pharmacists–all front line workers essential for deal with COVID-19.

This is typical of how Ford has operated through the emergency. Make grand, sweeping statements designed to appeal beyond his usual base. Media buys into the media announcement without checking the fine print. And people who should know better start saying things like “I’m not a Ford fan, but…” or “Ford’s doing a good job compared to Trump”.

So it seems like Ford is supporting health workers, when in reality his government continues to attack unionized sectors. He talks about respect for workers risking their lives, while health care workers have to stage walkouts and demonstrations to get supplies of essential PPEs.

According to CUPE Ontario there are over 3000 health workers who have contracted COVID-19, the rate is rising. Between April 27 and May 5 the rate of infection for health professionals rose by 43.5%. According to CUPE’s Candace Rennick: “They feel abandoned by this government and the province’s medical officer of health who seems immune to the surge in infections among health care workers. It’s an infection rate that may soon overtake Spain’s happening on [Ford’s] watch.”

When Ford announced on March 22 that he was bringing in emergency measures to support health care, what he really did was rip up every union contract in the province. This gave unprecedented powers to hospital administrations and kick open the door for privatization of more jobs and services.

Ford pulled the same scam when he loudly declared: “If you have a choice between putting food on your table or paying rent, you’re putting food on your table. The government of Ontario will make sure that no one gets evicted.”

Sounds great, but the next words out of his mouth were about stopping tenants from organizing: “I heard there was a petition going around [saying] ‘Just don’t pay rent.’ That’s wrong. That’s hurting people across the board. We’re standing up for the tenants here so please don’t take advantage of it.”

But the big words were not backed up by any action. He just left it up to landlords to be nice. A few small scale landlords responded, but the big corporate landlords have not. The new owners of one King Street building have issued eviction notices to all its long term tenants, using non-payment during lockdown as an excuse.

A west end landlord has issued eviction notices and shut off water of tenants who couldn’t pay.

The evidence is piling up as the rent comes due each month, and as front line workers fall ill and die. Ford does not deserve the pass he is getting from the public and the media.

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