Questioning Doug Ford’s Character

Readers may notice I’ve been on radio silence for over a month. I was completing a first draft of a chapter on American political narratives for my latest book. My work time, apart from teaching, was absorbed in analyzing the exploits of characters in recent dystopian fictional series about politics: House of Card’s Frank and Claire Underwood, Veep’s Selina Meyer, and The Wire’s Tommy Carcetti. Which, with little need for a leap of imagination, brings me to Doug Ford.

The post, of my many, about Ford that got the greatest traction was dated April 8, 2018 and titled “Questioning Doug Ford’s Resume.” In this post, based on my observation of the first six months of his government, I assess his character.

First and foremost, Doug Ford likes to make enemies. Recent ones include leftist Toronto city councilors, sex education teachers in Ontario schools who dare to teach a relevant curriculum, unelected judges (especially Edward Belobaba), environmentalists concerned about climate change, and the Trudeau Government in general. Ford’s tactic is to diss people he thinks the Conservative base loves to hate. We can expect to see more of that in the Conservatives’ first budget a few months from now and in the federal election campaign next year.

Second, Ford appears to be running a very centralized government from a very heavy-handed Premier’s Office. It took him just 5 hours to decide to invoke the notwithstanding clause after Justice Belobaba’s rejection of the downsizing of Toronto City Council. How much consultation could he have had with cabinet, caucus, and legal advisors in that time frame? His government has kept secret the membership of cabinet committees, presumably to prevent lobbyists from influencing relevant ministers. The tone-deafness towards the franco-Ontarian community is a result of decisions taken by the premier and his small group of advisers, on the basis of their own prejudices, without much consultation within cabinet or caucus. The defection of one MPP, and other possible defections, make clear how demoralizing this approach to governing is to his own party.

Third, Ford loses no opportunity to score political points by condemning the Wynne Government. Most governments, with the notable exception of the current US Administration, stop attacking the predecessor and give a positive accounting of why they are doing what they are doing. The Ford Conservatives are still in attack mode.

Here’s an example of this kind of political partisanship at its most inappropriate. Ford spoke at the Jewish community vigil after the terrorist attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue. In his speech he promised that he and “the PC team” would support the Jewish community. People who are concerned about being victimized by racism aren’t looking for the support of a particular political party, rather they want the support of the entire society. Ford hasn’t yet learned to think like the premier of the entire province. Perhaps he never will.

Oliver Wendell Holmes described Franklin Roosevelt as having a second-class mind but a first-class temperament. In six months of governing Doug Ford is proving himself as having a third-class mind with a fourth-class temperament.

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