It’s almost been a year since the election of the Ford Conservatives in Ontario, but for many it’s felt like so much longer. Part of that feeling is due to the fact that the Ford team hit the ground running, putting forward their agenda all over the place, rarely stopping to think about what they are doing, let alone consulting anyone on it.
They have tried to push through a lot, that is for sure, and that has come at a cost to Ontarians. It was with that in mind that I saw a couple stories that have been bubbling up across the province, bringing about their own interesting reactions. The first revolves around the Ford Conservatives promise to sell beer in corner stores, the huge potential price tag that they didn’t seem to be aware of and the blowback coming from it:
A billion dollars to break a contract? Paid for by Ontarians? In a time when this government is running ads talking about how much debt we have? Yeah, that all makes total sense. Yeesh!!! This move is so very typical of this government and how they have operated thus far, and their responses to the criticisms have been equally typical. What makes this different is the reaction from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, someone who the Ford team usually courts closely and is very simpatico with. To see them come out and attack this government on this move tells you a lot, as it shows that most sides of the spectrum are pretty unhappy with this move.
Adding to that though is seeing the US Chamber of Commerce, another organization with a strong conservative bent to it, speaking out against this move. They point out the dangers to investment in Ontario if the government believes that it can simply cancel contracts with businesses willy nilly and without compensation. And you know what? They actually have a point there. We expect our government to uphold the law and not be above it, yet that is exactly what this Ford Conservative government is trying to do. That’s going to result in more lawsuits, more legal fees and very likely losing in the end. That means more tax dollars from the people of Ontario going away from the services that we depend on to cover this boneheaded move. So “For the People”, right?
Another story that has been bubbling up a bit more has been the fight around Bill 108, the “More Homes, More Choices Act”. Long story short, if passed this bill will give the Provincial government more say in planning in communities, reduce the amount of funds that a community can collect for development fees and make life easier for developers. This is all happening at the same time as the provincial government is also cutting transfers to municipalities for all kinds of things while Premier Ford tells them to “find efficiencies”. Getting squeezed at both ends, that’s led to Ontario’s mayors to react in more creative ways:
I have to admit I admire the creativity that Mayor Marianne Meed Ward is showing here. Her municipality, like others, is being told to do more by the Province to save money, while at the same time stripping them of ways to actually pay for that more. And to add to that pain, in Ontario municipalities are very limited in how they can raise funds. Normally that leaves them only one option: raising property taxes. You’d think that someone who spent a bit of time around the council table in Toronto and once ran for Mayor might understand this better than others, but this is Doug Ford we’re talking about.
So in a very “poetic justice” kind of way, in Burlington that council have come up with the best way to show their citizens, in a very transparent way, why their property taxes will most likely go up even more this year. They will be adding a new line in their tax bills, including “the FORD levy”; Financing Ontario through Reductions and Downloads. Not only would this idea show local rate payers why they are seeing their bills go up, it also gives another dig at a provincial government that has been far less than transparent in their first year of governing. It will show people the true impact of the Ford Conservatives cuts, something that a government who keeps telling us there is only one taxpayer obviously needs to be reminded of.
We are almost at the first anniversary of that election and still have another three years ahead of us to go. But what’s coming clearer and cleared by the day is that the true cost of Doug Ford government is getting quite high, while delivering very little of what it promised. And what makes it worse is that we haven’t seen the worst of the job losses and services cuts yet. That true cost is going to continue to rise and will surely not be as the Conservatives advertised in the last campaign, which is something to ponder for the Fall Federal election to come.