As I noted here a couple of days ago, the troubles for the Ford Conservatives at Queen’s Park don’t seem to be close to being at an end. While the “resignation” of Ford’s Chief of Staff Dean French was something that many believed had to happen at some point, the move hasn’t had the typical effect that such a change would, which is to stop the story. But it was clear on Monday that wouldn’t be the case here, and on Wednesday it started to become clearer how big a story this could very well become:
Wow folks, this is quite something to see, especially after such a short period of time. Remember, these guys have been in power for about a year, which isn’t a lot of time to rack up all these appointments. And when you see these stories about appointments of friends and family all of these high end positions with qualifications that don’t necessarily match or red flag in their past that would disqualifying in a normal government, it speaks to something deeper about the mindset of this government.
It’s easy to try to dump this all on one person, and when you see the stories about nieces and lacrosse players getting plum appointments and jobs, it’s easy to point to that person as the source of the problem here. But there’s a problem with that thesis; it requires us to believe that the Premier of this province is somehow blameless and without knowledge about how his government is run. In the end, it forces us to accept that Dean French was the man behind the curtain and that Premier Ford was under his command, something I doubt that he wants anyone to think. It also forces us to accept that Premier Ford himself would act totally differently than this, that he wouldn’t do this kind of thing. And this is where this thesis falls completely to the ground, thanks to other news that came out that very same day, from the Premier’s office no less:
Hey everyone, Premier Ford acted like he was going through the McDonald’s drive thru and supersized his Parliamentary Assistants, and at the same time the salaries of more back bench Conservative MPPs by 14%, tagging on almost another $20,000 to their already six-figure salaries. To give you an idea of just how out of hand this bloated list of Cabinet members and Parliamentary Assistants is, out of a caucus of 73 MPPs, there are only 9 who are not receiving some extra bump in their salaries for an extra role. That’s 88% of the Ontario Conservative caucus folks, which is completely insane. That is almost as many Ministers and PA’s as the Federal government has Minister and equivalents, a government which is much larger and still has 100 other backbenchers left after it all. And this is in the era of supposed restraint, where school boards and municipalities are facing cuts left, right and centre while being told by the Premier that they are irresponsible spenders and need to find efficiencies. Yeah, it’s a bad look without a doubt. If you’re one of the nine who are basically the only formal backbenchers now in this caucus, you have to ask yourself what in the heck you did to not get the largesse that others have here.
So folks, I don’t doubt that the Premier’s former Chief of Staff went off making all kinds of appointments that we are hearing about now and will surely hear more about in the weeks to come. But given this display of gravy-laden largesse that we saw yesterday as just one example, I don’t believe that Dean French was some guy going rogue. The Premier is the leader of this government, and he sets the tone. He sets the example, as he did with the Ron Taverner and secret van episodes. These are not one-off stories but a pattern of behaviour of disrespect for those who pay the bills here, the very same people he proclaimed to be all about. Actions speak louder than words, and instead of stopping a gravy training that never existed, the Premier has created the Best Little Gravy Train that Ontario has ever seen, with Doug Ford as it’s happy conductor. And we’re all the ones paying the price for it. For the People indeed.