July is supposed to be a quiet month for most politicians, or at least it’s usually among the quietest for them. Elected people are back at home in their ridings, away from the crush of the press gallery and are usually keeping a low profile. For governments that are going through a rough patch, getting away for the Summer can be the perfect tonic to the pressures and problems they face in their chamber.
In Ontario, this was part of the thinking or assumptions when we saw the Ford Conservatives put Queen’s Park on hiatus until after the Federal Election. Given the problems that Ford and his team have been causing for their federal cousins, it was thought that getting away and staying away for the summer would help lower the temperature and help to take them out of the headlines. Well if the news at the end of June did a lot to prove that to be a faulty assumption, July surely hasn’t let up, especially over the past couple of days:
Yep, the long shadow of Dean French continues to produce more and more stories and more and more details start to come to light. This time it’s allegations that French tried to get the OPP “onside” in public statements on the story about Doug Ford’s special van request and that French hired a long-time client of his insurance business to a plum civil service job that paid an even better salary. Once the story about Peter Fenwick, who was appointed to be the government’s “strategic transformation adviser”, was about to hit the media, he was shown the door “effective immediately”. Hmmm, I’m sure this departure was planned for months too, right?
As the summer keeps going on, there are more and more stories coming out about the largesse of Dean French in the name of Doug Ford towards friends, family, friends of kids, lacrosse players and now as it turns out, at least one business client that the media has been able to find so far. Given the constant drips coming from this story and the breadth of where all of these appointments have been made to date, it seems very logical to assume that we’ll see more and more stories come to light. So much for laying low over the summer, right?
But folks if this was all about Dean French that would be one thing, but more stories keep coming out about members of the Ford Cabinet that keep adding more fuel to the fire and draw more attention at a time when supposedly they didn’t want to. A prime example of this has been Minister Lisa MacLeod. Last week when she said she used to be “the Minister of Tears” was bad enough and gave another week of oxygen to the stories about her failures on the Autism file and the families deeply hurt by her word. But this morning another story has come out about the new Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport and wow, it’s a doozy:
Everyone, that is a crazy story and somehow Lisa MacLeod has managed to make me feel some sympathy for Eugene Melnyk, something that is no small feat. But beside that, a couple of things jumped out at me about this story. For starters, the Minister is not denying Melnyk’s account of what happened and in a Tweet said that she apologized. So that alone bolsters the story in Melnyk’s favour. But maybe more importantly, this is another story in a pattern of intemperate language and behaviour from this Minister. Since when is it appropriate for a Minister of the Crown in any government to go after a private citizen at a public event, dropping f-bombs all over the place, completely unprovoked? And add to that the fact that she was there on official duties that day, so it’s not like she was just out there on her own private time, not that that would make it any better.
What makes this whole episode worse is that Melnyk is a stakeholder for this Minister, is a major employer in Ottawa, and of course with the Senators seeking to build a new arena in downtown Ottawa, could be a major part of one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the history of the city. You’d think that as the MPP for Nepean and the Senior Minister for this government in the Nations Capital that even of you have issues with Mr. Melnyk and his management of the team that you’d temper your language some. But folks, that doesn’t appear to be the M.O. of Minister MacLeod at all.
Let’s face facts here; if this was any other minister in any other government, they would be out of cabinet long before this episode. If somehow that minister had survived to have that episode, surely this would been the final straw. But as we are seeing ample examples of so far, the Ford government is just not any normal government, in behaviour or actions.
And all the while, you know that the Scheer Conservatives are watching these stories play out with a growing sense of horror and absolute frustration. Many Canadians are wondering what life under a Scheer Conservative government might look like, and they are looking to the examples being set by Conservative governments all over the country. Beyond the surreal nature of some of these stories, they are sticking in the mind of voters, probably at the worst time for the Scheer Conservatives. And to think, this was supposed to be the time that they went radio silent. So much for that I guess.