Watching the Ford Conservative government in their first 14 months of has been something else. It hasn’t been the smoothest operation and Doug Ford himself has managed to put a lot of various objects into the spokes of his own wheels. It’s all left many people wondering who was really running the show and the entire Dean French scandal didn’t help that impression at all.
And let’s face it, there have been many stories and examples of cuts for people to latch onto, mostly because this government has moved very fast and seemingly left the Premier improvising later when faced with the blowback from the decision. One prime example of this cycle was their cuts to legal aid services. When faced with the blowback from that decision, Ford responded in a way that has come to be pretty typical for him:
Call me on my personal cellphone and I’ll fix it. He actually took that a step further saying that, saying “If anyone needs support on legal aid, feel free to call my office. I will guarantee you that you will have legal aid.” He guaranteed it folks, right there. That’s as clear cut a promise as you can get in politics and was pretty cut and dry. He didn’t leave himself any wiggle room on that one.
But just like when he promised during the last provincial election that not one job would be lost when his government started looking for efficiencies, it would turn out that the devil would be in the details. When people started to scratch beneath the surface of these promises, the truth about them started to show very easily. So it was probably just a matter of time before someone started to scratch at this legal aid guarantee, and once the scratching started it revealed a lot of truth:
First off, a big tip of the hat to Michael Spratt for deciding to look into this ad hoc promise from Doug Ford. It seemed ridiculous on it’s face when he made it, but still the promise was made so it made sense to see how many people would take him at his word. Using Ontario’s Freedom of Information legislation, Spratt found that no one who called up to take the Premier up on his promise got the help they needed. Not a one. Nada.
What they did get though was a bewildering variety of excuses. When taken up on this by one of his constituents, Ford said that legal aid was not his “area of responsibility”. Hmmm, funny answer for the leader of a government to give. He told another Ontarians who wrote him the same thing before forwarding the request to his Attorney General at the time, Caroline Mulroney, pass the mess he made onto her to deal with.
So after fobbing this all off on the Attorney General, what did her office have to say? Well her office said that they couldn’t help because Legal Aid Ontario operates “independently and without government interference.” Hmmm, that’s an odd response because if you took Premier Ford at his word, interfering with this independent department was precisely what he could do, or at least would do. Did he not know this before making this promise? I’ll leave that up to you to decide for yourself.
And then finally one individual, who was either an immigrant or a refugee, wrote Ford to take him up on this solemn promise of help. That message received messages of sympathy for this person’s situation, before suggesting that he reach out to the Federal Immigration Minister to ask for help. He even sent along all of his contact information.
All told, Spratt couldn’t find a case where anyone got a positive answer to Ontarians taking up Mr. Ford on his guarantee, not a one. That’s a pretty crumby result if you ask me, and really drives home a lot of people’s worst thoughts about this government. Furthermore, it really flies in the face of what the Ford brand, created by his brother Rob, has really stood for in the past. For all his faults, one thing that Rob Ford was really known for was getting back to people, taking their calls and getting action.
During his time at City Hall in Toronto, you’d keep hearing these stories about how he got all of these things fixed or taken care of when called upon. It’s what really endeared a lot of people to him and his Ford Nation caucus. But this case, along with other promises made by this Premier, run completely counter to that standard and legacy. It eats away at the base of what built Ford Nation and made it the force that it’s been over time.
But that can be what happens when people decide to do their homework and shine a light on the work of our elected governments. If they are staying true to their word, that promise gets re-affirmed. If they are doing the opposite, the mistruth gets exposed. Will this mistruth being exposed have a big effect on this government? Maybe, maybe not. But the more that citizens are out there shining their lights on these examples, the more likely that each individual case will have a bigger affect. And when you have so many examples out there to look into, that doesn’t bode well for a Premier that has had an issue with keeping his word so far.