Life in Ontario hasn’t been the easiest for the past four years under the Conservative government of Doug Ford. The past two years of COVID have seen some moments where Ford finally seemed to get the plot of things, only for him to follow that up with many more moments of either mismanagement of the crisis or simply being absent. With a provincial election coming in June, more and more of the Premiers actions are clearly being pushed through the lens of that upcoming event, which isn’t shocking.
But the events of the past two weeks in Ottawa should have been very different for the Ford Government. I say should, because it was pretty clear very early in things that there were big problems here that fell clearly within Ontario’s mandate and jurisdiction. Yet Ford and his government have been all to happy to participate in the game of jurisdictional hot potato that has been going between Ottawa, Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill.
Remember, just over a week ago Doug Ford was giving relatively supportive comments towards this “protest”, saying that he understood their frustration and said “If people want to come down (to Queen’s Park) and protest, God bless them.” That’s a big change from his “bunch of yahoos” line for early 2020. And then we also learned that just yesterday Ford’s government declined to participate in a meeting of a trilateral table set up by the Federal government to deal with what’s happening for the third time. The cherry on top of this crap sundae was a quote that CBC News got from a source within the provincial government, saying that table “doesn’t accomplish anything”.
So after two weeks, Doug Ford’s government had done sweet little to tackle this problem, just as the Trudeau government had done just as little. People have been wondering where Doug Ford was hiding and when he was finally going to step up. Well we started to see movement last evening, which kicked off events that gave everyone the full Doug Ford Experience, in a condensed 24 hour period. First, here is what Ford’s government started to do:
Look folks, early pandemic Doug Ford re-appeared! Seriously these moves taken by his government, to freeze the foreign funds backing this occupation and then putting a state of emergency in place, are the right ones and I know that many Ontarians will applaud them. You can rightfully ask why this wasn’t done closer to two weeks ago, but still these are the kinds of actions that could actually bring an end to what the people of Ottawa and Windsor have been forced to live through. To his credit, Ford didn’t go with half-measures when it came to describing what we are facing. He kept referring to those occupying Ottawa as what they are; occupiers. And he said it, over and over again, driving home the point and communicating it all so well.
That was Doug Ford at his best, and that was the Doug Ford that should remind his opponents that you can’t underestimate his abilities to get the mood and tone right. Hell, I was nodding my head along with him as he kept hammering that home and for a moment, I was able to forget that he was over a week late in doing this. Yet it didn’t take even a minute for those words to leave his lips that the hammer dropping on the other side of the Doug Ford experience, and folks, it’s something:
I mean of course, of course he was. Instead of being at home or dealing with the nation’s capital and the busiest bridge in the country being, in his own words “under siege”, he was out sledding with his buddies at the cottage in the Muskokas. And clearly he thought so little about how people would care about it, because there’s photographic evidence that was sitting out there on social media, just waiting for him to get smacked with it square between the eyes. That smack came just as he was finishing announcing maybe his best actions taken in over a year. When faced with it, he didn’t deny it. He said he was calling people the whole time, creating a goofy image of Dougie bombing around the trails with his left hand driving his Ski-doo and the right somehow tucked under his helmet as he worked. I don’t doubt that Ford was taking calling and I doubt he was completely out of contact, but that’s not the bloody point. The people of Ottawa have been living through Hell for the past two weeks and you decide to bugger off to the cottage instead of focusing on them? That’s just terrible judgement overall, let alone for a guy whose been thinking about re-election and framing everything he does around that for months. How he didn’t manage to pass those terrible optics through that lens boggles the mind, but speaks to exactly the guy that Doug Ford is and has shown himself to be over and over again. That is the Doug Ford that is the worst enemy of that opponent the other which I just said we can’t underestimate.
Adding to the sledding stuff, right after the press conference the news broke that the Federal Government had been asking Ontario’s Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney to do exactly what Ford just announced today, but has been asking since Monday. And in response to that, Mulroney apparently refused. What seemed to break the logjam was a conversation between Ford and Trudeau. In the meantime, Ottawa remained occupied, businesses remained closed, people lost wages and more. All of that got worse and worse, as Mulroney refused. Of course, it should be pointed out that it’s equally bad that the Feds didn’t ask for this until Monday, which meant that Ottawa had been under siege for 10 days at that point. That doesn’t make the Trudeau government look like any heroes here, just not the slowest of the Johnny-come-latelys in this bunch.
But what this whole little stretch of less than 24 hours was show everyone the full Doug Ford Experience; the rhetoric and soaring language coming many days late (but good when it comes) only to be followed by the inaction and hypocrisy coming to light shortly after, torpedoing whatever good news that was just announced. If this was a joke, we’d call it “The Aristocrats”. But unfortunately there are no jokes here because peoples lives and livelihoods are at stake. We’ll see what comes of the announcements that Ford made today and I hope that they work because they are the right ones. The problem is that they clearly came after his government did everything they could to not act, which has only made this all worse. Or put another way, there’s nothing that Doug Ford announced today that he couldn’t have announced last week or even on Day 1 of the occupation of Ottawa. Some might say that it’s “better late than never”, but I know who have been baring the brunt of that occupation wouldn’t agree. But I will agree that now isn’t the time to litigate that part of things as we must focus on solving the crisis before us. There will be time after all of this is settled for Ontarians to get into those details and hold those they feel left them high and dry to account. Thankfully for Ontarians, that day will come on June 2nd, and we’ll see what judgement they pass then.