There is likely quite a bit of buyer’s remorse taking part across the province among some of the province’s electorate as the Tory government of Premier Doug Ford begins to announce cuts. These cuts were anticipated even before we learned of the accounting sleight of hand the Progressive Conservatives used to inflate the provincial budget deficit (leading to the resignation of the government’s chief financial bureaucrat) they hoped would provide the needed cover for those cuts with a population too distracted by Christmas chores to put two and two together.
Premier Ford is taking aim at 65,000 civil service jobs across the breadth of government and the bloodletting is now well underway. Those numbers will likely have to escalate dramatically as this self-styled leader of “The People’s Government” has managed to bring on the first downgrade of Ontario’s credit rating (the bellweather by which interest on the provincial debt is set) by blatant political interference in business decisions that would normally have conservatives frothing at the mouth. Premier Ford and his oh-so-very dapper acolyte finance minister Vic Fedeli have tried to foist the blame on their predecessors, but the credit rating firm Moody’s, who issued the downgrade, quite clearly placed the blame on the premier’s ill-advised decision to massively cut provincial revenues.
This double whammy to the Ontario economy, the loss of well-paying civil service jobs and other huge injections of capital and operating funding to service agencies will come home to roost in a myriad of ways, not the least further straining the provincial coffers and hobbling the businesses that drive the economy.
Tory times are hard times, goes the old partisan saw, but sadly, this group of pseudo conservatives seem hell-bent on proving its truth. Any sense of the “progressive” has long dropped off the PC brand.
Using the cover of their own ham-fisted approach to public policy, the Ford government is taking aim at the most vulnerable of the province’s population and thumbing their noses at the progress that was being made toward meeting the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission while simultaneously slashing protections for vulnerable workers and the ordinary Joes who make up the backbone of the economy in order to bolster business profits. These are policies that will play well to the conservative base, and some may even appeal to some right of centre electorate, but in the end policies that are simply extensions of a hard right ideology will spell disaster for the Ontario economy and drag the province inexorably into a recession.
The premier’s interference in Hydro One has not only cost the province hundreds of millions of dollars, but his stated willingness to tear up business contracts using the power of parliament cannot help but send a chilling message to the world’s investors—flinging away one of our province’s strongest economic assets. That message is clear, under a Doug Ford government Ontario is no longer a jurisdiction you can trust.
There is some hope that the Tories under Premier Ford can listen to reason, provided those doing the talking are generally well off and relatively comfortable in their circumstances. Witness the recent backpedalling by “The People’s Government” when they stepped away from arbitration with the province’s doctors. That might have been an interesting conversation to witnessed as a fly on the wall in the PC backrooms.
There is no question that government waste exists and there is always room for improvement and efficiencies in government spending. But why is it that in Tory Times, those efficiencies always seems to come on the backs of the poor, the vulnerable, the Indigenous and the common working man.
For a man who railed against the supposed cronyism and corruption of the Wynne Liberals, Premier Ford seems to be determined to exceed the supposed worst excesses of his predecessors. Phycology would suggest that one should never install someone who claims all politicians are crooks as a leader, because that is how they fundamentally define the role and will act once in power.
Premier Ford and his advisors may think that three-and-a-half years is long enough for the little guy to forget about the shafting that has been implemented in these few short months, but the impact of these recent decisions and policy blunders will last much longer than that.