The one-call-away Premier. Not quite.
This is an excerpt from Ontario Majority, our brand new newsletter covering Ontario politics.
The one-call-away Premier. Not quite.
Doug Ford told us he wasn’t aware of how bad things were inside Ontario’s nursing homes. Now, it turns out families of residents at these homes had been warning Ford for several weeks. With this breaking news, I thought it would be worthwhile to unpack one of the biggest myths surrounding Ford.
Our Premier loves to sell himself as a politician that’s “for the people.” His invitations to directly contact him were a huge part of his brand.
For years, he’s handed out his phone number and told his constituents to call him when they face problems. At a time when our politicians seem more out-of-touch than ever, Ford’s “one-call-away” shtick helped him stand out.
The idea seems lovely. The reality is not. Let’s look at some people who appealed to the Premier for help.
Last year, Ford cut legal aid funding by 30 percent. The downsizing of the program, which had helped low-income people find legal representation, left many Ontarians in trouble. In response to outrage over the cuts, Ford told Ontarians that anyone in need of legal aid could get help through his office. What happened next? Requests for help went unanswered. One lawyer contacted Ford’s office over 40 times on behalf of his clients. He got nothing back except a patronizing email.
There are, however, some stories of Ontarians getting personal calls from the Premier. Daniel Enbright talked to Ford last April. He was concerned about his friend who was losing her job because of Ford’s cuts. According to Enbright’s account, the Premier dismissed the effect of his cuts and went on a rant about the media. Ford did, however, ask him to send over his friend’s resume.
Here is the contradiction of our Premier. Ford’s government can do massively unpopular things – like block climate action and cut healthcare funding – and get away with it because Ford himself appeals to people individually.
Being personally accessible, however, is not the same as being responsive to the public. He helps Ontarians piece-meal, which acts as a distraction while his policies destroy countless lives. It’s a hell of a trick.
This feigned folksiness is something that Ford has weaponized during the COVID-19 crisis.
The recent news about families who warned him about the Orchard Villa nursing home is another example. Cathy Parkes, whose father had lived in the long-term care facility, wrote Ford an email on April 13. She warned him about the disarray inside the home and pleaded for help. Ford didn’t respond.
On April 29, Parkes and other families sent another email to Ford. They warned again about staff shortages, food shortages, lack of care and unsafe health practices. Again, no response.
On May 5, the families called the Premier’s office every hour for three days. Still, Ford did not respond.
By then, Cathy Parkes’ father had passed. So too had countless others. It wasn’t until late May that the public found out about what these families knew.
It was May 26th when the military released their dire report on five Ontario nursing homes, Orchard Villa being one of them. Ford addressed the province with crocodile tears in his eyes. “The public needs to know exactly what I found out yesterday,” he said.
This is the ugly reality hidden behind Ford’s folksy image: A Premier who ignored these families’ warnings for weeks, then went on national television and took credit for bringing these atrocities to light.
Doug wants you to think that he’s one call away and perhaps he is – if you’re a lobbyist. For the people, however, the Premier could not be farther away.
Think about it. Ford is consistently opposed to the things that matter most to Ontarians. We want climate action. What does he do? He spends public money on anti-carbon tax ads and a lawsuit to block climate action. He cancels renewable energy projects and gets rid of environmental regulations.
We want a strong public healthcare system. What does he do? He cuts healthcare funding, slashes oversight of long-term care, and is now further privatizing home care.
I could go on and say the same for every single issue that is at the top of most Ontarians’ minds, but you catch the drift.
Much like Trump, Ford loves a public spectacle. The personal phone calls, the photo-ops, the individualized pleas – they’re all meant to galvanize the public. None of it is real, it’s all just smoke and mirrors to keep you distracted.
Tell us what you think!
Every week we’ll be including a question for you. We want to hear about your thoughts on the issues we’re discussing. The top responses will then be included in next week’s newsletter.
Do you think Doug Ford has done a good job handling COVID-19?
While you weren’t looking.
The over-looked news of the week.
- The Ontario government is pushing through legislation that will add extra hurdles for approving class action lawsuits. Lawyers say these planned changes will make it difficult to sue negligent long-term care homes. Class action suits like those against residential schools, the ’60s Scoop or the Walkerton crisis, would likely not be allowed under these new rules.
- The Ontario government is also attempting to steamroll legislation that will hand off control of home care from public agencies to coalitions of private home care organizations. Bill 175 was crafted behind closed doors without public consultations but could soon be passed.
- Ontario Premier Doug Ford has come out in opposition to the federal government’s plan to guarantee 10 paid sick days to all Canadian workers. While other provincial leaders have come out in support, Ford’s government is now among the first to block the proposal.
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