Re: Thuggery of the LeftSep 19th, 2018
PAIN COURT, ONT. — Premier Doug Ford dismissed protesters who unfurled a banner and shouted “Don’t plow our charter” Tuesday as controversy over his attempt to shrink Toronto’s city council followed him to the International Plowing Match.
“They hopped in their car from downtown, the NDP, and drove up here. That’s what it was about,” Ford charged at the annual farming exhibition west of Chatham on a sweltering late summer day.
“Hopefully we’re going to move on over the next couple of days, get this done, run a more efficient government in Toronto, get transit built, infrastructure, housing,” he said.
The shouting by three people, who held the banner with the same slogan, briefly interrupted Ford’s speech to several hundred spectators at the rural exposition, which continues until Saturday.
“We’re not doing to sit idly by while he stomps on the Charter,” protest leader Aliya Pagani of Toronto told reporters.
Their slogan is a reference to the Ford government's effort to invoke the rarely used “notwithstanding” clause from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to override a judge’s ruling last week that it is unconstitutional for the province to cut the number of Toronto wards in the Oct. 22 municipal election to 25 from 47 in mid-campaign, matching provincial and federal riding boundaries.
Ford later took a turn at a Ford tractor to plow a furrow at the match and got a good reception from attendees, frequently stopping to pose for selfies with admirers. He hopes to use his Progressive Conservative government's majority in the Legislature to pass a Bill 31 — known as the Better Local Government Act — on the council cut Thursday.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it’s “disturbing” that Ford, who never mentioned slicing Toronto’s council during the June provincial election campaign, is blowing off opposing views on the plan.
“To simply dismiss the voices of everyday people who have legitimate concerns and worries, I think that's an error,” she said at a news conference as MPPs from all parties descended on the plowing match to make inroads with rural Ontarians.
“Mr. Ford needs to stand up and take note. This is the kind of arrogance, the kind of dismissiveness that (defeated Liberal premier) Kathleen Wynne was demonstrating in the last months and years of her mandate,” the New Democrat leader added.
“It says that he (Ford) didn’t get the message that people don’t like arrogant governments.”
Opinion on Ford’s use of the “notwithstanding” clause to force the electoral changes on Toronto with just over a month until the fall election were mixed, but at least one Ford supporter did flag a concern.
“I think it’s a good idea but maybe not right now,” Gord Johnston, a Caledon-area truck driver who was visiting the plowing match, told the Star, suggesting the province wait until the next election in four years to shrink Toronto council.
“I’m a Ford supporter, but wait a minute, Doug, is this the hill you want to die on?” he said. “The optics says it’s a bit vindictive.”
Using the notwithstanding clause “compounds everything and gives ammunition to the opposition,” Johnston added.
“It’s probably not the right time for it,” agreed Jeff Vidler, a retiree from Erieau, south of Chatham, who mused about cutting the size of the Chatham-Kent regional council.
Barry Burke, a retiree from Chatham, gave Ford’s move a hearty thumbs up.
“I think he’s doing right,” Burke said in an interview. “What’s it mean to John Tory? He should be able to get things done.”
Ford also got a glowing review from Marlene Sleightholm of Listowel, who said no one in her social circle “ever talks about” Ford’s move on Toronto council, where he served as a councillor for four years while his late brother, Rob, was mayor.
“He’s doing pretty good so far,” Sleightholm said. “Got to give him a chance.”
The warden of neighbouring Essex County, Tom Bain, said he was worried that Ford might come after his council of 14.
“The premier has assured us he will not make any changes without sitting down to meet with us,” Bain said. “We want to be part of any changes that need to be made.”
Ford offered a preview of an announcement coming Friday from Finance Minister Vic Fedeli about the shape of Ontario’s books following a summer-long commission of inquiry.
“You will be floored when you hear the numbers,” the premier predicted.
“We’ve got a serious issue on our hands.”
Asked if he will use the red ink to justify service cuts, Ford replied, “I don’t believe in cuts. I believe in efficiencies.” He repeated his election campaign pledge that “I don’t want anyone losing their job.”
Critics have warned that Ford, who promised $6 billion in spending cuts, cannot avoid job losses and will have to carve deep into the health and education budgets.