TORONTO - The electorate may soon tire of his bluster and faux right-wing ideology. If and until it does, Doug Ford seems intent on demonstrating that an aspirant to the Premiership can deliberately choose to jump from one “prairie patty” to the next without attracting flies.
In Friday’s debate on Northern Ontario issues he demonstrated a remarkable lack of awareness of the regional economy and local challenges. The five major census metropolitan areas (Thunder Bay, Sault Sainte Marie, Timmins, North Bay and Sudbury) suffer ongoing shortages of services and investment.
Distance (transportation) and declining population are the most pressing challenges. The area is twice the size of France, with a population that is barely the size of Brampton’s. It suffers from an acute labour shortage and depopulation.
The Mayors of those five cities have been lobbying the Ontario Minister of Immigration to press the Federal Minister, Ahmed Hussen, to apply the Pilot Project he is studying for New Brunswick to Northern Ontario.
We need people, they say. Allow the province to expand its Provincial Nominee Program to act as a sponsor for those aspiring immigrants to locate in those Northern cities, they plead. That ”Program” has been in operation for more than fifteen years and most successfully so in Manitoba – a province geographically [slightly] smaller than Northern Ontario but with a similar population (half of it concentrated in Winnipeg).
What is “good for the goose, should be good for the gander”, goes the argument of the five mayors. Minister Hussen’s attention is elsewhere, responded diplomatically minister Albanese, vowing to continue pressing her Federal counterpart. Only the federal government can grant status.
Good luck, there isn’t a “Pilot project” Hussen seems unwilling to study into oblivion. Now Doug Ford has come to his rescue.
“We take care of our own first”, he blustered. Albanese accused him of divisiveness and playing politics to mask his “abject ignorance of the fact that the most important economic issue for the North is people and the access to more of them”.
“And who are ‘this our own first’, how many generations does it take to become our own”, she pointed accusingly to Ford’s statement. “It is unacceptable and irresponsible for him to try to hide his ignorance of the issues by sowing discord among our peoples with statements designed to appeal to the basest of prejudices”, railed an angry Albanese.
“This is too reminiscent of the dog whistle, Steven Harper, refrain ‘Old Stock’ and Canadian Values’ days”, she added.
News reports in the week had been focusing on abusers of our Refugee system and, Thursday, on the returned self-avowed Canadian ISIS radical. Hussen has been nowhere to be seen.
Representatives of the Undocumented Workers Committee (UWC) who had been hoping for a pro-active, if not aggressive, response from Ford to force the hand of the Federal Government on the issue of regularizing the “Visa-Overstays”, were disappointed.
“If he were to win, we would have to start the education process all over again, just for him”, said Manuel Alexandre, President of the UWC.
Ford’s War Room tried to calm the waters by claiming that the unemployment rate stands at 7.8% in the North but did not indicate the source of the data nor the sample size of the research might substantiate the claim. The Ontario Labour Market Survey for April shows an unemployment rate of 5.5% for the entire province. Municipalities and businesses benefit from various Federal Aboriginal Human Resources Development Agreements (titles change with governments) to attract Aboriginal youth to current and emerging “enterprises”. But these are clearly not enough.
As the population declines, the professional class servicing communities, large and small, starts an exodus that exacerbates the problem.
Ford does not appear to be in command of even this elementary condition. Maybe knowledge and facts no longer matter, but an effort to acquire and digest both might be an asset in government.
He and the Conservatives are still ahead in the polls.
In an TV interview on Fox News yesterday, Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City, said "…The greatest threat to … democracy … is our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party, and in pursuit of power."