With the seeming ascendancy of conservatism across Canada, particularly in my city of Toronto, I can't help but fret that we are becoming a cold-hearted, parochial nation. One that embraces a harsh, Victorian notion of poverty, where we have become servants to this amorphous thing called the "economy," where a strategy is afoot to starve the public sector of all function and form so that the favoured private enterprise and profit can swoop in.
Rob Ford's nearly 100 days as mayor of Toronto have not been surprising. That supposed gravy cannot be found. He's axing many of the streams of revenue Toronto can levy and then asking the province for money (this despite his repeated claim that Toronto has a spending and not a revenue problem), and wherever a public sector problem pops up, he becomes the Queen of Hearts and screams "off with its head!"
His solution is to privatize all that which he finds objectionable; damn the evidence, vive l'idéologie. The audit of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation yielded instances of poor judgment by TCHC officials. But rather than ask how TCHC could improve the lives of its clients, Ford ruminates about privatization, oblivious that such a policy has been riddled with blunders in the U.K. while the gap between rich and poor continues to grow.
Ford has never liked TCHC, he has little concern for the Torontonians it serves, and he has, with an almost childlike simplicity, embraced that nonsensical conservative adage about the government not being in the business of being in business. After all, this is a man who in 2004 said that Toronto's tree protection bylaw was tantamount to communism, whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.
Although, when a recent report uncovered $29 million spent on paid duty cops (those police officers who stand on the street while a hole is being dug), Ford did not muse (yet) about having the Guardian Angels patrol the mean streets of Hogtown; something he supported in 2006.
Recently, we've seen how Ford behaves when he doesn't get what he wants. He stomps his foot like a petulant brat and then issues threats. When his request for funding from the province was denied, he warned Ontario's Premier that Toronto Liberal MPPs would be taken down by "Ford Nation" in the upcoming provincial election.
Although "Ford Nation" sounds like a group of good old boys who like to get together and polish each other's F-150s, it's actually a label dreamed up by Ford and co. to pretend that the grumps who sent him to City Hall are unified under the "Respect for Taxpayers" flag.
The idea behind Ford Nation, as described by Ford's former chief of staff and campaign manager, Nick Kouvalis, is that it provides a counterbalance to Kouvalis' fevered contention that society is swimming with socialist sentiment and interest groups.
For example, Kouvalis notes that there is no right-wing alternative to the Toronto Environmental Alliance. Maybe that's because many on the right couldn't care less about the environment when they're not denying climate change or undermining the science supporting global warming.
Does Kouvalis really think that there is no right-wing lobby? Never mind that conservatism permeates much of the mainstream media, supposed "think" tanks like the laughable Fraser Institute have spent decades attempting to paint the left as kooks. The various chapters of the Taxpayers' Federation have fostered the myth that Canadians are overtaxed and that corporate tax cuts create jobs. Many of these right-wing ideas are commonplace.
Personally, I'd like to see a Tea Party North so that Ford's followers can be caught on tape like this, behaving like unhinged xenophobes. (Examples of Ford's intolerance toward new Canadians are many, ranging from his claim that "Orientals work like dogs," to wanting to limit the number of immigrants to Toronto, to his 2003 declaration that Toronto be a "refugee-free zone.")
But I suppose most puzzling is Kouvalis' argument that a right-wing lobby group is needed to counteract left-wing activism. Ford won the mayoral election and did so decisively. One might suspect that Kouvalis sees Ford Nation as a dual-purpose enterprise: making a profit off fear and setting up a 24/7 neo-con propaganda machine.
Fairly descriptive of what Ford is doing right now as mayor.