Doug and the people. He’s for the people, he says, but so’s everyone, en principe. Now it’s at a point where he should take time off from hectoring the people about their own failures and yell at himself.
He’s good at it. He went after the thousand yahoos who attended a car rally in Ancaster: “If they had brains they’d be dangerous.” Those types are “a few fries short of a Happy Meal.” They’re clichés, but not typical Ford ones — they hover above his usual arsenal. At such moments, his vocabulary glows.
The problem? He puts blame for the mess we’re back into, on individuals: student partiers, car ralliers. But the difference between them and him is they didn’t have the capacity to alleviate or screw up the lives of a whole province.
The students and car guys should yell back: Stop screaming at us and fix the damn testing system! Why weren’t you ready for the fall surge you knew was coming? There’s no excuse for standing in line for hours, then being sent home untested. He doesn’t take responsibility. Instead, he waxes Trumpian: our record is “fabulous,” “like you’ve never seen before,” others ask how I did it.
(I firmly believe that one duty of a “people’s” leader is not making citzens’ lives more miserable than need be. That includes wretched crowding on transit or airlines, grinding daily commutes — and ingeniously humiliating test lines.)
Why didn’t he mandate smaller classes, as we watch the schools grind predictably to a mass closing, instead of dicking around with more nurses and custodians? Sending teachers into those packed classrooms is sadistic. What about kids who go home, transmit the virus to parents and in the worst cases may have to spend the rest of their lives feeling guilty for it?
Long-term care homes are again the main source of this second wave, since Ford has done “nothing” for them (as the Globe and Mail said) since the first round.
What is he doing? Step one was tell us to get flu shots, which aren’t even available yet. Next was getting pharmacies to test. Huntsville didn’t have a test centre until its MPP called Doug and he conscripted Shoppers. I like the “on call” shtick, but it’s redolent of Russian serfs feeling if only the Czar knew, he’d fix it. Please, just acknowledge the difference between individual and political roles.
Still, compared to the U.S., they’re all there with their masks on at briefings, daintily distancing as they angle to the mic — though there’s always a moment when Doug says he relies on the advice of his chief medical officer. We deserve medals for not expiring each time he blurts that out. He did an impressive turnaround when this began. He’s managed to piss it all away since then.
Doug and Boris, together at last. Boris Johnson took a Dougish tack in the U.K. this week: “Never … has our collective destiny and our collective health depended so completely on our individual behaviour.” He said it, granted, on Twitter, slightly diminishing the Churchillian timbre. He called the U.K. a “great and freedom-loving country;” accordingly, “there have been too many breaches of the rules”” Not that we love life less, then, but that we love our freedoms more. A pollster peevishly noted, though, that vast majorities there support all the restrictions — masks, quarantines, etc. — and in a “values” survey, “British freedoms” ranked below “having a Sunday roast.” Opposition leader Keir Starmer said, “It’s a national scandal that we still don’t have a testing system that works. Or a plan to protect our care homes. It shouldn’t be like this.” Now why was he talking about Ontario in the U.K.? Oh, wait, he wasn’t…
Most satisfying line in a throne speech: “This is not the time for austerity.” Though really: When is the time? After everyone’s basic needs are met, perhaps. Till then, spend “whatever it takes.” (Also in the speech.) Where will the money come from? Wrong question. The question is, What are your priorities? Who wouldn’t spend whatever they have, for someone they love. If that’s true for an individual, how much easier should it be, shared by a society.
Rick Salutin writes about current affairs and politics. This column was first published in the Toronto Star.
Image: Doug Ford/Twitter