Why is Doug Ford such a meanie to children?
Almost as soon as he became premier, he and his backbench back-up clappers began bullying Ontario youth with cuts to programs, projects and policies aimed at giving them safe, secure, healthy and prosperous futures.
Sure, the affected kids are too young to vote. But what about their parents? They’re getting angry and getting organized. They’re showing up at rallies, town halls and protests. One Facebook group, Ontario Families for Public Education, which was formed in late January, has already surpassed 7,000 members.
It seems as if people will put up with anything from the Buckabeers … until you mess with their kids.
First, the provincial Conservatives cancelled an already inadequate $100-million school repair budget that would keep children out of classrooms that were too hot, too cold, too wet, too drafty, too mouldy. It’s a good bet that many of their parents’ jobs in construction and the trades were affected when that cut was made.
Then of course came the sex education screw-up.
Heeding the call of Charles McVety, the fundamentalist pastor to Canada’s right-wing and homophobic, the updated 2015 curriculum that covered cyber bullying, consent and gender identity was dumped for the one taught in the digital stone age, 1998. At the same time, Ford created a teacher snitch line that parents could call if little Johnny came home talking about impure things he learned at school, like the dangers of sexting.
Never mind that sexual illiteracy ups the chances of abuse and assault. At least children would be protected from knowing that some of them have two mommies and that there’s nothing wrong with that.
(Fortunately, the Conservatives recently backed down from that one, keeping consent and online issues in the curriculum, although there is no talk of gender identity until Grade 8.)
The Cons then slashed $25 million in funding for specialized after-school programs in both elementary and secondary schools, programs that would keep at-risk kids off the streets.
Then came the war on the climate. Tens of millions of dollars burned fighting the carbon tax. Some 750 renewable energy projects, with one wind farm reportedly costing $100 million to shut down, ended. The electric and hydrogen vehicle incentive program toast, charging stations unplugged.
These cuts and more like them make up a scorched earth policy that will see Ontario’s children grow up in an unstable, unhealthy world.
Ford also killed the guaranteed income program and chopped planned welfare and minimum wage increases. These might have helped keep working parents out of food banks and more at home instead of at low-paying second jobs.
The list goes on.
The Ontario Child and Youths Advocate’s office was closed and the advocate fired, leaving vulnerable children — like those in the foster system — at risk of having no voice at Queen’s Park.
Then word got out of the gutting of assistance to families with autistic children. Outraged and frantic parents mobbed MPPs in Queen’s Park corridors and at their constituency offices. But still, the government would not budge.
Hardly surprising as Ford himself, back in 2014 when he was a Toronto city councillor, attacked a charitable agency that helps people with developmental disabilities, claiming it was “ruining the community” by welcoming youth with “violent behaviour” into a nice middle-class neighbourhood.
But the biggest hit of all came last week, at the tail end of March Break when many Ontario families are away.
Education Minister Lisa Thompson announced that the government would “modernize” public education by increasing class sizes in Grade 4 through Grade 12.
This came in the form of a $1.4-billion cut to public education, one that will cost thousands of job among teachers and school support staffers such as guidance counselors.
While NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles foresees 10,000 fewer teachers in just four years, Thompson claims that there will be “no involuntary job losses.”
According to Thompson, larger class sizes will build “confidence and resiliency” in children who must learn to cope in “the world of work.” This despite solid research showing that kids build resiliency through positive and stable relationships. As a result, Twitter erupted with mocking posts using the hashtag #moreresilient.
She’s only repeating the lessons being taught in caucus.
It’s not very difficult to imagine Doug Ford, who reportedly was never able to complete even a year of college, as having been a bully in the schoolyard. He even seemed to bully his late brother Rob, the former Toronto mayor.
Why change now?
One can only look forward to the day when voters spank him at the polls.
Antonia Zerbisias, former CBC-TV journalist and Toronto Star columnist, writes about society, media and politics.
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