Ford fails to connect dots between the personal and the political

Posted on in Social Security Debates – Opinion
Jan. 21, 2019.   By

In his personal life, Premier Doug Ford seems to understand the need to help people who face some kind of disadvantage.

He proudly speaks about his “Ford Fest camp day,” when youngsters from some of Toronto’s more challenged neighbourhoods are bused up to enjoy a day at the Ford family cottage in Muskoka.

There, he says, kids get to experience the joys that come from a campfire, swimming in the lake and riding around on a jet-ski — things they don’t have much opportunity to do. Ford clearly sees a lot of value in that; he’s called it “my favourite day of the year.”

His late brother Rob was the same. He routinely spoke about the importance of his volunteer coaching of a high school football team and suggested other Toronto councillors would do well to “go to a school and help.”

In their personal lives, then, the Ford brothers have both shown the desire to help people experience something new and better, and a genuine belief that doing so can make a difference. Unfortunately, in their political lives neither has connected those same dots.

Rob, the former mayor and longtime Toronto councillor, spent his many years at City Hall railing against funding for a myriad of programs that improve the lives of residents who face various kinds of challenges. And now at Queen’s Park, Premier Doug Ford is essentially doing the same thing.

A million dollars of provincial funding that makes after-school activities possible in Toronto’s disadvantaged neighbourhoods has been cut, the school board said last week. Some of the kids who will ultimately be hurt by those cuts are very likely the same ones Ford feels so good about taking to his cottage.

His government also cut a $3-million program to help young people with a developmental disability transition to adulthood.

This is a mistake. The time to help these individuals make social connections and find work if they can is while they’re still supported by their parents. What happens when their parents aren’t able to do that anymore? Nothing good. Not for these people, nor for provincial coffers when more expensive public supports are inevitably needed down the line.

It’s a false economy, like so many of the other cuts to social and education programs that the Ford government has made.

It also demonstrates that Doug Ford, like his brother before him, can’t make the leap from wanting to help on a personal level to seeing the necessary role of government in assisting groups of people dealing with social problems.

When people donate their time and money to charitable works it can help some people, especially in the short-term, and make our communities fairer and more welcoming. There’s real value to that. But it doesn’t let the government off the hook.

For one, there simply aren’t enough people to do it the Doug Ford way: “I brought 80 kids from the Black community up to my cottage … We had a great time.”

And for another, it takes more than a fun day in August to make a difference in the lives of kids who live in neighbourhoods without enough safe public spaces and affordable activities, and whose parents often spend hours a day getting to and from their low-wage, increasingly precarious jobs.

Fixing that takes government action.

As premier, Ford is in an ideal position to make a real difference in the lives of the disadvantaged youth he claims to care about, not to mention a whole host of other Ontarians in need.

But his government is not just squandering that opportunity; it’s making things worse.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 at 2:53 pm and is filed under Social Security Debates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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