Laugh at the farcical scandals of John Tory and Doug Ford but the joke’s on the powerless

Posted on February 15, 2023 in Governance Debates

Source: — Authors: – Opinion/Star Columnnists
Feb. 15, 2023.   By Shree Paradkar, Social & Racial Justice Columnist

Alleged ethical breaches are sucking up all the oxygen, but it’s what these two have inflicted that should be the true measure of each leader.

It’s unseasonably warm for February in Toronto, with temperatures even expected to touch double digits on Wednesday. But beware the fool’s spring, with so many shenanigans afoot.

In this moment, admittedly not one of fun, the oxygen is being sucked up by Thing Two and Thing One. (With apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

Thing One is Ontario Premier Doug Ford. He’s in the news this time for hosting a “stag and doe” for his daughter as well as a wedding where the guest list included developers — just friends! — some of whom quite coincidentally went on to benefit hugely from provincial decisions.

Thing Two? Toronto Mayor John Tory. He’s trending for having an affair with a much younger junior staffer.

Thing One is super-rich but steals the customs and mannerisms of the underclass. For example, he potentially turns a caring tradition of a community event where not-very-rich people chip in to help each other into what an invitee characterized as an icky “pay for play” by a multimillionaire premier.

Thing Two is super-rich and dons all the monotone of corporate mannerisms, currently playing a game of “now he’s leaving, now he’s not, now he may be.”

Ford’s scandals are an extension of his failings as premier. Tory’s is, thus far, unrelated. But it’s the general wretchedness these two have inflicted, more than the latest eye-catching scandals, that should be the true measure of each leader.

Just look at the one-two punch these two deliver to the powerless among us, the elderly, the dying and the sick, the homeless, the poor, the victims of police brutality.

During the pandemic, the province has witnessed its worst mass casualties in long-term-care homes, which had already been underfunded and short-staffed for decades. “Casualties” is a deceptive word. There’s nothing casual about the horror of trauma and the grief of loss, in this case of nearly 4,000 long-term-care residents who died in the first 12 months from COVID-19 alone.

Data! Get us data, cry politicians when presented with a problem. Fair enough. Study the issue. Measure it. Then fix it.

A Star analysis during the pandemic found that in facilities that faced outbreaks at the same rates, for-profit nursing homes had four times as many COVID-19 deaths as city-run homes.

A Canadians for Tax Fairness report estimated that for-profits were diverting more than $400 million annually in public funding to their profits.

But Thing One did not like the data, not one little bit.

Ford kicked the problem in a direction opposite to where the data was pointing. When Ontario announced funding for new nursing home beds in 2022, Ford, much like Mike Harris two decades before him, allocated a majority of them to for-profit chains, including some with the highest COVID death rates.

Like nursing homes, our entire health-care system has been put in crisis by being dangerously underfunded. It is understaffed and strained. Workers are overworked, burned out, demoralized.

In January, Ford announced plans to vastly expand the province’s use of private providers for public health services such as cataract surgeries to deal with the backlogs.

A group of health-care unions told the province that, historically, for-profits siphon staff from public hospitals, deal with the least complex medical needs and leave still underfunded public hospitals to deal with severe and expensive medical conditions and procedures. No matter.

If at the provincial level Thing One is whacking at the biggest line item in the budget — health — at the municipal level, Thing Two is bolstering one of its biggest line items — police.

Tory’s proposed 2023 budget, which is to be debated Wednesday, supports increasing the $1.1-billion police budget by almost $50 million. In 2023, the average property tax bill will contribute $651 to the Toronto Police Service, the Star’s Matt Elliott wrote in his newsletter.

Data, get us data!

Well, data suggests adding 200 new police won’t decrease wait times for police to respond to calls. It doesn’t support the idea that more police equals less crime, either.

But data shows reducing poverty can reduce crime.

Thing Two did not like it, not one little bit. The proposed 2023 budget cuts $4.3 million from jobs and social services.

When it comes to the homeless who found safety and community support in park encampments, Tory insisted on dismantling the sites with force, claiming the people can be moved to “safer housing.”

But what does the data say? The Canadian Press found the number of violent incidents in Toronto’s shelter system more than tripled during the COVID pandemic, and the number of overdoses also increased.

What about permanent housing? Unaffordable, by some measures, even for people earning $100,000 annually. Rents are skyrocketing even before the full effects of a shortage of rental units comes into play.

Housing crisis? cried Thing One in delight, jumping in to put the squeeze on tight.

Ford’s own Housing Affordability Task Force said there is more than enough land that is already zoned for housing and ready for development. He still cut into the environmentally sensitive and protected Greenbelt, and turned it into land for housing. The environment, at-risk species and local residents be damned. So what if the men who had bought parcels of land prior to this conversion, which makes it more valuable, were also his friends?

The bad tricks they play, Thing One and Thing Two. The things they bump, the things they do!

In this mayhem, the February thaw comes as a bit of a relief. Probably to none more than those without homes. Toronto’s board of health recommended that the city open warming centres 24 hours until April 15, after hearing of people who were losing limbs to frostbite or freezing to death. But Mayor Tory and his allies said no. Not yet. They wanted to study the idea further.

Data, get us data!

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