News from the Park – Happy Days

If I were a betting man, I would bet dollars to donuts that when Doug Ford was growing up, one of his favourite TV shows was Happy Days. Remember Richie Cunningham, his family, teenage friends and, of course, The Fonz?  For those too young to remember, Happy Days was a weekly sitcom throwback to the good old days of the 1950s and 60s. It was an attempt to depict a wistful look back at free and fun-loving days of adolescence and innocence.  I am conjecturing that Happy Days was one of Ford’s favourite shows because he seems to have a thing for nostalgia. I say this because of his recent determination to drag Ontario backwards in time.

The concerning thing is that I’m not sure Ford understands that the Happy Days show wasn’t realistic. It was based on a time when employment was high, people had steady jobs for a lifetime in a white-bread, melting pot world in which minorities were not visible or respected. When Happy Days aired it was meant to be entertainment. It was just as make-believe as Ford’s perception of what is real and important today in Ontario. Under Ford we are going back to the ‘happy days’ in which politics was known for its backroom deals and catering to the wishes of party insiders and lobbyists.

Conservatives have resorted to using blatantly divisive thinking and policies. This week in the Legislature Andrea Horwath criticized the Minister of Public Safety and Corrections for suggesting that living in the Jane and Finch community in Toronto is sufficient justification to warrant the practice of carding. While carding continues on Ontario’s streets, the Ford PCs continue to respond to questions with justifications that stigmatize predominantly Black communities as unsafe and saying a bullet-proof vest is necessary to visit them.

Clearly the Ford government approves of the discriminatory and unconstitutional practice of carding. Andrea asked the minister whether he plans to allow even more carding to take place or do the right thing which is to prohibit the practice once and for all. In response the Minister willfully stigmatized an entire community by using outrageous stereotypes to describe the community. The racist comments served only to offend Ontarians and promote attitudes of intolerance and divisiveness.

The Conservatives also dragged Ontario back in time in terms of education this week. They announced their decision to scrap the updated sexual health curriculum and drag Ontario back to 1998. This outdated curriculum ignores significant changes that our society has experienced since that time. This means Ontario’s young people will no longer be taught about cyberbullying, consent, or healthy relationships – including same-sex marriage, which was legalized after the curriculum was written.

When the fallout first started, Education Minister Lisa Thompson tried to calm the waters during question period saying that some updated sex ed topics would be kept in place. However, the Conservatives overruled her statement later that same day, stating unequivocally that teachers will be forced to use a health curriculum that was written before the existence of social media, smart phones, or legal same-sex marriage.

This step backwards in time is obviously not about doing what’s right for students, or about listening to parents. It’s about doing favours for social conservatives like Charles McVety and Tanya Granic Allen. Doug Ford is being driven by whatever far-right radical social conservatives want him to do, and the deals he made with them before the election – just like the nudge-nudge, wink-wink politics back in the ‘good old days’.

In last week’s column I mentioned that the Ford Conservatives are also undoing the progress we have made in tackling environmental issues such as greenhouse gasses with the cap-and trade program. Scrapping all clean-air and climate change initiatives will hurt Ontario. Not only is the cancelation of cap-and-trade going to have a devastating effect on our environment, but it will also have the unintended consequence of cutting funds specifically earmarked for the Ontario school renovation program among other things. The province has a $15 billion repair backlog on the books to address the needs of 4,900 publicly funded schools. Some of the money needed for this would have come from the proceeds of the cap-and-trade program.  So where does Ford plan on finding the money to tend to the needs of our crumbling schools?

Ontario needs real leadership; not someone who wants to govern in a Happy Days fantasy. New Democrats have a real vision for an Ontario where more people can build their best life. We are committed to continuing to fight to improve the services that everyday families count on.

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