More things Change, The more they stay the same

More than likely, very few readers will recognize the name Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, but it would be a pretty safe bet most will be familiar with some of his work. Alphonse Karr, a French journalist and novelist, is credited with the epigram, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” or “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I raise this common quotation in light of what seems to be a developing trend at Queen’s Park ever since Doug Ford took over as Premier.

All of us well remember Doug’s younger brother, the late Rob Ford and their signature cri de coeur of stopping the ‘gravy train’ at Toronto’s City Hall. The Ford brothers formed a formidable front as they challenged the status quo at City Hall, taking on all comers. Doug was right there at his brother’s side fiercely committed to turning over every stone to expose and prevent anyone from enjoying a ride on the ‘gravy train.’ And yet, now with Doug Ford as Premier of the province, and despite this professed conviction to stamping out such practice, we continue to see more and higher priced train tickets being handed out to Ford allies and supporters.

Most recently we learned of Ford handing a big moneygolden parachute to his senior advisor, principal secretary Jenni Byrne, who, according to a report by The Toronto Star, is leaving Ford’s office. Ford has gifted Byrne a full-time board appointment as the province’s independent energy regulator for the Ontario Energy Board (OEB). Byrne was just rewarded a first class ticket with an annual cost of $400,000, paid for by the people of Ontario.

The OEB is charged with overseeing Ontario’s energy sector. Its independence is vital to protecting families from political mismanagement. Stacking the OEB with his buddies and turning our energy decision-making body into a dumping ground for Ford loyalists diminishes its independence, and will have major consequences for Ontario’s energy sector and consumers. Byrne’s appointment ensures even more of Ford’s meddling in Ontario’s energy sector is on its way.

Sadly, Byrne is just the latest to climb aboard the Doug Ford gravy train. Ford gifted his campaign tour director Ian Todd with a cushy $350,000 gig in Washington where he represents the Province at the Canadian embassy. Then we have past Conservative party president, Rueben Devlin, who was named to a $1 million government advisory appointment. Next is the tap given to the long time Ford family lawyer, Gavin Tighe, who will enjoy a $667,000 train ticket to sit on the Public Accountants Council.

Finally, as presented in recent columns, there is ongoing deep concern over the possibility that Ford meddled to ensure his loyal ally and longtime personal friend, Ron Taverner, in his appointment as  Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. This one is especially troubling because Ford doesn’t even understand the impropriety of appointing a close ally to be the head of the police force that is directly responsible for investigating any possible misdoing by the Premier, his cabinet and other high ranking government officials. Ford says it’s just another political appointment, made at his prerogative, just like any other appointment. Police investigators must feel free from any obligations, ties or influence by government officials or their appointees in conducting their investigation and consideration of laying appropriate charges if necessary. Police would lose all credibility if the public has any inkling of such pressures.

During the last election campaign, Doug Ford was caught on video during a secret backroom meeting that he would open up Toronto’s Greenbelt for them.Alas, here at least, is some recent good news for Ontarians. It seems that the hue and cry of foul and the mounting concern is beginning to have some effect. Once exposed last summer, Ford quickly reversed his position, promising that the lands set aside were not going to be touched. Then, just recently Ford made a second attempt to do the same. But, by working together, concerned citizens and groups — including municipalities, environmental advocates, agricultural organizations and the Official Opposition — have been successful in holding off Ford’s attack on the Greenbelt. That’s twice now Ford’s attempt to punch holes in the precious lands set aside solely to reward his wealthy friends and business supporters. Clearly Ontarians must be ever vigilant on this and so many other similar situations.

To be fair, such attempts and decisions are not exactly foreign to Ontarians. The previous Liberal government under McGuinty and Wynne were anything but lily white in this regard.

Remember how Ford heralded his government as “Ontario’s first ever Government for the People?”  Well, he forgot to mention that the people of Ontario could get in line, right after all of his friends and supporters were taken care at the head of the line. Despite promises and commitments to put a stop to the ‘gravy train,’ it seems that under Doug Ford that train continues to chug along just fine.

In the words of Alphonse Karr, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters.

Michael Mantha MPP/député


Mike Mantha