Doug Ford’s Gravy Train Express

It goes without saying that within every society and every culture exist elements that seem to tend to embrace what most understand is unfortunate, in some cases very dark, ideologies and behaviours. It is easy to come up with numerous examples of these. Words such as segregation, bigotry and sectarianism are obvious examples of this. Some of these have lead to outright violence in various times, cultures and societies. Other less, shall we say, notorious examples might include words such as gender-based discrimination, ageism and elitism. The point I’m making is not in regard to which ideologies and behaviours are worse and which are lesser. The point is that all of them fall under the umbrella of being less desirable traits of societies and cultures.

It’s important to note that no single nation or culture has a monopoly on any of these matters. We can look south of the border to the white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville Virginia and point a finger, but then, like my friend says, if we look at our hand while finger pointing, there are 3 more pointing back at ourselves. Just look at the recent anti Pride demonstration that took place in Hamilton. Needless to say, not one of Ontario’s prouder moments.

When we hear about incidents here at home such as the recent one in Hamilton, as a province we shake our head and say, “Well that group certainly does not represent the majority of our population.” So we can take some solace in that at least. But, what are Ontarians supposed to think when our own elected government exhibits behaviour such as those that fall under the umbrella mentioned above?

Now, it’s one thing when we look at our overall society and community and see or read about these incidents. People are just people. But Ontarians should be able to count on elected government officials to be above such behaviours. However, one not need look too far or deeply into our own provincial government to see several recent examples of ideologies and practices that fall under the same overall umbrella.

Just days ago, right after announcing huge cuts to funding for education, health care and autism services in Northern Ontario, and across the province, Doug Ford was busted giving away six-figure salaries in plum government appointments to his friends. Approval of these appointments was initially slipped into a slew of more mundane matters in hopes they would get through unnoticed.

Right after Doug Ford cut funding for hospitals, schools, and children with autism in Northern Ontario and across the province, he was caught handing out plush six-figure jobs to close friends in newly created government positions in New York, Chicago and London. They quietly appointed four Conservative insiders to agents-general positions that were deemed unnecessary way back in the 1990s. Why do these appointments fall under the dark umbrella? They included a relative of the now former Conservative Chief of Staff Dean French’s wife, Taylor Shields; Dean French’s son’s friend, Tyler Albrecht; Rob Ford’s former chief of staff Earl Provost; and the president of the Ontario PC Party Jag Badwal. Do the words nepotism and patronage come to mind?

To add fuel to the fire, on the day of the appointment, the social media accounts of Tyler Albrecht were hidden from view in an obvious attempt to hide how inappropriate that appointment was. Screen captures show the 2016 grad made use of homophobic slurs and anti-women language on his account.

And just like a kid caught with chocolate on his face, it’s clear that Ford knew what he did was wrong because the Albrecht and Shields appointments were immediately cancelled as soon as the news broke.

Following the boss’ nepotistic modelling, one of the very first acts of the brand new Finance Minister Rod Phillips was to appoint one of his major donors and long-time business partner Neil Selfe to the Investment Management Corporation of Ontario(IMCO). Another long-time Phillips business associate, Brian Gibson, was also quietly appointed to the IMCO board on June 20. Phillips is merely imitating the leader’s example.

It is very troubling that even after increasing the size of the Conservative cabinet by a full 33 per cent mere days ago, Ford’s ministers have already started to hand out first class tickets on Doug Ford’s Gravy Train Express. In looking at the gravy train passenger manifest, it seems that the Ford Gravy Train Express is getting pretty crowded now. This means that Ontario has more cabinet ministers than any other province in Canada.

Now Doug Ford has nearly doubled the number of parliamentary assistants giving 31 MPPs a 14 per cent pay hike which will see each of them receive an extra $16,300 on top of their MPP salary. These appointments represent a 72 per cent jump, rising from 18 to 31 assistants. Do Doug Ford’s cabinet ministers actually need this much help to do their job? Ministers in other provinces don’t.

My NDP colleague MPP Taras Natyshak said, “Do qualifications even matter in this Government? How bad do you have to tick off Doug Ford to be in that group of just six Conservative MPPs that aren’t getting a special appointment and extra public money from Doug Ford?”

All this is all happening at the same time as the Conservatives are firing education and health care workers and announcing that civil servants can expect to have their wages frozen or maybe increase by as much as 1 per cent over the next few years. Can any argument be made here for elitism?

While Northerners pay the highest gas prices in the province, the cost of living goes up, and students are receiving 50 -80 per cent less OSAP funding, Doug Ford is telling us to tighten our belts, while he gives away jobs to his buddies to live lavish lifestyles in the most expensive cities in the world, all paid for by Ontarians.

Ontarians deserve to be led by a government that does not demonstrate such aberrant ideologies and behaviour.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected]or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.


Mike Mantha