The barbarians are no longer at the gate. The voters of Ontario have willingly let them in and they’re now ready and waiting to wreak havoc.
The election of Doug Ford as premier of Canada’s second-largest government is an unmitigated disaster. It will do profound damage to the character of our politics and to the lives of the most vulnerable among us.
There are those who will say this isn’t a big deal and it’s just politics as usual. They will point to the mostly restrained campaign that Ford ran, the Harper-era professionals that he has surrounded himself with and the handful of sane, competent people left within the Progressive Conservative caucus.
They were wrong when they said that about the election of Rob Ford in 2010. The mayoralty of the Fords (and Doug was an equal partner in that) was a constant lurch from scandal to scandal that left the residents of Toronto permanently nauseated.
Rob Ford’s substance abuse problems, and the crack video scandal in particular, may be what we remember best from that time. But well before any of that was public, the city was subjected to mismanagement, incompetence and institutional cruelty.
Doug Ford, of course, is not his brother Rob. He’s worse.
Rob Ford, when he was at his best, had a compassion for and connection with many residents of Toronto. He famously answered every phone call and investigated every pothole.
Doug, on the other hand, has none of his brother’s personal charms. He is a bully through-and-through.
And among the first people that a Ford government will bully are queer and trans Ontarians.
Perhaps the new premier will march in the upcoming Pride parade. But that’s largely a moot point, because he’s already aligned himself with some of the most virulent homophobes and transphobes in the province. He won the PC leadership riding a wave of social conservative backlash that has been festering in this province.
Charles McVety, the president of Canada Christian College and one of the most strident opponents of LGBT rights in this province — and one of Ford’s biggest boosters — now has a direct line to the premier’s office.
Comprehensive sex education is almost certainly out the window. Like in the Mike Harris years, the cuts that are likely to come to health care, housing and municipalities will hit the most vulnerable the hardest.
Think back to the delisting of sexual reassignment surgery from OHIP that took place under the Harris government — an entire generation of trans Ontarians were left without even basic access to necessary health care.
Police are likely to be given free rein to do whatever they will in our cities and neighbourhoods. Even the small gains towards greater police accountability that have been made are likely lost.
Of course, the pain won’t just be felt by LGBT people.
Ford will attack the media, both institutionally and personally. He is almost certain to attack the independent parliamentary officers, like the auditor general, that help keep our legislature accountable.
And if he manages the public purse in the way he is alleged to have managed his company, he will bankrupt us.
So what are we to do?
The answer is simple: fight the Ford government at every turn. Don’t make it easy for them.
When they try to rip up a comprehensive sex-ed curriculum that values consent and LGBT people, flood the streets and protest. Pressure your MPPs — including the few in the PC caucus that remain reasonable — to do what’s best for the province. Get involved in the causes that matter to you.
When Rob Ford was mayor of Toronto, the city government floundered, but civic life blossomed. Torontonians stepped into the breach, became involved and pushed for a better city that they knew was possible.
Artists, lawyers, journalists, librarians, activists, students and everyday residents made their voices heard in a way they never had before.
Ontario as a whole must now do the same.
So for tonight, go do what you need to do to get used to this terrifying new reality. Because starting tomorrow, the fight for the soul of Ontario is on.
And it’s going to be a long one.