What the election of Doug Ford means for Canada’s political climate
Jarod Smart // Contributor
Doug Ford, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) Party, and brother to the ever–controversial former Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford, was elected on June 7, 2018 and became the province’s latest premier. With 40.5 per cent of the vote, the PC Party of Ontario won 76 seats of the 124 in Legislature, forming a majority government with Andrea Horwath of the Ontario New Democratic Party forming the official opposition. With Ford’s socially and economically right-leaning policies, a strong social media presence and absurd tactics to avoid questioning by the media, many are comparing Ford to current President of the United States, Donald Trump, including former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
While Trump draws constant criticism for peddling the narrative that the US mainstream media reports “fake news”, Ford’s PC Party has launched the taxpayer–funded Ontario News Now, initially describing itself as “timely exclusive content on the PC government’s priorities for the people of Ontario,” though the account’s twitter biography has since been changed. Launching a partisan news source – if it can even be called news – while limiting questions from the media, is a shockingly blatant form of partisan propaganda, and a way for the Ford government to distort the narrative of what is happening in the Ontario government to their liking.
This is not the first time that Canadians have seen this method of bypassing the media to deliver information from a political party directly to the public. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who also endorsed Doug Ford, utilized a similar platform in 2014 by launching a “weekly video magazine” known as 24 Seven. While Harper never marketed the federal Conservatives’ videos as news, a dislike of the media and hostility towards unbiased news sources have been on the rise in the world of right-wing politics. This narrative is especially prevalent in the US’s current administration, of which Ford himself has been a supporter since Trump was elected in the fall of 2016.
So, what exactly does this indicate of Canada’s current political climate, when the most populous province is willing to elect someone with such stances into power? To start, since Doug Ford’s election, Quebec has elected François Legault of the right-leaning Coalition Avenir Québec as premier, with the Liberals seeing a loss of 36 seats. Since his election, Legault has proposed new legislation that would ban public employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols, such as a hijab or turban. In his promotion of secularism, Legault states that symbolism like the crucifix hanging in Quebec’s National Assembly would be exempt should this law pass, claiming that it is a historical symbol, and not a religious one.
Additionally, in July, Ontario’s PC Education Minister Lisa Thompson announced the province would be rolling back sex-ed curriculum, which was updated in 2015 for the first time since 1998 to include topics such as LGBTQIA2+ rights and gender identity. In British Columbia, SOGI 123 (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity 123) has faced a great deal of backlash for implementing teaching of inclusivity for gender and sexual minority students, particularly by that of Laura-Lynn Thompson. Thompson is an anti-SOGI activist, running to become a member of the Burnaby school board on the platform of removing SOGI curriculum, claiming that it is an “indoctrinating program […] infiltrating the minds of our children.” British Columbia general local elections will be happening on October 20th, 2018.
It is unclear whether or not we will see BC follow in the political footsteps of Ontario and Quebec. With three years still to go before our next provincial election, the results of local elections may reveal the political attitude of the population.