In Doug Ford, Ontario has elected a Premier without a coherent governing agenda and with little knowledge of key government files. The Ford campaign, a tightly scripted production built around a series of populist slogans recited stiffly off a teleprompter, was just competent enough to keep a sure victory from completely slipping away. The fact that his nervous handlers were obsessed with keeping reporters at a safe distance from the PC leader says it all.
During the 2018 campaign, Mr. Ford made countless false claims and misleading statements. It would be an understatement to say that Mr. Ford has little use for the facts.
Beyond his ignorance of key provincial files, Mr. Ford can’t be relied upon to tend to the PC Party’s ongoing operational problems and incessant infighting. One only has to look at the events that brought down former PC leader Patrick Brown and the countless PC nomination meetings in which the results were contested amid accusations of membership recruiting and voting improprieties, to know that there is something seriously wrong with the culture of the Ontario PC party – and that Doug Ford is exactly the wrong man to fix those problems.
In our Westminster style political system, all governments – whether of the left, centre or right – require a strong, non-partisan, public service willing to speak truth to the elected government of the day – whether that truth is what the politicians want to hear or not.
It is the central argument of this article that a non-partisan, public service willing to speak truth to power is especially crucial with the ascendancy of right-wing, populist governments headed by men such as Mr. Trump and Mr. Ford. This is because both men consistently display a troubling dis-regard for hard facts and a seeming impatience with the rule of law.
In other words, the existence of a fearless, professional public service – along with an independent judiciary and a free press – assumes greater importance given the erratic behaviour of such leaders. The sight of young children being torn from the arms of their parents along the Mexican – U.S. border should be a reminder to all Canadians not to take for granted a government rooted in a respect for human rights and the primacy of the rule of law.
This is the situation today (June 19th) on the U.S.- Mexican border according to the Washington Post:
President Trump and top administration officials say U.S. laws or court rulings are forcing them to separate families that are caught trying to cross the southern border.
These claims are false. Immigrant families are being separated primarily because the Trump administration in April began to prosecute as many border-crossing offenses as possible. This “zero-tolerance policy” applies to all adults, regardless of whether they cross alone or with their children.
The Justice Department can’t prosecute children along with their parents, so the natural result of the zero-tolerance policy has been a sharp rise in family separations. Nearly 2,000 immigrant children were separated from parents during six weeks in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The Trump administration implemented this policy by choice and could end it by choice. No law or court ruling mandates family separations.
Leaders with little respect for facts and an impatience with the rule of law, require democratic institutional constraints. In the case of Premier-elect Ford, the Ontario Public Service is likely the most important institution that will provide such constraints. However, there is a growing body of evidence (detailed below) that the senior ranks of Canada’s non-partisan, professional public services increasingly lack the will to speak truth to power. If that is in fact the case, Ontarians could be in for a very rough four years under Mr. Ford.