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What is happening in Ontario politics?

Bill FoxBy Bill Fox/Columnist

I always believed that “don’t discuss politics or religion at the dinner table or in the work place” was good advice.  These two topics are almost sure to cause heated debate and accomplish nothing except harming relationships.  In general I believe this, nevertheless, I feel compelled to write this column on the recent Tory leadership race.

In the late 1970s, Stephen Lewis was the leader of the NDP in Ontario, and the big issue in the provincial election was the environment.  As a young father and town politician, deep in the heart of Conservative territory, I decided to run in the provincial election.  I respected my two opponents, Jim Wales out of Collingwood was the Liberal candidate, and George McCague, a former Simcoe County Warden out of Alliston was the incumbent Progressive Conservative.  While we disagreed on some issues, we would never have thought of attacking the integrity of our opponents.

In fact, unlike the USA, where a Republican is a Republican for life and vice versa, we in Ontario are much more open-minded in our political beliefs, or so I thought.  I recall voting at different times, for all four parties, including the Greens, especially locally where I felt the best person representing my riding was of a different political persuasion, than myself.

Sadly I think Ontario now has followed the USA in personal attacks on the opposition.  Out of interest, I watched the last televised leadership debate for the Tories.

Our local favourite, Christine Elliott, and Doug Ford were beside each other on the stage. Their families have been friends for years.

Though Elliott consistently called for unity among candidates, arguing the focus should be on defeating Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, Ford unexpectedly unleashed an attack, accusing Elliott of flip-flopping on key issues and accepting a patronage appointment from the government.   In fact, Elliott was appointed as Ontario’s first Patient Ombudsman by the Health Minister of Ontario to be unbiased in settling patient disputes and complaints.  I felt at the time this was a good appointment.

Neither of Ford’s assertions was true.  The attack, clearly pre-planned, was nasty and uncalled for.  Elliott nonetheless responded politely without attacking Ford.   Elliott later said Ford apologized, but, it was not the first time that Ford has attacked and has had to apologize for lying and being dishonest…and this was to his own party member and supposed friend.

Just a few years, earlier Ford caused some controversy after his mayor brother received a subpoena to testify in the case of Rob Ford’s friend Alex Lisi. Doug Ford commented that the subpoena was in “payback” of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair for not getting a contract renewal with the Toronto Police Service.  Blair filed a defamation lawsuit, demanding a written apology in exchange for dropping the suit. Ford apologized verbally and then later apologized and retracted the comments in writing.  But again, the damage was done.

In December 2016, the City of Toronto’s integrity commissioner concluded that Ford broke the city’s code of conduct when he was a councillor.

Ford improperly used his influence in municipal matters pertaining to companies that were clients of his family’s company. Since Ford was no longer a councillor, the commissioner did not recommend any sanctions for Ford.

So how honest is Ford?  Doug has stated that his wife Karla’s maternal grandparents were Jewish and immigrated to Canada from Europe to flee persecution, though records indicate the family was actually Russian Orthodox Christians.  Was this to get the Jewish vote?

Perhaps I am naive, but I like to think that in Ontario, all political parties elect their best leaders!  God help us if Ford has a majority in the next election. He talks about being honest and having integrity, but has yet to display much of either.

I believe the PCs really blew this one in not electing the best candidate to lead their party, and eventually all Ontarians may regret this