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WENDY ELLIOTT: Ford changing the tenor of Ontario

Wendy Elliott. File
Wendy Elliott. File - SaltWire Network
WOLFVILLE, N.S. —

Ontario Premier Doug Ford had been leader of the Progressive Conservative party in Ontario for a little over three months when he became premier last June, so I guess Ontarians might be forgiven for not grasping his mindset. But they must have been aware of the debacle his late brother Rob created as the 64th mayor of Toronto.

It was just a year ago that Ford, while on the campaign trail, promised to bring back ‘buck-a-beer.’ That pricing, which was last dated 2008, he promised, would save consumers money. That contention might well have helped elect the man and his party, but only two breweries took him up on the offer. Today, according to a Canadian Press story, the price with deposit is $1.65.

Since last June, Ford has announced a series of cutbacks that are changing the tenor of Ontario. The term retrograde comes to mind. One meaning suggests something that reverts to an earlier and inferior condition. Seems to me that’s what’s going on with Ford’s government.

Reports say changes to class sizes, for example, will mean the Toronto District School Board has to cancel over 300 courses.

This move is going to eliminate something like 3,400 teaching jobs in an effort to cut the Ontario deficit of $11.7-billion.

It is not rocket science to contend that better learning goes on in smaller classes. Furthermore, Ford’s government is drastically reducing the support it provides for children with autism. Families are only going to suffer.

To my mind, Ford is taking a huge right-wing knee bend for developers. According to the National Observer, he plans to allow developers to cough up some cash to avoid following environmental regulations that protect endangered species. This move will also make it harder to add creatures to the endangered list.

Under Ford, Environment Minister Rod Phillips has announced the creation of Canada's first independent Crown agency to make "informed, unbiased and expert decisions" on how to use funds to protect and recover populations of species at risk.

The Species at Risk Conservation Trust will collect regulatory charges that applicants can pay instead of completing “some of the more onerous and lengthy requirements of a permit” needed to build in or near an endangered species habitat, Phillips noted.

Earlier this month, the province indicated that 70 per cent of the funding for the Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre in North Bay was being cancelled. Cuts were expected given the tenor of the times, but a spokesman for the centre told the local paper the magnitude was more than expected.

The scientific technical support centre provides fisheries services to the 40 Anishinabek First Nations in Ontario. Now, half of its employees are likely to be cut. Furthermore, a lack of support for Indigenous communities who want to protect endangered wildlife and natural resources has been demonstrated.

Earlier this month, the CBC reported that the Ford government was removing funding for stem cell research.

The Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine is going to lose $5 million in annual financial support.

That decision is "extremely short-sighted and uninformed," Bernard Thébaud told the CBC. He is a neonatal researcher who had received funds to explore the use of stem cells to prevent complications in premature babies.

While 8,000 angry Ontario residents have marched on Queen’s Park to protest Ford government cuts to health care, the notion of eliminating a 50 million trees program is mind boggling.

A Change.org petition suggests that trees planted by the program offset emissions equivalent to taking 1.1 million cars off the road for an entire year, in addition to delivering $82 million annually in environmental benefits from flood prevention to pollination.

This PC government has cut so much, but free fluorescent orange hats for hunters have been added. Any hunter who shows up with an unspoiled, flesh-free moose or deer hide at any of nearly 50 depots across Ontario will receive up to two orange hats and a “successful” big game hunter crest.

With what seems like a war on science and intellectuals going in Ontario right now, backing for the Progressive Conservatives has nosedived in a new Mainstreet Research poll. Ford is showing his true colours. While I might bemoan our Liberal government’s stance on clearcutting and the healthcare crisis, I am so grateful this isn’t Ford nation.

Former Advertiser and Register reporter Wendy Elliott lives in Wolfville.

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