By Dr David Laing Dawson and an addendum by Marvin Ross
I just heard Doug Ford proclaim that he was elected by 2.3 million people whereas the judge was appointed by one person.
This is perilously close to a Trumpism.
Our systems of governance are complicated and cumbersome. Our judiciary is independent and equally complicated and layered. They have evolved this way not so that one man or woman can easily get things done but to prevent one man or woman or a group of men and women from doing stupid harmful things. From the moment I became aware of governance and politics, as far as I can remember, Canadian and American politicians, presidents, premiers, prime ministers understood this – up until the last 2 years.
Donald J. Trump demonstrates every day that he does not understand this. He has had 72 plus two hundred years to learn. He didn’t. And it seems a portion of the American population have forgotten as well. And another portion of the American population has become inured.
And now this is creeping into Ontario. We seem to have a Premier with Donald Trump instincts, the instincts of a bully, of an anti-democratic strongman. And like Donald Trump, he is willing to trample on democratic principles to push through his own agenda, both, tellingly, the small, personal and petty as well as serious policy.
The number of Councilors representing parts of the biggest city in Canada is not an important issue. It can be adjusted with discussion, consultation, voting, over time as demographics and population densities change.
It is an historical pet grievance of one Doug Ford. To use the “not withstanding clause” of the charter to override a judicial decision about such an arbitrary unimportant issue is stupid, reckless, thoughtless. And this is not about good governance of Toronto or Ontario. It is about the fragile ego of one Douglas Ford.
Please let us not follow the Americans down that regressive path.
David is of course quite correct in his comparison but there is one fundamental difference that I’ve been meaning to write about. That is the difference between the US Federal system where the president is an entity pretty much unto his own and the British Parliamentary system that we enjoy. In the parliamentary system, the prime minister or premier of a province is one of many elected to the legislature and then elected by his peers as the leader of the party.
The prime minister sits in the legislature and is subjected to a regular question period where any member can and does ask some very difficult questions. If Trump was compelled to sit in congress, take questions and answer them, things might be somewhat more transparent (or not).
In attempting to pass his unpopular legislation slashing Toronto City Council mid-election on Wednesday, Doug Ford was subjected to a barrage of questions from the opposition and a public gallery that became unruly. Security had to clear the gallery and some were removed in handcuffs including a 77 year old grandmother. Then, when the legislature resumed, the opposition loudly opposed and were removed by the Sgt at Arms.
OK, it looked like a kindergarten gone mad but the points were made. The sensible members on the government side must be giving their support for their leader Doug and his ideas a good second thought with visions of the next election outcome. Doug must be wondering how he is going to get through his mandate if he continues to introduce stupid bills. Senior and respected members of his party oppose his actions like Bill Davis the former premier who was involved in negotiating the Charter and Brian Mulroney the former prime minister (whose daughter is the current Ontario attorney general). His governing will be even more of a mockery if he keeps this up. At least I hope.
South of the border, Trump is isolated from direct confrontation surrounded by his yes people while denouncing the media opposition as fake while Doug must take the full brunt of an angry legislature.