Category Archives: Politics

Conrad Black and Donald Trump

By David Laing Dawson

I made the mistake of reading an article by Conrad Black. I usually avoid reading Lord Black of Crossharbour (“on leave”) for I find his over-use of penultimate, supercilious, pretentious, swank, grandiloquent, Miltonian, show-offy adjectives very annoying.

But I did read his paean to Donald Trump, and then went for a bicycle ride to clear my head. But what should one expect from a man who gave up his Canadian citizenship for a Peerage in the UK, and once flew across the Atlantic to attend a costume party dressed as Cardinal Richelieu?

He refers to all immigrants entering the US through the border with Mexico as illiterate peasants and he thinks Donald Trump is the leader America needs. He does find Trump “grating” and that he takes “liberties with the truth”, but he thinks that Trump can make America Great Again, and by that I think he is referring to a degree of respect we all must show for the man holding the true weapons of mass destruction in his hand. And by “respect” I think he means fear. Donald does seem to be on track for making America a country we soon will all fear.

Of course, Conrad Black, as a man barred from entering the United States, may simply be, like so many others, currying favour with the one man who could and might pardon him.

And then I read another by Lord Black along the same lines but more of a dissection of the geopolitical game afoot. And I was reminded of an experience from 1964. Bear with me for a moment.

Our first year medical school class went on a weekend retreat with faculty. This entailed a 90 minute bus ride to a resort north of Vancouver. By chance I sat next to our Professor of Physiology. The Vietnam war raged and was about to expand. My companion on that trip had fled McCarthy era USA rather than testify against his colleagues, who might or might not have attended a communist party meeting. So we talked Vietnam.

I was 24 at the time, but worldly and cynical. I argued geopolitics along the lines that it was better for the two major superpowers, the two competing ideologies, to be squaring off in the jungles of Vietnam rather than in the skies over Moscow and New York. He disagreed. It was simpler than that for my professor, who must have been in his 40’s or 50’s at the time. For him it was simply immoral. It was immoral for Americans to take their guns, their napalm, their warships and their helicopters to Vietnam and kill people. It was simply wrong.

By the end of that trip I had concluded that if he could remain idealistic in his 50’s, surely cynicism in my 20’s was, at least, premature. It wasn’t long after that I found myself in a placard carrying crowd in front of the American Consulate chanting: “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

But why I was reminded of this was because Conrad Black was writing with his usual elegance and erudition about the geopolitics of recent years, the new balance of power, the symbolic chess game played by nation states, and prognosticating about the geopolitics of the future. And it is this examination of geopolitics that I can hear from other politicians, commentators, advisors, other writers. And it reminds me of my self, age 24, arguing, albeit more naively, about these world events and shifts and movements and power struggles as if they are being played on large chessboards by giants, with the pawns and rooks representing a few million to a billion people. And talking about it and playing the game as if they experience, think about, Joseph Stalin’s famous observation as advice, rather than the cynical observation of a sociopath. “One man’s death is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic”.

My medical school professor could see beyond the geopolitics and the million death statistic to the terrified little girl fleeing the sticky horror of napalm.

The Bannons, Boltons, Millers, Trumps and Conrad Blacks of this world do not, cannot.

I do not want them to have any influence over myself or the lives of my children and grandchildren. We need to stop listening to them and focus instead on the little girl fleeing the napalm and the kid from Honduras locked in an American cage.

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Trump, Dr Ford, and A Warning to Americans

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I wrote a blog before the 2016 election of Donald Trump titled “the mental and emotional age of Donald Trump”. I looked at a range of his behaviours and his speech patterns and considered the age at which such a behaviour would be typical for a boy or man, though not exemplary, not necessarily good, maybe even requiring some parental admonition, just typical. I arrived at an average of 14. Though some Trump statements required a pre-teen brain and some rose at least to 18 year-old jock talk.

A comment someone left on that blog was that I was being generous; it would have to be a particularly entitled and narcissistic 14 year-old.

More recently I listened to Trump mock the testimony of Dr. Ford and then go on about the threat the #MeToo movement poses for fine young men. He took on the voice of a boy talking to his mother about all the hard work he’s done, about being offered a great job, but all this is over because some woman he’s never even met is accusing him of things he’s never done. How terrible this is for men and boys.

I might run across a small group of 14 year old boys with one of them going on in this vein, and two might be laughing, though more at the outrageous display of disregard for propriety than the content itself; another two would be cringing, but unable to break the code of teenage boys to never be a “pussy”.

So the comment was fair. Only a nasty, narcissistic, and probably guilty 14 year-old could talk the way Trump so often talks.

Donald may be but a symptom of some other struggle in your country, my American friends, and I know you have some wide divides that need major bridgework, but he is doing damage to your country, more and more damage each day he has a voice.

They were laughing at him at the U.N. Much of the world is appalled by him and all he represents. He throws oil on your fires; he cozies up to nasty dictators; he is stripping the USA of any moral high ground it ever might have had; he is creating fizzures in your country it may take decades to repair. He has reduced political discourse to a schoolyard brawl and international relations to flea market bartering.

He represents you, my friends, and how we see him we will begin to view you. We don’t care how you see us, you may say, we are better than that. But there is a bit of psychology here you might not like. For gradually, whatever traits we assign to you, you will absorb, you will become.

This midterm you can show the world you are not all Trumpets; you can clip his wings and put him in a tail spin. Please do so.

Reflections from Vienna Monuments to Statues to Sir John A and Residential Schools

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I have just visited memorials commemorating the successful defense of Vienna in 1638. The Turks were at the city gate and undermining the wall. They were just a few days away from plundering the city when the cavalry arrived, contingents from Poland, Cossacks from the Ukraine among many others, warriors from the Christian nations assembled by the emperor of Poland.

And it reminded me that all the tribes of humans have been conquering, pillaging and plundering each other for thousands of years. And that includes the tribes of the First Nations, the Ojibway, the Mohawk, the Sioux and all the others. And conquering meant, beside pillaging and plundering, killing or enslaving the men and boys and raping and/or assuming ownership of the girls and women.

It had been the way of mankind for centuries, and, here and there it seems, it still is.

During John A. McDonald’s lifetime the Americans to the south were still sending out the cavalry to kill as many Indians as they could. (the official policy was “removal” but that usually meant massacre)

In Canada the conquering had taken place by the British and French, with some killing and plundering but also with a number of treaties. Now what to do with the conquered, the many scattered tribes, the people we now refer to as First Nations?

If history were to guide it would tell us the conquering should continue, killing and enslavement of the males, the rape and enslavement of the females.

But John A. and others in the newly formed Canada decided on a different plan. They would round up all the Indian children and send them to boarding schools while leaving the adults to hunt and gather, fish and farm, on land set aside for them. The plan may have been to “take the Indian out of the child” along with learning English or French and a bit of arithmetic, and it proved to be not so great an idea, especially letting the church run the program, but all in all, considering historic precedent, including the way a conquering aboriginal tribe treated a conquered aboriginal tribe, was not this idea really a quantum leap forward? I mean compared to all we know of the ways of human tribes throughout history?

I am not suggesting we raise new statues of John A. McDonald, but those we have deserve to remain. We now view residential schools as a destructive force, destructive to family and culture, but for John McDonald, it was not just a reasonable decision for the time, but a big step forward.

Some Reflections on US Healthcare From the Great White North

By Marvin Ross

Like many outside the US, I am perplexed by their health care system, the amount that is spent, and the poor results for citizens that it creates. Last year, I wrote in the Huffington Post about what I call my near death experience and contrasted by care and costs to that of the US. My key comment was that there should be no profit motive in health care.

I’ve just finished reading a book called Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall – and Those Fighting to Reverse It by Steven Bell. This is a fascinating and well documented read on the state of American politics, the economy and the law. I am just going to focus on his revelations about health care and the pharmaceutical industry.

To begin with, a 2003 law which is still in effect forbids Medicare from negotiating drug prices with big pharma in order to get a volume discount. Everyone must pay the inflated prices set by the companies and the industry has managed to fight off all attempts at price control that are common everywhere else in the world.

Between 1970 and 2010, per capita spending on health care increased in inflation adjusted 2013 dollars by nearly 420%. Costs went from $1742 to $8400. Company profits and executive salaries showed similar growths. Between 1980 and 2016, personal out of pocket spending on health care grew by 460%.

I have always been confused about how Obamacare actually works given the complexity of the US system of multiple insurance companies all making profits compared to the single payer system we have in Canada. According to Brill, all Obamacare did was to subsidize people who did not have health insurance through an employer and who could not afford it to be able to buy insurance. More people were able to sign up with insurance companies so the insurance companies were able to enjoy even larger profits. A pretty pathetic system in my opinion and still the Republicans want to end that.

One tactic that big pharma uses to increase profits is to promote their drugs off label. Drugs are approved by the FDA for certain conditions and companies cannot market them for uses that they have not been approved for. However, in 2016 8 of 9 big pharma companies paid billions in fines for violating the criminal statute against that marketing. However, they still made money.

Risperdal, an anti-psychotic manufactured by Johnson and Johnson (J & J), was promoted for use in children and the elderly. In children, it caused young boys to grow large breasts and in the elderly it caused stroke, diabetes and other negative effects. J & J earned $18 billion on Risperdal sales with an estimated $9 Billion of that coming from off label sales. They paid out $6 Billion in settlements so netted $3 Billion for their illegal activity.

The day before a $2.2 Billion settlement, their stock traded at $93.37 a share. A year later, the stock traded at $108.62 a share. Alex Gorsky who was the sales manager for Risperdal and then the head of that division, was given a 48% raise in salary and bonus to $25 million. Who says crime doesn’t pay.

J & J’s tactic was one recommended by a consultant called Michael Pearson – a Canadian educated at Duke working at a consulting company in New Jersey. His advice was to raise prices aggressively when they still had patent protection and boost sales by targetting off label use. He also told them to cut back on research and development and, instead, buy up small companies developing new agents that did not have the funds to get FDA approval.

In 2008, Pearson struck out on his own and bought a small California drug maker. He borrowed enough by 2010 to merge with a larger Canadian company and move his headquarters to Montreal. The company became Valeant. He began borrowing more money, issuing new stock, buy a company, raise prices, expand markets, and cut back on R and D. At one point, he tried to take over Allergan and the plan was to strip 90% of its R & D budget. His takeover failed but he went on to doing more than a hundred deals. None of them had anything to do with producing new medicines but rather to increase stock prices and that went up over 4000%. Fortunately, his house of cards collapsed by 2016 but they had raised prices on crucial drugs by a good 200 to 300%.

Given the emphasis on profit, is it any wonder that the US ranks 29th out of 35 on infant mortality; 26th on life expectancy. In terms of health care performance, the US ranked worst of 11 other developed countries

Trump and the Y2 backlash

By Dr David Laing Dawson

As the year 2000 approached I wondered about backlash. There was, as you will recall, that unfounded fear of computer disruption, but I thought this magic number might be seen as symbolic of our new realities. And might not the people of this world who live within a pre-science, pre-knowledge bubble need to rebel against the onslaught of scientific information and truth? Won’t they need to recoil from this new millennium?

At the time I was thinking about those who hold medieval religious beliefs, of whatever flavour. How will they cope? How will they cope with the unavoidable (thanks to the internet) knowledge of our world from subatomic particle to an expanding universe, from the origins of life on earth to evolution and the human brain?

We got a taste of this, I think, with the rise of Islamic Extremists and their propagation of a way of life (and level of knowledge) my ancestors left behind shortly after the year 1000, or at least by 1700.

The Christian fundamentalists took a more nuanced approach concocting alternatives to evolution, modern medicine and quantum mechanics. (I just read a very bizarre conflation of biblical symbolism and the function of the human brain, most notably the pineal and pituitary gland, which, I did not know, are referenced in the bible as Joseph and Mary and who send some kind of oil down the spinal cord to the manger….but you get the drift).

Some Asian and Indigenous belief systems have been more easily adapted to this new age and the possibility there just might be some unseen forces we have not yet been able to detect and measure, and the fact there really is an almost magical ecological inter-connectedness between all living things. Even some trees “communicate” one to another when under threat of pestilence.

Though it is a surprise to see “alternative” medicine flourish, and people believing in unseen energy pathways running through the body from the big toe to the frontal lobe and which can be disrupted by a needle inserted according to a chart drawn up before we even knew about nerves and blood vessels, hormones and bacteria.

But a bigger surprise are the large numbers of people who are responding to Donald Trump and the other populist leaders. But then, of course, that is the real backlash, the recoil.

It is not just the religious fundamentalists our world is leaving behind, it is great masses of people who pine for 1950 (perhaps an imagined 1950) and a world of known order and expectation, a world of homogeneity, a world in which we feel we have some control and a bright future, a world without the daily intrusion of others, a world in fact where we don’t have to spend much time thinking about others, a world in which we don’t have to be frightened every day by dying tropical reefs, rising oceans, and Ebola outbreaks in Africa. A world in which most of us have at least a basic understanding of the tools we use. A world where we don’t ever have to think hard about our history, our heroes, our place in the universe.

That is the world Donald Trump is promising Americans. And wouldn’t it be nice: Pre-internet, pre-satellite, relatively clean oceans, large tracts of forest, just a touch of global warming, no mass migrations, no intrusions by the other, and a world population of two and a half billion.

But that is not reality. Our oceans are filthy; information of all kinds, the scientific truth and the most ridiculous lies, are being disseminated at the speed of light; our forests are being decimated by man, by disease and by fire; the population of the world is a coal burning seven billion, a decreasing percentage actually understand how our tools work, and more and more mass migrations will occur as each piece of unfortunate land becomes uninhabitable. A wall on the southern border won’t change this. Nor will a “Space Force”.

Just when we need our leaders to look reality in the face, to acknowledge the world as it really is, and to get together to formulate a plan to control the population, to feed everybody, to spread the wealth a little more evenly, to decrease carbon emissions, save the oceans and forests, to use our scientific knowledge for good, to learn to live as a global community, we get Trump.

God (if you will pardon my use of an anachronistic idiom) help us all.

Doug Ford, Donald Trump

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.

Addendum

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.

Article 25 of the US Constitution

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Many pundits have referred to Trump as a Reality TV President, partly referring to the origins of his infamy, and partly to the way he operates as a politician and leader. But the description is increasingly apt. The whole scene – the White House, daily tweets, the books, the anonymous op ed, the daily coverage and panel discussions, the leaks – it has all taken on the tone of Reality TV. And as it takes on this tone – the vying for limelight, the petty competitions, grievances aired, boasting, lying, the focus entirely subjective, the absence of actual reality, the absence of awareness of a world beyond the bubble – we fall into watching it the same way. Each day we tune in to watch these conflicts unfold, and just as in Reality TV, we are far more concerned with the relationships of all involved than with the prize (in Realty TV) and the enacted policies (in governance). Our hunger for prurient detail, for the personality machinations, conflicts, buffoonery, stupidity and chicanery in and surrounding Trump overwhelm our concern for health care, international relations, and global conflict.

In Reality TV the conceits of drama are imposed in the editing room. Here they are imposed by the Media, the watchers, the Late Night Hosts, and Trump himself.

I am thinking of this as I wonder how the Trump presidency will end. Last night he told his supporters that if he is impeached he will hold them responsible for not voting in the midterms.

If the Democrats do regain control of Senate and Congress and start impeachment proceedings, what will happen? How will Trump behave?

We know he will not go quiet (or gentle) into that good night. We know, at least as far as I can see, that his profound narcissism never ever permits a breach in his defenses, an admission of failure or of being bested in some way. We know this is extreme. We know that he will take praise and support from anyone, including Kim Jong Un. We know he is capable of seeing what he wants to see, to a delusional degree. And we know, unfortunately, that he is not constrained by a conscience, by empathy for others. And we know that people who lie to others as easily as he does, also lie to themselves.

We also know he will rage and blame others and that he is capable of outrageous lies to support his position.

If this were Shakespeare we could leave him in the turret of his castle railing at the moon.

But will he sabotage the castle when he is cornered? Will he burn Paris as he retreats?

Unfortunately I think the answer to that question is YES.

So if the Democrats gain power and start impeachment proceedings I think they need to be prepared to invoke Article (Amendment) 25 before Donald J. Trump lights the match.

Madness Can Be Contagious

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Some years ago, working within psychiatric clinics and mental hospitals, I used to advise staff, students, counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, that the most important thing they should strive for at all times, was “to remain sane.” At all times, remain sane. Your job, as a mental health professional, is first and foremost, to remain sane.

Sane meant, of course, keeping calm, ethical, sensible, compassionate, and not reacting or over-reacting to the insanity that surrounded them. That insanity coming from both the patients and the human systems we all worked within.
Sane also meant not assuming responsibility for that which was not yours to assume, and not trying to change the unchangeable. It was also wise to bring perspectives of time and relative importance to all events.

Of course none of us were always able to achieve this.

But I am thinking of this as Maxime Bernier angrily leaves the Conservative party to start one of his own, presumably along even more conservative lines, and Doug Ford sets up a hotline for parents to rat on teachers if they step past 1950 in their sex ed teachings. And from James Cagney mouthing the words, “You dirty rat.” to the 15 year old boys I see who don’t “rat” on their friends, to Donald Trump calling John Dean a “rat” and then offering that maybe “flipping” should almost be illegal.

It is hard to remain sane.

It is hard to remain sane living next door to the USA as they fall into a deeply conflicted madness. But that is our Canadian task. Remain sane.

Americans are currently struggling over dichotomous extremes, polarizing issues that should have been settled long ago, now requiring mere tweaking with each new generation.

In Canada, all our systems can be improved, carefully, gradually. None of them need be abandoned, or drastically and dramatically changed. Our problems are not either/or. We do not need to choose capitalism or socialism, abortion or no abortion, accepting refugees or not accepting refugees, being multicultural or not multicultural, of having social programs, guaranteed income, health care for all, or not having these things.

We just need to tweak them and improve them from time to time, occasionally shifting the balance of private enterprise and government, reacting sanely and generously to crises, tweaking our laws and services to deal with the new realities, all the while pursuing the goal of a healthy, equitable, and happy society.

I am not downplaying the problems we face around housing, adequate income for all, employment and health care, not to mention saving the planet, but we must not fall into the contagion of vitriol south of our border.


On Youtube: A new play by Dawson premiered at the Artword Artbar, Hamilton.

 

Musings on Sir John A. and the Removal of His Statue

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Herein lies the problem I think: No man or woman has ever led a life that later generations, looking back through the prism of history and an evolving set of values, could ever be deemed perfect, or even exemplary.

We know we shouldn’t whitewash history. It is important for us to know thoroughly and honestly the actions and the consequences of actions of our ancestors. (But even here I must pause and think for a moment of the origin and subtle but unintended meaning of the idiom “whitewash”.)

But in judging them, our ancestors (if we must judge them), it is a tad unfair to apply contemporary philosophies, knowledge and values.

The residential schools were a mistake. But at the time Sir John A. was promoting this “solution” to an incredible problem, the notion of sending young kids off to a boarding school was not outrageous. In fact, the wealthy did it all the time. If you told them about the problem of pedophiles being attracted to collections of vulnerable children (whether that be the poor neighbourhood soccer team, an English boarding school, or a residential school) they would have stared in disbelief, and if you posited that there just might be many homosexual pedophiles in any boys-only-club (such as the RC clergy) they would have sent you home to do penance. If you talked to them about the consequences of breaking early attachments, of displacement from language and culture, they would have stared at you with the same bewilderment should you be talking about the double helix or quantum mechanics. In MacDonald’s time children were perceived as small persons requiring moulding and shaping by discipline and rote learning.

Perhaps the solution is to have no statues of individual men or women in our public spaces. Perhaps we should erect monuments to our achievements, not to the poor human being behind the achievement. For in reality, each human achievement comes in its time, and ultimately could be tagged to any number of people.

(Woodward and Shaw created and patented an electric light bulb in Canada. Edison bought that patent 4 years later. An industrial road in Hamilton has been renamed the Nikola Tesla Boulevard. And if none of these individual humans had been born, the credit for the light bulb and our electricity grid might have fallen to others a few years later.)

But it appears to be in our nature to need Gods and heroes, and to then bask in their reflected glory. Can we do without them or are these individual names and statues irreplaceable markers within our historical sense of self? Are they, these individuals, necessary glue for our social cohesion?

We could try doing without these markers. We could ensure our history books tell the full story, warts and all, but only commemorate in bronze and stone our achievements and our follies.

Buck a Beer and Dented Tuna Tins

By Marvin Ross

The Buck a Beer campaign (opposed by many craft brewers) was first developed about 2002 by Lakeport Brewery in Hamilton Ontario as an attempt to gain market share. It worked and they went from a 1% market share to the top 10 in a very short period of time. But, Ontario raised the minimum price and Lakeport was bought out in 2007. The CEO of Lakeport, Teresa Cascioli, went on to become a major philanthropist in Hamilton donating over $4 million to various institutions in the city.

How it came into the mind of Doug Ford as something anyone wants is bizarre. Unlike the woman who used her wealth generated by the buck a beer, he is willing to spend tax dollars on this scheme while not only cutting the basic income pilot program but by cutting the increase in social assistance planned for September from 3% to 1.5% . He has also put on hold all other improvement to social assistance to come into effect on that date.

Doug, unfortunately, is a carryover from the last Conservative government Ontario had starting back in 1995 led by Mike Harris. Harris slashed welfare rates by 21.6% and despite modest increases during the Liberal regime, rates have not recovered from that slashing. It is important to remember that most of the people impacted by those cuts are disabled and cannot work or can only work part time.

Treating the disabled this way is cruel and smacks of Marie Antoinette. In fact, when the social services minister under Harris, David Tsubouchi, was challenged in the legislature, his suggestion was that the poor and disabled could buy dented tins of tuna at less than the usual price if they bargained with shop keepers. He then put out a proposed welfare diet that includes pasta without sauce, bread without butter, and the elusive 69-cent tuna can.

He even went further by telling single mothers on welfare that they had ample time to find jobs because they had a three-month warning. He also suggested welfare parents could just ask neighbours to look after their children, and accidentally ordered 115,000 disabled people and senior citizens to be cut off from their welfare benefits.

A report done in 2015 on the 20th anniversary of those cuts found that the consumer price index had gone up by 45% but the cost of the welfare diet had increased by 107%. The welfare rate has only gone up by 37% to 2015. Pathetic.

In an op ed in the Hamilton Spectator, Michael Taub a former speech writer for Stephen Harper, argued that the Progressive Conservative Party is not progressive and should not have progressive in its name. He argues that rather than being progressive they practice:

“compassionate conservatism. For instance, working with religious organizations and private charities to help out the poor and needy. Finding ways to use the free market as a means of getting people back to work and wealthier, such as reducing taxes and state involvement. Supporting public programs like health care and education, but ensuring the private sector has a greater role and/or influence in these sectors.”

He supports Ford’s cutting of the Basic Income Project and of social assistance rates. His argument:

Rather than a never-ending cycle of government handouts, the PCs will use other means, such as tax cuts (including the 10 cent reduction on gas prices) to accomplish the same goal. This will hopefully produce far better results and savings for Ontario families.

Right, let us reduce gasoline by 10 cents a litre to help people who cannot afford to buy a car and who have to use the food bank to eat in their substandard rental units.

The utter folly of this is that if people cannot afford to eat nutritious food which is more expensive, it will impact their health. They will end up getting costly medical treatment for the ill health caused by their poor diets. That will cost more than the money saved on social assistance cuts. And don’t think that the Liberals are any better. Despite being in office for 15 years, they failed to bring the social assistance rates back to where they were when they were slashed in 1995. Social activists found a loophole in the act that allowed for the poor to get an extra allowance if they needed more expensive food for health reasons. Doctors and nurses began signing the forms for their patients so they could eat better but the government put an end to that practice.

Going off on a tangent, I must point out that I knew David Tsubouchi and he was our lawyer until he went into cabinet. To this day, I do not understand how he could do what he did as he was a very nice, compassionate person. He was a poet and, because he was bored with the law, he acted in his spare time and played a Japanese salesman in David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and other shows.

But then, politicians do stupid things that run against their principles to be in power. A recent Toronto Star column asked where the grown ups are in Ford’s cabinet as they are all silent. I think the explanation for this was spelled out by the late journalist Heather Robertson. I’m just reading her book, More Than A Rose (1991) on the wives of Canadian Prime Ministers. She makes the point that politicians can make peace with anyone if it leads to power.

Power corrupts but the whiff of power corrupts just as easily.