This week, two examples of Canadian craziness.
First, let’s go east, to Ontario, where the poisoned fruits of the Trump tree have fallen and taken root. (Man, that’s good writin’.)
In June, the good people of Ontario elected corpulent doofus Doug Ford as their premier. Ford is, of course, the brother of another, even more corpulent doofus, the late Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who brought fame and disgrace to Toronto. (Toronto, being Toronto, was thrilled with international attention.) The election of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives under Ford was as much a reaction to the long, costly, left-wing reign of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals as anything the PCs offered. Ford is a semi-successful businessman with no government experience, lower-end IQ, no shortage of confidence and plenty of bluster, but the voters said, ‘Hey, if it works for the most powerful country in the world, it can work for the most powerful province in Canada’.
Ford has acted quickly, remarkably so for such a fat guy. He pulled out of the cap-and-trade program with Quebec and Ontario, is suing the feds over carbon levies, cancelled energy conservation programs, cancelled a basic-income pilot project, and changed the law so the minimum price a brewery could charge for beer is just $1 (the only brewers who could afford to sell beer that cheap are the brewing giants, but no matter). He is literally trying to buy votes with cheap beer. How old school!
So, he’s been busy. I don’t know the background of these issues, and frankly I don’t care (although I suspect that Jason Kenney is watching carefully and pondering is he should start regaining the weight he’s lost). What is disturbing to me, however, is his relationship with the media. One of his ministers has already used the odious term ‘fake news’ as a defence. He has established his own propaganda news service, paid for with taxpayer money, that tells only happy news stories. Reporters are kept behind a rope during scrums. Worst of all, on a number of occasions government staffers have started applauding to drown out reporter questions. Even Donald Trump, as his absolute worst, has never tried this tactic.
I didn’t think it was possible, but Ford is showing all the earmarks of being a Donald Trump-lite (and that is the only time anyone will ever connect the words Doug Ford and ‘lite’). If it can work in Ontario, it can work anywhere.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country and a million miles away politically, Victoria city council has removed a statue of Sir John A. MacDonald from the front of City Hall.
MacDonald was the architect of the residential schools system, which removed aboriginal children from their communities to indoctrinate them into the white world.
Oh, and he was also the father of our country, but never mind that.
Was the residential schools system a bad – even terrible – idea? Of course, to modern eyes. At the time, however, aboriginals were considered “savages” who had to be turned into productive members of (white) society. If there were public opinion polls at the time, chances are the residential schools system would have found favour with most people. That’s just the way things were in the day – shocking, yes, but that was public opinion in the late 1800s. What we call racism today was commonly held opinion not too long ago.
By taking down his statue (it will be moved somewhere else, they say), Victoria city council is saying that the black mark (which was not considered so at the time) on the MacDonald legacy obliterates all of the good. Sure, he was the father of our country, but he had flaws (shock!) so he must be put in his place to placate 21st century sensibilities.
Supporters say removing the statue will start a conversation about Canadian history. Rubbish. They have looked at MacDonald’s legacy and found him guilty. What kind of conversation is that?
Plenty of great people have blots on their resumes. Andrew Jackson, a former U.S. president, was a slave owner (he owned up to 150 at the time of his death) and anti-abolitionist. According to Smithsonian magazine: “He routinely called Indians ‘savages’ and people of mixed heritage ‘half-breeds,’ and he was unshakable in his conviction that Indians should be removed from the South.” And yet, he’s still on the $20 bill. Winston Churchill, by any measure one of the titans of the 20th century, once said: “I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”
Nobody takes down Churchill statues or lobbies to have Jackson removed from the U.S. $20. But here, politicians casually pull down a statue of the first great Canadian.
What other country on earth would do this?