The Ford Government is deeply corrupt.  

The annual report from Ontario's Auditor General, published today, lists failings which go to the very heart of the way in which we are governed.

Ford doesn't consult people before legislating. (Photo: Boris Johnson - on his money-making speaking circuit - jokes with fellow Conservative Paul Calandra at last week's Realtor's Conference.)

No meaningful consultation

The Acting Auditor General Nick Stavropoulos says the Government made:

“significant changes to energy, land-use planning and housing policies without meaningful consultation, undermining Ontarians’ ability to participate in decisions that can impact the environment.”

and it didn't follow the Environmental Bill of Rights

“when it made sweeping changes to the Province's land use and housing framework and removed lands from the Greenbelt. The Government… made these changes to increase housing supply without adequate public consultation… and did not give the public complete information about the proposed changes.”

Brains behind the operation

Increasingly, we are governed by fiat and edict with the rules bent and manipulated by Paul Calandra, Ford's consigliere and the brains behind the operation. 

Shamefully, after more than two months on the Order Paper, he refuses to bring forward for debate the Integrity Commissioner's recommendation to the Legislature that it reprimands the disgraced ex Minister Steve Clark for his role in the Greenbelt scandal.

Second thoughts on dissolving Peel Region

We read today that Ford is having second thoughts about breaking up Peel Region because of the huge impact on taxes. 

The Bill dissolving Peel Region was never sent to Committee for detailed line-by-line scrutiny by MPPs. It just rocketted through the legislature at warp speed with no consultation with experts or the general public. 

Bill 136 which returns lands to the Greenbelt, Bill 150 which restores Official Plan boundaries and Bill 154 on Ontario Place have all sped through the Legislature in a matter of days.

Public consultation doesn't feature in the process. 

No Committee sessions

Paul Calandra was the sole witness giving evidence to MPPs in the Bill Committees for the Greenbelt and Planning reversals (Bills 136 and 150). The legislation on Ontario Place (Bill 154) went through with no Committee session at all.

The Acting Auditor General says the decision to move the Ontario Science Centre to  Ontario Place  was made without a full comparison of its costs or proper consultation.

How a Bill becomes Law

The Ontario Legislative Assembly's website explains "How a Bill Becomes Law" but this bears little comparison with the reality where legislation is rushed through.

Ford is not remotely interested in making sure policies are stress-tested before they reach the Statute Book. That's not his style.

What is to be done?

So what do we do with Governments which break the rules, jettison long-standing Parliamentary conventions, stifle and smother debate and ignore the law? 

There is no quick and easy answer to this.

Under our system the Government of the day, with a good majority, can pretty much do as it pleases and push things through - even when these have not been explicitly flagged up in an election platform. The Greenbelt changes were never mentioned by Ford in the June 2022 Provincial Election. Nor for that matter was Ontario Place.

In the absence of a written constitution we rely on politicians observing established rules and conventions. Not casually throwing them overboard. And yet this is what Ford does. He acts now and thinks later.

Deep Trouble

Professor Peter Hennessey, an authority on contemporary British political history, had Boris Johnson specifically in mind when he warned:

 “If the prime minister is the number one wrong ’un, you’re in deep, deep trouble. It’s shown us the fragility of our constitution.” 

So what do we do when our Premier is "the number one wrong'un"?

I'd like to see the Integrity Commissioner report on the rules and conventions of the Ontario Legislature as a way of sparking the debate we need to have.

But that's not going happen without Ford's agreement. 

Which takes us back to square one.


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Update on 8 December 2023: the Toronto Star editorial: Another flawed plan by Ford

Update on 9 December 2023: from the UK's Guardian newspaper: Peter Osborne writes: Boris Johnson is gone for good but his brand of empty populism lives on

Update on 13 December 2023: From the Toronto Star: Ford abandons plan to break up Peel Region

The legislature is now in recess until 20 February 2024.

From the Order Paper: Filed by Paul Calandra 30 November 2023