02:03:35 am on
Tuesday 16 Jul 2024

Plurality of Cynics
David Simmonds

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Ontario Premier Conservative Doug Ford.

I’m taking aim at a couple of politicians, in this column, that are already big targets: Doug Ford and Justin Trudeau. I’m not objecting to their decisions. I’m objecting to their cynicism.

Doug Ford as cynic.

Let’s start with Doug Ford, premier of Ontario. His Conservatives won 40.5 per cent of the popular vote in the June 2018 provincial election. Yet, under our winner take all electoral system, in each riding, the Conservatives took 74-of-the-125 seats in the Ontario legislature.

Ford interpreted this, as do all plurality winners, as a mandate from the people to implement his agenda, even though he didn’t bother to tell voters what his agenda was, ever. Instead, in the middle of the 2018 Toronto municipal election campaign, he suddenly announced that he was cutting the number of the municipal constituencies in half, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms be damned. I see that acting without notice as a deeply cynical move.

Ford has made a number of unpopular moves and his first flock of cabinet members paid the price; he might have to watch his back a little more closely when he enters the cabinet room and might well stay home on the Ides of March. What I object to is the appointment of barely qualified cronies connected to his now-departed chief of staff, Dean French, to trade representative posts in London and New York.

Ford made the appointments and he had to have known these people were not the best-possible candidates. French took the fall over the fiasco. Ford rescinded the appointments. The damage, however, was complete.

It wasn’t the only instance of cronyism by Ford. The selection of Ron Taverner, as OPP Commissioner, was undone after his connections to Ford were exposed. Overall, it was a cynical exercise.

Justin Trudeau as cynic.

I also want to take a poke at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Before the 2015 election, when his party stood third in the number of its members elected to parliament, Trudeau promised the election would be the last first-past-the-post vote, which meant the party that won only the plurality could hold the majority of seats. As the election turned out, in 2015, the Liberals were in exactly the same position as the Ford Conservatives in Ontario. The Liberals received a plurality, of 29.5 per cent of the votes cast, but wound up with a disproportionate number of seats in the House of Commons; 184 of 338. Thus, Trudeau and the Liberals, as did Ford in Ontario, treated the vote as a mandate to govern in accordance with their promises.

The promised investigation into alternatives commenced after the election, but quickly encountered criticism for its lack of substance and direction. Trudeau, now that he was sitting in the catbird seat, opted to abandon his promise, rather than overhaul the investigation; this has probably poisoned the well of proportional representation in the House of Commons for some years to come. I can’t help but see his motives in abandoning the promise as cynical.

Trudeau was at it, again, in 2019, with the announcement of the go ahead of the Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMP). He characterized this move as confirmation that protecting the environment and creating resource industry jobs building and operating the pipeline are concurrent accomplishments. Trudeau said this was so because growth in resource industry jobs will create wealth that will be available to create new era jobs and all the profits from the pipeline will go toward supporting clean technologies.

With the TMP decision, Trudeau is trying to dress up a messy political decision as a miraculous coming together of oil and water. I don’t object to the messy political decision that his government made to approve the pipeline, which is the sort of decision we pay politicians to make. It’s cynical to paint the TMP decision as a big win for environmental policy; doubly cynical to do so when you have just declared a climate emergency.

Politicos acquire cynicism.

Cynicism is an attribute developed by politicians after having had to make those messy compromise decisions over a period of years, not brought to the job or thought of a prerequisite for the job. If politicians become cynical, it should be a signal to them that their shelf life has expired; that’s why we have generous parliamentary pensions. Give me an idealistic neophyte politician over a jaded veteran any day, even though the young politician may eventually turn into another jaded veteran.

Postscript I heard democracy activist Dave Meslin speak of alternative voting systems at the Library earlier this month. I’m looking forward to reading his book, Teardown: Rebuilding Democracy from the Ground Up.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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