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The boiling frog story is generally offered as a metaphor cautioning people to be aware of even gradual change lest they suffer eventual undesirable consequences.
The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water, which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.
Canadians tend to take for granted our democratic institutions and are often slow to defend our democratic rights when they are under attack. The Ford government in Ontario has waged a gradual, persistent assault on agencies that protect the environment and the powers of elected municipalities to decide on local development. An unaccountable minister in Queen’s Park can override municipal bylaws and planning without explanation or recourse to appeal.
Recently, the Progressive Conservative government enacted “strong mayor” legislation that allows a mayor to override the will of the majority of local municipal councillors. The ability to debate, to discuss and to appeal decisions is being lost. Power is being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands and the decisions are being made in secret. This should be a major red flag for the people of Ontario.
Another red flag occurred during the last provincial election when most of the Progressive Conservative party candidates did not participate in the local candidate debates. The sheer number and frequency of no-shows suggests that senior Progressive Conservative party officials green-lit the snub of local voters. Any wilful limitation of public debate during an election is anti-democratic.
Outside the election, it is rare for the ministers in the Progressive Conservative government to be available to the public or the media when a problem occurs. How many times have you heard, “The minister was not available for comment?”
They are rarely seen or heard from during the recent spike in COVID infections, the overloading in admissions to pediatric hospitals, the closures of emergency departments, hospital staffing shortages, the rapid rise in the cost of renting in Ontario (homelessness, in general), the massive rise in the use of food banks, deaths from drug overdoses. The government ministers are mostly there for photo ops but are not available when real problems are raised.
The last provincial election had only 40 per cent of eligible voters turn out. The Progressive Conservative party received about 40 per cent of that 40 per cent of the people that voted. Although this only represents 16 per cent of the eligible voters, the Progressive Conservative party received most of the seats in the legislature and the freedom to act without restraint from public opinion or from other political parties.
This uncontrolled political power has shown its undemocratic nature when the Ford government attempted to remove the right to strike for the education support workers. Since the law was contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (hence, illegal), the Progressive Conservatives used the sledgehammer of the notwithstanding clause to force it through and take away workers’ rights. Only the threat of a general strike of all the labour unions forced the government to back down. This certainly does not bode well for democracy in Ontario when our leaders disrespect the laws of the land.
More recently, the Ford government has disregarded major public opposition and acted against the advice of its own affordable housing advisory committee report not to open Ontario’s Greenbelt to land developers.
Opening the Greenbelt will create more urban sprawl and accelerate the loss of our scarce farmland. Land developers are not the answer to affordable housing — they mostly build houses that make the developers the maximum money. During the provincial election, Premier Ford declared that the Greenbelt was safe from development. Yet, the affordable housing crisis that was ignored during the Progressive Conservatives’ first four years in office suddenly requires Doug Ford to break his promise and give land developers access to the Greenbelt.
Does any of this make any sense? Are we the “frog in the pot of water?” How hot does the water need to be to jump free of the mess that is Doug Ford’s government? It seems democracy in Ontario may depend on it.