Canadian politics has turned into high school

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My working theory is we’re living in Canada High School—“And we’re all locked up in it after dark, where the walls are lined all yellow, grey and sinister, hung with pictures of our parents’ prime ministers.”

From cell phones to chocolate milk to screaming matches over hockey teams, it’s already been quite a summer.

Let’s take each in turn:

Premier Doug Ford cancelled his cell phone after getting too many phone calls from constituents after he gave out his cell phone in order to get calls from constituents.

No, that’s not the start of a joke; that’s what happened.

The past year has seen Ford go from boom to bust.  It’s like he declared war on the entire “Ford Nation” brand: more spending than even Premier Kathleen Wynne, raising transit fares, his cabinet ministers attacking vulnerable parents and even an NHL owner, and a massive cronyism and corruption scandal that cost him a chief of staff.

Ford’s brand was about being open to citizens, tight-fisted with our money and quick to return phone calls.  It was meant to be a businessman’s approach to customer service: accountable and direct.

Instead, his government has lurched from scandal to chaos, and the Ford Nation brand of respect for the taxpayers is in tatters, in less than a year.

Having worked in the government of former Premier Wynne, the one thing that stands out to me is how Ford and his team have felt the license to complain — about their press coverage, about constituents being too aggressive or even abusive, about mean tweets or foul language.

This is certainly not to condone the nastiness that’s been directed their way.  But it is to remind everyone that the nastiness is not new.  The fact Ontario’s Worst Cabinet Minister ™, Lisa MacLeod, was called a misogynistic swear word on Twitter is wrong, but it is also a day in the life of Premier Wynne, who received more death threats than any other premier.

Again, this is not to condone the inexcusable.  It is simply to contrast Ford and his team’s attitude of foregrounding and complaining about what they are subjected to with the “stiff-upper-lip” approach Wynne felt she had to adopt.

There is an odd attitude within Conservative circles to cast themselves as the aggrieved, persecuted minority, despite the fact that demographically, Conservatives — and Ford’s team in particular — are the dominant group in Canada.  I’m reminded of the notion that for those used to privilege, equality feels like discrimination.

If Doug Ford cancelling his cell phone was news this week, so was federal leader Andrew Scheer saying chocolate milk may have saved his son’s life.  In objecting to what he called an “ideological” rather than “scientific” rejigged Food Guide, Scheer said, “The idea that these types of products that we’ve been drinking as human beings, eating as human beings for a millennia — that now all of a sudden that they’re unhealthy, it’s ridiculous.”

And here I thought ideology rather than science was the Tory’s approach to the climate crisis — almost like there might be a connection between what we eat and the climate.

I’m also intrigued by the notion that we’ve been eating chocolate milk for millennia.

At least Scheer is sticking to the “big dairy” folks that brung him, even as Ford turns his back on the average Joes who got him where he is.

It’s almost as if Ford has become a drag on Scheer, rather than Scheer appearing to be Dougie’s kid brother.  Well, actually — he still seems like Dougie’s kid brother, but now the whole school is mad at Dougie for picking on the kids with autism and doling out favours for his buddy Dean’s lacrosse friends.

In the high-school world of Canadian politics, a guy loving chocolate milk or a guy cancelling his cell phone or even a guy rewarding his lacrosse buddies becomes the news that leads.

Though, I suppose there is no greater Canadian “summer news story” than a cabinet minister, allegedly drunk, cussing out a billionaire NHL team owner for losing badly at a Stones concert at a cottage-country fair ground.  That’s got “headline” written all over it, even if it obscures the fact the minister has done a lot of harm to vulnerable people and should resign.

I suppose this all could be worse: if Canadian politics is high school this summer, American politics is Lord of the Flies.

Photo Credit: Toronto Star

More from Jonathan Scott.   @J_Scott_

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