Saturday, September 26, 2020

Doug Ford: Stupid or Evil (or Both)?


Obviously it's both. I was just moved to comment after reading Owen Gray's recent post. In it he quotes a article from Jason Kunin (a teacher and writer from Toronto) saying that Doug Ford deliberately fouled up the new school year in order to encourage privatization and online learning. 

For the Ford government, it's mission accomplished. The pandemic has been a gift.

In a matter of months, COVID-19 has undermined trust in the public school system, created mass incentive for private school and homeschooling options, and achieved a grudging level of public acceptance for e-learning. The ground has now been cleared for the introduction of U.S.-style privatization reforms, such as vouchers and charter schools. The coming months will tell if this is, in fact, where the government is going.

Ford and his smooth-talking Education Minister Stephen Lecce accomplished all this by never wavering in their goals and by implementing a back-to-school plan so inadequately funded and haphazardly planned that almost a third of Toronto parents felt compelled to protect their kids by pulling them out of in-school learning. Applications to private schools have soared.

By taking only half measures to protect students and school staff, the Ford government let the pandemic do its work for them. Class sizes for elementary grades were kept large, masks for Grades 3 and under were made optional, few additional caretaking staff were hired, minimal funding for PPE or ventilation upgrades was provided, and back-to-school plans were unfurled so late into the summer that boards were left scrambling, and the system was thrown into chaos.

Personally, I just thought that Ford, like most neo-liberal politicians, wants to get through this pandemic with the least amount of deviation from business-as-usual, especially when it comes to cossetting the wealthiest. All this suffering and sacrifice from ordinary people (especially front-line healthcare workers) and all this public money being spent and the banks (who suck up some $40 billion annually in profits) aren't being asked to do more than delay mortgage payments from people who have been told not to work (while being allowed to charge extra interest). 

But Kunin argues convincingly that this chaos suits what Ford and his paymasters wanted done all along. Just as with the repulsive Mike Harris and his shit-head Education Minister (and high-school drop-out) Ed Snoblen, Ford wants to "create a crisis" in education. They create crises so that they can introduce inferior, inegalitarian, for-profit "solutions" offered by their scumbag financiers. 

Ordinarily I wouldn't think Douglas Ford capable of this level of tactics. But then I remembered that he's no doubt got his advisors and there's a whole network of "conservative" "pro-business" vermin working full-time to take away our public services and gouge us with their private-sector alternatives. Which makes Doug Ford even more nauseating and contemptible than I already thought he was.

Also: No need for austerity. While the usual right-wig idiots are talking about the need for austerity in the wake of the $300 + billion deficit for 2020, we must resist this ignorance. And ignorance it is, as Marc Lee at "Policy Note" points out:

Public policy in Canada remains haunted by large deficits that prevailed in the 1980s and early 1990s. With COVID-19 economic response pushing the federal deficit to an estimated $343 billion in 2020/21, some pundits are starting to beat the deficit panic drum again. 

Don’t let big numbers scare you. Here’s why we shouldn’t be worried. 

What really matters is the size of a country’s debt to its economy or GDP. By that standard, even the jump up in federal debt from 31% of GDP in 2019/20 to 49% this year only puts us back where we were in 2000, and nowhere near the 110% of GDP at the end of World War II. 

In other words, we have a long way to go before anyone needs to be concerned. In comparison to other G7 countries, Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio is the lowest by far. 

Another way of looking at this is the federal government’s debt service costs, currently about 7% of federal revenues, way down from a peak of 38% back in 1990/91.


This situation is very different from the 1990s when interest rates were very high, part of a misguided attempt then by the Bank of Canada to bring inflation close to zero, which also plunged the economy into a deep recession. 

Also: Wealthiest Canadians $37 billion wealthier. TAX IT. TAX ALL OF IT. This is a crisis. COVID-19 could, if left unchecked, kill tens of thousands of Canadians and cripple many times more. We all have to do our part. Instead of subsidizing these lazy assholes and allowing them to grow richer we should force them to contribute to the public good for a change.

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