Pluralistic: 01 Apr 2021

Today's links

Ontario's drug-dealer premier is shockingly bad at distributing vaccines (permalink)

Ontario politics are a wild ride, but they rarely escape the province, or, at most, the nation. Which is weird, because Ontario has been a leading indicator of neoliberalism's cruelty, paranoia, and surrealism since (at least) the mid-nineties.

Start with the 1995 election of Conservative Premier Mike Harris, a bland, dead-eyed sociopath whose "Common Sense Revolution" slashed Ontario's excellent public services and implemented a forced-labor program for poor people, AKA "workfare."

Harris was a Romneyish sort of fellow: a personality-free, interchangeable suit who didn't raise anyone's pulse but excelled at administration. His major achievement was the amalgamation of Toronto: a forced merger of the City of Toronto with its heretofore separate suburbs.

This was an incredible power-move. The old City of Toronto is the province's economic engine and the seat of its parliament. It is far, far to the left of the suburbs, and has entirely different priorities from them.

Dissolving the City of Toronto let Harris depose the popular left-leaning Mayor Barbara Hall. The election that followed saw the clownish crook Mel Lastman – who long ruled over my birth-suburb of North York – promoted to the big league, as the megacity's first mayor.

Lastman was a shitshow. He was known for his discount appliance store TV ads and for a string of scandals, from fathering and abandoning a secret child with one of his employees to covering up his wife's shoplifting arrest by threatening to murder a reporter.

He also pioneered a lot of the performative, own-the-libs culture-war bullshit that dominates our politics today, with idiotic stunts like ordering the free weekly Now Magazine removed from City Hall over its personal ads.

When the residents of old Toronto had Lastman forced on them by their suburban neighbours, it set the tone for Toronto/Ontario politics for decades, as Harris's masterstroke of disenfranchisement ensured Torontonians would never again get a say in their governance.

In electoral map after electoral map, you can see mayors and premiers coming to office despite the overwhelming disapproval of City of Toronto voters. This 2010 map by Torontoist's Marc Lostracco is pretty typical.

Amazingly, Mel Lastman was the least clownish champion of Toronto's suburban voters. These voters quickly converged on the uh, colourful Ford brothers, Doug and Rob.

You remember Rob, right? The crack-smoking mayor who brought sex workers to City Hall, engaged in routine public racism and homophobia, and made demeaning cunnilingus jokes when asked about his marital infidelity?

He and his (marginally smarter) brother Doug ended up in city government thanks to their father – Doug Sr, a Tory MPP who made a fortune with his label-printing business – and their Rush Limbaugh-style talk radio show.

This was the show that featured their paid stooges, who'd call up pretending to be outraged Ontarians who'd rail at socialism or whatever and praise the Fords for their excellence.

But that revelation did nothing to cool suburban Toronto's ardour for the failsons of a label-making kingpin. For these low-information voters, a steady output of xenophobia, cruelty, and racism trumped any scandal. And I do mean ANY scandal.

In 2013, the Globe and Mail's Shannon Kari and Greg McArthur broke a huge Ford story, detailing Doug's career as a major hashish dealer and his brother Randy's involvement in a drug-related kidnapping.

And then there was his sister Kathy and her circle of violent racist cronies. Kathy was once shot in the face by a hash dealer, who remained in the Fords' good books, appearing with his family in videos and pictures, hanging out with Doug at an election-night party.

But nothing stuck. After Rob Ford died of cancer, Doug Ford – incredibly – became leader of the Ontario Conservative Party and won an election through the most laughable, corrupt politics imaginable.

For example, he refused most press interviews, and instead hired a "journalist" to ask him softball questions for his own Youtube channel (ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 'personal responsibility' movement!).

The Fords were Canada's Trumps, and Doug's 2018 election campaign shamelessly stole from the Trump playbook, right down to the paid actors going nuts at his rallies:

Despite all this, the suburban voters continued to support him, even after Rob Ford's widow accused Doug of stealing her children's inheritance, misappropriating millions of dollars from Rob's estate:

Doug Ford really proved that millions of selfish assholes will vote for rotting roadkill if it promises them $0.25 off their tax bill, blended with gratuitous cruelty. Doug's good at cruelty, vicious stuff like eliminating sedation for colonoscopies:

But Doug is a Trump, not a Romney. He is good at performative culture-war bullshit, but he sucks at making deep structural changes. When the national government levied a carbon tax on gas, Ford ordered stickers on every pump decrying the tax.

But in you-can't-make-this-up failson fashion, these labels – ordered by the son of Ontario's most successful label-making kingpin – all fell off the pumps thanks to their defective adhesive.

Of course, none of this matters to the roadkill-and-tax-cuts Ford base who continued to support him through a series of blunders…until the pandemic. Turns out you can't defeat a public health scourge with racist jokes and paeans to personal responsibility.

Toronto is heading back into lockdown (again). From nursing homes to First Nations reservations, the province has been scoured by covid on Ford's watch. And Ontario's vaccinations are an utter shitshow.

As ever, this crisis has awakened the best in political satirists, notably The Beaverton's Luke Gordon Field, whose "Drug dealer shockingly bad at getting people drugs" deserves a place in the gallows humour hall of fame.

“Electing a guy whose only work experience was ‘drug dealing’, ‘running the family business into ground’ and ‘doing a weight loss challenge with his more popular brother’ was always going to be a risk,” said Political analyst Keith Burns. “But we thought the one thing he is well-suited for would be distributing powerful drugs in an efficient and organized manner.”

Ford denied that he was failing his “customers. I mean taxpayers. I mean citizens.” He made it clear that if anyone has any issues, the fault lay entirely with his supplier JT.

For a more serious – and ongoing – take on Doug Ford, tune into Canadaland's excellent "Wag the Doug" podcast, wherein Jonathan Goldsbie and Allison Smith document the rampant bumblefuckery of the Ford regime.

This day in history (permalink)

#5yrsago Among a Thousand Fireflies: children’s book shows the sweet, alien love stories unfolding in our own backyards

#1yrago Snowden’s Box: the incredible, illuminating story of the journey of Snowden’s hard drive

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Emily Hurson (

Currently writing:

  • A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." Yesterday's progress: 1079 words (34191 total).

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

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  • The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press 2022

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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla