Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader Doug Ford does not have a plan to address climate change.
Seriously, let that sink in for a second. It’s 2018. Aside from a few stubborn cranks, the science behind climate change is well-established and accepted. And in cities like Toronto, the threat posed by climate change isn’t some vague hypothetical — it’s quantifiable.
A 2012 report released by the Toronto Environment Office projected Toronto’s future weather patterns in this age of climate change and found a whole lot of misery. The report used the word “extreme” a lot. By 2050, the city can expect extreme rain: up to a maximum 166 millimetres daily, almost three times as much as we see on a very rainy day today. And we’ll get extreme heat: temperatures up to 44 degrees Celsius (with a humidex of 57 degrees!) and more than three times as many days warmer than 30 degrees.
Not extremely appealing, unless you’re a damn lizard.
Realistic and costed strategies to address this kind of change aren’t optional. Governments need to have plans not just to reduce emissions but also to mitigate the impacts of hotter, wetter and wilder weather. They need plans to build infrastructure to prevent flooding and keep people sheltered and healthy.
This kind of stuff should be a requirement for any serious leader seeking office.
What about the damn iceberg?
But Ford’s environmental plan isn’t serious. The vague and incomplete platform released by the PC party last week includes an environment section that harkens back to the days when campsite littering was a top concern. It pledges just $500 million over Ford’s four-year mandate for items like “hiring more conservation officers” and “resources to reduce garbage in our neighbourhoods and parks.”
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Ford’s plan, well-reasoned strategies to limit emissions supported by current governments at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa are dismissed as waste. Ford promises to get rid of the province’s cap-and-trade system. He says he will take the federal government to court to challenge the implementation of a carbon tax. He even promises to lower taxes on gasoline, even though transportation is responsible for 34 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Toronto.
Given what we know about climate change and the lengths other governments are going to address it, it’s astounding how little it seems to have factored into Ford’s plan. It’s as if he’s the captain of the Titanic, telling all the passengers about the music in the lounge and shuffleboard on the top deck. Sure, dude, but what about the damn iceberg?
It’s one of the most pressing issues of our time, and Ford offers nothing.
Ford's unending scandals
What Doug Ford does offer is scandal. Yesterday, news broke that the PC leader is being sued by Renata Ford, the wife of the late Rob Ford, the former mayor of Toronto. The statement of claim filed by Renata Ford’s lawyers, which has yet to be tested in court, includes allegations that Doug Ford mismanaged both his brother’s estate and Deco Labels, the family business.
If Ford wins, expect more stuff like this. The four years Doug Ford and his brother spent at Toronto city hall were soundtracked by a constant drumbeat of scandal.
Some were smaller in scope, like the time they were accused of using their political influence to get road work completed in time for an anniversary party outside their family business, the time Rob Ford was photographed reading documents while driving, or that time the mayor’s office hired Doug Ford’s long-time pal (and alleged high school hash-dealing business partner, though Ford denies this) Dave Price to a vaguely-defined staff position making $130,000.
Then there was the bigger stuff. The sprawling police investigation related to Rob’s infamous “crack video.” The conflict-of-interest case that very nearly led to Rob Ford getting booted from office, with Doug Ford’s steadfast support of his brother throughout those scandals. The investigation by the city’s Integrity Commissioner that concluded Doug Ford broke the rules when he, as city councillor, helped clients of the family business make connections to land contracts with the city.
But whatever the size, the scandals didn’t stop. They were so frequent it was hard for even city hall journalists to keep track. And the Renata Ford lawsuit reminds voters that there is no reason to think Doug Ford has left this kind of scandal behind him. When you elect a Ford, expect scandal. It’s a package deal.
And that matters. It turns out that governments besieged by regular scandals have trouble effectively governing, because they are constantly responding and dealing with fallout. It’s hard to deal with a problem as big as climate change when you’re always dealing with problems of your own making.
If Ontario voters do elect Doug Ford their next premier on Thursday, they’ll be electing a candidate with no plan. They’ll also be electing a candidate who will, if the past is any indication, be too troubled by the scandals that have always followed him to ever come up with a plan. Meanwhile, the temperature will heat up, and rain is going to come.