Doorstep Postings: Doug Ford scarfs it down after a smattering of his party members support the house speaker keeping keffiyehs out of Queen’s Park

Ontario house speaker Ted Arnott considers NDP leader Marit Stiles requesting the reversal of his ban on keffiyehs announced April 17, 2024—which remains in place after several Progressive Conservative MPPs backed the decision the following day, despite the vocal opposition of Premier Doug Ford.

This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.

It’s a shame that our pro-Palestinian friends have spent so much time and gotten so good at pointing out the contradictions that underlie and undermine our political systems. I say it’s a shame because they never seem to take into account how far people will go to uphold those contradictions.

Pressing on one of these culture-war touch points is meant to produce a crack in the facade. Instead, the pressure produces another diamond of a ridiculous spectacle of amateur and allegedly professional legislators falling all over one another. Each scrimmage is ridiculous in its own unique way and is rendered completely indistinguishable from the last time this happened.

Did we ever figure out if a guy in a Spider-Man costume is allowed to scale the front entrance of Mount Sinai Hospital? How about that time when an apparently non-existent bus company was chartered to take Israel supporters to Ottawa and then took the money and ran? Was the vandal who apparently firebombed a food store whose sign reads “IDF” ever actually found?

To ask these completely logical questions is to miss the point. The wonking-off about law and custom and tradition and precedent—which overwhelms the debate every time—is the point. 

Ontario has 124 well-paid professional point-missing provincial parliamentarians occupying Queen’s Park, each with their own brigade of hacks, flacks and family members. As they whittle away the days to the next election—because there are no pensions at Queen’s Park—they pass the time with recognitions of holidays and handing out Trillium pins, while the health-care system and the housing supply burns. So, it stands to reason that some of the worst of these trivialities would bubble up from that house of ill repute.

If they can argue about something like the meaning behind an article of clothing—worn for some cosplaying symbolic purpose that most of the province doesn’t understand the first thing about—it is, for them, a break from the mundane. We must also once again remind the MPPs and the people they represent that, as provincial politicians, nothing they say or do affects anything related to Canada’s extremely minor sphere of influence over the Middle East. 

“Research” done by house speaker Ted Arnott, a man who is remarkable for being a non-entity amongst non-entities, into whether the wearing of the keffiyeh scarf in the Ontario Legislature is thusly four degrees removed from any relevance to the conflict. Arnott is so good at blending into the background that it recommends him higher than any other elected member for the position of Speaker. I know MPPs who’d be more offended by the presence of a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, or a woman wearing a sleeveless top, in the legislature.

And yet his boss, Doug Ford, a man who never stops reversing himself at the first sign of trouble, threw the his own elected party member under the bus when he announced that Arnott’s finding of the keffiyeh to be a divisive political prop was divisive in itself. 

Political observers immediately started circulating the approved explanation, which was that Ford and the PCs were nervous about losing the May 5 byelection in the mosque-heavy riding of Milton.

The result was that Jewish organizers, fresh off a meet-and-greet with cabinet ministers at the Prosserman JCC on April 9—where they non-divisively wondered why Ford’s party has been so slow about locking up pro-Palestinian protesters—soon realized that they’d been had. 

The day after, a motion to overrule the speaker was proposed by embattled NDP leader Marit Stiles, whose own position on the conflict has evolved from booting the keffiyeh-favouring MPP Sarah Jama from her caucus. Liberal leader Bonnie Crombie, herself no stranger to similar ethnic politics scrimmages in her home city of Mississauga, signalled her support.

Meanwhile, the Jewish MPPs, such as solicitor general Michael Kerzner, were told that they could wait out in the hall if they couldn’t handle the heat and needed an excuse.

And then, at the last minute, the whole house of cards came tumbling down.

Conservative backbenchers dragged their feet and the motion was no more, and we were in exactly the same position we had been before with the anti-keffiyeh side winning by default before they’d even had the chance to get organized.

With everyone completely humiliated, the sad episode was put to bed and the Ontario Legislature went back to debating the scourge of fourplexes creeping into our neighbourhoods.

This whole display—much like the Iranian regime’s barrage of missiles fired at the Jewish state last weekend—now serves as fodder for various spin machines. Progressive Conservatives are actually supportive of banning the keffiyeh, but are too afraid to say what they really think. PCs are and always were Liberals in blue suits—just look at the Trudeau Liberal they have running for them in Milton. Doug Ford always hated Jews despite once claiming that his wife was Jewish. The entire political process is in thrall to demographics, and so long as there are more of them than there are of us, there’s very little we can do. 

Far be it from anyone to finally realize that the enemies of the Jewish people are never going to stop looking for weak spots and pushing as hard as they can, no matter how trivial they may seem. The traditional methods of political engagement will endure, because when you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. And we’ll continue to place our faith in institutions that we know don’t have our best interests at heart instead of taking matters into our own hands. 

Sure, they wear a piece of cloth around their necks. But we’ve been wearing one around our eyes.

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.