On June 7, Ontarians will be called to the polls to choose a new provincial government.
Full disclosure: in 2011, I ran as a provincial Liberal in Thornhill. It was a close, hard-fought race, which I lost. I remain a small-l liberal, thanks to my Jewish upbringing and the values of tikun olam, which teach that we should make the world a better place.
The Liberals have been governing Ontario since 2003. During that time, they have done some great things that have positively impacted many of our lives. The government has also come under fire for numerous mistakes and errors in judgment. Many of these come from the malaise that sets in when any government sits for over 15 years.
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The other left-of-centre party, the NDP, which could have situated itself as a potential government-in-waiting, has been noticeably silent over the last few weeks.
And then we have the provincial Tories. An astounding and sudden change in leadership a few months ago saw former leader Patrick Brown relegated to an alleged sexual offender. This led to a leadership convention that spurned the progressive Tory candidate, Christine Elliott, who could have walked away with the election. Instead, the party allowed its hard-right rump to capture the day and elect Doug Ford, who has embraced its intolerance, homophobia, sexism and racism.
As a Jew who treasures the values of diversity and progress, it’s difficult to believe that Ford represents a legitimate alternative in 21st-century Ontario.
Even prior to the dropping of the writ, we could see Ford’s antediluvian policies starting to take shape.
On the evening Oct. 5, 2014, when Doug Ford was running for mayor of Toronto, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and UJA Federation sponsored a debate at TanenbaumCHAT. While trying to distance himself from some anti-Semitic slurs used by his brother, the late former mayor Rob Ford, he tried to show his family’s affinity for the Jewish people, but ended up doubling down on Jewish stereotypes by saying:
“You know something? My doctor – my Jewish doctor, my Jewish dentist, my Jewish lawyer – hold on, my Jewish accountant.” The crowd erupted into loud boos.
This was not the first time that Ford engaged in racial stereotyping. A year earlier, in an interview with the Toronto Sun, Ford tried to engage the Jewish community by reminding the reporter that “they’re supportive, very supportive – they’re business people.”
And just so you are not left with the impression that it is only the Jews who he stereotypes, he said the same of Toronto’s Chinese residents, proclaiming that, like him, they are “very fiscally responsible” people.
But there is more to Ford’s intolerance than the manner in which he sees racial minorities. Only a few weeks ago, he welcomed Tanya Granic Allen, possibly the most regressive and backward Progressive Conservative candidate, into the fold. And while Ford was forced to “fire” her a few weeks later, he can hardly claim not to have known about her bigoted proclivities, which were widely disseminated on social media.
Allen has lamented same-sex marriage as society’s demise. She once characterized Muslim women wearing niqabs and burkas as ninjas and bank robbers. She also claimed that she survived the “abortion Holocaust” and has compared both the founder of Planned Parenthood and Canada’s first female magistrate, Emily Murphy, to Hitler.
Ford has railed against people with disabilities, claiming that a residence for teens with autism “ruined the community.” When a parent challenged him, Ford’s response was: “He can go to hell, I don’t even care.”
Please, as June 7 approaches, give your vote strong consideration. As Jews, we must always stand with the victims and against the bullies. We understand the pain of bigotry and we have boldly rejected it. Let’s continue to do just that.