Andrew Rawnsley, the Chief Political Commentator of the UK's Observer newspaper, wrote this weekend:
"If a government looks bad from the outside, it will be twice as rotten on the inside. I've found this a reliable rule of thumb over the years."
He was writing about the damagingly incompetent and chaotic premiership of Boris Johnson.
But his words could equally apply to Doug Ford, a master of sophistry, who has thrown all the rules of good governance overboard.
Ford says with a straight face that he has been cleared by the Auditor General and the Integrity Commissioner.
He conveniently forgets what he said at important meetings.
Scandalously, he refuses to put to the vote in the Legislature the Integrity Commissioner's recommendation to reprimand the disgraced ex Minister Steve Clark.
When did that ever become OK?
Here is the Toronto Star editorial of 3 November 2023 commenting on Ford's press conference on 31 October 2023.
It is Ford at his most shameless.
Premier Doug Ford claims ignorance in land use debacle. Documents seem to tell a different story
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has put himself in a disgraceful position.
His only apparent defence against allegations of corruption on recent land use decisions is to claim profound ignorance of key decisions on his government’s number one priority, decisions that attracted publicity, debate and significant opposition.
Documents released this week under freedom of information legislation suggest that, as with his government’s actions on an aborted Greenbelt reopening, political staff ignored standard processes in order to override official plans and impose boundary changes on Ontario municipalities, a move also since reversed.
But with numerous comments in the emails and other internal communications to the wishes and orders of the “PO,” a reference to the premier’s office, the documents appear to take the scandal for the first time into Ford’s office.
“PO wants this done,” said one. “po has asked me for a picture to make sure (a certain property is) captured,” said another. Last-minute changes to Peel Region’s official plan came “from someone at PO,” said another.
NDP Leader Marit Stiles said the documents released by the advocacy groups Ecojustice and Environmental Defence suggest Ford was clearly “looped in” on the decision-making.
Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said it’s “abundantly clear that all roads lead to the premier’s office.”
“The Ford government has given developers the inside track to decision making,” he said. “There are deals taking place behind closed doors designed to benefit a handful of wealthy, well-connected insiders.”
Just as the Greenbelt changes stood to hand some developers billions of dollars in profits, the municipal changes last November favoured some developers and made their land more valuable because housing could be built on it.
Ford continues to maintain that he had no knowledge of what was going on. “I don’t even know which lands you’re talking about,” he told reporters this week.
That despite the fact this is the most critical issue facing his government and the document release had received wide coverage.
He insisted he couldn’t recall the “thousands of changes” made to cities’ official plans to free up more land for housing. “There’s no one person that can review every single change.”
To date, the botched initiative has been written off as staffers running amok under an inattentive minister.
But this issue will not be going away any time soon.
The RCMP, on referral from the OPP, is just commencing an investigation into the Greenbelt affair. The provincial auditor general, whose earlier report pulled back the curtain on the debacle, is looking into other land-use decisions.
Fraser properly said that the premier needs to waive cabinet privilege — which saw great portions of the documents released Tuesday blacked out — and that the RCMP Greenbelt investigation must be expanded to cover the changes to municipal boundaries.
At a rambling news conference Tuesday in Etobicoke, the premier indulged in a carnival of deflection, distraction, evasion, offering up a veritable caricature of political stone-walling.
He talked about the double-double and egg sandwich he had at Tim’s. He announced an extended gas tax cuts. He denounced the federal carbon tax. He demanded the end of bike lanes on Bloor Street West. Some of his comments would have been laughable if they weren’t so palpably hypocritical.
“Every dollar counts,” Ford said with a straight face, even as his land-use chaos promises to end up costing plenty.
For instance, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra has already said municipalities would be compensated for any costs incurred as a result of the previous amendments to their official plans.
Ford needs to understand that while the serious matter of land use abuses remains unresolved, the folksy everyman act won’t cut it.
Until this reeking matter is explained, nothing he says on anything will have much credibility.