TVOntario’s Question Period is the third most-watched current affairs program on Canadian television, so when Doug Ford makes an appearance to defend or bemoan policies that irk so many across the nation it is noteworthy.
In the case of this week’s choice of Words with Doug, Ontario’s premier issued an apology to Sikh Canadians after mistakenly tweeting that “The Sikhs are taking over the world.” He soon deleted the tweet and issued a public apology in an attempt to smooth things over with the community’s leaders.
It was only three months ago, however, that he employed the same excuse when deleting a controversial tweet regarding a photo of thousands of people attending a protest against a mosque in Ottawa in 2017.
The photo of the day was of the Roma people protesting a local crackdown and renewed social media commentary about their homelessness and violence. The photo of the day was a stark comparison between the Roma and Sikhs, mostly with their arms raised and hands connected. All were standing in front of a row of large speakers set up by the Jewish Refugee Task Force.
And all were Indigenous. The Roma appeared next to Wabanaki, Pintiga, Inuit, Chinese, and African flags. You could almost see a swastika drawn right next to a bright smiley face.
Ford’s reaction to such a clear historical fact — that the Roma are only Indigenous in a literal sense — was immediately to qualify the Roma’s presence as problematic. He tweeted: “The #Roma are leaving the #Ottawa #cities with their long hair pulled back & a book in hand. That has nothing to do with the #Sikhs and everything to do with the refugees.”
What was the Roma protesting? The Fortress of Quebec, of course.
Neither Sikh nor Roma advocates were upset at the graphic comparison. That is because Ford was, albeit unwittingly, tying the two issues together as a result of his own extremely inconsistent policy use of “t”s and “r”s.
At first he called for a Windsor to London campaign to decry the “backwards thinking” of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on asylum seekers, and then he got serious.
“Tell @JustinTrudeau on Parliament Hill #WindsortoLondon to turn around and cancel Trudeau’s immigration plans before it’s too late,” the tweet said.
With regard to alleged “backward thinking” on asylum seekers, who are being increasingly presented with a more prosperous offer of citizenship and free health care, the two issues of refugee rules and racism don’t seem to be connected, when Ford clearly wants to take away people’s opportunity to come to Canada, whether as refugees or first-time immigrants.
Yet he immediately jumps to his feet when he feels he needs to apologize for having the temerity to defend himself against the poor grammar and spelling of people tweeting about how terrible his immigration policies are — the same people who believe it’s appropriate to retweet a Hitler meme or perform Nazi salutes at a rally protesting his actions.
Ford can’t afford to offend any of his constituents, at least, not without paying a serious price for it. But, it would serve him well if he took a page from his brother’s playbook and realised that the English-language question period is no place for political posturing or wedge politics.
If Ford has some legitimate policy or political point he wants to make about the diversity that’s come to define this country — if he has a justifiable explanation for his confusion or embarrassment, he can, and should, give it to us in Ontario’s legislature.
Instead, Ford’s election pledge of “getting tough” on illegal immigration through border crossings might be selling out hundreds of kilometres from the provincial border to save a few bucks on policing costs. It has nothing to do with fostering the diversity that gives Canada its international standing and strength.
In a province where unemployment is currently above 8 per cent, one in three people live in poverty, and a full-time worker earns about $8,000 less than the federal minimum wage, Doug Ford needs to understand that giving out any of the bottom-line assurances he repeated to his audience in the House of Commons isn’t the way to win elections.
In this case, Doug Ford knows Ontario needs skilled immigrants. It’s time he apologized and thought before he spoke.