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Thursday 25 Jul 2024

Banana Republican
David Simmonds

Here’s a question that needs asking. Is Doug Ford gunning for Banana Republican of the year award? The answer is perhaps.

Interference in Hydro One.

Ford can’t seem to keep his hands off Hydro One, even though the government share in the company is less than fifty per cent and the company shares are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). Ordinarily, shareholders of a public corporation hold the directors accountable and the directors hire or fire the chief executive officer. Ford intervened to take the scalp of the “$6 million man” at the helm, prompting the entire board to resign.

Ford is now seeking to install his own man as chief executive officer, of Hydro One, with a salary cap of $1.5 million. The government maintains, that as the largest shareholder of Hydro One, it is entitled to push its agenda. The market doesn’t see it that way nor do bond rating agencies.

Nor do Washington State regulators. They cited this political interference as the basis upon which to turn down the acquisition, by Hydro One, of a utility supplying power to the State. The consequent failure, of the deal, will cost Hydro One a $103 million termination fee on top of the more than $40 million it incurred in the costs of making the deal.

Clumsy interference by Ford will cost Hydro One at least $143 million and counting. Discounted to 47 per cent, the level of taxpayer equity, that means you can legitimately call him the “$66 million man,” who cost taxpayers twenty-two times the $3 million net salary he was trying to save them. Do you remember the song, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “Fool on the Hill”?

More missteps by Doug Ford.

This isn’t the only issue where the Premier has overstepped. At the government-owned Ontario Power Generation (OPG), he terminated the boss, who was the chief of staff for the former Conservative leader, Patrick Brown. It turns out this abrupt departure was the handiwork of the current chief of staff for Ford. The poor fellow at OPG hadn’t been around long enough to figure out where to get his coffee, let alone build up a record of failure that would have justified his termination. Guess who pays for the cleanup of that mess.

Then there is the curious affair of the customized van. It was reported the self-same chief of staff that Ford requested the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) configure a camper van for his use when travelling the province, but that it keep the costs of doing so “off books.’ The chief of staff, who was also the person that told police to raid unlicensed marijuana dispensaries to provide photo opportunities, subsequently challenged the report, saying it was not a camper van, just a van.

What was Ford planning to do with that van? Did he plan to take afternoon naps, sleep overnight, Change suits, meditate or store his kayak? Perhaps he intended to use the non-camper van for other purposes.

Ford is certainly entitled to travel in comfort when he is on government business. Keeping the details of his personal transportation vehicle “off the books” is a sure way to raise suspicion that someone is trying to pull a fast one. Was Ford planning to use the non-camper as a secret rendezvous point for conservative operatives to receive their next dirty tricks assignment from party headquarters? Did he want to hand out, covertly, Deco Labels samples?

He doesn’t learn from others.

Oh well, I have no doubt those inquiring into the Tavernier affair, whether it be the Ombudsman, the Integrity Commissioner or a special legislative committee, will clear up the matter as well as find there was no interference by the  office of the Premier in the hiring of the new OPP commissioner. You would think that, knowing he will generate considerable antipathy with his austerity programme, Ford would not want to waste any of his precious political capital on decisions and policies that amount to throwing his weight around. He wouldn’t be the first one to get in trouble for doing so; you might think he would have learned something from those who have come before him, including his late brother.

For Ford, it seems this is a lesson best self-taught, even if it earns he wins the Banana Republican of the Year award.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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