Doug Ford’s sudden drive to construct a section of an existing highway has provoked an uproar from opponents.
Ford is a multimillionaire, but as a member of parliament he was a member of the dole queue and lived in a modest apartment block. He evidently didn’t get the memo that to be a populist, if possible at all, one should try to ennoble the people he governs with their own road.
Toronto is a large urban centre and northern Ontario, the country’s breadbasket, is a low-lying region. Roadways may be seen as a necessity in the hinterland of huge cities that have become jutted-out little metropolises. However, the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor, which would form part of Ford’s road, is bounded by three rivers, including Lake Ontario and the Georgian Bay estuary, and will require massive engineering feats to construct.
Hardly a day goes by without a news article describing the geological geography of these areas, and the irony that as an avowed builder of bridges the Progressive Conservative Party leader has chosen to construct an automobile route instead.
There is, of course, a simple solution, if you are able to picture it. Without a new road, a section of a railroad could bisect the province and we could have a free bridge over the wet, cracked, inverted shape of the Georgian Bay. Of course, to construct a bridge over the four rivers there would have to be huge boulders used as a raft, so that new OPP numbers – the Emergency and ancillary Services Constabulary – could be hired to begin patrolling the east.
Ford is an autocrat. His decision – and he may have had one before – was made, apparently, on a whim. Indeed, it is worse than that, because it ignores the usual respect in public administration for the opinions of everybody who has a stake in the project. The bureaucracy, the Ontario government, has been blindsided. It is one thing for a premier to ignore their senior officials – and even his own members of parliament – but to use his Independence Act as a licence to ignore people he happens to live and work with is astonishing.
If Ford needs more money for this highway, he can cut taxes, as he has done regularly. Or, if he feels more comfortable with fiscal factors, he can appoint professional engineers who can justify their costs for a job of this scale, and be confident that the money will be justified. Yet again, he will be the odd one out.