Like his predecessor, Mike Harris, Doug Ford plans to remake Ontario. And, just like Harris, he's starting with education. He has rolled back the sex ed curriculum of the previous government. And he's let it be known that funding in higher education depends on colleges and universities adopting "free speech" policies. Gerry Caplan writes that Ford has done many unexpected things:
But during the election, Ford pledged that "to tie university funding to free speech on university campuses." Last week he delivered on this pledge, warning colleges and universities, as the Globe explained, "they will face funding cuts if they fail to adopt free-speech policies that defend controversial speakers on campus." This echoed a position taken also by the federal Conservative Party leader during his leadership campaign last year. So much for the cherished principle of university autonomy.
Caplan believes that Ford's proposed policy has nothing to do with free speech:
I don't believe that's what's going on here at all. It reflects, rather, a conviction among conservatives that "radical left-wing" students are mobilizing to keep conservative speakers off Canada campuses. Those who know Ford's record are convinced he's determined to end this phenomenon and open universities to "controversial speakers" such as Holocaust deniers, anti-abortion activists, and far-right radicals.
After all, many of the speakers whose presence on campus has been opposed by the "politically correct" surely deserve total opposition. The Globe itself points to the presence at Wilfrid Laurier University early this year of one Faith Goldy, described as "a white nationalist and supremacist activist who has appeared on neo-Nazi podcasts". Is this the kind of person whose rights Mr. Ford is championing?
Should we fight for the rights of outright bigots? What about anti-Semites? What about those who champion the KKK? Surely they have crossed the line by inciting hatred against various minority groups. We can't stop students from being exposed to these racists and homophobes and misogynists. But what gives them the right to appear at our public universities? And what if a professor appropriately introduces the words of such demagogues in the course of their lectures?
There's an irony in all of this,
because almost all conservatives go on to make an exception for a category of those whose civil liberties they would not defend: those who criticize the state of Israel, especially those who promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel advocated for around the world.
In fact, despite winning many powerful supporters, the BDS campaign has garnered a universe of angry, indignant opposition, and has even been made illegal in some jurisdictions. In 2016, for example, hysteria overcame the Ontario legislature when Liberal and Conservative members united to pass a motion that rejects the 'differential treatment' of Israel by the BDS movement". Heaven knows what that meant, but its sentiments were clear enough.
It's all about free speech for those we agree with.
Ford has only been in office four months. Today, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that his plan to slash the number of seats on Toronto's City Council is illegal. Ford also recently lost a lawsuit brought by Tesla.
Is the man smart enough to read the signs?