Doug Ford came to power proclaiming that he would slash unnecessary spending. Martin Regg Cohn writes that he has done the opposite -- he's building an empire:
Quite apart from the patronage angle, why are we dispatching new envoys — to the U.S. and U.K., of all places — to hold the hands of entrepreneurs and investors? After all, Americans and Britons speak our language — not just English, but economic openness.
After all, Canada has ambassadors in both capitals. But there was a time when provinces had missions to major countries:
Ontario once bankrolled a network of 17 international offices around the world, including Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Frankfurt and Milan. In the 1980s, one could stroll in London’s high-rent district past Ontario House, Maison du Quebec, Nova Scotia House and offices from the Prairie provinces — all competing for attention and, allegedly, business. There were six rival provincial offices in Hong Kong, and five separate posts in Tokyo.
Isn’t that why we have federal embassies and high commissions abroad?
Our last premier, Kathleen Wynne, appointed ex-Liberal minister Monique Smith to be Ontario’s representative in Washington, at the very time that our federal government had sent David MacNaughton — a former principal secretary to Wynne’s predecessor, Dalton McGuinty — to be our ambassador to the U.S. Surely MacNaughton could simultaneously safeguard Canadian and Ontario’s interests?
Not to be outdone, Ford personally appointed PC loyalist Ian Todd last year to be Ontario’s own man in Washington at $350,000 a year — $75,000 more than Smith under the Liberals, and a fair bit more than MacNaughton (whose ambassadorial pay band is $248,000 to $292,000).
Back in 1993, the NDP government of the day did the right thing — the very thing Ford should be doing today: It closed all 17 of Ontario’s international posts, saving $17 million from the annual budget (worth about $27 million in today’s dollars).
That's a move you'd expect from a Conservative government, not an NDP government:
Our then-minister of economic and trade development, Frances Lankin, argued that Ontario no longer needed “an outdated network of offices” in the era of the fax machine and something new called “electronic mail.”
That’s the kind of language one might have expected from Ford’s Tories today, not just the New Democrats of a quarter-century ago. Instead, the premier who promised to cut waste is building a bigger empire, at greater expense, with worse patronage than his predecessors.
The Ford government is all about distributing the pork -- more than ever before.