As most of my readers will have figured by now, I’m not a big fan of the Ford family (the Toronto version, not the car version): as far as I can tell, they are Canada’s equivalent to the George Bush dynasty down in the U.S. (I don’t mean to give them too much credit, but these days money can buy just about anything.) I was reading some news stories about the brothers and their fight to kill libraries in Toronto: when I read an interesting comment. Margaret Atwood, one of Canada’s most celebrated authors, has come out in support of libraries. She is taking them head on. In response: it’s not that Doug Ford hadn’t heard of her. That I can understand, I suppose. Now personally, I think it is rather like fighting hockey and not knowing who Wayne Gretsky is, but that’s beside the point. For anyone who doesn’t do much reading, I’m hardly surprised. But what surprised me was the line:
‘Ford said if Atwood ran for office and got elected, then he would “sit down and listen to her.” ‘ (CBC: July 26, 2011)
Wow. Have we forgotten the nature of democracy? It seems someone has.
I’m sure it’s just my decades in the States: but I have a healthy respect for democracy. I’ve seen what it can do when it works, and I’ve seen what can result when it is abused. Down South, my impression was that politicians were always trying to find out what voters were concerned about, so that they could “represent” them accurately in government. (I know, George Bush never watched the news or listened to polls… but I thought he was unique.) I can’t ever remember hearing a comment like this. Yet it seems that in Canada, you no longer have to worry about what the masses think. Elected officials only have to worry about what other elected officials think. In my mind, this would seem to be classism at its worst.
The Fords seem to have forgotten that little word, “representation”. They were not elected so that they could turn Toronto into the kind of city they want: they were elected so that they could “represent” the rest of us: to solve the issues they campaigned on. Then again, I suppose it’s a matter of semantics. They campaigned on a “promise” to save money, which they honestly seem to think will be achieved by giving city services to the highest bidder. Their perspective on economics matches their perspective on democracy.
Then again, according to openpolitics.ca: “Once elected, representatives are usually expected to use their own judgment as to which issues they will devote themselves to, and what positions they take on those issues. They are not bound to consult their constituents, even though it is usually in their best interest to do so.” All I can say is that we’re learning a lot about the Fords’ capacity to “judge” what is important. Perhaps we will remember this in the next election: after all, “it is usually in their best interest to do so.” I just hope they haven’t done too much damage.