ONTARIO: YOURS TO SHUDDER
You knew what you were getting in Doug Ford: Crass and classless.
Well, the premier is delivering.
Bigger classrooms and fewer teachers, dissolving 14 local health integration networks and six health agencies, eliminating free tuition for low-income students, cutting $25 million in funding for specialized school programs, cutting funding to the Ontario Arts Council’s Indigenous Culture Fund, eliminating funding for the Ontario College of Midwives, cancelling the Basic Income Project, $100 million in the hole for school repairs resulting from cancellation of the cap-and-trade program, scrapping Drive Clean, forcing closure of life-saving supervised drug consumption sites, and totally cocking up how program funding is distributed to families with autistic children.
We haven’t touched all the bases but you get the big picture. Making Ontario a leaner, meaner province, as if winning a majority last June with just 40 per cent of the popular vote gave the Tories a mandate to turn Ontario on its head.
Not to say that the licence slogan and design of the plate shouldn’t be freshened up after 37 years with the old “Discover” motto. But it does seem a waste of money, even if the cost — not yet disclosed — is in the low six figures, particularly for a government that came to power on a manifesto of eliminating financial deficiencies.
Ford claims there will be no cost to Ontario taxpayers. But of course he has a captive workforce for the project in Ontario’s jail population, whence plates are produced. Specifically, Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay and Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, cranking out 1.8 million plates a year.
“Changing the licence plates doesn’t cost a penny to the taxpayer,” Ford insisted in the legislature on Tuesday. “They are still producing the plates. It’s going to be the same cost.”
No cost for a redesign and reformat of the template?
Also, such undertakings are typically open — in both Canada and the U.S. — to public input. The Ford gang has given no indication that outside proposals will be considered. Which didn’t stop suggestions being banged out on social media (some cited in this column), although the thrust of commentary was mostly of the backlash variety. Like, why?
SUBWAYS SUBWAYS SUBWAYS
Some Canadian provinces have gone in for plate slogans that nicely reflect a culture, a sentiment or a pretty motif. Poignant “Je me souviens” in Quebec; “Wild Rose Country” in Alberta.
South of the border I’m partial to New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die,” even if it sounds like a Bruce Willis movie. Some years back, when Wisconsin was debating a new state slogan that would appear on plates, the selection committee rejected the governor’s own suggestion: Eat Cheese or Die. Ditto for “State of Udder Beauty.” Out of 46,000 proposals generated in the public process, the committee finally settled on the rather dull “America’s Dairyland.”
For Ontario, it seems the fix is in. Though the official reveal won’t happen until Finance Minister Vic Fedeli unveils the new provincial budget on April 11, “Open For Business” is favoured for the black-on-white commercial plates used by trucks and other industrial vehicles. Separately, the Tories are weighing possibly different epigrams for the blue-and-white passenger vehicle plates.
This, despite earlier assurances that the plate cabal won’t resurrect a political slogan — partisan rhetoric — that the Tories marched to victory with during the election campaign.
So, at minimum for big-ass vehicles, drivers in Ontario will be commandeered into the moving violation of propaganda bumper stickers.
Open For Business: How crass and narcissistic can you get? As if investment will pour in because of what’s stamped on a licence plate. As if that message hasn’t already been war-headline declared at the border, where “Yours To Discover” has been replaced with “Open For Business” signs and billboards at 25 crossing spots, to the tune of $106,000.
“People across this province want change,” Ford repeat-thumped Tuesday, cleaving to his one-note mantra. “They voted for change and they’re getting change.”
Is this kind of ham-fisted nonsense really what you voted for?
It’s not the cost, of course. It’s the vanity. Plates.
HELL IN A HANDBASKET
Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno