Friday, December 14, 2018

What Is An Authoritarian Bully To Do?

It is perhaps to state the obvious that political strongmen (I'm sure this applies to women, too) tend to surround themselves with those who will readily do their bidding. It is also true that they are very sensitive to criticism. Indeed, they do their utmost to discourage the latter. For compelling evidence, one has only to look at the long list of people Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin have disposed of.

Things are not quite as straightforward for the authoritarian bully ruling in a democracy. To be sure, such a person surrounds himself with sycophants, those willing to do his bidding in the hopes of maintaining and advancing their stations in life. For evidence, one has only to look at the supine nature of people like Caroline Mulroney and Christine Elliott serving the whims of Ontario premier Doug Ford.

However, unlike North Korea and Russia, true democracies have an obstacle to brazen, unlimited abuse of authority. It is called a free press, something Doug Ford is doing his damnedest to evade and vilify. But try as he might, the press is proving indefatigable.

Consider some of the latest revelations and commentary. Today's Star reports that Doug Ford was desperate to reward (for services rendered?) his good police pal Ron Taverner:
Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner was offered the top position at the Ontario Cannabis Store and considered for a deputy minister post in the months leading up to his appointment to the job of Ontario Provincial Police commissioner, sources have told the Star.

Taverner, a close friend of Premier Doug Ford, rejected the idea of running the government cannabis store, and longtime bureaucrats at Queen’s Park made it clear the veteran Toronto police divisional officer did not have the normal qualifications to oversee the massive Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

“Doug wanted to do something for Taverner. That is what we were hearing,” said one source.
The NDP’s community safety and correctional services critic, Kevin Yarde, asks a salient question, one that we should all be asking:
“If Taverner’s swearing-in goes ahead on Monday, what will Ford be demanding of him?... It’s critical that police forces operate without political interference and without conflicts of interest — real or perceived.”
The Star is not the only news journal keeping tabs on Ford's Machiavellian machinations. The Globe and Mail is also deeply troubled. One of the red flags it has identified is the unseemly and wholly inappropriate alacrity with which pal Tavener leapt to Ford's defence over the demand that the OPP provide a large camper-style van whose purchase was to be "kept off the books":
Instead of looking into the substance of these very serious allegations, including a claim the Premier’s office asked police to break the law, the man on the verge of becoming Ontario’s top cop appears to have focussed his inquiries on what really matters: the size of the van.

He told the Toronto Sun that the vehicle Mr. Ford’s office wanted was more of an “extended-size van” than a “large camper van." And anyhow, the Premier – the man who didn’t hire him – is “a big guy and it would have more room for he and his team to work while on road.”

Great detective work, chief.
Writes Marcus Gee:
Democratic countries put a wall between leaders of the government and leaders of the police for a reason. If the police are beholden to those in power, it opens the door to political arrests. Police become guard dogs for the rulers instead of guardians of the public. People stop believing that the police will enforce the law without favour.

Even in a fortunate country like Canada where a descent into authoritarianism is remote, it is unwise to have a top cop who is the chum of a premier. Police sometimes have to investigate government leaders accused of lining their pockets or playing loose with election rules. How is the public going to trust the police to probe potential crimes or misdemeanors of the Ford government with Mr. Taverner in charge?
And while strongman Ford is happy to vilify the acting OPP Commissioner Brad Blair of sour grapes in his complaint about Tavener's appointment, he is by far not the only one to see peril here. Former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson is also calling for an investigation:
“What you need here is someone with complete integrity and confidence to be able to go in and review the whole process, all of the outstanding issues, and report publicly to say, ‘No, no, you’ve got it all wrong, this is a good guy, he’s the guy.’ Or, ‘This stinks and ought not to have ever happened.’”
The press and concrned officials are clearly doing their jobs in seeking to hold Backdoor Dealer Doug to account. However, the rest is up to us, the citizens of Ontario.


  1. Best line yet: Indeed R. Taverner will be assuming his duties as OPP Comish on Monday as planned. And no, Brad Blair will not be part of his execvutive team!! LOL! Mac