Profits in a Time of Pandemic

Doug Ford

The Ford government’s corruption is the product of conflicts of interest that are almost too boring and commonplace to merit comment

✎  WAYNE K. SPEAR | May 7, 2021 • Current Events

Precisely when ontario’s long-term covid-19 commission issued its final report, the Premier restored Norm Sterling to a political stage the former Minister of Environment and Energy had vacated one decade ago. You’ll recall Mr. Sterling in his connection to the Walkerton Tragedy, where the combination of carelessness and a late-April-to-mid-May rainfall contaminated a township’s water supply and produced over two thousand illnesses and six deaths. The Walkerton Inquiry introduced themes of negligence and under-resourcing which also returned to the political stage this week, in the work of a COVID-19 Commission whose chief co-counsel, John Callaghan, was a participant in the Walkerton investigations. Welcome to Ontario health crises, where it’s déjà vu all over again.

Those who back in the day referred to the Mike Harris cabinet as Ministers Against — the Minister Against Education, the Minister Against Health, and so on — were not surprised to learn that the man chosen by Premier Ford to preside the Greenbelt Council was against the Greenbelt Act. Or, to put this in a more precise way, against the idea of a Greenbelt Act which designates lands as protected in cases where someone wishes them to be expeditiously undesignated as such. This business of the expeditious redesignation of lucrative lands brings us to controversies over the Premier’s recent and, in the words of David Crombie, “grossly expanded use” of Minister’s Zoning Orders, or MZOs, as well as to developments concerning development: chief among them the proposed 400-series highway running fifty-two kilometres northeast from the 401 at Halton to the 400 at Vaughan. The NDP Finance Critic, Catherine Fife, has accused the Premier of operating under cover of Covid for the benefit of party donors, a charge which arrives as the evidence mounts of the government’s cosiness with the real estate, construction, and property management industries.

The leap from long-term care to MZO may seem as long as the GTA West corridor, yet both have a connection to Vaughan. The RCMP confirmed an investigation this week of a pro-Ford astroturf and propaganda outfit calling itself Vaughan Working Families, registered in 2018 by Vaughan Health Campus of Care, whose Chair Michael De Gasperis is a director of TACC Developments, a CEO of Arista Homes, a PC donor and fundraiser, and a warm acquaintance of Stephen Lecce. Another LTC outfit connected to Vaughan Working Families, UniversalCare Canada Inc., has brought a thirty-five-million-dollar lawsuit upon itself as a result of Covid-19 deaths at the Villa Colombo Vaughan Di Poce Centre, named after the real estate developer John Di Poce. (It used to be harder to put your name on these buildings. The recent proliferation of hospital wings and health and patient care centres named after developers is another Ford gift to donors.) In fact, of the developers close to the government, Di Poce owns the most acres along the proposed 413.

Throughout the pandemic the Ford who ran for Premier as a plain-folks populist ignored the needs of frontline and essential workers, denying them paid sick leave and front-of-queue vaccinations and sensible policies with their interests uppermind. His cuts early in the administration made Ontario more vulnerable to crisis just as the Harris cuts had done decades earlier. The rules he put in place were too often murky and at odds with science. To all appearances, the Premier improvised as he went, showing no evidence of learning along the way. In the absence of political leadership, ordinary citizens turned to arrangements like Vaccine Hunters Canada to obtain their relief. Ford didn’t create the underlying conditions but he was slow to act when, as the Commission final report puts it, “the pandemic shone a spotlight on a reality that existed long before COVID-19.”

According to the findings, the province’s long-term care homes had been neglected and underfunded for decades by successive governments, suffered severe staffing shortages and lack of training, were easy targets for the uncontrolled LTC outbreaks that were “among the worst in the world,” and received little notice until “a parade of sickness and death” made it impossible to ignore the long-standing problems. In a May 3 QP Briefing interview, John Callaghan quoted from the notes of a Canadian Armed Forces member who witnessed the deaths of twenty-six LTC residents from lack of “water and a wipe down.” In the meanwhile LTC operators like Extendicare (now involved in a $200-million class-action lawsuit) issue dividends. Chartwell has praised its pandemic performance and awarded its executives bonuses that are larger than those of the year before, on top of salaries exceeding one million dollars. A spokesperson for the man who made all of this profiteering possible, by engineering the deregulation of Ontario’s long-term care industry, said that “Mr. Harris’ drive and passion to provide great services and quality care to our aging population was one of the reasons he was asked to join Chartwell as chair in 2003.” Harris is estimated to have profited from his eighteen-year association with Chartwell to an amount of $3.5 million. One man’s tragedy is another man’s comedy.

Now some have awoken to the fact that the road to hell is apparently paved with drive and passion. Canada’s Shareholder Association for Research and Education urges that Mr. Harris (who in any case is expected to step down next year) should not continue as Chair of Chartwell Retirement Residences, citing concerns about the safety of customers and employees, as well as “significant legal, regulatory, financial and reputational risks.” Now that sounds like the Mike Harris I remember. There have been calls for the resignation of Premier Ford as well, most notably by David Moscrop in the pages of the Washington Post.

Whatever the outcomes, there are lessons to be learned, the chief among them that Ontario does not learn lessons. So long as negligence and nature are provisioned enclaves in which to collude unimpeded — and in this province, they are provisioned as a matter of custom — we will have more Walkertons and more LTC disasters. The Ford government is not the first nor the last corrupt government to rule this province. Its apparent incompetence is the product of conflicts of interest that are almost too boring and commonplace to merit comment. Many have suffered this past year, but we have not been in this together — not those collecting the dividends and bonuses, nor those placing private profit above public interest, nor those who claim responsibility without consequences, nor those who use their years in political office to serve their masters and secure their future pelf. ⌾

Populism and the Elites

Under Doug Ford, Ontario politics will likely be organized around an enemies list of cultural foes and special interests. We’ve been there before.

✎  Wayne K. Spear | March 13, 2018 • Current Events

IT’S NOW CERTAIN that a battle, between the people and the elite, is coming to Ontario. As it did in the days of Mike Harris, the province is about to flirt with populism and might even go beyond flirting, to courtship and consummation.

Mike Harris

We heard quite a lot about the elites—always plural—when Rob Ford was mayor and Doug was the hype man and principal enabler of his brother. The word comes to us from an Old French noun derived from the Latin verb ēligĕre, to elect. The elite, in other words, are the elected, or chosen. Like Doug Ford.

Only, to hear Doug tell it, he’s no member, or even friend, of the elites—too-clever snobs who bore the common folk with lessons in etymology. They’re not defined by income or by power, but by culture and attitude. They live downtown and drink Chardonnay, and they use big words, and they mock the lives and values of the town and suburbs. Elites think they know better than you, and they think that they are better than you. And they have been chosen to lead and have made a balls of things.

There’s no necessary connection of this elitism with political power, beyond annoyances like support for bike lanes and streetcars. The list of elitist traits which drive Fordies around the bend has few explicitly ideological entries. Mostly it’s stuff like fixed-gear bikes and smugness and drinking champagne with a pinkie extended. Doug Ford complains about the elites the way that anglos are sometimes known to kvetch about the smell of east Indian cooking.

Elites are irritating, and you know them when you see them. The circularity of this term applies to its cognate, liberal, which is also defined as someone who is irritating. Critics may thus be condemned as elites and liberals, without further ado, because the terms boil down to something which is entirely in the eyes of the beholder.

Populism has some of the same characteristics. Nothing is objectively populist—the thing is set of attitudes and postures, a performance that is front to end a matter of individual interpretation. It helps to use rough and “plain” language, and to express ideas that would be scolded in polite company. Populism requires the claim that what matters most in this world is the little guy, and as a rule a populist will go out of his way to affect an unvarnished outlook and demeanour, the little guy being typically conceived as rough around the edges. None of this is incompatible with ulterior political motives like self-advancement and self-enrichment. History is filled with populist candidates who ascend to power on a pile of corpses.

The principal evil of elitism, which populism ostensibly sets out to vanquish, is the idea that some people or ideas or pursuits are objectively better than others, for instance that a Harvard graduate is a better choice of governor than an unlettered man who says y’all and ain’t. Moreover, it’s impossible to talk usefully about the Ford Nation idea of elitism without mentioning the aesthetics of social class.

It’s no coincidence that Doug Ford, like his brother, is large, whereas his political opponents have tended to be relatively slim. (The same is true of Donald Trump.) Class snobbery is such that large bodies will be subjected to often unspoken but condescending judgements, especially when they are bodies that sweat and that are clothed in ill-fitting clothing. Stephen Harper and Preston Manning, well aware of eastern prejudice, invested in makeovers before attempting to run for national office.  This earned them a great deal of suspicion and ridicule, but all politicians make their concessions to the masses. Ford is no different. His populism, however, is less accommodating than its predecessors, and as such it is more nakedly a display of something that is common to all populism, the compilation of resentments built up over time.

There is an entirely different way to conceive of populism, as an expression of the inherent decency and dignity of ordinary people, ordinary being defined as neither wealthy nor politically powerful. Many decades ago, generations of the political left cultivated the revolutionary conception of the self-educated worker, possessing a mind and consciousness of her own and equal in physical and intellectual prowess to her presumed social betters. This form of populism established workers’ libraries and orchestras and universities, and it advocated not only bread but roses, which is to say the attainment among the common people not only of bare necessities but of beauty. Rather than tearing things down, out of resentment for those at the top, radical populism sought to lift up the people and to make privilege a universal condition. Nothing was thought too good for the working classes—whether champagne, Bach, or caviar.

The populism of M. Trump and Ford is not, however, radical or revolutionary, and it doesn’t look very deeply into the nature of the system against which it has declared war. The anti-elitist populism we will get from the Ontario PCs, assuming Doug Ford becomes Premier, will very likely resemble the program of M. Harris. It will be a negative form of populism, conceived entirely in relation to an enemies list of cultural foes and special interests who must be brought low. And when one is consumed by the work of bringing things low, a generalized condition of lowness, with perhaps a few winners, is likely to take hold. After eight years of watching the Harris Conservatives tear things down, the voters tired of anti-elite populism and chose another path. We forget this at our peril.

The Once and Forever Candidate

If Doug Ford runs for everything, one day he just might catch something

✎  Wayne K. Spear | February 8, 2018 • Politics

DOUG FORD’s run for mayor had already started when a path to Queen’s Park appeared, and if Ford loses in June who doubts that October will coax his return? The man is always running, or teasing about running, as if there could be a doubt. The only variable is the destination. In the past five-or-so years, Doug Ford has imagined himself the succesor of Stephen Harper, Tim Hudak, Rob Ford, and now Patrick Brown. And in between he has run, or has said he would run, for municipal council and the provincial parliament. Doug Ford, the once and forever candidate, always ready to run everywhere for anything.

Doug Ford

The Etobicoke Kennedys, we locals sometimes call the Fords, and not entirely with irony. They are now a three-generation political dynasty, if you include nephew Michael. And before you dismiss this comparison as too generous, remember that the Kennedys had a more-than-passing familiarity with intrigue and pills and thuggery, and that the flattering myth of Camelot was just that. Doug lacks even an interest in the mechanics of charm, and his style tends more toward resentment. But resentment is a cheque that someone will eventually cash if only you carry it around long enough. The populism of Mike Harris enjoyed scant currency until Bob Rae had made the 905 sufficiently angry. For seven years, from 1995 to 2002, Harris’ nonsense was Common Sense. The voters didn’t want a government, they wanted a wrecking ball. Has Kathleen Wynne brought them back, yet, to this point? She seems to have been trying.

Doug Ford took a third of the vote in the last Toronto election. One in three voters, over 330,000, endorsed his message of rampant insider corruption and gravy-train elitism. He’s only ever had one message, of outgroup anger and burn-it-to-the-ground populism. Folks, he hates the people that you hate, and he’ll poke them in the eye. For you, folks. The Doug Ford myth is reverse Camelot, where the rotten elites are inside drinking Chardonnay and have locked all the good people out. Reverse Camelot isn’t a myth about public service or even ideology—it is an appeal to the tribe, a call to charge the gate, a war of cultures. That’s why Ford has been able to survive when his claims—such as being an ordinary outsider, rather than a wealthy and well-connected member of a multi-generational political family—turn out to be objectively false. It’s not about Doug Ford, it’s about the people and the things that Doug Ford hates and will endeavour to confound.

I’ve lived in Ontario long enough to know that phony populism, of the kind peddled by Doug Ford, goes around and comes around. He’ll tell you he’s running for Premier because it breaks his heart, folks, to see what’s happening to his beloved province, not because he was raised on the mother’s milk of political ambition. He’ll tell you he’s just like you. He’ll tell you he’s going to Queen’s Park to clean things up, not because he craves the power of office, of any and every office. He’ll tell you only he can fix what is broken, and that only he can drive out the elites. Maybe this time it will work. If it doesn’t, he’ll be back, running the path towards another office. When Doug Ford arrives at a fork in the road, he takes it, hoping that eventually it will come with a meal.

The Ontario Liberals Did Not Win: The Other Parties Lost

GNM
EARLIER THIS WEEK, on CTV news, I predicted that two political parties would be looking for new leaders if the Ontario Liberals prevailed. Election day had yet to expire when Tim Hudak announced he would be stepping down, fulfilling a half of my proposition.

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Ontario Politics’ Franchise Problem

Bob Rae and David Peterson

I CAN SUMMON with clarity the celebration of Fall 1990 that inducted the provincial NDP government of Bob Rae. I’d moved to Kingston a month earlier, at the end of August, and like everyone else was shocked to see that the NDP would not only form a government, but a majority government at that.

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Another Way of Looking at Minister Flaherty

flahertyharris

THE CURRENCY of the word outpouring was notable this week: over at the National Post, Michael Den Tandt has not only described the phenomenon, but indulged it himself. His essay “Former finance minister Jim Flaherty’s death leaves a void in the Conservative party” issues high praise, pressing Kipling and Aristotle into the service of a lush panegyric. Again, nothing unusual here – it’s what everyone is doing these days, not only at the National Post, but elsewhere.

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Rob Ford is an Effect, Not a Cause, and We’ll Survive Him

Rob Ford

AS I WRITE this it is impossible to say whether the drama surrounding Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s alleged new high constitutes an actual new low, but drama does seem to be the word of the moment. Exactly one year ago I moved to this city, and in the time since I have witnessed the restless strut and fret of local municipal politics, the principal player of the stage forever availing himself to fresh tales full of sound and fury.

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Good fortune and Bob Rae weren’t always on the best of terms

FEDERAL LIBERAL LEADER Bob Rae’s citation of William Shakespeare was an indirect invocation also of a commonplace political euphemism — the putting aside of personal ambition “to spend more time with the family.” Announcing his decision yesterday not to run for permanent leadership, he produced the closing lines of Sonnet 25:

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Dr. Depression’s Bitter Elixir Now Available in Ontario

SOME DAYS AGO I spoke to the former Finance Minister and Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, who in 1995 tabled the federal budget balancing Canada’s books. It’s become an established (and easily falsifiable) political cliché that Liberals tax and spend whilst Conservatives tidy the fiscal house. Speaking to Mr. Martin, I was reminded of the conspiracy theory that Reagan had tripled the US deficit in order to undermine the welfare state. Well, some thought it a conspiracy theory — and then David Stockman, the Office of Management and Budget Director, confirmed the supply side ruse.

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The Richard Smoke Trial

ON DECEMBER 23, 2011, Ontario Superior Court Justice the Honourable Alan C. R. Whitten rendered his verdict in the case of a vicious beating in Caledonia of builder Sam Gualtieri, by defendant and Six Nations resident Richard Smoke. The judgement has received only a smattering of press attention, most of it issuing from the National Post. My feeling is that there ought to be more attention paid, but of a sort which begins by acknowledging universal failure and the urgent need to do something constructive before southern Ontario becomes a Gaza strip of AK-47-wielding Warriors, rock throwing children, and the Canadian army. If you think this is a dramatic and paranoid fantasy, then you are simply one of the many sleep-walking Canadians who has forgotten (or never bothered to notice) that such a thing has already happened. There is no reason at present to conclude it can’t happen again.

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Kingston, Ontario, in the 1990s

One’s lasting impression is of the old-world feel of the place, ivy growing on limestone and so on. The city, especially its gentrified regions, has a distinct charm. Kingston is Loyalist and wants you to know it: even the garbage cans bear a slogan, pro rege, lege, et grege [for king, for law, and for the people]. Throw a rock and the plaque you’ll hit reads, In this house Sir John A. Macdonald (or perhaps his sister-in-law, or brother) once lived. Walking in Sydenham Ward, among the portes cochère and the gothic churches, the North American feels somehow to have been transported to the Old World, which partly discloses the appeal of the place. For whatever else the Old World may be, it at least is not the same old same old. It is an anachronism which offers both to the conservative and progressive imaginations an escape from the Here and Now. Living in Kingston one learns that architecture is full of metaphor and allusion. The Old World is a mental construct which points us somewhere. That somewhere is by definition an anachronism, and anachronism is itself the dominant Kingston motif. Go to a pub, the Wellington for instance, and you’ll discover Mississaugans drinking Guinness and singing nostalgic Irish songs (Irish songs always mourn that which is lost, for obvious historical reasons). A handful will boast an Irish grandparent, but in any case what you have is a gathering of misplaced souls, and a textbook instance of Freudian cathexis.

Kingston represents nearly everything which is anathema to the contemporary technocrat. This is its chief merit among the artistic. It is not efficient (until about 1 month ago, tall buildings were prohibited), but rather is set out roughly on a human scale and to a good degree with human needs, and not the needs of the automobile, foremost in mind. Business is not its chief legacy, but instead it is dominated by the public sector. Its historical figures are all first and foremost politicians. There are, I think, more parks than shopping malls. Prior to the triumph of the Open For Business agendas of Messrs Harris and Chrètien, the hospitals, schools, and military college were principal employers. Since the triumph, our many prisons have become a growth industry – a warden told me once that the bank granted without further questions his mortgage when told his occupation – but like other public functions the prisons are likely to be privatised, large profits being virtually guaranteed. Only tourism rivals the public sector as a source of economic activity, but it’s questionable whether tourism isn’t in many ways simply an extension of the public sector. I’ve noted, for instance, that the Japanese adore having themselves photographed before our city hall, and not before the Chamber of Commerce. They are fascinated by our squirrels. It is noteworthy that these simple human facts elude our economic experts, who talk as if technology and the modern corporation were the only things that matter. As for private enterprise, it exists, but mostly on the small scale we’re told simply won’t do in the global economy. Kingston business, that is, locally-owned Kingston business, is Mom-and-Pop in scale, which means politicians will praise it as the hope of our future while undermining it at every opportunity.

Everyone who lives in Kingston is a part of a clique. Hugh MacLennan might well have written a book about the place called Many Solitudes. To the north, in what is known as the Heights, you will find many of Kingston’s GWA recipients. The Fruit Belt, still to the north but much closer to downtown, is mostly proletarian ‘townies,’ but elements of the middle class have been moving in. Sydenham Ward is upper-middle, or perhaps lower-upper class, but here also you will find student apartments and some middle class professionals. Going north-west of the downtown you’ll encounter everything from shoebox bungalows, built between the wars, to middle class Tudor houses, neo-colonial mansions, and neighbourhoods where residents sit shirtless on their porches, dining straight from the pot. But these people of course are not mixed up together, and I assume prefer not to be. Class affiliations are too deeply ingrained. The divisions are, appropriately enough, determined by Division Street, which runs roughly north-south, and Princess Street, which runs east-west. The Ghetto, in the south-east, is nastiest of all for sheer aesthetic ugliness – but it’s only student housing, Put-On ugliness, like a Hallowe’en costume. The Ghetto houses are shabby and sordid Victorian monstrosities, at least eight persons to each, and their studied dilapidation is a matter of great pride. I’m unable to say how the name, The Ghetto, has come about, but it is in any case an instance of camp. The idea is to pay homage to the working man, as he’s conceived by the middle classes, until graduation into the Real World. This imitation underscores the essential fact of Kingston life, that the classes barely encounter one another except in the imagination. If you are a student, it means by definition you never socialize with the Fruit Belt proletariat, and vice versa. Perhaps your paths cross. You may both find yourselves at 3 in the morning eating poutine at Bubba’s, but that’s about it. The middle class student will at most learn from Judith Thompson’s play, The Crackwalker, that the lower classes of Kingston enjoy Hockey Night in Canada and hanging-out at Lino’s. The upper classes of Kingston are invisible, as they are everywhere. I have only one personal anecdote concerning them, from my days as a hospital employee, and it involves the annual Hotel Dieu Hospital food drive, a butler, and a can of sardines. As for the so-called lower classes, they will probably never see up-close either Queen’s student life or Old Money society, which they mistakenly conflate. Many BMWs pass within feet of the ‘Hub’ subculture, where Division and Princess intersect, with neither party coming within a million miles of the other.

These of course are largely abstract socio-economic groupings, but there are other sorts of cliques, or perhaps sub-cliques, as well. There are the teenagers who occupy downtown Princess Street doorways, smoking cigarettes and panhandling. There’s nothing distinctively Kingstonian about them, but they are almost a part of the local architecture, like body-pierced gargoyles, one feels. There’s a women’s community which, if you’re part of it, you know intimately. Literally everyone knows everyone else, or has at least heard something specific of her. The culture is organised around Take Back the Night marches, women’s dances, and women-centred agencies like the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre of Kingston and Kingston Interval House. There’s a gay and lesbian community centred on Club 477. If you wish to be seen as a member of long-standing, as they do in the commercials for American Express credit cards, you’ll refer to the club as Robert’s, its former name. There are more narrowly political groups, each with its own history and culture and favoured enemy. (A favoured enemy is essential to group cohesion.) And no list would be complete without Kingston’s itinerant, the many homeless who are well-known by sight. But don’t they form a socio-economic group? No, I suspect they live outside such categories. They aren’t even a clique, being necessarily of a mostly solitary nature. I have heard some of their life stories, which no doubt are embellished if not made-up entire, but the only thing that makes them a distinct group (besides their poverty) is that they all have fallen outside the system. A few of them are clearly mad and you’ll hear it said for that reason ‘they shouldn’t be on the street’ (as if others should), but most are entirely sane. My first year in Kingston, 1990-1991, I read all of Beckett’s novels; his characters’ predilection for bicycles struck me as uncanny, for such people were, and are, a common Kingston sight. Why, I wondered, the bicycle? Why not a yo-yo or a pet? Years later I bought a bicycle myself, and it occurred to me that a bicycle gives one a compelling sense of momentum, which must be a great comfort if you sense your existence is pointless. It’s easier to feel you’re going somewhere on a bicycle. Beckett nowhere makes this explicit, but I doubt the fact escaped him. I’m thinking of one Kingston indigent who I often saw travelling about in a grand arc, like Haley’s comet, taking in not only the city but much of its environs. He collected bits of refuse which he then affixed to his bike, using other bits of refuse. It would have seemed mad if not for the fact that his acquisitiveness simply reminded me of my own. We are all busily engaged in the accumulation of stuff, and whether or not it’s junk is a matter of opinion. This is not however to trivialize deprivation by putting all consumption on a par. The principle characteristic-in-common among the homeless, as I’ve said, is their poverty, for which they are treated as criminals and swept from public view. Their consumption is judged non-economic and hence is subject to treatments alien to the better-off. I dwell on these people (they are always ‘those people’) because they are a highly visible feature of Kingston. No tourist is encouraged to consider them – quite the opposite, in fact – but they exist and speak volumes of the sort of place Kingston is. As a group with an almost exclusively public existence, they constitute a unique category of person. The poor are in a sense always with us, and yet we understand them least of all. On the topic of social groupings I could go on and on (religious affiliations, men’s clubs, Chamber of Commerce, artists’ groups, etc.), but the point is always the same. The members of these cliques rarely if ever interrelate, even in cases where a clear overlapping of interests would lead us to expect them to. This is perhaps typical of any city, but it’s remarkable given Kingston’s geographically-determined physical intimacy. Nowhere are so many solitudes packed into so little real estate.

The solitudes make generalisation about the character of Kingstonians difficult. Nonetheless, at first glance Kingston does at present appear to be a ‘progressive’ community. Progressive here designates a promotion of cultural and political diversity. The positive feature of multiple solitudes, at least in principle, is its advancement of tolerance. You can be anything you wish, and folks will leave you alone. This impression derives from the sheer variety of culture and lifestyle on display, most of it but not all organised for tourist consumption. It’s true that Kingston is more progressive than most Ontario cities, if we’re careful about what this means: many kinds of ‘ethnic’ restaurants, and a diverse set of goods in the stores. This is of course banal, but it does make an impression. A disproportionately large number of writers settle here because it appears to them that Kingston is cosmopolitan and hence ‘civilized’ – that is, it supports Bohemianism. Since many Canadian writers come from small towns and are in flight from orthodoxy and parochialism, this logical error is understandable. In a more narrowly-political sense of diversity, there is plenty of theatre and art which characterises itself as a ‘celebration of alternative lifestyles,’ meaning gay and lesbian. So support for diversity does appear to be part of the local character.

Behind the scenes however one should note Kingston’s managerial monoculture, its solidly Open-for-Business political ideology. To some there’s a contradiction here, but since diversity sells well, the contradiction can be easily resolved. Everything is judged according to the market, including heresy. Window dressing aside, Kingston’s character may be inferred from its current municipal government, elected in 1997. 16 of its 17 members are white males, almost unanimously conservative and middle class, and the lone female was acclaimed. Debate the significance of this if you will, but at least it’s clear that the city is run by the same sort of persons who advise the provincial Harris Tories, and this as the result of a democratic election. [-June 1998]