The Progressive Conservative campaign slogan for the 2022 provincial election is an insulting rip-off of Larry the Cable Guy’s iconic red-neck ‘Git-R-Done’ trademark line. It’s low-hanging fruit to feed the Tory crew’s base of support – a painfully simple and short-sighted rallying cry to pave over paradise with rushed development. It should work like a charm for the June 2 poll of Ontario’s two sollitudes: hyper partisans and the disenchanted.
Had the bar been open at the Capitol Centre Tuesday afternoon during the foursome debate of party leaders, we would have been mercifully hammered with a chug each time the PC’s Doug Ford said they’ll “get it done” if given another majority mandate (obviously referring to the recycled and unfulfilled 2018 platform.)
Give them credit, though, the Blue Machine was hitting all cylinders at the event hosted by the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities and Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association. Local Cons were sufficiently prepped for a useful promo clip as Ford stepped down from his campaign bus prior to the debate. Nipissing Riding incumbent Vic Fedeli was first to enthusiastically greet Ford before he strolled through a gauntlet of friendlies on one side and media on the other.
In contrast, when New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath stepped down, there was paltry applause from just a few staffers. Obviously, the $125 fee to attend the debate (which was live-streamed by YourTV and free to watch online) was a sticking point for everybody but the local PC players.
The NDP photo op was actually up the street with a labour-movement rally/protest at the intersection of Wyld and McIntyre streets. In hindsight, Horwath’s chariot should have stopped there to let her speak to the party faithful before sparring with Ford, Liberal Steven Del Duca and the Green Party’s Mike Schreiner.
By the by, in my humble opinion, the clear winner of the debate was Schreiner, the only ‘Greener’ to win a seat in Ontario. And that’s a sad thing, really. Del Duca is sharp enough but has the charisma of a rubber tree minus the foliage, Ford scored points for being able to read his speaking notes and Horwath was only so-so despite a decade to get ready. Worth noting, only Del Duca and Ford made a point to shine a little light on their Nipissing candidates while on the stage. Based on the debate rhetoric and litany of over-lapping promises, the Grit slogan should be: "Give us another chance, we learned from our sins." The NDP could go with: "We didn't really prop up the Liberals for 15 years, just the last little bit."
Ford’s ‘Get it Done’ slogan, however, pales in its unoriginal origin to the one North Bay mayoral candidate Peter Chirico appears to be leaning toward: “I want my family, friends and neighbours to be proud of North Bay again.”
No doubt he has genuine intentions and I understand there are things about North Bay – and most other communities – that need work. My problem is with the ‘proud again’ dog-whistle that stirs up a narrative too similar to the far-right extremes. Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ MAGA clown show springs to mind, as well as the Ontario Proud brand of politicking. Similar sentimentalism that stirs up "old stock" nationalism can be found in the federal Conservative Party of Canada leadership race, especially if looking under the Pierre Poilievre rock.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m wary of language that ‘throws out the baby with the bath water’ mentality that dismisses societal gains and hearkens back to a yesteryear nostalgia suggesting everything was rosy before the 1970s.
Chirico, who ran as a federal Conservative in 2006, should be careful about this and change his tune before someone looks at the root causes of the North Bay-specific challenges. Issues surrounding mental health and addiction treatment and downloading of social services and public costs to municipalities trace back to the ‘Common Sense’ campaign of Nipissing’s Mike Harris. Market-based assessment of homes for property tax purposes hit seniors very hard as they paid levies based on what their home might be worth if they sold – which forced many to do so.
Reducing welfare rates and criminalizing poverty was not a Liberal invention, although the little they did toward fixing the situation was late and insufficient.
Basically, we need to know exactly which era of pride Chirico is referring to and then take a close look at what life was really like at the time: atrocities against Indigenous people, suppression of female rights, vilifying the alphabet of sexuality that isn’t ‘straight’ and institutionalisation of the developmentally challenged.
I know Chirico doesn’t mean all that, but that’s what I hear when people say they want constituents to be “proud again.”
Better to give North Bay more reasons to be proud than attempt a re-write of history – there’s an appetite among the electorate for improvements in how things are done, not necessarily a step backward in time. Let’s wait and see how things work out in America as they turn back the clock. I suspect it won’t be pretty.
Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses meant as Letters to the Editor can be sent to email@example.com. To contact the writer directly, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his website www.smalltowntimes.ca