NAFTA, Ford, Senators … We’re Out Of Control: Benn

It is time to take a deep breath, try to relax, and see how the next six months or so go.

This advice applies equally to the Karlsson-Hoffman squabble, the pending trade war with the U.S., and to the incoming Ontario government. There is precious little any one of us can do to affect the outcome of any of these “tragedies”. We the people would be well served to recall the standard cliché mouthed by many a hockey player, notably that he only focuses on what he can control.

With the hockey squabble, that confirms hockey players and their other halves suffer from the same human conditions as the rest of society. There is little to be gained by parsing the never-ending analyses from sociology majors and sports writers.

NAFTA and tariffs. My opinion plus 75 cents buys me nothing at my local Bridgehead. I suspect the same equation fits for everyone reading this column, aside from PM Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

On the Ontario election, about 40 per cent of the voters got what they voted for. About per cent didn’t. Welcome to first past the post. Would some form of government based on the percentage of the votes work better? Perhaps, but the dysfunctional mess that is running the west coast should make everyone wonder whether the sight of a three-seat tail wagging a 41-seat dog is something to aspire to.

Anyhow, we are now just passengers on the Ford train. Will it be a train wreck, as predicted by many? Perhaps. Will the premier-elect Doug Ford surround himself with a strong cast of cabinet ministers and strategists? Perhaps. It will take at least six months to figure out.

What we do know is that Ford has a reputation. Some of that reputation is well-earned. Some of it is just rhetoric from political foes inside and outside the Ontario PCs. Some of that reputation is merely rhetoric from political supporters, mostly from within the Ontario PC party (although Warren Kinsella, a long-time Liberal strategist, is a Ford supporter). How much we believe about his reputation is driven more by our personal preferences than reality,whatever that is these days.

One thing will be easy to predict. There will be an early statement telling us that the financial affairs of the province are far worse than the previous government led everyone to believe, and this has created significant problems in delivering on campaign promises. Not only is that standard fare for every incoming government but given the untenable dispute between Ontario’s Liberal political masters and the auditor general over accounting standards, it will likely be correct. Let’s not be surprised if there is a reference to the tariff wall along the U.S. border as a contributing factor to the challenges on delivering on … what was it they promised again?

After that, it will be difficult to assess the Ford government’s performance against its platform, as there is little to compare it to. Their platform could be summed up as “not the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals”. That bar, quite frankly, is pretty low.

When someone promises more of this, less of that, with no specifics about what constitutes this or that, performance is in the eyes of the beholder. So, we can expect over the course of the next six plus months for the Ontario PCs to point to something they did as achieving a key part of their platform, and to something they didn’t do as achieving another key plank. They will be both right and wrong, depending on which side of the 40:60 fence one sits.

We live in uncertain times. The Ottawa Senators are in the middle of a tire fire. NAFTA in particular and trade with the U.S. in general is out of control. Ford is the premier-elect.

How should we handle all of this? Well, the cannabis laws are about to change. As some of you contemplate checking out the government’s supply, take time to consider former U.S. President Bill Clinton as a role model (Now who would have thought that to be a good idea?) and not inhale.

As for your correspondent, I intend to sit in the shade, inhale the sweet summer breeze and focus on what I can control, starting with my blood pressure.

Ron Benn, a finance executive, has been a member of the Centrepointe Community Association executive for the better part of three decades.


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6 thoughts on “NAFTA, Ford, Senators … We’re Out Of Control: Benn

  1. Ron,

    You said a mouthful. You hit the nail on the head. You sent one flying out of the ball park.
    Now, how do we fix this?

    One can just sit back, watch TV (but not the news), take a pill, have a beer (that’s a buck-a-beer), or smoke some Mary Jane. One can, of course, read but not anything that doesn’t have pictures (think they are called graphic novels) or take up the newest trend of artistic expression (colouring books for adults?).

    Or, one can stand up, shake a fist, get involved and change the way things are done (even one little thing). One can join a rate-payers group, join a service club, join a protest, send letters, camp out at your MP’s office, vote. One can become a thorn in somebody’s side, take action, raise your blood pressure, scream, shout, yell.

    People like Gandhi, Malala Yousafzai, Mandela, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and even Castro all had a saying that they lived by, ” Oh, well – the world is what it is.”

    One can control a lot more than one thinks.



  2. Ron. In my opinion we were further ahead when we didn’t have access to facebook and the “too-many-to-name” methods we use to find out what’s going on in the world around us (when the only one that matters is The Bulldog). Although I didn’t know “everything-that-was-going-on-everywhere”, I was much happier. Now I know Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. So what? There are people who are being paid to deal with that issue. Rather than worry about it, I think it would be better to just let them do their job.


    1. sisco, the problem isn’t that we have too much information, it is that we do not have enough. Most of the issues we face, including the Hoffman-Karlsson cyber bullying allegations, the current state of the NAFTA negotiations and the agenda of the new PC government (now who would have thought that we could refer to Doug Ford as “PC”?) are complex, and defy the ability of the media to describe completely and accurately. As a consequence, we the people are provided with a limited amount of information, often skewed in a manner to support a position that the communicator wants us to believe. Then we the people draw conclusions based on the incomplete information provided. The most likely outcome is that we are wrong, which, of course, meets the intent of the special interest group that provided the incomplete information.

      Cynical? Absolutely! But like most cynics, I prefer the term “realist”.


  3. Ron. As I’ve stated on numerous occasions my background is not in the literal arts, however, I just read a paragraph from “The President is Missing” by Bill Clinton and James Patterson that is seems relevant to this topic.

    “So Rhodes will go to his corner, leading a charge he can’t really control because his caucus twitches at each tweet. . . . . Participation in our democracy seems to be driven by the instant-gratification worlds of Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and the twenty-four hour news cycle. We’re using modern technology to revert to primitive kinds of human relations. The media knows what sells – conflict and division. It’s also quick and easy. All too often anger works better than answers; resentment better than reason; emotion trumps evidence. A sanctimonious, sneering one-liner, no matter how bogus, is seen as straight talk, while a calm, well-argued response is seen as canned and phony.”

    Some would argue that the use of technology is solving old problems, and that’s probably true. But the old problems are just being replaced by new ones and when the blindfold comes off we’re right back where we started with yellow signposts instead of blue ones.


  4. sisco,
    I would like to comment on one of your points – we call it the 24 hour news cycle, I have always called it – forgetting the past and repeating the same blunders.
    I see Nazis on parade today and I see KKK on parade in the ’50s.
    I see police actions that are inappropriate today and I see police actions that have been wrong since the ’50s.
    I see people being looked down on for their race, sexual orientation, etc. and I see Pierre Trudeau, Martin Luther King and others who started corrections that society failed to build on.
    I see populists elected today and I see a list, as long as my arm, of bad men who took control using vague and dishonest promises.
    I see children locked up in cages and I recall children and entire families being thrown in camps during WWII. ( in Canada too )
    I see children being ill-treated by a government and I see Residential Schools and Scoop-up programs.
    I see the so called G8 becoming the G7 and maybe the G1 and I see chaos – that’s 1/2 a step forward and 12 steps back.
    The worst part is that, as a species, we never seem to remember or learn anything.



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