On Saturday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford embraced, and posed for a photo with, Toronto mayoral candidate and white nationalist Faith Goldy, at an event organized by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.
As I've written before, far-right Rebel Media fired Goldy for going "too far" after she appeared on a neo-Nazi podcast. Goldy has also publicly recited the most popular white supremacist slogan, demanded a modern crusade against Muslims, champions ethno-nationalism, bemoans "white genocide" and called for Canada to become "96% euro Canadian."
This is a common ritual, in Question Period and elsewhere, in which a politician gives their opponent an easy chance to get off the hook, either believing their apology is genuine or just being content with the theatrical points scored by having the apology made in a public venue.
But Ford failed to take opposing MPPs up on this offer, refusing to denounce Goldy when they asked. Days later, he put out a tepid tweet that still failed to apologize for having his photo taken with her.
Many people are understandably outraged by Ford's decision. I'm not. An apology would do more harm than good.
A significant chunk of the political and media class in Canada is obsessed with norms and decorum, at the expense of substance. A Ford apology would have satisfied these people. They'd let Ford pose with 100 white nationalists as long as he later denounced each one and apologized. They'd probably even applaud him for each shallow condemnation.
Ford's refusal to denounce Goldy for days, or apologize at all, should offer a clear sign to apologists in politics and media that things have changed: white nationalism out loud is mainstream in Canada.
Goldy, who is currently polling third in the Toronto mayoral race at six per cent, doesn't mask her abhorent views, because public opinion in Canada has shifted to a point where her ilk no longer need to hide, and the Premier feels comfortable embracing her and then not apologizing.
Ford and Goldy aren't identical, but if you ask her and other white nationalists, they're on the same side in a fight for a new Ontario. In a recent robocall sent to households in Toronto, Goldy even branded herself as the "only candidate who stands with Doug Ford."
With this in mind, demands for Ford to denounce or apologize aren't the sign of a strong opposition, but a desperate one. These calls are effectively pleas for Ford to genuflect to past norms that no longer apply.
I don't mean to sound defeatist, or to discount the warranted fear and outrage people are expressing. Instead, I want to call for a change of pace going forward.
Stop making excuses for Ford.
In a recent Newstalk 1010 segment, radio host Desmond Cole chastised Ford apologists, saying, "They expect me to give Doug Ford the benefit of the doubt, even though he walks, talks and acts like a white supremacist; even when he smiles and associates with other white supremacists."
Cole says he refuses to do so, because he doesn't want to live in a world "where you just keep stepping on my toes, but telling me you didn't mean to do it. My toes are broken, whether you meant it or not. Doug Ford promotes white supremacy, whether he owns it or not."
With this in mind, the political and media apologists who fail to call out Ford, and even Goldy, for what they are, need to start listening to the people who have been sounding the alarm bell for a long time, and will be most affected by Ford's policies.
As Cole has suggested, they can do so by, at the very least, refusing to give Ford the benefit of the doubt any longer.
No good Conservatives
The next step applies to those who want to truly oppose Ford and what he stands for, and who he associates with, beyond just on a cheap partisan level.
Ford is not the cause of the illness plaguing Ontario, though he's a particularly malignant symptom. But he does not stand alone. He represents a party. He was voted in by members of that party. The representatives of that party serve him, and have stood by him.
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Party members could jump ship if they wanted to; they haven't. In fact, even after Ford refused to condemn Goldy, they reportedly cheered, content that he had passed the low bar of saying he denounces hate speech. Since then, more Conservative MPPs have been asked to denounce Goldy. They've refused.
They're all responsible. They're all complicit. They should all be held to account.
We shouldn't give Ford the benefit of the doubt any longer, and the same is true for the Conservative Party.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this blog indicated that Desmond Cole said, "Doug Ford promotes white supremacy, whether he means it or not." In fact, Cole said, "Doug Ford promotes white supremacy, whether he owns it or not."
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