Screenshot of a video of protesters at the University of Alberta yesterday.

Premier Doug Ford.

You have our hopes and prayers, Ontario. Our hopes and prayers.

Ontario premier elect Doug Ford back in the day defending his late brother Rob (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

And I’m sorry for my friends and readers in Ontario … so sorry to have gotten your hopes up by saying I thought the Ontario NDP would win. You should have known better than to listen to some guy from Alberta prognosticating about Ontario politics.

As for the Tory Tweeters who are gloating at me tonight, enjoy yourselves. You deserve it. (I mean that! You deserve Mr. Ford and his Progressive Conservatives in particular.) As Mr. Ford himself said just this evening, “the people of Ontario have spoken.” And, boy, did they ever! And what they said, many of us will agree, was not all that smart.

I know I don’t have to tell you this, but it’s gonna be a bad movie, and a bad movie we’ve already seen. So, we already basically know how it ends.

OK, let’s change the channel.


David Suzuki got his honorary degree from the University of Alberta today. It was the 30th honorary degree for the prominent Canadian environmentalist, scientist and broadcaster, and by all accounts he accepted it with modesty and good grace, refusing to gloat at the oilpatch lobby group and Opposition politicians who tried to turn getting his honour revoked into a way to attack Alberta’s NDP government and, for reasons that are less clear, the university administration.

David Suzuki in the red robe of an honorary doctor of science of the University of Alberta (Photo: CBC).

It’s a sign of the times that such a thing is even possible, when the decision to award the degree was made by the U of A Senate with no input from the government, which wasn’t all that happy about it, but there you go. It’s the zeitgeist, and it’s only going to get worse.

Dr. Suzuki, who is a youthful seeming 82, gave what the Globe and Mail termed a “moderate” speech, which means he didn’t yell, I guess, but behaved with the dignity that befits the recipient of such an honour. Without directly addressing the controversy, Dr. Suzuki reminded the graduating science students at the ceremony in Edmonton that “we live in a world that is shaped and constrained by laws of nature. … They’re fixed. We can’t change them, so we have to live within them.” (And for those Alberta politicians who disagree, that is actually a pretty scientific analysis.)

“We have created concepts and structures of government and business that we then try to force nature to conform to, rather than shaping our creations to fit the needs of nature on which we are utterly dependent,” he said. “We have to find ways of living that do not undermine the very things that keep us alive,” he observed, according to the CBC’s account of yesterday’s events.

The University of Alberta also behaved with appropriate dignity, insisting despite the best efforts of the people determined to exploit the controversies associated with Dr. Suzuki’s views in Alberta that the degree, having been offered, would be granted, as the institution indeed had little choice but to do.

University President David Turpin reminded the graduates, “we need independent thinkers.”

That is not the view of the Alberta Opposition, of course, which abhors independent thinkers, especially when they don’t think everything the fossil fuel industry does is peachy, so the United Conservative Party continued to carp about the award yesterday.

“This is an individual who has spent considerable time attacking our largest industry and attacking by default the people that work in it,” complained UCP House Leader Jason Nixon.

Opposition Leader Jason Kenney produced one of his trademark Rebel-Media-style social media videos, misrepresenting past statements by Dr. Suzuki and making such dubious comments as “I understand that U of A grads and others have withheld millions and perhaps more in donations from the university,” which sounds very much to me as if he was trying to encourage Albertans not to support the U of A.

Because the university is a public institution, we may get an idea soon of how much anticipated donated revenue has been actually been lost, as opposed to imagined gifts from donors who may or may not exist. I doubt it will be anything like what Mr. Kenney has suggested,

The number of demonstrators who actually turned up to protest against Dr. Suzuki’s award is probably a more accurate indication of the public opposition to the honour. There were about a dozen opposed to the degree, according to the CBC and other news organizations who were there, and about the same number supporting it, some of them carrying signs making fun of the opponents. One photograph shows about 20 people holding signs.

Well, we’ve all had our fun and that should be the end of it. Here is why:

Historically, U of A honorary degrees have not been granted to public figures who were particularly controversial. It’s unlikely the idea of stirring up a controversy was the intention or expectation when Dr. Suzuki’s name was proposed. Given the grief experienced by the university, it is highly unlikely anything like this will happen again for a very long time. So Mr. Kenney, despite his demand that the university administration should have to “wear this” – wear in with honour, I say! – has really gotten his way now.

However, if he continues to attack the U of A, all Mr. Kenney will be doing is damaging a great and valuable Alberta institution that belongs to us all, hurting especially the young Albertans who have worked hard and saved to study there.

This would be very much like what Mr. Kenney accuses Dr. Suzuki of doing when the scientist criticizes and proposes limits on the oil industry and the politician infers that this is the moral equivalent of attacking the people who work in the oilpatch. The difference is that there’s really no foundation for Mr. Kenney’s criticism of the U of A.

So if Mr. Kenney continues, since a repetition of this brouhaha is so unlikely, it will be obvious he is doing it strictly for his own political gain.

If he is the true Albertan he says he is, someone who is here for Alberta and Albertans, he will drop this now. If it turns out he’s just a transplanted Ontarian who’s here for himself, we’ll know it when we keep on hearing the same words, won’t we? We might even be able to revive the hashtag somebody, somewhere, cooked up for something … #DidntComeBackForYou.

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  1. Thanks for this DC. I remember when Rob Ford was elected mayor of Toronto, he said he would be the best mayor since William Lyon Mackenzie. Some wag responded that he would certainly be the wackiest mayor since Mel Lastman. That turned out to be an understatement. I suspect Doug will be the wackiest Ontario premier since Mike Harris, or possibly ever.

    Regarding UPC leader Jason Kenney and science, I remember what may have been Mr Kenney’s only policy statement, uttered before his resolution to say nothing at all about policy: he wanted to see an end to “politically correct themes like oppression and colonialism and climate change.” That pretty much tells us all we need to know.

    1. The term “colonialism” is politically incorrect—that is, in the sense that it is impolitic.

      I’m a advocate of reconciliation (so much so that when I say First Nations should be confederated to Canada a lot of people call me crazy) but the current fad-term is counterproductive as far as reconciliation is concerned.

      I get what this slogan trying to say: white society and its governments have grievously mistreated indigenous nations to whom compensation is now owed. It just says it the wrong way—and miscommunication can be very bad for reconciliation.

      Hackneyed slogans do little to compensate indigenous peoples for wrongs done to them, and to reinstate the legitimacy to their respective polities that they either had extinguished in bad faith by Canadian governments or have been denied by, in strictly legalistic terms, neglecting to settle treaties.

      The slogan ‘colonialism’ rallies some citizens but tends to repel others who, it has to be said, vastly outnumber them. Since we haven’t had colonial government for a long time and citizens now possess the franchise, reconciliation has become in large part a political matter that could never have happened in colonial times. The fad-term provokes snorts of derision from the usual suspects, but it is also shies away many who are only tentatively coming to accept that wrongs need to be righted and political fairness needs to be instituted to avoid wrongs happening again. It is simply counterproductive to cool these democratically essential citizens in a political —or post-colonial— world.

      It is more politic to include citizens who want reconciliation but impolitic to categorize them as ‘settlers’ in the accusatory way the slogan ‘decolonization’ is often perceived.

      There’s never been as much good will among Canadians to reconcile with First Nations as there is now, perhaps that’s a result of recent SCoC decisions that, for many FNs, have spearheaded real action on reconciliation instead of politics from which they’d been disenfranchised for so long and remain demographically diminutive today. With recent SCoC decisions we can finally get to down to brass tacks which will be a melding of political and legal achievements.

      From this milestone the various prejudices, smears, rhetoric and slogans that often pollute political discourse can no longer be used. The status quo —euphemistically but inappropriately called ‘colonialism’—simply cannot legally be sustained anymore. Treaty and ‘meaningful consultation’(regards resource development of traditional FN territories) interim to treaty negotiations now have to be quintessentially legalistic in nature, whereas a fuzzy slogan like “colonialism” becomes confusingly detrimental because many past wrongs have to be assessed in light of whether they happened in colonial times when many, but not all, treaties were settled. The distinction is critically germane; therefore the term ‘colonialism’ should be used in its literal, legal form and not its rhetorical form which is legally irrelevant when applied to post colonial times.

      One argument against this view is that Canadian governments treat FNs as if they were colonies—with no control over their own lives and unable to benefit from resource development on their traditional territories. That analogy is also inappropriate to reconciliation because what Canadian governments have done to FNs post-colonial is not a feature of classical colonialism, but rather a series of illegal acts for which Canada (including its provinces and Territories) is culpable and responsible. In a sense the fad-term—or so-called ‘politically correct’ term,‘colonialism’—obscures or disguises this fact; ‘decolonization,’ in the demanding tone it has been used lately would perversely let the culprits of many crimes off light—and possibly abandon FNs to parochial instead of federal interests that cannot sustain distinctive , modern indigenous cultures.

  2. Thank-you for owning up to your Ontario prediction Mr. Climenhaga. You are to be commended & respected for it.
    As an outsider viewing in to Ontario, the voters have spoken. For the next 4 years, they’ll live with the decisions made by a Doug Ford Gov’t regardless of the good or the bad or the ugly.

    Doug Ford reminds me of former AB premier Ralph Klein.
    Both have their flaws, both are human, both are straight to the point.
    What Doug Ford lacks is experience and knowledge. I hope he’ll rely heavily on experience and talents his voted in MLA’s bring in rather than himself.

    As for Dr. David Suzuki, he’s an Octogenarian now. He can and do say whatever he wants without impunity.

    1. Thank you for your words of praise, Jeff. It seemed more dignified than pretending I hadn’t said it, which is what I would have done if I were a Postmedia columnist. Also, more dignified than pointing out I identified a real (and unexpected) trend, which would be true, but not all that significant when betting the house. It is probably unknowable, but it would be instructive to know whether the NDP peaked too soon or not soon enough. Despite the voters having spoken – in that dangerously misleading single-member plurality way – there’s plenty that needs analysis here, and hopefully will get it, here or elsewhere: The future of the Ontario Liberal Party (I would say it is strong, they are the province’s NGP, and will bounce back from this), the impact of Fordism on the Conservative movement in Canada (not a clue, yet), the likelihood of a Rob-Ford-style meltdown while in office (small, but not microscopic), the role of the Harper Machine in the PC campaign, the impact of a Ford Prime Ministership on the Liberal Government in Ottawa (it’s not a slam dunk it will be bad for the Liberals), and so on. Analysis to follow, but I need to rest and ponder tonight after driving back to Edmonton after an all-day meeting in Canmore. DJC

      1. “…it would be instructive to know whether the NDP peaked too soon or not soon enough.”
        The numbers seem to indicate peaking too soon or later might not have mattered. According to Elections Ontario, PC votes totalled 2,322,422 (40.5%), the NDP 1,925,574 (33.6%), not enough wiggle room for even an NDP minority government. It appears people in Central Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area had their minds made up well in advance of polling day.

  3. re: ‘We have created concepts and structures of government and business that we then try to force nature to conform to’

    Alberta’s woodland caribou still haven’t figured out how to conform to a supposedly democratic governance system, but one that actually in practice functions to let industry operate Alberta as the senior partner in a joint-venture with our elected gov’ts: corporatism. Not democracy.

    so…most of Alberta’s woodland caribou herds are going slowly going extinct because our governments have allowed and continue to allow the logging industry to log too much of the caribou’s preferred habitat — intact old growth forests — and have also let the logging industry and the oil/gas/oilsands industry intensively fragment our forests with too many roads, siesmic lines, pipeline corridors.

    Government was told this industry-driven extinction of caribou would happen by their biologists as far back as the 80’s.
    By the late 90s, even a few brave industry biologists were publicly pointing out this problem with their own industry practices.

    But… our gov’t’s rather than direct industry to make substantial change, has been poisoning wolves, shooting helicopters to keep caribou herds at viable population levels. And recently fund industry to re-plant/recover some siesmic lines.

    EXCERPT: ‘Most experts agree the real problem for caribou has been the reduction of their habitat due to industrial use.’

    Make nature conform to industry? Yeah, Suzuki nailed it.

    What industry says it can afford is what Alberta’s wildlife, public lands, waters, air quality have mostly been made to conform to.

    Alberta based conservation/groups have been pointing out the caribou tragedy for decades. Alberta Wilderness Association has made huge efforts for decades. My old organization has weighed in too… CPAWS. Also PIAD to name the key Alberta groups. The AB logging industry is flipping out on them now for pushing the caribou habitat issue.

    But Suzuki’s platform makes him the much more important target of backlash of course.

    1. Endangered caribou in decline for decades… ‘conforming’ to industry/GoA decisions.

      And now, finally, ‘the first government led’ habitat restoration. Link below.

      Kudos to the current GoA for making a start.

      Wait a decade or so before cheering. Could easily be too little too late. Wildlife populations are funny like that. Don’t conform to industry timelines.

      And will future gov’ts keep paying for this? The oil/gas industry should never have been allowed to do this, and then leave the cost to public purse. We citizens are going to be picking up the bill for decades. Corporatism. Not democracy.

      EXCERPT: ‘…the trails are perfect for ATVs to go over, but the lines weren’t regenerating on their own because of the traffic.”

      Chad Willms, Alberta Environment’s manager of caribou range planning, said this was the project’s first government-led cutline restoration.

      The work went well and the intention is to continue next year, using heavy equipment for preparation in the winter when the wet ground will be frozen, then planting during the summer, he said.

      The area has thousands of kilometres of cutlines, part of the estimated 150,000 kilometres in 15 ranges across Alberta that need rehabilitation over 30 or 40 years.

      Another 100,000 kilometres of seismic lines are expected to grow back naturally.’

  4. Never having completed a university degree, Jason Kenney can’t be expected to understand how universities work or the principles of academic freedom upon which the academy is founded.
    Even when he was a university student, apparently, these matters escaped him.

  5. Comment was made that ‘Doug Ford reminds me of former AB premier Ralph Klein’.

    Yes he does remind me of Ralph Klein and he will leave Ontario in an infrastructure deficit just as good old Ralf did to Alberta and Harris did to Ontario and an infrasture deficit so big that Ontario may never get out of. Good luck Ontario with $1.00 beer, fuel prices subsidized by 10 cents a litre and your income tax reduced. Start shutting down your hospitals and schools and stop all road construction so you could balance your budget (just to leave those costs for the next generation to pay).

  6. There is something epochal going on here.
    Populations are acting out of bias and prejudice, from a position of blind faith; emphasis on the blind rather than faith.
    The magic, the utter majesty, the grandeur, the amazing wonder of empirical science is held in contempt.
    Trust and good faith are seen as fantastical as unicorns and fairy-dust.

    We see again in Ontario that the belief of what’s good for business is good for everyone is the bedrock principle on which all else follows. Worse, it’s the belief that ‘what is said’ to be good for business is good for everybody else. No effort to explain why or even to prove the connection. It’s an article of faith!
    The level of discourse in problem identification and problem solving is rudimentary at best, mostly just someone reporting poll results. The solution-sets are spawned from mob slogans. Slogans that have proven to be ineffective and counter-productive for centuries, since mobs began shouting for relief from their blood-lust.
    We see all this in Ontario this week and in the States on an almost daily basis. Is it because it’s too hard to explain durable and humane solutions to age-old problems? No, not at all. Most people don’t want to think thoughts that will require them to push back, to stand up for something, to make a decision. It seems they just want to feel good.
    Like debt, eventually there will be a price to pay.
    A little farther down that path of mindless, drooling, empty belief is Alberta. Here we know that whatever is good for oil is good for all of us. We’ve ‘known’ that for generations, it’s indisputable.
    Now, we use that knowledge to determine who is a good person and who is a bad person. A good person is one who can spout the liturgy of oil’s greatness; a bad person is one who can’t, or won’t. We spend all our time proving who is good and who is bad. Almost no time, officially, is spent on proving the economic or societal underpinnings that drive our beliefs; it’s too hard and much too confusing. And it doesn’t lead to good feelings generally. It’s better to concentrate on weeding out the bad people.
    This would have made Hitler and Stalin and Mao proud. This is what Bashar al-Assad and Putin are working so hard towards. It’s called fascism. Pure and simple.

    Suzuki reminds us that there is a real world, that there is reality. And that reality is not so easily understood. We are all better served, in fact, by understanding what is real. And then, “We have to find ways of living that do not undermine the very things that keep us alive”.

  7. Serious question: most of today’s “populist” politicians are neo-conservatives, railing against “elites”, meaning anyone with an education, and attracting the votes of the working class by fooling them into voting against their own best interests.

    But once upon a time in Canada, we had leftist populists, who railed against the business and corporate elites that dominate our economy and our society, and spoke directly to the working classes in terms they truly understood. Example included the late Tommy Douglas, and the late David Lewis—who remembers “corporate welfare bums”?—father of Stephen and grandfather of Avi—he of LEAP fame (or infamy, depending on your point of view). But where are the lefty populists of our time? Certainly you can’t hang that label on the ineffectual Jagmeet Singh, whose leadership of the Federal NDP has been completely underwhelming; or on our own Premier Rachel Notley, who is more of a pragmatist than a populist. Maybe had Charlie Angus won the Federal NDP leadership, we might have seen something close to lefty populism, but he didn’t. But a populist also to be an effective orator, plainspoken and rousing, who gets a crowd’s blood running by speaking to the little guy (or person, if you prefer, although by this I don’t necessarily refer to Little People), and there don’t seem to be any currently active politicians on the left who fit that bill.

    I despair for our society and our country, frankly.

  8. First off, I am not a Doug Ford fan. While I consider myself a fiscal conservative I am also a fiscal realist. In Ontario’s case, winning the right to be Premier is certainly no gift. None of the 3 party platforms in any way realistically addressed the fiscal mess created in the last 15 years by the Ontario Liberal’s. And I certainly agree with Tom that most people’s minds were made up before the election began.

    1. Farmer Brian; Ontario’s problems started way before the Liberals came to power, similar to what Ralph did to Alberta Harris did to Ontario, created an infrasture deficit by not building any schools hospitals or roads (just to show they could balance the budget) as the population kept growing. Government(s) that came after them needed to clean up this mess and now have or are taking the brunt of the blame for previous conservative government mismanagement.

      1. So let me get this straight Farmer Dave. It was Mike harris’s fault that in 15 years the Ontario Liberal’s added over $150 billion to Ontario’s debt? Was it Mike Harris’s fault that Daulton Mcguinty cancelled the contracts to build 2 natural gas powerplants that cost almost a billion dollars just to win a couple seats? In 2010 if you installed some solar panels the government would sign a contract to pay you 80 cent a kw for 20 years! It was a licence to print money! Doug Ford was elected because he was the only one who showed any concern about the cost and size of government, the other 2 wanted more government and more taxes and 15 years of that had gotten Ontarians nowhere! Enjoy your day

        1. Well Farmer Brian than you explain why Alberta’s Ralph choose to stop construction and maintenance of roads, no new hospitals or new schools. The current Alberta Government built 15 new schools last year the most built since 1913. I said 1913 – unbelievable for a province rich in resources like Alberta. A woman I worked with has two children and there is no room in any nearby school and her children are taking classes in the school gymnasium. This is a result of good old Ralph wanting to show the province he could balance the budget cut out all infrasture spending and left all the costs for todays government to fix. That is why Albert is in deficit an infrasture deficit which never should have occurred. In fact during Ralph’s days the province was swimming in money getting over $12.00 per BTU for natural gas, today it is $2.95 per BTU. And Ralph gave away Alberta’s oil royalties to the oil companies and governments after him have had trouble ever since to try and get royalties back to where they should be. Governments can’t start cutting costs for political reasons because one way or another someone will need to pay and today Alberta is paying for those poor decisions made by Ralph however anyone who is conservative will not admit to that.

        2. Farmer Brian, just a follow up to my last comment, both Ralph and Harris followed the same formula for Alberta and Ontario. Don’t spend any infrasture money or maintenance money for the moment and leave the mess for others to clean up.

  9. Good luck Ontario with that new Ford. You have bet the house on blue, I am not sure how that will work out, perhaps no one even including Mr. Ford is. Fasten your seatbelts it could be a bumpy ride at times.

    Yikes, Ford does remind me of Klein a lot, but if it is any consolation, not Trump so much. Klein at least had several terms experience as mayor and some time as a provincial cabinet minister. Ford’s experience is much more limited.

    Although I think he is the less likeable of the Ford brothers, Doug seems a bit more grounded than his brother who became famous for all the wrong reasons. Also Ford did not really promise big cuts like Klein did so he might be wise to focus on things he did promise like “buck a beer”. I can’t believe Ralph didn’t think of that one first.

    I suspect Ontario is in for a bit of austerity, which the PC’s will have to handle carefully because they weren’t very upfront with the voters about it in their campaign. If they don’t or the economy sours their tenuous embrace of Ford could quickly sour too.

    It was nice to see the protest of Suzuki was rather small. I think the UCP may have whipped up a bit of populist outrage, but it sort of fizzled after the pipeline was back on. Maybe Kenney needs to go to Ontario and learn how populism really works. I expect Kenney has been a political insider for too long to really get it. It’s like a good classical musician taking up jazz in his later years. He might get some of the technique but it’s too mechanical and not authethentic. Populism is best left to outsiders not former Federal cabinet ministers.

  10. “This is an individual who has spent considerable time attacking our largest industry and attacking by default the people that work in it,” complained UCP House Leader Jason Nixon.

    I’m having a hard time finding Dr. Suzuki’s criticisms of Alberta Health Services, perhaps he meant the Service sector? Oil and gas are hardly the largest industry in Alberta (construction is), but why would a politician need to know what the largest industry in our province is in order to make a declaration on it? Also, it appears that the Educational Services sector of the Alberta economy is also larger than Oil and Gas, so all these criticisms of the University of Alberta could be phrased along the lines of “attacking our largest industry and attacking by default the people that work in it”.

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