Doug Ford's trained seals embarrass themselves - 2019-03-21
For at least 40 years, Queen's Park backbenchers have complained that power is increasingly held by the unelected gatekeepers in the premier's office and their own role has been reduced to that of compliant yes(wo)men. In fact, the most common emotional trajectory in provincial politics is the newbie MPPs plunge from idealism to the dispirited realization that his or her lot is tedious hours of house duty, the recitation of canned speeches and forelock-tugging to the leadership. The introduction of TV into the legislature in 1986 launched the era of backbenchers as performance art. The onset of caucus "messaging" – singing from the same rhetorical hymnal – took off in Ontario under the Mike Harris government in the 1990s.
Leave it to Premier Doug Ford, however, to reach new depths of inanity. Standing ovations for Ford and his cabinet ministers have become mandatory for Progressive Conservatives in the legislature, turning the government side into a crowd of fawning applauders worthy of citizenship in North Korea. In being turfed from Ford's caucus last week for his unruly ways, MPP Randy Hillier declared that one of the reasons he was expelled was his refusal to "stand and applaud" Ford's every utterance in Question Period.
Hillier's assertion that the clapping is a command performance is not difficult to believe, given that no set of adults would behave so obsequiously of their own free will. To their feet they spring many times daily, furiously applauding dear leader, even as they furtively scan the chamber to ensure the premier's ever-watchful staff has noted their fealty.