Bill Blair set to play good cop/ bad cop with an old enemy — Doug Ford

by Tim Harper

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna enjoyed herself at the Lauryn Hill concert in Toronto on Wednesday, and that was nice to know because many didn’t.

She took to social media to tell us just that, but because acrimony between the Justin Trudeau government and the Doug Ford provincial government does not end at the Budweiser stage, McKenna prefaced her review of Hill.

“It may be back to the ’90s in Ontario – sex ed, no climate plan. But boy does Lauryn Hill rock,” McKenna wrote.

If you were wondering what the sexual education curriculum and climate change had to do with the show, you havenít been paying attention. There’s always an excuse for another toss of the grenade in a relationship that has devolved more quickly than even the most cynical of us might have anticipated.

In its early honeymoon stage, the Ford government treats its world as a giant wedge issue. Each day provides another opportunity to provoke a senior government that is too readily provoked.

On this day, McKenna tweeted a straightforward photo of her and her Ontario counterpart, Rod Phillips, talking climate change across the table.

This was apparently too much for Phillips, who, moments later, tweeted the same photo with this message: “I made it clear in my meeting this morning with (McKenna) that Ontario will never accept the Trudeau Carbon Tax.”

That led to mutual expressions of disappointment that begat a statement from McKenna accusing the Ford government of failing to create jobs or support the economy, which begat the concert tweet that included the barb on sexual education, which is a provincial responsibility.

It was all show. Both Phillips and McKenna knew Ford was about to join Saskatchewan in its court challenge of the Trudeau carbon tax plan, which he did Thursday morning.

There was similarly no diplomacy in the Winnipeg air last week when Lisa MacLeod, the Ontario minister in charge of immigration, clashed with her federal counterpart Ahmed Hussen.

MacLeod theatrically walked away from discussions, prompting a broadside from Hussen who accused the Ford PCs of “fear-mongering” on asylum-seekers, and acting in a manner that was not Canadian. Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts likened conservative alarm on the matter to the “alt-right” in the U.S. and MacLeod flew into high dudgeon, talking about her family’s war service and adding, “Gerry and Ahmed can’t help themselves. For a feminist government they sure are mean to women who donít agree with them.”

And, of course, there was the Ford grenade tossed at Trudeau just as the two met for the first time, in which Ontario wiped its hands of any involvement in what it called the asylum “mess” created by the federal Liberals. Trudeau told reporters he had schooled the new premier on Canadaís obligations to asylum-seekers.

If you think this type of rhetoric debases politics, youíre right. And if you think it is not going to end any time soon, youíre probably right again.

Trudeau was right to call in the cops. Yes, Dominic Leblanc gets the thankless task of dealing with the provinces. But former Toronto police chief Bill Blair will now touch on many files as a member of cabinet, including those playing out on Fordís turf.

On cannabis, his police credentials may carry some weight with homeland security on looming border problems, and Blair also says he is in favour of an amnesty for those burdened by possession convictions.

Ford will look for reasons to undermine the federal pot rollout. Blair will push back.

On gangs and guns, Blair showed as chief he understood that poverty, inadequate housing and a lack of services played a huge role in the allure of gangs and he was a staunch backer of a federal gun registry.

On the asylum question, his appointment as the point man on that file is a Liberal admission that they have a problem that needs management. He could be just the support Hussen needs to push back against the fear-mongering.

But it is the contempt in which he is held by Ford which could be Trudeau’s masterstroke.

After Blair confirmed the existence of Rob Fordís crack video and expressed his “disappointment” in the late mayor, Doug Ford declared Blair his mortal enemy.

Since Ford is spoiling for a fight with the Liberals, the Liberals might as well bring enemy number one under the tent for the brawl.

On most of his files, Blair can play good cop. But with Ford, he has already shown his skill as the bad cop.

Twitter: @nutgraf1
Copyright 2018-Torstar Syndication Services

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