In 1837, in what is now Ontario but was then called “Upper Canada”, there was a rebellion. The rebels were fighting for the cause of representative government in a province which, at the time, was largely ruled by a relatively small clique of Tory landholders called the “Family Compact”. The extent to which members of this compact were related to each other has perhaps been exaggerated, but they were certainly socially tight-knit, forming a quite exclusive ruling class.
The Whiggish interpretation of this history we learned in school was that although the rebellion was quickly put down, the cause for which the rebels fought eventually triumphed. It’s a comforting notion, but I’ve noticed of late that if it were ever true, it is becoming ever less so now. I was reminded of this by a bit of recent news.
According to a July 18, 2018 Toronto Star column, Blayne Lastman, the son of vulgar furniture salesman and former Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman, was considering a run for his father’s old job (I should qualify by saying that Blayne is Mel’s legitimate son). As the Star columnist rightly noted, “Why else but the sheer fact of his surname does a guy like Blayne Lastman feel comfortable declaring an interest in running for mayor without first presenting to the public a single coherent idea about how he will make the city a better place?” Blayne Lastman’s qualifications for office consist exclusively of a) running his family’s furniture store, and b) being the (legitimate) son of a former mayor.
The last thing Torontonians, Ontarians, and Canadians need is another family dynasty. Our current family compact makes the old one seem quaint by comparison. Below is a sample of the familial rot in all three levels of government here in “Toronto the Good”. It is by no means an exhaustive list and could be significantly extended. It makes for sobering reading and goes far towards explaining the poor quality of governance in this city, this province, and indeed this nation. One wonders whether representative government really did triumph after 1837, or whether perhaps it is once again time for torches and pitchforks.
City of Toronto
Michael Ford: Current Toronto councillor; nephew of Doug Ford, current Premier of Ontario and former Toronto councillor. Nephew of Rob Ford, former councillor and infamous crack-smoking Mayor of Toronto.
Josh Colle: Current Toronto councillor; son of former Ontario MPP Mike Colle.
Joe Cressy: Current Toronto councillor; son of former Toronto councillors Gordon Cressy and Joanne Campbell. Joanne had been Gordon’s executive assistant while he was on council, and was elected to his seat after he stepped down. She subsequently married him. Oh, if only the walls of some of those City Hall offices could talk, what tales they could tell…
Mike Layton: Current Toronto councillor; son of Jack Layton, former Toronto councillor, former federal MP, and Leader of the Opposition. Jack was himself the son of former federal MP and cabinet minister Bob Layton. Mike's stepmother is also a former Toronto councillor.
Stephen Holyday: Current Toronto councillor; son of Doug Holyday, former Toronto councillor.
Frances Nunziata: Current Toronto councillor; sister of former federal MP John Nunziata.
Michelle Holland: Current Toronto councillor; wife of former Toronto councillor and Ontario MPP Lorenzo Berardinetti.
Christin Carmichael Greb: Current Toronto councillor; daughter of former federal MP John Carmichael.
David Shiner: Current Toronto councillor; son of former North York borough councillor Esther Shiner.
Mike McCormack: Current head of Toronto’s police union; son of former Toronto chief of police William McCormack. He has been the subject of several criminal charges during his career, including corruption, discreditable conduct, and insubordination. Untouchable criminal thug.
Province of Ontario
Doug Ford: Current Premier of Ontario and former Toronto councillor; uncle of current Toronto councillor Michael Ford; son of former Ontario MPP Doug Ford Sr.; brother of Rob Ford (see above, under Michael Ford).
Christine Elliott: Current Ontario MPP and cabinet minister; widow of Jim Flaherty, former Ontario MPP and cabinet minister and former federal Minister of Finance.
Caroline Mulroney: Current Ontario MPP and cabinet minister; daughter of former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Mike Harris Jr.: Current Ontario MPP; son of former Premier of Ontario Mike Harris.
Government of Canada
Justin Trudeau: Current Prime Minister of Canada; son of Pierre Trudeau, former Prime Minister of Canada.
Niki Ashton: Current federal MP; daughter of Manitoba provincial cabinet minister Steve Ashton.
Daniel Blaikie: Current federal MP; son of former federal MP Bill Blaikie. Serves in his father’s former riding.
Tony Clement: Current federal MP and former cabinet minister; adopted son of former Ontario MPP and cabinet minister John Clement.
Diane Finley: Current federal MP; widow of political operative and former Senator Doug Finley.
David McGuinty: Current federal MP; brother of former Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty; son of former Ontario MPP Dalton McGuinty Sr.
Geoff Regan: Current federal MP and Speaker of the House of Commons; son of former Nova Scotia Premier and accused sex offender Gerald Regan. His maternal grandfather was a federal MP.
Francesco Sorbara: Current federal MP; relative of Greg Sorbara, former Ontario MPP and Minister of Finance. In Ontario, the extended Sorbara clan are a “family” in much the same sense that the Sopranos or the Gambinos are families. I could tell stories, but it’s safest not to.
Adam Vaughan: Current federal MP and former Toronto councillor; son of Colin Vaughan, also a former Toronto councillor. It’s also worth noting that Adam succeeded his father as political reporter for a certain local television station back in 2000. A very famous mediocrity in Toronto politics.
UPDATE: Municipal elections were held on October 23, 2018, after the above was posted. First, the good news: Shiner, Holland, Colle, and Greb are out. Unfortunately, Colle was replaced by his father, Mike Colle. Now, the bad news: Due to the fact that for this election, the number of wards was reduced from 47 to 25, the proportion of Toronto council seats held by the family compact has increased, from 19.15% to 24%. Several incumbents were replaced by other incumbents, as the circle closed. In Vancouver, Pete Fry was elected to a seat on Vancouver's city council. Pete's mother is Vancouver-area federal MP and race-baiter Hedy Fry. Fry mater is currently the longest serving MP in the House of Commons, having been first elected in 1993 (term limits anyone?). Oh, and history was also made in this set of municipal elections, as it was the first time that a married couple were both elected as trustees for the Toronto District School Board - quite a feat, as they were elected in different wards. Since they live together, might one assume that perhaps the ward boundary runs right down the centre of the marital bed? In any case, another triumphant day for democracy in Canada.