If you, like me, spend any time on Twitter, you’ll have seen this hashtag trending before, and now you get to see it again.
I’m not really one to delve into the nitty gritty of politics because I don’t think the problem is Doug Ford. He’s the inevitable conclusion of cronyism and a divided populace, rent further asunder every day. Like Trump was the inevitable conclusion of the US’s particular brand of us-versus-them. Ford capitalized on empty promises, good-ole-boy quid pro quo, and borrowed authority.
But he, like Trump, was only able to achieve this because the system lay out a red carpet for him. Despite being a straight, white, rich man, he was able to market himself as the underdog. But lie down with dogs…
Recently, #MattamyHomes was trending and, being a glutton for punishment, I checked it out. I immediately saw the photo of a woman in a white top being groped by older men, t-shirts with company logos visible, and alcohol fuelling the fire. As this picture went viral, many people decried the lack of masks and social distancing at this little informal get-together. However, I was far from alone in my condemnation of these men for taking advantage of our patriarchal society to further normalize the objectification and consumption of women. Referred to widely as a stripper, the woman in the video did not consent to having photos of her spread like wildfire.
Imagine for a moment her position: she gets a call to visit a work site. The already male-dominated field also boasts a heavy dose of toxic masculinity. (Not just men, but men with poisonous ideas of what it means to be a man.) For any woman, walking alone into a scene where rowdy male strangers are drinking will put her on high alert. Now imagine your job is to entertain these men, ward off advances that are too aggressive, and try not to breathe in their alcohol-scented exhales because, yes, we are in a pandemic.
The lack of social distance is alarming, sure. But the exploitation of women is gut-wrenching. That this is so normal, so accepted, is a problem. And when there is a photograph of one instance, it stands to reason that there have been many more such occurrences that were recorded for posterity (or bragging rights).
I don’t care who was fired or who was hand-slapped. I don’t care about the mealy-mouthed apologies from a company who donated a working-person’s fortune to the PC Party who is handing out MZOs (Minister’s Zoning Orders, basically non-appealable fast-tracked permission to get shovels in the ground for construction companies) like shots at a… well, at a job site.
I don’t care about that because, again, they are symptoms of the diseases that are consuming our world, bite by bite: male supremacy, capitalism, and colonization, to name the forces at play here. They did this because they could, because the groundwork has been laid by forefathers. They will keep doing it until they can’t.
Of course, reading about this incident led me to look into the construction industry in Ontario and the ties to Ford and his government. A rabbit-hole with bright neon lights pointing down it. Here’s a good primer for how developers and land speculators stand to benefit from the 413 Highway proposal and how they opened their wallets to give more than $750,000 to the PC Party in order to have their interests ‘represented’. Mattamy Homes alone donated $100,000 to Ontario Proud, a third-party political advocacy group that raised money on behalf of the PC Party. The ties aren’t even loose…
For a treat, here’s a catchy tune from local musicians The Smith-Currie Family Band to listen to in the background while you read the previous article, mouth agape.
What else? Well, the Ontario Government recently kneecapped Ontario’s conservation authorities, and then blatantly installed three members of development corporations on the conversation advisory board, including The Remington Group, EQ Homes, and, yep, Mattamy Homes, who all stand to benefit substantially from the eradication of environmental protections.
Doug Ford has determinedly kept the construction companies afloat during this pandemic, repeatedly insisting that they are essential. It does seem that, if you follow the money, they have more than paid for this privilege. Of course, it isn’t the construction workers at these companies who are profiting off this decision—it’s the names on the letterhead that are being financially rewarded for Ford’s inability to put people before profit.
In fact, many of the staff at construction sites around the province are begging to be protected, decrying the lack of sanitation services—they don’t have hot water on site to wash their hands and, horrifically, are reporting overflowing portable toilets. Masks are a blue-moon rarity and social distancing is described as impossible. And yet, Ford has decreed the industry as essential, “including construction projects that support the health care, transit, energy and justice sectors as well as those in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors.” So… all of it.
Money has a big mouth.
So the long-game player in me is saying this industry isn’t sustainable, that too much money has changed hands and the rabbit hole is too deep. The long-game player wants to see more women on the sites to change the atmosphere because we all know that when certain men get money, women are considered for sale. I want to see more reasonable men saying, “this isn’t okay”, because that’s what it’ll take to make this stop.
But for the here and now? Ontario can’t be open for business. Ford needs to start thinking about the people who make up its population. He can’t keep all his donors happy and also keep us safe. We are in a crisis the likes of which most of us have never experienced. And people who voted for a good-time guy with promises as cheap as the beer he guaranteed are feeling disappointed and betrayed. My hope is that, moving forward, we elect leaders capable of leading, leaders who can rise to unforeseen challenges, leaders who can’t be bought.
You know, when I first saw Ford’s tearful apology, I was hopeful. Maybe he’s discarding the toxic mask, maybe he’s sincerely seen the error of his ways. But like many victims of abuse can attest, those tears came from a crocodile, not a person willing to change. At the end of the day, people are still dying and our leader is out of sight—and we’re out of his mind.
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Kathleen May is a writer, speaker, and activist. Her column, She Speaks, has appeared in the Huntsville Doppler since 2018. Her work in our community includes co-founding the long-running Huntsville Women’s Group, volunteering with Muskoka Parry Sound Sexual Assault Services, and her role as a front-line counsellor at the women’s shelter. Kathleen is a 2018 Woman of Distinction for Social Activism and Community Development. She was longlisted for the 2020 CBC Short Story Prize, short-listed for the 2019 CBC Nonfiction Prize, and received the Best Author award for her 2018 submission at the Muskoka Novel Marathon, a fundraiser for literacy services. When she isn’t writing, she’s designing a tiny house which she intends to be the impetus for a sustainable women’s land co-operative in Muskoka.