By August 27 in Ontario, you’ll be able to drink a little cheaper. After winning a campaign hinged heavily on the spirit of MAGA, Premier Doug Ford will pull the trigger on Buck-A-Beer™ and bring another of his populist election promises to pass. So congratulations, everybody who voted for him: in the past two months, Ford’s Conservative government has made revisions to Indigenous content in Ontario curriculum, rolled back sex ed to 1998 and cut new funding for mental health services by $330 million. Make Ontario great again — or something.
Of course, cheap beer is wonderful, right? I mean yes, craft brewers have been explicit in reminding us that buck-a-beer is not economically viable. And okay fine, it will in no way lead to a freer market. But the world is on fire, so take a drink. That is, unless you can’t.
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As of May 9, I’ve been sober for five years. I work hard at it, I miss drinking and wish I could do it responsibly, and I will (and have) curse(d) every bar that doesn’t offer sparkling water (because fountain soda water isn’t the same, and everybody knows it). So, thanks to Doug Ford’s buck-a-beer campaign, I’m getting an extra-special glimpse into his administration’s ideologies. Specifically, that the Conservatives would rather prioritize “twirling towards freedom”-inspired slogans than recognize that a platform built on alcohol means nothing to voters who don’t drink. Or more specifically, that Ford in particular doesn’t seem to give a shit.
Of course, we already knew that. We’ve known for a while, considering that in the middle of a national opioid crisis, Ford’s government is reviewing safe injection sites to see “whether they have merit” (overwhelming research says they do) and that it has also ordered a freeze on opening new overdose centres. On top of this, the Conservatives have also cut Liberal party-sanctioned scheduled increases to social assistance.
I hate all of this. I hate that Ford’s seeming ignorance appears to be impairing his ability to be a responsible leader. And I also hate that some people are so excited about cheap beer that they chose not to think about what a Ford government looks like to people who battle addiction, or those who need mental health resources.
My own perspective is one with enormous privilege: I’ve always had access to emotional and mental support. I have always had family to turn to when I needed them. I have friends I can talk to who’ve been generously open about their own addictions. I’ve always had places to go and stay and sleep safely. I have a doctor who’s always listened to me and taken mental health seriously. Through that same doctor, I’ve had access to two therapists who’ve helped me work through everything from anxiety to my capacity for self-destruction. But I am also not the norm. Ford’s budget cuts? They stand to further target the victims of a system already steeped in an imbalance of power. Which is ironic since, like Trump, Ford has been so happy to identify himself as the everyman. He’s directed his rhetoric at the working class, promising them big changes and great results, but while doing so, has ignored the fact that addiction doesn’t discriminate, that it also exists among his favoured constituents, and that by waging war on mental health and substance abuse support, he might as well fly a banner that says, “Go fuck yourself.” To everyone.
Or at least that’s what *I* hear every time Ford’s smiling photo appears alongside his latest tweet, touting the merits of buck-a-beer and lower taxes (and conveniently not mentioning the toll fewer tax dollars might take elsewhere). I also hear that those who don’t drink — whether because of addiction or because of personal or religious beliefs — aren’t the citizens he seeks to appease. So I will email and call my MPP and repeat the same things that I just wrote here, reminding myself that our government, no matter how flawed and backwards it may be, works for us. Because while I may not wield a spectacular amount of power, I will utilize what I do have. And I remind myself that if the masses can rally around cheap beer, surely, at some point, they’ll have to do the same for addiction and mental health support.