A caution and a comparison

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You're probably as tired of the steady stream of news about scandals as I am, but the announcement that Premier Kathleen Wynne has brought former prime minister Paul Martin on board to help balance the books for Ontario should send chills into anyone who remembers how he handled that chore for Ottawa when he was Minister of Finance.

There was a healthy retirement fund built up with money from the government and money from a union of public employees. The employees accepted lower pay to help the government put in its portion. They would receive a comfortable pension on retirement.

Martin drew the money out of the fund and put it into the general accounts to help lower the deficit. He never paid it back. Courts decided he did not break the law.

Next the employees' deductions were increased to rebuild the fund. This lowered their already low take-home pay and their hopes for a comfortable pension.

Watch your wallets.

I'm presently reading Margaret MacMillan's new book, The War That Ended The Peace. The author examines the leaders of nations during the years leading to the beginning of World War I in 1914, their personalities, their ambitions, their actions. The personality of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Emperor of Germany until he was forced to abdicate in 1918, had traits much like those of the mayor of Toronto today.

Wilhelm fired his ministers and advisers when they displeased him. He named new ones without advice. He dismissed Otto Von Bismarck, the man who made Germany a great power in Europe and could have prevented stumbling into a war.

Wilhelm never bothered to read the constitution and tossed reports aside unread or only partly examined. He never read newspapers. He claimed the divine right of kings, and spent as much of his time away from his wife as he could. She was likely to insist on his paying heed to God who anointed him to be king.

We see by the latest news that Mayor Ford doesn't prefer the comradeship of soldiers as did Wilhelm. He enjoys dancing with young women, and they seem to be happy to party with him. Both men enjoy or enjoyed ribaldry.

Both men were shaped by their upbringing, but Wilhelm from the hour of his birth was neglected or treated harshly. The attendants laid him aside at birth to attend his mother after a difficult delivery. By the time it was noticed his arm had been pulled from its socket it was too late to repair the damage. Ford is reported to have been protected from taking responsibility for his behaviour. His family was wealthy enough to buy off prosecutors.

Ford's threats to people who cross him have brought lots of harumphing. Wilhelm is quoted as saying, "To hell with it! I am the Supreme War Lord. I do not decide. I command.”

He ordered his soldiers, on their way to put down the Boxer Rebellion in China, to "be like the Huns of old." He expected the effects on Chinese to last a thousand years. Perhaps he was right about the time, but not about the way his brutality shaped Chinese attitudes.

Both Ford and Wilhelm are known for shifting their stories. Hard to know whether they did and do so from artfulness or lack of attention.

The two may be much alike but I don't expect Mayor Ford to launch a world war. He's more likely to kill people with laughing.





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