If you are anything like me, relentless media predictions of a Tory majority in the upcoming provincial election, with Doug Ford as the next premier, are super depressing.
“A desire for change” is seen as sufficient excuse to elect a government led by a novice of questionable reputation with a penchant for divisiveness and “doing his own thing.” Chosen by courting the extreme social conservatives in his own party, his first action on assuming the leadership was to shred his party’s platform unilaterally. Apparently “The People’s Guarantee” was a personal frolic of the discredited Patrick Brown and did not represent the considered intentions of the Ontario Conservative Party. If it didn’t, then what does? What does the Tory party with its new leader offer to the people of Ontario? Apart from some vague notion of “change,” we’ve heard nothing. Nada. It’s been two months since the Tory party leadership changed and still no platform.
Only a general call “to find efficiencies” in government. What efficiencies? To what programs and services? Doug Ford and the Tories do not say.
But Ford does promise to “fire the C.E.O. of Ontario Hydro,” which business commentators universally dismissed as “naïve, amateurish, and of no utility” in solving the problems at Ontario Hydro. And he promises to “audit the finances of the Liberal government,” an exercise independently completed last week as required by legislation passed by the Liberals themselves and now biting them back before the election itself. But if the Libs went into greater debt than they claimed to finance a reduction in hydro prices, Ford will add to the debt by promising to reduce hydro bills by a further 12%. Duh?
He has absolutely no policy on the environment, but will oppose any carbon tax, and will cut the highly successful cap-and-trade system, which is earning good money for green initiatives in Ontario. And he promises to “shut down” the newly opened drug addiction clinics, which all medical, legal, and law enforcement experts across the country support. Oh yes, and, despite years of parental and professional consultation, he will scrap the existing sex education curriculum for Ontario students. He has to do that, because he must repay the Granic Allen social conservatives who gave him the leadership.
Doug Ford knows nothing about provincial policy and has a track record at the municipal level of disliking the detail and collaboration that good policy development requires. What he seeks is a blank cheque to do what he wants, whatever it might be. Leave it to Ford to “stop the gravy train” in Toronto (and in Ontario), just as Americans were to rely on Donald Trump to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
As it turned out, there wasn’t a gravy train in Toronto, the executive in the White House is a revolving door, and Washington DC is full of Republicans “swamped” by the unpopularity of their own ostensible leader. Doug Ford may not be totally analogous to Donald Trump, but the Ontario Conservative Party has sold its soul to the same inexperience and populist bombast as did the Republicans in the United States two years ago. Former Ontario Premier Bill Davis must be appalled at what his strong and principled political party has become.
If there is a need to curb the current Liberal government, there are other ways to do so than by giving a majority government to a political party that its own interim leader, less than three months ago, said was full of “rot.”
Have you noticed how the Tories are reining in their new leader, clearly scared silly that he might go off message? There is a Tory campaign bus, but the media has been denied access to it. “The media can attend my campaign meetings,” says Doug Ford, but he won’t facilitate their being there. That reminds me of how Mayor Rob Ford, with the support of his enabling brother Doug, denied the Toronto Star notice of the mayor’s agenda. Why? Because the Toronto Star exposed Rob Ford for what he was. Informed journalism is not what the Fords wanted when they were in earlier political office. And apparently not when Doug Ford is running for provincial election either.
When the Tories get their act together, and Doug Ford can be brought up to speed, maybe they will resurrect “The People’s Guarantee” which Ford so abruptly rejected. Saturday’s announcement that the PC’s are proposing a tax-rebate plan for child care may be the beginnings of that. If and when they do, we can look at their platform in greater detail. For the moment, the Tories are offering a pig in a poke, and one wonders why so many people are willing to buy in.