Who benefits from attacking the Tories?
Ontario PC leader Doug Ford had enough problems with candidates before audio emerged Thursday of Parm Gill, the Tory candidate in Milton, apparently trying to coax a rival out of the nomination race with the offer of a chief-of-staff position.
A cynic might suggest there’s nothing untoward about it: Former Liberal campaign chair Pat Sorbara and Sudbury Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed were resoundingly acquitted of bribery charges under the Elections Act pertaining to an almost identical situation. (The judge found the act simply doesn’t apply to people contesting party nomination races.) But it’s a bad look: that’s public money Gill was playing with, and we all know Ford respects the taxpayer first and foremost. More perplexingly for the party, perhaps, the audio — obtained independently by the National Post’s Tom Blackwell and also posted earlier Thursday by online news site The Post Millenial, dates from 2016.
The party has had it all this time. Moreover, Gill was tight with former leader Patrick Brown, who has long since been excommunicated from the party. Interim leader Vic Fedeli just recently spent many weeks rooting out various forms of “rot” that Brown allowed to grow and, Fedeli said, successfully eradicating them. But Gill’s arrangement apparently slipped through the candidate screening process. As apparently did former Mississauga Centre candidate Tanya Granic Allen’s comments about the pace of social liberalization in Croatia, and her comparing women in niqabs to ninjas and bank robbers. As apparently did London West candidate Andrew Lawton’s various since-deleted Twitter jokes involving Islam. As apparently did Kanata-Carleton candidate Merrillee Fullerton’s Tweet about a niqab-wearing teacher.
Or maybe the Tories simply have different standards as to what’s beyond the pale. I do myself, as it happens. The Liberals can’t believe Lawton said “being friendly and welcoming is one of those situations where women are better than men.” I’m not sure I agree, but find that objectively inoffensive. We are meant to swoon in shock at Lawton’s suggestion that black and Hispanic Americans are arrested more often because they commit more crimes. I think it’s vastly more complicated than that, but I know tons of people think that. A Toronto Star columnist dug this up: “I left the Anglican church when they made the decision to allow gay marriage.” Well, see, you’re still allowed to have religious opinions about same-sex marriage. Out here in the real world, that’s not in dispute.
That’s not to say Lawton’s a good candidate. He’s clearly a liability. No matter what he says, he’s very unlikely to steal an NDP riding at a time when the party is surging in the polls. Ford actually appointed him, and now he has to waste his time defending him. But the theatrical Liberal demands that Ford ditch him and Fullerton sound more like a death rattle to me than like a plan.
“Doug Ford will disavow these remarks, just as he disavowed his plan to remove rent controls, or develop the Greenbelt,” a Liberal press release intoned this week. “It is increasingly obvious that the Doug Ford being presented to Ontarians is nothing like the real Doug Ford.”
Scary stuff. Only … why would it make anyone want to vote for the clapped-out third-place party that seems to be drifting toward oblivion? Why wouldn’t they vote instead for the second-place party with the broadly similar platform whose leader seems to be talking mostly about policy? The NDP need tons more support if they’re even going to deny Doug Ford a majority. Wilfrid Laurier University professor Barry Kay’s latest seat projection, based on 30-per-cent NDP support and 40-per-cent PC, gives the Tories a majority with 58 per cent of the seats. It’s likely not enough for the NDP to attract disaffected Liberal-intended voters; they also need to offer a soft landing for PC-intended voters who get cold feet about Ford, but still want change. If I were Horwath, I’d be more than happy to stand by serenely while the Liberals go at Ford and his candidates hammer and tongs.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath stands to gain while Liberals go after the Tories, Chris Selley writes.