Who ben­e­fits from at­tack­ing the Tories?

Windsor Star - - CITY + REGION - CHRIS SEL­LEY Na­tional Post csel­ley@na­tion­al­post.com Twit­ter: csel­ley

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.

CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

On­tario NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath stands to gain while Lib­er­als go af­ter the Tories, Chris Sel­ley writes.

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