10 hard lessons, takeaways and ob­ser­va­tions from Doug Ford’s win from hell – stand back, a lot of fur­ni­ture will be bro­ken



So Doug Ford it is. For those of us liv­ing in the bub­ble known as down­town Toronto, last Thurs­day’s ma­jor­ity win for Ford’s PCs was a shock to val­ues we thought we shared with other On­tar­i­ans. Wel­come to the new nor­mal in pol­i­tics. A lot of ef­fort was ex­pended by NDP op­er­a­tives (and a few Lib­er­als, too) teas­ing out PC leader Doug Ford’s not-so-well known con­nec­tions to so­cial con­ser­va­tives and other ques­tion­able char­ac­ters who oc­cupy the fringes of the PC party. Mem­bers of the me­dia were sent emails through­out the cam­paign en­cour­ag­ing them to fol­low sto­ries high­light­ing ev­ery­thing from Ford’s re­marks about his Jewish doc­tor, lawyer and den­tist, to his al­leged sup­port for teach­ing cre­ation­ism in schools. It didn’t work. In fact, it tough­ened the re­solve of his sup­port­ers, who saw it as noth­ing more than gotcha pol­i­tics. The vot­ing pub­lic, it seems, could care less if the premier of On­tario is a bigot and a ho­mo­phobe. They just wanted to vote for some­one who’ll shake things up.


Neo-con colum­nists sym­pa­thetic to Ford like to point out the pre­mierdes­ig­nate’s sup­port among eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties to ar­gue he’s no Don­ald Trump. Of course, it could be pointed out that Ford and Trump carry around a sim­i­lar white saviour com­plex when it comes to eth­nic mi­nori­ties. But Ford and Trump are ex­actly alike in the most im­por­tant re­spect – they both want to de­stroy the very no­tion that gov­ern­ment can be a force for good. Stand back, folks: a lot of fur­ni­ture will be bro­ken.


Much has been writ­ten about how our first-past-the post elec­toral sys­tem in­vari­ably ends up sad­dling the ma­jor­ity of vot­ers with gov­ern­ments they don’t want. The same can be said for On­tario Elec­tion 2018 to a de­gree. The PCs won a ma­jor­ity with 40 per cent of the pop­u­lar vote. But the num­bers aren’t the worst of it. Ford stole this one with­out re­leas­ing a fully-costed plat­form, which is not the kind of thing that’s sup­posed to hap­pen in a province with a hun­dreds-year-old tra­di­tion of democ­racy.


“There are more good ap­ples in pol­i­tics than bad ones.” That’s what for­mer PC leader Pa­trick Brown tweeted on elec­tion night as he cel­e­brated the wins of PC can­di­dates he helped re­cruit. It was a sur­pris­ing thing to say for some­one who was forced out of of­fice by his own party over sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions af­ter some be­hind-the-scenes skull­dug­gery. But Brown’s rosy out­look is hard to square with the fact that, among the PC can­di­dates on the bal­lot, some 29 are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by po­lice and Elec­tions On­tario for al­legedly us­ing stolen data to fur­ther their nom­i­na­tion cam­paigns. The al­le­ga­tions in­clude pay­ing peo­ple to vote for them dur­ing the nom­i­na­tion process. The 29 in­di­vid­u­als have yet to be iden­ti­fied, but pre­sum­ably more than a few of them were elected. Does that make them un­touch­able now?


There’s some­thing about the aura of power that melts the brains of re­porters. We saw it when Doug’s brother Rob be­came mayor of Toronto. A sim­i­lar dy­namic oc­curred af­ter Doug be­came PC leader. Those in the em­ploy of con­ser­va­tive main­stream me­dia out­lets, which it must be said makes up the ma­jor­ity of the po­lit­i­cal cov­er­age these days, were quick to ac­cord the PC leader the re­spect that comes with the ti­tle. Oth­ers in the Queen’s Park press gallery used to the rar­i­fied air of pro­vin­cial pol­i­tics had no clue how to han­dle Ford. That Ford could ig­nore them al­to­gether (at one point set­ting up his own on­line TV chan­nel to talk to vot­ers di­rectly) ex­posed an­other tru­ism: in a world where most get their news through the echo cham­ber of Face­book, the in­flu­ence of main­stream print me­dia is dy­ing a fast death. Ford un­der­stood that bet­ter than the me­dia.


Polls played a big­ger part in this elec­tion than any other in re­cent mem­ory. There were some 50 polls re­leased over the four-week elec­tion pe­riod. It’s un­clear who com­mis­sioned most of them, save for the hand­ful com­mis­sioned by me­dia out­lets. What is clear is that they messed with peo­ple’s heads, in par­tic­u­lar in the last days of the cam­paign when it looked like a vote for the NDP might stop Ford. In­stead, the NDP’s surge ended up hurt­ing Lib­eral in­cum­bents in the 905 and 416 that stood a bet­ter chance of beat­ing PC can­di­dates. The PCs ben­e­fited from Lib­eral-NDP vote splits in some 35 rid­ings across the province. If half of those had gone to the Libs or NDP, we’d be talk­ing about a 50-plus seat PC mi­nor­ity in­stead.


NDP leader An­drea Hor­wath was asked about a pos­si­ble NDP-Lib­eral coali­tion to stop Ford early in the cam­paign. She said she had “no in­ter­est” in the idea. She changed her tune slightly dur­ing

For those of us liv­ing in the bub­ble known as down­town Toronto, last Thurs­day’s ma­jor­ity win for Doug Ford’s PCs was a shock to the val­ues we thought we shared with other On­tar­i­ans. Wel­come to the new nor­mal in pol­i­tics.

the last week of the cam­paign, say­ing she was will­ing to take a look, post­elec­tion. In hind­sight, that dis­cus­sion should have hap­pened be­fore the elec­tion. But the prospect of power – and their nat­u­ral en­emy the Lib­er­als be­ing blown to smithereens – proved too tan­ta­liz­ing for the NDP. Mis­sion ac­com­plished.

8. Pity Kath­leen Wynne

The out­go­ing premier be­gan the cam­paign pitch­ing “care over cuts.” That shifted to #sor­rynot­sorry and then dam­age con­trol mode head­ing into the last week. By then, Paul Martin, who’s own fall fol­lowed a sim­i­lar down­ward spi­ral, was the only Lib of any note who’d be seen in pub­lic with her. The fi­nal in­dig­nity came elec­tion night when net­works cut from her con­ces­sion speech to Ford, whose han­dlers de­cided to break with pro­to­col to let the los­ing lead­ers speak first so he could get on the 11 o’clock news. Wynne, who re­signed as leader, man­aged to hang on to her seat, which means she’ll be stick­ing around Queen’s Park. It’s a tes­ta­ment to her re­solve that af­ter ev­ery­thing that’s hap­pened she hasn’t com­pletely turned off pol­i­tics. But you have to to won­der how long that will last.

9. the scor­pion and the frog

Ford sounded per­fectly rea­son­able dur­ing a press con­fer­ence the day af­ter the elec­tion. He read from a pre­pared state­ment, serv­ing up some of the same gruel from the cam­paign trail, be­fore em­pha­siz­ing he would be a premier “for all the peo­ple.” Don’t be­lieve it. In the next breath, Ford made clear he plans to de­liver on his prom­ises, in­clud­ing his pledge to re­peal the province’s sex ed cur­ricu­lum. Which is to say, ex­pect Ford to wave around the fact he won a ma­jor­ity as a man­date to do what he pleases – and run over any­one who tries to get in his way. It’s like the fa­ble about the scor­pion and the frog, with Ford as the scor­pion.

10. cons set their sights on trudeau next

At the same post-elec­tion press con­fer­ence, Ford said he had talked to Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau about his buddy Trump’s move to slap tar­iffs on Cana­dian steel and alu­minum. Ford says the PM has On­tario’s sup­port. It’s a set up. Ford’s coun­ter­part in Ot­tawa, Con­ser­va­tive leader An­drew Scheer, isn’t read­ing from the same script on tar­iffs, de­cid­ing to make a loom­ing trade war with the U.S. a par­ti­san is­sue with the 2019 fed­eral elec­tion just around the corner. The anti-Trudeau memes of him arm- in­arm with Wynne are al­ready mak­ing the rounds on Face­book. 3 en­zom@nowtoronto.com | @en­zodi­mat­teo

By the fi­nal week of the cam­paign, Paul Martin, whose own fall fol­lowed a sim­i­lar down­ward spi­ral, was the only Lib­eral of any note to be seen on the hus­tings with Kath­leen Wynne.

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