When Doug Ford took over control of the Ontario Conservative Party, a lot of people expected the worst. He seemed to have just lucked in to a Liberal government dead on its feet and a Conservative party rebuilt by Patrick Brown. Many (including me) thought of him as something of a buffoon, perhaps influenced by thoughts of his brother Rob, former mayor of Toronto.
And the first year in power didn’t help as the party stumbled through its first years with Ford so unpopular he was booed at the Toronto Raptors victory parade.
Then the pandemic hit. And we saw a new Ford, or maybe the real Ford emerged. He was decisive, in control and even empathetic during a time of crisis. His reputation went up across the country. As an Albertan, I couldn’t help but contrast his performance with that of our premier’s. Where the pandemic gave Ford a new, improved image, it did the opposite for Kenney. Kenney’s “best summer ever” comment will go down in the province’s history. Ford seemed to grow into the job, emerging a changed politician.
Going into his first term, Ford’s government had frozen the minimum wage and made it harder to join a union. A classic anti-labour conservative. During the election he was endorsed by a number of unions, a remarkable change in attitude by both he and they. He genuinely seems to want a big tent party. I can’t imagine Jason Kenney wanting labour leaders—or environmentalists—anywhere near his tent.
Ford is even friendly with Chrystia Freeland, a federal cabinet minister no less. When she was appointed finance minister, it was reliably reported that he exclaimed, “I absolutely love Chrystia Freeland. She’s amazing. I’ll have her back, I’ll help her any way we can.” Amazing indeed. In Alberta we don’t do friendly with the feds.
Unfortunately, the election was yet another display of our undemocratic voting system. Almost 60 percent of Ontario voters did not want the Conservatives governing them, but govern them they will. With the support of only 41 percent support of the voters, the Conservatives won two-thirds of the seats in the legislature and 100 percent of the power. We have an electoral system in this country; we don’t have a democratic system.
The Conservatives wouldn’t be my choice if I were an Ontarian—I’d prefer a coalition of any of the other three parties. But them’s the rules. Ford played by them, and won handily. I give the man credit.
If he can maintain his regular guy persona and his reaching out to Ontarians who normally don’t vote Conservative, Ford Nation could indeed become a dynasty. Who’d have thunk it.