Thoughts on Ford Nation taking over the government of Ontario

Ontario voters have put Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives into power in the province by a wide margin over Andrea Horwath’s NDP, 76 seats to 40.

That’s right, after all those months of chaos in Ontario politics, with the gong show of Patrick Brown and all the rest of the craziness, the Tories managed to finally find a way to win a provincial election in Ontario. And after all those predictions of a close race, the projections from the news organizations came in really fast, within the first 15 minutes.

The governing Liberals were reduced to third-place rubble with seven seats. Of course, they projected themselves to be defeated long before the polls closed, because Premier Kathleen Wynne had already conceded the election prior to Thursday. It was utterly strange, with Wynne hold a media event on Saturday, days before the vote, and declaring she was going to lose. Maybe the Liberals thought they could salvage some seats by doing that, or sympathy votes.

Anyway, the result is the result. I think people were simply fed up with the overspending and the Hydro messes and the hands-in-the-pocket attitude of the Liberals’ 15 years of government. So they hurled out the Liberals in overwhelming fashion. Oh, and the Greens got a seat in Guelph.

Also, I want to give a shout-out to Robin Martin who finally won in Eglinton-Lawrence to become an MPP. I knew her back in my previous Ontario life. Also, it looks like my former home riding Don Valley East was one of the few places in Ontario that was not interested in overthrowing the Liberals, because they won again there.

I’m also quite surprised to learn that the city of London went almost totally NDP. That place didn’t strike me as the type of place that would be NDP when I was there. That place seemed to be more to the centre or centre-right.

The good NDP showings in London, Windsor, Hamilton, Toronto etc. were not enough, though. The final results mean Ontario has saved itself from a repeat of the Bob Rae NDP years, or a repeat of what we’ve seen from any province that elects the NDP. A colleague of mine has referred to the NDP as the “punishment” party. You put them in, either because you want to punish the other party that had been in power, or simply to punish yourself. You certainly don’t put them in expecting them to do a good job for you, because after a year or so of their big-government ways you say “what have we done?” And then you want to throw them out.

As for Doug Ford, he is going to be Premier of Ontario. Just a few months ago he was running for mayor of Toronto again. I’d say this is a step up. Also, it looks now like this fall’s Toronto mayor’s race will be pretty boring.

You know, I think I’m starting to come around on Ford. Yes, what happened at City Hall with his late brother Mayor Rob Ford was a gong show, but a lot of that had to do with Rob’s own personal problems and demons, which dragged his administration right down. Doug, though, seems to have his own personal life together.

I think part of the reason Doug Ford won was because he at least looked like he was trying to keep the craziness to a minimum in his campaign. I know this seems hard to believe after that story in the final days about the lawsuit from Rob’s widow over the estate, and after all the nomination-controversy stuff and problem candidates that Ford had to get rid of. But the last two weeks of the campaign were largely scandal-free. Plus, you had these not-ready-for-prime-time NDP candidates making “Hitler” comments and the like.

The other thing that really helped Ford Nation was the endorsements from former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion, and then former North York/Toronto mayor Mel Lastman. Those came right after a lot of bad press for Ford, when the NDP were surging in the polls. I think those endorsements caused some people to reassess and say “hey, maybe Ford isn’t the terrible guy people are making him out to be.”

On top of it all, Doug kept his reputation for combativeness in check throughout the campaign. In fact, this might be the new normal, because I think Doug is a changed man ever since his brother Rob died. I think it’s moderated him quite a lot.

Quite honestly, there is much to be said about what “Ford Nation” stands for, with the devotion to fiscal responsibility and less taxes, and being “for the people”. I know people were comparing him to Trump, but Ford is really more about being pro-business and getting government off the people’s back, and respecting taxpayers. A good example was his “buck a beer” proposal. The other political parties laughed at it, but the voters didn’t. They knew the other parties were more interested in hosing them than looking out for their pocketbooks, so they voted PC. So I actually have high hopes for his government. If Premier Ford sticks to the core values that got him here, he’ll be okay.

His enemies won’t agree with that statement. They think this Ontario election result is the end of the world! But frankly, I think the easily-triggered folks in Ontario will always be triggered by Ford, just because his last name is Ford.