If asked whether Kathleen Wynne or Doug Ford should win the Ontario election, many voters will be tempted to say “No.” Some are NDPers. Others simply find the choice unappealing. But if one must win, who should it be?
OK, NDPers, there are three major party candidates. But yours won’t win. Remarkably, many more voters tell pollsters they don’t know enough about current NDP leader Andrea Horwath to have an opinion than during the last provincial election. And it’s the same person.
It is easy to imagine a politician falling in public esteem over time or, theoretically, rising. But a disappearing act? There’s an old football gibe that if you’re trying to hide from the law, you should become an offensive lineman. But an offensive politician?
Horwath, it turns out, has been leader of the Ontario NDP since 2009. I had to Google it, and I’m in the political commentary business. But she’s even more forgettable than her predecessor, Howard Hampton, who always looked as though he’d just been cross-checked into the boards and wasn’t sure whether it was 9:00 or Tuesday. To be fair, Horwath’s party’s strong showing in 2011 by NDP standards, over 20 % of the vote for the first time since Bob Rae and 17 seats, helped hold McGuinty to a minority. But in 2014, despite holding their 21 seats (they had gained four in byelections), they saw the Liberals again gain majority status on a strong record of irresponsible budgeting, scandal, and arrogance.
So the next premier will be Wynne or Ford. And it has to be Ford. We simply cannot re-elect the Wynne Liberals and retain our self-respect or any hope of good government. If the Liberals’ performance is not enough to rule them out of consideration, virtually nothing would be. And then we will get what we deserve. So unless we are socialists we must vote for Ford. And even socialists better think about it if the polls are close.
Ford is not without his failings. His “common touch,” though real, comes with a hefty side of bluster. He sometimes gives the impression of thinking actual knowledge of policy is for nerdy losers. His threat to fire the CEO of Hydro One on his first day was not preceded by any research into whether he could, you know, actually do it. He certainly didn’t seem to know how much it would cost in severance. On the other hand, if accomplished, it would sure get complacent bureaucrats’ attention.
Ford is also a classic modern conservative in that he has rough edges and a reputation for intolerance fueled by relentless left-wing mudslinging and by his own rhetoric. But he is not a “conservative” in the sense of being able to name a single thing government is doing that it should not.
So I’m not going to rattle off a list of right-wing measures the next Ontario government should implement on the basis of which we should elect the “right-wing” Ford. I simply don’t know if he’s right wing. And a troubling reflection of post-truth politics, and yes here I do refer to Donald Trump among others, is that people see in him what they wish was happening, not what is. Some of Ford’s instincts seem healthy. Others worry me.
Whether he even understands how serious Ontario’s budget problems are, let alone has any plan to deal with them, is doubtful. The temptation to speak of painless efficiencies is enormous. But I would not want him to be lying or confused and I can’t think of a third possibility. As for the “hidden agenda” attributed to conservatives like Ford, or Harper, they’re so well-hidden not even their supposed authors ever find them.
What sort of premier would Ford be? We just don’t know. We have not taken the measure of the man as a thinker, a leader or an administrator. But we must grip the pencil with crossed fingers and put the X beside our PC candidate because we have to get rid of the Liberals or stop complaining about inept, arrogant, dishonest government.
So Ford it is.
John Robson is a National Post Columnist, Commentator-at-Large with News Talk Radio CFRA 580 and documentary filmmaker. Find and support his work at www.johnrobson.ca.