If Trump has radicalized Ontario premier Doug Ford (and maybe you have to be Canadian to appreciate what that means) into permanent distrust of US global leadership – imagine how alienated all other US allies are. https://t.co/BMaJ8zaqNX
— David Frum (@davidfrum) April 3, 2020
Don’t look now, but Ontario’s premier is starting to impress
Quick now: Which politician has impressed or surprised you the most with their competence and leadership during the COVID-19 crisis?
It wouldn’t be John Tory. We expect solid, strong leadership out of Toronto’s mayor — even while he’s in self-isolation — in part because he ran one of this country’s most important companies (Rogers), served as opposition leader at Queen’s Park, and has been mayor for more than five years already.
It probably wouldn’t be Justin Trudeau (prime minister for more than four years) or Chrystia Freeland (deputy prime minister), who impressed so many by helping to bring the new free-trade agreement with America and Mexico to a successful conclusion.
No, I think this one’s a slam dunk, actually. The answer is Doug Ford.
Ontario’s premier had perhaps the worst first year on the job of anyone who’s ever had it. His populist bombast. His constant fights with anyone and everyone. His original chief of staff, who became embroiled in a patronage scandal. Those were the lowlights of a supremely bad first year. We also have to remember that, when he became premier in June 2018, he’d had a whopping three months of experience in provincial politics — hardly enough to draw upon when the you-know-what began to hit the fan.
But, ever since the COVID-19 crisis emerged as a daily reality in the lives of Ontario’s more than 14 million citizens, Ford has performed well above and beyond most observers’ expectations.
Unlike some other leaders (yes, you, Donald Trump), Ford has never tried to downplay the significance of the crisis. He’s never said the thing would burn itself out. He’s never told us to relax, that everything was fine. Trump did all of those things and more.
Instead, Ford has taken to the podium every day during the crisis and conveyed deep empathy for the public he serves.
Trump freelanced his way through his initial Oval Office address to the nation, and the result was the second-worst single-day stock-market crash in American history. Even after that — spurred on by his fans on Fox News (one of whom has since been taken off the air for her journalistic irresponsibility) — he played fast and loose with the facts and continued to shake hands with fans at rallies.
Conversely, Ford learned from his one misstep. No doubt in an attempt to calm the choppy waters, Ford urged people to travel, have fun, and get away during March break. He quickly realized that kind of freelancing was unacceptable during a global pandemic, and, ever since, he has been on point with his advice and stewardship of the crisis.
He has also declined to take any partisan potshots at this time. He called himself “a big fan” of Freeland. In his speech in the legislature earlier today, he noted that this was no time to talk about “the blue party, the red party, the orange party, or the green party. It’s about coming together. We’re all Team Ontario and Team Canada.” The premier’s actions have matched his words.
Politically speaking, the COVID-19 crisis has also given the government another opportunity. It’s allowed the Tories to feature their better performers during daily briefings. And
- Health Minister Christine Elliott,
- Finance Minister Rod Phillips, and
- Labour Minister Monte McNaughton have not disappointed.
They, too, seem well-prepared to answer reporters’ questions and have conveyed the sense of gravitas the moment requires.
Perhaps equally important, this crisis has given the government the opportunity to sideline many of the ministers whose performances have been too controversial or disappointing. Education Minister Stephen Lecce is known to be a strong performer. But his constant presence in the media over the previous months was a frequent reminder of the government’s precarious and increasingly unpopular position during negotiations with teachers. Lisa Thompson, the minister of government and consumer services, had become one of the province’s most unfortunate embarrassments thanks to her ill-fated attempts to defend Ontario’s new licence plates. Neither has seen the media Klieg lights for a while.
Things have changed so much at Queen’s Park, the premier actually said these words earlier today: “I want to thank the media. You’re playing a massive role in helping us out.” And perhaps the biggest shockeroo: “There are a lot of great articles in the Toronto Star.”
There is no media outlet in the world that has had a more tempestuous relationship with both Doug and former Toronto mayor Rob Ford than the Star. So to hear the premier say those words demonstrates just how much things have changed over the past month.
Once the crisis passes, is there a likelihood that things will go back to “normal”? Of course there is. This is politics, after all. Mindless partisanship on all sides will return. Potshots will be taken. And the relationship with the media will get more hostile.
But, for now, we should all just take a moment to appreciate this moment of unity, when Ontario’s 26th first minister surprised so many by performing so well.
Here’s why even in Canada the worldwide populist revolt continues!!!
Canada has once again become the poster child for decency — a pastoral, brave, beautiful and welcoming land
.. Voter turnout is low, typically under 70 percent and trending down despite a bump in 2015 on the strength of a competitive contest.
.. Governments are formed with about 40 percent of those who show up, which means that electoral support for the governing party reflects a fraction of the popular will, and thus so does policy.
.. Young people are regularly shut out of political life.
.. participation in government is rare and representative engagement and diversity in the legislature are low. They gave the country’s democracy a B-, up slightly from a C in 2015.
.. Canada’s institutions are generally fine, but they aren’t flourishing and are subject of abuse or hijacking by populist appeal, as soon-to-be Ontario Premier Doug Ford recently proved with his anti-elite “Ford Nation” campaign victory.
.. disgusting treatment of undocumented immigrants — which Trudeau has called “wrong” — but Canada has its own checkered past and troubling present.
.. despite being imagined as a multicultural haven, Canada has its own history and present of racial discrimination and violence, too. Extremist and racial violence is up.
.. systemic discrimination is a serious problem
.. Toronto, the practice of carding — checking identification on the street, which has been prone to racist abuse — is a blight on the city
.. country’s recent history with refugees, especially during the Syrian crisis, went from grudging to moderately welcoming but inadequate
.. For many indigenous peoples, the portrait of the country as a welcoming and inclusive land is not only untrue but also offensive.
.. indigenous peoples in Canada face high levels of incarceration, communities are suffering from suicide epidemics, and reserves throughout the land lack safe drinking water. Canada itself exists in part on unceded indigenous land. Colonialism in Canada is an ongoing injustice.
.. opioid crisis, homelessness, hunger, crushing levels of personal debt, pathetic levels of social spending or inadequate action on climate change.
.. The country fought for justice and human dignity during World War II and opted out of the reckless Vietnam War, choosing instead to act as a haven for Americans fleeing the draft.
Mr. Ford snuck through to the leadership on a voting system that ranked ballots. He won neither the popular vote nor the greatest number of constituencies.
.. But the Progressive Conservative machine is behind him already. It operates on inherited loyalties, antipathy against scandal-plagued opponents, time-for-a-change sentiments and basic self-interest... His infamous brother, when you get right down to it, was only the mayor of Toronto, which is not a very powerful position. Toronto’s “weak mayor” system ensures that its leader only gets one vote on the city council. In Canada, it’s actually the premier of a province who matters... Canada’s Constitution calls for “peace, order and good government”; it is hard to imagine anyone who could fulfill that mandate less... Mr. Ford’s sweep in as quiet and stable a place as Ontario points to a broader global crisis from which apparently there is no escape. Conservatism is no longer a political ideology in the recognized sense, but a repository of loathing and despair. It’s where people thrust their hatred of modernity — of globalism and multiculturalism and technocratic expertise, but also of the democracy.. By giving high office to buffoons, by choosing thugs as their representatives and by reveling in nastiness for its own sake, the Conservative brand now is principally a marker of contempt for political order itself.
Conservatism has meant many things to many people around the world. Now, just about everywhere, it looks a lot like a raised middle finger; Ford and friends are the latest to salute.