COMMENTARY: Doug Ford misses chance to silence those who question his competency
At a news conference earlier this week, QP Briefing reporter Chris Reynolds asked Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford a very simple, straightforward question about parliamentary procedure.
Prefacing it first by noting that he did not want to appear to be asking an “impertinent” question, Reynolds went on to ask if Ford could explain the legislative process of a bill becoming law. “I was hoping you could explain to the people of Ontario how a bill becomes a law, just step by step.”
Whatever the PC leader may have going for him, a poker face is not one of them. His displeasure was immediately obvious.
“Well, you know something my friend, we can run through that and I know that this is a gotcha question and everything because that’s your game, big smile on your face. But don’t worry. I’m going to show you how many bills we’re going to pass. We’re going to pass endless bills down there and I hope you’re down there to watch the bills get passed.”
First, the blatantly obvious: Ford’s tone was defensive, he did not even remotely answer the question, he came away once again looking as though his temperament is an issue, and worse, that he cannot answer the most basic of queries as it pertains to the job he is hoping to get.
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The question posed by Reynolds was the literal opposite of a “gotcha” question. To either Kathleen Wynne or Andrea Horwath — or literally any other politician in this country — this would have been the softest of softball questions. It was certainly a pointed question. Reynolds tried to demonstrate or even confirm a preconceived notion about Ford. But it was Ford’s answer, not the question, that was disastrous.
There are about a hundred different ways Ford could have answered Reynolds’ question, without getting into the minutiae of the procedural mechanisms of legislating in this province. He could have pointed out the unusual nature of the question for someone running to be premier, and spoken to the rather insulting implication inherent to the question that Ford does not, in fact, know how a bill becomes law.
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But the latter part of Ford’s statement should also worry people, particularly conservatives and libertarians. Passing “endless bills” is not exactly the kind of thing one associates with a government hoping to achieve a less interventionist, leaner government.
Ford Nation will spin this as Doug being a victim of the media once again, and how it doesn’t even matter if a premier cannot be bothered with rudimentary procedural facts.
It is true that a premier is not required to pass a grade school civics test in order to govern. On the former point, conservative politicians and commentators have long painted the media as being leftist plants out to get them and have managed to cultivate an aggrieved narrative quite well.
This is, of course, in spite of the fact that the bulk of talk radio — Global News Radio 640 Toronto included — often has hosts who are more than sympathetic to Conservative viewpoints, and — in some cases — ignore facts and context, in order to advance their own individual political preference. Additionally, it’s not as though Postmedia’s chain of papers in this province are known for their leftist editorial stance.
Ultimately, it’s incredibly unlikely that anyone who was previously inclined to vote for the PCs will change their vote based on one bad performance at a press conference. Ford is the front-runner by any poll. In fact, to be more accurate, the PCs have been in the lead since well before Ford took the helm. Even while the PC party was leaderless and couldn’t seem to properly mail out voting cards to their party faithful, the people of Ontario still continued to place their tentative vote with the PCs.
But Ford’s team is going to need to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again. He’s already significantly more inexperienced than either Horwath or Wynne. He can’t afford to be baited into seeming like he does not have the temperament or the competency to be premier. And while Ford certainly does have a substantial chunk of people in this province who absolutely adore him, he also has high negatives (not nearly as high as Wynne’s, mind you.)
This entire spectacle has also led us to a very obvious question: if a person vying for the top job at Queen’s Park does not need to know the basics, what else can a would-be premier get away with not knowing? I guess we’ll find out on June 7.
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