COMMENTARY: Doug Ford tapped into Ontario’s overwhelming desire for change
In just about 24 hours, the most interesting election in my lifetime will be over.
Earlier Wednesday, the last Ipsos/Global News poll of the campaign suggests that we will have a Progressive Conservative majority government when the votes are counted Thursday night.
If that’s the case — and no one is taking the result for granted — Doug Ford will have achieved quite a remarkable feat. Ford will have been leader of the Ontario PC Party for less than 100 days if he has the honour of becoming premier this month.
Regardless of your political bent, this should be considered quite an accomplishment both for Ford and the PC Party.
It has been just over four months since the former PC leader resigned, leaving the party in the lurch. At a time when the other two parties were beginning to implement their plans for the June election, the PC Party found itself mounting a full-scale leadership contest. And without any ability to catch his breath, its new leader was thrust into a province-wide campaign within a few short weeks.
Certainly, there were a number of things that could have worked against Ford. The very close leadership race could have left the party deeply divided. The internal organizational troubles left behind from the previous leader’s tenure were a challenge.
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And while Ford himself has been in the public eye, particularly in Toronto, he is brand new to the provincial political arena and unlike his two opponents, he has never been through the tough scrutiny of an Ontario-wide campaign.
Yet, under Doug Ford’s leadership, the party has maintained a consistent level of support since the election officially began on May 9. Ipsos’ first writ poll had the PCs at 40 per cent; today, that number is 39 per cent. What has been the secret to this success?
First and foremost, it’s Ford. He’s real, warts and all! What you see is what you get. And that’s refreshing in politics.
Second, the PC leader has tapped into the overwhelming desire for change in a way the other two leaders haven’t. Kathleen Wynne was never going to be able to fight that fight. And Andrea Horwath, by promising to continue the leftist agenda begun by the Liberals, has had a more difficult time convincing voters that she will be different than what they’ve had for 15 years.
Ford has offered an approach and set of policies that are 180 degrees different from the other two parties.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, Ford clearly believes what he’s selling. He thinks government wastes your money; he is ashamed of the state of Ontario’s health care; he’s frustrated by falling math scores; he fundamentally believes that the only way to better services is a growing economy. And he knows that the economy grows when government leaves more of your own money in your pocket to save or spend as you see fit.
Finally, Ford’s team of candidates includes a number of talented and accomplished women and men who will not only be outstanding local representatives, but will offer Ford more options than he will need to form a strong and accountable cabinet. This has stood in direct contrast to the NDP’s team.
But it’s not over. Yes, the high-cost, high-reward television ads are now done. Most media outlets will become more cautious in their reporting on the eve of voting day. But the heavy lifting of getting out every single vote remains. More than most elections, getting out the vote will be crucial Thursday. And nowhere is this more important than in the vote-rich 905 region.
The Ipsos poll has the PCs with a double-digit lead in this area (45 per cent to the NDP’s 28 per cent). But in communities with massive numbers of commuters and young families, making sure identified supporters get out to vote will be key. It’s all too easy to get to the end of the day and realize you haven’t made it to the polling station.
Ford and his team will need to continue to demonstrate the same drive to the end that we have seen over the past few weeks. And only then, can Ontario have the change in government it deserves.
Deb Hutton was a senior advisor to former Ontario premier Mike Harris.
Deb Hutton joins Omar Khan and Tom Parkin on Global News’ regular political panel, appearing on Global Toronto and AM 640 Corus radio throughout the campaign and as part of our election night coverage.