June 12, 2018 4:00 pm

COMMENTARY: Doug Ford won a strong, clear mandate and will be a competent premier

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives led by Doug Ford coasted to a decisive majority in that province's election. Eric Sorensen explains how Ontario's political landscape just changed, and how this could impact federal politics.

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Ed. note — This commentary by former PC advisor Deb Hutton is one of three written by supporters of the three main parties in the Ontario election. We also have commentaries from NDP supporter Tom Parkin and Liberal insider Omar Khan.

I’ve had enough already! It hasn’t been one full week, but I’m sick and tired of it.

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Yep, I’ve had my fill of all of the handwringing and overly panicked voices from some in the media, left-wing pundits and political foes on the election of Doug Ford.

READ MORE: Choosing cabinet, picking office space, hiring assistants — PC transition to power underway

A CBC columnist opined that Ford would have to make sense of his “nonsensical promises” — those very policies that helped get him elected. Another from the Toronto Star suggested chaos everywhere.

One newspaper headline asked which Doug Ford we would see, the disciplined leader or rogue premier. A Liberal commentator wrote that Ford was a “wretched candidate” and that campaigns no longer matter because if they did, Ford couldn’t possibly have won.

But my personal favourite was a blog on the Huffington Post suggesting that Ford’s win is a win for white supremacists.

WATCH: PC Majority – did Doug Ford win or the PC party?

The voters of Ontario elected Doug Ford and 75 other PC women and men. They won not just a majority, but a very strong mandate. Even I — a staunch PC supporter — thought my prediction last week of 70 seats was slightly optimistic. I was wrong. Ontarians embraced the approach, the personalities and the policies of Ontario’s PC Party and its new leader.

The naysayers — who began their critiques before the last poll was closed on election night — like to point out that a majority of voters rejected Ford on June 7. Really? Welcome to our multi-party parliamentary system. This isn’t unique.

READ MORE: PC campaign manager says Ford opponents included media, ghost of Patrick Brown

Ford received just over 40 per cent of the popular vote. By contrast, Bob Rae won his majority with just under 38 per cent. And Kathleen Wynne won her mandate in 2014 with less than 39 per cent support.

Ford’s mandate is clear. He has license to do those things that he promised he would do. Voters made a clear choice; the election of a PC government isn’t some fluke. It’s what Ontario voters decided they wanted. We can argue about why they came to that conclusion, but the result speaks for itself.

COMMENTARY:  Omar Khan says Ontario Liberals can rebuild their party

No matter how hard his opponents try to suggest the opposite, there was absolutely no evidence in the campaign to suggest that Ford will be anything less than a competent premier leading an equally competent government.

Ford was a solid candidate throughout the PC leadership race and provincial election. Despite the daily attempts to knock him off his message, he kept his composure. Even in the last week of the campaign when he was faced with family troubles, Ford responded as well as anyone could in a similar situation.

READ MORE: Doug Ford says he stands ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Justin Trudeau following Trump tirade

His performance in each of the three debates was measured as he held his own against two experienced debaters. And as the only male among the three, that’s not an easy task. Ford’s messages in the campaign were simple — but that doesn’t mean Ford is. It just means he’s a smart communicator who understands what voters are hungry for.

WATCH: Ontario constituents say Doug Ford victory predictable

Ford’s victory, as I’ve written for Global News before, is remarkable given his late entry into the provincial campaign. When Ford is sworn in as Ontario’s 26th premier, it will be just 111 days since he won the PC leadership race.

Since last Thursday’s victory, Ford named his transition team and his chief of staff in short order. Meetings with his transition advisors have already begun and the process of selecting a cabinet in advance of the June 29 swearing-in is underway. Work is being done to hire additional staff and to lay out a policy and legislative agenda. The new caucus meets next week. Not exactly the look and feel of chaos!

COMMENTARY: Expect an ‘uncompromising and tenacious’ Horwath as opposition leader, Tom Parkin says

And we have already seen in just a few short days his response to a smattering of issues that have popped up. In a very statesman-like, non-partisan, premierial way, Ford backed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his tariffs battle with U.S. President Donald Trump.

His response to marching in Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade was exactly what many of us would have said in his position — invite our police officers back to the parade and I’ll march as your premier.

READ MORE: Toronto police withdraw application to march in 2018 Pride parade

In the next couple of weeks, we will learn more about Doug Ford as premier. With an ambitious agenda, Ford will need smart, dedicated cabinet ministers who aren’t afraid to make bold decisions. His choice of a secretary of cabinet will be key to his ability to deliver on what he’s promised, as no government can fulfill their mandate without the support of the civil service.

Too often, governments and leaders lose their way when they forget how and why they were elected in the first place. Those who become captured by the bureaucracy and forget about “the people” who elected them do so at their own peril.

READ MORE: Ontario will be back to balance in 3rd or 4th year of Ford mandate, promises MPP Lisa MacLeod

The good news is that I don’t think this will be Ford’s problem. The more connected he stays to the coalition of voters that elected him, the greater chance he will continue to enjoy their support and maybe even convert a few skeptics along the way.

And most importantly, I’m hoping Ford will ignore his hysterical critics and forge ahead with the mandate he’s legitimately been given.

Deb Hutton was a senior advisor to former Ontario premier Mike Harris.

 

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