Unity at all costs? Ontario PC choice of Doug Ford as leader shows need for principled conservative division

Posted on March 11, 2018, 3:23 am
6 mins

PHOTOS: Doug Ford in 2014 (Photo: Bruce Reeve, Creative Commons). Below: Toronto’s calamitous mayor Rob Ford, who died in 2016; second-place Ontario PC candidate Christine Elliott, who has not yet conceded the victory to Doug Ford; Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney; and U.S. President Donald Trump. (Photos: All from the Wikimedia Commons but for the shot of Mr. Kenney, which is the author’s.)

What’s troubling about the Ontario Progressive Conservatives’ choice of Doug Ford as their leader last night is not the man’s obvious Trump-like unsuitability for the job, but the tribalism of a party whose smartest operators must privately be shaken and sickened at the thought of what he represents.

Having seen the man’s little brother Rob in action as mayor of Toronto from 2010 to 2014, they know the long-term damage a candidate like Mr. Ford can do to their cause. This is true even if like U.S. President Donald Trump he is unexpectedly successful. Even worse, from their perspective, they know Ontario voters know it too.

Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney neatly encapsulated this problem in his stab at a little inspirational cheerleading for the Ontario PCs who had turned out yesterday to hear the vote results.

PC organizers must have been hard-pressed to find an out-of-town speaker acceptable to their chronically divided party even before the chaotic and comedic end to their leadership race late yesterday. It’s a sad commentary on the state of the Ontario PCs that a spavined Ottawa hack like Mr. Kenney, who before his entry into Alberta politics was one of Stephen Harper’s minions, would actually lend a little respectability to their proceedings.

Mr. Kenney asserted that Alberta’s NDP majority only happened because the province’s conservatives were divided between PCs and Wildrosers – a commonplace United Conservative Party talking point in this province, although it is a highly dubious interpretation of what actually happened in Alberta on May 5, 2015.

“When conservatives are divided, tax-raisers and leftist parties always win,” he went on … inaccurately, unfortunately. If only it were so! Most of the 75 years of Alberta politics before Rachel Notley became premier, which had conservative alternatives aplenty, provides proof Mr. Kenney got it wrong.

Mr. Kenney followed up with his already notorious crack that Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would doubtless refer to Ontario as Confederation’s “gender-neutral older sibling.”

This was a pretty lame stab at mocking the commitment of most elected Canadian governments nowadays to gender parity, gender neutrality and gender fairness. But I suppose Mr. Kenney was awkwardly trying to channel the locker room spirit of a coach shoring up his underdog team before a big game with the perennial champs. This was not really a natural persona for someone with Mr. Kenney’s aging-frat-boy vibe.

Perhaps a more troubling aspect of Mr. Kenney’s peroration is the unwillingness of supposedly respectable conservatives ever to say enough is enough when thoughtless and extreme candidates arrive on the scene like The Donald and the Brothers Ford.

In fairness, Mr. Kenney didn’t know Mr. Ford would emerge the victor any more than the rest of us did when he uttered the predictable call for post-vote unity, “Whoever is chosen, I ask you to support the democratic vote of all of your members.”

Most likely this was intended to salve the bruised feelings of members of the so-called “Ford Nation” in the event candidate Christine Elliott emerged victorious, as seems to have been expected. For her part, Ms. Elliott did not concede defeat last night, citing “serious irregularities” in the contest. Today will probably bring more details.

But the fact is, pulling together regardless is exactly what the Conservative apparatchiks in Ontario will most likely do, no matter how egregious their leader, as do the Republican Party’s supposed worthies in the United States in the face of Mr. Trump’s repeated depredations.

The North American conservative movement has been reduced to a state in which tribalism is everything and traditional conservative principles mean nothing. It is sad this condition now afflicts the “Big Blue Machine” of distinguished leaders like John Robarts and William Davis.

If there were ever a time for a principled division conservative movement – for the long-term good of both conservative parties and the country – it is now, and in Ontario.

For, even from a progressive perspective, Canadian political discourse needs a conservative alternative. It doesn’t need a dangerous clown like Mr. Ford.

However, as Mr. Trump proved, even egregiously bad candidates can get elected. So we should worry about Mr. Ford, who when he was a Toronto City Councillor distinguished himself by assailing public libraries until he was crushed like a bug, metaphorically speaking, by author Margaret Atwood.

Still, it seems likely last night’s PC debacle – to which Mr. Kenney lent his prestige – is good news for Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, and perhaps as argued in this space two weeks ago, even better news for NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

13 Comments to: Unity at all costs? Ontario PC choice of Doug Ford as leader shows need for principled conservative division

  1. J.E. Molnar

    March 11th, 2018

    Ontario media are calling the Doug Ford election win “chaotic.” Is that what they’re calling clusterf**ks in Ontario now? Voting irregularities, court proceedings, charges of corrupt party executives and disgruntled losers who refuse to concede does not make for chaotic or even bizarre.

    Conservatives in Ontario that want to test drive a Ford are likely to end up in a ditch when the final vote tally is concluded on June 7th. First the federal CPC leadership race now this catastrophe. It all points to good news for the Ontario NDP and Andrea Horwath. Best case scenario — NDP win. Worst case scenario — minority government with NDP holding the balance of power.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      March 11th, 2018

      Ford denied the Globe’s allegation and threatened to sue. However, I don’t believe he ever filed an action. At any rate, a cursory Google search last night turned up nothing. DJC

      Reply
  2. Farmer Brian

    March 11th, 2018

    Would Doug Ford have been my choice? I doubt it. Support for Christine Elliot and Doug Ford was fairly evenly split but that doesn’t mean that it is necessary to have 2 conservative parties. I think Doug Ford’s election points to a continuing disconnect between government and the people they represent. The 15 years of Liberal rule in Ontario has done nothing but drive out business and balloon the province’s debt and increase taxes on the average Ontarian. As for your arguement of 2 conservative parties, what about 2 NDP parties. On one hand in the NDP you have more centrist leaning members interested in getting elected and on the other you have the socialist caucus and the Leapers, big ideological spread imo. Enjoy your day

    Reply
    • tom in ontario

      March 12th, 2018

      “The 15 years of Liberal rule in Ontario has done nothing but drive out business and balloon the province’s debt and increase taxes on the average Ontarian.” Not sure how the other two compared with previous governments but the “drive out business” part deserves further scrutiny.

      Windsor Star March 30/17
      “Ford of Canada joined with the federal and provincial governments to announce a $1.2 billion investment in its Windsor operations along with others in Ottawa, Waterloo and Oakville.”

      CBC News January 12/15
      “”Chrysler will spend $1.26 billion in re-tooling its Windsor Ontario, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne announced Monday.”

      Globe and Mail February 17/17
      The $554 million investment that General Motors is making in its Canadian operation will be done without government support. “The automaker agreed last fall to make investments in its Oshawa assembly plant, St. Catharines engine and transmission plant and a parts warehouse in Woodstock, Ontario.”

      CBC News January 9/17
      “Honda is spending more than $400 million to upgrade its Alliston Ontario facilities to build new models of the Civic and CR-V models with financial support from the federal and provincial governments. Ottawa and Queens Park will each contribute $41.8 million.”

      Similar investments in the province have been made by Toyota. Enjoy your day.

      Reply
      • Farmer Brian

        March 12th, 2018

        Tom here is an article: mowatcentre.ca/how-ontario-lost-300000-manufacturing-jobs. Now while this article doesn’t place any blame on the government it does point to poor productivity and competitiveness. Increasing costs such as taxes and electricity and increasing regulation don’t help cost competitiveness. I didn’t have time to read your articles yet but I will bet there was large government grants or loans to each one of the facilities mentioned in your above articles. I think it is very sad that to attract business governments must provide subsidies or incentives. Enjoy your day

        Reply
        • Bob Raynard

          March 13th, 2018

          “Increasing costs such as taxes and electricity and increasing regulation don’t help cost competitiveness.”

          “…very sad that to attract business governments must provide subsidies or incentives.”

          Unfortunately when companies choose to leave one jurisdiction for another it is often because of some form of incentive, intended or otherwise. Too often regulations are simply dismissed by critics as just regulations, but they are there for a reason. If a Canadian company moves to a third world country because they have no regulation against dumping hazardous waste into a water source, should we eliminate our regulation against it to remain competitive? Take a look at some of the competitive advantages third world countries offer – child labour, no worker protection laws, no environmental protection laws – and ask yourself if that is the strategy we should use to compete globally.

          Reply
  3. Expat Albertan

    March 11th, 2018

    True, but the spread among the NDP is no wider than, say, between social conservatives, who want to tell women what to do with their bodies or tell people what they can smoke and the libertarians, who think government should have nothing to say on these issues. As to Ford’s election being indicative of a disconnect between government and the people it represents, all I can say is, given his brother’s performance as mayor of Toronto, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

    Reply
  4. Scotty on Denman

    March 11th, 2018

    I’m not sure it’s unwillingness on the part of moderate conservatives to call out every extremist who runs to replace the disgraced, defeated neo-right usurpers of nominal conservative parties: there just aren’t enough moderates left in the mined-out carcasses of once Tory conservative parties, most of them now forming a wide diaspora in the other parties, left, centre and armchair.

    There are probably enough of these orphaned Tories to organize a viable nucleus and gather moderates around an expressly ethical, communitarian, socially and environmentally responsible conservative party. America and Alberta have, until Ontario’s own neo-right farce recently took the stage, been the primary examples of conservative traditions getting almost completely destroyed by neo-right usurpers.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily too late. Summer’s almost here, living memories of winter ice-covered water have almost melted away and it’s warm enough for moderate conservatives to learn the fox’s old trick: the fox holds a stick at one end in its front teeth and wades into the water, the fleas escaping inundation by running first up onto the fox’s back, then further up onto its scruff, then onto its nose as the fox slowly submerges. And finally, with no place else to go the fleas file out onto the stick as the fox sinks below the surface, letting the stick go floating away with its cargo of pests while it swims clean back to shore.

    The way HarperCons, Albetarian PetroCons, American Republicans, British Mayfleas, BC LiberaCons, SaskatcheCons, EuroXenophobiCons, and now Ontario RetroCons have been behaving—like little flea circuses of hateful chauvinism and panic clasping onto wave-tossed sticks—there’s still a chance real conservatives will have noticed the Neo-Right’s colossal and remarkably rapid decline —and the desperate sound of chirping pests drifting farther and farther away into the tropical polar night—and realize if there ever was a time to let the extremist globalizers and stateless corporatists go it’s now.

    Reply
    • zalm

      March 14th, 2018

      Gawd, this is a great word-picture. someone get this read into Hansard!

      Reply
  5. David

    March 12th, 2018

    Oops, the Ontario PCs who have a history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory may have done it again. Faced with a safe choice of a inoffensive former MPP with credible experience and the high risk offensive brother of the former TO mayor, they narrowly chose the later.

    Does that party have a death wish or are they just crazy? It will probably not be beneficial in the long run for Kenney”s image to associate himself too closely with this dysfunctional group. The Ontario Liberals keep winning not because anyone likes them much, but because a lot of people fear the official opposition alternative would be worse.

    Reply
  6. brett

    March 12th, 2018

    The Ontario Liberal Gov’t needs to be banished to the backbenches in the same way that the Alberta Conservatives needed to be sent to the backbenches.

    It is simply not healthy for a Party to be in power for more that 10 years or so. Rot, self indulgence, and entitlement sets in.

    Alberta is/was a prime example of this.

    Reply
  7. Northern Loon

    March 12th, 2018

    You are using an article from 2014 to support your argument??? Could you find something just a bit more current.

    Reply

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