Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ford Nation Across Ontario

As the initial controversy of the Progressive Conservative leadership race fades, Doug Ford seems to be holding on to his initial win and will continue to be the leader of that party. Barring more chaos he will lead Ontario's right-wing party in the June provincial election.

Each of the potential leaders presented unique strengths and weaknesses. Let's take a moment to examine Doug Ford's potential impact on the June vote.

First, Doug Ford and the Ford Nation hold real sway in the Greater Toronto Area. As many Ontarians are disgusted by the Ford years another group views them as their advocates and champions. Somehow the sons of a politician and wealthy businessowners defend the little guy. It was enough to win a third of the vote in "liberal" Toronto though. In 2014 when Doug Ford sought to succeed his brother he received 33.73% of the vote.

Second, Doug Ford's name recognition comes at a cost. The rocky tenure and his questionable past are still in the public memory. Ford is a polarizing figure, and some voters are likely just as turned off by him. However, those people are likely to lean Liberal and NDP anyway.

Let's play out some scenarios.

1. ABL (Anyone But Liberal)

Patrick Brown was poised to sweep to the premiership with few Ontarians knowing who he is. Ontario for 23 years has flipped between Liberals and Progressive Conservatives. With the Wynne government unpopular Ford may not matter much, the result is baked in already.

2. Ford Torpedoes the Party

The polarizing spectre of Ford pushes voters toward the Liberals or NDP to stop him from becoming premier. The bullying, blustering, right-wing Ford drives voters to the left-wing parties who dread Ford Nation on a provincial scale. As an unpracticed campaigner he is unable to galvanize the wide electorate into a winning coalition.

3. Ford Helps

Ford's popularity is likely rooted in the GTA. If Liberal fortunes fall his advantage might flip seats in Etobicoke, Scarborough and elsewhere in the city and region. Places like Peel, Durham and York might find his message and persona persuasive. Low taxes and "clean" government are simple messages. Hell, he could steal the line about the gravy train directly from his brother's campaign. This only become more true if the NDP and Liberals fight for the same votes in Toronto and elsewhere.

The PCs might have other issues. Ford seems to be pushing for a new platform despite the significant effort that went into crafting the current one. Candidates were recruited under Patrick Brown and a more moderate platform. He very narrowly won the leadership and knives are out for Ford if he fails or stumbles.

Despite what polls say now the election is too close to call. I assume now it'll be a nasty, dirty election as the two main parties launch desperate attacks at each other. A very real opportunity exists for the NDP to take advantage of its damaged opponents and make gains. All in all, this is set to be one of the most interest provincial elections in many years.

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