Not only has the Liberal Party been marginalized in Canada’s most populous province — holding on to just seven seats and losing its official party status — but Ford has promised to fight Trudeau’s national plan to put a price on carbon, an essential part of Canada’s climate change strategy.
“Tonight, we have sent a clear message to the world. Ontario is open for business,” Ford told a victory rally in Toronto late Thursday. “We will reduce your taxes, reduce your gas prices and keep more money in your pocket.”
Ford has been frequently likened to Trump because of his blustery pronouncements, railing against “radical downtown Toronto elites,” and his frequent attacks on the media. His campaign canceled the traditional bus for journalists and carefully controlled access to Ford during public events.
The Conservatives garnered 40.6 percent of the popular vote, while the left-of-center New Democratic Party attracted 33.7 percent along with 40 seats, which means they will form the official opposition. The Liberals were left with 19 percent of the vote.
Ford is the older brother of the late Rob Ford, whose time as mayor of Toronto was marked by alcohol problems and a notorious videotape in which he was seen smoking crack cocaine. He entered rehab and later died of cancer. Doug Ford was Rob Ford’s main political adviser and ally on the Toronto City Council, where he served a term as a municipal councilor, his only prior experience in elected office.
Doug Ford paid tribute to his brother in his victory speech. “I know my brother Rob is looking down from heaven,” he said. “I’m just getting chills talking about him right now. . . . We owe so much to Rob’s legacy.”
Yet the Ford family’s tumultuous reputation is likely to follow Doug Ford into political office. Three days before the election, Rob Ford’s widow, Renata, launched a $13 million lawsuit against Doug Ford, alleging that he had deprived her and her children of Rob Ford’s share in the family business and accused him of enriching himself while running the company into the ground. Doug Ford denied the allegations.
Ford was the surprise winner of a Conservative leadership vote in March, which was called after the previous leader was forced to resign in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.
His victory reflects widespread fatigue with the Liberals under outgoing premier Kathleen Wynne, 65, who was the province’s first female leader.
The Liberals held power in the province for almost 15 years and were blamed for corruption scandals and sharply increasing the provincial debt.
Ford made several broad promises in the campaign without details about how he would pay for them, other than through enacting administrative “efficiencies.” In addition to scrapping the carbon tax, he promised to cut gasoline taxes and electricity rates, reduce income taxes and slash hospital wait times while also reducing the provincial deficit.
He also pledged to end a controversial sex education program in the province’s schools, ban cellphone use by students in class and bring back “buck a beer” by scrapping minimum pricing under the province’s alcohol regulations.
Ford’s election promises volatile political times for Ontario, according to Marcus Gee, a columnist for the Globe and Mail. “Mr. Ford’s plans are sketchy, his temperament volatile. He is the wildest of wild cards. When he was right-hand man to his brother at Toronto City Hall, he often out-Robbed Rob in his blustering and bullying. Nothing in his shallow, sloganeering performance during this election campaign suggests he has changed.”
With the defeat of Wynne and the Liberals, Trudeau loses a valuable ally in his promotion of his progressive, pro-feminist agenda and leaves him more open to clashes with Canada’s strong provincial governments.
But Canadian voters often vote one way in provincial elections and another way federally, and Trudeau does not face reelection until late 2019. And just as Trudeau appears to revel in confronting Trump on Canada’s trade disputes with Washington, he may find Ford a useful opponent in pushing his own agenda.
“The prime minister gets a new foil,” Conservative strategist Chad Rogers told Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “Ford gives him someone to campaign against next year on carbon pricing and pharmacare, which will be the two-step of the Trudeau agenda.”