Ontario Conservatives’ plan to replace the mayor is all about votes | Eric Grenier

Ontario’s transport minister is giving us more reasons for the Tories to be so angry that they need to call an emergency meeting of the cabinet, which conveniently sees the most contentious Liberal legislation…

Ontario Conservatives’ plan to replace the mayor is all about votes | Eric Grenier

Ontario’s transport minister is giving us more reasons for the Tories to be so angry that they need to call an emergency meeting of the cabinet, which conveniently sees the most contentious Liberal legislation brought back to life.

Doug Ford is trying to convince us the Liberals’ new bill attacking the municipal planning system is all about jobs and the economy. But it is not. It’s about political appointments, hiring, intimidation and power.

Ford’s desire to bulldoze the rural GTA won’t save his leadership Read more

We know this because the 2018 report on Progressive Conservative politics by Éric Grenier, a University of Toronto professor who specialises in conservative governance, outlines a year in which Ford made few friends outside his cabinet. Among the points Grenier makes – also relayed by a senior Sun columnist – are the revelation that the PCs are trailing in the polls by nearly 25 points, Ford’s inability to convince people he can be a premier, and his steady decline in popularity.

Grenier’s chart also shows how his charisma has diminished and his capacity to connect with people has declined, as even some fellow ministers seem to be turning against him. He once feasted off the inspired energy of the media. Now reporters complain he is a less-than-responsive cabinet minister.

All this is happening with Ford pushing his crusade against former deputy premier Kathleen Wynne and her “nanny state” environmental policies. But what’s worse is Ford seems to have his eyes on other possible enemies who deserve it. His ministerial office repeatedly issued, then retracted, a directive that Sudbury MPP Laurie Scott and Hamilton MPP Deborah Billings not be appointed to the Ontario Electric Transmission Board because they had friends in the Liberal party.

It’s worth remembering that, just a few weeks before the 2018 election, Ford and Wynne had one of the dirtiest scraps in modern Ontario political history. The candidates were seeking vacant seats. Ford, the candidate, won. Not long afterward, he accused Wynne of handing out grants for campaign signs on the taxpayers’ dime and tried to win a case at the Ontario civil court that moved the process of replacing him. It didn’t succeed.

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In October, a feisty Ford formed a superministry devoted to revamping municipal governing structures. The Liberals’ bill that the Tories support as the response to those efforts is ominously titled Bill 25. It is almost identical to the infamous Military Police Accountability Act (MPAA) of 2004 that forced activists in Toronto to vote for the party next time. Ontario Tories have insisted the Tory version targets local councils, but just look around to see how far and wide the real effects have spread. The reference to “election expenses and potential violations” are specifically intended to target councils such as Toronto’s where actions by rightwing councillors and a mayor have upset and alienated residents who demanded change and are fed up with council heavyweights shutting down debates.

The Tory record, with Ford in office, is not just bad governance, but is also a great burden for cities to carry. It is partly down to underfunding and partly due to severe shortsightedness. But it also has to do with a vicious and professional campaign of rightwing proxies whose strategy is not only to protect their interests, but also their access to power by frustrating rivals and councillors they loathe.

John Tory is one such victim. He resigned as an MPP in 2015 after a scandal involving a young staffer. The company Tory was affiliated with had been under audit and Tory was quick to blame the staffer, who promptly left. Tory, the Toronto Star columnist Anthony Furey observed, was “the one mayor the Torys should have been best friends with”. He “desperately wanted to play Liberal bridge with Ontario’s finance minister”.

After a year as premier, he may yet prove to be the most helpless Tory.

• Eric Grenier is a British Columbia-based journalist, political analyst and author of the E-book called Progressive Conservative politics: how Doug Ford is losing control of his party

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