Don Martin: Party leaders who ignore Ford Nation's rise do so at their own peril
It could take months, if not years, for Ontario voters to decide if they’re sorry or not sorry to have elected maverick Doug Ford as premier.
He’s a man of few syllables, a short attention to detail that confines briefing notes to napkin-length summaries and he delivers a speech, even with Teleprompter help, with all the polish of Donald Trump reading Shakespeare.
But he’s the overwhelming Ontario voters’ choice and nobody has the right to declare them wrong until proven otherwise.
Even so, Doug Ford’s disrupter philosophy will send aftershocks far beyond Ontario.
He turned the concept of a winning campaign on its ear and, in the process, lobbed more than a few stink bombs toward the federal election less than 500 days away
His campaign proved that, when the drive to dump the incumbent and all things status quo goes visceral with voters, there’s no need for a lot of campaign substance.
- A fully costed platform becomes just a distraction;
- Promises can be unleashed without a blueprint for implementation;
- A media bus with tagalong reporter trouble represents a dispensable nuisance;
- And a court-launched family feud, which raised a lot of pertinent questions about the leader, can bomb the campaign trail and not leave a pothole in support.
Voters in Ontario had a single-minded fixation on sending Kathleen Wynne into history as the resignation-forced Liberal leader of what is now an unofficial party reduced to the ragtag rubble of seven political dwarfs.
It was mission accomplished last night – and that made the considerable risks inherent in a Ford majority tolerable.
On the federal scene, there’s cause for reflection if not concern in every camp.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now faces his polar-opposite nightmare leading the nation’s second largest government.
The federal carbon pricing plan has lost its biggest ally, Trudeau’s social agendas were marginalized by talk of cheap beer and lower hydro bills, and there’s mounting evidence his deficit-generating ways are no longer sunny to debt-weary voters.
For Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, what appears encouraging is really a right-leaning philosophy on probation. If Ford goes rogue and turtles in polling popularity, Ontario voters might yet boomerang back to proven leadership in Trudeau in 2019.
As for NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, the election was a warning that voters are increasingly tolerant of political incorrectness and will embrace a force of bombast over the extreme sensitivity he personifies.
The rise of Ford Nation over so many obstacles was a seminal and seismic electoral event in and beyond Ontario.
Every party and every leader in Canada ignores the strategy behind the result at their political peril.
That’s the Last Word.