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It's no coincidence that the two premiers who've made the biggest clusterfuck of their COVID response are also eyeing Erin O'Toole's job
After a summer spent running from bad COVID headlines – and then delaying the reopening of the Legislature until October so he wouldn’t have to answer questions about why he’s allowing yahoos who entertain COVID conspiracy theories to block hospital entranceways during a pandemic – Doug Ford stopped by his local Tim Hortons on Wednesday to pick up a Smile Cookie. It’s part of Timmy’s program to support breakfast clubs. If only Doug really cared.
Schools are reporting a sharp rise in COVID infections, hospital ICUs are once again filling up and the provincial health unit in Haldimand-Norfolk just decided to keep its anti-lockdown acting medical officer of health and Doug has been MIA (again).
On Wednesday, the province’s Financial Accountability Office reported that the Ford government has withheld some $2.7-billion in emergency funding for COVID response in the first quarter of 2021. That’s in addition to the $2.6 billion it underspent in funding for health care, children and social services and post-secondary education.
Sickening. Despicable. Sadistic. Pick your descriptor.
The longer this crisis has dragged on the more Ontarians have come to know what a callous mofo DoFo can be.
It’s not the first time Ford has failed to spend money for COVID relief. Ford would rather play politics with the pandemic and use the money to cook the books so that the bottom line looks better for voters when he goes to the polls next spring. It’s all about political self-preservation for DoFo.
His approval ratings are already in the toilet, right down there with his buddy Jason Kenney in Alberta, who on Wednesday came out of prolonged hiding himself to declare a state of emergency in the province and mandatory vaccine passports. Kenney half-apologized for lifting restrictions earlier his summer, which has led to more deaths and a new wave of COVID cases. The “best summer ever” advertised by Kenney has turned into a nightmare.
Kenney’s mea culpa looked a lot like Ford’s tearful apology back in April before he had to declare another lockdown that was perfectly avoidable if he’d been paying attention to expert advice from his science table in the first place. But Ford being Ford.
Is it a coincidence that the two provinces with the worst record on COVID response are also led by the country’s most rabid Conservative premiers? Of course not.
It’s why both Kenney and Ford have been conspicuous by their absence throughout the federal campaign. The last thing Erin O’Toole wants is for Canadians to be reminded of what an utter clusterfuck they’ve made of the pandemic – and how much worse things could be if O’Toole was across the table from them as PM calling the shots.
Kenney’s and Ford’s misdirection and misinformation on the COVID crisis is plain to see. Their collective negligence has led to untold numbers of needless deaths. It has also just lobbed a bomb into the O’Toole campaign.
Word is Kenney was supposed to delay his announcement until after the election to save O’Toole from having to answer questions about the Alberta premier’s handling of the crisis. Why it was only this week that O’Toole was saying what a bang-up job Alberta was doing.
But with Kenney’s own political future on the line, there was no more time to wait.
This brings us to the other twisted wrinkle in this COVID tale – the fact that both Kenney and Ford are eyeing O’Toole’s job.
All it would take for the party’s base to start having second thoughts about O’Toole is for him to return fewer seats than his predecessor Andrew Scheer. And right now he’s a couple of percentage points behind where Scheer was in 2019 and dropping in Alberta.
Kenney and Ford espouse a populist conservatism. They’re the Laurel and Hardy of what’s been dubbed the Conservative “resistance” to Justin Trudeau.
O’Toole has publicly taken more moderate positions on a range of issues, but has been forced to backtrack on everything from climate change to gun control to keep the Conservative base from deserting him ever since he became leader. They now seem to be fleeing to the People’s Party.
Then there’s Ford.
Reports earlier in the summer suggested that Ford had struck a truce with Trudeau to stay out of the election. It’s more complicated than that.
In fact, the Premier has ordered Queen’s Park caucus staff that would otherwise be taking leave from their jobs to help their federal cousins to stay clear of #elxn44 altogether.
It’s no secret that Ford has long been treated as a pariah by the party that Stephen Harper built. The last time Scheer blew through Ontario during the 2019 election, he wanted nothing to do with Ford.
But it’s also no secret that Ford has long had wet dreams of becoming Prime Minister one day. Call it Dougie’s revenge. Ford may not be rooting as hard for O’Toole as some people think.
His re-election as premier is far from assured, even with no Liberal party to speak of in the Leg and a weak official opposition in the NDP. Word around Queen’s Park is that Ford has been planning an exit strategy for some time given his rapidly fading re-election prospects. It may be just a coincidence that the same folks who navigated Ford’s leadership win in 2018 are once again in the fold, but what options has he got left? Mayor of Toronto? That’s a possibility, too, but a story for another day.
Ontario Liberal strategists are no doubt already hard at work mocking up campaign ads for the expected 2022 runoff. “Doug Ford said he would have your back, but while Ontario nursing homes burned…” You get the picture.
On Wednesday, Nanos Research reported that the Libs are a staggering 20 points ahead of O’Toole’s Conservatives in the seat-rich GTA.
All Ford has to do now to put a fork in O’Toole’s election chances in Ontario is to sign that $10-a-day child care agreement that was being talked about with the Libs before the election. Time is running out.