Just what is Doug Ford up to anyway?
Last week, the mayor's older brother and councilor for Etobicoke North made it known that he may be leaving City Hall to run for the PCs in the next provincial election. Then he proceeded to dare Premier Kathleen Wynne to call an election.
Right on cue, the Sun held forth with a strange front-page treatment: Doug in black T, neck craned looking like he was about to pummel the Preem. As if.
A real clown that Doug. Can anything he says be believed?
Ford's announcement, or pronouncement, seemed to come with one big proviso: Wynne would have to call the election tout de suite for him to run. Not happening.
So why now? Crazy as it sounds, Ford's probably the best bet the PCs have in making any dent in T.O. Yup, the PCs are just that desperate.
And while a provincial election is not imminent, although informed speculation says there may be one in the fall, Ford does provide the PCs a front on which to run in Toronto - namely, the hot button of revenue tools to fund transit.
But on that one, the PCs led by Tim Hudak may end up losing more votes than winning with their no new taxes for transit spiel. In case they haven't noticed, their business friends at the Toronto Board of Trade like the idea of dedicated tools to pay for transit. But Ford's foray raises other questions.
Is Doug Ford for real?
The short answer: probably not. It's no secret that Doug Ford has been coveting PC leader Tim Hudak's job. That's been speculated upon for months. More than the old man's self-made millionaire legacy, there's the political legacy to think about. Doug would like nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of the late Doug Sr., who served in Mike Harris's government.
But the possibility of Doug taking over the PCs is not in the cards - at least not in the foreseeable future. Despite his dismal approval numbers - Hudak is the least liked provincial leader by a country mile - the conventional wisdom is that the PC leader will be given one more kick at the can before he's put out to pasture.
Maybe that's why Ford wants an election pronto. The quicker that comes, the quicker, conceivably, that Hudak is out of the picture.
The plot thickens
Doug Ford's bud, Richard Ciano, the PC party president, is no fan of Hudak's, despite what he says publicly. In fact, Ciano and his biz partner, one Nick Kouvalis, (yes, the same one who was Rob's campaign co-chair and chief of staff), have been busy orchestrating a coup of Hudak for some time now.
Kouvalis has a history of bringing down PC leaders. He was involved in that dump John Tory campaign way back when the former Tory leader, it was thought, was veering too close to the political centre.
Kouvalis had some uncomplimentary things to say about the folks around Hudak just the other day, when he sent out the following tweet:
- Nick Kouvalis (@NickKouvalis) March 26, 2013
Those "people" would apparently include one Leslie Noble, former Mike Harris campaign manager and confidante who reportedly played a behind-the-scenes role in Tim 2001 campaign disaster, along with some other former Harris "whiz kids," though she's vehemently denied it.
If anything, Ford's election trial balloon signals a further splintering in PC ranks.
The wrinkle in the Tim Hudak coup theory
Word is Kouvalis wants to be Tim's campaign chair come the next provincial election. Hudak has been taking on some of the Fordian speechifying on subways and the like. See "respect for taxpayers" shtick.
But the party higher ups, the guys who control the money, are reportedly having none of Kouvalis, especially after that mess made of the Kitchener-Waterloo by-election.
Kouvalis was on the ground for the PCs in that test, in which the PCs ended up finishing a catastrophic third after holding the seat since 99.
Why Doug Ford as PC leader doesn't make sense.
Consider the presence of deputy PC leader Christine Elliott, who happens to be the wife of Ford family friend Jim Flaherty, the federal finance minister. She would seem a more suitable replacement for Hudak when (and if) his time comes to sign off.
The party braintrust would certainly like to see the PCs move more to the centre. And Elliott would be just the ticket. The only problem is that her worldview doesn't mesh with that of the Neanderthals dominating the PC benches these days, in particular the landowners' rights faction behind former leadership challenger Randy Hillier.
With husband Jim's health a concern, it may be that Elliott won't be sticking around much longer. The PCs though desperately need someone to save the party from itself. It can't stay the rural rump if it has any hope of governing.
Footnote: Kouvalis was involved in Elliott's failed leadership campaign back in 2009, but more out of his connection to Flaherty than because he shares Elliott's political outlook.
What will become of Rob?
The strongest argument for Doug Ford not going anywhere soon is sitting in the mayor's office.
It's difficult to imagine Doug, the so-called brains of the operation at City Hall, defecting to provincial ranks and leaving brother Rob in the lurch, especially at such a sensitive political time when questions are being asked about the mayor's battle with personal issues. Unless, of course, the plan is for Rob not to seek re-election in 2014. But let's leave that discussion for another day.
Ford winning his Etobicoke North seat in a runoff against Liberal incumbent Shafiq Qaadri is not a given either. Qaadri has held the riding since 2003, winning handily in two elections since - by more than 12,000 votes in 2007 and by 6,000 in 2011. Doug will no doubt have oodles of money to spend. But the demographics are shifting.
Both the PCs and NDP have been running candidates to appeal to the area's immigrant communities in the most recent runoffs. There's also the growing NDP support in the area to consider. For Doug, that planned exit may require a little more thinking. Back to the drawing board.
UPDATE (04/08/2013, 11:51 AM): An earlier version of this article suggested that Leslie Noble is Tim Hudak's wife. This is not the case.