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The PC Party of Ontario has announced the hiring of Kory Teneycke to manage the 2022 provincial campaign for Ford – God help us
Doug Ford emerged from his self-imposed quarantine on Tuesday (sort of) to issue a statement blaming the feds (again) for the current wave of death and destruction sweeping over the province in the form of a third wave of the coronavirus.
The idea that the feds not shutting down the borders has been to blame for the mess in Ontario has been a popular narrative pushed by conservative columnists who work for the Sun and are sleeping with the premier’s press secretary. But we can expect to hear more of it in the coming weeks and months as Ford tries to wriggle off the hook of the crisis his mismanagement of the coronavirus has unleashed.
It’s official. Doug is in re-election mode. On that front, the PC Party of Ontario has announced the hiring of Kory Teneycke to manage the 2022 provincial campaign for Ford. God help us.
The announcement was made in a statement released late Friday, which is usually a slot reserved for news the government doesn’t want you to hear about. In Teneycke’s case, that may have something to do with the fact his day job is as a paid political lobbyist and consultant and his government relations firm does business with the current government. He’ll be taking a leave from that post to work for Ford.
To be sure, Ford’s hiring of lobbyists doing business with his government to rehabilitate his political image – and all the conflict of interest questions that raises – has been a subject of much discussion around Queen’s Park as Ford has brought in the big guns to save him from certain political oblivion. Teneycke was reportedly among the group of advisors brought in recently to put out the firestorm currently engulfing Ford that led to his tearful apologia.
Facing the prospect of being only one of a handful of sitting premiers not to be re-elected in Ontario history, party partisans are hoping Teneycke, a former Reform Party operative and communications director for Stephen Harper, can create some of the magic that helped Ford come virtually out of nowhere to win the party leadership just ahead of the 2018 election. Teneycke was handling Ford’s campaign back then, too.
An election is still a year away and time would appear to be on Ford’s side, political amnesia being what it is in this province. A year from now, the province will be in a different place, perhaps even leading Canada’s economic recovery, or so the thinking goes.
Still, Teneycke is going to have to pull something of a rabbit out of a hat with public opinion polls showing Ford’s approval ratings seemingly at the point of no return. Voters will forgive incompetence, but the failure to protect Ontarians from the coronavirus is another thing.
It’s become harder not to equate his mishandling of the pandemic to criminal negligence given the needless number of deaths in long-term care and the failed government rollout of the vaccine. History suggests that’s not something that will be easily forgotten, even a year from now. Can you say Walkerton?
The last public health crisis in Ontario – an e-coli outbreak that led to the hospitalization of thousands and claimed six peoples’ lives – proved fatal to Mike Harris’s re-election chances. A similar scenario to Ford’s is taking hold in Alberta, where chum Jason Kenney’s re-election prospects are all but dead now that Albertans of all political stripes are beginning to come to grips with the frightening mess he’s made of the province’s pandemic response.
It will be a daunting task to flip the script on Trudeau. But Teneycke will try. He has a reputation for being hyper-partisan. And as a former VP of Sun TV, history shows he’ll use every dirty trick in the book against his political opponents, including dredging up decades-old stories of alleged sexual impropriety, as Sun TV did against Jack Layton back in 2011.
The misinformation campaign to cover up Ford’s failings is already in full swing. The PC party is reportedly gearing up to spend mightily on social media platforms, à la Ontario Proud, to create its own narrative. A similar strategy was employed to vilify Kathleen Wynne. It worked. But the target this time won’t be Ontario Liberal leader Steven Del Duca, who doesn’t occupy a seat in the Legislature – or, for that matter, a prominent place in the minds of voters – despite being ahead of Ford in the polls.
The PC strategy this time will be directed at the Liberals’ federal cousins in Ottawa. The propaganda war is already taking shape in a two-pronged attack against the Trudeau government.
While Ford barks about porous borders – not his government’s ineffectual policies – being to blame for variants now running wild, his counterpart Erin O’Toole has taken up the cause against Trudeau in Ottawa over sexual misconduct allegations swirling around former chief of defence staff Jonathan Vance.
Missing from that storyline for Conservative partisans is the fact that Harper was briefed about the allegations against Vance when he was in power in 2015, and chose to do nothing about it. Harper was also the one who appointed Vance, but you’d hardly know from the way the Cons have been jumping up and down on social media about it.
Teneycke’s former boss has been in the news lately owing to the anniversary of his so-called “strong, stable Conservative government majority” victory a decade ago. It’s an odd occasion to celebrate given how the partisanship that’s been unleashed in the current political discourse in Canada can be traced back to the nasty brand of Conservatism that was Harper’s hallmark. It’s all come full circle.