Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Ontario's Short Honeymoon With Populism

Populism -- at least right wing populism -- is on the rise around the world. For awhile, it even rose in Ontario. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Lest we forget, Torontonians led the way by ushering in Rob Ford as mayor nine years ago. We were among the first to embrace the impulse — until we had second thoughts.
City council soon sidelined him, and big brother Doug was trounced in the next mayoral election. But having purged themselves of populism, voters returned to it in the 2018 provincial campaign.
What’s most striking about the restoration of Ford Nation in this province is that it took place against the backdrop of political disintegration across the border. People could hardly close their eyes to the perils of populism, or the known bugs in Ford 2.0, yet voters held their noses in the 2018 campaign that crowned him premier.

Now the bloom is off the rose:

Today, Ontarians have had their fill of Ford’s populist pretensions, booing him at public events while cheering his rivals. His personal popularity has plunged faster and farther than that of his predecessor as premier, Kathleen Wynne, and most pollsters doubt he can recover from the tailspin.
Political polarization is still less pronounced in Ontario than elsewhere. The biggest chasm — replicated around the planet — is the urban-rural divide that pits Toronto and other big cities against the rest of the province.
But the ethnic and racial splits found in America, Britain or France are relatively muted here, and our major political leaders tend towards tolerance (albeit with some exceptions, notably Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, and Quebec’s recurring obsession with religious garb). The immigration trickle along our undefended border is but a fraction of the challenge found along the Mexican border and the Mediterranean.

Another reason for populism's short renaissance in Canada is that we are not easily gerrymandered:

Gerrymandering is the weaponization of democracy, thwarting the natural swings of the political pendulum. Canada, by contrast, entrusts redistricting to arm’s length panels that are largely insulated from political self-interest, respecting natural boundaries and community growth.

So, we do have some safe guards that keep us from going off the rails. That said, we'll still have to live with Doug Ford for another three years. It will not be easy.

Image: CTV News Toronto


Anonymous said...

I doubt “populism” had much to do with the Election of Doug Ford. After all, we do not vote directly for out political leaders. The Conservatives would have won if they were led by a sack of hammers.


Owen Gray said...

I take your point, UU. The First Past The Post system had a lot to do with Ford's majority. That said, it's clear now that Ontarians are suffering from buyer's remorse.

rumleyfips said...


We moved from Ontario in 2001. As a joke on a friend who helped load the truck, I labeled a box of 19th century hammer heads ' Mike Harris " .

Owen Gray said...

Another point well taken, rumley. There was an earlier honeymoon. But that romance also ended in divorce.

the salamander said...

.. if not for his odd backtrail.. Patrick Brown would be Premier..
Let's not forget, Doug Ford caught the perfect political wave..
McGuinty pulled his disappearing act, Wynne's white flag..
filling a void' is not leadership.. its caulking compound

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm not clear on what UU is getting at. Sure we vote, riding by riding, and, except in his/her own riding, we don't vote directly for the leader but the leader very much influences how we vote locally. If you're not inspired by the leader chances are you won't vote for their party. Isn't that what happened with Wynne? In 2015, Justin Trudeau was instrumental in every riding the Liberals won. His aspirational message, his inspiring platform, combined with a broad distaste for Harper et al to give the Libs the nod.

I was surprised that Doug Ford, with the history of Ford Brothers antics, didn't suppress the Tory vote and let Horwath claim victory but, call it populism or something else, Ford delivered.

Perhaps the answer lies in the demographic or voter profile of those who elected the Tories.

Owen Gray said...

True, sal. Nature abhors a vacuum. And Ford is human nature's answer to a vacuum.

Owen Gray said...

I'm quite sure that the answer has something to do with voter profiles, Mound. Ford's support comes, to some degree, from people of colour. But most of Ford Nation is overwhelmingly white and older. If our children are any indication, they have no use for the Fords -- be they local or international.