Readers of this space know that I have had little good to say about Doug Ford. But Martin Regg Cohn -- who also has seen little to praise in Ford's performance -- writes in today's Toronto Star that Ford is turning out to be the kind of leader Ontario needs at this moment:
He is listening, at last, to expert advice — not going with his gut. Where once Ford mistakenly encouraged people to fly off on March break, he is now a self-disciplined disciplinarian, admonishing people to stay home with displays of tough love.
Even if his briefings do not soar to the rhetorical heights of N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the eye of the COVID-19 storm, they do not stoop to the buffoonery and bellicosity of Donald Trump’s White House monologues. While Ford’s audiences can’t compare to the record numbers of Americans watching their duelling leaders on daytime TV, and don’t match the reach of a self-isolating and importuning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the premier is making his mark.
Ford’s daily performance is so remarkable because it is so unexpected, so unlike the public persona he has cultivated throughout his public life. Gone for now is the hostility and insecurity, the pandering and partisanship, replaced by a steady resolve and resilience in the face of tough questions.
He no longer speaks as the leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives, but of all Ontarians:
The premier is acting and talking, at last, like the premier of all Ontarians. Not a political messiah preaching an imaginary Ford Nation incantation.
“There’s no better army than I have behind me than the 14-1/2 million people of this province that are standing shoulder to shoulder united, working with us,” Ford intoned Monday. “We will conquer this, we will defeat this COVID-19.”
I admit my surprise. However, it reminds me that -- occasionally -- we listen to our better angels. We're going to have to do a lot more of that.
Image: CTV Troronto-CTV News