By Chad Ingram
Published March 15, 2018
In the fall of 2016, jaws hit floors around the world as an anti-establishment businessman with no relevant experience, a reputation as a bully and penchant for shouting slogans rather than talking about anything substantive, was elected president of the United States of America.
While it may not have been quite as shocking, a similar narrative unfolded last weekend as the Ontario PC party, as it scrambles to get out from under the mess surrounding disgraced former leader Patrick Brown, chose former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford as its new chief.
The party had a reasonable and experienced choice in longtime MPP Christine Elliott, but instead chose to go with Ford, probably best known as the behind-the-scenes ringmaster during his brother Rob’s tumultuous years as mayor of Toronto.
Ford is a multi-millionaire who’s been able to brand himself as being “for the people” because he calls everybody “folks” and blames everything on “elites.”
This is the basis of populist politics, which eschew deep debate, policy talk and general thought in favour of emotion, ideology and knee-jerk reaction. Ford said nothing substantial or specific about policy during the leadership campaign, just reiterated the popular talking points that he was going to get rid of Kathleen Wynne and clean up Queen’s Park.
People love that.
What about telling us how he plans to do that?
Apparently Ford plans to set aside the party policy platform that was established under Brown and start from scratch. That platform included a carbon tax worth billions of dollars a year in revenue. So what’s the plan to replace those billions of dollars in revenue? Presumably, it means job cuts, and billions of dollars equates to tens of thousands of jobs. Where will those job cuts be, and how will they affect services in hospitals, schools and other provincial facilities?
Ford said Monday that he plans to cut costs without cutting jobs. Sounds great, the problem is, we all know that’s not possible. It’s just the nonsensical rhetoric of a populist politician.
Populist politics love an underdog, an against-the-grain character who “tells it like it is,” “shoots from the hip,” and “calls a spade a spade.” These terms are often euphemisms for simply spouting commonly held opinions (which is ever so comforting to the people who hold those opinions), without backing them up with fact or evidence.
Populist politics are blind and unthinking. They are idiocy in motion. They have brought us to a point where we are considering making someone with no experience of his own in Queen’s Park the premier of the province.
Most Ontarians want rid of Wynne, but the PCs’ choice of Ford as leader has put voters in an unfortunate predicament. We need to ask ourselves if we are really prepared to go down this populist path.
We may want to look south of the border for some indication.