The Liberal incumbent for Newmarket-Aurora, Chris Ballard, yesterday said he could be in trouble if Liberal voters at the last Provincial election were to switch to the NDP, splitting the centre/left vote and letting Doug Ford in. 

Ballard: Too good to lose

“I am worried that if only 2 or 3% of those supporters at the past election move to the NDP we could be in trouble here.”

To me, that’s simply a statement of the obvious.

But hearing it first hand from an embattled Minister, fighting for his political survival, makes it very dramatic. 

Whistling in the dark?

Ballard, who was sharing a platform with Premier Kathleen Wynne, told a crowd of cheering supporters at the Cachet Restaurant in downtown Newmarket he nevertheless feels upbeat about things.

“I don’t think that’s happening (the drift of supporters to the NDP). I feel a real momentum building. We had the Aurora Street Sale yesterday. The reception of people in the street was very positive. They are very concerned about Doug Ford leading this Province and they know that a vote for the NDP in Newmarket-Aurora is a vote for Doug Ford.”

Maybe he is whistling in the dark to keep his spirits up. But Ballard’s analysis is surely correct. A few votes seeping to the NDP from the Liberals will gift the riding to Doug Ford. 

An NDP win here would signal a complete collapse of the Liberal vote across the Province. 

At the last election in 2014, Ballard took 43.9% of the vote; the PCs trailed with 37.4% and the NDP came in a very distant third with 11.5%

Broadly speaking, this is a conservative leaning area with incomes above the Provincial average.

PCs in turmoil as ballot stuffing and cheating become commonplace. 

No sign of Christine Elliott at the Aurora Street Festival

The Progressive Conservatives think they have Newmarket-Aurora in the bag despite their recent history of turmoil, ballot stuffing and cheating. Christine Elliott missed the only candidates’ debate open to the public without charge on 24 May. And she has spent much of the campaign outside of the riding, being photographed alongside Ford. Smiling through gritted teeth.

Ballard hopes to shore up the Liberal vote as best he can – and get it out. Scaring voters away from Ford may be the easy part.

“No-one in this riding who cares about good government should be supporting Doug Ford.”

It maybe more difficult to persuade voters to stick with him when there is a clear hunger for change. Kathleen Wynne’s shock announcement on Saturday saying she wouldn't be Premier after 7 June may have staunched the hemorrhage away from the Liberal brand. Or, perversely, it may have encouraged it. Who really knows?

Polls offer no guidance

We can’t look to the polls for guidance. No polls are published in the riding and what we get are extrapolations from data collected elsewhere. But the political parties will have their own private polling and will have a sense of the way in which opinion is moving.

I am voting for Chris Ballard because he has been an effective MPP these past four years, championing policies which resonate with me. 

He knows the riding well, unlike Christine Elliott who parachuted in after Charity McGrath, the cheat, was given the chop.

The NDP candidate, Melissa Williams, comes across as authentic, someone who wants to make a difference. But she has a mountain to climb to win here.

The NDP has, of course, moved left since the last election when Andrea Horwath was widely slated for ignoring poverty issues, shamefully turning her face against an increase in the minimum wage as she sought to court the small business vote.

Chastened and contrite

After the 2014 defeat, there was a leadership review and a chastened and contrite Andrea Horwath reinvented herself, following the Party to the left.

They are moving on to ground where the Wynne Liberals have already staked a claim. On climate change. On fair wages. On public libraries. On long term care beds. On affordable housing (though much, much more to do). On job creation. On mental health. On GO transit and building a new rail infrastructure across the Province. On free prescription drugs for older people. And much else besides. 

Maybe other Parties also lay claim to these initiatives. That’s OK.

We shouldn’t be surprised. 

There is a lot of cross-dressing in politics.

But on many of the big issues the Wynne Liberals have walked the walk.

As we prepare to change Governments we should remember that.

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So much for Doug Ford masquerading as a “successful” businessman.  

Ford the successful businessman. Don't make me laugh!

If we are to believe the astonishing lawsuit filed by Rob Ford’s widow, Renata, the Deco Labels business has been run into the ground. 

Year after year, losses mount and Doug carries on regardless, blowing cash as if the business will take care of itself. Ford has been plundering the company for years.

The lawsuit filed at the Superior Court shows the financial statements of Deco Toronto recording losses of $396,376 in 2010; $1,111,485 in 2011; $423,961 in 2012; $497,996 in 2013; $2,164,557 in 2016 and $1,498,598 in 2017. 

Earlier today, the Star's Rob Ferguson tweets:

"On Renata Ford's lawsuit allegations @FordNation won't make Deco financial statements or his salary public."

For the man who tells us he believes in transparency and integrity and accountability, what's he got to hide?

Probably quite a lot.

Doug Ford: the unsuccessful businessman living on borrowed time

Many PC leaning people have turned a blind eye to the well-documented darker side of the Ford family believing Doug Ford, for all his faults, could at least plausibly claim to be a successful businessman. That narrative is now shot to pieces.

The Globe and Mail’s Adam Radwanski writes of Doug Ford: 

“…part of his appeal has been that he’s a successful businessman. Not knowing the ins and outs of the provincial bureaucracy, or how a bill becomes a law, was cast as less a bug than a feature of someone who would be able to bring his no-nonsense, back-to-basics private-sector expertise – the sort he’d proven in building up Deco Labels, the family business – to Queen’s Park.”

Am I surprised by the latest turn of events? 

Don’t be ridiculous! Of course not.

Ford Family Skeletons

It was only a matter of time before the skeletons came clattering out of the Ford closet.

The PCs are now flirting with criminality across the piece. Current and former PC candidates are embroiled in lawsuits or under police investigation.

It beggars belief Ontario’s voters – with their eyes wide open – would entrust the Government of the Province to such a motley collection of crooks and shady characters.

“Anyone but Ford” must be the guiding principle.

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Here is a useful aide-memoire from the Toronto Star’s Martin Reg Cohn reminding us where the Parties stand on the big issues.

Kathleen Wynne’s bombshell announcement yesterday tells us she doesn’t know who voters will choose on 7 June but

Pure Ford. 

“after Thursday I will no longer be Ontario’s Premier.”

How will this play out? 

Will Liberal voters take this as a green light to vote strategically for the NDP if they believe that’s the only way of stopping Doug Ford in their riding?  

Will they stick with Liberal incumbents – such as Chris Ballard in Newmarket-Aurora – on the grounds he’s been a good MPP for the past four years and deserves to be re-elected?

Wynne’s concession, five days before the election, is truly remarkable. Has she hung her candidates out to dry, broadcasting to the voters there is no possibility of a Liberal Government? Or has she thrown them a lifeline, allowing them to campaign on their own record without having Wynne’s drag anchor pulling them down?

The PCs: a tainted Party

My advice is to vote for the candidate in the best position to beat Doug Ford’s tainted Progressive Conservatives.

Even the PCs themselves know their Party has been corrupted.

Christine Elliott, the PC candidate in Newmarket-Aurora, lost to Doug Ford for the Party leadership and refused to concede defeat when the figures showed she had lost.

Elliott put out a statement saying her campaign had been made aware of

 “serious irregularities with respect to this leadership race.”

She subsequently threw in the towel and accepted the result and is now one of Ford’s loyal lieutenants – at least until the result is declared.

All politicians have a shelf life. And when Elliott left the legislature she was well past her sell-by date. But the wholly unexpected resignation of Patrick Brown allowed her to re-enter Party politics, challenging Ford for the PC Leadership and, of course, losing.

Stepping aside

As for Wynne, would it have been better for her to step aside from the Liberal leadership three months ago instead of a few days before the election? 

Absolutely.  

Ford's Blast from the Past in Davis Drive on Sunday 3 June

The best parallel I can immediately think of comes from New Zealand where the Labour Opposition Leader, Andrew Little, stepped down because of very poor polling figures and his successor, Jacinda Arden, took over on 1 August 2017 a mere seven weeks before the General Election. A deal was struck with the country’s third Party and she found herself as Prime Minister.  

Changing the face at the top allows a Party to present a new and fresher image to the electorate. It’s tough on the Leader but politics is like that. It is in the nature of the beast. Here today and gone tomorrow. 

The PCs are now going for the NDP jugular but their campaign seems increasingly inept.

Pitching for the seniors’ vote

This PC ad, outside the Seniors’ Centre on Davis Drive, is, obviously, pitched at the older demographic.  

It asks (above a grainy photo of Bob Rae):

REMEMBER THE 90’s?

1.2 MILLION ON WELFARE

And alongside a photo of Andrea Horwath it shouts:

HORWATH’S NDP:

ECONOMIC CHAOS

Rae was NDP Premier of Ontario from 1990-95 so you would probably have to be in your late 30s or early 40s to have any serious recollection of Rae Days and all that.

The people in Newmarket’s Seniors' Centre may remember those tumultuous times. But around 40,000 younger people in Newmarket-Aurora will have no interest in this ancient history. 

The past is another country.

Except for Doug Ford who wants to bring back the good old days where you could buy a beer for a buck. 

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Update on 3 June 2018: The CBC's The Campaigner email blast tells me:

"While Wynne's concession was surprising, it isn't unparalleled in provincial politics. In 2001, BC's NDP premier Ujjal Dosanjh was in a similar position, conceding a week before election day and anticipating big losses for his party. He asked voters not to split the left vote by voting for the Greens over the NDP. His plea didn't work. Gordon Campbell's Liberals won all but two seats, stripping the NDP of Party status."

In 2006, not long after she was first elected as MPP for Whitby-Oshawa, Christine Elliott was lecturing her fellow MPPs at Queen’s Park on the importance of keeping campaign promises.

She told them it was really important to address the cynicism of voters:

“doing what you say you're going to do and not turning your back on your promises after you're elected”

She said they had to improve the flow of information to the public 

“so that they receive all of the information they need in order to make informed decisions.” 

Those fine sentiments have been thrown under the bus – quite literally. 

The books look bad. Very bad...

According to this morning’s Era Newspaper Doug Ford told a “roundtable of candidates” at Newmarket’s Best Western Hotel:  

The result last time. A split vote on the centre/left between the Liberals and NDP could let Ford win. Other parties on the right such as Trillium - which could theoretically take votes away from Ford's PCs - don't even show on the radar.

“We have been laying out our plan every day and putting a dollar amount beside every announcement. We have a fully costed plan.”

Christine Elliott adds, disingenuously:

“We don’t know how bad it is going to be yet. We can say we will be responsible and develop priorities.”  

Former chief economist at TD Bank, Don Drummond, writing in today’s Toronto Star addresses that one head on:

“If the NDP or the Conservatives form the next Government, wait for that tired old refrain of how the books look worse from the insider perspective than the previous Government let on. Voters will not fall for that.”

Other commentators say the new PC Plan makes a mockery of Ford’s vow of a fully costed platform.

Ford's Platform "doesn't do the job"

And former Professor of Political Science at Ryerson University, John Shields, says the PC platform, as released, doesn’t do the job

“For voters, there still isn’t any new fiscal information to make an informed judgment.”

I wonder what Christine Elliott (2006 version) would say about that. 

Now she says whatever it takes to get elected.

Lofty speeches on how best to deal with voter cynicism come later.

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The publication yesterday of the PC’s “fully costed” platform is a big disappointment.

I am left wondering if this damp squib is what Christine Elliott had in mind when she told the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce candidates’ breakfast meeting last week that a fully costed program would definitely be published before the election. She told me afterwards she didn’t know precisely when.

The list of "clear, honest" commitments in Ford’s “Plan for the People” together with their estimated costs is pure back-of-the-envelope stuff.  The Plan is opaque when it comes to showing how the commitments will be paid for.

$6 billion disappeared from the Plan

The $6 billion in promised efficiency savings no longer appears in the plan – just a general spiel about rooting out inefficiencies. Ford says no jobs will be lost as a result of this efficiency drive. Just more cost-effective ways of buying paper clips and all the day-to-day things the Province needs to function.

Doug Ford’s PCs have also abandoned their pledge to deliver a balanced budget within the first two years of their mandate. Instead we see the weasel word “responsible” creep into Ford’s promise.

The Plan says Ford will:

“Return to a balanced budget on a responsible time-frame.”

No Reckless Promises

Ford says he won’t make reckless promises and that when he makes a promise he keeps it. “Period.”

He told developers privately he would allow them to build on a “big chunk” of the Greenbelt but, full of contrition, he dropped his “reckless promise” 24 hours after an incriminating video went viral.

He now promises to

“Increase the supply of affordable housing across the GTA while protecting the Greenbelt in its entirety.”

Perhaps Professor Ford should explain in detail how he plans to do this.

Ford says he will keep the all-day two-way GO/Regional Transit projects which are, of course, hugely expensive. Indeed, the Liberal Government took the perilous decision to sell off part of Hydro One – which has backfired on them explosively - precisely to channel much of the proceeds into modernising and expanding our ancient creaking rail network. So, how he makes his sums add up is more than of academic interest.

Respect and Trust 

Ford’s campaign is all about “getting Ontario back on track”. He tells us “help is on the way” and he is going to bring “respect and trust to Queen’s Park”.

Perhaps all the PC candidates who cheated and bought their way to nominations via the 407 scandal and the 60,000 stolen IDs are going to be cleared of any wrong doing. This sinister crime is now, of course, the subject of a major police investigation.

If any PC candidates who were involved in this fraud are elected on 7 June Ford’s promise to bring “respect and trust to Queen’s Park” will be seen in retrospect as one of his more reckless.

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