It comes down to personalities and who you believe - and right now Andrea is leading on those counts.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 25th, 2018



“They said, ‘Doug Ford came to our house, signed me up and paid,’” said Eastwood. “It is a swipe against democracy when you can just come in and buy memberships and then put people in, give people a (PIN number) and tell them, ‘This is who you’re voting for.’” (National Post – May 23, 2018)

At the midway point in Ontario’s election the Liberals are heading for the backbench despite the conventional wisdom that governments don’t get voted out when the economy is strong. Still it makes one wonder because a quick look at what the party leaders are promising shows precious little variance among them. They are all running deficits, for example. And why does everyone seem to dislike Kathleen Wynne?

Horwath - shrug

She was short a billion on the first draft of her budget – fessed up to the error and moved on. The public went along with her.

Mr. Ford would kill Ontario’s carbon tax and the NDP would buy back Hydro One eventually. Other than that, the differences are generally more of a degree unless one reads much further between the lines. The NDP is the only party to actually have a proper platform at this stage, notwithstanding that it originally came with a billion plus dollar hole in it.

The Liberals are running on the record and their spring budget, which was loaded with at least as many social goodies as the NDP. And Doug Ford, the instant party leader with barely three months under his belt is shooting from the hip – promising everything to everybody yet saying he’ll wait until he sees the books. And if he looked he’d see that the books are already there – they have never been more transparent.


A believable factor has crept into the Ford campaign. Can he get back?

Ford’s accumulated spending and tax cuts swamp the deficit plans of the other two parties yet he is the only one promising to eliminate the deficit as early as his second year in power. Estimates of his ever-springing promises run as high as $16 billion more than the other party leaders combined. But while promising to spend money like the proverbial drunken sailor he is also promising as yet undetermined ‘efficiency’ cuts of some $6 billion in his first year.

So it is little wonder that his credibility is tumbling, almost as fast as his poll numbers. The only way he could deliver on his promises is if he wore a cape and changed in a phone booth – whatever that is. The polls were predicting a Tory majority government almost two years ago, even before former leader Patrick Brown brought down his red-Tory campaign platform.

They kept getting better even after Brown was unceremoniously dumped because of some sexual allegations, and replaced with the unlikely, and mostly unliked, Ford. But then Ford started talking and suddenly it hit people – this man could be our next premier.

We all know that Doug’s brother, the late Mayor Rob, was a lovable clown and his almost daily antics made international headlines. Suddenly Toronto became famous and on every evening talk show which prompted our ever-jealous neighbours to act. They were not about to play second fiddle when it came to buffoonery. Toronto was having way too much fun and so they elected Donald Trump – Rob Ford without the crack.

But Doug is not his brother, even though they were close and Doug played alter ego for his younger brother while he was mayor. In fact Doug seems way too serious, almost humourless or perhaps just scared shirtless, finding his ambition has taken him out of his depth and into the deep end of the pool wearing only cement shoes.

Ford scowl - cropped

Parts of the background that have never been fully explained.

His tough straight-shooting talk sounds like a carryover from earlier days when he was alleged to be a drug dealing boss, accusations which he has never properly refuted. Or it may be a reflection of a man who would do anything to win, promise anything and break the rules to get his way, as in Ford’s recent vote-buying scandal.

This election will come down to personalities. Wynne can’t shake the image of a cold and distant demeanour, and rightfully or not people are tired of her governance and want a change. Mr. Ford might be a nice fellow, his mother adores him, but then mothers always do. But he is an unknown commodity in this area and his almost Soprano-like family history raises real questions about his integrity, ethics, morality and respect for the rule of law.

Andrea Horwath has the warmest presence of any of the leaders. Her honest and forthright response to the math error in her original platform has won her points, even as it hurt her measure of competence. And in this election style and trust have become the most important factors and, for a public raised in the age of television, personality wins every time.

Few people thought the NDP would ever come this close to winning in Ontario after the Bob Rae experience. But younger voters have forgotten that episode and Rachael Notley’s win in mostly hostile Alberta, and her respectable performance to date, should give the NDP hope. Of course BC’s Horgan and federal party leader Mr. Singh do Horwath no favours in their dogged determination to undermine Canada’s constitutional peace.

Andrea_Horwath 2

Andrea Horwath – looking and sounding a lot more positive.

And the centre-left Liberal/NDP split makes it a challenge for Horwath to win without significant strategic voting. So Ford is still the favourite, leaving Ontario voters to decide whether they want to see Horwath or Ford in their own faces every time they turn on the evening news. The televised debate this Sunday evening will be worth watching. This has suddenly become a much more interesting race than when it started out.

Poll as of 25th

Wow! Few thought the polling results would look anything like this when the election was called two weeks ago.














Rivers hand to face


Ray Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Ford Buying Membership Votes –   NDP Making Gains –   Election Promises

Deficits –     Tories Tied


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10 comments to It comes down to personalities and who you believe – and right now Andrea is leading on those counts.

  • Stephen White

    The issue of fiscal responsibility and financial management is the “800 pound gorilla” in the room that none of the candidates or the parties really want to tackle directly. Sadly, after 15 years of mismanagement the Liberals have left the provincial with a litany of financial screw-ups that appear never-ending (e.g. e-Health; cancelled hydro plants; Air Ornge; etc.).

    I am definitely not a fan of Doug Ford. He has neither the gravitas nor the disposition one expects in a leader. He comes across as reptilian, and his morals and ethics are highly suspect. The fact that he hasn’t yet brought forward a fully costed and detailed campaign platform is disturbing. Many of the candidates running for the Party in Toronto are less than stellar and seedy. The really sad fact though is that he may be the best of a really poor crop.

    But here is where the Tories do have the edge. A leader is only one member of a government. The quality of PC MPPs in the House (e.g. Fedeli, Smith, MacLeod, Yakabuski, etc.) who could form the Cabinet is far superior to either the Liberals or NDP. The fact that the Liberals have stuck it out with Kathleen Wynne, and that so many of their caucus (e.g. Hoskins, Murray, Mathews, Sandals) have either retired or aren’t running speaks of internal discontent. The NDP have a few experienced MPPs (e.g. Tabuns, Fife), and perhaps a couple of star candidates who could easily step into Cabinet roles (e.g. Stiles, French) but most are representatives of special interests who lack both depth and breadth of life experience. Those of us who lived through the NDP debacle from 1990-95 will recall the sad collection of union officials, shop stewards and social activists who suddenly found themselves running multi-million dollar ministries, and the unholy mess that ensued.

    The best thing that could happen June 7th is a minority PC government with a strong NDP opposition. The Liberals can hold the balance of power, and let’s hope in the ensuing process they finally jettison their leader and appoint someone from their reduced ranks who is credible, reasonable and pragmatic, and who will act as a reasonable check. And if Ford is elected, then let’s hope he is true to his word and makes good on his promise to bring in outside financial experts to go through ministerial and departmental budgets line by line and put in place the kind of strategic cuts to eliminate duplication and waste, not services or people, and finally restore some measure of sanity to this province’s financial affairs.

    • Mike

      Stephen, good summation. I would be concerned though that with only enough PC seats for a minority government, the other 2 parties will either try to collude to form the government through a coalition or defeat the PC government on the first budget unless they get significant spending programs to please their special interests so they can take credit and defeat the government in the 2nd budget. It is a sad statement of the status of politics in Ontario. Part of the blame lies with the situation in the PC party leadership which I believe is similar in other parties as we have made an institution of being a politician. Time for term limits (2 or 3) for all politicians.

  • Mike

    Ray, glad I can actually agree with one of your points. All the promises and politically thrashing or trashing are irrelevant. Part of the reason is that our fiscal situation in the province is so bad, none of them will be able to keep their spending promises. If they try, our rating will go down, interest will go up (currently $1billion per month) and therefore there will be less money for their promises.

    When it comes to superficial selection of candidates, as this seems to be the trend, then I would go with the newbie. Wynne and Horwath are career politicians. As least as the newbie, Ford, will bring some better perspective in terms of asking ‘why’ we have to do it that way in government or spend money that way and we’ll hopefully get a government who will reverse the course of piling debt onto our children and grandchildren. It would also help if they hired a government outsider like Don Drummond to provide fiscal education to Ontarian’s to better expose the need for prudence versus hiding it as McGuinty and Wynne have done. Oh wait, McGuinty did that and hired Drummond to do a fiscal plan for him in 2012. In it Drummond laid out the need for fiscal prudence, so the McGuinty liberals quickly buried it and then McGuinty resigned.

    What we need now is a government financial accountability act preventing future governments from running deficits as is done with municipalities. No politicians can be trusted with our credit card. Trying to solve everyone’s problems by spending more money to get votes is politics, not leadership. Sadly the people in the parties have all become politician’s first and show no leadership, partly because the majority of the people in the last 15 years have grown up believing the government can/should just provide everything. This is a sad statement of what Ontario has become but I have hope that the newbie can break this cycle and some government leadership will emerge.

    Fingers crossed.

  • Ray Rivers

    Thanks for your input. Despite getting out of his depth as policy advisor to former Premier McGuinty, Drummond is worth listening to, especially on the topic.

  • Ray Rivers

    Gary – Thank you for commenting. Let me say that I agree that the promises in this election are almost irrelevant – which was the point of the column. And I think we can concede that Kathleen Wynne is not in the running.

    But the points I raised about Doug Ford are valid. Following a Globe and Mail expose which unequivocally identified him as a kingpin in the illicit trade of drugs, Ford threatened to sue but never followed up on his threat. Do you even wonder why?

    And the Ford family has a much broader historical connection to crime if you recall the Police raids in 2013, the reports of domestic and firearms violence, and the fact that the former mayor of Toronto was reported as DUI and was a confessed regular crack cocaine user…

    I’m not slinging mud – this is real. Choosing to ignore reality because one has a personal dislike of the current Premier or the NDP is not the wisest political choice one can make this election. Contrary to your accusation, I’m not spreading propaganda. I am trying to help the reader understand the facts and setting the context. I’m a Liberal as everyone knows – I have no personal stake here – short of a miracle we’ve already lost.

  • Gary

    Seriously, Ray. Nobody listens to these bags of promises, (especially the eye-glazing-over
    economic ones which appear to be your stock in trade). The main thing in this election is simply getting rid of Kathleen McGuinty Wynne. As between the two main alternatives, it is simply who will bankrupt us faster — my money is on the NDP, from past experience. Notley became credible when she got around to reading the books and realized that she needed to swing to the right. Can anyone say, “Bob Rae”.

    You seem to harp a on Doug Ford being a former “drug dealer”. First, you cover your ass with using the word “alleged”, a good journalistic dodge. This, however, is followed up with something about an accusation he has “never properly refuted.” Whatever happened to the principle that the accusers have to prove the truth of their case, not the accused? Where is the hard evidence? Uh, you do understand the concept of evidence, don’t you.

    You need to stop with the innuendoes that are nothing more than character assassinations based on rumour. That is not serious journalism. It is propaganda.

  • if you want to help people, you will tell them the truth…if you want to help yourself, you will tell people what they want to hear.The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics. NDP is always guilty of this

    Michael Staffieri, Ontario Libertarian Party candidate for Eglinton Lawrence

  • Fred Pritchard

    With an estimate of 85% of all Provincial costs being under the salary heading, and Doug’s promise to not cut jobs, it is impossible to find that much “gravy” within the 15% of the budget remaining when that includes rent, hydro, computers, software, gas for cars, equipment, etc. The previous CON platform said you would need to fire 100,000 people to save $1B annually. So if the same parties economists made that pledge, it is then clear that Doug is just doing what he always does, lies. I have had discussions with other CON’s and asked them where do you draw the line in terms of ethics, meaning how far is too far. a) violating the PC party rules on membership – Doug caught on tape b) Convicted fraudster managing 29 CON nominations where voter fraud is widespread c) Stolen identities from the 407 in the hands of CON workers? d) Foreign students paid to impersonate voters e) Candidate Gill bribing another candidate f) Candidate Gill withholding completed membership forms because they are muslims and might change their vote if there is a muslim running in the nomination g) Widespread and organized debate boycotts by CONs h) Appointing the Son of Mike Harris to a riding after getting a call from Harris Senior. I) Complete financial non-senses. Cutting taxes by billions, no layoffs, but a balanced budget in year two. Sorry but if he could really work miracles his name would be Jesus, not Doug.

  • Politicians wouldn’t try to ‘buy votes’ if the electorate did not let them. Unfortunately, our final electoral decision-making now depends on which ‘personality’ we believe will, at least, keep some of their promises. All of the major parties are dangling costly promises in front of their potential supporters, and this distracts the electorate away from the fact that, due to the $350 Billion debt, many of these promises are unrealistic to begin with. I wonder if they will find a new way to justify broken promises beyond “… we always knew that they were STRETCH goals?”

    Jim Gilchrist, Ontario Libertarian Party candidate for Burlington (Other)