SCHEER DELIGHT – Again this week, Premier Doug Ford seemed preoccupied by national issues, fuelling more chatter that he has an eye on expanding Ford Nation across Canada. It’s not clear whether there’s any validity to these rumours of federal aspiration, but Ford has never categorically denied them. He did, however, quell suggestions he is after federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s job. Welcoming Scheer to a Queen’s Park visit, Ford introduced him as the “next Prime Minister of Canada” – yes, that’s standard partisan protocol, but the warmth appeared to be genuine – and gave him an unqualified endorsement. Later, Scheer himself dismissed the idea that Ford wants to usurp him, claiming they have much common ground on issues like their disdain for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, opposition to a federal carbon tax, concern about border crossings and international trade. Perhaps the narrative will change should Scheer lose to Trudeau in next year’s election, but for now Ford is hitching his wagon to Scheer as the best way “to get rid of Justin Trudeau.” Scheer plans to be back in Ontario in a few weeks to attend the Ontario PC Party’s annual convention.
SAFETY NET – In these days of hyper-partisan, gotcha! politics, accusations of impropriety by cabinet ministers are inevitable – and inevitably overheated. Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Michael Tibollo is first on the hot-seat, thanks to a Globe and Mail report cataloguing “multiple ongoing lawsuits that include allegations of professional misconduct by his law firm and a failure to pay debts.” The Globe noted that Tibollo’s office wouldn’t directly respond to the legal allegations but pointed out that the Integrity Commission hasn’t expressed any concerns. Nor has Tibollo been subject to any discipline from the Law Society of Ontario. But in politics facts are often secondary to perceptions. While in Opposition, the Tories (and NDP) were outraged when former Liberal Premiers refused to consider ministerial resignations in the midst of various accusations. Whether Ford opts to be similarly impervious with Tibollo – regardless of the evidence or lack thereof – could be seen as tone-setting. He did get a reprieve, however, when Speaker Ted Arnott ruled that the Opposition parties can’t press the issue in Question Period because it isn’t directly related to government business.
GIVE US A SIGN – Ford was unambiguous about the tone he wants to set as drivers enter the province, unveiling “Welcome To ONTARIO / OPEN FOR BUSINESS” highway signs (in both official languages, of course). When Ford vowed during June’s election that he would put up signs saying Ontario is open for business, many thought he was speaking figuratively. But he has literally made good on the promise – notwithstanding the nitpickers who pointed out that his promise was to put up “neon” signs. (Ford’s critics naturally also chimed in, such as Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, who called the road signs “goofy.”) Ford made the big reveal at a major business conference, which not surprisingly greeted him very favourably. Ford basked in the adulation and implored the audience to keep up the support, warning, “There are forces in Ontario who had it good under the stagnant Liberal economy … These forces are already organizing and preparing to spend a lot of money to stop us.”
CONVENTIONAL THINKING – As mentioned above, Ford’s Tories are gearing up for their annual convention in Toronto November 17, and it figures to be a jubilant affair – the first such event in 15 years with the party in government. But it’s not all hugs and kisses, as the ascent to power has brought with it some internal battles. Foremost in the backroom nastiness is the race for party president, which spilled over publicly when Finance Minister Vic Fedeli chastised candidate Jim Karahalios— whose wife happens to be newly-elected Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios, adding another layer of intrigue – for what he called “personal attacks and revisionist history” in his campaign materials. Fedeli is unequivocally supporting veteran activist Brian Patterson, who is also reportedly Ford’s preferred candidate for the post.
IN YOUR OPINION – Few would dispute that Ford is still on his honeymoon with the voters who elected him, and even fewer would undertake political polling during this honeymoon. But Innovation Research did just that, in an energy industry poll that also asked about party support. Innovation reported that the Tories are still out in front – albeit not by much – with 35% support among decided voters. According to this survey, the Official Opposition New Democrats are not second but third in popularity, with 25% support, behind the Liberals at 32%.
TRY AGAIN – At least one defeated Liberal MPP is hoping Liberal support is indeed back on an upswing, because he’s out campaigning again. Yvan Baker is seeking the federal Liberal nomination in Etobicoke Centre, the riding he lost provincially to Tory Kinga Surma in June. Baker is likely one of many ousted MPPs who will look to Ottawa for redemption next year.
RUMOURS & RUMBLINGS
After a decade-and-a-half in the political wilderness, the euphoria of their return to government continues to permeate the PC ranks. But tiny cracks are starting to show, as some caucus members are reportedly bristling at the tight message control being maintained by Premier Ford’s inner circle. Central hegemony is nothing new, but insiders say at least a couple of backbenchers are miffed by yet another level of officialdom, a committee vetting private member’s bills. Private member’s bills rarely pass anyway, but they are profile-building opportunities for backbenchers and usually pertain to pet issues. Insiders say some PC MPPs are vexed that their proposed bills were nixed even though the other parties agreed to move them forward (or maybe because of that). With a 76-member caucus, managing egos figures to be a challenge throughout this mandate – even if, for now, it’s a problem the Tories are happy to have.
IN THE HOUSE
No new government bills were introduced this week.
Bill 4, cancelling Ontario’s cap-and-trade program, passed Third Reading and received Royal Assent.
FOR THE RECORD
“The days of phoney numbers in Ontario are over. We will present to the people of Ontario for the first time in a long time a true and current state of finances in the province.”
Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, setting the stage – and the tone – for his fall economic statement November 15.
“I am historically not a Leafs fan but let me say this: I’d gladly cheer for the blue and white before I accept a federal Liberal carbon tax.”
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, during a visit to Queen’s Park, with a very Toronto reference to underscore his allegiance to Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s anti-carbon tax crusade.
“It is not, as the name might imply, an organization dedicated to training trades people. Rather, it is the motherlode of useless regulation. These are the folks who think it’s important to license barbers and mandate special training in the styling of women’s hair for people who only cut men’s hair.”
Postmedia columnist and former PC candidate Randall Denley, lauding the Ford government’s plans to scrap the Ontario College of Trades.