Four more years of Progressive Conservatives in Ontario

Politics Insider for June 3: Doug Ford dominates the Ontario election; Horwath and Del Duca resign; Bill Morneau and Justin Trudeau clash
Ford leaves a news conference in Toronto, on Friday, June 3, 2022, after winning the provincial election. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)
Ontario Premier Doug Ford leaves a news conference in Toronto, on Friday, June 3, 2022, after winning the provincial election. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Welcome to a sneak peek of the Maclean’s Politics Insider newsletter. Sign up to get it delivered straight to your inbox in the morning.

Doug Ford trounced the opposition on Thursday, sending two opposition leaders to the exits, their parties in disarray. From the Star:

With the landslide win, the Conservatives exceeded their 2018 seat count in the legislature despite two years of COVID-19 that left 13,311 Ontarians dead and soaring inflation as the economy rebounds from the pandemic. The Tories, who held 67 ridings at dissolution on May 4, were leading or had won 82 of the 124 seats in the house with incomplete returns and much lower voter turnout than the 57 per cent of 2018. The New Democrats were ahead or had won 29 seats to eight for the Liberals and one Green. There were four ridings outstanding as of press time. “We’re reimagining our party … and tonight, we have changed what it means to be a Progressive Conservative in Ontario,” Ford told cheering supporters at the Toronto Congress Centre in his Etobicoke North riding.

Exit Del Duca: Liberal leader Steven Del Duca resigned as leader after failing to win a seat in the legislature and delivering disappointing results across Ontario, CBC reports.

Exit Horwath: NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who’s been at the helm of her party through four elections, secured her seat but also announced she would be resigning as leader, the Spectator reports.

Ford’s night: In the Star, Martin Regg Cohn writes that Ford earned this victory, unlike the last one, which he won almost by default. This time, he “persuaded voters that he personally had changed enough to get a second chance — after hitting bottom in the middle of his first term. Instead of a change election, Ford won re-election in a landslide. More to the point, his NDP and Liberal opponents lost decisively, massively — with Ford as the last leader still standing, and still on the job.”

Bulldozer triumphs: In the GlobeMarcus Gee makes similar points. Ford, who once seemed like a clumsy political bulldozer, earned this victory fair and squre, although he was lucky to face weak opponents.

True Blue collars: In the Post, Ben Woodfinden points to the decisive role played by Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, who helped build relationships with trade unions that cemented Ford’s victory, pointing the way to a potent new blue-collar conservatism.

Victory lap: At CTV, Don Martin writes that the result offers a lesson to federal Conservatives as they shop for a new leader — offer pablum.

Voters in Ontario were not screaming for Conservative policy comfort food like fiscal austerity, smaller bureaucracies, deficit elimination or tax cuts, so Ford delivered mushy political pablum and free motor vehicle registration. Ford simply put his PC party label into middle ground practice: Not too progressive. Not too conservative.

It’s doubtful, if not laughable, to suggest that Doug Ford is on track to match the iconic status of Ontario’s Bill Davis, New Brunswick’s Frank McKenna or Alberta’s Peter Lougheed. He’s more like an Ontario answer to Alberta’s common-touch premier Ralph Klein.

Justin Trudeau, who didn’t do much to help his provincial cousins, congratulated Ford.

Responds to Morneau: Earlier Thursday, in his own lane, Trudeau responded Thursday to Wednesday’s Bill Morneau speech, in which the former finance minister said the Liberals have been putting too much emphasis on wealth redistribution and not enough on wealth creation, the Globe reports. Trudeau said Morneau was part of all that: “Bill was a huge part of that – an important member of the team. We did that, not just because that was going to be the best way through the pandemic, but it was the best way of ensuring the economy would come back as quickly and strongly as possible”

Not a dissident: Writing in the Post, John Ivison sees this more or less as Trudeau does.

In this week’s speech, Morneau said he tried to get his government to focus on the need for sustained economic growth but was often foiled by the emergence of “things that seemed more politically urgent, even when they weren’t truly as important.” But he was hardly a dissident. He was in charge of economic policy — and if he wasn’t, he should have resigned sooner.

Too tough on Trump: On Thursday, Politico unearthed an overlooked Feb. 25 speech, in Washington, in which Morneau criticized the Trudeau government’s approach to dealing with our neighbours:  “We were, in Canada, reflecting the reality that most Canadians didn’t support Trump. So it was easy to use Trump as a punching bag in Canada. And I would argue not a very smart thing for Canadians to do.”

Accountable: The deputy governor of the Bank of Canada said Thursday that the bank should be “held accountable” for its failure to keep inflation under control, CBC reports. Paul Beaudry was responding to Pierre Poilievre’s criticisms. “The aspect that we should be held accountable is exactly right,” Beaudry said. “Right now we completely understand that lots of Canadians can be frustrated at the situation. It’s difficult for a lot of people. And we haven’t managed to keep inflation at our target, so it’s appropriate people are asking us questions.”

CERB clawback: Two years after doling out $2,000-per-month CERB cheques to those who lost work due to the pandemic, Ottawa is sending letters to thousands of Canadians, telling them that they needed to pay at least some of the money back, CTV reports.

No request: Former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly told MPs Thursday he didn’t ask the Liberal government for invocation of the Emergencies Act to clear the city’s streets, the Post reports: “I did not make that request, I’m not aware of anybody else in the Ottawa Police Service who did.” RCMP commissioner Brenda Lucki previously said the same, contradicting claims by Trudeau government ministers at the time of the protest that police told them they needed the extra powers.

— Stephen Maher