The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Canada’s Trump Now Premier of Canada’s Largest Province

So, Doug Ford, brother of the Toronto’s crack-Mayor Rob Ford, is now Premier of Ontario.

It wasn’t particularly close: 41% to 34%, although polls had shown it neck and neck. At a guess, youngsters didn’t show up at the polls, which always a risk. Without a Corbynite rock star politician who they actually believe in, they tend to vote less than they intend. Horwath, the NDP leader, is no Corbyn, but a relatively left-centrist pol with little charisma.

Doug Ford is accused of having stole from his brother’s wife, of driving his business into the ground, and was a drug dealer when younger. He didn’t bother to put out a costed platform, about a third of his candidates are under criminal investigation, and etc, etc…

He’s a stupid buffoon, and his policies, such as they were, don’t even make as much sense as Trump’s did (because he has no Bannon). However, what we can know for sure is that they will involve a lot of privatization and budget cuts, fire sales to cronies and so on.

Given the percentages, caveats about proportional voting and first past the post aside, it’s hard to say this isn’t what the most committed plurality of Ontarians want. I notice that Liberals don’t appear to have strategically voted all that much, as they always want NDPers to do (and as about a third of NDPers generally do do in close elections.)

Oh well, gonna be a sucky 4 years in Ontario, but that’s what a plurality of us voted for. And, yeah, Canadians, willing to vote for really shitty people, just like Americans. (Trudeau, by the way, has run a terrible policy regime in many ways. He just knows how to look good doing it.)

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  1. NR

    Ian, can you do a post elaborating on Trudeau’s terrible policies? I’d be interested to read that.

  2. Bill Hicks

    Sounds like a similar dynamic is in play as we had here in the US: when the well spoken, pretty boy liberal who was elected to reverse the country’s conservative direction reveals himself to be a fraud many voters get disillusioned and stay home.

  3. Hugh

    Anywhere and everywhere you look it is the same insanity. People look at their circumstances, hate them, and then vote for those who created them. I see it as an understandable but irrational attempt to hold on to a world that is slipping away or has already slipped away from them. We need clear thinking, cohesion, and social, political, and class consciousness. We need organization and action. But it isn’t happening.

    I was going through some of my materials and came across this interview from 2004 with the the commentator and disillusioned former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips. The general sentiment applies to both this and the previous post.

    11/5/04 NOW with Bill Moyers

    Well, the worst thing to me is we’ve had so many second rate choices really, for the last 30 or 40 years relentlessly. It seems that that’s likely to be true in the future, too. I don’t see what changes it. I don’t have any sense that the average person sees a whole lot of hope for politics…

    I think the United States is really in some respects, on the sort of downhill slope that the great economic powers of the world get when they’ve got this division between rich and poor, when they’re overextended globally, when they’re building up debt. I mean, this has happened many times before. It seems like it’s where we are. And I don’t expect politics to address that honestly. I don’t expect the people to be mobilized in a serious across the board way. And frankly, that makes me very concerned about where it’s all going. So I’d like to be proven wrong in the next four years.

  4. Webstir

    This is hardly worth commenting on anymore. The left knows the problem — neoliberals dressing themselves in progressive clothing. Money has utterly corrupted left leaning party politics globally. Now, those neoliberals hold power and have backers that will continue to throw money at them to maintain the status quo. And so it will remain, unless and until, the left puts forward candidates that aren’t beholden to money and have the ability to communicate the “concrete material benefits” (to steal Lambert’s phrase) they will fight for their constituents.

    Not rocket science. But it’s the current state of play.

  5. Herman

    Does Canada have similar problems among its working class? I recall reading that drug abuse is a growing problem in Canada. I am not aware of Canada having a Rust Belt like we do here in America but I would like to hear from Canadians or better informed people on this subject.

    I ask because Trump-like politicians don’t come out of nowhere. They usually develop out of disillusionment with the center-left and deteriorating social conditions.

  6. Webstir

    I dunno, maybe ask Ian? He’s Canadian.

  7. Stirling Newberry

    Ontario catches a cold – but perhaps the real liberals can win next time ( doubtful). The liberal-conservative patchwork does not want the NDP in charge.

  8. Sid Finster

    I suspect that the reason Ford won is because of his brother.

    I also suspect that Ford and Trump each did better than the polls predicted as a result of something like a reverse Bradley Effect.

    According to the classical form of the Bradley Effect, a non-white candidate polls better than indicated in election results, because polling subjects don’t want the pollsters to think they’re racists.

    In the Trump/Ford variant as I see it, a candidate excoriated as a buffoon on MSM will get better results than poll numbers would otherwise suggest, because polling subjects don’t want the pollsters to think that they’re morons or inbred hillbillies.

  9. Billikin

    I prefer to think of Trump as America’s Doug Ford. 😉

  10. (Trudeau, by the way, has run a terrible policy regime in many ways. He just knows how to look good doing it.)

    It’s fun having to point out to people that Trudeau sucks. Just because he needles Trump doesn’t make Trudeau any good.

  11. jrkrideau

    @ Bill Hicks

    Sounds like a similar dynamic is in play as we had here in the US:
    No, you may be confusing Canadian national-level politics with provincial Ontario politics. And a multi-party system with the US institutionalized two-party system. There was no pretty boy liberal, etc.

    In Ontario we had a tired, scandal-ridden party that had been in power for 16–17 years and that was highly hated for several reasons. (Note: In Canada, parties seem to get voted out simply because the electorate think they have been in power too long and are getting stale). So going into the election the incumbent (Liberal) party was in deep trouble.

    The (practical) opposition consisted of the Progressive Conservatives (long established party with a record of governing) and the New Democratic Party with only one election win to their credit and usually the trailing third party.

    The Progressive Conservatives (PCs) had a solid base, often in the rural areas of Southern Ontario, and this time they had, as leader, Doug Ford, the inheritor of the mantle of his deceased brother Rob Ford and the Ford Nation in the Greater Toronto Area. This Ford Nation gave Doug a solid base no matter what.

    So the race came down to a Liberal Party hated by a large majority of the electorate but with some die-hard supporters, a PC party with die-hard supporters plus the Ford Nation, and the NDP, again with a dedicated but smaller base, but mainly in the urban areas , that is, concentrated in fewer ridings, who otherwise were picking up discontented PC and Liberal voters.

    I was surprised by the results but other than the fact that the PCs seem to have a leader that seems a lot like Trump the situation was not remotely similar.

  12. different clue

    I live in South East Michigan, and I can see Canada from my house. ( Well . . . I could when I was living on the 18th floor facing east).

    I can’t imagine Canada having a whole huge rust belt, but I can imagine Canada having some rust spots in those parts of Ontario and maybe Quebec which had/have a manufacturing economy similar to parts of America’s Midwest and Northeast.

    Now . . . if “rustbelt” just means areas of deep poverty and abandonment, I would wonder ( without knowing) whether the crash of the Codfish Fishery off Newfoundland left a lot of deep poverty and abandonment behind. I remember having a fun little discussion years ago with a Newfoundlander immigrant to Michigan who owned a bookstore. We were discussing a round of Constitutional Conflict in Canada and “distinct society” recognition for Quebec. He said Quebec is hardly a distinct society. It is just Ontario in French. Newfoundland had a distinct society for five centuries but that was all destroyed when non-Newfoundlanders destroyed the fishery.)

  13. Hugh

    Seeing the discussion here, I would say that the provincial election in Ontario has the same dynamic as events in the US. It is all about parties and even more so personalities. Specific, concrete programs, barely a mention.

    I agree that Trudeau is no prize either. But then neither are May, Macron, Merkel, and Abe. Italy just changed its government, but Conte and company are so far kind of vaguish. And while not part of the G7, I would have added Rajoy but he just got booted for pay to play/campaign slush fund corruption. Not impressed either by the EU representatives to the G7 Juncker or Poland’s Tusk.

  14. Altandmain

    Ian, you pretty much said what I wanted to say about this. There needs to be a Canadian Jeremy Cobryn or at the very least, another Jack Layton.

    I voted NDP this election, but it wasn’t out of excitement. Granted, they have moved left somewhat compared to where they were, but they are not the working class party that they should be.

    There were a lot of ridings as well split something like 30% NDP, 30% Liberal, and 40% Conservative, which means they would win. In a ranked choice vote, or a PR system, this would have meant an NDP-Liberal-Green minority coalition.

    I also felt that their focus on identity politics may have alienated quite a few voters. I think that the left needs to drop it and focus exclusively on economic issues.


    We do have parts of Canada like the Rust Belt. This is due to the decline of Canadian manufacturing, mostly because it was shipped overseas or to Mexico.

    IN the case on Ontario, Windsor and St. Catherines are facing grim situations as well. Much of Quebec is also in decline. The Maritimes are in a prolonged recession which Ian has written about on this blog. Then there are the Aboriginal reserves, many of which are facing prolonged difficulties.

    There are other issues. There is gentrification in many areas that have seen a technology boom. Toronto, Kitchener, and a few other cities are like that. The issue is former manufacturing workers have few opportunities and not in the tech sector.

    Perhaps Ian can add more.

  15. Mel

    Maybe it’s not called rust-belt, but the town here is having trouble paying for water treatment because there’s difficulty collecting taxes because a sizable proportion of people can’t find money to pay them. From the top of the mountain you can see a dead drywall factory in the woods just off the highway. There are lots of closed mine sites from the glory days when the town was richer and slightly more radioactive. Timber is keeping the place going.

  16. Some Guy

    It is probably worth noting that the Conservatives won in spite of Ford, not because of him. If they’d gone with someone else as leader they probably would have been close to 45% of the vote (possibly more), not 40%.

    In terms of tactics for the left, as in many jurisdictions around the world, there are a number of aging rural areas which seem to be becoming increasingly reactionary over time. I’m not sure how to reach these people. One step would be to avoid unnecessarily antagonizing them (e.g. NDP declared they would make Ontario a sanctuary province, a move not likely to win many new votes, but likely to alienate plenty of these people). The NDP’s pharmacare plan should have appealed to these folks, but they weren’t able to make it as big a part of the campaign as it should have been.

    Most of the voters in these areas are old people who are relatively isolated from the economy due to the government and company pension plans they’ve spent decades voting to eliminate for the generation coming behind them, so I feel they mostly vote on cultural issues, and the urban version of the NDP with its anti-religion, pro LBGTQ+etc agenda is never likely to win this battle.

    In the ‘905’ (suburbs of a major city) area, I believe there is a different dynamic, the swing voters here are the people who have, in my opinion, been driven to a state akin to mental illness by stressful jobs, commutes and social pressures. These folks (on average) are in fight or flight mode, listening to the radio jerks every morning and afternoon and they care only for anything that might alleviate their ratrace. In B.C., the deciding factor that put the NDP in power was their promise to eliminate tolls on key bridges into Vancouver, pushing a bunch of suburban swing ridings into their column. I consider this bad policy, but at the same time a small price to pay to gain power.

    In Ontario, Ford was promising lower taxes, transit improvements, lower electricity payments, among other things targeted at this group, which the Ontario NDP never seemed to directly target despite their critical role in deciding elections.

    The only time the NDP ever gained power in Ontario was, not coincidentally in my opinion, the only time they ever campaigned hard on a specific concrete policy plan to make lives easier for these people, which was when Bob Rae’s NDP campaigned on ending private auto insurance ripoffs in Ontario by making the system public. Every lawn sign for an NDP candidate was accompanied by a sign on this policy in particular, it was unmissable, and to Rae’s great shame that he chickened out once in power.

    Unlike in the U.S. with Trump, the rust belt areas of Ontario (Hamilton, Windsor, St. Catherines, Northern Ontario sort of) have mostly stuck with the NDP, but of course there is no equivalent to the NDP in the US.

    Given the likely pending recession in Canada, maybe it is not the worst thing for Ford to get stuck with it rather than the NDP, but no doubt Ford and company can do lots of damage in 4 years.

  17. Sub-Boreal

    “Some Guy” has nailed it, I think. Although it has been more than 40 years since I lived in Ontario, his analysis of the disparate political cultures of the province rings pretty true.

    One omission: the orange islands of medium-sized urban areas in SW Ontario haven’t always been that entrenched. And it’s an oversimplification to view them as just miniature rustbelts. Having grown up in London during the ’60s and ’70s, it’s astounding to me that all 3 ridings went NDP this time, and quite handily. North Centre, the newest addition, includes the old north end of town where I’d lived. In scrolling through poll-by-poll results, and recalling the streetscapes of those neighbourhoods, it’s pretty remarkable. There can’t be that many lefty profs at Western!

    Having never lived in a true suburb, I can’t counter or add to the description of life in 905. But from 2nd-hand knowledge of the BC lower mainland, I agree completely with the comment about the bridge toll removal. Sometimes you just have to hold your nose, and ignore the policy wonks. (Ditto: the recognition by an increasing number of scholars that carbon taxes are becoming so unsellable that they may be doing more harm than good in building public support for climate change action.)

    One important difference between BC and Ontario is the contrasting allegiances in northern / interior hinterland constituencies. If BC behaved like Ontario, you might expect that Prince George (where I’ve lived since 1991) would be a complete NDP fortress. Instead, the NDP hasn’t elected anyone here provincially since 1996, and popular vote shares have gradually dropped from the low 40s to 30% or less. The explanation is complex, but at least part of it is a larger western Canadian phenomenon. Unlike northern Ontario which has been settled for a century or more, the big increase in population here came during much more recent resource booms. So the prosperous parts of hinterlands within the province to some extent function the way Alberta does on a national scale – someplace where you can count on getting a job if there isn’t much happening in the place where you’d really rather live. So you can do quite well, with lots of RVs, big pickups, snowmobiles, and cabins at the lake. And this tends to incubate a version of suburban-style, pull-up-the-ladder-after-you guardedness.

  18. marieann

    I live in one of the rust belts (sort of) Windsor has really been hammered recently. We never did diversify from auto manufacturing, in spite of it being an election cry for 40 odd years.

    And we stuck with the NDP…..I abandoned them this year, I thought the member in my riding was getting old and too comfortable in his job.

    I may have voted PC if Ford had not been the leader, so I went with the green party. As “some guy” said I am waiting to see the damage that will be coming.

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