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Doug Ford Is Not Donald Trump North

Ford has lots in common with the US leader, but this isn’t Trumpian-populism. This is entirely a made-in-Canada production.

by Drew Brown
Jun 8 2018, 3:20pm

Photo via Nathan Denette/the Canadian Press.

Doug Ford is the premier of Ontario. Welcome to the next four years of your life.

The slow-motion tsunami bearing down on Queen’s Park since March has finally battered down the doors and blown out all the windows. The Liberals are smashed to bits and the NDP are locked out of office by the ghost of Recession Rae. When pressed on whether they wanted dental coverage or dollar beer, 40 percent of voters chose to crack open a cold one with the boys. At least you’ll be able to drink away the pain.

This election was a gongshow before it even started. Kathleen Wynne immolated her personal dignity in their desperate and weirdly condescending effort to stave off political obliteration. (Sorry not sorry that the Liberals are going to lose official party status.) The PC party began its election campaign in a #MeToo meltdown and ended, victoriously, in a Ford family feud. The NDP leaned as hard as it could into wonk-approved progressive policy but couldn’t seal the deal in the suburbs. Chalk this up to another case where two competitive centre-left parties enable conservative governments under First-Past-The-Post, and that a substantial chunk of the Ontario electorate is firmly post-literate.

But before this election slips into mythology and all political life in Ontario slips into madness, it’s important to clarify that his election was not inevitable. Ontario voters were clearly jonesing to put a Progressive Conservative in government, and it probably would have been the fairly un-Fordian Patrick Brown if his life hadn’t exploded in sexual harassment allegations. It could just as easily have been premier Christine Elliott, save for fickle fortune and Ford’s Stalin-level skills at backroom partisan thuggery.

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It’s also important to remember that Doug Ford is not Donald Trump. This is not case of the Trumpist “disease” spreading north. There are lots of similarities—loud men shouting populist nonsense, pervasive auras of corruption, unholy animal magnetism—but Doug Ford is a thoroughly domestic production. The call is coming from inside the house.

His campaign might have garnered endorsements from the Ontario skinhead community, but he also won by appealing to racialized and immigrant Canadians. Anyone who wants to pin this squarely on white resentment isn’t paying attention. Even Ford’s astonishingly antagonistic relationship to the media owes more to the Stephen Harper school of politics than it does to the Republican regime that coined “fake news.”

No, Doug Ford is 100 percent made in Canada. He is the conservative mirror image of Justin Trudeau—a blank canvas where you can project your political daydreams. “Ontario is open for business” and “stop the gravy train” means roughly as much as “Canada’s Back” or “Because it’s [current year].” Which is to say: nothing, beyond the emotional content produced by triggering the ideological reflexes in your lizard brain. Conservatives are good at economics! Liberals care about social justice! The NDP are wacky and Bob Rae caused a global recession!

This is why Ford cannot be fact-checked or moralized into submission. The more he was slammed by the self-appointed voices of political reason, the stronger he became. Ontario Proud worked overtime to poison our increasingly anarchic media ecosystem and they succeeded. Doug Ford blustered and lied his way into the premier’s office and literally no one could stop him.

Ontario wanted change, and they got a seismic one. A Ford provincial government obliterates Trudeau’s strongest provincial ally and puts a wrench in plans for a nationwide carbon tax. It stacks the provincial government with social conservatives eager to roll back the insidious LGBT- and abortion-friendly social policies of the hated lesbian ex-premier. It is a bodyblow for Canada’s progressive self-image and the pride of its press corps. It is a glimpse into the future of politics in this country.

A new day dawns across Ontario. Doug Ford fulfills his family destiny; Rob Ford’s ghost becomes the spirit of the age. The 21st century belongs to Ford Nation. May God have mercy on you all.

Follow Drew Brown on Twitter.