The Once and Forever Candidate

If Doug Ford runs for everything, one day he just might catch something

✎  Wayne K. Spear | February 8, 2018 • Politics

DOUG FORD’s run for mayor had already started when a path to Queen’s Park appeared, and if Ford loses in June who doubts that October will coax his return? The man is always running, or teasing about running, as if there could be a doubt. The only variable is the destination. In the past five-or-so years, Doug Ford has imagined himself the succesor of Stephen Harper, Tim Hudak, Rob Ford, and now Patrick Brown. And in between he has run, or has said he would run, for municipal council and the provincial parliament. Doug Ford, the once and forever candidate, always ready to run everywhere for anything.

Doug Ford

The Etobicoke Kennedys, we locals sometimes call the Fords, and not entirely with irony. They are now a three-generation political dynasty, if you include nephew Michael. And before you dismiss this comparison as too generous, remember that the Kennedys had a more-than-passing familiarity with intrigue and pills and thuggery, and that the flattering myth of Camelot was just that. Doug lacks even an interest in the mechanics of charm, and his style tends more toward resentment. But resentment is a cheque that someone will eventually cash if only you carry it around long enough. The populism of Mike Harris enjoyed scant currency until Bob Rae had made the 905 sufficiently angry. For seven years, from 1995 to 2002, Harris’ nonsense was Common Sense. The voters didn’t want a government, they wanted a wrecking ball. Has Kathleen Wynne brought them back, yet, to this point? She seems to have been trying.

Doug Ford took a third of the vote in the last Toronto election. One in three voters, over 330,000, endorsed his message of rampant insider corruption and gravy-train elitism. He’s only ever had one message, of outgroup anger and burn-it-to-the-ground populism. Folks, he hates the people that you hate, and he’ll poke them in the eye. For you, folks. The Doug Ford myth is reverse Camelot, where the rotten elites are inside drinking Chardonnay and have locked all the good people out. Reverse Camelot isn’t a myth about public service or even ideology—it is an appeal to the tribe, a call to charge the gate, a war of cultures. That’s why Ford has been able to survive when his claims—such as being an ordinary outsider, rather than a wealthy and well-connected member of a multi-generational political family—turn out to be objectively false. It’s not about Doug Ford, it’s about the people and the things that Doug Ford hates and will endeavour to confound.

I’ve lived in Ontario long enough to know that phony populism, of the kind peddled by Doug Ford, goes around and comes around. He’ll tell you he’s running for Premier because it breaks his heart, folks, to see what’s happening to his beloved province, not because he was raised on the mother’s milk of political ambition. He’ll tell you he’s just like you. He’ll tell you he’s going to Queen’s Park to clean things up, not because he craves the power of office, of any and every office. He’ll tell you only he can fix what is broken, and that only he can drive out the elites. Maybe this time it will work. If it doesn’t, he’ll be back, running the path towards another office. When Doug Ford arrives at a fork in the road, he takes it, hoping that eventually it will come with a meal.