TORONTO - “Gobsmacked” is an expression introduced to political lexicon by Doug Ford, as then City Councillor in Toronto. He had just been asked how he responded to the revelation that his brother, now deceased, was addicted to crack-cocaine. I didn’t know, is what he wanted the questioner to understand.
Six years later, it was that kind of week again in Ford land. First, the latest polls that placed the Premier dead last in popularity: a full twenty percentage points behind former Premier Wynne at her worst.
In fact, a leaderless Liberal Party of five MPPs (who are they?) registered 40% popularity to his Party’s 21%.
Then, there were resounding boos directed towards the Premier at the Raptors’ victory parade festivities (Monday) – right in front of the targets of his own political animus, Prime Minister Trudeau and Mayor Tory.
On Tuesday, the humiliation of being almost completely ignored at a decidedly conservative fundraising crowd (2700 patrons present) for the “Spirit of Hope”, until he mentioned the special guest, former USA Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley. She, incidentally, walked right by him without so much as a nod in his direction.
Two days later, a “Cabinet shuffle” of previously unheard-of dimensions: dumping, or diminishing the roles of, nearly all the Senior Ministers; increasing the number of Cabinet Ministers by 33%, from 21 to 28; and, firing the Minister of Finance.
Before anyone could begin to analyse the implications or significance of any of the selections for social or fiscal conservatives in the PC Party – indeed in the province - the Premier’s o¡ce announced the resurrection Agents General of Ontario and, concurrently, the appointment of four individuals to those posts.
Their “qualifications” drew immediate fire: one was the friend of a lacrosse buddy of the Premier’s nephew; another, a cousin of his Chief of Sta¢’s sister; yet another a former sta¢er of his late brother at City Hall.
The cost to the taxpayer: $165,000 to $185,000 yearly for each one, plus accommodations and expenses. To drum up business in the USA and Britain? Seriously? According to Ministry of Finance documents, Ontario already sends 78.8% of its exports to the USA and 6.1% to Britain. By the way, it ran a 10 billion-dollar trade deficit last year, exporting $444.797 billion and importing $454.441 billion. It is unlikely the “gang of four” would single-handedly turn that around.
Before the day was done, Dean French, now former Chief of Sta¢ to the Premier, and arguably first in line for “cowboy of the year” award, according to PC sources who spoke off the record, was fired. A planned retirement, he says. Two of the Agents General lost their appointment before the ink was dry on the contract.
No one remembers the Cabinet shuffle.
Ontario citizens who voted to give the Wynne Liberals the proverbial pink slip one year ago must be thinking: “what have we done?"
The NDP among them will have given their heads a collective shake and asked: “how did we let this crowd slip in ahead of us?”
Pity the Progressive Conservatives (PC) who have been left to wonder how they “let this crew highjack our party?” It’s the crew that would set itself up as an antidote to the Federal Government.
This week has definitely not been a great example of Statecraft at Queen’s Park. Nor of sound management.