Any reasonable Ontarian who witnessed Doug Ford’s turbulent and abusive time as a Toronto City councillor, and his equally tumultuous first year as premier of Ontario, could not have foreseen the victory that ushered him into a second term. Yet his sitting PC government was reelected with a massive majority of 83 seats while the NDP won 31, Liberals 8, Green 1, and 1 independent were merely distant shadows. The TV campaign, which is what modern day elections are, reflected a dull and uninspiring opposition that couldn’t cast a negative spotlight on Ford; they seemed to have hardly tried.
The pundits agreed that the bull-in-a-China-shop Ford of 2018, his first year as premier, would have been tossed out of office if voters had the opportunity. But the Doug Ford of 2022 was a man transformed as the COVID epidemic descended on the province. He became a smaller target for an unimaginative opposition that couldn’t hit a barn door, let alone an often physically absent Ford.
So, here we are with a conciliatory Doug Ford, a habitual antagonist of unions, winning the support of eight trade union and industry groups, stating that he will lift the salary cap on public service unions (nurses, teachers), which he imposed in 2019, and negotiate a wage hike.
“I’m a strong believer when you get inflation, we’ve got to treat people fairly,” he was reported to have said. Acknowledging that the inflation rate is very high at 6.8 per cent.
“We’re going to sit down and negotiate fairly with… no matter what union it is,” Ford said, adding that “The government must be fair with those working hard on the frontlines.”
This is nothing more than a remarkable transformation, which is all to the good. However, Ford still retains elements of his old self which are certain to emerge considering the power he can wield with a massive majority in the legislature.
He remains firmly committed to the private sector having primacy over the public sector in almost every area of the economy, even though it has been proven that the private sector’s presence in certain areas are not only uneconomical but also dangerous.
Just before the elections he said that the province will expand long-term-care capacity by at least 40 percent. The lion’s share will go to private sector operators although the majority of deaths that occurred during the COVID pandemic were in privately run LTCs.
He campaigned on building highways, even they run through farmland at a time when climate change threatens people with food and water scarcity, increased flooding, extreme heat, more disease, and economic lost.
Ford’s stripes may have changed somewhat, but there are a lot of which Ontarians should be wary. There will be four more years of Ford, which is enough time for him to have a relapse and resort to his old self, especially with a mandate that allows him to do as he pleases.
He should be watched closely. Remember, a tiger remains a tiger, stripes or no stripes.