Doug Ford's PC Party openly panders to bigots, refuses to explain how they will pay for their promises, and can't even run nominations without chaos. Does anyone seriously think they're fit to govern?
By Ryan McGreal
Published June 01, 2018
The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party is an organization in moral shambles and Doug Ford's leadership is a symptom, not a cause, of the party's crisis.
The provincial election on June 7 has not even happened yet, and PC leader Doug Ford has already broken a major campaign promise: his promise to present a fully costed platform to voters before election day.
Instead, Ford has assembled a list of spending and tax cut pledges with no indication of how his government would pay for them, no budget forecasting and no analysis. It doesn't even bother to add up the total cost of the promises - around $10 billion a year, for anyone keeping track.
Based on these items, economists Don Drummond [PDF] and Mike Moffat have determined that the PC party would run the highest deficits of the three major parties and the NDP would run the lowest deficits since their platform [PDF], a serious 96-page document, specifies revenue sources to pay for their programs.
The entire PC document is 3,200 words, or around 12 pages. Such a thin gruel of a document would be embarrassing for a fledgling fringe outfit, let alone a venerated major party that governed Ontario for most of Canada's history as a country.
It's no wonder that PC hopefuls are skipping local riding all-candidates debates in droves. Who can blame them? There is no response they can give to the inevitable basic questions they would face that would not harm their chance of winning.
But this is par for the course for today's PC Party, a chaotic cult of personality led by a blustering charlatan. Just a few months ago, after both leader Patrick Brown and party president Rick Dykstra resigned over sexual misconduct allegations, interim leader Vic Fedeli stunned observers by announcing he was trying to "root out the rot" in the party organization.
The party membership system fell into disarray under Brown's tenure, with the total inflated by tens of thousands through fraudulent records, for example more than two dozen fake memberships at a single Ottawa residence.
The party membership scandal has continued under Ford, with a new controversy involving 60,000 identities allegedly stolen from Highway 407 customer records. This has already led one PC candidate, a former Highway 407 employee, to resign his candidacy.
Snover Dhillon, a convicted fraudster and PC campaign advisor who worked on the campaigns of several nominees, is alleged to have been involved with the Highway 407 data breach. The current party leadership is trying to distance themselves from Dhillon, claiming they don't know him, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
Ford ran for the leadership of the party by championing the grassroots. He insisted, "every single riding nomination is going to be 100 percent transparent". But one of his first acts as party leader was to personally appoint eleven candidates in ridings that already had nominees campaigning and selling memberships.
One of those hand-picked candidates is Mike Harris Jr., son of former Premier Mike Harris, whom Ford appointed to run in Kitchener-Conestoga after the previous candidate, incumbent MPP Michael Harris, was abruptly ousted in what looks like a manufactured scandal over flirtatious texts he had exchanged with a former intern in 2012.
Harris Jr. had lost the nomination race for Waterloo, an adjacent riding, just two weeks earlier, leading to grumbling from Kitchener-Conestoga Tories that he was parachuted into the riding because his father was a major fundraiser and a personal friend of Ford's.
Another one of Ford's hand-picked candidates, Andrew Lawton in London West, is a right-wing extremist former Rebel Media host known for racist, homophobic and misogynist rants - including stating in 2016 that employers should be allowed to discriminate on the basis of gender and race, and that students should be able to debate whether the Holocaust happened.
Lawton has blamed mental illness for his hateful remarks between 2005 and 2013, but his pattern of extremism did not stop after 2013. Ford continues to stand by him.
Ford himself engaged in dog-whistle politics at a recent Northern Ontario debate when he responded to a question about how he will bring more immigrants to northern towns by saying, "I'm a pretty generous guy - I'm taking care of our own first."
It's no wonder Ford has the support of Ontario's white supremacists, who are saying they hear his racist dog-whistles.
Meanwhile, a recording has turned up of Ford himself violating party rules and possibly violating election finance law to drum up memberships on behalf of an Etobicoke PC candidate in October 2016.
Ford is clearly heard telling people, "It won't cost you anything" to join the party. "You don't have to fill that out. She'll take your name, number. Just sign it." It is not clear who would pay for these memberships, but Ontario's election law bans "secret donations" to pay for membership fees.
So much for Ford's insistence that the membership dysfunction is Patrick Brown's fault: he was participating in the same misbehaviour.
The PC Party is openly pandering to racist, misogynist and homophobic sentiments. They aren't even trying to explain how they will pay for their pie-in-the-sky campaign promises. They can't even run their own candidate nomination process without widespread pandemonium.
Does anyone seriously think they are in a position to take the reins of the entire province?
We are a very long way from the Big Blue Machine of the Bill Davis days, where a strong, durable party organization traced a moderate course through twelve consecutive elections through prudence and pragmatism.
The PC Party is no longer a functional organization governed by conservative principles or even patrician sentiments. It has degenerated into a clearinghouse for rage, bitterness and cultural resentment, ripe for the taking by Doug Ford and his brand of dangerous right-wing populism.
We don't need to look far to see what happens when government is taken over by this kind of ideological narcissism: a daily litany of chaos, cruelty and corrosive corruption that erodes the very foundation of our civil society.
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