Dear American friends and neighbours,
I’ve got a bone to pick with you and it has to do with Donald Trump.
Up until now, I’ve been watching your presidential train wreck with a touch of smugness. Sure, Donald Trump is a political disaster and a disgusting human being. But he’s basically your problem, a problem I don’t have to worry about here in Canada.
Well, it turns out I may be wrong on that. In case you haven’t heard, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party just chose Doug Ford to be their leader and potentially the next premier of the province if he prevails in the upcoming election.
Now you’re probably saying “that name sounds awfully familiar” and you’re right; Doug Ford is the older brother of the late Rob Ford, the former mayor of Toronto. Yes, that Rob Ford, the guy who embarrassed the entire nation with his wild drunken and drug-addled escapades.
Cast your mind back a few years and you’ll surely recall various Rob Ford episodes that resulted in him becoming the most popular punch line on American late night TV. Among others, there was his DUI in Miami in 1999, his drunken escapades on St. Patrick’s Day in Toronto City Hall in 2012, the video of him smoking crack cocaine in 2013 and the one of him running over a councilwoman in the council chamber that same year.
What was most amazing about Rob Ford was that he was Donald Trump before Donald Trump entered the 2016 presidential race. No matter what Ford did, he seemed to be untouchable, a Teflon mayor. His populist appeal garnered him a solid base of unwavering support, a base that became known as Ford Nation.
With Rob Ford’s death in 2016, we hoped that we had put this sad political chapter behind us. But it turns out that the cancer eating away at your body politic has apparently metastasized and spread north. Rob’s older brother Doug, a former Toronto city councilman and unsuccessful mayoral candidate has not only resuscitated Ford Nation; he has taken it to the next level with his campaign to become the next premier of Ontario.
So far, it appears that Doug Ford has no platform apart from his Trumpian attacks against anyone and everyone. He wants to severely cut government services and has no use for the media.
It took a bit of luck for Doug Ford to end up in this position, particularly when newly-elected Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown was embroiled in accusations of misconduct and had to step down. Even then, he had to pull out all the stops in order to defeat more centrist candidates like Christine Elliot and Caroline Mulroney, daughter of Canada’s much-reviled former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Like Trump’s surprise victories in 2016, it appears that Doug Ford barely squeaked by thanks to a solid base of unthinking, uncritical populist support. And given the widespread unpopularity of Ontario’s incumbent premier Kathleen Wynne, it looks like he might just pull off another upset and saddle Canada’s biggest province with an unqualified disruptive blowhard as leader.
I can’t help but think that all this would have been nothing more than an unrealized nightmare but for the antics of your current president. As the Canadian mouse that sleeps with the American elephant, we are often under your spell and subject to the trends unfolding south of the border including a misplaced faith by some in the prejudices and promises of one Donald J. Trump and his copycats.
I’ll cross my fingers and hope that Ms. Wynne can reverse her increasing unpopularity or that the New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horvath will pull off the impossible or that Doug Ford will follow in his late brother’s footsteps and self-destruct. If none of those things happens, however, I will offer you folks an apology, lose my smugness and check out American immigration rules.
Trump can’t happen in Canada? I’m no longer so sure.