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How to beat a Doug Ford led PC Party in Ontario.

The whole process was almost farcical at times, and it appears Christine Elliott still has it in her thought to perhaps contest the results in court,  but for now, Doug Ford is the new PC Party of Ontario leader.

In my opinion, the Ontario PC Party has just given the Ontario Liberal Party and Premier Kathleen Wynne some life for the next election. Will the OLP win? It will still be very tough and still uphill.. but I am certain beyond a shadow of a doubt they’d have had no chance against Elliott. Doug Ford as leader gives them a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. I certainly don’t underestimate him, as Warren warns, but I still think that he has given the OLP a bit more of a chance then what they would have had if Elliott or even Caroline Mulroney would have been elected.

So, how do you defeat Doug Ford? It would be tempting to go after him tooth and nail, as a couple columnists have done so already.

However, others preach caution. One of my friendly Liberal political colleagues who I chat with from time to time made this list on what he would do to campaign against Doug Ford and the PCPO Party if he were advising Premier Wynne and the Ontario Liberals. I’ve quoted him verbatim.

1. Your campaign should be positive, forward-thinking and centered on a small number of policy initiatives that will tangibly improve the quality of life of ordinary Ontarians. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

2. Defend your record without being defensive. There is much to be proud of and which can be useful in appealing to voters who have voted Liberal previously and those who might otherwise vote NDP: pharmacare for those under 25; an enhanced Canada Pension Plan (which Wynne was instrumental in making happen); a higher minimum wage; reduced tuition for lower-income students; the coal phaseout and associated elimination of “smog days”; a strong economy and improved fiscal position…remind voters of these accomplishments and argue that you need to be re-elected to consolidate and build on them.

3. Embrace the role of underdog and, to a certain extent, campaign against the media and pollsters. Much of the commentariat and pollsters have been dismissing Wynne’s Liberals as the walking dead for years now but voters don’t like being told ahead of time how an election will end. That’s supposed to be up to them after all. Challenge the narrative and remind voters who owns the newspapers and media outlets and what interests they represent.

4. Wait until Ford actually says or does something unambiguously sexist or racist before accusing him of being a racist or sexist. Usually guys like Doug Ford employ dog whistles, so you may have to be patient. Deploying racist/sexist accusations prematurely and/or too frequently will result in people tuning out.

5. On a related note, the comparison with a certain politician south of the border is an obvious one that voters will pick up on themselves. You do not need to belabour the point. HOWEVER every time that Doug Ford says something demonstrably untrue you should fact check the %#*€ out of him. That’s fair and legitimate and speaks to basic competency.

6. Understand that when you (or the media) dismiss Doug Ford as a clown or an imbecile many voters who relate to him will hear that as a dismissal of them. Let the NDP do that. The anxieties and anger that animate the right-wing base are rooted in some legitimate fears and are not limited only to PC partisans. Ford’s potential universe of voters are all those Ontarians who feel threatened by the rapid changes of modernity and look back nostalgically at a seemingly simpler (and mostly imaginary) past. It is also all those who resent the better-educated “elites” who they feel condescend to them. This is a potentially large pool of voters not to be dismissed. Contempt will only breed contempt and energize his base. Ford’s chances of winning increase the uglier the election becomes.

I’ll end this by saying over the years I’ve not exactly always been enthralled with the OLP did for policy, leading back to when Dalton Mcguinty was Premier, but I certainly do not want a Doug Ford-led PCPO party in power, particularly when he owes his victory to those on the religious right of the Party. We just sprang forward an hour with Daylight Savings Time, but Doug Ford and the PCPO seek to turn back the clock in Ontario.

UPDATE: Christine Elliott has decided to abandon any legal challenge and has conceded to Doug Ford.

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