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COVID-19: Doug Ford’s Moment of Redemption? News Voices 

COVID-19: Doug Ford’s Moment of Redemption?

Disclaimer: This article was written on the morning of April 14, 2020. Much of the presented information is subject to change in the coming days and weeks.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives in every aspect of society. Instead, we are all (hopefully) staying at home to work and study, while waiting for the latest directives and projections from our governments. Unsurprisingly, during periods of crisis, we tend to listen to and carefully follow what our leaders have to say. It is a moment for our governmental officials to shine and demonstrate their leadership. This is especially true in Ontario, for Doug Ford and his government. Like many provinces in Canada, Ontarians are very happy with how their controversial premier is handling this period of uncertainty. Could this be Doug Ford’s shining moment?
What happened with Doug Ford?
On June 27, 2018, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, led by Doug Ford, won a majority government and took power from the Ontario Liberal Party, which was reduced to 7 seats and lost official party status. However, after controversial reforms regarding municipal
governance (i.e. Bill 5), environment issues (e.g. repealing the Ontario carbon tax), as well as deep budget cuts in healthcare, education and childcare (to name a few), Ford proved to be just as unpopular as his predecessor, Kathleen Wynne.
Before the coronavirus hit our shores, an Angus Reid Institute poll had Doug Ford’s approval rating at 31% with a margin of error of ± 2%. To add insults to injury, on March 26, according to the last EKOS Research, the Progressive Conservatives are trailing the once-unpopular Ontario Liberal Party by 8.9%.
The COVID-19 boost
On April 8, 2020, on behalf of Global News, Ipsos released the job approval rating for each premier during this COVID-19 pandemic. Most premiers have seen a considerable boost in their approval ratings, and Doug Ford isn’t the exception. The controversial premier has seen the most significant jump in approval ratings in his career. According to the poll, 83% of Ontarians approve of how Ford is handling this crisis. That is a massive 50% boost for his numbers. It is easy to see why so many Ontarians have had a change of heart of their premier.
Every day, Doug Ford and his ministers are addressing Ontarians with updates surrounding the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Ford seemed to be visibly worried about the situation, a sentiment shared by many Canadians. Although a leader who appears to be uncertain of the outcome of a deadly pandemic is generally a sign of weak leadership or incompetency, neither seems to apply to the conservative premier. Instead, what Doug Ford shows on camera are his feelings regarding COVID-19, which many can identify with.
On April 3, when Donald Trump ordered 3M to stop exporting the highly demanded and crucial N95 masks to Canada and Latin America, Doug Ford went on the offensive. Ford, a well-known Trump supporter, blasted the U.S. administration’s protectionist move by warning the president about holding the thousands of Windsor nurses who work in Michigan, which was hit hard by the virus. Using this fact as leverage, Ford reminded people that this should be taken as “a wake-up call for them.”
“There’s no one that loves America more than I do. They’ve cut out one part of the family. It’s not right… When the cards are down, you see who your friends are, and I think it’s been very clear over the last couple of days who our friends are. You know who our friends are? Every
Canadian, look in the mirror, that’s who are our friends are right now,” said Ford.
This sentiment is echoed by many politicians in Canada, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ford’s close friend, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
“As a Canadian, I’m insulted by the Trump administration’s attempt to stop vital medical supplies coming into Canada. This is not in anyone’s best interest, and it’s not how friends and neighbours treat each other when things get tough,” Kenney expressed just a few hours later.
A few days after the debacle, 3M was permitted to export 500,000 masks to Canada and Latin America. For many, Ford led the fight to allow 3M to ship their medical equipment to Canada. Also, on the topic of the N95 masks, Ford has won the heart of many Canadians when photos of him using his pickup truck to donate the crucial N95 mask circulated online.
According to Global News, in an interview with Darrell Bricker, the CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, many Ontarians credited their reason for approval Ford’s handling to his “small-town appeal.” Bricker further elaborated that Ford’s calm demeanor and willingness to help his people
personally have prompted their change of heart.
Will this high-rise last?
Well, despite what we are seeing, Darrell Bricker believes that this may be all temporary. In fact, this increase in approval could be over when things are going back to normal.
“That’s because we look to our leaders to keep their word and deliver on what they commit to,” said Bricker, “maybe not on every specific promise they make during an election campaign, but when political leaders say they have our back in a crisis, they had better be there when we turn around. If they aren’t, that’s when opposition and criticism will kick in again.”
Bricker also reminded us how after World War II, Winston Churchill lost the 1945 general election to Clement Attlee, despite having lead Great Britain to victory against Nazi Germany.
My take on this situation
British Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously said that a week is a long time in politics. Even if Doug Ford is currently enjoying high popularity amongst the Ontarian electorate, there are still many unforeseen events that are going to happen between now and the next provincial election. If Ford can act according to what the public is feeling, the Premier of Ontario and his party might
afford to win a second term.
By Jacques Wang
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