Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were once enemies. Now they’re friends.
This is bad news both for the federal Conservatives and for the Liberals and NDP at Queen’s Park. It is one reason why the provincial Tories are likely to prevail in the June 2 election.
Earlier this week, Mr. Ford and Mr. Trudeau appeared together to announce a $ 10-billion child-care agreement.
“It’s always great to be making big announcements for Ontario families alongside Premier Ford,” he said. Trudeau declared. “Doug, it’s so good that we’re again together today.”
For his part, Mr. Ford thanked “our federal partners for their collaboration… it shows what we can accomplish working together.”
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Earlier in March, the two got together to announce $ 263-million in joint federal-provincial funding for the Honda plant in Alliston.
Mr. Trudeau had to miss the announcement of a new $ 5-billion electric-battery plant slated for Windsor, because of an emergency NATO meeting in Europe, but he appeared by pre-recorded video.
The two governments also co-operated in police actions to disperse anti-vaccine mandate protesters who blockaded downtown Ottawa and the border at Windsor.
And they worked co-operatively, for the most part, on pandemic measures, with Mr. Ford going overboard in praise of the Deputy Prime Minister. “I absolutely love Chrystia Freeland,” he gushed. “She’s amazing.”
This is a far cry from a few years ago, when Mr. Ford fought Mr. Trudeau over asylum seekers, trade negotiations and especially the federally imposed carbon tax.
“It just makes me sick,” Mr. Ford said about the federal Liberals in a 2019 Progressive Conservative fundraising letter. “Politicians who want to make your life more expensive don’t deserve to get elected. End of story. ”
Mr. Trudeau, in turn, campaigned as much against Mr. Ford in that year’s federal election as he did against then-Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
“Andrew Scheer wants Canadians to double down on Conservative politicians like Doug Ford,” the Liberal leader said repeatedly during the campaign. At one event he mentioned the Ontario Premier 14 times, and not in a good way.
Ontario and federal political parties, both progressive and conservative, come to power by winning over the seven million people who live in Greater Toronto and Hamilton. Sometimes, politicians might decide the best way to earn their votes is to criticize politicians at another level of government.
Liberal premier David Peterson opposed PC prime minister Brian Mulroney’s free-trade agreement with the United States. PC premier Mike Harris fought Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien over health care. Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty and Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper sparred over taxes and transfers.
But just as often they get along, as John Robarts did with Lester Pearson, Bill Davis with Pierre Trudeau and now Doug Ford with Justin Trudeau.
So what caused the change for Mr. Ford and Mr. Trudeau? Each may have noticed that taking shots at the other wasn’t making either more popular. More importantly, the arrival of the pandemic put a damper on partisan politics. Ontario voters expected Ottawa and Queen’s Park to work together to protect the public good. So they did.
This leaves opposition parties at both levels in an awkward spot. Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath both risk being marginalized by the Ford-Trudeau entente; both trail in the polls six weeks before the election.
Anything can happen during an election race, but on the eve of the Ontario campaign, the PCs appear to be on the cusp of a second majority government.
The federal Conservatives have thrice been frozen out of suburban Ontario, and thrice out of government. Child-care announcements and good-news stories about more jobs and expanding factories, with the Prime Minister and Ontario Premier clapping each other on the back, won’t make a breakthrough any easier.
Suburban Ontario voters seem to value efficiency in their governments. They want their tax dollars spent efficiently, health care education and other services delivered efficiently.
Since the Second World War, Liberals have governed in Ottawa and Progressive Conservatives at Queen’s Park more often than not. Ontario voters seem to like it that way. Maybe they find it efficient.
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