Ontarians who loathe Donald Trump are now liking Doug Ford.
How to explain this apparent contradiction among voters — reviling the U.S. president while reconciling themselves to the Opposition leader who is poised to be our next premier?
According to his legions of supporters — polls show Ford way out in front — they are two completely different people: Trump is a typically American racist, sexist buffoon who assaults women; Ford is a quintessentially Canadian defender of diversity, family and ordinary folks.
Yet Ford admits he’d vote for Trump, “not a doubt in my mind.” And so with the campaign for Ontario’s June 7 election barely a month away, we offer this public service — the top 10 traits shared by Donald Ford and Doug Trump that make them eerily interchangeable as populist politicians:
- Both are endlessly underestimated, both in performance and fortune. The U.S. media initially treated Trump as reality TV entertainment, and Ontario’s press couldn’t fathom Ford winning the Progressive Conservative leadership. They both beat all expectations and all opponents. But they also profited from the good fortune of winning narrowly on points despite losing on the popular vote. A reminder that every vote counts — because you never know how close an electoral contest will be.
- They both guard against defeat by suggesting votes might be stolen from them. Trump claimed the U.S. election was “rigged” against him — until he won. So too Ford complained that his own party was stacking the deck against him: “They’re doing this on purpose to hinder me, because out of all the candidates they know I can sign up more people…. (It’s) the insiders and the elites trying to figure out how they’re going to stop Doug Ford.” Until he won, and changed his tune.
- Despite casting themselves as candidates of law and order, both castigate law enforcement agencies when it suits their purposes. Much like Trump’s unprecedented vendetta against the FBI, Ford lashed out at the Toronto police over video evidence showing then-mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine (denied by the Ford brothers). He demanded the firing of then-chief Bill Blair, accusing him of being motivated by political “payback.”
- It’s not just attacks on law enforcement but alleged violations of the law that unite the two politicians. While Trump has been accused of (and privately boasted of) assaulting women, Ford is an alleged trafficker in illegal drugs, according to the Globe and Mail. An in-depth investigation described Ford as a well-known hash dealer in Etobicoke in the 1980s, until about age 22, despite growing up in an affluent household. Ford denied the story and publicly threatened a libel suit, but the Globe tells me he never followed suit.
- Many politicians decry the media, but Trump and Ford share a peculiar pattern of consistently coarse sexist put-downs of female journalists. Trump made vulgar references to the menstrual cycle of Megyn Kelly, then of Fox News. Ford accused Globe reporter Kelly Grant of lying and suggested she get off her “lazy ass” while pregnant. He called Toronto Star reporter Jennifer Pagliaro a “little bitch” after a media scrum (Ford later claimed he was referring to someone else). And he spontaneously accused CityNews TV reporter Cynthia Mulligan of engaging in a “jihadist attack” against him (he later apologized).
- Both are children of wealth, descended from the elites, with an uncanny ability to recast themselves as entrepreneurial giants who can push back against those elites. Like Trump, Ford inherited a thriving family business. But unlike Trump, Ford had a father, Doug Ford Sr., who was also of the political elites, serving under then-premier Mike Harris when the PCs held power from the mid-1990s.
- Like Trump’s braggadocio, Ford’s boastfulness knows no bounds — nor fidelity to the facts. They both seem inoculated against inaccuracies, which empowers and amplifies their populist rhetoric. Ford’s favourite falsehood is that he stopped any tax increases at city hall (forgetting the Scarborough subway levy).
- The chill wind blowing over global warming in America’s political environment is heading to Ontario. Just as Trump scoffed at carbon pricing, Ford has vowed to dismantle the province’s cap and trade program, and disavowed his own party’s plan to replace it with a carbon tax.
- Trump owes his presidential victory to opponents of abortion. The votes of social conservatives put Ford over the top after he agreed to revisit measures that protect abortion clinics and denounced the sex-ed curriculum.
- Like Trump disparaging Mexican-Americans, Ford wins credit for saying what some people are thinking — but think better of saying. He claimed an Etobicoke home for teenagers with autism had “ruined the community,” suggesting the teenagers were criminals. Decrying the gay Pride parade, Ford argued against “middle-aged men with pot bellies running down the street buck naked.”
There are no two Doug Trumps, and Donald Ford is truly unique. True enough. But truthfully, can we tell them apart?
Martin Regg Cohn is a columnist based in Toronto covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @reggcohn