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It was a subdued Doug Ford who appeared in front of TV cameras on Monday morning. The Ontario Premier had to say something about General Motors Co. announcing a major restructuring and saying it will shut production at five facilities in North America, including Oshawa, Ont.

What he said was rambling and barely coherent, and Ford looked ill-prepared and out of his depth. If anyone ever thought Ford had a Trump-like quality to boast, blather and bewilder the media, they were proved wrong. It was one of those moments when live TV reveals everything about character and competence. Thing is, being on TV in times of crisis or bad economic news, is not enough. It’s what you do on it. Television can destroy. Not through any bias, but through the dynamic of the medium’s delivery of the message.

A politician’s TV presence requires forceful confidence and optimism. Trump does it almost daily, often with lies and exaggerations. Ford, famous for his on-point messages at rallies during the Ontario election campaign, delivered a downer. “I can tell you it’s a sad day,” he said, redundantly. There followed remarks that varied from, “We’re doing everything we can,” to “Saying we’re disappointed is an understatement.” There was some blather about deploying a “SWAT team” to Oshawa to help people. None of it made a blind bit of sense.

Doug Ford’s entire TV persona, such as it is, amounts to a businessman with a common-sense approach. He wants less regulation. He wants to say “Ontario is open for business” over and over. Lower costs, keep prices down and keep wages down to help business. That sort of thing. It’s a very basic persona: Tax-cutting champion, fiscal conservative and protector of taxpayers' money. He even looks like the archetypal businessman in the boxy suit with the slogans about cost-cutting delivered with a limited vocabulary.

That can work during an election period and at rallies when the event is controlled and television cameras are restrained by the campaign team’s rules. It does not have the same impact when outside forces intrude, as happened with the GM announcement.

Ford and his team have, through the campaign and into the first months of government, treated the media as hostile players to be ignored or drowned out. That’s why Ford has his own online news service, which merely delivers pro-Ford propaganda. His team and supporters might claim that their tactics are necessary because most of the media are biased against Ford and his government.

That’s simply not true, but what is true is that the Ford team appears to be afraid of what media coverage, especially TV, exposes about Premier Ford. Live TV that is not controlled by the politician or his handlers requires participation or completion by the audience. The viewer can project a great deal onto certain people on TV in certain moments. They can see lack of knowledge and lack of empathy. That’s what unfolded on Monday morning.

For a while, Ford was treated as if he were a Trump of the North. Television tended to gravitate toward the drama and ferment of his Trump-like rallies. One day in October – Tuesday, Oct. 9 specifically – it was extraordinary to see CP24, that channel so ubiquitous in the Toronto area, devote acres of time to a Ford rally, live. Ford was not making a government announcement. He was marking 100 days since the election of his government by entertaining his fans at a banquet hall in Etobicoke.

For close to half an hour, without commercial interruption, CP24 gave Ford the platform to deliver bromides, self-praise and attacks on his political opponents. He claimed he had “proved the insiders and elites wrong.” He claimed he had delivered, “100 days the likes of which Canada has never seen.” He further claimed Kathleen Wynne’s government was responsible for “the biggest financial cover-up in Canadian history.” This was followed by “lock her up” chants from the crowd. That part was Trump-ian, for sure. And, presumably, a reason CP24 gave Ford the free air time. The frisson of a Trump rally was almost there. Almost.

But, that night in that speech, Ford also boasted – “Drive Clean is over. It’s dead!” – about his government’s plan to cancel a program requiring drivers to get regular emissions tests for vehicles that are more than seven years old.

Anyone who saw that boast must have wondered on Monday morning if Doug Ford knew a darn thing about what he was talking about. General Motors has, for a year, made it known that its new motto is, “Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions, Zero Congestion.” Which might as well be summarized as: “Drive Clean.”

Ford is no Trump, at rallies or press conferences. His TV persona is now revealed as an empty suit, ill-prepared and out of his depth. Sooner or later that was bound to happen.

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