I’ve been getting a lot of messages from Doug Ford lately. Mistaking me for a potential donor to his party, he has been bombarding me with e-mails boasting about his accomplishments and asking me for money to help him win the next election.
Of course, I could simply hit unsubscribe and be done with it. Instead, I’ve been keeping his e-mails. They say a lot about Ontario’s Premier and his buck-a-beer populism. Whoever has been writing them – and I am going to take a wild leap and guess it is not actually Mr. Ford – is channelling him perfectly. The chest pounding, the shin kicking, the general air of boiling resentment – you get the whole Ford experience in these e-mail blasts.
The missives have been landing in my inbox since Mr. Ford started campaigning to unseat Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne’s government last spring, but they started coming thick and fast over the past month, as a big fundraising event for his Progressive Conservatives drew near.
On Feb. 6, he wrote to tell me that “we’re being strangled in Liberal red tape” and “nickeled and dimed to death by taxes and fees.” On Feb. 8, he wrote: “Marcus, the government is broke.” On Feb. 9, he took credit for the fact that Ontario was leading the country in employment increases -- all his doing, it seems.
On Feb. 11, he reminded me that his government reduced tuition fees for college and university students, passing over the fact that he failed to compensate those colleges and universities for the loss of revenue and left them scrambling to fill the hole. Oh, and he made the fees for things like student unions and student newspapers optional, too. “I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to,” he wrote.
On Feb. 21, he told me how he was fighting to cap the salary of Hydro One’s chief. He forced the previous one out, calling the respected executive the “six-million-dollar man” because of the salary he drew for leading the giant company. Now, Mr. Ford was outraged that the Hydro One board was offering half as much to lure a replacement. “$2.7 MILLION per year. For one person!” he raged. “We told them it’s a flat-out no.”
Although the company is partly privatized and has an independent board, he is directing it to pay $1.5-million tops. His clumsy intervention appears to have killed a Hydro One deal to take over a U.S. energy-transmission company. That cost the utility many, many millions, more than cancelling out the money that might be saved by paying the next CEO less.
This week, before the Wednesday evening fundraiser, the e-mail campaign reached full volume. The chair of the PC Fund of Ontario, Tony Miele, kicked things off on the Premier’s behalf. He wrote: “When Doug Ford hits the stage there can be no doubt: Doug Ford is the Premier of the People. The opposition is crying foul. The media is crying foul. They can’t stand what they don’t understand. And they don’t understand how Doug Ford can be so popular.”
Mr. Ford himself followed up later the same day. Every donation that comes in, he wrote, “helps show our haters that we’re not alone. They don’t understand when I say I’m for the people, I’m not talking about the elites. I’m not talking about the pundits in their ivory towers claiming we’re tearing the province down. Let me tell you, the only thing I’m tearing down is the wall of red tape that’s holding this province back from success.”
Of course, Mr. Ford has every right to rally his supporters and to ask them to contribute to the cause. He has every right to point out the many failures of the previous government, which buried the province in debt.
It’s the way he does it that does not sit right. His e-mails often have a tone like Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, overheated, bitter and hyperpartisan. It’s another sign that the politics of division that has spread around the globe is seeping into our national life.
Mr. Ford says Wednesday’s fundraiser was a big success. It didn’t hurt that his government has eased some of the new provincial campaign-financing rules that were supposed to limit cosy cash-for-access deals and other forms of money politics.
“Marcus, last night was incredible,” the Premier of the People said in his latest e-mail. “Nobody has ever raised as much money as we did last night. ... From the bottom of my heart, Marcus, thank you.” It was signed: “Doug.”