Doug Ford tried to pull a fast one on the voters of Ontario.
When the Progressive Conservative Leader started campaigning for election, he didn’t put out a costed platform, as most political parties do these days. Heck, why would he? He was way ahead in the opinion polls and cruising to an apparent triumph in the June 7 vote. If he put out a detailed platform, those vultures in the press would just start picking away at it. Mr. Ford, never a details man, would have to answer questions about his plans instead of just spouting slogans then heading for the exit. So he confined himself to issuing sketchy bulletins about all the great things he was going to do for Ontario: cut hydro rates, cut middle-class taxes, cut the price of gas, give parents a break on child care, end the cap-and-trade regime designed to curb greenhouse gases − even return us to the days of a buck a beer.
Where would he find the money for all this? Well, that could wait till after he was elected. But trust him, he would do it with ease. Look at all the wonders he and his brother Rob worked at Toronto city hall when they promised to “stop the gravy train.”
For a while, this not-very-artful dodge seemed to be working. But then, horror of horrors, those radical extremists in the NDP − the ones who would “annihilate” the middle class, “devastate the province” and “tax us back to the stone age” − started gaining ground. Polls showed them drawing even or pulling ahead. Under pressure from the other party leaders, who kept asking where the Conservative platform was, the PCs finally said they would put out a full plan – some time; soon; before election day, for sure.
Then, this week, just more than a week before voters are to cast their ballots to elect the next provincial government, the panicked Tories put out a back-of-the-napkin document titled For The People: A Plan for Ontario. It is nothing like the fully costed plan that they have been promising for many weeks. It simply restates all of Mr. Ford’s promises and sticks a price tag on them. What is still missing is a detailed plan to pay for all these marvellous gifts.
Mr. Ford has a lot of gall to try this sort of trickery on the public. He calls himself a straight talker who won’t ever attempt to fool the people with “reckless promises.” He vows to end government extravagance and put the books back in proper order.
He tore a strip off Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government for the dubious accounting in its latest budget. Back in March, he said the difference between his party and the Liberals is that the PCs would have a solid, costed platform. “Ours will be fully costed, theirs isn’t fully costed,” he swore then.
For the People makes a mockery of that claim. This dressed-up campaign ad lacks even the most basic feature of a proper fiscal plan: an account of what kind of deficits his government would have to run and when it would balance the provincial budget. It says only that his government would return to balance in “a responsible time frame.”
To get there, a Ford government would centralize government purchasing (good idea!), find efficiencies across departments and ask an independent commission for “timely solutions” to the deficit problem. Oh, and it would stop government agencies from buying “pricey tables” at political lunches and dinners. That should take a chunk out of the enormous provincial debt that Ms. Wynne’s Liberals piled up.
When incredulous reporters asked if For the People was the costed plan the Tories had been promising all this time, Mr. Ford’s people said: yup. This our plan. There is no more. No wonder his party has been flagging in the polls. It isn’t because the media is out to get him. It isn’t because the shadowy elites are trying to thwart the will of the people. It is because voters are starting to see through him. They know he is trying to pull a fast one and, you know what, they don’t like it. Not even a bit.