When Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said recently that Doug Ford was like Donald Trump, critics called it a desperate ploy to discredit her rival before next month’s Ontario election. Maybe it is. It also happens to be true. The similarities between these men are too numerous to ignore. Both are thin-skinned, big-talking businessmen who say they will sweep away corruption, confront vested interests and fight for the little guy.
Mr. Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Mr. Ford and his brother Rob promised to “stop the gravy train” at Toronto city hall. Now Mr. Ford promises to put a “sanitizer right through that building at Queen’s Park.”
Mr. Trump wants to “Make America Great Again.” Mr. Ford wants “to make Ontario the greatest place in the world.”
Mr. Trump is notoriously casual with his facts. Fact checkers can barely keep up with his misstatements, distortions and outright whoppers. Mr. Ford kept the checkers just as busy when he took over from an ailing Rob and ran for mayor in 2014, leaving a trail of fractured facts in his wake. The Fords, he claimed, straight-faced, had achieved 98 per cent of their agenda since Rob became mayor in 2010. Sometimes, he upped it to 99 per cent for good measure.
Mr. Trump likes firing people. The phrase “You’re Fired” helped make him a reality-TV star. Since becoming President, he has fired or forced out an FBI director, an acting attorney-general, a White House communications director and his chief strategist, not to mention all those who have simply fled the Trumpocalypse.
Mr. Ford hasn’t even won election yet and he is vowing to fire people. He says the first thing he will do if he becomes premier is fire the richly compensated head of the Hydro One power utility, “Kathleen Wynne’s $6-million-dollar man.” At city hall, Mr. Ford and his brother forced out the respected head of the Toronto Transit Commission, Gary Webster, after he stood up to them over their transit plans. Mr. Ford memorably said that the TTC needed “a complete enema.”
Mr. Trump says the media is out to get him. Any critical story in the media is “fake news.” The Fords were the same during their city hall years. Doug once referred to the media as “sucky little kids” who “lie through their teeth.” He hasn’t changed. Just look at how chippy he got last month with a CBC interviewer who had the temerity to ask him a few obvious questions about his plans.
Mr. Trump tends to lash out at anyone he sees as an enemy. He gets personal when he does. Mr. Ford has the same habit. During the Rob Ford drug scandal, he unleashed a rant against former police chief Bill Blair, saying the chief wanted to “put a political bullet right between the mayor’s eyes.”
In a recent release about Liberal budget practices, Mr. Ford seemed to suggest that some Liberals deserved to go to jail. The echo of Mr. Trump’s “Lock her up” chant aimed at Hillary Clinton was unmistakable.
There were more echoes his week when Mr. Ford put his foot in it over the Greenbelt. He was caught telling developers he would let them build on a “big chunk” of the protected farmland and green space that surrounds the Toronto region. That sounded a lot like Mr. Trump when he promised to make it easier for oil and gas companies to drill on public lands. Mr. Ford’s furious row-back had a familiar populist ring, too. He said: “I govern through the people, I don’t govern through government. The people have spoken − we won’t touch the Greenbelt.”
So there is no getting around it: Doug Ford is indeed an awful lot like Donald Trump. Perhaps voters don’t care. Perhaps they will toss Ms. Wynne out on her ear June 7 anyway. She and her Liberals have certainly given them plenty of good reasons, from the gas-plants scandal to the doubling of the provincial debt to the gross mismanagement of the electricity system.
But if they do opt for Mr. Ford, they should at least be aware they are putting Canada’s Trump in charge of the country’s most populous province. Desperate or not, Ms. Wynne is well within her rights to point it out.