Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is losing a key ally in Ontario and gaining an adversary in Doug Ford a little more than a year before the 2019 federal election, marking a significant shift in the Liberal government’s relationship with the country’s most-populous province.
A decisive Progressive Conservative majority in the Ontario election on Thursday has fuelled federal Tory hopes of a victory next year, and has signalled a fight to come over a major plank from the Trudeau government.
“Obviously we’re against the carbon tax, Doug Ford is against the carbon tax. I think Justin Trudeau’s strategy of forcing the provinces into his world of carbon taxes is dead on arrival now,” long-time Conservative MP Tony Clement, who got his start in provincial politics, said from the Ford victory party on Thursday.
“I believe that the message that Ontarians are listening to, the Doug Ford message of affordability … will punch through in the next federal election, too.”
With Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals collapsing, Mr. Trudeau is expected to face significant pushback from Mr. Ford on everything from the environment to social programs to taxation.
“They’re not going to work co-operatively,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.
“It will change the tenor of federal-provincial relations.”
Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who didn’t campaign with Mr. Ford, said this week that the PC Leader’s election will signal “good news” for Conservatives across the country.
“Only positive Conservative policies put people first and create prosperity for all Canadians. I look forward to working closely with Premier Ford and his government for the benefit of the people of Ontario,” Mr. Scheer said in a Facebook statement on Thursday.
Mr. Trudeau congratulated Mr. Ford on his victory.
“I look forward to working with the new provincial government to create good, middle-class jobs, make Ontario a world-leading centre for innovative and sustainable technologies, and build infrastructure that meets the needs of Ontarians,” Mr. Trudeau said in a statement Thursday.
In the campaign, Mr. Ford’s team attracted high-profile Conservatives from former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government, including Mr. Harper’s former campaign manager Jenni Byrne and Kory Teneycke, his former director of communications and also Mr. Ford’s campaign manager. A number of former Harper staffers and MPs also ran in the election under the PC banner.
Ontario now will join Manitoba and Saskatchewan as a conservative provincial government.
Pollster Nik Nanos said Mr. Trudeau could lose another Liberal ally in the Quebec provincial election this fall, and a co-operative partner in Alberta, where NDP Premier Rachel Notley will fight for re-election next spring against the United Conservative Party’s Jason Kenney.
“We may enter a new era where the Liberals aren’t going to have willing partners to advance a progressive agenda,” Mr. Nanos said.
“It will be much more difficult for Justin Trudeau to accomplish things on the fed-prov scene.”
The Ontario NDP under Andrea Horwath, who were neck-and-neck with the PCs in some polls, will form the Official Opposition.
In Ontario, the federal and provincial governments in power are often from different parties. But Mr. Nanos said the results speak to potential new voters for Mr. Scheer, and federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who currently does not have a seat in Parliament.
“If you are Andrew Scheer or Jagmeet Singh, you’ve got to be looking at these numbers and figuring out how you can solidify people who have drifted away from the Liberals provincially, and try to keep them away from the Liberals federally,” Mr. Nanos said.
Most significantly, the PC win will likely spell more trouble for Mr. Trudeau’s climate-change agenda after the federal Liberals had an eager partner in Ms. Wynne.
Mr. Ford has offered political support to the Saskatchewan government, which is challenging in federal court the Trudeau government’s constitutional right to impose a carbon tax in provinces that either do not have their own plan or do not meet a federal standard.
“Tonight, Saskatchewan has a new ally in our fight against the Trudeau carbon tax,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe tweeted on Thursday.
With a report from Shawn McCarthy in Ottawa