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How Kathleen Wynne Could Defeat Doug Ford

Well, once again I have demonstrated my phenomenal ability to predict politics incorrectly. I thought for sure that Christine Elliott would win the Ontario PC leadership race. Instead it went to Doug Ford (!). This means that it is very likely that Doug Ford will be the next premier of Ontario.

Having made one incorrect prediction, let's try again: the Wynne Liberals and Horwath NDP will split the vote, because people on the left will be torn between voting for Wynne because they want to stop Ford, and voting against Wynne because they dislike her. Then Doug Ford will cruise right up the middle, and the Progressive Conservatives get their majority government.

I doubt that Ford will collapse on his own. He is too slick. He has his talking points. He has his image carefully cultivated. Life might get interesting if he loses his temper, but he won't be knocked off his game so easily. He participated in dozens and dozens of mayoral debates during the last Toronto election. He knows how to get through a grueling campaign.

There might be dirt on Doug Ford. But like other populists (Ralph Klein, Rob Ford, and yes, Donald J Trump) scandalous claims against him may well energise his base.

And yet, I claim that there is a reasonable chance that we could avoid a Doug Ford premiership. In fact, Kathleen Wynne could engineer this.

Here is the calculation Wynne has to make: given the choice between an PC government and an NDP one, she should clearly side with the NDP. She is basically running an NDP government right now. A PC government led by Doug Ford will roll back most of her policies, and an NDP government would keep some.

If Wynne was smart enough to realize that a substantial number of voters hate her, and if she realized how our voting system works, she could block the PCs by getting the NDP elected. All she would have to do (as they say in wrestling) is "turn heel": make herself so utterly unlikable that almost no voter votes for her. Then voters would either turn to the NDP or the PC party, and if she played her cards right she could direct us to an NDP government.

She would have to do a number of things. First she would have to make some policy that makes everybody unhappy. Maybe she could promise a tax increase of 5% for everybody so that we can pay for injection sites. Secondly she has to play dirty. She has to take every low blow she can at Doug Ford to knock him off his game, and expose the things that we all suspect are true but are too polite to say. In that way people who are inclined to park their Liberal vote with the PCs might feel disgust at both Ford and Wynne, and consider a third option.

Is this a risk? I guess. If she does not play dirty enough then she hands the next government to the PCs on a platter. But that is highly likely to happen anyways. The NDP could also betray her by rolling back her policies, but I think that would be less likely to happen.

Will she do this? Not a chance. It is tempting to think that the spending spree the Liberals went on was a ploy for them to sabotage their chances, but really they think they can win the next election.

Also the Liberals have no idea to fight Doug Ford effectively. They are going to make a bunch of tired Donald Trump comparisons, which are not going to work because Ford can just say the Liberals cannot distinguish between one white guy and another.

Now, if the Liberals could tie Ford to some deeply nefarious things they might have a chance. But high-school drug dealing aside, there may not be much to hold onto here. If there really had been a campaign to snuff out the young men who possessed the "Rob Ford smoking crack" video, and if Doug Ford was connected to that, then that might be interesting. But that probably did not happen, and if it did (and was revealed) that might not be enough.

If it could be revealed that Doug Ford siphoned off money for himself while at Toronto City Council, or if it could be revealed that he was very wasteful of taxpayer money, then that might work. But it probably didn't. I could believe there exists dirt on Ford (and I expect he is capable of some nefarious things) but I don't think anything will come to light that sticks. Otherwise Ford's opponents during his mayorality bid would have brought those accusations into the light, and as far as I know they didn't. Rob Ford was known to be an alcohol abuser with DUI convictions, and that did not matter. What would it take for voters to mistrust Ford?

I don't think the Liberals will do any of this. They are going to play the politics of fear, fear, fear, and the PCs will deny this, and voters will side with the PCs.

But who knows? I have been wrong before.