Conservatives are making Doug Ford look good

Conservatives across this country largely decided it was good retail politics to align themselves with people occupying the capital and blockading major ports of entry. In addition to being offside with the majority Canadian opinion, Conservatives have spent the better part of the last month putting themselves in some rather embarrassing and largely avoidable situations.

getting caught tweeting fake pictures of empty grocery store shelves, giving a television interview with a flag swastika in the background (while trying to downplay the very clear far-right and extremist elements of the convoy), or tweeting out videos about the “Great Reset” — a deranged conspiracy theory that has made its way from far-right circles to mainstream Conservative opinion — are a few examples that come to mind.

Canada’s Conservatives have confirmed every preconceived notion and bias that centrist and progressive voters have about the party being too firmly entrenched with the more objectionable parts of its voter base, including outright racists and extremists.

The Conservatives have turned themselves into a farm team version of American Republicans and in the process have made Premier Doug Ford look good by comparison.

The problem Ontario progressives will face come the June election is that Conservatives across this country — from premiers to any number of CPC MPs — are making Ford look absolutely reasonable. The bar has been set perilously low by other right-leaning politicians in Canada. Now all Ford has to do is to stay one notch above being the physical embodiment of a Canada Proud meme laden with misinformation and he looks like an even-keeled leader in charge.

In the debate over the federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act, for example, Ford stayed out of the fray for the most part, while other Conservative premiers clamored to make their displeasure known. Alberta’s Jason Kenney even had his government make an official request for federal assistance to deal with the Coutts border blockade only to then Decry the use of federal powers after having decided it was more politically expedient to do so.

By simply keeping his mouth shut while other Conservative premiers ran theirs, Ford looks as though he’s working with the federal government instead of against it. That might not be a completely accurate representation, especially since Ford’s own unwillingness to act is what prompted the need for the federal government to step in, but the optics of Ford holding his fire with the feds is undeniable.

And while those optics are likely lost on the Twitterati, it certainly matters to the large cohort of Ontarians who voted Liberal in the last two federal elections since Ford formed government in 2018, and whose votes Team Ford surely needs.

Unlike so many other Conservative premiers, Ford is also incredibly adept at using the media to his advantage, often coming across as genuinely likable. Sure, his cheesecake making was very clearly an orchestrated attempt to lean into the whole Premier Dad persona his team built for him early in the pandemic. And sure, his more recent foray into semi-professional snow-digger was another public relations stunt meant to detract from poor poll numbers. But the choreographed nature of these media gimmicks is ultimately immaterial to the fact that they work. Every time Ford tries something like this, he succeeds. His team of him knows it and those on the opposing teams would be wise to realize this.

Voters in Ontario have a ton of legitimate reasons to want to send Ford and the Progressive Conservatives back to the Opposition benches in June: Ontario is the province only without a child-care agreement with the federal government, Ford has mishandled Este pandemic on more than one occasion, and he is profoundly unserious when it comes to climate change, to name a few.

Opinion: The Conservatives have turned themselves into a farm team version of American Republicans and in the process have made Premier Doug Ford look good by comparison. @supriyadwivedi writes for @natobserver. #onpoli #CPC #cdnpoli

Federal Conservatives have constantly tried — and failed — to paint Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as some sort of leftist radical who is wholly unfit to govern. The Conservative willingness to delve into hyperbolic attacks instead of presenting an alternative Conservative vision for government stems from the mistaken assumption that regular voters share the level of contempt for Trudeau as card-carrying Conservatives do.

Ontario Progressives should learn from the mistakes made by their federal Conservative counterparts on this front. They should ditch the over-reliance on a level of disdain for Ford that likely does not exist, especially since any knee-jerk contempt for Ford will be muted thanks to the very low bar that has been set by other Conservative politicians in this country.

Instead, both the Liberals and the NDP need to be presenting a credible case to voters as to why a change in government would be an upgrade for Ontario.

And they should have started doing it yesterday.

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