Did Doug Ford and Patrick Brown's Brampton 'feud' spell doom for the Tories?
Now that the election is over, political strategists and pundits are pouring over the results to figure out why people voted the way they did.
Many expected that Justin Trudeau's brownface scandal, especially in a city with a predominantly South Asian demographic, would have negatively affected the Liberals' chances of holding their five seats in Brampton. But as the election results indicated, that was not the case.
The Liberals managed to retain all five seats with hefty margins, including rookie candidate Maninder Sidhu, who held Brampton East easily, replacing former Liberal MP Raj Grewal.
While you can chalk that up to Andrew Scheer's inability to break into Toronto and the GTA with his message, another factor may have been in play that was not widely discussed during this campaign, particularly since he basically went into the witness protection program during all this time: Ontario's Premier, Doug Ford.
Since former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown took over as Brampton's mayor last fall, Ford's government announced a slew of policies that, rightly or wrongly, are being interpreted as being harmful to Brampton. There was the cancellation of the Ryerson University funding as soon as Brown got elected mayor, then the snafu with the Kitchener GO line that left Brampton commuters enraged.
On top of that, there are the funding cuts to health care and education, a now-cancelled regional review that could have negatively affected Brampton's share of funding for local services and infrastructure, and just an overall sense that Brampton has seemingly been ignored by the provincial government.
It took a full year before Ford and Brown were actually seen together in public, at a recent community BBQ for Brampton Tory MPP Amarjot Sandhu. And did I mention that Ford's current Economic Development Minister, Vic Fedeli, is suing Brown for defamation from allegations stemming from the mayor's recently released 'tell-all' book?
TVO's Steve Paikin surmised what would have happened had Ford been "let out of his cage" and allowed to campaign for the federal Conservatives; after all, he did lead the PCs to 76 seats in last year's provincial election. The premier could certainly have drummed up enthusiasm for the Tory base and connected better on the issue of affordability and 'getting ahead' than Scheer did, as evidenced by the election results this past week…or it could have been a complete disaster and Scheer's Ontario results could have been worse.
But let me offer another scenario, at least as it pertains to Brampton, that may have yielded a different result: what if Patrick Brown's personal scandals never happened and he was allowed to lead the provincial Tories to victory in Ontario? What if we had a Premier Patrick Brown instead of Doug Ford, and Ford was relegated as an MPP, or even not in politics altogether?
First, if Patrick Brown there may have been even more seats won by the Tories than the massive 76 they already got. The Ontario Liberals most likely would have been wiped out in Toronto and possibly Ottawa, without the spectre of the boogieman Ford to scare voters back to Liberals at the last minute.
There would also have been no meddling with the size of Toronto City Council, which seems to be a personal project of Ford's rather than anything substantially related to the provincial sphere. Brampton would most likely not have had its university funding cut and Ontario would have replaced the cap and trade under the Wynne government with Brown's carbon pricing system, which would have prevented Trudeau from putting in a federal backstop.
A Brown premiership would likely have given Scheer a better advocate during the federal campaign to the rest of Ontario, perhaps showing that the federal Conservative leader was not just "Stephen Harper-lite" who was going to drastically slash your social services and health care. Scheer and Brown served together as federal MPs during the Harper years.
Although they both differ on the issue of the carbon tax, Brown being a premier would have been much better for Scheer than Ford, even if Brown was not openly campaigning for Scheer. Without the Ford boogeyman hanging around like a bad stench in Ontario, Trudeau would have been denied a target to take potshots at for the past 40 days and the vaunted red fortress of GTA seats likely would have been up for grabs.
Instead, the Liberals ended up winning 47 of the 53 available seats in the region.
So to conclude, the main consensus is that Ford being allowed to campaign for Scheer would have been bad for the Tories in Ontario, but if Ford was out of the picture altogether, the Conservatives might have had a chance in Canada's biggest province with Patrick Brown as provincial premier instead of Ford.
Agree or disagree?