Don’t believe the polls showing another conservative victory in Ontario.
Ontario’s Progressive Conservative premier, Doug Ford, gets high marks for his handling of the pandemic, is more popular than he was before the pandemic hit, and would handily win another majority government if voters went to the polls today, according to several recent public-opinion surveys.
More likely, however, Ford’s chances for another majority are doomed, mainly because of his economy-killing handling of the pandemic.
Ford can’t be blamed much for his early decision to lock down the province—even then-president Donald Trump initially acceded to the urgent demands for lockdowns emanating from the public health establishment. But Trump soon recognized that he had been suckered, that the “science” was all over the map, and that the cure of lockdowns was worse than the disease. Unlike most national leaders, Trump took on the state and local governments applying lockdowns to become a voice of sanity and a symbol of freedom for millions of Americans.
Trump’s anti-lockdown stance clearly resonated with conservatives. In the 2020 presidential election he received 74 million votes, 10 million more than in 2016; more, in fact, than any previous sitting president in history.
The conservative reaction to lockdowns can also be seen in Israel, which at one stage spent more time in lockdowns than any other country, helping to give it the world’s highest score in the containment and health index developed by Oxford University’s Coronavirus Government Response Tracker project. Many Israelis gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative government stellar marks for being fast off the mark in identifying the COVID-19 threat, imposing strict lockdowns, and securing vaccines. Many others bitterly opposed the lockdowns, leading to public protests.
The upshot played out in Israel’s recent general election, where a staggering 21 percent of those who voted for Netanyahu’s Likud party just one year earlier either stayed home or voted for other parties. An analysis of the stay-at-homes showed they especially came from Likud strongholds. If discontent over lockdowns was responsible for just one-third of the stay-at-homes—a reasonable assumption, since among Likud voters Netanyahu is highly respected on both foreign policy and economic grounds—then under Israel’s system of proportional representation, lockdowns lost for Netanyahu the votes needed to easily remain in power.
In the United States at the state level, where no-lockdown-Florida under a popular governor outperforms lockdown-California whose governor faces a recall, lockdowns and other COVID restrictions have become litmus tests for conservative legitimacy. On March 2 this year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted: “I just announced Texas is OPEN 100%. EVERYTHING. I also ended the statewide mask mandate.” On April 6, Indiana became the 20th Republican-led state to eschew mask mandates. Not only do the states that shun severe restrictions fare better than states with strict restrictions in terms of economic metrics, they also tend to have better health outcomes.
Ontario, meanwhile, is in the throes of its third province-wide lockdown, despite the questionable evidence in favour of lockdowns, despite the World Health Organization’s recommendation against lockdowns as the primary control method, and despite a letter to Ford from Dr. Richard Schabas, a former Ontario chief medical officer of health, which stated that “Lockdown was never part of our planned pandemic response, nor is it supported by strong science.”
When one of the premier’s own members of Parliament, Roman Baber, wrote Ford to say that: “The lockdown isn’t working. It’s causing an avalanche of suicides, overdoses, bankruptcies, divorces and takes an immense toll on children,” Ford expelled him from his party’s caucus. When the public protested lockdowns outside the provincial legislature, Ford called them “a bunch of yahoos.”
Ford doubtless reasons that lockdowns make for good politics. After he cast himself as Ontario’s COVID saviour, the press—which previously mocked him as a boor and a rube—lavished him with praise and he rose in the polls. But that ascent could be short-lived. Ontario, the world’s largest sub-sovereign government borrower, will soon be carrying a debt that approaches one-half trillion Canadian dollars. It has disclosed no plan to balance the budget and admits that taxpayers may not see a balanced budget until a decade from now.
After Ford bankrupted small businesses—his base—and put working-class Ontarians—again his base—out of work, conservatives will have few reasons to vote for him. The province’s many civil servants, who have been protected from lockdown income losses, won’t vote for him. And sometime soon—well before the next provincial election in June 2022, 14 months from now—the overwhelmingly left-leaning press will turn on him, having furthered its mission of increasing government spending, promoting social justice, silencing dissent, and generally aiding a Great Reset.
The sexist, racist, anti-environmental, crony-appointing, vindictive lout that the press portrayed the pre-pandemic Ford as being will then once again be a fixture on the nightly news. Conservatives—many of them the “yahoos” that Ford derided—won’t be tempted to switch their allegiance to a left-leaning party. But they may not be as rankled as before to see Ford mocked, and rather than go to the polls, hold their nose, and vote, many will be tempted to stay home.
Lawrence Solomon is an author and columnist with The Epoch Times. LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com @LSolomonTweets
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.