Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Doug Ford Paints Himself as Fiscally Responsible Outsider in Bid to Lead Ontario

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Doug Ford Paints Himself as Fiscally Responsible Outsider in Bid to Lead Ontario

Article excerpt

Ford tests everyman appeal on provincial stage

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TORONTO - Eight years after a populist wave handed Rob Ford the reins of Canada's largest city, his brother is testing the same brand of everyman appeal on the provincial stage.

With calls to trim government fat and put money back into voters' pockets, Doug Ford is painting himself as a fiscally responsible outsider in an effort to propel Ontario's Progressive Conservatives back to power for the first time in 15 years.

"We will form a government that is for the people. Not for the insiders, not for the elites, a government that will have your back," Ford told cheering supporters as he launched the Tory campaign Tuesday night. "I intend on keeping the promises that I make."

Ford, who seized the Tory crown in a heated leadership race two months ago, is hoping to woo voters with promises of relief that harken back to his late brother's mantra to "stop the gravy train," but offer little in terms of concrete policies.

His brash demeanour and controversial remarks have made him a polarizing figure, but they've also endeared him to so-called Ford Nation, a demographic that first mobilized around his scandal-plagued younger sibling and remains fiercely loyal to the family name.

Ford's opponents, meanwhile, say his reliance on slogans, suggestions that some Liberals should be behind bars, and rocky relationship with the media bring to mind another controversial politician -- U.S. President Donald Trump.

Yet with both Ford and his party leading in the polls, some say the election is his to lose.

"The Liberals are watching us right now and they are worried," Ford told his supporters at a rally late Tuesday. "They see a movement taking hold, a movement like we've never seen in the last few decades."

Though he has yet to present a platform, the Tory leader has laid out some of his priorities while criss-crossing the province ahead of the campaign, pledging to order both an audit and an inquiry into government spending and to fire the board and CEO of partially privatized utility Hydro One over executive salaries.

He has vowed to scrap carbon pricing and cut four per cent from the budget without eliminating jobs, a plan denounced as impossible by his opponents.

And in a move appealing to the party's social conservative elements, he has promised to revoke the controversial sex-ed curriculum brought in by Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and to tie post-secondary funding decisions to "the willingness of university administrators to protect free speech."

Ford has also promised to reunite the party after months of unprecedented upheaval and infighting brought to the fore by the departure of his predecessor, Patrick Brown, amid sexual misconduct allegations that he denies.

"I will get our party back on track, we will put a platform forward that speaks to every Ontarian," he said in his leadership victory speech in March. …

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