Give Ford the credit he deserves.

Premier Doug Ford of Ontario had two choices. He could continue the bombast and bluff of his usual approach to politics, or he could learn from his mistakes and tone down the rhetoric. His new approach is far from perfect but it shows that unlike his first year as premier, he can learn. It is good to see, but is it a smoke screen or reform?

In the provincial briefings that he learned to do from Justin Trudeau, you get the feeling that he would prefer to do the act as a single. Maybe it was from watching Trudeau that he realized he had neither the glibness nor the experience. He always has some experienced political people at those briefings, to try to keep him out of trouble.

It was like the experience with the teachers. When Lisa Thompson MPP fumbled the 25-plus billion education budget in Ontario, she was just doing what she was told. She was told to save money. Thompson followed her conservative instincts, fired teachers and increased class sizes.

But what neither Thompson nor Ford seemed to understand was that it was the teachers and their unions that had been keeping the liberals in power until the 2018 election. They had awoken a sleeping giant. They reminded the teachers’ unions of their strengths. The unions savaged Thompson. They drew more attention to the Ford government’s ineptness in power.

Ford had to bring in the A-team. He had kept the smooth-talking Stephen Lecce, a young conservative who was trained by auto dealer Al Palladini and impressed Stephen Harper, in reserve.

When Lecce, in his sharp suits and sophisticated tonsorial style, appeared to settle down the teachers, the battle was joined. To Doug Ford’s disappointment, the battle was won by the teachers. Lecce, in a creased suit and badly in need of a barber has signed armistices with the major teachers’ unions.

But it was minor news compared to the pandemic. That is the ongoing battle that consumes us all. Doug Ford has learned some lessons. It will be interesting to see if he remembers them after Ontario gets back to work.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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