Justin Trudeau’s F-bombs — as in Ford — exploded Andrew Scheer’s path to power as Ontario voters bought the Liberal line that the Conservative leader was the second coming of an unpopular Tory premier.
Trudeau’s Liberals were leading or had held 78 of the province’s 121 seats as of 11:30 p.m. Monday as Ontarians rejected Scheer over fears he would impose similar cuts to Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives.
The Tories had won or were leading in just 37 — a pick up of only four seats from the 2015 election — while the NDP had six ridings at that time.
Conservative strategist Kory Teneycke, one of the architects of Ford’s June 2018 majority victory, said on CBC that Scheer made a mistake distancing himself from a premier he insisted is “more popular in Ontario” than the Tory leader.
Former NDP premier Bob Rae agreed with Teneycke that the federal Tories erred in banishing Ford, whose party won 76 of Ontario’s 124 provincial seats 16 months ago.
But Steven Del Duca, the front-runner for the Ontario Liberal leadership, said Monday night he was not surprised the federal Grits held their own.
“The federal election result in Ontario is a clear and stunning rejection of Conservatives and Doug Ford’s reckless and incompetent government,” said Del Duca, who canvassed for 73 Liberal candidates across Ontario this campaign.
“Voters made it clear that they want continued progress to fight climate change, expand and support the middle class, and help our kids achieve success — not more Conservative cuts,” he said.
“Ontarians refused to be fooled by Ford’s decision to go into hiding.”
While Ford delayed the return of the Ontario legislature from Sept. 9 until next Monday as a favour to Scheer and stayed out of the limelight for the entire campaign, he loomed large.
Trudeau repeatedly invoked his name on the campaign trail — as many as 14 times at one news conference in Hamilton — in efforts to scare voters away from Scheer’s slate of candidates.
Ford joked that “I feel the guy loves me or something because he constantly mentions my name … that’s politics.”
But privately the premier seethed about Trudeau and, echoing Teneycke, was not impressed with Scheer’s campaign or the Tory leader’s persistent refusal to acknowledge him, only naming him three times publicly throughout the election.
Adding insult to injury, Scheer campaigned 700 metres from Ford’s Etobicoke home and welcomed Alberta Premier Jason Kenney onto the hustings in Ontario.
Kenney blitzed 23 events in the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa for Scheer, including in the premier’s Etobicoke North riding.
But the federal Tories were only responding to polls that show Ford, who was lustily booed at the Raptors’ victory celebration in Nathan Phillips Square in June while Mayor John Tory and Trudeau were cheered, is not personally popular.
The most recent Campaign Research survey last month found Ford has a 25 per cent approval rating and a 63 per cent disapproval rating for an overall minus 38 per cent.
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While the premier wasn’t on the ballot, his sister-in-law, Renata Ford, widow of late mayor Rob Ford, was. Running for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party, she lost badly in Etobicoke North to veteran Liberal Kirsty Duncan, Trudeau’s science minister.
The Ford focus drove a carload of former Liberal MPPs defeated in last year’s provincial election to Ottawa.
Ex-MPPs Yvan Baker in Etobicoke Centre, Helen Jaczek in Markham-Stouffville, and Han Dong in Don Valley North were all romping to victory as of 11:45 p.m.
Jaczek said voters told her Ford’s budget cuts were a big reason why they voted Liberal.
Other Liberal cabinet members re-elected in Ontario included Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, Security Minister Bill Blair, and Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould.
In 2015, the Liberals won 80 seats in Ontario to 33 for the Tories and eight for the NDP.
Former Tory cabinet minister Erin O’Toole, who finished third in the 2017 Conservative leadership behind Scheer and Bernier, was re-elected in Durham.
That’s significant because O’Toole is touted as a future leader if Scheer is defenestrated.
In Milton, Deputy Conservative Leader Lisa Raitt lost to Liberal Adam van Koeverden, the Olympic kayak gold medallist.
“I definitely got involved to make sure we have a progressive government in power,” said van Koeverden, who said he heard Ford’s name mentioned “a lot.”
“I didn’t hear about Andrew Scheer.”
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