EDITORIAL: Ontario’s unusual year

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What a difference a year makes.

A year ago, Ontario’s premier was Kathleen Wynne and the leader of the Progressive Conservatives was Patrick Brown.

Within the first month of 2018, Brown resigned from his position because of sexual misconduct allegations, and within six weeks was replaced by Doug Ford.

Within three months of his elevation, Ford was premier.

A year can be a long time. But six months can feel even longer. In the age of Twitter and other social media, where the news cycle has been collapsed to a moment-by-moment rendering, three months can carry the dimensions of a glacial epoch.

Ontario politics felt like that in 2018. A lot of history was made – and in a very short time.

Within the first six months, Ontario’s Liberal government lost its majority status as well as its official party status, and Wynne stepped down as leader.

Within the first six months, Brown went from being Ontario’s would-be premier to being ousted from his own caucus. His reputation was trashed because of allegations that have never resulted in any charges. A year ago, he was head of a party cruising to electoral victory. Today, Brown is mayor of Brampton.


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And what about Ford? His story is even more remarkable. A year ago the former Toronto city councillor was planning to make a run for the mayor’s job. But those plans abruptly changed with Brown’s departure and with the leadership race that followed.

Ford announced his candidacy for the Tory leadership on Jan. 31. MPP Christine Elliott was the favoured candidate, but second-place Ford, with the support of fourth-place contender Tanya Granic Allen, was able to grab the crown on March 11. It was an incredible ascent for someone with very little political experience or practise. Had the controversial Granic Allen become leader instead of Ford, the outcome would have been no less improbable.

The June 7 election was Ford’s to lose. Even Wynne admitted two weeks before the vote that her party would not win. Her unusual admission spoke deeply to how awful the Liberal government’s fortunes had become. But it was worse than that; the Liberals were reduced to seven seats. Wynne barely won her own riding.

And what of the NDP? Within the maelstrom of political confusion that swirled, leader Andrea Horwath was given her best opportunity to form a government. And the NDP seat count almost doubled to 40. But it wasn’t enough to make a dent in the stronghold erected by Ford and his party.

Such turbulence occurs all the time, but to have it resemble a Shakespearean experience was an achievement of sorts.

Indeed, Shakespeare once wrote a line that is useful in trying to explain what happened in Ontario in 2018: “If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.”

– Peter Epp

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