The following is excerpted from an editorial written by TVO’s Steve Paikin last week.
Quick now: Which politician has impressed or surprised you the most with their competence and leadership during the COVID-19 crisis?It wouldn’t be John Tory. We expect solid, strong leadership out of Toronto’s mayor — even while he’s in self-isolation — in part because he ran one of this country’s most important companies (Rogers), served as opposition leader at Queen’s Park, and has been mayor for more than five years already.It probably wouldn’t be Justin Trudeau (prime minister for more than four years) or Chrystia Freeland (deputy prime minister), who impressed so many by helping to bring the new free-trade agreement with America and Mexico to a successful conclusion.
No, I think this one’s a slam dunk, actually. The answer is Doug Ford.
Ontario’s premier had perhaps the worst first year on the job of anyone who’s ever had it. His populist bombast. His constant fights with anyone and everyone. His original chief of staff, who became embroiled in a patronage scandal. Those were the lowlights of a supremely bad first year. We also have to remember that, when he became premier in June 2018, he’d had a whopping three months of experience in provincial politics — hardly enough to draw upon when the you-know-what began to hit the fan.
But, ever since the COVID-19 crisis emerged as a daily reality in the lives of Ontario’s more than 14 million citizens, Ford has performed well above and beyond most observers’ expectations. Unlike some other leaders (yes, you, Donald Trump), Ford has never tried to downplay the significance of the crisis. He’s never said the thing would burn itself out. He’s never told us to relax, that everything was fine. Trump did all of those things and more. Instead, Ford has taken to the podium every day during the crisis and conveyed deep empathy for the public he serves.
He has also declined to take any partisan potshots at this time. He called himself “a big fan” of Freeland. In a speech in the legislature, he noted that this was no time to talk about “the blue party, the red party, the orange party, or the green party. It’s about coming together. We’re all Team Ontario and Team Canada.” The premier’s actions have matched his words.
Things have changed so much at Queen’s Park, the premier actually said these words: “I want to thank the media. You’re playing a massive role in helping us out.” And perhaps the biggest shockeroo: “There are a lot of great articles in the Toronto Star.”There is no media outlet in the world that has had a more tempestuous relationship with both Doug and former Toronto mayor Rob Ford than the Star. So to hear the premier say those words demonstrates just how much things have changed over the past month.
Once the crisis passes, is there a likelihood that things will go back to “normal”? Of course there is. This is politics, after all. Mindless partisanship on all sides will return. Potshots will be taken. And the relationship with the media will get more hostile.
But, for now, we should all just take a moment to appreciate this moment of unity, when Ontario’s 26th first minister surprised so many by performing so well.