It’s understandable that Premier Doug Ford may be sensitive to being booed at a public event.
After all, he endured loud, prolonged boos at the opening to the Special Olympics in May, at the Toronto Raptors’ NBA championship celebration in in June, and at the Toronto Caribbean Carnival in August, among other events.
Indeed, critics say his government cancelled Canada Day celebrations at Queen’s Park just days before July 1 because they were so worried he’d be booed again.
Still, blaming New Democrat MPPs for boos he heard at the International Plowing Match in Verner, Ont., last week shows just how out of touch Ford is with his own constituents.
“I know the support that I have in the farming community is absolutely massive,” he said in apparent disbelief that real voters would boo him over real issues.
That may have been true when he first came to power in 2018, but opinion polls taken over this past summer show he is anything but popular now.
In fact, his popularity has plunged to lower levels than those of former premier Kathleen Wynne on the eve of the election.
Not that he’s noticed.
Ford, it appears, fails to understand that the funding cuts he has made in everything from education to welfare, legal aid, child care and public health hurt people in Progressive Conservative strongholds, such as the 905 belt, rural and northern areas, as much as they do voters in Toronto.
Perhaps, then, it’s time for him to recognize that he can’t retain support from people in suburban and rural areas simply by pitting them against those he calls the “urban elites.”
Instead, he should focus on delivering on his election promise to reduce Ontario’s deficit by finding “efficiencies,” rather than serving up a never-ending smorgasbord of cuts to services and jobs.
It’s clear that voters across the province have had their fill of that.
Verner, for example, has a large francophone population. Does the premier think he made friends with people there when he eliminated the position of French Language Services Commissioner and ditched plans for a French-language university (something he’s since backtracked on) without consulting anyone?
Indeed, the Ford government did not even consult with the parliamentary secretary for francophone affairs, eastern Ontario MPP Amanda Simard, never mind francophone voters and community groups, before announcing the cuts last November. (Simard quit the Tory caucus over the debacle.)
Or how about cuts to education funding that have resulted in mayhem in our public schools? If Ford thinks that hasn’t affected rural voters, he is only underscoring how out of touch he is with the impact of his actions.
High school teacher Christiane McNeil from Sturgeon Falls, who was one of the people booing him at the plowing match, could have told him that.
She says the Ford government’s move to increase class sizes is hitting rural Ontario school boards so hard that she’s had to teach as many as 39 students at once, with some of them sitting on the classroom floor. “I’m on the front line and the cuts are hurting our students.”
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The funding cuts to education are also resulting in fewer course choices for students across the province, including the Progressive Conservatives’ vote-rich 905 area.
This past week a Grade 12 student at a Mississauga high school, Omar Salman, told the Star’s Kristin Rushowy that he couldn’t get into physics or calculus courses he needs to take to prepare for university.
So, yes, we hate to break it to you, Premier Ford, but an upset electorate does not need the NDP to lead them in a round of boos. Voters are doing just fine on their own.