By Rob Ferguson
It was a “me” election that turned on a dime.
Ontarians handed Doug Ford a strong Progressive Conservative majority because they feel he best understands their pocketbook struggles and trust him to take quick action on excess government spending, says a revealing post-vote study by Navigator Ltd.
This despite Ford’s apparent lack of sophistication and what many respondents viewed as a “gimmicky” promise to fire the “Six Million Dollar Man” who runs Hydro One to provide a pound of flesh for high electricity rates.
“If on the first day he calls in the auditors and cuts 10 cents off the gas tax he’ll be off to a very good start,” said Jaime Watt, executive chairman of Navigator, the communications and strategic advice firm that conducted focus groups and in-depth interviews with voters across the province.
“They want action, fast,” Watt, a Conservative strategist, told the Star. “Fast. Fast. Fast. They don’t expect any study, any shilly-shally, dilly-dally, whatever, they expect him to get right to work on these things.”
The tax break on each litre of gasoline and ferreting $6 billion in cost savings out of a $150 billion provincial budget were key elements of the PC platform that resonated with large swaths of the electorate who also view carbon taxes as a cash grab.
“People feel out of control right now,” said Anne Kilpatrick, lead research principal for Navigator, noting research participants were “really enthusiastic” about Ford’s promise to bring in auditors to look for wasteful government spending because “they can’t get a hold of the reins of their pocketbooks and their finances.”
Voters were less concerned with longer-term issues like infrastructure, pharmacare and anything aimed at the next generation — a factor that could have implications for upcoming municipal and federal election campaigns, according to the Navigator study to be webcast Wednesday with a panel discussion on thestar.com.
But that “selfish mood” of an impatient electorate also sets a challenge for Ford as his team prepares to take the reins of power from Premier Kathleen Wynne on June 29 following 15 years of Liberal rule.
“It becomes important as he confronts the reality of governing,” Watt said. “It’s easy in opposition to say you’ll move quickly.”