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There’s fierce competition in the unofficial race for Canada’s most dangerous premier, with Alberta’s Danielle Smith deliberately destabilizing her province’s health-care system and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe literally breaking the law so he can thumb his considerable nose at the carbon tax. But with the most recent demonstration of his own unique brand of politics, Ontario’s Doug Ford just snuck back into the lead.

At an announcement for a new medical school at York University, Ford suggested that he wanted to get rid of all the province’s international post-secondary students. It does not appear to have occurred to Ford that those students currently make up 18 per cent of the student body at Ontario’s colleges and universities or that they’ve helped keep these institutions afloat after Ford’s government cut tuition by 10 per cent in 2019 and kept it frozen there ever since. “I’m not being mean, but I’m taking care of our students, our kids first,” he said. “I want 100 per cent of Ontario students going to these universities.”

This is the sort of narrow-minded parochialism you might expect from Quebec’s government, not Ontario’s. But then, even describing Ford’s remarks as parochial gives them credit they don’t deserve since it presumes he’s at least thought about the issues at play for more than a few seconds. As The Canadian Press reported, “Ford then lamented the fact that some kids and parents have said some Ontario students study abroad and then do not return home after they meet someone.”

That’s right: Ford is willing to risk bankrupting his province’s post-secondary institutions because sometimes people leave Ontario to study and don’t return. And while Ford will walk this back in due course, it’s just the latest demonstration of his monumental intellectual shortcomings that are turning the province he governs into a second-rate echo of its former self.

Nowhere is that more apparent than on the housing front, where Ford’s enthusiasm for building housing quickly evaporated after it became clear he couldn’t use it to enrich developers and other friends and donors. First, he made it clear he wasn’t about to allow municipalities to build fourplexes as a right, in part because he doesn’t even seem to understand what a fourplex is. “You go in the little communities and start putting up four-storey, six-storey, eight-storey buildings right deep into the communities, there's going to be a lot of shouting and screaming. That's a massive mistake.”

An even bigger mistake would be turning down the federal government’s new offer of billions of dollars for housing simply because you don’t want to meet their conditions, but that’s exactly what Ford sounds like he'll do. Ford has tried to defend this indefensible decision on the basis that he won’t tell local governments what to do, but as David Moscrop pointed out in a piece for TVO, his government has done just that in issuing almost 10 times as many MZOs (minister’s zoning orders) since 2019 as the previous Liberal government did during its 15 years in power.

“The government has no problem meddling in municipal planning,” Moscrop wrote. “Its problem is that it hates urban density, preferring single-family homes and the occasional townhouse.” This is the height of self-defeating stupidity when you’re in the midst of a housing crisis, and it’s even dumber when the federal government is offering you billions of dollars to do the things your own housing affordability task force already recommended.

There’s also his latest budget, which should sink any remaining notion that he’s leading a fiscally conservative government. Instead, it will spend more as a percentage of provincial GDP than any other in Ontario’s history, including Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals and Bob Rae’s NDP. And what do Ontarians have to show for it? A failing health-care system, public transit infrastructure that can’t keep pace with economic and population growth and an education system in crisis.

But, hey, at least they had that cheap beer. Speaking of which, Ford’s response to the growing affordability challenges facing people in his province was to write a letter to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) requesting that it stop charging for paper bags. If he was trying to add insult to people’s financial injuries, he couldn’t have done much better than this.

So why, given this litany of failures, does it seem like Ford gets a free pass on so much of it? Maybe it’s all the folksy baking videos and staged citizen interventions that were designed to create an image of an approachable and down-to-earth politician. Maybe it’s his conspicuous lack of intellectual sophistication and the way in which it makes him seem less threatening than, say, a Jason Kenney. And maybe it’s his willingness to apologize for some of the decisions he makes, whether it’s the aborted Greenbelt grift or unpopular COVID-19 measures.

Step aside, Danielle Smith. Move over, Scott Moe. Whether it's on housing or education, Ontario Premier Doug Ford is taking his know-nothing brand of politics to new depths lately — and reclaiming the title of Canada's worst premier.

Even so, his formidable Teflon coating seems to be wearing a bit thin. Ford’s personal approval rating is stuck in the low-30s, while the prospect of a Pierre Poilievre government in Ottawa could help the progressive vote in Ontario coalesce more efficiently around Bonnie Crombie’s Liberals. Ontario’s long-standing habit of electing different parties at the federal and provincial levels could spell the end of Ford’s run as premier come the 2026 provincial election.

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There is a lot of competition for Canada's worst premier. Smith and Moe are both closet separatists who want to strip the federal government of all important decision making. Blaine Higgs is a 1950s style politician with a religious fervour and deep ties to the Irving Oil family. Doug Ford is just plain dumb. These conservative premiers are united in their opposition to any form of environmental initiative to mitigate the climate crisis and all other Liberal programs (daycare, dental care, affordable housing) in order to enhance the chances that Pierre Poilievre will form the next government. Their divisive, anti-Trudeau tactics will in the long run actually harm the very people they hope will vote for them.

U hit all the nails on their heads, thanks

Yes, but in Ontario the vote split between the LPO & ONDP could guarantee another few decades for these (non) progressive conservatives, and Ford knows that he could win a (false) majority government with a third of the popular vote if Crombie and Styles campaign for second place more than to win.

You offer the premier far too much credit with the sentence “the latest demonstration of his monumental intellectual shortcomings”

- The removal of the annual licence plate sticker fees cost the govt up to $1.1 billion a year.
-Ford opted not to pursue $1-billion penalty from 407 Express Toll Route
-The Ford government spent $231 million to scrap green energy projects and a few years later wants to be the EV battery capital of the world offering VW and Stellantis billions in support
- The cost of the closure of the ServiceON locations and the deal with Staples has yet to be determined
- In Sept 2020 Ford announced that LTCs would receive $540 million for minor Reno’s, PPE, assistance with operating costs and also $40 million for lost revenue! (People died of Covid and neglect and LTCs and as a result they were running at lower bed capacity and loss of revenue, so he topped them up).
- Let’s not forget the failed Blue ON licence plates that reflected so badly at night that police couldn’t read them; well over a million to purchase the initial partial run (actually the cost was 26% higher than the previous plates) , the design fees and then the replacement costs…they were warned but didn’t listen.
Now it’s the foreign students and a budget with a hefty deficit!

Think of ON as Gilligans Island, meet the skipper!

As a solution to all dire situations, King Arthur in the Monty Python and The Holy Grail would yell “RUN AWAY!!!”

I'm not sure why so many reporters seem to fixate on Ontario needing to have a different party running governments in Ottawa and Toronto. Sure it's happened a lot in the past, but that doesn't make it a law of nature.

I think Mr. Fawcett has chosen the wrong target, as opinion writers often do.

Idiots aren't electing themselves.

As an Ontarian with a passing fair interest in things political, I would say it's a serious mistake to consider the Ontario Liberal Party to have been progressive. They did make headway into our carbon emissions, and we'd be a lot further along if Duggie hadn't cancelled some of the climate measures. But never mind: selling off our hydro generation company (bargain basement price for a utility granted by its original owner to the people of Ontario, in perpetuity) made darned sure that we'd pay through the nose for everything electrical.
If the middle class people think they're hard done by, they should consider that people who are too disabled to work have to live on the equivalent of $7.55 per hour ... that's the rate they'll be getting with their Big Raise come summer.
I wish young people would rely more on facts, stop interpreting everything in terms of their feelings, and for heaven's sakes stop relying on memes as rational data.

Between Doug Ford, Pierre Poilieve, Danielle Smith and Scott Moe, the whole is caught in dumbing down process of misinformation and quest for power. Goodbye progess and our social democracy