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Doug Ford: Stalker or love sick pitt bull?

Yesterday an affidavit came out that was sworn by a former PC candidate – Pina Martino. It was sent to the PC party legal team back in 2016, three days before her nomination race in Etobicoke Centre. In it she named dozens of people who were on the riding member list but admitted that they had never paid for their membership. She worried that Doug Ford had signed up and paid their membership fee for them. A secret tape recording of Mr. Ford telling people they didn’t have to pay was released by the Liberals this week and would seem to verify that indeed Mr. Ford likely  paid for their memberships. This  goes against the PC party bylaws. Martino was concerned because the rules around nominations were being flagrantly ignored, signing up members and paying their dues results in lack of commitment and support for the candidate. It’s a stupid thing to do and undermines the strength of the party. 

 In an email to the party Martino went on to allege  that Doug Ford had followed her not once but twice in an attempt to intimidate her from running for the nomination.

Let’s imagine this woman is your sister, mother, wife, or daughter, who Doug Ford has followed in his big black SUV in an attempt to intimate/scare her from running for the party she’s supported for over a decade. What advice would you give her? Most people would say that Ford’s behaviour crossed the line. That following a women in order to intimidate her is called stalking

Stalking is a crime called criminal harassment.

Today there are many PC party members wondering if Doug Ford rigged his own leadership race. Many more are disgusted that Ford was caught cheating the very system he has pledged to clean up. Yesterday’s release of a voice recording of Ford telling people they “don’t have to pay a thing” while referring to their membership forms demonstrates that he was willing to break the rules in the nomination process and rig the vote to favour his chosen candidate. His claims that the issue was dealt with by the PC party – the same party he admitted was filled with vote rigging and corruption, doesn’t hold much credibility.

But it is Doug Ford’s total disregard for the legitimacy of the nomination process that should send warning bells off witin every sane voter across Ontario.

Once a corrupt politician always a corrupt politician.

Personally I wonder why Mr. Ford risked so much to set Kinga Surma up as the new candidate for Etobicoke Centre. It would seem that he has taken quite a fancy to this young woman whose only experience was as campaign organizer for me in the 2010 mayoral race, and then assistant to George Smitherman in his race to stop Rob Ford. She worked for Liberal Peter Milczyn when he sat as councillor for Etobicoke, but other than that she has little to no political experience.

I know Surma well from her time working on my campaign, and will say that she is very bright, attractive and ambitious. I don’t doubt that she makes a good candidate.  But compared to Pina Martino, she lacked the history of dedication to the local community. Martino has participated on the Etobicoke-Centre riding association since 2006 and she was the candidate for the riding in the 2014 election. She had name recognition and a long-term commitment to the party.

But Doug Ford opted for a young woman with little political experience over a former candidate with name recognition and a history in the riding. This is extremely questionable, especially when combined with news that Mr. Ford was willing to risk his personal reputation and break all the rules just to get Ms. Surma the seat.

As a journalist I don’t understand why he would risk so much for one candidate?  I know that there is more to this than meets the eye.

 

Voters fear Liberal bureaucracy is too powerful

Provincial Liberal strategists are blaming their losses in the August 1st byelection on the gas plant scandal, and while this is a big negative issue it’s important to understand what people are truly reacting to.

I should disclose that I am am a past candidate for the Liberals in the 2011 election. So I come at this with a bit of experience and a little insight into how things run within the party.

My advice to Premier Wynne is to make sure that she addresses the true issue around the gas plant scandal: it isn’t just about what was done but more about who did it.  The public is upset because the Liberal election campaign team seemed to have more control than those who were elected.  That the campaign staff had enough power to stop the gas plants is what truly upsets people. The feeling on the street is that the bureaucracy has become far too powerful and devious.  That is the true issue the Premier has to deal with and voters will be watching closely to see how she handles it.

Replacing staff is a good first step but if the Premier doesn’t curtail their power it will amount to very little.  Liberals lost three of their held ridings because the candidates they put into those ridings lacked the authenticity needed to overcome the devious image the gas plant scandal has cast over the Liberals.

As things currently stand the Premiers campaign staff are selecting too many of the candidates they want. This is a huge mistake and one that will have big consequences in the next election.

Allowing campaign team staff to have control over the elected politicians, over government policy, and extending it to choosing the new candidates gives them far too much power and influence not only over the new candidates,  but also over MPPs who need their help to get re-elected. It shows how strong the bureaucracy has become.

You wouldn’t run a company and put your staff in charge of selecting their supervisor or managers and as the leader of the Liberal party the Premier should not be allowing her staff to hand pick the candidates they want. Not only is it bad for government but it will also hurt her chances of winning.

Why? Because staff will pick people most likely to do their bidding, to cover up their mistakes, and to bend to their will. This means that a whole group of excellent politicians, will not have an opportunity to run.

Gone are the vocal candidates, and anyone who would stand up to the staff.

Gone are the community activists who don’t always agree with the a policy position and drive the party to change – keeping the party relevant to voters.

Gone are the candidates who worried openly that the campaign team was getting too powerful.

When the Liberal campaign staff control the candidate selection process it becomes insular – they get other staff or past staff in as candidates, or bureaucrats they know will do as they are told. But in doing so they risk voter support – as the past byelection demonstrated.

For example, take the byelection in London West – a riding that has been held by Liberals for a decade and where Ken Coran, former head of the Teachers Union, was announced as the candidate with all other possibles shunned. Coran the man who took credit for pushing the Liberals out in the Kitchener byelection in 2012. Among staff he was seen as the man who beat them, and he was treated with awe and respect. Among Liberals he was seen as a big gun for the NDP – a wolf the farmer thought a dog and mistakenly put in to guard the hens. Liberal voters refused to come out and vote for him. He lost by a whopping 9,637 votes to the NDP and even trailed the Conservatives by 6,256 votes

Or look at Windsor-Tecumseh riding which has been held by the Liberals since 1995. Liberal candidate Jeewan Gill won a nomination, but his experience working as special assistant to a former MP hurt him on election day. Voters saw Mr Gill’s background and connected him — albeit in error — to those devious election staff behind the Gas Plant scandal. The NDP had a landslide win with Percy Hatfield taking the seat away from Liberals easily.

In the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore – which has been liberal for a decade  – the campaign team hand-picked their candidate dissuading all others. But they picked Councillor Peter Milzcyn a candidate who was viewed by most voters in the community as being a Conservative and served on Rob Ford’s executive. The general public didn’t look at his history as a Liberal Party riding president, it’s only party insiders who noted that but less active Liberals didn’t trust him and stayed home on election day.

The role of the politician is to represent what voters want. But when party staff show up as political candidates voters worry that their loyalty will be to the party bureaucracy first and because of the gas plant scandal, the next election campaign is sure to focus on the issue of Liberal Campaign staff having too much power.  If it does any candidate who is or was a political staffer will have a tough time winning.

Premier Wynne needs to prove to voters that she is strong enough to curtail the bureaucracy, to take control away from her staff and put it back into the hands of the elected officials.

I recommend three actions to the Premier:

First — set up a campaign selection committee of politicians who can and will stand up to the campaign team and work to dissuade staff or former staff from running as candidates.

Second — have the candidate selection committee review the candidates her staff have already put in place. There are ridings that now have current or former Queens Park staff as candidates, that have had staff pack the nomination meetings in order to get their guy in. As things now stand they are very likely to lose those ridings for the same reason they lost so many in the byelections … voters will see staff or former staff as the bureaucracy weaseling in to gain even more power. Staff should be encouraged not to be involved in any way in the nominations.  I have met many of these “staff” candidates and know them to be good solid people —  but unfortunately the trust voters have in Queens Park staff or former staff or anyone tied to the bureaucracy is at an all-time low.

Third — have the candidate selection committee entice strong active community advocates to run for them. They need to select people who aren’t afraid to say what they think, who have name recognition and are active in their communities. Voters need to trust that their candidate will not only represent their issues, but stand up to the powerful bureaucracy that a decade of government has enabled.