The Ontario PC Party, and the people of Ontario, are lucky that Doug Ford just won the Tory leadership. This was the only good possible outcome.
This is not even about who would, in the abstract, make the best leader.
There was chaos in the voting. By many accounts, a large number of party members were disenfranchised. People were, properly, upset. It looked awful, intentional or not, especially after all the irregularities of unseating Patrick Brown, and all the irregularities under his watch as leader.
The only other candidate with a shot at winning, according to the polls, was Christine Elliott. Elliott had, foolishly or selfishly or both, been the only candidate who had opposed calls to extend the voting in order to let everyone vote. This automatically made her winning, had it unfortunately happened, look illegitimate. It certainly reinforced the impression that the fix was in. Everyone already saw her as the establishment’s candidate.
Had she won, there is no way the party could have come together. The public impression would have been that the crooks and incompetents are still in charge. Had the party not split, they would at a minimum have lost the contributions of all their best activists.
Elliott’s refusal to concede now may help rather than hurt the party. It reinforces the message that the corrupt and incompetent elite is no longer in charge. They lost. And probably also that they are not coming back any time soon. For this probably makes a fourth run by Elliott impossible. It confirms the sense that a new leaf has been turned over.
Many lament, it is true, that the PCs would have had a better chance of winning the next election with a more moderate, less polarizing figure than Ford.
That would be the conventional, cynical political wisdom: always tack towards the centre, and you get more of the ideological spectrum on your side, therefore more votes.
But that conventional wisdom does not always hold. Trump, recently, has demonstrated that. As did Reagan in his day, or Mike Harris. Trump won when McCain or Romney, following the conventional strategy, lost. Not to mention Kasich, Rubio, Jeb Bush, and the rest of his primary competitors.
The conventional wisdom holds when civil discourse holds; and there is no general sense that the system itself is broken. But if the state of politics, and of discourse, descends to real conflict, or visible incompetence, it no longer works. Any more than it is the best strategy in war to pick the general who will be nicest to the enemy and least likely to attack.
In the US, the election of Trump demonstrates, if it were not already clear, that civil discourse no longer holds. The system is broken. The left systematically broke it over the last several decades.
And the same seems true now of Ontario. I just saw video of the riot at Queen’s University when Jordan Peterson was invited to speak. Such a scene would have been unthinkable at Queen’s back when I attended—hardly a politically charged campus, ever. It reminded me of the opening scene of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. A disorganized rabble of apes attacking a rival troupe. It was dramatic visual proof that civil discourse is over, and we are de facto in Ontario in a state of civil war.
In such a context, electing a compromiser is only unnecessarily yielding ground to the enemy. It is only appeasement.
Ford has been dignified and managerial in the campaign. I think he is legitimately the Tories’ best hope.
And I expect him to win.
It seems to me that, purely objectively, Wynne’s government has shown itself to be both terminally incompetent and socially divisive. Ontarians are going to be in the mood for a change, and would feel better about a dramatic one, just as they turned to Mike Harris after the disaster of Bob Rae.