Illustrative example of Ford mistruths

Doug Ford’s recent fundraising appeal letters to the PC base are classic examples of populist rhetoric. Each is a series of simplistic, unsubstantiated one-liners, most of which are misleading and many demonstrably untrue. One such email from “Doug” is displayed and rebutted below. The text of Mr. Ford’s message is bolded and the rebuttal text is italicized.

From: Doug Ford <doug@ontariopc.com>
Date: 28 March 2018 at 15:52
Subject: Time’s up
To: Peter xxxxx <xxxxx@gmail.com>

Peter, the Liberals have had 15 years.
This is the one entirely true statement in this letter, though it appears intended to suggest that Kathleen Wynne has been in power for 15 years. The Wynne government is only four years old, and those have been good years for the Ontario economy which has enjoyed growth rates higher than any G7 country and higher than all but one other Canadian province.

They’ve made so many promises it’s hard to keep track.
Yes, this government has made lots of promises but, unlike those of populist politicians, its promises are easily tracked because they’ve been mostly kept, as evidenced by its unusually productive public record of bills passed and programs launched.

Statscan employment figures for Ontario 2014-18

Ontario is losing jobs.
A total falsehood. The reality is that Ontario has been steadily adding jobs throughout Kathleen Wynne’s term as Premier, and unemployment is the lowest it has been in 17 years. In every economy, some jobs are always disappearing and new ones being created. What counts is that we’ve been enjoying a healthy net job gain.

We are a have-not province.
This statement is highly misleading. Under Canada’s convoluted “equalization” system, federal payments to provinces tend to lag current economic realities by a year or more. Ontario’s share of equalization payments has declined rapidly over the past three years as a result of our high GDP growth. Ontario initially qualified for those payments because it was the province hardest hit by the loss of auto and other manufacturing during the 2009-10 “Great Recession”, an economic tsunami which was far beyond the scope of any provincial government. This year, Ontario’s share is down to a miniscule $70 per person, compared to $2,835 for PEI.

We get bailouts from the West to pay to keep the lights on in our hospitals.
This statement is so utterly ludicrous as to insult the reader’s intelligence. The remaining federal equalization payment for 2018 amounts to 0.6% of the Ontario budget. So, no, Mr. Ford, we need neither Western help nor yours to keep the lights on in our hospitals.

Kathleen Wynne has made a lot of promises.
Yes, he has already said that.

And she’s going to make a lot more.
Which is fine as long as she continues to keep them.

But the Liberals have had 15 years to fix Ontario.
Yes, and there was an awful lot to fix after the mess left by the last populist PC government under Mike Harris. Recall how happy most of us were to see that one go!

And we’re worse off than ever.
Not true. The electricity grid is now stable as opposed to the frequent brownouts of the Harris years. Thousands are alive today only because we’ve eliminated summer smog days by closing the Province’s coal-fired plants. Post-secondary education is now accessible to children of lower-income families. People with disabilities are living better lives. The economy is strong and millions of families are starting to get their fair share of that growth. None of those things would have happened under a government that was obsessed with cutting taxes.

It’s time to turn this province around.
Another empty slogan with no substance behind it. By most objective criteria, things are getting better for the majority of Ontarians. By turning the province around, does he mean making it worse for all but the wealthy few? It’s worth considering where Ontario would be today had we an angry, Trump-like, divisive, chaos-generating populist Premier these past four years.

Click here to donate $1.
Even this simple ask is misleading, since clicking on it leads you to a PC donation page on which the lowest pre-set amount is $25.

Peter, I need your help.
And you won’t get it by sending simple-minded, untruthful messages like this one. Hopefully many other Peters across Ontario will draw similar conclusions.

Doug

We have seen many such email appeals from “Doug” since he won the PC leadership. They are all similar in tone, all lack any substantiation for their wild statements, and all are similarly untruthful. For example, the deeply misleading statement below is worthy of note because of how frequently it is employed by Mr. Ford and other PC candidates:

We’re deeper in debt than any province or state anywhere in the world.

Why is debt such a favourite theme? In part, because it’s a topic on which the public are so easily mislead. Yes, in dollar terms Ontario’s debt is higher than that of other Canadian provinces. But that’s because we have by far the largest population and economy, which in turn requires equally higher spending in areas like health care and education which must continue to be fully funded during economic downturns when tax revenues drop. Mr. Ford’s simplistic approach would treat Ontario’s provincial debt as a disaster and laud PEI, whose provincial debt is a mere $2.2 billion. Yet viewed by their respective debt-to-GDP ratios, a far better metric of debt sustainability, the two provinces are roughly comparable. Ontario’s debt-to-GDP ratio is currently 38%, and has gradually dropped (not risen) during Kathleen Wynne’s tenure as Premier. Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland all have significantly higher ratios. With respect to the rest of the world, subnational governments such as US states typically carry lower debt loads than their Canadian counterparts because more of the social spending is the responsibility of their federal government. Putting Ontario’s provincial debt into perspective, the US federal government is currently burdened by a ruinous debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 105%. This can only mushroom with Mr. Trump’s huge corporate tax cuts which Mr. Ford has spoken of emulating. This gap between deliberately misleading rhetoric and reality is why it is so hard to have adult conversations with populists and their supporters. For a better understanding of which Canadian political party actually has the better track record of good fiscal management when in power, please check the facts in the Debt post on Sophie Kiwala’s campaign website and read the debt discussion on my Considerations page.

Likewise the following statement:

We’re getting ripped off on our Hydro bills…rates are skyrocketing.

At least the PCs have finally stopped repeating their longstanding outright lie that Ontarians pay North America’s highest electricity rates. We don’t, not by a long shot, and never did. But the intended damage is done because they repeated it so often that the majority of people now seem to believe it (which is one of the saddest things about populist tactics — they so often work). The reality is that rising electricity rates have been reversed and, pricing-wise, we are now back towards the middle of the pack among North American jurisdictions. For more details, you can check for yourself in the Electricity Prices post on Sophie Kiwala’s campaign website. And if you are interested in knowing more about why our electricity grid operates the way it does and why it costs so much to refurbish, please view the Energy post on Sophie’s website.

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