Trudeau and Ford’s political bromance is bad news for opposition parties

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes Ontario Premier Doug Ford after announcing a new childcare agreement in Brampton, Ont., On March 28.CARLOS OSORIO / Reuters

Ontario’s Prime Minister Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were once enemies. Now they are friends.

This is bad news both for the Federal Conservatives and for the Liberals and the NDP in Queen’s Park. That’s one of the reasons the provincial Tories are likely to win the June 2 election.

Earlier in the week, Mr. Ford and Mr. Trudeau teamed up to announce a $ 10 billion childcare deal.

“It’s always great to come up with great announcements for Ontario families along with Premier Ford,” Mr. Trudeau. “Doug, it’s so good we’re together again today.”

For his part, he thanked Mr. Ford “our federal partners for their cooperation … it shows what we can achieve by working together.”

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Earlier in March, the two met to announce $ 263 million in joint federal-provincial funding for the Honda plant in Alliston.

Mr. Trudeau had to miss the announcement of a new $ 5 billion electric battery plant planned for Windsor due to an emergency NATO meeting in Europe, but he appeared from the pre-recorded video.

The two governments also cooperated in police actions to disperse anti-vaccine mandate protesters blocking downtown Ottawa and the border at Windsor.

And they worked mostly in co-operation on pandemic measures, with Mr Ford going overboard in praise of the Deputy Prime Minister. “I absolutely love Chrystia Freeland,” he whispered. “She is fantastic.”

This is far from a few years ago, when Mr Ford fought Mr Trudeau over asylum seekers, trade negotiations and, in particular, the federally imposed carbon tax.

“It just makes me sick,” Mr Ford said of the Federal Liberals in a 2019 Progressive Conservative fundraising letter. “Politicians who want to make your life more expensive do not deserve to be elected. That’s the way it is.”

Mr. Trudeau, in turn, campaigned just as much against Mr. Ford in that year’s federal election, as he did against then-Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

“Andrew Scheer wants Canadians to double down on conservative politicians like Doug Ford,” the Liberal leader said repeatedly during the campaign. At one event, he mentioned the Ontario Premier 14 times, and not in a good way.

Ontario and federal political parties, both progressive and conservative, come to power by winning over the seven million people living in Greater Toronto and Hamilton. Sometimes politicians may decide that the best way to earn their votes is to criticize politicians at another level of government.

Liberal Prime Minister David Peterson was against PC Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s free trade agreement with the United States. PC Prime Minister Mike Harris fought Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien for health care. Liberal Prime Minister Dalton McGuinty and Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper are sparring on taxes and transfers.

But just as often, they come out of what John Robarts did with Lester Pearson, Bill Davis with Pierre Trudeau and now Doug Ford with Justin Trudeau.

So what caused the change for Mr. Ford and Mr. Trudeau? Each of them may have noticed that taking pictures of the other did not make any of them more popular. More importantly, the arrival of the pandemic put a damper on party politics. Ontario voters expected Ottawa and Queen’s Park to work together to protect the public good. So they did.

This leaves opposition parties at both levels in an awkward place. Ontario Liberal leader Steven Del Duca and NDP leader Andrea Horwath both risk being marginalized by the Ford-Trudeau entente; both tracks in the polls six weeks before the election.

Anything can happen during an election campaign, but on the eve of the Ontario campaign, the PCs appear to be on the verge of another majority government.

The federal conservatives have been frozen out of the suburb of Ontario three times and out of government three times. Babysitting announcements and good news about more jobs and factory expansion where the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Ontario pat each other on the back will not make a breakthrough easier.

Suburban Ontario voters seem to value the effectiveness of their governments. They want their tax dollars spent efficiently, health education and other services provided efficiently.

Since World War II, the Liberals have ruled in Ottawa and the progressive Conservatives in Queen’s Park more often than not. Ontario voters seem to like it that way. Maybe they find it effective.

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