Did the Ford Factor hurt the Tories in Ontario?

Ontario Premier Doug Ford previously met with the leader of the Federal Official Opposition, Andrew Scheer at Queen's Park. (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star) (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Ontario may have rode a blue wave in the provincial election, but the Conservative Party of Canada was unable to similarly sweep the province on Monday.

Toronto and its surrounding regions appear to have played a key role in delivering the Liberals an electoral victory on Monday, with Liberal candidates leading in most of the seats in the crucial 905-area surrounding the city. The Liberals were also leading in every Toronto seat, holding off challenges from the NDP.

The results follow an election period in which Conservative leader Andrew Scheer avoided campaigning with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who has seen his popularity plummet in Ontario since taking power in 2018. In fact, Scheer nearly managed to make it through the campaign without saying Ford’s name.

The results are also raising the question of what impact Ford – or the Scheer campaign’s decision to avoid him on the trail – had on the Conservative’s performance Monday.

The Liberal Party and its leader Justin Trudeau frequently invoked that Scheer was a federal version of Ford, whose approval rating has been sinking in the province. According to CityNews, a DARTMaru BluePoll found Ford’s approval rating was 26 per cent, a decrease of 3 per cent over the last three months.

Last week, in an interview on Toronto’s Newstalk 1010, Scheer dismissed concerns that he was avoiding using the Ford name during the campaign, but at the same time seemed to distance the federal party from its provincial counterpart.

“First of all, Premier Ford decided weeks ago, months ago that he was going to be focused on provincial issues. And I can understand why, he has a big mess to clean up,” Scheer said.

“We have got our own platform, we have got our own agenda. I’ve made it very clear with voters all across the country exactly where we’re going to find the money to both get back to balanced budgets and lower taxes.”

But some argue that the Ford Factor could have helped the Conservatives in the campaign.

Kory Teneycke, who was Stephen Harper’s director of communications and the campaign manager for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party in the last election, said on the CBC News election broadcast on Monday that it was a “mistake” for the federal leader to distance himself from the provincial candidate.

Former Liberal leader Bob Rae also questioned the strategy, saying on the CBC News broadcast Monday that “the witness protection for Doug Ford was a bad idea.”

With files from the Canadian Press