Ford rises to the challenge

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A National Post columnist’s opinion that Premier Doug Ford’s response to the pandemic has been Churchillian was panned by some readers. They agreed Ford has done well in this crisis, but stopped short of comparing him to Winston Churchill.

But the comparison to Britain’s war-time prime minister was somewhat appropriate. Ford has surprised critics, who have frequently pointed out his often-clumsy introduction of programs and policy. Just a month ago the government was embarrassed by the introduction of a new licence plate. Ford defended the new plates, even when it was obvious there had been a blunder.

But he does little wrong in this pandemic. His public briefings have been blunt and honest. Most importantly, he has listened carefully to the province’s chief health official in what his government and its citizens should be doing in this crisis. The decisions that have followed have been based on sound medical advice rather than political ideology.


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Ford has also expressed a rare empathy. He was rightly criticized in mid-March for suggesting Ontarians enjoy their March Break and “have a good time,” even it meant travelling south. But former premier Kathleen Wynne recognized the gesture as something that came from “the goodness of his heart. I could hear it in his voice, he was trying to calm the waters.”

More recently, Ford declared the Easter Bunny an “essential service,” lest any children miss out on holiday chocolate. More calmness and more goodness.

Does any of this resemble Churchill’s Second World War leadership? Not really. But the comparison is correct if one considers Churchill’s many detractors before he was asked to form the government in May 1940. He was not a popular politician and had sat with both the Liberals and Conservatives. When he returned to the Tories in the mid-1920s, Churchill wasn’t completely trusted by either party. He was a political failure by the early 1930s and his first name had become a punchline. But that quickly changed after 1940.

How does such vulnerability translate into leadership when it’s needed most? That’s a mystery. And perhaps as much a mystery as the American president, made vulnerable by polio, who inspired the confidence and love of his nation during its greatest testing, and who once told them “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Ford has thankfully risen to the challenge in this hour of need, and so have thousands upon thousands of Ontarians. And it’s come when it’s most needed, when we are all most vulnerable.

– Peter Epp

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