By Jerry Dias
Doug Ford is hiding in plain sight.
Afraid to face the real media and take genuine questions from qualified reporters who might challenge him on ill-conceived and poorly thought-out election promises, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario is hiding behind the fake news reporting courtesy of his personal assistant.
In a series of news-style videos produced by the party’s campaign team ahead of the June 7 provincial election, Ford is getting the kind of fawning coverage he always wanted.
The videos, posted on Facebook and a website, typically begin with Ford’s personal assistant and former broadcast journalist Lindsey Vanstone seemingly barely able to contain herself with excitement as she announces her boss’s latest campaign stop.
She describes him regularly as “soon-to-be premier Doug Ford” or just “Doug” as she heaps praise on his promises to help Northern Ontario residents or invest in mental health, without ever challenging him on how he would achieve such things.
Of course, that is no doubt the point.
A real reporter would ask Ford how he plans to fulfill all his promises of giving people more while also cutting taxes.
A real reporter would ask how Ford can promise in private to pave over the greenbelt, and publicly pledge to protect it.
A real reporter would ask him how he can claim in one of the videos to support a family who lost their son to an overdose, while saying elsewhere that he is “dead against” supervised injection sites that have been proven to save lives.
The fact is, Doug Ford is afraid of real journalists. He once called a Toronto Star reporter a “little bitch” and while on Toronto City Council he dismissed the city hall press gallery as “pathological liars”, “sucky little kids” and a “bunch of pricks.” Ford has blatantly displayed his true colours when it comes to journalists seeking transparency from his actions and words.
The new fake Ford videos come just weeks after Ford announced his campaign would not provide the traditional media bus following him as he campaigns for the June 7 election.
“He is attempting to bypass the accountability function of the free press by limiting access to his campaign,” Tim Abray, a former journalist and teaching fellow in political science at Queen’s University, said at the time.
Make no mistake, this exclusion of reporters is about controlling the message and hiding under the covers to maintain Ford’s populist campaign that is high on rhetoric and low on actual substance. It seems to me that these fake news videos are the next step in that dwindling accountability for Ford.
I have to ask, though, what is Ford afraid of? Is he not able to handle real questions from real reporters without resorting to name calling?
I do a lot of media interviews on a variety of topics, with reporters from around the world. Media interviews are rarely easy, but are always gratifying. It’s about telling the truth and speaking out for what you believe in and stand for.
Reporters are just doing their job when they challenge me on something I said. I welcome those kinds of exchanges, because it helps to draw out the issue at hand. The public and in fact voters are better served when journalists ask tough questions and dig deeper.
When a fake news journalist does nothing but lob soft-ball questions at Ford, however, the public is poorly served.
Ford may be trying to make himself look good with these videos, but he ends up just looking like he’s afraid to face real questions from real reporters.
To be honest, part of me also finds the videos a little sad. In each video we see a needy man who demands that others fawn over him. Ford even makes his former rivals in the Progressive Conservative leadership race smile for the cameras and talk about how great he is.
It’s uncomfortable to watch.
The other important thing to remember about these videos is their name: Ford Nation Live. Not Progressive Conservative Live or Ontario Tory News, but Ford Nation Live.
In other words, the once-proud Ontario Progressive Party is now Ford Nation. Forget the past. Forget Bill Davis. Forget Leslie Frost. Forget Red Tories. Even forget Mike Harris (I wish I could).
The transformation is complete. This is the Doug Ford Party.