It's prediction season. This is mine:
Voters in Ontario will decide the 2019 federal election.
There are 338 ridings up for grabs this year and more than a third of them are in Ontario. As much as it will be a match of wits between Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer, Doug Ford looms large.
Ford's PC Party captured a solid majority six months ago, winning 76 of the province's 128 seats. He wasted no time dismantling the previous Liberal government's far left agenda. Ford is the anti-Trudeau and vice versa. Ford is Team Trudeau's favorite target. Expect more of that.
After only six months in government, Ford Nation killed the carbon tax/cap& trade scheme. The minimum wage was frozen. Hydro executives were fired. Green energy projects were culled. A basic income pilot program was ended. A new pharmacare plan was reformed. A long planned, never built francophone university is on ice. And he famously threatened to use the Charter's notwithstanding clause to cut the size of Toronto's city council.
That was the warm-up act.
Next comes a painful provincial budget and I'm told to prepare for 'shock and awe'. If it moves beyond the comfort zone, it will be Team Scheer feeling the blow back.
I see the ballot questions lining up this way.
Do voters want a check on Ford's power, with a Liberal government in Ottawa, led by a progressive with star power? Or is the country better served with a dull Conservative Prime Minister working alongside a plain spoken, yet unpredictable PC Premier in Toronto?
The outcome is far from certain. That's why elections are so much fun!
The federal Liberals are not the spent force the Ontario Liberals were in the provincial campaign. Ford is only slightly more popular than Trudeau at this stage of the game.
Plus, there's no reason to think Mr. Singh's NDP will muster anything close to the challenge Andrea Horwath presented this past summer. Mr. Singh might not be the NDP leader on election day.
Yet Ford Nation is resilient where it counts, across the vast multicultural suburbs of the GTA. Ford Nation is more than a sliver of Etobicoke. It is Vaughan and Thornhill, Barrie and Scarborough, Don Valley and Brampton, Richmond Hill and Mississauga.
This puts a smile on Andrew Scheer's face.
The general election is being billed as judgement day for Trudeau. It may also be a referendum on the early years of Ford Nation. Andrew Scheer could very well win or lose this fall, based on the sentiment of two other men, Trudeau and Ford.
It's battleground Ontario.