This is the 17th in a series of opinion columns on the 2022 Ontario provincial election, written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.
Today I want to tell you about a man named Don Guy: an unassuming Liberal with an unassuming name who commands absolute loyalty amongst his party faithful and equal measures of fear, respect, and awe amongst members of the other political tribes.
Don Guy will run a campaign where he utterly dismantles you and your entire party and leaves you looking like a complete fool, wondering what the hell you thought you were doing.
You won’t be mad. You’ll want to thank him for opening your eyes to a whole province of people who just weren’t going to buy what you were selling no matter how you tried. He’ll do this without displaying anger, without raising his voice, without enduring a single word of back talk from his underlings, and without accepting a single word of thanks or any of the credit. For Don Guy, it’s not quite from his lips to God’s ears. He’s fine with Ontario voters, thank you very much.
Don Guy is at least partially and probably mostly responsible for turning an unready Dalton McGuinty into a three-term premier, and a stick figure like John Tory into a faith-based-schools-flogging religious fanatic. He flustered Tim Hudak for years. Andrea Horwath will probably never recover from repeatedly experiencing the ground disappearing beneath her feet every time she opposed his Ontario Liberals (which may explain a lot about her behaviour on this campaign).
He’s out of the game now, mostly, but when people say he’s doing some nebulous work on Steven Del Duca’s transition team, people take notice. Nobody had, and possibly nobody ever will have, their finger on the pulse of Ontario voters the way Don Guy did. (You can read the late, great Linda Diebel’s profile of the man for more discussion of his Dr. Strange-style reality-warping powers.)
I can remember one fine day when it appeared in the Toronto Star that Dalton McGuinty had seemingly not aged after a decade as premier—and just like that, the observation was on everybody’s lips. As ever, anyone who told you whether that inexplicable political happening was definitively Don Guy magic is lying, but because I’ve spent more time than any healthy person should trying to crack the Ontario Liberal code, I’ve noticed a few patterns.
One of this Liberal sorcerer supreme’s signature moves is to make the politically distasteful seem as normal as a Timbit, and everyday political practice seem like a crime committed against the common good.
So when people take a Liberal platform that proposes buck-a-ride but doesn’t double ODSP halfway seriously, and when people are shrugging their shoulders at homophobic comments made by ex-Liberal candidates, and when the media buzzes about leader Steven Del Duca—a guy who looks like he should be the understudy for Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin—making dad jokes in videos… well, it felt like echoes of those campaigns gone by, where people would give the Liberals the benefit of the doubt, again and again.
That is, until this past weekend, where we were promised a revelation of a game-changing scandal involving 16 Ontario PC candidates (and a special guest) and we got Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter looking miserable, standing next to a stack of what appeared to be buckets of frosting marked “DOUG FORD’S GRAVY TRAIN” and a story about how defeated Conservative candidates received appointments after being defeated—which was quickly countered by the Tories exposing that the Liberals had done the same things with their defeated candidates. (Oh, and the promised special guest didn’t show up.)
Other than explaining what your local no-hoper candidate is actually after in exchange for four weeks of getting doors slammed in their faces, there was no groundswell of anger, no shift in the wind.
Steven Del Duca needed a magician to bounce back from seven seats, but it’s looking like not even David Blaine can pull this trick off.
Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.