Paris Gourtsoyannis: Canadian voters confront their own Trump

Progressive Conservatives leader Doug Ford promises a 'buck-a-beer' (Picture: Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Progressive Conservatives leader Doug Ford promises a 'buck-a-beer' (Picture: Toronto Star via Getty Images)
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If the lack of voting has you craving some real-life absurdist comedy, tune in for the finale of what has to be the craziest campaign anywhere since our own unfathomable general election last year.

Voters in Ontario, Canada go to the polls this week to make an unenviable choice, and one the UK could soon face. To summarise, the biggest, wealthiest province in the country could soon be run by a man dubbed ‘Canada’s Trump’.

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives have for years been expected to win power from a tired, battered centrist Liberal Party administration. The twist came in January, when the Tory leader resigned over sexual misconduct allegations. It left the door open to Doug Ford, a former Toronto city councillor, to mount an insurgent bid for the party leadership.

His name may sound familiar. Ford is the brother of the late Rob Ford, the ex-Toronto mayor captured on film smoking crack cocaine with drug dealers. Ford shares few of his brother’s demons but most of his populist politics and personal style. A flavour: he wants to scrap sex education and carbon pricing, while cutting the minimum alcohol price to bring back ‘buck-a-beer’ promotions.

READ MORE: Rob Ford makes nervy appearance on Jimmy Kimmel

Horrified centre-left voters have embraced the only alternative: the third party of Canadian politics, the NDP, which has shot up the polls as the Liberals have collapsed. Born out of the labour movement, the NDP ran Ontario for five years from 1990 and took the blame for economic stagnation.

Polls suggest the NDP are a whisker ahead of the Tories, but coming from third in a first-past-the-post election would represent a stunning upset.

The circumstances are very different, but Ontario poses the same question as a snap Brexit election pitting Jeremy Corbyn against Boris Johnson or Michael Gove: forced to choose between the unthinkable and the unknown, how will voters break?

READ MORE: Video: Justin Trudeau’s decent attempt at a Scottish accent