Earlier this week, Ontario PC leader Doug Ford made an announcement that sent a shock wave through the canyons of Bay Street. His first act, should he be elected premier, said Ford, would be to fire Mayo Schmidt, the president and CEO of Hydro One, and the company’s entire board of directors.
Ford’s language was stark. “If they don’t [resign] … let me tell you something. When I’m Premier, you’d better believe I’m kicking each and every one of them out the door and taking their hands out of the pockets of hardworking taxpayers.”
Rarely is such blunt and aggressive language used in Ontario public life. Predictably, the announcement was met with recrimination. Sceptics, business leaders and pundits alike quickly noted that the premier would have no such authority to deliver on his promise upon reaching power.
Hydro One itself immediately released a statement defending its compensation structure. The organization forcefully argued that its pay policies were in line with competitors and cost ratepayers mere cents on the dollar. Hydro One’s statement went on to remind Ontarians that they are an efficient and dedicated provider of energy.
But while the business community and other stakeholders were quickly lining up behind Hydro One’s board and executive team, a different coalition of voting interests was forming.
Ford knows well that for his electoral fortunes, there is nothing more helpful than a sweeping referendum on the governmental and economic institutions that underpin Ontario’s current system.
If the critics say it can’t be done, all the better. Ford knows that the Ontario voter is both frustrated and angry. And he knows they don’t care about details, they just want action. And so, he’s channelling that anger, refusing to get confused by details and he’s promising action.