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The inside story of the political Hail Mary from Bailão's big backer
Plus: Crombie's lavish launch, Bowman joins Team Bonnie, fiscal watchdog projects surplus season, a FordFest pallooza, shuffle watch, stronger mayors and more
Bonnie's in for Grit captain and Ontario's fiscal watchdog says it's surplus season. But first — John Tory has thrown a Hail Mary into the race to replace him with Doug Ford warning of an "unmitigated disaster" in Toronto.
John Tory is backing Ana Bailão to replace him as Toronto's mayor.
The former dropped a lengthy statement in support of his former deputy — currently polling with thirteen per cent support — hours after a Global News scoop hit the wire that an endorsement from Tory was incoming.
In Tory's words: The former chief magistrate called Bailão "the best choice to lead this city forward and to bring it together everyday as I tried so hard to do." "Ana’s story is the story of Toronto. She is who we want to be," Tory said of the former Davenport councillor.
"In this election, Ana Bailão is the right choice for mayor. She is the leader who can deliver on the promise of Toronto," he added in the three page testimony.
Inside Bailão HQ: Tory's impending endorsement was closely guarded, with only senior Team Bailão officials aware that it was officially a go. "He could've pulled it any minute," described one source familiar. The source said those higher up in the campaign, who were plugged in, were those connected to the former mayor while "the Liberals" on the campaign were not in the loop.
However, amongst staffers, there was a general understanding that an endorsement was incoming. "People were talking about it Tuesday morning when it became clear that this was a go," this source explained.
Bailão was set to speak to reporters outside Queen's Park Wednesday morning, alongside Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie. Flanked by a number of campaign staffers, the endorsee spoke on her commitment to upload the DVP and Gardiner Expressway to the province.
Meanwhile, as Bailão spoke, the remaining staff at the office were asked to leave.
"It was a little bit bizarre, to be blunt," an insider said. Tory walked into the empty campaign office on Dundas at around 10 AM, alongside members of his inner circle who worked in his office to finalize the endorsement and tape the video and a robocall that would hit phone lines in the evening. Only a few senior officials on Team Bailão — including campaign manager Tom Allison — remained on site.
Bailão's avail ended and staffers returned to the office, but were told to wait outside. "There was a whole paparazzi," one source quipped, as reporters gathered. Still, staffers, unable to confirm the looming endorsement despite the heavy media presence, waited.
Tory exited the HQ at noon and staffers were shortly let in. That's when Global News broke the news that Tory's endorsement was approaching. Other outlets began reporting on what would be a heavyweight backing. The Star published an exclusive interview with the former chief magistrate.
"Everyone was waiting, waiting, waiting." The mood in the office was described as "energetic," more so for an earlier endorsement by the Star's editorial board (Bailão's team was quick to plaster a snippet of that endorsement on the door of the office). Staff, back in the office, provided huddling reporters on the doorsteps of the campaign HQ with cold drinks.
We dialed Bailão's office to seek official word shortly after noon and that energy was palpable over the phone ("we have nothing to confirm at this time," said Bailão press secretary Taylor Deasley when reached).
The official statement from Tory dropped at around 3 PM — later than expected.
Meanwhile in Burlington: Premier Doug Ford — who previously pledged to "stay out" of Monday's election — said it will be an "unmitigated disaster" if frontrunner Olivia Chow is elected.
"Taxes are going to go up when people can't afford the rent, can't afford mortgages," Ford said. "People are terrified," he added, saying David Miller is "a fiscal Conservative" compared to Chow. "God forbid Olivia Chow gets elected, your taxes are going up at an unprecedented rate."
Ford is backing former police chief Mark Saunders — sporting a Saunders sign on his front lawn in Etobicoke. "I think he'd be the best person to keep taxes slow, keep economic development going," he said.
Recall: It's a race with plenty at stake for Queen's Park. The competition will reshape City Hall and Toronto's relationship with the province. The new chief will get "strong mayor" powers, granted sweeping authority and a veto power.
The reaction: Chow brushed off the two endorsements, saying Tory and Ford "are two votes." "They don't get to decide the next mayor of our city, the people do," she added. "They don't want us to win," said Josh Matlow while Mitzie Hunter called Tory's endorsement "a perfect example of those on the inside trying to hang on to City Hall by their fingernails."
Bonnie's in: inside the launch "shindig"
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie's bid for provincial Liberal leader is a go — and her launch was far from controversial.
It all came down with a video. "I'm Bonnie Crombie and I won't be bullied," said Mississauga's mayor in a slick, pretaped campaign video, making her bid official. The energized crowd of allies, flaunting Liberal red "Bonnie" merch cheered at the lavish launch event, chanting "Premier" and "Crombie."
Crombie entered a small, packed house at the Metalworks Institute in downtown Mississauga — a familiar venue for Crombieites who attended her election night party in November.
"It's about time," one supporter was overheard telling her.
Crombie didn't pull punches — blasting Premier Doug Ford and the Tories. "Our health care is in crisis, our education system is being shortchanged, our environment is fragile and life in Ontario is becoming more unaffordable," she said. "So what is Doug Ford and the Conservatives’ answer? Privatize health care, more online learning, helping their buddies get richer," Crombie added added.
Her vision for the unrecognized Liberals: "I know I can bring Liberals back to our party. I know I can raise the money we need to win and I know I can attract the candidates who will carry our banner in ridings across the province," she said.
"Liberals have been knocked down before but we dusted ourselves off and got back into the fight. And I'm ready to fight," Crombie declared.
While she spoke: During Crombie's keynote, the Globe and Mail dropped a story on her comments about leaving the door open to Greenbelt land swaps, in line with the Ford government's development plans. The story left Liberal insiders and Crombie backers buzzing.
"Disingenuous," one insider on Crombie's camp described the headline. "The piece was unfair," another Liberal said. "It was the headline that was the killer."
On Crombie's part: Mississauga's mayor, asked by reporters to clarify her comments at a scrum, insisted that her stance isn't in line with Ford's. "I pledged to protect the Greenbelt, it is sacred to me,” she told reporters. "I said there could be an occasion where local communities and local municipalities came to us and said — with consultation — there could be 'whitebelt' land trapped in the Greenbelt that they would ask for that to be exchanged for other Greenbelt land."
"Different but the same," tweeted Ford spokesperson Ivana Yelich on the Greenbelt slip up. "Ford won the day at Bonnie's expense," one source texted.
"She's had a tough, soft and hard launch," a senior Liberal said. "The right of center and Greenbelt comments have hurt her with a lot of existing party members. That being said she's a formidable candidate still. You don't get to be Mayor of Mississauga without political skills," the source added.
Bowman's with Bonnie: Liberal Stephanie Bowman — who had been considering a bid for the party's leadership — has joined Team Crombie as a campaign chair. Bowman said Crombie's "the only one candidate that would have the experience, tenacity, and broad appeal" to win the next election.
Bowman, in a statement days after we started asking Bowman's team questions on word that she wouldn't run for the party's top job, said she concluded that running "is not the best way" to serve.
The Premier's reaction: "It doesn't even faze me," said Premier Ford when asked about Crombie's entry.
Surplus season: FAO projects "excess funds"
Ontario's fiscal watchdog is projecting budget surpluses over the next three years. According to spending plans examined by the Financial Accountability Office, over $22 billion in "excess funds" are being sat on by the Ford government.
Where the money could go: Interim FAO Jeff Novak says the Tories have two options. The money could be "applied to improve the budget balance and reduce the province's net debt" or used to "introduce new programs, enhance existing programs or address spending pressures that could materialize." Get the brief.
The caveat: "If the government makes future policy announcements, such as new tax cuts, spending initiatives or a combination of both, the FAO’s budget projection would deteriorate," the report reads.
"FAO opinions are not representative of actual government spending," Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy's office said. "The FAO's snapshot in time simply isn't reflective of the realities of our government's investments in delivering better services for Ontarians."
A summer of FordFests: Premier Doug Ford's annual BBQ is back and going down at Thompson Memorial Park in Scarborough tomorrow but it might not be the only one. In a video message, Ford called it "the first FordFest of summer," suggesting plans to hold multiple FordFests over the summer across the province. RSVP for Friday's gathering here.
Crickets, crickets: We reached out to Team Ford for comment on plans to host multiple events but did not hear back.
Nurses are planning a "peaceful demonstration" outside the event to "make it clear to Mr. Ford that Scarborough needs nurses more than we need him and his buddies." A sign crafting event happens today. Details.
Ontario is providing funding to open an urgent care clinic at the former Minden Emergency Department site "to provide routine and urgent care to people in the community." The clinic — set to open at the end of June — will by operating on weekends and "planning is underway" to operate the clinic up to seven days a week "based on the community’s needs." Background.
Two Grit leadership candidates have unveiled their housing platforms. TVO has more.
Most of Ontario's Big City Mayors just got stronger. The Ford government has expanded "strong mayor" powers to over two dozen cities, including Hamilton, Mississauga, Brampton, Niagara Falls, Barrie and Vaughan. “It's all around ensuring that those mayors have the tools to ensure that they meet their obligations,” Housing Minister Steve Clark said.
Clark met with Big City Mayors at Queen's Park before breaking the news. Missing from the meet: Mississauga Mayor (and Liberal leadership candidate) Bonnie Crombie and former Ford foes Andrea Horwath and Steven Del Duca.
AT THE PALACE
— The House is off for the summer. There are no committee meetings scheduled for the week.
— Shuffle watch: Premier Doug Ford isn't ruling out a looming reboot of his cabinet. "We never rule out anything," he said, calling his current team "incredible." Rumours have been swirling at Queen's Park that a frontbench shakeup could be coming, though one Tory insider warned "it's super guarded." More on who could be on the move.
ON THE MOVE
Meet Crombie's crew: Longtime allies of Mississauga's mayor are heading up key roles on her campaign to lead the provincial Grits.
Crombie's campaign manager is Darryn McArthur. He held the same gig during her mayoral bid in November.
Aurora's Marcel Wieder is heading up media while Noah Zatzman is occasionally supporting Crombie's campaign.
Liberal strategists Tim Murphy and Andrew Perez are on Team Bonnie. Dhruv Jain — who managed Amber Bowen's campaign in Ajax — is also on the crew. AJ Mawani (who was seen behind Crombie on stage) is working on Crombie's operations.
Peter Curtis — who served as acting executive director and interim party president — is Crombie's CFO.
As we reported in last week's newsletter, Crombie’s exploratory committee is being transitioned into a formal campaign team. The scoop.
Former cabinet ministers Greg Sorbara and Carol Mitchell will serve as Ted Hsu's leadership campaign chairs, alongside the Tragically Hip's Rob Baker.
Sorbara supported Del Duca during the last leadership election.
Ontario Federation of Labour president Patty Coates will not seek another term. "This was not an easy decision but it is the right one," she wrote.
WHAT WE'RE READING
THE POINTER: "Calls for Bonnie Crombie to step down as mayor now that she's officially running for the Ontario Liberal leadership" by Paige Peacock
CANADIAN PRESS: "Billions at stake as Ontario takes public sector workers to Court of Appeal" by Liam Casey
GLOBAL NEWS: "Vaughan begins push to demand independence from York Region" by Colin D'Mello and Isaac Callan
THE TRILLIUM: "Builder of Eglinton Crosstown, Ottawa LRT to plan GO extension to Bowmanville" by Charlie Pinkerton
CBC NEWS: "Justin Trudeau is preparing a summer cabinet shuffle — and all eyes are on Mendicino" by Louis Blouin and Daniel Thibeault
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