Doug Ford is bringing notes to the next leaders’ debate. Will that make him look like ‘a bit of a dummy’?

Doug Ford’s request to bring notes Monday to a televised debate between the leaders of Ontario’s political parties has not been denied — although it did raise a few eyebrows.

But does that actually matter, or is it much ado about nothing?

Turns out, that depends on who you ask.

To Robin Sears, a longtime NDP strategist, the request was an “extraordinarily stupid” one for the Progressive Conservative campaign to make.

Sears said it was perplexing, given that Ford has already demonstrated his competence at public speaking during his four years as premier. “I don’t understand what they’re thinking,” he said.

“Imagine the reaction of the viewers when Del Duca and Horwath are banging off one-liners at each other that they’ve carefully rehearsed and memorized, dealing with all the predictable things they’re likely to be hit with, with confidence, without having to delay, to read a note.

“I mean, it just makes him look like he’s a bit of a dummy.”

But Elly Alboim, a principal at Earnscliffe Strategies Group who has worked with Liberal politicians for years, said Ford’s move will be hardly unprecedented in Canadian politics.

Alboim noted federal Liberal leaders Paul Martin and Stéphane Dion each brought notes when they faced off against their political opponents.

“The debate is not about testing somebody’s memory,” he said.

Amanda Galbraith, a principal at public strategy and communications firm Navigator Ltd., said she had yet to work with a political candidate who did not bring notes to a debate, and that she wouldn’t think much of this development at all.

“I’ll be honest, I’m a bit mystified at all the hullabaloo over this,” Galbraith said. “I don’t think in any way it demonstrates a lack of understanding of the subjects.

“Governing this province is complicated. I’ve worked for premiers, I’ve worked for cabinet ministers. They want to have their notes in front of them. It’s very reasonable.”

The consortium that organized Monday’s event had asked the participants to not bring notes to the debate stage, a request to which New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath, Green Leader Mike Schreiner and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca all agreed.

The PC campaign did not respond Friday to an inquiry from the Star seeking comment.

Alboim said he believes Ford is far more likely to be judged on his performance over the past four years than by whether he is the only debate participant to bring notes.

“Nobody elected Doug Ford to handle a pandemic because nobody knew the pandemic was coming,” he said.

“I think that part of the way people dilute potential leaders is in their confidence, their seeming ability to handle things that they haven’t been prepped to handle.”

With files from Jenna Moon

Morgan Bocknek works on the Star’s Digital Desk, based in Toronto. She is also a Star contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @mobocks


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

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