A lot can happen between now and Election Day 2019. Current predictions show the Liberals taking the next election with Justin Trudeau at the helm. However, a Liberal win would likely result in current Conservative Party leader, Andrew Scheer, stepping down from his position.
With the position open, Doug Ford would have the opportunity to run for party leader himself, a position he would surely covet. From there, Ford would be poised to become the next prime minister if, of course, the Conservatives are able to win a federal election.
TL;DR Based on current predictions, Doug Ford has a viable path to become the next prime minister of Canada. He will likely only benefit from the bots and "cyber actors, which the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security warns are likely poised to interfere in political discussion.
In more ways than one, Ford's potential rise to federal power would mirror that of American president Donald Trump.
The Doug Ford / Donald Trump comparisons have been made in the past and there's no question: the resemblance is pretty uncanny. Ford has used many of the same or similar tactics as Trump in order to secure his seat of power in Ontario, and there's a real chance he could do it again against Trudeau.
I'd imagine most Canadians these days believe they can spot a scam from a mile away. We know better than to believe the weird voicemails left by the "CRA" telling us we didn't pay our taxes and we're gonig to jail. We don't follow the weird links sent to us by "Scotiabank" for security upgrades. So why would we be in danger of cyber threats?
With the upcoming election in 2019, the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security is warning Canadians to be even more vigilant, not only in what they click, but also in what they read. This is because unverified online media sources have the ability to sway public opinion easier than ever.
Hot button issues like immigration and jobs are quick to get a rise out of citizens that can be further spurred by misinformation. We've seen this in the American election, the Ontario election and, to some degree in the Quebec provincial election, as well.
And while we don't know if Ford has plans to run federally, we know that his campaign tactics work. This is evident in his approval ratings and the majority governments he posesses.
Doug Ford held a 40% approval rating after winning the popular vote in Ontario. Similarly in Quebec, Legault ushered the CAQ with a majority government. Trudeau on the other hand, seems to be sliding with only 29% of Canadians "[believing] he deserves re-election."
If the American election showed us anything it's how vulnerable a democracy can be to outside voices. Especially if those voices prey on the voiceless or the downtrodden through sensationalism and fear-mongering.
Popular opinion can be easily swayed and manipulated through the use of bots that spread misinformation and popularize polarizing topics. At the end of the day, international inteference in a Canadian election would only serve to benefit Doug Ford, or any other rightwing populist that relies on public outrage to fuel the fire of their campaign.
Doug Ford and Donald Trump, both former "businessmen" who made a shift into politics, insist their desire for power is an attempt to breathe new life into the economy and turn away from the "political elites."
They also do everything they can to discredit public media in order to maintain a certain narrative. By doing what they can to squash the credibility of mainstream media they eliminate certain channels of information, pushing voters toward secondhand media sources, like Twitter or Facebook.
This behaviour is Trump 101:
FAKE NEWS - THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018
These tactics prey on the despair and fear of regular Canadians, leading them to cling to any voice that quells these fears. This is why it's easy to imagine Ford swooping in to snag Trudeau's place if given the opportunity. There's no question, these Trump-style tactics "show signs of success" in Canada, as Macleans reported today.
When politics becomes divisive and the populist voice stays outraged, it becomes too easy for bots and cyber actors to toy with the emotions of voters.
This is also why the CCCS is starting to warn Canadians now. Don't fall prey to these scams, don't be incited. When we give in and let political discussions become flamewars we allow the rhetoric to become skewed. Also be careful what you click and whom you engage with online. Regardless of the platform, be it Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, know how easy it is to impersonate a real person online.
While it may seem like an American problem, to trivialize the impact of these new obstacles in the democratic process is to give them power. Social media is a huge tool that is meant to benefit out lives, but it can be used against us just as easily.