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I fact-checked Liberal leader Steven Del Duca for a week

A chef. Five days. Three dismissed candidates. And some misrepresentations.

After fact-checking Greens leader Mike Schreiner last week, Wednesday, I moved on to the leader defending the fewest seats in the Legislative Assembly: Steven Del Duca.

The Liberal leader’s week has not started well. For three days in a row, he was forced to dump contestants after revelations of their inappropriate behavior surfaced (in one instance, a contestant had written an entire book about a theory he had invented describing a so- saying cause of homosexuality).

But Del Duca pushed on, continuing to tout the Liberals’ “comprehensive, fair and forward-looking plan.” And he did so largely honestly, when speaking about his party’s policies.

The relatively unknown Liberal leader, who took over as party leader two years ago, faces an uphill battle to prove his party is ready to govern after suffering a landslide defeat in 2018 that saw Del Duca him -even knocked down by a conservative.

So far, the Liberal leader’s strategy has been to target Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford to prove to Ontarians why Del Duca is a better option.

But it’s in Del Duca’s attacks on the incumbent that his veracity has often faltered.

I counted 11 separate claims Del Duca made about Ford or its government this week. Of these, six were false or distorted the truth in some way.

Del Duca has misrepresented the PC government’s record a few times, such as when he said Ford finance minister Peter Bethlenfalvy refused to confirm whether the Tories would reintroduce the budget if elected. Yes, Bethlenfalvy balked at this when reporters first asked, but he finally said they would. This is a rather important thing that Del Duca must omit.

(On another occasion, Del Duca said that Bethlenfalvy refused to confirm whether the Conservatives would reintroduce the budget on budget day, which I gave him, because it wasn’t until the next day that Bethlenfalvy confirmed).

More frequently, Del Duca has blamed Doug Ford for complex and sweeping issues that cannot reasonably be linked to the Prime Minister’s policies.

Speaking in Scarborough on the rising cost of living, Del Duca said: ‘As a guy who goes shopping for my family every Saturday, I think about the price of food and how it has increases. It skyrocketed under Doug Ford.

The cost of food in Ontario has skyrocketed – 8.2% this year to be exact – but that’s true across the country and even the world, due to supply chain issues, economic effects of COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s a bit rich for Del Duca to pin this on Ford.

But there were things on Ford’s record that Del Duca was right, like when he said the prime minister flip-flopped on a pledge he made on rent control during the 2018 campaign.

This week, Del Duca’s rivals questioned whether the Liberal plan could be considered fully costed, as the Liberal leader often claims, because in several cases the party is relying on federal funding pledged by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during last year’s election campaign, but excluded from his budget.

The party also hopes to extract a few billion more from Ottawa by renegotiating the child care agreement, which Ottawa has not said it is ready to do.

I put the question to Kevin Page, an economist who was Canada’s first Parliamentary Budget Officer. He said that while it is risky for the Liberals to rely on such funds, the fact that we know they are doing it and can debate whether it is a good idea or not is what really matters for an encrypted platform.

In total this week, I found five false allegations in 121 minutes of filmed public appearances. I also considered five separate claims to be exaggerated, meaning the claim was broadly true but misleading in the specific context in which Del Duca said it.

This equates to a “dishonesty density” of approximately one false statement every 24 minutes. This puts him in good company with Schreiner, whose density of dishonesty was one false statement every 20 minutes (despite speaking half the time).

As I continue to fact-check New Democrat Andrea Horwath next week, followed by Progressive Conservative Doug Ford, that’s the metric I’ll use to compare leaders.

Check out our other fact checks:
• Mike Schreiner
• Andrea Horwath (coming May 25)
• Doug Ford (coming June 1)