Ontario’s wild-card spring election: CohnAt the end of the day — or about 41 days of campaigning — will voters cast their ballots by choosing between the ghosts of McGuinty, Harris and Rae?
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wore a relaxed smile Friday as she declared the demise of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal minority government. And offered herself up as Ontario’s premier-in-waiting.
But Tim Hudak’s grin was even bigger.
For two years, the Progressive Conservative leader has been goading Horwath to do his bidding — by triggering an election. Ever since her New Democrats won the balance of power in the last campaign, Hudak has mocked Horwath for propping up the Liberals.
Now, Hudak will have his way. Belatedly, we will have fresh elections on June 12 to clear the air of scandal — on his (Tory) terms, his topics, his timing.
The campaign not only gives the PCs their big chance to win back power. It’s also an opportunity to erase the budget plans unveiled by Wynne Thursday, possibly the most progressive Ontario budget since the NDP held power under Bob Rae two decades ago.
Perhaps that’s why Ontario’s biggest private sector unions publicly beseeched the NDP to back the budget. It wasn’t just the welfare increases or wage hikes for the working poor, but the promise of pension improvements that organized labour has been pushing long and hard for.
Horwath belittled the budget as a grab bag that included “the kitchen sink” — notwithstanding the annual laundry list of NDP demands issued by Horwath for the last three budgets (most of which the Liberals went along with). A curious condemnation — accusing the Liberals of trying to do too much — that sounded more like a Progressive Conservative critique.
But this is the new New Democratic Party (nNDP), a once-progressive movement remade as a populist party in Horwath’s pragmatic image:
More scandal-mongering than substantive. More anti-tax than the Tories. And more fixated on the putative gravy train panacea than Rob Ford himself (Horwath’s two favourite talking points are high salaries for public servants and chauffeurs for cabinet ministers).
But the New Democrats aren’t the only ones who are reinventing themselves in this campaign. While Horwath’s New Democrats are trying to out-Liberal the Liberals, Wynne’s Liberals are moving closer to the unions and working with anti-poverty groups. And while Hudak’s Tories have sworn off “corporate welfare” (a phrase popularized by the NDP decades ago), the Liberals are still relying on job-creation grants to secure new investment by business. (Continued: Toronto Star)