The Writ Drops
The coming provincial election promises to be an interesting one. At Queen’s Park, Premier Kathleen Wynne has controlled the levers of an unpopular government since 2013, that, combined with 10 years of Dalton McGuinty’s tenure, adds up to 15 years of rule by Ontario Liberals. The projected net debt is at an all time high of $325 billion (compared with $138 billion when Liberals assumed power in 2003). The debt to GDP ratio is approaching 40%. Hydro costs have ballooned under the Liberals, and despite efforts to tackle emergency ward wait times, hospitals continue to be overcrowded. Falling grades are indicating a decline in Ontario’s education, and transit projects aren’t keeping pace with congested 400 series highways. The combined corruption storms resulting from the McGuinty years regarding gas plant emails, and the Sudbury by-election bribery case haven’t helped matters for the current Liberal leader.
The election results of 2014 clearly showed that voters were intent on forgiving the Liberals for their many misdeeds and confident its new leader Kathleen Wynne would build the trust and good government that had been lost in the dying years of McGuinty’s reign. Ontario voters even rewarded the new leader with a majority victory in 2014, after slapping the previous one down with a slim minority. This is often forgotten in the current #metoo climate when supporters of Kathleen Wynne deal the misogyny and homophobe cards to explain her dreary popularity numbers.
Polls consistently show that voters are done with Kathleen Wynne (ranked as the least popular Premier in Canada), and indeed the Liberal government in Ontario. To answer this, the Liberal Party platform is chock-a-block full of big spending progressive (NDPesque) promises for child care, health care, senior support, and dental and pharmacare. Despite the efforts, the mood among comment boards, call-in shows, and letters to the editor, seem to be very much about “throwing the bums out”. If, at this point the Liberal’s defeat is quite certain, then the question of who wins and by how much remains to be answered.
Andrea Horwath enters her 3rd provincial election leading the NDP with poll numbers matching the governing Liberals. After attempting to make her party more palatable to centrist and Liberal Party voters in 2014, while outraging the most leftie members in the process, she has steered the party back to its traditional NDP position with campaign promises embracing free dental care, free tuition, and undoing Kathleen Wynne’s privatization of Hydro.
As big spending platforms rule the day on the left with the Liberals and NDP, the Doug Ford PCs are the very opposite. Even with no platform to run on the Tories are banking on poll numbers that are 15% plus above the numbers of either competitor. They are assumed to be the winning player in the game to take power back, to trumpet fiscal prudence, reining in spending, cutting away public services, and doling out incentives to business’ and wealthy folk.
Hastily assuming the leadership of the PCs beset by scandal and malaise under Patrick Brown, Doug Ford seems to have used populist energy to recharge a party lacking confidence in direction. With new leadership comes learning, and based on the amount of sloganeering dished out by Doug Ford, and an increasingly obvious dearth in policy expertise, or even knowledge (i.e.: how a bill becomes law), it’s becoming evident by the day that the presumptive Premier requires a steep learning curve to adequately prepare himself for the top job. It’s merely a matter of time before we find out if Doug Ford just managed to be the right person at the right time, no matter how uninformed he proves himself to be.
At this point there’s no betting on who will be in charge at the pink palace after June 7, 2018. The PCs may now be riding high in the polls, but its leader is just one gaffe away from throwing the party’s support away in the same way John Tory did with faith based schools, or Tim Hudak did with his one million jobs gimmick. What is predictable about the coming 4 weeks are polls that will turn out to be way off reality. Nothing can really forecast how strategic voting will factor on election day, not to mention, the no shows: declining participation of the electorate, which has been dropping with each ballot, and was below 50% in 2014. There’s no predicting the outcome of this election. It really is anyone’s game.
1995 – 2014 Election retrospective