Well, here we are. The Ontario provincial election is two days away, and the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives are locked in a dead heat, continuing to make election promises at the 11th hour; the House of Commons in Ottawa has been in session for weeks now with Stephen Harper’s Conservative majority firmly in power; and in three short weeks, on October 25th, Toronto mayor Rob Ford can celebrate the one year anniversary of his election to Toronto’s top civic seat.
While I don’t buy voter fatigue or voter apathy as justification for staying home on October 6, I must say that even those of us who love the election cycle for the whirlwind of action on the political front can likely use a bit of a respite. Three major elections in twelve months is enough for the politicos among us, let alone a general population that often needs to be cajoled into voting. Two of those elections have seen powerful shifts to the right at the federal level and in Canada’s largest city; the third will be decided by the voters of Ontario on Thursday.
As fun as it can be to get wrapped up in the process of revolution through the ballot box, one can easily get tired of elections frills and want more of the meat and potatoes of governing. This is, after all, where and when things actually happen.
This is also where the citizenry are truly able to cut their teeth in opposition. As we saw with Rob Ford, for example, anyone can crusade against the gravy train, and anyone can rail against those who do. But opposition to the Ford mayoralty only truly took off once Torontonians got a chance to see what a Ford administration was truly capable of. Only then could we comprehend how different a Toronto it would be.
At the provincial level, the sprint to the finish line will likely result in a photo finish. The governing Liberals under Premier Dalton McGuinty will need to lose 17 or more seats in order to lose their majority – a tall order in a House with 107 seats. The Liberals have also done well in garnering the endorsement of The Globe and Mail (who, with their endorsement of Stephen Harper in the May 2011 election, must simply support the status quo, it would seem).
Likely, the Liberals will take a hit in the North, where Dalton McGuinty’s refusal to participate in the Northern debate may cost him and his candidates dearly. While the debate may not have been necessary, his refusal to attend was aesthetic suicide. Look for the NDP to make gains in the North with their questionable protectionist policies that play well there.
The Liberals may also lose a few seats in downtown Toronto to the NDP because of incumbent retirements, and possibly a vulnerable seat or two in Hamilton and the Niagara region. But as a journalist friend of mine pointed out, there are many Red Tories in Toronto and other urban regions of the province that would sooner voter Liberal than hand power to the socialist New Democrats.
Has Andrea Horwath done enough to convince you that the NDP is a viable and responsible alternative to the status quo in Ontario? While certianly more charismatic than her competitors, Horwath has taken the NDP down a strange and uncharted path, it would seem, in attempting to compete with the PC’s on supporting middle-class family values and pocketbook issues, at the expense of working-class families and the environment. Almost abandoned has been any reference to social equality, justice, or the environment, three areas central to the NDP as we know it.
But Horwath would rather talk about the economy, and often sound shaky doing it because she is not a policy wonk like McGuinty, according to Adam Radwanski at the Globe. Her focus has been on eliminating the HST from gasoline and home heating bills, raising the corporate tax rate, and instituting “Buy Ontario” protectionist provisions. The Globe and Mail came out against the NDP rather strongly this week, positioning them as more than simply not ready to govern, but downright reckless.
This election has also seen the withering of Tim Hudak as a Premier-in-waiting. We have witnessed his massive lead in the polls this summer dwindle to the point where at the 11th hour, Hudak is still making desperate election promises about not raising taxes. You can respect his enthusiasm, but it appears to be too little, too late.
The PC’s will likely hold on to most of the seats they entered the campaign with, and may even pry a few away from the Liberals in eastern or southwestern Ontario or in the Niagara region, Hudak’s base. I do not imagine they will see much in terms of gains made in the North, and certainly will not capture seats in downtown Toronto. Their hold on the 905 region around Toronto will likely remain secure, however getting people out to vote in the 905 is traditionally difficult.
How has Hudak squandered such an impressive lead? His tendency to speak in sound bytes; his poor decision for a wedge issue with his comments on “foreign workers” that alienated many new Canadians; and his inability to find an issue with traction that he could use to convince people that Dalton McGuinty does not deserve a third term as Premier. And there are reasons, to be sure – but he was unable to find one that would resonate with voters.
Hudak has benefited (some say been hurt by) endorsements from all the right/wrong people. Federal interference in provincial politics from prominent federal Conservatives including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has helped as much as it has hurt, so much so that Toronto mayor Rob Ford has refused to enter the fray as he did in the May federal election in support of Stephen Harper.
But are Hudak’s chances really as bad as all that? After all, the PC’s are polling in a virtual tie with the Liberals leading up to Thursday’s vote. Again, Radwanski wont rule him out.
Yet this campaign has been devoid of vision. Where there has been an opportunity to talk about matters of critical important to Ontarians (reducing the deficit; paying for services that we cannot afford; talking about the role of nuclear power and coal in our energy future; selling Ontarians on the important of the green energy sector; jobs creation, etc.) there has just as often been rhetoric as there has been vision. And where there has been vision (see Horwath’s “Buy Ontario” idea), there has been no debate.
Whichever party forms the government after October 6, I welcome the chance to start doing things again, if only to cut my teeth in opposition. Bring back the meat and potatoes of governing.
Because talk is mighty cheap these days.