Paul Wells on the Ontario election campaign

Ontario: That wasn’t so bad

Paul Wells explains why the Ontario election has been one of the best political campaigns he’s seen in a while


I think the Ontario provincial election campaign that will conclude with today’s vote has been one of the best political campaigns I’ve seen in a while. That assertion will upset some readers. It’s fashionable to accuse each election of sinking to new lows. This usually requires a willingness to ignore fairly recent history.

In the present case, articulate party leaders provided reasonably detailed visions of contrasting paths out of Ontario’s current straitened circumstances. They were mostly civil to one another, although no leader of a major party chose to live on the fantasy planet where criticism of opponents is forbidden. Occasional crap like this door hanger depicting Tim Hudak as a happy murderer was the exception.

If Ontarians have paid any attention to this campaign, they have a reasonably clear understanding of the differences in attitude toward the proper role of government represented by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals and Tim Hudak’s Conservatives. They understand they have an uninspiring but reasonable alternative in Andrea Horwath’s NDP. That’s a pretty good outcome. A few further thoughts:

• If the Liberals don’t win, I hope they won’t put the back of a wrist to their collective forehead and swoon at the cruelty of heartless Ontarians. The Liberals have given Ontarians a hell of a lot of reasons to kick them out. Matt Gurney makes the case for the prosecution as succinctly as it can be made.

• If the Liberals do win, it is a very personal victory for Kathleen Wynne, who has been at the centre of her party’s message and image. She has played this role very differently from the way Paul Martin played his in federal politics after 2002, and since many of the same advisors worked on both campaigns, the differences will be worth examining.

• Hudak’s appalling cock-up on his million-jobs claim does not appear, in itself, to have been fatal to the Conservatives’ chances. On his second campaign, Hudak stayed in the game to the end. But Conservative campaign staffers should take note, internally, of whoever concocted and cleared the part of the platform dealing with the Conference Board job projections. That person or those people should be spared the trouble of working on future political campaigns.

• Hudak represents the frustration of a lot of conservatives — disproportionately Ontario-based conservatives who got their first exposure to politics in the Reagan-Thatcher ’80s — who feel, even today, that Stephen Harper is all hat and no cattle. Where are the bold moves? they sometimes ask. Where is the aggressive pruning of the state? When can conservatives feel conservative again? To scratch that itch, Hudak has had to make promises, such as the vow to cut civil-service employment rapidly, that will make it hard for him to hold on to power as long as Harper has federally.

• The polling industry didn’t look great in all this. Neither did mine, thanks to a Hudak un-endorsement by the executive of a newspaper employees’ union (I’m a member) whose authors did not bother to check with members. Vote as you like. You were going to, anyway.


Ontario’s creaking workforce is likely to upset everyone’s plans, no matter who wins

Paul Boothe: What a real fiscally conservative plan for Ontario would look like

Filed under:

Ontario: That wasn’t so bad

  1. It will be very interesting to see if the pollsters got this one wrong too.

  2. You’re entitled to that opinion of course, but I don’t share it. I don’t live in ON so to some degree it’s natural I don’t have really strong feelings, yet it seems to me we continue to see the downward spiral of politicians throwing mud and deliberate lies, demonizing and adopting tactics and strategies they fully know are dishonest BS, to the degree I don’t care anymore who wins. This time it looks like the Liberals are the principal sinners( does that bode well for Trudeau’s campaign to come? Another depressing thought) The choices do seem to come down to corrupt or crazy, with the NDP playing some bizarre characture of a neo liberal fringe loony party. Sure the choices are clear. Trouble is one of the most tempting options looks like why bother? Sorry Paul, but this is yet another election only a journo or political partisan could love. Not even close to good enough, just because the choices are clear.
    No, Coyne has finally won me over on this one. If we had proportional or even preferential voting maybe these clowns would fire half of the pimply PS gurus on their payrolls and start acting in the public interest first ( and start rehiring policy wonks instead if pit pulls)not coincidentally like adults.
    Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t keep close tabs on European elections, but it seems to me the incentives to behave this way are much fewer there. The principal downside of which it seems to me is their elections are mind numbingly boring. Perhaps that’s why Paul doesn’t mind endorsing this stuff. I’d probably be no different in his position – it’s highly entertaining. You couldn’t invent characters like the Fords or Hudak. Elections for journos and partisans, thats what we have now; average, rational voters be damned.

  3. You mention a silly little prank by a Lib using Hudak’s photo.
    Of far greater gravity and consequence is the provincial Conservatives use of the Harper deception of directing voters to the wrong polling stations. After the robo calls debacle you would have thought Hudak might skip this one, but no he sends out mailings to deceive voter into going to the wrong address.
    This activity is not a silly prank, but real serious cheating which shows pure contempt for democracy itself. Pretty close to stuffing ballot boxes or rigging results in the count.

    • Right. Because if you’re going to deliberately, fraudylently send voters to wrong poll, the best way to do it is by doing so in writing with letters that point right back to you. It’s the perfect crime!

      You’re not too quick, are you?

      • Forgot the subway fiasco? Forgot the bad math one job/eight person years etc. Nobody said Hudak operates at the level as the Harper crew but even they got caught.
        I think the cheating has reached the point where they don’t even care if they get caught.
        The bungled platform basically got a pass from the pundit/media class.

  4. “Tim Hudak’s appalling cock up on his million jobs claim”.

    Interesting. Where were these economists, or reporters, when the Liberals used exactly the same math, making the exact same alleged error, to calculate how many new jobs they were creating?

    • Dunno, maybe they were reading the part where it says person years.

  5. Too bad the lack of vouching at the polls, which no doubt disenfranchised tens of thousands of people, means the entire exercise is an affront to democracy.

    Oh wait. Can’t pin that on the Conservatives. Guess it’s not worth complaining about then.

    • The Ontario Liberals changes voting rules to advantage themselves?
      I guess there is a Liberal Media Conspiracy.
      Glad I read your comment before it gets censored.