Ontario: History is written by winners

Paul Wells on what winning means for Wynne

Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne acknowledges supporters at the Liberal's election night headquarters in Toronto, Ont. on Thursday, June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne acknowledges supporters at the Liberal’s election night headquarters in Toronto, Ont. on Thursday, June 12, 2014. (Darren Calabrese/CP)

I vote for different parties in different elections. I voted Conservative today in a riding where the Conservative candidate had no chance. I believe economist Don Drummond identified serious structural problems when his report described a provincial government apparatus the province’s shrunken industrial base can no longer afford. I saw no evidence the Liberal government took Drummond’s report, which Dalton McGuinty commissioned, nearly seriously enough.

I thought Tim Hudak would move promptly toward a more sustainable ambit for the provincial government. The prospect didn’t seem joyful: I was quite sure that if Hudak’s Conservatives won, there would be a lot of acrimony around everything he did. But even though Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal platform also sets the stage for substantial spending restraint, I had no reason to believe, based on the evidence of her behaviour in office or that of her predecessor, that she would follow through.

In the end, the party I voted for lost both my riding and the election. Kathleen Wynne’s victory is historic, it is almost all hers, and its meaning is a little opaque, because there is a tension between her platform and her record that will be resolved only by her actions, now that she has the length of a majority mandate to show Ontarians what kind of premier she wants to be.

Historic: She is Ontario’s first elected woman premier. Almost all hers: People who make a living proclaiming their knowledge of strategy said she was crazy to put herself at the centre of her party’s messaging and communication to the extent she did. She voiced her own attack ads. To voters upset about the mess McGuinty left behind, she offered her person as sufficient guarantee that the past would stay past. It’s what Paul Martin attempted in 2002-06, but Wynne offered none of Martin’s creepy intramural fratricide and never benefited from the fast-burning personal popularity that seemed, at first, to be Martin’s greatest asset until he ran out of it. The funny thing about a cult of personality is, sometimes it works better if you don’t have quite as much personality. Rule One in Bill Davis’s Ontario is: don’t get on people’s nerves.

But there are a lot of Conservatives in Ontario who have forgotten the province was ever Bill Davis’s. There are a lot of people who accreted around Mike Harris in 1990 like barnacles — the Little S–ts, Frank magazine used to call them — and they’ve never really grown up. They were at Trinity College or Upper Canada College or Hillfield Strathallan or some other dreary Anglo-Saxon dumping ground in the early ’80s when Ronald Reagan came on TV and fired the air traffic controllers, and they’ve spent the rest of their lives looking for an excuse to play Ayn Rand Home Edition. It even worked in 1995, when Mike Harris came back from his 1990 drubbing and years of the worst recession, combined with the worst government, Ontario had seen in ages. Harris’s “Common Sense Revolution” worked because by 1995, thanks to Bob Rae, common sense seemed revolutionary.

Analysis: What just happened? Charlie Gillis explains the results 

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Video: What the party leaders had to say after the votes had been counted 

These are quieter times, and Ontario’s problems today are more genteel than in 1995. Incumbents have had a pretty good run of things in recent Canadian elections despite major self-inflicted headaches — in British Columbia, Alberta and Ottawa most prominently. Insurgencies win in turbulent times; in relatively calm times, an opponent’s best hope of beating an incumbent is to run as a better incumbent, to offer steadier judgment than the governing party in place. That’s what Philippe Couillard just did in Quebec. Let Pauline Marois concoct wild schemes; he’d concentrate on “les vraies affaires.”

Hudak, on the other hand, had to keep impressing the Ayn Rand League, thanks largely to his ever-shaky command of the party’s leadership. That’s why he put a big number on his public sector job-cut target, because he decided his target audience was people who think eliminating public sector jobs is always excellent. Compare and contrast: During the 2011 federal election, I worked hard to get a succession of federal Conservatives — Jim Flaherty, John Baird — to give me any indication of the scale of public sector job cuts the Harper government had in mind. Baird pledged, with a straight face, to protect the National Capital Region’s bureaucrats from the kind of ravages the Chrétien-Martin Liberals had inflicted in the 1990s.

It’s a crucial difference. Nobody seriously doubts Stephen Harper is a conservative, so he can tell conservatives they have to wait. That’s why I saw Alison Redford’s Alberta Conservative victory over Danielle Smith’s Wildrose party as a vindication of the Harper style, even though a lot of Harper Conservatives supported Wildrose: because politics isn’t about scratching your swollen id. Harper’s conservatism is a broad and not always internally coherent coalition, and it spends a lot of time wondering when something exciting will happen. I have a lot of Conservative friends who decamped from Ottawa for the duration of the campaign. I bet a lot of them felt they were taking a vacation from a torpid zone of fake conservatism in a fresh new spawning ground of the real thing. Now they’ll go back to their Ottawa jobs and Liberals will go back to their Queen’s Park offices. The point is not that Harper is less conservative than Hudak and Danielle Smith. It’s that he likes to win.

But back to Wynne. She ran on activist government, and celebrated victory by congratulating those who want to “build up Ontario.” But Ontario can’t afford the Ontario it’s got. Wynne’s own platform quietly acknowledges this. Hard public sector wage freezes and a new program-review exercise won’t feel much like building up. If she abandons them for more spending, she simply postpones harder choices. She has proven herself a redoubtable politician; now she had better be a very good premier, because she’s put herself in a fix to get the mandate she just won.

But that’s a high-class problem, one she would not trade for the simpler life Hudak can now look forward to. (A word on the NDP’s Andrea Horwath: she is in trouble with some New Democrats for forcing this election and losing the bargaining power she had in a minority-government legislature. But the balance of power is not a comfortable place to be after awhile, and Horwath was well into the zone where, every time she propped Wynne up, voters would wonder why. The NDP should cut her some slack.)

Wynne is now the premier, fair and square. She can define Wynne Liberalism in a hundred acts a week, for years. She gives the Liberals a shot at a dynasty of the sort the Progressive Conservatives used to enjoy in the days of Frost and Robarts and Davis. Or she could yet screw it all up. It’s up to her. That’s the range of possibility victory offers.


Ontario: History is written by winners

  1. Just back from a riding party. It’s a very happy province tonight! We’re moving forward again.

    FOURTH TERM…and a majority!

    • what do you mean by “again”? the Liberals have been in power for over a decade??

      • Not to put words in her mouth, but presumably Emily means that the Liberals are leaving the constraints of a minority position behind.

        • Yup. Continuing to progress. Not having to kow-tow to either Hudak or Horwath. The election eliminated a whole lot of roadblocks.

          • That’s exactly what Harper supporters said when he finally won his majority

          • All of which proves a majority is better than a minority, Walter.


    • This from the person who repeatedly says, “I’m not a Lib” when someone points our her obvious (and blindly partisan) affiliations. Glad you’ve finally emerged from the closet.

      • I’m not a Lib….or a member of any other party. I pick the one I think will do best by the province/country at any given time.

        I was PC for 30 years. Even Reform/CA.

        • Yeah right

          • What difference can it possibly make to you anyway??

            I voted Liberal, Liberals got in, and I hope they get as much done as possible on infrastructure and pensions.

  2. so, despite the oddly placed shots at the “Ayn Rand League,” the conclusion is that Hudak was not necessarily wrong about his diagnosis and his prescriptions for the malady, but that he should’ve just been quieter about it and obfuscate more? I can buy that, but I have no real clue where the ONPCs should go. Their incentive structure is something like: they’ll get millions in public union money spent bashing them as neo-Harrisites that’ll destroy the province’s social fabric, no matter how moderate their leader or platform, so why wouldn’t they let their conservative freak flag fly? A moderate like John Tory will be painted as destroying Tolerance with his sectarian schools policy, so why not be authentic to their political selves and actually be the conservatives they’ll get painted as no matter their ostensible moderation?

    in this reading, Hudak was wrong to ditch right-to-work (the ARL struck again there?) b/c he’d have been treated the same either way. By trashing John Tory so thoroughly and discrediting moderation as a tactic on the Ontario right (why bother if you won’t get any credit for it?), anti-PCers have to their credit set up a kind of death loop for the PCs. Less moderate PC leadership candidates can very credibly ask of their moderate counterparts: sure, I might have trouble getting elected because most of the electorate doesn’t share my views, but Working Families won’t spend any less against you and something will be found to drag you down a la Tory, so why not at least go with a clear contrast against the other parties?

    for my money, I can’t see the ONPC getting any more than a fluke minority until either 3rd-party spending is reformed or some kind of Wisconsin-y right to work reform is implemented in the public sector. I’m sure my anti-public union animus suffuses everything else here, but it’s not entirely derogatory: they’re superb political operators and wield their influence beautifully in influencing who they’ll get to negotiate with.* I don’t think that just looking at the startlingly disparate 3rd-party advertising numbers really gets at how much of a structural, existential roadblack they are to any future PC government (which I’d imagine suits most of the non-PC ON electorate fine).

    So most of the post-election noise over Hudak’s ideology vs. moderation and so on is mostly beside the point – even if a future moderate can get away with not being tarred as an evil proto-Harris in some way, they’re still going to be facing the entirety of the civil service coming at them in a way that even the competing parties can’t come close to matching. I’m not sure that prescribing a staid, Harper-like tone that buries its radicalism is ultimately useful for a party that lost just as much with Tory as they did with Hudak. Potential confounding considerations: maybe a moderate would work better now than in 2007 after only one Liberal government, maybe Tory is just a uniquely incapable politician and other moderates would be able to carry it off, or maybe the public union/3rd-party spending atmosphere in ON is so unique that its conservatives face such a distinct challenge that advice from or comparisons to other polities isn’t very useful?

    *noting the strange Smokey Thomas/Wynne/Hudak bit during the election over honesty. I imagine they won’t be entirely happy with what Wynne will be forced to do as Hudak-lite, and would’ve loved an NDP government in an ideal world, but anybody-but-Hudak seemed like the operational aim (and achieved result).

    • so why wouldn’t they let their conservative freak flag fly?

      I understand the frustration, but it nonetheless astonishes me how often I’ve seen conservative parties arguably get beaten by being “too conservative” for the voting public, only to have supporters immediately decide that the party should respond to the defeat by becoming more conservative.

      Anyone who says that they thought the Liberals were going to get a majority is probably full of it, but I could at least see it as a possibility if the NDP vote went down significantly, presumably out of “fear” of helping to elect Hudak. “Strategic voting” as it were. However, astonishingly, that doesn’t seem to be what happened. I just saw these numbers for the vote change between 2011 and last night, and I think they’re both surprising and telling:

      Liberals: +237,787
      NDP: +162,993
      Greens: +107,241
      Other Parties: +18,057
      Tories: -23,967

      That the Liberals could get a majority government with the NDP actually increasing their popular vote total from 22.74% to 23.76%, and the Greens getting almost 5% of the vote (they got 2.92% in 2011) is a pretty big indictment of the Tories’ feel for the pulse of the province, imho.

      As I said, before last night I figured that a Liberal majority was at least POSSIBLE, but it NEVER would have occurred to me that it would happen with the NDP keeping their seat total (lost a couple, gained a couple) and the Tories losing 10 seats but not picking up a single seat anywhere.

    • “anti-PCers have to their credit set up a kind of death loop for the PCs.”

      Interesting way to look at it. I’m struggling to understand the underlying perspective. It almost seems like conservatism itself is considered untouchable, so elections are about marketing it. And marketing conservatism is about revealing a lot or a little of it to the electorate. You don’t really argue that Tory, Hudak and Harper believe different things, just that they package conservatism differently. Harper “buries” his radicalism, Hudak lets his freak flag fly.

      Maybe the problem isn’t the opening or closing of the kimono. Maybe conservatism itself isn’t an easy sell. I’m a white collar guy, and the only union people I’ve ever even (knowingly) met were my kids’ teachers. But I’m repulsed by “right-to-work” legislation. I will never, ever vote for a candidate who endorses such an extreme position, however much their freak flag flies.

      Your comment is thoughtful, and I’m really not trying to attack you. But you seem to have a blind spot around the fact that the product itself, conservatism, isn’t a good fit in Ontario. At least not this modern, hardline conservatism that’s clearly modelled on Republican policies which have grown increasingly extreme for the last 30 years.

      In business terms – if PCs want a majority, they need to stop trying to package their product, and start adapting the product to customer demand.

      • fair. I was mostly using Wells’ justification for voting PC as a point of departure for looking at potential moderation as a salve for PC woes, with the idea that Hudak is basically right about the province’s finances and the need for cuts assumed for the sake of argument (which Wells also seems to assume).

        Even if everything you say is true, which it may well be, I think the thing that falsifies my point is arguing that Tory was a one-off: The Tory Experience didn’t discredit picking a moderate leader or platform, a more moderate approach could bear great dividends for the PCs, and so on. I’m unconvinced that it would because, unlike conservative parties in any other polity, the PCs face a 3rd-party onslaught (on top of party competition) as a seeming constant, moderate or not. Which is the death loop: they won’t be able to get past minority status unless they can break their greatest opponents, which would incidentally entail a policy many (including you) find odious.

        Besides, Hudak rejected right-to-work for the platform. Surely that would count as adapting their product to customer demand? and did the public unions give them an inch because of it?

        • Good point re: Hudak rejecting right-to-work. You’re right, that is adapting to customer demand.

          From my perspective, to advance such a radical policy in the first place is telling. Right-to-work is in that new category of Tea Party Republicanism and I kinda think Hudak as a whole is in that category. I think that was reflected in his plan.

          As for unions, I’m guessing they feel the same way as me. Hudak might not run on right-to-work, but he might implement it later. And even if he has truly abandoned it, there’s plenty of other stuff in his plans for unions to fight. I don’t think the unions owe Hudak anything, they seem to believe he’s a threat across a broad policy front.

    • Nigel :
      No real idea if that’s true that true Conservatives will always be shut out of ON; but it certainly isn’t the only part of the country where it’s tough to get a look in past the “establishment ” party. Take AB for instance. There are certainly liberals within the governing PCs. However try attaching Liberal to your party name and see where it gets you- or NDP come to that. Sure there’s some history there, but it amounts to the same thing. In this country voters have long memories and hold strong grudges when it comes to provincial politics.

      • I have some kind of gut inclination that one of the only ways the PCs will stop being an a damaged brand is if they stop being ambivalent about the Harris legacy: if half the party itself seems squicked out by the Bad Old Times With Baloney Sandwiches and Anger, why should any voters feel any pressing need to endorse the ONPC brand with their vote? Putting forward the Common Sense Revolution as a radically positive era of public policy, fixing dire fiscal straights akin how the Klein years are perceived in AB or the Chretien/Martin 90s are for the Liberals, seems like a necessary precursor for putting forward a confident party image (something like ‘love us or hate us, and lots hate us, we’re not ashamed and we’re even proud about having to be tough to clean up the other parties’ messes’).

        I’m sure that the gist of that change in brand conservation is not exactly a popular-sounding position, but I think the general point is still important: beating even lame incumbents, and arguing that your devil will be better than the devil the voters have, seems much harder if your party is torn about its own plausibly defensible governing past. Why not pick the devil you know if the alternative is a schizophrenic party that can’t seem to decide if its last governments were as evil as their opponents say they were?

  3. Paul, do you think there might be a column about how this Liberal victory colours the federal vote in Ontario?
    Some might view it as some sort of rejection of Harper coming in 2015.
    But one could also make the argument that Canadians have deep rooted insecurities after the 2008 crash and are anxious to maintain the status quo lest everything collapse again- which would play into Harper’s favour. Also, the way Wynne managed to leave her scandals behind might indicate that voters really don’t give a crap, making Harper’s Senate/Nigel Wright woes a complete voting yawn.
    Stephen Harper is a smart guy. How does Wynne’s victory colour his approach to the 2015 election?

    • The oft described balancing act that Ontarians seem to prefer would suggest that having a strong majority coming from sub 40% of the popular vote works heavily in Harper’s favour.

      • A second point is that Wynne’s victory means that any lack of progress on prov-prov or fed-prov issues will be her fault. Having established that it is already her fault, there is no pressure on the PM to meet with the premiers to discuss said issues.

        • Do you think that Harper’s work (or lack thereof) with the provinces over his time as PM allows for the possibility that anyone, anywhere, would blame ANY provincial Premier for the state of Fed-Prov relations?

      • I’m not so sure this translates strait across as advantage Harper. ( although it might if he gets lucky and can stop antagonizing everyone who doesn’t agree with him. Iows I doubt it)
        Both Clark in bc and now Wynne in ON pulled off unlikely majorities after taking over from previous deeply unpopular premiers.( And parties) In both cases they had the benefit not just of incumbency, but essentially incompetent or lackluster opponents.Harper doesn’t have a Dion or MI up his sleeve this time. I suspect baring poor outings from messrs Trudeau and Mulcair, he will have to wear his record. And it isn’t a pretty one if you don’t happen to be hard core Conservative.
        If anything this might get Kenney thinking maybe he could pull this off if SH took a long long holiday.

  4. “the Little Shits”, ahh yes Frank, thanks for those memories.

  5. The Hudak fans in the media who cut him so much slack in the campaign haven’t even bothered to comment on the most pathetic concession speech I’ve ever heard.
    Still showing his phoney pasted on campaign smile, he showed no grace toward the winner, and waded through his talking point laced stump speech with apparently no comprehension that he had just been whipped, really whipped.

    • Though not a Hudak supporter, I take umbrage with your comment regarding with his concession speech.
      Facing a rejection of this magnitude is difficult. Hudak’s speech was graceful and he kept it focused on the people of Ontario. He conducted himself with decorum and decency and after stepping down as leader, pledged to continue to represent his constituency.
      His speech included:
      “Our PC team, and every party, has the responsibility to work constructively in the legislature on behalf of the people that we all represent. And we have a responsibility to stay true. To stay true to what the voters sent us to Queen’s Park to do.”
      That is a fine, dignified sentiment, bereft of rancour.

      If Tim Hudak can represent his constituents and his party as well as the similarly rejected Stephane Dione has at the federal level, then he will be a fine contributor in the provincial legislature.

      Let us all turn our sights upon Kathleen Wynne and see what she delivers.
      In that spirit, it is up to the opposition benches to hold the new government to account and I for one am hoping they do their job well.

      • that would definitely be welcome, and an enormous change from the several decades he has spent in the legislature.

  6. A politician can stick all kinds of goodies out their for voters to take advantage of, but if your not authentic and people don’t feel they can trust you, then your a looser from the start. Tim Hudak was a looser from his first day of conception in the con party. I thought this author was an intelligent man even though I never always agreed with him, I always new he was a conservative because he shared his love for Jim Flaherty in one of his posts a little while back. He(author)like most other talking heads and pundits seem to think they always have the pulse of the people outside the bubble, but it seems they have no idea of whats really happening on the ground outside of their own bubble, much similar to Harpers way of thinking. Trudeau seems to be the only real authentic candidate that Canadians will choose in 2015, at least he(JT)steps outside the bubble to find out how real Canadians think. Trudeau gets it. JT backed a winner in K Wynne. As I have said time and time again, the three main issues in the next election will be, trust, integrity and authenticity, Its going to be who can you trust to run this economy and take care of your better interests, not heir own, as much as this author seems to think differently, and you can write all the articles about statistics all day long and it wont penetrate into the minds of Canadians, because Canadians a very smart bunch of citizens and don’t need to be guided by some pundit or talking heads opinions, Canadians can think for themselves. Canadians can see through a snake oil and witches brew politicians, because that’s all the cons do is feed Canadians with snake oil and witches brews. They don’t take care of citizens because their too busy taking care of themselves. This government in Ottawa is what I call the Placebo Government, they hand out all kinds of placebo prescription policies on paper, hoping to have a favorable result, but they never do.

  7. I agree with this column. There used to be a term “the naturally governing party”, and I think we are back to that. The Liberals have a stronghold in Toronto, and have had for years. Oh, they will say that they were “scared” of Hudak, but they would have voted Liberal regardless of the opposition. The principle of holding elected officials responsible is long gone. I did not vote PC, but it must be incredibly discouraging for them to run when you know from the outset that you will lose. You can scare the people in Ontario with “Mike Harris”, but the corruption of the last decade is no hinder. Of course I hear people say that “next time” they will hold them responsible if they don’t deliver, but I doubt it.

  8. I no longer live in Ontario – so I didn’t have a choice to make. However, I am concerned with lagging productivity- (which some discount due as a major concern to the rising real wages- resource/energy related). “The rising tide raises all boats” – yeah, and new beach front property is created when the waters recede (hello Great Lakes).

    So, I don’t buy into this constant banging of the drums for lower corporate income tax cuts – federally, it adds fuel to the fire in AB where projects are being shelved due to out of control inflation – and in Ontario – its an easy out for those who look for increased profitability through the tax code – rather than addressing real problems of people/technology.

    Naturally, I wasn’t too keen on Hudak’s across the board CIT cut agenda – notwithstanding the differing opinions from “expert” economists as to whether it adds jobs, increases investment, or is simply a transfer of wealth.

    My take:

    When economists hand you a lemon, make lemonade

  9. Without enemies to rail against, today’s conservative parties have nothing to run on. For some mysterious reason they keep turning to ‘experts’ from almost pathologically anti-social ‘think tanks’ in the US, who wouldn’t know Canada from a hole in a snow bank. Running on yet more overly-generous corporate tax cuts is now a trick that’s lost its magic, because Canadians obviously have enough of a grasp of mathematics to understand that you can’t balance a budget by cutting revenue, especially cutting the taxes of those already most well off. Why Hudak, and Harper for that matter, think that all of their strategy has to be run by the Tea Party or Republicans in the US is a complete mystery. Harper’s majority comes down to one man: Micheal Ignatieff, a politician so dull and seemingly remote that the often robotic and emotionless Harper looked almost outgoing and charismatic by comparison. Wynne won mostly on personality, proving herself more positive and more pugnacious than either of her opponents combined. Strangely enough, she was also the only one to take a swipe at Ottawa (the usual target) that costs her nothing but reminds people that the Harper cabinet seems to have a love/hate relationship with the province. Hate the fact it elects Liberals but loves the fact they can tax it like it’s the country’s ATM machine.

    • I have wondered why the conservative pundits on media sites like Macleans, especially those who know Ontario PC history through Frost, Robarts, and Davis haven’t shown more concern over the US Tea Party hard right Republican apparent take over of the venerable Progressive Conservative Party.
      I bet Ontario unions know how much money Koch Bros sent into Ontario, but you don’t see it reported.
      I say the happiest guy in Ontario today is Bill Davis.

  10. What a great column. ( I’m off to see what Hebert, Saunders and AC have to say)
    Wells at his best, swinging a multiple edged scalpel around slicing whomever. Not sure I agree with it all – Rae’s govt as the worst ever! What did Bob ever do to deserve all of that? I get he could just be a much better politician today than he was in the 90s.Still! IMO he’d have made a pretty good PM if life and the fates had given him a shot at it. Clearly you think him one of life’s great ( political) losers. Odd one that! Seems a bit dodgy to me. Reeks of the personal. Or did I miss some history there?
    So, is this good news for incumbent Harper? Do we get that column? I’d think there’s no analogy here really. Wynne isn’t Dalton. Just as Clark wasnt Gordon; If anything it might even encourage a couple ofnameless Cons to BELIEVE! they could do it too, if the CPC still trail badly in the polls in the 15 stretch run?

  11. A surprisingly personal column. I appreciated it. Thanks Paul.

  12. BTW: for anyone who does still check out Frank mags,
    check out the latest Frankmag, with the “Ugly Wynne” pic. -it’s what’s expected.

  13. If Paul Wells is a middle-income guy, he would be happy with the Liberals. Most of the top 20 percent income earners are conservatives. The richer you are, the less you want to share with others. That’s human nature.
    Under McGuinty, $10 billion of tax cuts plus sales tax harmonization gains have been given to business. Where are the jobs? Right-wing voodoo economics has not and will not work.
    The economy can get going again only when people have the means to consume. And they can consume only when they have the income. So, government has to invest.
    Ontario also has to get back the money Ottawa is siphoning from the province …reclaim that money to use for Ontario. Ontario can’t afford to support the country any longer as it is undergoing pressure from the petro-dollar. Ontario needs to stand up and if need to, fight Ottawa to reclaim its money.

  14. This a final comment which won’t find any agreement at all from the Conservative commenters and journalists on this site.
    But listening to Hudak on TV one day he mentioned again that he was going to hold a Public Inquiry into the gas plant cancellation. This was a recurring theme.
    It occurred to me that if we were going to spend several more hundreds of thousands on gas plants, and more importantly if I had to hear gas plants on the news for another one or two years I would go insane.
    A blunder I suggest no one noticed because it was a bit of a subconscious issue. We are sick and tired of hearing about gas plants, and absolutely apoplectic at the thought of another hundred or so of Christina Blizzard’s deranged columns on the issue.

  15. The thing that really struck me watching the election night coverage was how many PC’s wanted to blame their loss on the unions campaigns against them.

    Well, it sure seemed to me that they went out of their way to cast their campaign as regular Joe’s vs. the union fat cats (e.g. we’re going to fire 100,000 of them, etc., not to mention earlier flirtations with right to work legislation, etc.), which is a valid tactic, I guess, but why the surprise when the unions fought back?

    I’m not saying either side is right, but the part of the PC plan was to try to stir up popular opinion against unions (a tactic we’ve seen in the USA) and it backfired.

    Moping about losing a fight you went out of your way to pick doesn’t come across very well, in my opinion.

  16. First-past-the-post is a governing style of the past, people need to wake up and realize that we are being duped! Liberals recieved less than half of the votes and still wind up with a majority and retain all power in Queens park. The greens recieved over 50,000 votes and do not have even a shred of influence in the province. PC and NDP stand to also have little to no voice. Realize that we need a form of government that actually upholds true democracy! FPTP is a charade and needs to go.

    • In a country as large and diverse as Canada, what would you propose as a viable alternative to replace the first past the post system?
      It seems to me, this is the simplest, most efficient electoral method we could use, and there is no rational reason to change it. It’s easy and inexpensive to administer. Tabulating votes and determining the winner is quick. Because of its simplicity, first past the post doesn’t exclude people who don’t pay attention to politics, or don’t know how to count. Any other system could potentially be too complicated for voters to understand, and change can sometimes come hard.
      As an aside, I note that generally ALL voters have access to CBC in some format (whether they listen/watch or not), by virtue of mandatory cable and satellite subscriber carriage. But since there’s no likelihood of ending taxpayer funding of CBC anytime soon, there’s no point arguing over it being mandatory. At least we’re getting something back for our money, whether we like it or not.
      As it happens, the CBC is no different than any other government organized business venture — overbloated, ridiculously expensive, secretive, and self-entitled — so I figure we’d be foolish to expect anything different. Lately, I’ve tried looking at it like freedom of speech. Even if I want to sometimes reach through my television screen and grab Peter Mansbridge by the tie, and throttle him for some of the things he says, I have to just hope that enough people who hear it are intelligent enough to know when they’re being fed bull, and change the channel. It doesn’t matter if the majority of Canadians agree with my particular point of view on the topic, so long as a sufficient number are at least aware enough of potential media bias and spin to question it themselves.
      If you don’t like my CBC analogy, then think of it like running from a bear with a group of your friends. You don’t have to outrun the bear, or even be faster than each of your friends, either as a group or individually. You only have to be faster than the slowest one to avoid being eaten. Democracy is basically the same thing. For better or worse, the election usually goes to the party/individual that most appeals to the lowest common denominator, which appears to support my theory of voter stupidity in Ontario.
      In any event, you can see how this leads straight back to first past the post, and why it’s the only viable electoral system for a country such as ours. In Canada, voters are free to choose whether they want to vote for a particular candidate or political party, or decide instead to vote strategically, by voting not for their preferred party/candidate, but against some other party/candidate. In some recent elections, voters from different ridings across the country have even been known to connect via the internet and social media to engage in what’s become known as “vote swapping”. This indicates that some rather sophisticated systems and strategies have developed around deciding how to vote based on familiarity and understanding of first past the post.
      On that note, I’m very curious how changing from first past the post to some other system would even be implemented and communicated to Canadians in a way that ensures the greatest understanding? Think about it. When TFSAs were first introduced in 2009, over 70,000 Canadians received letters from the CRA in 2010, requesting more information about “excess” contributions, or reassessing additional income tax payable for that year, as a direct result of poor communication to the public about the tax effect of total withdrawals/deposits throughout the year.
      You do point out a valid criticism of first past the post, in that the number of votes cast for a certain party, or percent of popular vote, doesn’t always accord with the number of seats that party wins, if any. However, your implication appears to be that this is somehow unfair because it results in minority parties not having much power.
      In fact, I would argue that the opposite is true (and point out that the NDP did win 21 seats, very close to its 23.7 % of the popular vote, which gives it decisive power on all votes where the Liberals and Conservatives are on opposite sides). First past the post also enables greater participation by smaller, local political parties, as the focus of election spending tends to be on individual ridings, greatly reducing the cash-burden on independent candidates and small political parties. And, smaller parties can have a huge impact on election outcomes themselves, effectively determining the result in areas where support for the two dominant parties is close.
      Further, it’s true that first past the post tends toward a two-party system, but you seem to disregard the fact that those two parties also tend toward more broad-based, centrist policies over time. For example, just look to the current Conservative federal government under Harper, who is hardly the scary, bogeyman that Liberals (and the CBC, ahem) make him out to be. In fact, his leadership has probably marked one of the rare periods of relative national agreement and cohesion.
      Ultimately, if Canada is to remain a unified nation it must be led by a strong, federal government that best reflects the views of the majority of the far-flung federal ridings. Given Canada’s diverse multicultural make-up, and its vast, regional differences, not to mention the sheer geographical size of the country, actual national unity may be a pipe dream in the best of times. An alternate system might be feasible in smaller, less diverse countries, but despite all its acknowledged failings, first past the post is, to borrow a phrase, the ‘best of all possible systems’ for Canada.
      If you have other ideas, however, by all means enlighten us.

  17. Aside from the fact that the writer apparently does not care for Ayn Rand, the article was nicely written, and the writer’s perspective clarifies and becomes slightly less objectionable toward the end. He makes a good point — Wynne apparently knows how to play politics and win. That, or the voters in Ontario have sunk to a new level of stupidity. Either way, they deserve what’s coming to them, by effectively handing the Liberals a get-out-of-jail-free card. More of the same, I suspect, including the continuation of high taxes, high unemployment, high energy costs, etc.
    While I agree that the results of the most recent elections in BC and Alberta tend to show these voters are not much smarter, the issues in those provinces are trifling compared with the scandal-ridden Liberal government in Ontario. Similarly, I fail to see why the last win by Harper and the federal Conservatives should be listed among these, shall I say, somewhat surprising, provincial election results. The opposition parties and mainstream media (CBC, chiefly, in its usual role as liberal mouthpiece) certainly did their best to create scandals where none really existed, but simply saying something is the case doesn’t make it true.
    On their records, and that of their respective parties, Redford, Clark and Wynne did not deserve to win. Harper did.

    • If the PC’s got in, we’d still have high taxes (OK. lower ones for the already not paying their fair share corporate class) for the middle class, high unemployment (we’ve disemboweled our manufacturing sector in Ontario and have little else to fall back on) and high energy costs. So…that’s worth having Doofus McGee with his sickening smile to look at for 4 or 5 years? Nope..and the PC’s ideas consist of refried REagonomics that is currently the single most discredited economic idiocy in history..
      Wynne deserves a chance..she just mopped the floor with Hudak and his minions in an election that should have been a easy win for Bill Davis style electioneering..but NOOOOOOOO…you have to go all trickle down and you now pay the cost. So sad..too bad…:)