Was it a Horwath miscalculation?

May 7, 2014   ·   0 Comments

SO HERE WE ARE in the midst of what may yet become one of the strangest provincial election campaigns in Ontario history.

As all our readers already must know, the election set for Thursday, June 12, was triggered by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s announcement that her party would not support the left-leaning budget proposed by the governing Liberals, not because of its provisions but because the government could not be trusted.

And after the first weekend of campaigning we’re still left wondering what really lay in the NDP leader’s mind and whether she really thinks her decision will really do anything other than guarantee the election of a Progressive Conservative government with policies antithetical to those of the world’s democratic socialist parties.

An opinion poll taken over the weekend indicated that the Tories, led by Tim Hudak, have about the same level of support that saw their federal cousins secure a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

If Ms. Horwath’s hope is that by basing her party’s campaign on trustworthiness rather than clearly crafted policies she will woo away enough traditional Liberal supporters to see her party become the Official Opposition at Queen’s Park as well as Ottawa, a Conservative majority government would be almost inevitable.

The latest polls show the Hudak forces with the support of 38 per cent of eligible voters, with Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals at 33 per cent and the NDP at only 22 per cent.

In the federal election, Stephen Harper’s Tories garnered 39.6 per cent of the vote, while the NDP led by the late Jack Layton managed 30.6 per cent, concentrated in Quebec, and the Liberals led by Michael Ignatieff managed a record-low 18.9 per cent.

It may be that Ms. Horwath’s advisers based their advice on what happened in 1990, when a campaign that zeroed in on ethics rather than policies led to the formation of Ontario’s first NDP government.

Then it was Liberal Premier David Peterson’s decision to call an election long before one was needed, presumably because his advisers told him the province was heading into a recession that would sharply reduce the party’s chances of being re-elected.

But this time both the Tories and NDP can be expected to mount similar negative campaigns, leaving Ms. Wynne to try to distance herself from the gas plant scandal that led to the resignation of her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty.

And as we see it, she might be able to do that by pledging legislation that would finally de-politicize electricity planning in the province, possibly by resurrecting Ontario Hydro and its “power at cost” philosophy and making all new power projects subject to public hearings.

As we said in this space last week, Ms. Horwath didn’t have to continue supporting the government, as was demonstrated when her MPPs simply abstained during first reading of the budget legislation.

Had that been her choice, she would have forced the minority government to make good on its budgetary promises, and been able to keep debate on the gas-plant scandal and the alleged cover-ups alive through committee hearings that stopped with the election call.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see whether Ms. Wynne continues to push hard on the budget’s pledge to bring in a provincial pension plan while reminding voters that a far preferable alternative would be improvements in the Canada Pension Plan – all of which would serve as a subtle reminder that Messrs. Harper and Hudak are both Conservatives with similar philosophies.

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