TORONTO, ON, Oct 4, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Ontario voters are sending two very clear messages to the province’s politicians, according to the September polls. What’s fascinating is that the messages are contradictory, and neither is good news for the McGuinty government.
Message one is that the PCs, which ran on restraint and even more cutting than Premier Dalton McGuinty is doing, are popular. Message two is that more want NDP leader Andrea Horwath as Premier than any other choices. You can have one or the other, but not both.
Province-wide, the latest poll numbers show the Liberals at 22 per cent. Ontarians seem to be saying ‘enough, already’ to McGuinty. And with good reason.
McGuinty’s track record is abysmal: hundreds of millions spent cancelling power plants for electoral advantage; high hydro bills, thanks to the Green Energy Act; chronic fiscal mismanagement at ORNGE (the provincial air ambulance service) and eHealth Ontario (the building of electronic health records); cancellation of the diabetic electronic registry database; promising action on the Drummond Report to fix the province’s finances, and later burying it.
Add rising taxes and new legislation on union contract outcomes and McGuinty seems to have finally worn away his welcome.
At a party rally in Ottawa recently, McGuinty tried to rally the troops, but there were few takers. Few present truly believed the party losing its core union supporters was “nothing to worry about”.
What saved McGuinty in the 2011 election was the ineptitude of the Progressive Conservative leader, Tim Hudak, who turned a 15-point lead on the day the election campaign began to a loss by election day. Although reconfirmed by his party in a leadership review, Hudak remains a figure Ontarians are wary of.
Meanwhile, the most popular politician in Ontario is Andrea Horwath, the NDP leader, who’s carried her party to a tie with the PCs in terms of popular support. Both stand at 35 or 36 per cent.
Of course, what matters is not popular votes, but seats in the legislature.
While every party has a few safe seats, many more are really two-way races, commonly between the Liberals and the PCs; too much of the NDP vote is spread out over too many ridings.
So even though the NDP and the PCs both stand at 36 per cent in popular support, the NDP can’t quite translate that into the same number of seats as the PCs.
But that could change.
Add another point or two in popular support and you suddenly have an NDP government – and between Horwath’s popularity and the Liberal collapse that’s more than possible, especially given how popular Horwath is – and Hudak isn’t.
Most of those new NDP seats would come at the Liberals’ expense. While in the Toronto area an additional point or two could actually net the PCs some extra seats (thanks to NDP stealing votes from the Liberals), in places like the Niagara peninsula, an NDP surge would cause seats to flip from PC blue to NDP orange.
However, if Hudak ups his game and comes forward with policies that attract Liberal voters, getting the PC vote up to about 40 per cent would flip enough marginal ridings into a PC blue government with an NDP opposition.
It’s not at all impossible that Ontario could find itself with a solid majority government that roughly 2/3 of the province’s voters say ‘I didn’t vote for that!’ the morning after.
And what will be McGuinty’s legacy? A crushing provincial debt, a bloated public sector, an eclipse of his own party’s fortunes for a few elections to come and, finally, years of resistance and protest facing whichever party wins in his place.
One thing, though, is clear. Former NDP Premier Bob Rae and former PC Premier Mike Harris are no longer the only names that scare voters off. We can now add Dalton McGuinty’s to that list.
Troy Media Syndicated Columnist Bruce Stewart is a management consultant located in Toronto.
I am not at all pleased with Bruce's column about McGuinty, Hudak and Horwath. Hudak did not blow a lead. The liberal media undermined him at every step. Report that! As Margaret Thatcher famously said, I could walk across the Thames and the media would report that I cannot swim. That is exactly what the media did to Hudak.