New PCs same old PCs

On the same day that the Globe and Mail ran an above the fold headline on the latest Nanos poll findings by declaring the Dalton McGuinty Liberals closing in on the Tim Hudak-led Ontario Progressive Conservative Party (“Liberals gain ground as race tightens”) the Toronto Sun stated that the PCs were “leading in the polls and well positioned to form the next government in Ontario”.

The Nanos poll found 42.1 per cent of decided voters would go with the PCs, 37.6 per cent with the Liberals and 16.2 per cent with the Ontario New Democrats. The provincial NDP led by Andrea Horvath showed a bit of a slide from the earlier momentum which resulted, most likely, from the federal NDP surge which elevated the party to official Opposition status on Parliament Hill a few short months ago.

With all this shifting back and forth politicians make a habit of disingenuously saying that they pay no attention to the polls. But as we move closer to the Oct. 5 election date polls will begin to become more important, both to the politicians and the public. We can also expect to hear more from those who think moving all three levels of government – federal, municipal and now provincial – into the conservative end of the political spectrum will be to our benefit.

The provincial Conservative Party is stacked with the same blue Tories that created havoc during the 1990s when Mike Harris brought his “Commonsense Revolution” to Queen’s Park.

Current Conservative leader, Tim Hudak, is himself a blue (right wing) Tory and has been referred to as ‘Harris-lite’, or a little less mean-spirited Mike Harris. He was in the inner circle of the Harris government during the 1990s but, more importantly, is married to Deb Hutton, who served as the then premier’s executive assistant and director of issues management. She was one of the most influential and powerful members of Harris’ inner circle and could well be considered one of the people most responsible for the severe pain Harris inflicted on this province, especially on its poor.

Hudak has characterized Hutton as being much occupied in her current role as wife and mother, yet her power position during the Harris era led to Hudak being occasionally referred to as ‘Mr. Hutton’.

Hudak has also made a point of saying that the spouses of those who are campaigning should be off limits and not become targets of other campaigners, but his wife is no ordinary spouse. There is no comparing Deb Hutton’s hard right political activism and position as powerbroker with McGuinty’s wife Terri, an elementary school teacher with the Catholic School Board.

For example, during the 2003 inquiry into the Ipperwash incident and the shooting death of Ojibwa activist Dudley George in the course of the 1995 protest to reclaim Native land at Ipperwash, Hutton insisted numerous times that she did not recall details of conversations with then Premier Harris in the lead up to the Ontario Provincial Police shooting on an unarmed George. Yet, she was the spokesperson and intermediary sending directives to the OPP brass.

Hutton, described by those who worked under her as imperious, later held a $200,000 a year job as a vice-president at Toronto Hydro and billed taxpayers for close to $5,000 in restaurants bills.

As is often the case when it comes to choosing which party to vote for these days, when factoring in the leadership aspect, the choices leave much to be desired. That explains why the Nanos poll found that on the question of who people trust most on every issue from healthcare to the economy, taxes to education McGuinty came out ahead of Hudak and Horvath. This is so even though McGuinty is not considered a popular leader and despite the PCs’ current lead.

In any case, if we wake up on Oct. 6 with Hudak as premier of Ontario we might not be faced with Harris-lite but rather Harris redux.

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