By PATRICK HUNTER
At this time last year, amidst restoring your residence to post-Christmas decor and pondering the state of your finances, we were also facing the prospect of a new premier of Ontario and a possible provincial election.
We have a new premier and we may yet have a provincial election. The sparring is whether to trigger an election in the spring or try to hold on to the precarious minority government until the next election due date next year.
Clearly, Premier Kathleen Wynne would like to distance herself as much as possible from the Dalton McGuinty-created problems and form her own mandate. We have been exposed to “a getting to know the premier” video for the last couple of months as a prelude. But the memories of the bad financial decisions still linger which create a huge impediment to voter confidence in the Ontario Liberals.
The argument for triggering an election this spring is that government is under new leadership that recognizes that some bad decisions were made previously, and there is an opportunity now to reset. Tall selling order.
When the government presents its budget, probably in late March or early April, watch for a proposal that the New Democrats will have a difficult time in supporting. Both parties – the Liberals and the NDP – will go through the motions of trying to negotiate a compromise, knowing that the Progressive Conservatives will almost certainly not relent from their standard position of non-support. Depending on the public opinion polls at the time, the NDP will likely opt out of any agreement, opting instead to take their chances in letting the voters decide which should be the governing party. In all likelihood, we will end up with another minority government.
Meanwhile, on a more local level, we will be subject to what could be a very noisy campaign for mayor of Toronto. In October, we will have the opportunity to change our mayor. The general feeling right now (and this is without taking a poll) is that the current mayor has to go. We really don’t have to do a recap of all that has transpired these past four years to arrive at that decision. But, there are a few people who have reservations that his removal will be that simple and straightforward – that element of reserved doubt.
In addition to Rob Ford, who registered his intentions to seek re-election as early as possible, there are, and will be, a number of challengers. Karen Stintz and David Socnaki are two of the early ones. We are still awaiting decisions from Olivia Chow and John Tory. Also likely to enter the race is Denzil Minnan-Wong. There may even be more who believe that their best chance would be now, given the state of politics in the city. And this is where the element of doubt rears its ugly head.
If too many of these well-known names do enter the race, the fracturing of the votes could certainly play in favour of Ford. It is a dreadful thought but the “anybody but Ford” movement could create a scenario that allows this man back into the Office of the Mayor. One thing is certain, on election night, the Toronto mayoral race could be one of the most internationally covered elections anywhere.
So, we’ve looked at the provincial and the municipal scenarios. What of the federal? This one is fairly unpredictable – at least for me. The Senate scandal will probably continue for a little while but, in all likelihood, we will see another scandal before long. It may very well take the form of infighting as challenges to the leadership of Stephen Harper bubbles up. Unquestionably, potential candidates may want to begin positioning themselves to gain some name recognition on which to build a leadership bid.
Next year is the likely time for the federal election. I would be surprised if Harper decides to quit before then, but anything can happen. The Justin Trudeau train appears to be on track, which for me is a surprise. One thing is for sure, both Liberal leader Trudeau and Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair will be stepping up their campaigns to position themselves as the best choice to take the country forward.
Mulcair has a big challenge ahead. He would like to be the next prime minister. Holding on to the party’s gains in Quebec is one significant part of that challenge. Romancing and winning Ontario and the west is another.
South of the border, it is also an election year. The presidency is not up for grabs, but the control of the Congress is. Essentially, the set up here is preparing the ground for the next presidential election. Whatever President Obama does will have an impact on not only his legacy, but his successor – Democrat or Republican. He will however want to ensure that it’s the former.