By PATRICK HUNTER
From here, when the Hudak Tories propose their non-confidence motion on the Wynne budget, unless there is a massive “sick-out” by the NDP when the vote is called in the Legislature, Premier Wynne’s government will survive – at least for the time being.
Opposition leader, Tim Hudak, has been campaigning for a new election since the last one. He desperately wants to be premier, and it looks to me it is more about personal ambition than a sincere wish to make the province better. He preaches a deficit-cutting binge that essentially disregards the hardships his program of spending cuts and legislative changes will have on Ontarians who are in the most vulnerable economic positions.
Even before the budget was tabled, Hudak declared his intention not to support it. There was no wiggle-room, no conditions offered for his support – nothing short of an election would suffice. It is a big gamble for him because if he went into an election now, and given his position in the polls, a loss would have him resigning his leadership.
Andrea Horwath’s NDP took a different route. Horwath laid out a list of demands to the new premier as a condition of her support. She could do this because, as leader of the third party, she is in the position of holding the balance of power. It is a position that is not without its risks, and the rewards can sometimes be muted.
For the most part, the consensus is that Horwath got what she sought. A reduction in auto insurance, attention to home health-care services and addressing youth unemployment were among some of those demands. Horwath conceded that “our proposals are reflected in the budget”, in a Toronto Star quote, but it would not have been in her best interest to do cartwheels. It is necessary, politically, to maintain a certain distance from the Liberals, not only to maintain a certain sense of independence, but because the Liberals do have heavy political baggage – the air ambulance mess, the seemingly ever-escalating costs of the gas plants cancellation, to name two. The NDP could be tainted by these scandals in an election campaign.
So, to give themselves a moment to think, as it were, the NDP has launched a “what do you think of the budget” online consultation. The net effect will be: yes, we are okay with some of your offerings, so we will keep you in power for now. However, we do have many reservations.
The fact is, Horwath has little option left but to support the Liberals. Formalizing a pact to govern is off the table. While that is something that the Liberals and the NDP have done in the past, and it indirectly netted the NDP the government because the Liberals took a gamble by calling a snap election once the pact expired, that history is not likely to repeat itself.
Kathleen Wynne needs this conditional agreement, perhaps even more than Horwath. Premier Wynne still needs to show her “stuff” as leader and premier. So far, she has not made any major political mistakes and has been carefully trying to distance herself from her predecessor. Her appearance in front of the committee investigating the gas plants cancellation mess may very well have helped in that regard. It is not over by a long shot, but she did not shy away from “facing the music” which will go a long way in shoring up confidence in her. The party, however, will still have to carry that burden.
The longer she is able to maintain the premiership, the better her chances of ensuring the electorate’s political amnesia so that her performance will become the basis of judgement and not the party’s immediate history. That is her key objective for now, projecting to Ontario that this is the Wynne Administration, and Wynne will do things differently.
As for benefits to our community, one can hope that there will be a trickle-down effect. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Unemployment among Black youth is, as always, higher than the provincial and national figures. This may not make a dent but one can only hope. The other side of that equation is getting the message out to employers that they need to get the message out to these youth that they are encouraged to apply. Because there is little or no feedback to applications, unless you are invited to interview, it is easy to understand why young people get discouraged in their job search. Admittedly, it would be a considerable undertaking to respond to all applications, but one cannot help but think that in the same way that they have developed computer programs to identify qualified candidates, they could also develop a program that would highlight and respond to applicants with suggested areas for improvements. Employment counselling services do provide some feedback, but they are not the employers.