By PATRICK HUNTER
Well, the expected has happened. Not quite the way it was expected. The Liberal government brought down its budget and, before any votes on it, the Premier decided to call an election.
Sure, it was prompted by NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s indication that she could not support it. So Premier Wynne decided: why wait for the inevitable?
From the political side of things, this is a critical election for all three party leaders. Wynne is looking to get her first mandate from the people to put Dalton McGuinty’s controversial departure behind her and put fresh paint on a Liberal government. If she wins, she has that opportunity. If she loses, chances are she will live to fight another day as leader.
For Tim Hudak, the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, this will likely be his last step up to the plate. He has had a few missteps since taking over from John Tory and, if the public opinion polls are anything to go by, he has not been able to command the respect one should have as a leader of a political party. If he does not win, the expectation is that the party will, at the very least, seek a review of his leadership. More than likely, he will see the signs and pre-empt that decision by stepping down.
Andrea Horwath’s leadership tenure may be more secure than Hudak’s, but only just. There may not be an expectation of a win, but gains need to be made.
At this point in the election campaign, I would be surprised if, on June 12, we had a majority government – one way or the other. There are, as one would expect, doubts about all the leaders and parties. We have just emerged, barely, from one of the worst winters in years and affairs of state are not really up there on the urgency meter. We could very well be in line to have one of the lowest voting day turnouts in years.
But, there is a chance that people may start getting worked up about it, especially after this past weekend. Hudak proposes to cut 100,000 jobs from the public sector on his way to creating one million new jobs in eight years. To me, the vision of the cartoon character with a big question mark over his head is what I am left with. What? Say that again? You are going to cut 100,000 jobs while creating a million new jobs – over eight years?
Not only does the idea of cutting jobs make this a problem. Given the nature of our economic health and our unemployment rate, why would this be a promise that I would like? But that is only a part of it. The cut proposes to affect teachers, fire-fighters, municipal workers. I think that this promise is an attempt to outdo Mike Harris whose cuts set this province back significantly in the late 90s.
Of course, that is the effect on a macro-scale, if you will, of the province. As we know, and as they try very much to hide, the effect on Black and First Nations communities would be correspondingly worse.
We will hear a lot of promises throughout this election campaign. That is the nature of the beast. Once the decision is made on Election Day, the promise sheet is essentially forgotten. Of course, in the case of Hudak, I have no doubt that he will carry out this threat, and perhaps with more determined and devastating effect.
Be that as it may, please pay close attention to these promises. See if you can decipher anything in them that will serve to improve the condition of people of African descent – socially, politically and economically. There is a belief that Black people do not vote. More specifically, we do not vote as a bloc like some communities. That is, we do not congregate and mobilise votes around issues that pointedly affect some of the issues that we face. One reason is that political leadership around the vast diversity of issues that affect us is found wanting. We are more prone to take what is offered rather than for what we want and need – passive acceptance.
Not to diminish the importance of our constant struggle with the police, but if we were able to martial the same kind of energy around employment opportunities, housing and the education of our children, we would, I daresay, be more substantial in mobilizing specific policies that would ameliorate our situation.
It has been demonstrated that sustaining this kind of leadership cannot be accomplished on voluntary time. The need for dedicated paid staff to research, develop and promote policies that improve our condition is critical. It provides the sustaining push that is needed to publicise and lobby for those changes. But it needs a mechanism by which the community itself can build that entity through a commitment of finance. The talent exists. The wherewithal does not.