By PATRICK HUNTER
I had it pegged for a minority Liberal win. I was not the only one considering the commentaries indicating surprise following the June 12 provincial election. In fact, even Kathleen Wynne seemed surprised by the outcome.
There is always the post-mortem type question as to whether Wynne won or did Tim Hudak lose the election. Given the outcome, a nine-seat loss by the PCs to a 10-seat gain by the Liberals, indeed, Hudak lost. That loss triggered his decision to step down, which was not unexpected.
Andrea Horwath lost too. While the NDP retained the same number of seats it had going into the election, the party lost two mid-City of Toronto ridings, including one held by veteran Rosario Marchese. On the plus side, the NDP upped its popular vote, ever so slightly. I’ll come back to this NDP discussion shortly.
Wynne has been given a mandate – a majority mandate – to do essentially what she wants. Right off the bat, she has indicated that with the return of the Legislature on July 2, she will reintroduce the budget that none of the opposition parties supported. This time, there is very little danger that budget will not pass. That’s what the majority means. A key thing to watch for is whether she will keep or delete subtle changes which had been inserted to appease the NDP.
Perhaps the outcome for which many can agree is trying to understand the strategy around Hudak’s proposal to cut 100,000 jobs. That still has many scratching their heads. Many of these job cuts would have come from the broader public sector – nursing, teachers and teaching assistants and a host of other positions that go to helping people directly. The unions seized upon that issue and used it to catapult people away from the Tories.
Face it, the massive debt load and misspending that the Liberals, under Dalton McGuinty’s leadership, engineered was largely the one big issue that soured people’s sympathies for the Liberals. Wynne has worked hard to shift the blame, without directly throwing it on McGuinty’s shoulders. It was a delicate dance. Her point was that mistakes were made, but now the party was under new leadership with a new sense of direction and a willingness to work to restore faith or confidence in the party given the new structure.
She was no doubt fully aware of the dangers of going into an election with the kind of cloud hanging over her head. She therefore sought the support of the NDP to maintain the minority government through a number of concessions.
Horwath and the NDP seemed to have made their minds up that the support of the Liberals had gone on long enough. By maintaining this connection, they seemed to believe, they would become tainted by the scandals, painted with the same brush as the Liberals, thus losing the Party’s distinct nature. They had not bargained on the maniacal job-cutting proposal of the Hudak campaign. That put a somewhat different complexion on the campaign prescribing an urgent consideration of strategic voting. That twist was probably one of the reasons for the NDP’s delay in publishing its platform.
The campaign took on a “Stop Hudak by any means” slant.
The choice had now become: Do we hold our noses and give Wynne a chance, because it is no longer McGuinty Party, or do we allow the insanity and seemingly heartless proposals of the Hudak-led Conservatives?
If you saw many of the commercials and advertisements leading up to the election that was essentially the theme: stop Hudak. There were no suggestions for whom to vote.
The mid-campaign letter to Horwath from a number of NDP stalwarts certainly helped to undercut any sense of confidence one may have had in her leadership. It no doubt gave some impetus to many who were swinging in the air between a tainted Liberal Party and a strong confident NDP. The traditional union support for the NDP seemed also to be uncertain, focusing more on the Hudak job cuts than a bright and humane NDP promise.
So, the loss for Horwath is the power to make or break a government. The gamble, like any lottery, failed to pay the expected dividend. The Liberals gained a majority, the NDP lost its influence.
Now that the dust has essentially settled, there is a sense that the choice may not be so bad. Most will still cringe at the scandals of the McGuinty government, and with good reason. Wynne’s performance will certainly be watched closely over the next little while.
The question as to who will succeed Tim Hudak as leader is now something to watch. All hints seem to lead to the possibility of another woman in the leadership role – that’s fine. The PCs have flirted with a red Tory, John Tory, and another mad-dog right-winger. Watch for a centrist.
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