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article imageOp-Ed: Wynne's astonishing Ontario election victory, Hudak's big defeat

By Ken Hanly     Jun 13, 2014 in Politics
Toronto - The polls suggested a race much closer than it was although results were close in many ridings. The Liberals ended up with a convincing majority in the end.
In the last legislature the Liberals held 48 seats and the Progressive Conservatives(PCs) 37. The leftist New Democrats (NDP) held 21 seats while one was vacant. As of this writing the Liberals have won 59 seats but the Conservatives have dropped to 27 and the NDP still has 21. A few seats may yet change. The Liberals had 38.6 percent of the popular vote to 31.25 percent for the PCs. The NDP had 23.8 percent with the Greens at 4.8 percent. The Green Party failed to win any seats.
Some unions and the Liberals were urging NDP supporters to vote tactically and support the Liberals to keep Hudak out of power. This may have had some effect. The Liberals did take some NDP seats in Metro Toronto but the NDP vote actually went up and they have at least held on to as many seats as before. The Conservatives were the big losers with 10 seats less in the new legislature.
Tim Hudak campaigned on a right-wing austerity message. His vaunted a million-jobs plan and also proposed the elimination of 100,000 public sector jobs. The million jobs must have impressed people less than the elimination of 100,000 public sector positions. At the beginning of the campaign many pundits claimed that the election was Hudak's to win as the Liberals were plagued by a series of scandals and the party was regarded as rife with corruption. Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne managed to escape the taint that tarnished many in the party.
In a discussion on CBC TV one commentator noted that Wynne comes across as an authentic person who actually listens to people and relates better to them than Hudak. Hudak is said to be quite a different person in private than on TV. Perhaps this is a sign of experts managing the manner in which leaders appear which may backfire and produce an appearance of inauthenticity. Actually, it is a manufactured persona and people may see that. Wynne is a problem apparently for managers. She often will talk at length to a voter during campaigning and people claim that they think she actually listens to what they say. Handlers want her to move on for the next photo op. Many pundits claim she lost the leader's debate but winning the election is more important!
Hudak will resign as leader after the stunning loss when he was regarded as having a golden opportunity to win. Chris Cochrane, a political science assistant professor at the University of Toronto, claims that a radical right-wing program will not win in Canada: "It's exactly the same message as we saw happen with the Reform Party failure, then the Canadian Alliance failure, which is you don't win with a radical conservative agenda in Canada." However, Cochrane also notes that Stephen Harper was able to rebuild the Federal Conservative Party as committed to "incremental rather than radical change." I would put it differently. Harper uses the rhetoric of incremental change and moderation to get elected. Once in power he introduces radical change as much as he can by stealth. Cochrane says that Hudak would have been better advised to follow the example of Harper: "I think Tim Hudak thought one of the mistakes he didn't want to make was to pitch a 'mushy middle' agenda, so he pitched something designed to appeal to his voters, his base. The problem is it also has the effect of motivating your opponents,"
While that is true enough, many Conservatives must also have decided that they did not like the Hudak message as they lost 10 seats and their popular vote went down.
Ontario has a large $12.5 billion deficit and the Liberal party has been plagued by scandals yet voters rejected the Conservative cure and opted to give the Liberals even more power through a majority. Cochrane notes: "People tend to be drawn more to negative information than positive information, so if you're saying you're going to fire 100,000 to hire a million, there's no guarantee they're going to remember the million,"
Perhaps it is that the million-jobs plan seems unbelievable while given Hudak's ideology, a big cut in public sector jobs is quite believable. At the very least the results show that to concentrate on promises of fiscal austerity is not easy to sell to the public. Interestingly enough the message was quite ineffective in large urban areas packed with big business interests such as the Greater Toronto area which went entirely to the NDP and Liberals. Many in Ontario may remember the results of the civil servant layoffs in the 1990's during the PC's Common Sense Revolution of Mike Harris. One Common Sense Revolution was enough.
The other opposition leader Andrea Horwath also may be forced to resign as she precipitated the election in the first place by voting against the Liberal budget even though it contained many provisions which were favored by the NDP and unions. She claimed that the Liberal government could not be trusted and was corrupt. Some within the NDP thought that a better strategy would have been to support the government and press it to implement progressive policies. A group of NDP notables even sent a letter complaining about her campaign. This may have helped produce a majority for the Liberals although as mentioned it was Conservatives who lost seats and popular vote not the NDP. Nevertheless the NDP will have little leverage over the Liberal government this time around since the Liberals now have a majority. Horwath said to supporters: "And I know that perhaps people weren't hoping for this particular result tonight but New Democrats are fighters and we are going to keep fighting for the things that matter most. For the things that matter most for the families in Ontario." It seems that quite a few Ontarians may have been hoping for the results given the way they voted.
Kathleen Wynne managed to win in spite of both opposition parties emphasizing the huge deficit racked up by the Liberals and the scandals. Wynne promised that she would press for jobs and growth.The Liberals will no doubt re-introduce their defeated budget at the earliest opportunity. Wynne is not only the first woman premier in the province, she is openly lesbian and her partner often campaigned with her.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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