Does Andrea NDP cute trick on Ontario Budget 2012 matter .. it did pass and there’s still no election?

Apr 24th, 2012 | By | Category: In Brief

TORONTO. APRIL 24, 2:00 PM. So … as if the Alberta election weren’t enough of a surprise, the final act of the Liberal-NDP dance of the dialectic on Ontario Budget 2012 managed to bring us something a bit different too. For the details I just quote directly from Karen Howlett’s concise summary in the self-confessed national newspaper, as updated about an hour ago:

The Ontario minority Liberal government has dodged a snap election, after a crucial vote on its budget … The budget passed with all 52 Liberal MPPs voting in favour of it on Tuesday and all 37 Progressive Conservatives voting against it, as widely expected … But much to the surprise of the Liberals, the party that came third in the last election abstained from voting, despite winning major concessions.

New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath said her 17-member caucus did not cast a vote because the budget does not do enough to help those out of work … With the NDP holding the balance of power in the minority legislature, the Liberals agreed to many of Ms. Horwath’s demands, including a new 2 per cent surtax for those who earn more than $500,000 a year and more funding for day-care and those living on disability … ‘She wants to have her cake and eat it, too,’ a visibly surprised Finance Minister Dwight Duncan told reporters.”

There will be some who say all this is just a bit too clever by half. After what had seemed to be a strong finish on the high ground, Lady Hamilton suddenly plunged to the depths — and blotted her copy book in the eyes of the voters (less than half of whom actually voted in this past October’s Ontario provincial election).

Others will admire the sauciness with which Ms. Horwath has climaxed this first big episode of the when-will-the-next-Ontario election-be soap opera. And abstaining from confidence votes in the legislature could be a genuinely clever way for the New Democrats to try to manipulate the life of the province’s 40th Parliament since 1867, from here on in. This is arguably exactly what the Liberals should have done in Ottawa during the two Harper minority governments. (And did not, to their ultimate peril.)

I think myself that only time will tell which of these two arguments is correct — in the sense of just how Andrea’s cute trick will finally affect the public’s estimate of both her and her party. But for the moment, my first reaction is that it doesn’t really bother me. It isn’t exactly playing by Marquis of Queensbury rules, perhaps. But then how often do such rules actually prevail in politics — even in Premier Dad’s Ontario? If crucial votes in the legislature are now going to be between the Liberals and the Conservatives alone, that is an effective Liberal majority government, and arguably an effective way of governing Ontario for some reasonable period of time ahead. (Until of course the Andrea NDP , with 23% of the vote and 16% of the seats in the last election, decides that it’s in its interest to pull the plug.) Now, will such scheming cleverness make the New Democrats more popular than the Liberals in the next election? That, it seems to me, again, is something that only time can tell us — whenever the next election does take place.

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