Quick notes on Premier Kathleen’s Ontario throne speech .. opposition war drums are beating .. but?

Feb 20th, 2013 | By | Category: In Brief

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (left) and Finance Minister Charles Sousa applaud as Lieutenant Governor David Onley delivers the throne speech at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Tuesday. Chris Young / CP.

[UPDATED FEBRUARY 22]. (1) Here are some quick notes on the first (and some would say last?) throne speech of Kathleen Wynne’s new Liberal minority government in Ontario yesterday. They also serve as an update to “Ontario ‘three-party system in transition’ is back .. but can Premier Kathleen do it, at last?,” which appeared on this site the day before yesterday. If you want to read all 3800 words of the speech yourself see  THE WAY FORWARD.  My own first thought was “much motherhood, little meat.” But almost all throne speeches are like that (in Canada at any rate).

Conservative leader Tim Hudak will not back the throne speech, because ...

(2) The main reception narrative emerges in these eight key current headlines: “Tepid response to throne speech” (Windsor Star) ; “Prospect of spring election drawing closer after throne speech” (Waterloo Region Record) ; “Hudak won’t support throne speech” (Sun News) ; “Throne speech vague on details, but gains NDP support” (Northern Life) ; “Ontario’s Liberal government won’t fall on throne speech But further New Democratic Party support will depend on budget” (CBC News) ; “Premier Kathleen Wynne’s throne speech sets stage for Liberal-NDP budget” (Toronto Star) : “Kathleen Wynne insists she will bring ‘balanced’ approach to budget … will not steer the minority Liberal government left just to appease NDP Leader Andrea Horwath” (Toronto Star) ; “Premier Kathleen Wynne’s throne speech tries to buy Liberals time: Cohn.” (Toronto Star).

(3) Anyone who looked in on this morning’s TV question period in the Ontario legislature in media res and had some trouble following things might find this Canadian Press report helpful: “Tories open new session of legislature with old contempt motion on gas plants.” The Hudak PCs almost seem to be thinking that they can just run the old Harper Conservatives’ playbook on the federal sponsorship scandal – and laugh all the way to the bank. Others may wonder. But it did work for Stephen Harper. And if you don’t have policy ideas that most people like  …

Eric Grenier’s latest Ontario poll averages and seat projections.

(4) Thomas Walkom has an interesting column in today’s Toronto Star, reminiscent of Pat Bauman’s rural life comments on this site the day before yesterday, on “Ontario ‘three-party system in transition’ is back.” See: “Windmills, horse-racing: How Kathleen Wynne can woo rural Ontario …  Liberals need countryside voters to win next election, so …  In Tuesday’s Throne Speech, the government made one brief reference to consulting citizens about wind turbines. If Wynne wants to reconnect with rural southern Ontario, she will have to go further.”

(5) So suppose a spring election does finally prove impossible to avoid? Eric Grenier’s “latest averaging of polls conducted mostly after the OLP leadership convention,” in yesterday’s Globe and Mail, suggests a political reality in the Legislative Assembly not all that different from what we have now. See : “Ontario Liberals up in polls since Wynne won, but election still a gamble.”Â  On Grenier’s seat projections here, the New Democrats would take some Liberal seats in an election right now, but the Liberals would still have the largest number of seats. And some form of Liberal-NDP co-operative venture / arrangement (with Ms Wynne as premier) would still be the only way ahead – as it is right now, without the expense of a fresh election.

Liberal minority Premier Wynne and New Democrat leader Andrea Horwath, whose party is up in recent polls, but still not enough to beat the Liberals ... yet. Can these two clever ladies figure out some way of governing Ontario sort-of together? For how long? Or not?

(6) I have a small but (maybe) a bit interesting technical quibble with an otherwise commendable phrase right at the beginning of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s inaugural throne speech yesterday. The second sentence of the speech has Lieutenant Governor David Onley “acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit.” This strikes me as a nice touch. At the same time, in the interest of historical accuracy – and arguably even political realism in our own time – it should be noted that the Algonquian-speaking Mississagua did not occupy the territory where the Ontario Legislative Assembly is now housed when Europeans first made contact with the geography of modern Ontario in the early 17th century. At that point it was the territory of Iroquoian-speaking peoples whose descendants now live in other parts of Ontario, Canada, and North America writ large. The Mississauga did not establish a clear title to the territory by force of arms, so to speak, until the early18th century. Somewhere in this quibble, I think, is something of some relevance to our diverse lives in Ontario today. Yet whatever else, in this and many other of the speech’s fine motherhood declarations, it is to Kathleen Wynne’s credit that she prompts us to think about such things. [Click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll down below for FEBRUARY 22 UPDATE on new Forum Research poll.]

FEBRUARY 22 UPDATE : Using interactive voice-response telephone calls, Forum Research polled 1,053 people across Ontario on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 – the day after the return of the Legislative Assembly and the new Wynne government throne speech. See “Poll suggests Hudak Tories could win minority, but Wynne has pulled Liberals out of tailspin.”

This poll put the Conservatives at 36%, Liberals 29%, New Democrats 28%, and Green Party 5% – with accompanying seat projections suggesting a Conservative minority government. This sketches a somewhat different picture from the latest Eric Grenier calculations reported on above. But a Conservative minority government of the sort Mr. Hudak seems to be proposing would presumably have even more trouble finding allies than Ms Wynne’s minority government. And some form of Liberal-NDP co-operation remains the best prospect for political stability.

Similarly, as far as individual leadership ratings go, in this new Forum Research poll “[NDP leader] Horwath had the highest approval rating with 49% compared to 36 % for [Liberal] Wynne and 27% for [Conservative] Hudak … In comparison, [former Liberal Premier] McGuinty was at 21% last month … ‘Approval ratings for Hudak are always low. I don’t know why,’ said [Forum Research president Lorne] Bozinoff, pointing out 50% disapproved of Hudak compared with 30% who disapprove of Wynne and 24% of Horwath … While the Tory leader insisted Thursday he wants an election soon – because it’s time to ‘change the team’ – Bozinoff said respondents seem to want to give Wynne the chance to govern … Only about one third of those polled – 34% – want an election now. That compares to 48% on Jan. 24 when McGuinty fatigue was at its zenith … ‘She has an opportunity. Time is still on the Liberals’ side,’ he said.”

The past few days have also seen fresh developments of the great gas plant scandal that have hurt Premier Kathleen’s new momentum somewhat, but …  See, eg: “Liberals slip on Project Banana peel as more power plant documents surface” ; “Kathleen Wynne ‘has clearly not been truthful’ about cancelled gas plants: NDP” ; “NDP won’t trigger election over Liberal’s gas plant fiasco.”

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