August 1 Ontario byelections : a bit of a surprise — Libs 2, NDP 2, Cons 1

Aug 2nd, 2013 | By | Category: In Brief

Mitizie Hunter and Kathleen Wynne.

Not long ago I overheard a local politician of more or less conservative bent answering a question about Kathleen Wynne’s performance as Ontario Liberal premier so far.  Some people, he suggested, belong to a party because they know they couldn’t get elected if they belonged to the party of their heart. Premier Wynne is a New Democrat in Liberal clothing. And that pretty much explains how she is trying to govern Ontario.

Doug Holyday.

If this is even in only some degree true, Premier Wynne can’t be all that disappointed by the results of the five byelection Ontario mini election, on August 1, 2013. The Liberals won in Ottawa South (John Fraser) and Scarborough-Guildwood (Mitzie Hunter). The New Democrats took Windsor-Tecumseh (Percy Hatfield) and London West (Peggy Sattler). And the Conservatives finally won a seat in Toronto for the first time in a decade (Etobicoke-Lakeshore, taken by the former mayor of the old city of Etobicoke, Doug Holyday).

It is of course true enough that the Liberals had won all five seats in the last general election in the fall of 2011. And in this sense the voters in the 2013 midsummer byelections have sent a message of disappointment to Premier Wynne’s minority government. In her immediate remarks on the results the premier was concerned to stress that her “new” Liberal government had received the message, and would be working even harder to deliver what the people wanted,

Percy Hatfield.

At the same time, on the eve of the byelections there were reports that the Liberals were talking openly about losing all five seats up for grabs. (Or at best just managing to hang onto Scarborough-Guildwood.)  And some Conservatives were expressing some hope that, while the NDP was destined to take Windsor-Tecumseh in the Ontario auto patch, all four other seats would vote for a return to the Blue Tory salad days of Mike Harris.

In fact Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal minority government is being kept in office by the support of Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats at Ontario budget time. And you could interpret the actual results of the five August 1, 2013 byelections at large (Liberals 40%, NDP 40%, Conservatives 20%) as evidence that the people of Ontario are happy enough with the current status quo. Just what this will mean for just when the next Ontario general election will take place will continue to depend on Ms Horwath’s continuing willingness to work co-operatively with Ms. Wynne. And judging from Ms Horwath’s quite aggressively partisan tone in her immediate remarks on the byelection results, all interested Ontario voters may still be going to the polls in a general election sooner rather than later.

John Fraser.

Meanwhile, the Liberal win in former Premier McGuinty’s old riding of Ottawa South can no doubt pass as evidence that not all the electorate is bitterly angry about the old McGuinty Liberal government’s assorted unfortunate adventures. And those of us who like both Ontario politics and at least modest surprises in all forms of democratic political struggle can go to bed happy enough. (And so can those whose taste for the wilder brands of conservative and Conservative rhetoric is limited, even in the kinder and gentler Canadian wilderness.)

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