Kathleen’s first big moment of truth in Ontario may (or may not) arrive in May (or more exactly June?)

Apr 17th, 2014 | By | Category: In Brief

Niagara Falls, Ontario ... Photo by Christine Clark-Hess.

One of Canada’s leading go-to guys on political opinion polls, Éric Grenier, posted some intriguing Ontario politics notes last Saturday – under the headline “Tim Hudak And Ontario PCs’ Polling May Be On The Rise (Maybe).”

Grenier pointed out that : “A survey conducted by EKOS Research for iPolitics between March 27 and April 3 and interviewing 1,234 Ontarians found the Liberals narrowly leading a three-way race with 32 per cent support, against 29 per cent for the New Democrats and 27 per cent for the Tories …”

He went on : “Another poll, conducted by Forum Research on April 7, interviewed 928 Ontarians and was reported by the Toronto Star. It had very different results, putting the PCs at 38 per cent against 31 per cent for the Liberals and 23 per cent for the NDP.”

The go-to guy on political opinion polls went on still further, wisely enough: “Provincial politics in Ontario have rarely attracted much interest.” But “even the 48 per cent turnout of the 2011 election broke the previous record low in 2007, when it was just 52 per cent.”

Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario ... Photo by @bethany_dawnn.

And then Éric Grenier summarized the most practically poignant message of the apparently highly volatile recent opinion polls (with the Hudak Conservatives third in one and first in another!)  : “All three provincial leaders in Ontario have reason to believe they can turn the numbers to their benefit in a new campaign.”

Of course, the big question here is, if these volatile polling results – that each of the three party leaders can interpret to their own advantage – hang on for a while, will it be even remotely possible to avoid an at least late spring Ontario election (say, with an actual voting day in June)?

* * * *

A possible stage for such a fresh piece of Ontario political theatre has now been set by the announcement that : “Ontario budget to be tabled May 1, could trigger election.”

As the CBC News report on this front on Tuesday explained : “The Liberals have held a minority position in the Ontario legislature for the past 2½ years, but have managed to survive the past two budgets with the support of the New Democrats … But two weeks ahead of the budget, NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson said it was too soon to say if his party would be in a position to support what the Liberals would bring forward.”

Emo, in Northwerstern Ontario, this winter ... Photo by Jakub Sisak.

(A not entirely unreasonable position, no doubt : the New Democrats should see what’s in the budget first, etc, etc. But then again, what if the numbers suggest to enough New Democrats that even they have at least as-good-a-chance-as-they’ll-get-for-a-while of at least dramatically increasing their present 21 seats in the 107-seat Legislative Assembly of Ontario?)

If there is going to be an Ontario provincial election this June (or thereabouts), the successors of the excellent and remarkable Graham Murray have opined, it ought to try to learn some lessons from one aspect of the recent election in what William Grenville Davis liked to call Ontario’s sister province of Quebec. More than 71% of Quebec’s eligible voters turned out on April 7, 2014. Compare that with Éric Grenier’s recent comments on recent Ontario political history : “even the 48 per cent turnout of the 2011 election broke the previous record low in 2007, when it was just 52 per cent.”

Some of us, trying to recapture some impossible youthful rapture, stil believe that Ontario politics actually is – or at least ought to be – interesting right now. More people ought to vote. At stake are various thorny issues of economic development and human development, with resonance in many different parts of the global village today.

Up to this point I’ve been trying to resist the thought that an Ontario election this spring might actually serve some purpose. My biggest reservation is that it has been (and I think remains) likely enough that such a contest will just give us a provincial parliament much like the one we have now. And what’s the point of spending a lot of public money on that?

 A police officer cordons off a street in the Leaside area of Toronto after freezing rain left many parts of the city without power, December 22, 2013. Peter J. Thompson/National Post.

Lately, I have begun to wonder about changing my mind. Even if a fresh election does give us pretty much just what we have now, at least it will be clear that this really is what “we the people” want. (And if less than half of us or them show up to vote, that is just our or their  loss.) Then the politicians and bureaucrats and so forth just have to settle down and figure out how to make what the people really want work.

Maybe the biggest truth right now actually is that Ontario politics and Ontario public debate have  become even less interesting than usual. And we probably do need a fresh election soon, to inject at least some fresh blood into the body politic. (Even if that doesn’t finally work either – and still more needs to be done!) ??????

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