East Toronto, May 27 : “Men use love to get sex. Women use sex to get love. Ontario voters use coupons to get pizza.”

May 27th, 2014 | By | Category: In Brief

Who knows exactly what Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak is up to in such friendly campaign headlines as : “Hudak accuses Ontario Liberals of being ‘fundamentally dishonest‘” (CTV News) and “Hudak calls Liberals ‘fundamentally dishonest’” (Postmedia News).

I’m guessing his advisors would say the point is that the Kathleen Wynne Liberals are not telling the truth about Ontario’s economic problems. (And thus the desperate, dramatic need to fire 100,000 public sector workers, and all that. … )

Kathleen Wynne leads a group of runners along the Ottawa River during an election stop in Ottawa. Sean Kilpatrick / CP.

And yet the new “Fully Costed 2014 Liberal Plan” promises to run a financial surplus by 2017—18. It stresses that Old Ontario Grit governments at Queen’s Park “have maintained the lowest program spending per capita of any province” in Canada.

They have also “implemented around 80 per cent of the [2012 Don] Drummond recommendations [for government cost control], while rejecting those that would diminish public services, like the rollback of Full-Day Kindergarten or the 30% Off Tuition Grant.” (See “What will feuding politicians finally do with ‘the Don of a new era in Ontario’?” on this site, February 16, 2012.)

Andrea Horwath buys a 50/50 ticket from the Knights of Columbus during a campaign stop in Chatham, deep in Southwestern Ontario. GEOFF ROBINS / THE CANADIAN PRESS.

Meanwhile, Andrea Horwath’s New New Democrats are under attack from some Old New Democrats. See, eg : “NDP supporters say they are ‘deeply distressed’ by Horwath’s campaign” ;“Ontario labour groups still deciding how they’ll ‘Stop Hudak‘”;  “How Andrea Horwath’s NDP lost its moral compass: Cohn ; “Andrea Horwath’s ‘sophomore jinx’ has NDP worried” ; “Ontario Election: Horwath answers NDP insiders criticizing campaign” ; and “Ontario Votes 2014: Andrea Horwath defended amid NDP dissent.”

Oh and then there was the so-called Northern leaders’ debate yesterday in Thunder Bay – at which only Ms. Wynne and Ms. Horwath were present. My quick assessment would be that they both did well for their causes, and it all depends on whose arguments you believe. (And for those who may be further interested I have a few further thoughts here, if you click on “read the rest of this page” and/or scan below. Also included is a quick update on the latest opinion polls!)

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner launches his campaign in front of the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Wednesday May 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn. The Greens have some strong policy ideas (and not just about the environment), and get too little attention. Too bad.

An even quicker assessment would be that there sometimes seem two main close-observer reactions to this Ontario 2014 election campaign so far – one largely positive, and one largely negative. Two Globe and Mail columns from this past weekend offer cases in point. On the positive side see Adam Radwanski’s “Why the Ontario election campaign is a mystery, even to those involved” last Friday. On the negative side see Jeffrey Simpson ‘s “Ontario’s ‘none of the above’ election” last Saturday. (And this was reinforced on Monday, yesterday, by Grant LaFleche’s regional Sun Media piece : “What if there is no lesser of 3 evils?” – which concludes with “given that none of the parties have come close to winning my support, a spoiled ballot does seem awfully tempting.”)

I am reliably informed that the more or less official view on this site recognizes the significance of the negative case, but ends as largely positive. This is a more interesting and important election than many potential voters appear to believe at the moment. And it is someone’s job to spread this good news among we the provincial (regional?) people, from Hudson Bay to the Great Lakes waters, and the Ottawa River to the Lake of the Woods.

1. The Northern Debate … how do the two female leaders look against each other?

Kathleen and Andrea were friendly enough at the start of the Northern debate in Thunder Bay, Monday, May 26.

One way in which the 2014 Ontario election ought to be interesting lies in the many at least almost encouraging echoes of 1960s feminism and general benign cultural/sexual revolution that surround the intriguing secondary leadership contest between Liberal Kathleen Wynne and New Democrat Andrea Horwath.

The 61-year-old Kathleen Wynne grew up in the Greater Toronto Area suburb of Richmond Hill. Nowadays she is a dynamic late-blooming “married” gay lady (as there is admirably very little explicit public debate about). She has represented the riding of Don Valley West in the amalgamated City of Toronto bequeathed by the Mike Harris government since the general election of 2003.

They seemed more sceptical about each other after the debate got under way.

Ms Wynne can come across as a genial but strict Old Ontario schoolmarm (with two Masters’ degrees), trying to cajole we wayward citizens into buying (taking?) what we know is best but not easiest for us. At the same time, she also seems authentically democratic and open-ended. As a sign of her personal commitment to diversity, she has three adult children from an earlier conventional mixed-sex marriage. And she has a hard-earned record of public service stretching back to the mid 1990s.

Andrea Horwath is not quite 10 years younger than Ms Wynne. (She will be 52 this coming October.) She grew up in the somewhat conservative industrial and labour town of Hamilton, Ontario – just around the northwestern corner of Lake Ontario from the GTA. Her father worked at the Ford plant in nearby Oakville.  Ms Horwath took a Bachelor of Arts degree in Labour Studies from McMaster University in Hamilton, and then went to work for the Hamilton labour movement and various community groups in the Hamilton area.

Mike Harris (the John Wayne of Ontario politics, or something like that) and Tim Hudak – Andrea Horwath started out in politics during Mike Harris’s troubled second term as Ontario premier.

Ms Horwath became active politically in the late 1990s, and first won the provincial riding of Hamilton East for the New Democrats in a 2004 by-election. She became Ontario NDP leader in the fall of 2009. In the 2011 provincial election the NDP under her leadership “won more than 20% of the popular vote for the first time since 1995 and almost doubled its seats to elect 17 members of the legislature.” According to Wikipedia, Andrea Horwath today “lives in Hamilton with her son Julian (born November 1992). In a March 2011 interview with the Toronto Star, she spoke publicly for the first time about the breakup of her longtime relationship with Julian’s father, Hamilton businessman Ben Leonetti … The two lived together for 25 years without getting married, and split up in 2010.”

Kathleen Wynne bowls a ball to formally open the Leaside Lawn Bowling Club's season in Toronto, as she began her campaigning Saturday, May 3.

We should have an Ontario political system, I believe myself, that encourages the Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne and the New Democratic leader Andrea Horwath to work together for the clear majority of the people of Ontario. (As they did for a time, more or less, after Ms Wynne became both the first female and first openly gay Premier of Ontario on February 11, 2013.)  Instead we have a system that finally pits them against each other, as in yesterday’s Northern debate.

The mass media have tried to make a lot of Ms Horwath’s opening remarks, reporting that she “went for the jugular in the northern Ontario debate, calling the Liberals corrupt and saying voters are fed up with their lies.” According to Horwath, “Wynne played a role in the decisions to cancel two unpopular gas plants – a cost of up to $1.1 billion – prior to the last election just to save Liberal seats in the Toronto suburbs, and in their attempts to cover up the scandal.”

I watched the entire debate online myself, and it didn’t seem to me that this kind of attack had a lot of traction with the audience. Ms Wynne responded only afterwards, when (again) media representatives raised the issue.

Tim Hudak greets supporters at a town hall in Woodstock, Ontario, Tuesday May 20, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn.

I can see why Andrea Horwath feels she has to wade into all this – and show that she is man enough to play the dirty tricks that have so much to do with our politics today. But this probably also helps explain why decreasing numbers of Ontarians are prepared to actually vote in provincial elections.

The format of the rest of the Northern debate yesterday, in any case, did not lend itself to direct confrontations between Ms Wynne and Ms Horwath. My initial quick assessment – that they both did well for their causes, and it all depends on whose arguments you believe – is still with me at the end.

At the same time, if Ms Horwath’s ultimate role does finally prove to be facilitating the election of a Hudak Conservative majority government, a lot of people really are going to start wondering just how much sense it still makes to have two progressive parties fighting against each other in Ontario elections ???? And I will be one of them.

2. Grenier says “Ontario Liberals inch ahead in Abacus poll”, etc, etc, etc …

If you believe the latest polling evidence, Horwathian New Democrats who equally fear that their leader is opening the door to some uber right-wing majority government in Ontariario can breathe a little easier. See, eg, “Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals hold small lead over Hudak’s PCs in Ontario election campaign: new poll” and   “Ontario Liberals inch ahead in Abacus poll.”

The great poll aggregator Eric Grenier offers this general assessment of current trends : “The race remains a close one and the PCs are still capable of winning, but so far the Liberals appear to be holding their own.”

Grenier’s latest seat projections just illustrate this assessment : “The seat count is virtually identical to the standings at dissolution: 48 for the Liberals, 37 for the PCs, and 22 for the NDP. The ranges still overlap between the Liberals and PCs, however, at between 40 to 58 seats for the Liberals and between 30 to 47 seats for the PCs. The New Democrats sit at between 16 and 24 seats.” (Mmmmmmmm … why are we having this election again?)

What we are waiting for now, it seems, is the next Ipsos Reid poll – to tell us this is all wrong, and the Hudak Tories are once again on their way to a majority in the legislature (or at least an exotic minority government with a very short lease on life, maybe ????). Once again, stay tuned.

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