Ontario election blues 2014 : a junkie’s journal, May 7 – will Hugh Segal actually be voting for Kathleen Wynne?

May 7th, 2014 | By | Category: In Brief

Rihanna, friend of Toronto rapper Aubrey Drake Graham (apparent inventor of such great local Canadian slogans as “Northern Uprising” and “We The North”), at Up & Down's after-party for the Met Gala, New York City, May 5, 2014. Somehow this seems to say something about the June 12, 2014 Ontario election, north of the Great Lakes (and New York State – and Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota too).

The late great Canadian literary critic, Northrop Frye – who came to Toronto  via Sherbrooke, Quebec and then mostly Moncton, New Brunswick, “to compete in a national typing contest in 1929” (!!!!) – once called Ontario “surely one of the most inarticulate communities in human culture.” And there is something about the still very youthful campaign for the Ontario provincial election of June 12, 2014 that seems to bear this learned insight out, in spades.

So … there is a sense in which the election is (yawn, yet again) about a great question of public policy in the global village today. On the one side are Tim Hudak and his alleged “Progressive Conservatives” (more accurately described in the current local lingo as “Harper Conservatives”). These are the mindless right-wing analogues of, eg, Tony Abbot in Australia, David Cameron in the United Kingdom, assorted Republican wannabees in the United States, and (perhaps, rather more vaguely?) even the former President Sarkozy in France.

The main trouble with Ontario right now, according to Mr. Hudak, is that it has somehow become too hostile to international (and local) business investment. The labour unions are too strong (certainly, as a plain matter of fact, still stronger than in the adjacent United States). And corporate (and other) taxes are too high. (Though the Liberals have in fact reduced corporate taxes over the past 10 years.) Similarly, too many too-high tax dollars are now spent on “social policy” of one sort or another. And this is a drag on economic growth – and the alleged only meaningful job creation for the masses, which comes from the vaunted private sector, etc, etc.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne visits Lt.-Gov. David Onley on Friday, May 2, 2014, to advise a fresh election for June 12 – once it became clear that Andrea Horwath’s NDP would not support the new Liberal budget.

Against this view, in one decisive respect or another (or so it would seem, to we mere voters), are the other three parties in Ontario today – the Liberals (under Kathleen Wynne, who inherited a tenuous minority government, bequeathed by the election of October 6, 2011), the New Democrats (under Andrea Horwath, who has effectively “called” the June 12 election this year, by refusing to support the Wynne minority government’s latest budget, introduced on May 1), and the “Green Party of Ontario” under “leader and Guelph candidate Mike Schreiner” – who just may win his party’s first seat in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario this time around.

* * * *

So (yet again)  … the initial big question about this coming June 12 in Canada’s most populous province is : will a hard right-wing political and economic ideology that (at best?) has the support of less than 40% of Ontario’s democratic electorate suddenly start twisting the destiny of the place – as it did under the Mike Harris Conservatives, in the last half of the 1990s and early 2000s? (A period remembered fondly only by those who can’t remember very well, or who are congenitally disposed to the rhetoric of “creative destruction,” which history since the late 1970s has shown to be less and less creative in our time, and more and more destructive.)

If Tim Hudak’s non-progressive “Progressive Conservatives” do win a majority government in the end, it will be because the diverse forces of progress in Ontario today are pathologically divided – for what increasingly seems to at least many voters among us as no good or serious reason. The budget that the Wynne Liberal minority government unveiled on May 1, eg, ought to have appealed to New Democrat ideals, on pragmatic grounds of principle. (And, as best as we can make out, in many cases it actually did, as far as ordinary NDP voters are concerned!)

Former Tory MPP Peter Shurman (r) told CFRB's John Moore (l) this morning that he predicts Kathleen Wynne's Liberals will form another minority government. (Twitter).

At the same time, according to the available polling data right now (as Lieutenant Governor David Onley officially starts the Ontario 2014 campaign, by signing two copies of the writs for all 107 ridings), the most likely outcome on June 12 at the moment is either a Conservative or a Liberal minority government. And we agree with the current smart money that even a New Democrat minority government is not totally outside the realm of possibility. Both Liberal or Tory majority governments are also conceivable, depending on just how the campaign unfolds over the next five weeks. This is an unusually interesting election because it does seem that all three main parties stand some chance of winning something – and/or losing almost everything!

From left to right : NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, and PC Leader Tim Hudak. (Toronto Sun files).

Meanwhile, Senator Hugh Segal – once a highly influential policy guru under the old and genuinely Progressive Conservative governments of William Grenville Davis (majority and minority, 1971—1985) –  published an intriguing column in yesterday’s Ottawa Citizen, headlined “Extreme ideology won’t help Ontario.” And when you read this piece, it’s hard to believe Senator Segal will be voting for Tim Hudak’s Conservative party in 2014.

Consider, eg, these Segalian excerpts : “The recent report by the New York Times … that found Canada’s middle class pulling ahead … stressed the importance of universal health care, fair taxation and other societal strengths in facilitating our progress …. Polemics, ideological pressures on the far right or far left, tea-party tendencies arrayed against big-government panaceas – these are the likely political nuances that Ontario voters will face … But … Massive austerity and serious destabilization of vital public services is rarely the answer most likely to promote economic renewal … It is the middle class that votes in the greatest numbers. And the same is true of senior citizens, who are sensitive to social services who look for the right balance and understand viscerally when ideology is imposed in place of sound and rational judgment.”

Drake's friend, Rihanna, again : at Up & Down's after-party for the Met Gala in NY City. What if she were running in the 2014 Ontario election????

To which we can only add Amen. Or may Senator Segal’s tribe increase, as he awakes one night  from a deep dream of peace. At the same time again, we also think this Spring 2014 Ontario election is interesting because it is bound to reflect so many further and more specific nuances and subtleties in the increasingly diverse life of Canada’s most populous province today – beyond all increasingly tedious great questions of public policy in the global village. And we, in various specific incarnations, will be trying to elucidate some of these further regional nuances and subtleties over the coming five weeks, in this political junkie’s journal of election blues. We still believe the basketball Raptors are onto something bigger when they talk about the “Northern uprising” and “We The North.” Stay tuned.

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