Ontario election 2018, I : On the apparent inevitability of the Donald Trump clone north of the North American Great Lakes

May 13th, 2018 | By | Category: In Brief

Premier Kathleen Wynne (l) and Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Mitzie Hunter (r) with friends.

[UPDATED MAY 19]. I will still be voting for Kathleen Wynne in the Ontario election this coming Thursday, June 7, 2018.  (Or more exactly, for those less familiar with the system up here in We The North, I will be voting for her Liberal party candidate in the electoral district where I reside, on the north shore of the fourth largest of the North American Great Lakes, as measured by volume of water.)

To me Premier Wynne is the one seriously class act in Ontario politics today. And she has done a better job than any other prospect in sight of governing Canada’s most populous province through challenging times, and in the interest of the great majority of its ordinary citizens (among whom I of course count myself).

The province’s economy, broadly speaking, is doing well. (The latest statistics,  eg,  show below average unemployment rates for all of BC, Quebec, and Ontario  – along with 9,300 net new jobs in Ontario for April 2018 alone, and 133,400 new jobs in the province since April 2017.)

Ms Wynne’s government, which seems to me to have been more mindful of the interests of the province’s diverse business community than some branches of this community have been willing to credit, has also tried to help those adversely affected by an economy that is both growing and changing dramatically (adding to GDP while “creatively destroying” other parts of itself).  [For more after the UPDATE click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below.]

. John Barber from Lakefield, Ontario.

UPDATE MAY 19 : Citizen X, author of this piece, also wants to highly commend John Barber’s May 17 article in the Toronto Star : “Kathleen Wynne was the premier we didn’t deserve .” It apparently says everything X finally wanted to say about Premier Wynne and more, and “much better than I managed.”

Here is a quick taste of Mr. Barber’s tribute : “Certainly four years of Premier Doug Ford will be more than enough to clear the air. But even before that, I suspect Wynne will emerge in hindsight as the bold leader of the most capable and effective government Ontario has enjoyed since the heyday of the fabled Big Blue Machine.  She will be remembered as the best of her generation … Ontario at its best.”

Kathleen Wynne and William Davis, last modern master of the Big Blue Machine.

Mr. Barber concludes : “She failed because she was too ambitious, she failed because she never resorted to easy deceptions. She failed because she’s a woman, and because she’s gay. She failed because she’s Ontarian, at the mercy of Ontarians, and we’re as ugly as anyone … The future will judge, and what it will say is that we didn’t deserve her.”

Citizen X cites for his necessarily modest commendation as well the short bio of John Barber that accompanies this Star opinion piece, for any who may be unfamiliar with his long and distinguished career as a Canadian journalist : “John Barber chops wood, varnishes boats, and yells at clouds in Lakefield, Ont.”

Still a Ford PC majority government with only 40% of the popular vote?

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Finance Charles Sousa. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press.)

I especially like the Wynne government’s experiment with the Basic Income concept in a changing international economy, where much of the role of government may need re-thinking and re-design. (And note that the Liberal Basic Income pilot program in Ontario has been largely designed by a high-minded Progressive Conservative policy guru from an earlier era.)

I was similarly more impressed myself than many seem to have been by the Wynne government’s  success at ultimately balancing the budget (and certainly containing costs effectively, whatever accountant’s version of the “real” numbers you choose), while still giving key public services in health and education room to accommodate a growing population.

Premier Wynne with current Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Nathalie Des Rosiers at Blackberry QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre in Kanata,Ontario.

I wasn’t personally all that happy with the subsequent sudden Liberal burst of additional deficit-financed service-state spending for this election campaign, though I think I could appreciate its logic. (And its precedents in the 2015 federal Liberal campaign.)

At the moment (Sunday, May 13) what it seems to be doing is pushing Ontario voters towards the rumoured truest believers in deficit-financed service-state spending among Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats – but not (yet?) in large enough numbers to prevent a Doug Ford PC majority government with only 40% of the popular vote (if you believe the latest Forum poll).

“The people of Ontario have never been spoiled by too much perfection in government”

Premier Wynne with current Minister of International Trade Michael Chan at Chinese New Year celebration.

Up to now I’ve entertained and even advocated (well, quietly in bars) the concept that once the official sign campaigns and all that were underway the people of Ontario – who “have never been spoiled by too much perfection in government,” in the words of former PC Premier William G. Davis – will ultimately come to their senses, and endorse the continuing government of the current class-act Premier Kathleen Wynne.

(And the much-touted thirst for change on this scenario could be slaked by changing from the usual knee-jerk concept of “time for a change” to something that makes more practical sense.)

Yet with the first few days of the official writ-dropped campaign now expired – and a fresh wave of opinion polling in sight – the prospects of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are arguably enough looking even bleaker than they looked a week ago.

I have just done some calculations based on jottings of mine on this site for the 2014 Ontario election campaign (that I have been told have lately been attracting a little fresh attention).

L to R : Beef Farmers of Ontario President Bob Gordanier, Premier Kathleen Wynne, and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal. (Compliments BFO.)

In 2014 campaign opinion polls, by May 22 (in 2018 campaign terms) it was beginning to seem that the Wynne Liberals would likely enough win another minority government at least.

That is only nine days from now on May 13. And the current 2018 poll averages are suggesting the Liberals will finish third – while the NDP is second (and official opposition), and the Doug Ford PCs (again) win a majority of seats in the legislature at Queen’s Park. There really isn’t much time left for the Wynne government’s prospects to dramatically improve.

I will nonetheless still be voting for Kathleen Wynne …

The latest ON Pulse survey – from “the research team at Abacus Data, in partnership with our friends at Summa Strategies and Spark Advocacy” – offers a somewhat brighter picture for the Wynne Liberals :

Premier Wynne and Minister of Education Indira Naidoo-Harris with friend.

Among “decided voters, the PCs would get 35% (down 5) with the Liberals and NDP tied for second at 29% … The NDP vote share is up 5 points while the PC vote is down 5 … Regionally, the Liberals lead in Toronto and Eastern Ontario, the Tories have a sizable lead in the GTA while the NDP is ahead in southwestern Ontario.”

The latest ON Pulse survey authors – David Coletto and Ihor Korbabicz – go on : “Horwath is reaping most of the benefits of Ford suppression/fatigue, but Wynne has also benefited.” Even here, however : “Finally, and perhaps most important, we find no shift in the desire for change among the electorate … Unless this desire …  dissipates or becomes less intense, it will be difficult for the Liberals to gain any traction. Efforts to discredit and demonize Doug Ford appear to have so far helped the NDP and have done little to improve Liberal support.”

I will nonetheless still be voting for Kathleen Wynne in the Ontario election this coming Thursday, June 7, 2018. I strongly believe she deserves to be re-elected and as far as my own involvement is concerned, that is still what this election is all about.

Premier Wynne and Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli at his nomination rally in Ottawa West-Nepean, April 7, 2018.

But I do now wearily accept that probably the great majority of those of us who actually turn out on June 7 will either be voting for Andrea Horwath’s NDP – which I don’t finally object to – or, much more sadly in my view, Doug Ford’s imitation of Donald Trump. The imitation has a few local Ontario and/or Canadian variations no doubt. But it still offers the same mindless addiction to feelings over facts, and reckless political and economic ideological rhetoric that has proved profoundly misleading at best for several decades now, over sober debate about what practical solutions to current problems work best.

And then very finally of course, there is always the outside chance that the saviour will rise from the dead. (And I should perhaps acknowledge that – like the anti-saviour Doug Ford himself –  I was born, raised, and still live in what is now called the City of Toronto. But I have and have had relatives and in-laws and have even intermittently lived myself in such other intriguing Ontario places as Buckhorn, Copper Cliff, Grand Bend, Kanata, Kemptville, Kinmount, Mississauga, Mount Forest, St. Catharines, Windsor, Wilberforce, and ancient Ganatsekwyagon.)

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