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Monday, May 5, 2014

Ghosts of elections past: McGuinty, Harris and Rae

In the 41-day campaign that will culminate with a June 12 Ontario general election, look for three names to feature prominently: McGuinty, Harris and Rae.

The New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives will try their best to tie Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne to her former boss Dalton McGuinty and his scandal-ridden administration.

The Liberals and the NDP will link PC leader Tim Hudak to his former boss Mike Harris and his Quiet Revolution. And the Grits and the Tories will try to frighten voters with the prospect that an Andrea Horwath-led administration at Queen’s Park will be like the one headed by former NDP premier Bob Rae when he almost bankrupted the province.

None of the three former premiers will be personally active in the current campaign, of course, but their political “ghosts” certainly will. Curious is it not that these three former premiers representing the three main parties were elected with a majority of seats—two received a second majority and one received a third—yet none of their successors will embrace their records.

At the end of McGuinty’s three majorities he resigned in disgrace. And, since her election as Liberal party leader, Wynne has expended much energy attempting to distance herself from the three Dalton McGuinty governments in which she served. To be more accurate, she distances herself from McGuinty himself and from the scandals and mismanagement that plagued his governments; however, she seems happy enough to take credit for things he’s seen as having done well—in education, for example. Yes, she wants to have it both ways.

Mike Harris has been so demonized by the labour union movement and pro-Liberal/NDP Toronto media that even Tim Hudak, who served in Harris’s cabinet, seems reluctant to embrace the PC record of the time.

Harris brought prosperity to the province even as the flat-broke federal Liberal government slashed transfer payments for healthcare to help balance its budgets. Moreover, Harris was so successful in his first term, he was rewarded with a second majority. But, unfortunately, the power of the media has tarnished his image and denied him his proper place in Ontario history.

Andrea Horwath, of course, has to bear the burden of Bob Rae’s premiership in the early 1990s. Voters remember Rae Days, the NDP’s Social Contract austerity legislation and record budget deficits and worry that a Horwath NDP government will see a return to those hard times for average families.

Kathleen Wynne and her Grit team will have the bumpiest time with her ghost of elections past, I think, for memory of McGuinty’s mess is still fresh in most voters’ minds. There is, for example, a criminal investigation ongoing which involves the former premier’s office. Moreover, Wynne herself was tightly tied to McGuinty as a senior member of his cabinet and co-chair of his last election campaign team. Doesn’t get much closer than that.

Wynne enjoyed the gains she benefited from as a senior member of McGuinty’s government, now she must endure the pains that association is sure to cause.

4 comments — This is a moderated blog and comments will appear when approved. Please don’t resubmit if your comment doesn’t appear immediately, and please do not post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable.

  1. Cool post Russ! Very balanced and accurate IMO.

    I think Wynne is the biggest loser of the three candidates. Both Hudak and Horwath could be big winners. It all depends on their campaigns. Hudak needs to relax but be forceful at the same time..and consistent in his messaging but NOT too stiff as to come off robotic. He's much better off the cuff than reciting talking points IMO. Horwath, unfortunately has some kind of momentum of popularity building that scares me ONLY because if she manages to steer the NDP toward the centre she'll be a force to contend with.



    Chris

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  2. Hudak should embrace the legacy of Mike Harris and contrast to both Rae and Mcguinty. He brought prosperity to the province after the destruction of Rae. McGuinty brought higher taxes and debt turning Ontario into a " have not " province.

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    1. Exactly right Anonymous. It doesn't look like Hudak had a very good start to his campaign yesterday. Seemed unprepared for the pile-on of media - which perhaps he and his team should have expected and prepared for. Hudak did much better when he was on Byline last night. More relaxed and personable off the script.

      Chris

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  3. I hate to drop this bomb on you but I was a financial conservative supporter when mike harris was in office. the conservatives over their tenure did not reduce the size or cost of government. I wrote several letters to mr harris and was dismissed as being less than a supporter. when I asked what was being done the welfare cuts were shoved in my face even though those cits did not reduce the cost or size of government. Canadians want and embrace big government even if it takes the last dime they have.

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