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.