Monday, June 16, 2014

We get the government voters choose, let’s make the most of it

This is the first full week under the new Kathleen Wynne Liberal majority and the sun is still coming up on a pretty regular schedule. You’ve got to be thankful for that.

The Liberals won and won big. There really isn’t anything I can point to to ease the pain of the Tory defeat or stem the flush of Grit victory.

Except, perhaps, for this.

The Tories cannot deny that, with over 68 percent of voters repudiating their message, theirs was a thorough drubbing at the polls. At the same time, though, with over 61 per cent of voters rejecting the Liberals, they should not assume too much about voter support and the mandate they received. Popular support for the Liberals increased by a modest 1.1 per cent (from 37.6% to 38.7%) from 2011, hardly a resounding show of support for their record.

There’s no doubt, however, that the Grit campaign team made the best of their 1.1 per cent increase in popular support, converting it into six additional seats in the Legislature (59 seats vs. the 53 they won in 2011). In all, the Grits picked up 11 more seats than the 48 they held at the start of the provincial campaign last month.

It’s impressive really that the Liberals were able to win such a strong majority with just 38.7 per cent of the vote—this was an extraordinarily efficient result.

Here in the Burlington riding, Jane McKenna, the PC candidate got about 250 more votes than in 2011, yet lost by a significant margin to the Liberal candidate Eleanor McMahon. Another testament to the Liberal get-out-the-vote efforts. So no joy on the home front either for us Tories.

Personally, I wish Premier Kathleen Wynne’s caucus the best of luck. The better they run the province, they better off we’ll all be.

New MPP Eleanor McMahon will be hard-pressed, though, to fill the shoes of Jane McKenna. Contrary to some of the criticism of McKenna I’ve seen on social media lately, she was a hard worker for the residents of Burlington and can leave office with her head held high.

McMahon has a decent résumé, but did not sparkle during her campaign—she seemed too easily flustered. I hope that I’m wrong for it’ll be a very long four years at Queen’s Park for her if I’m right.

I was also unimpressed with McMahon’s campaign tactic of pretending to earn the endorsement of our local newspaper, Burlington Post, by buying a fake front page of the newspaper to trick voters into believing the Liberals were getting positive local press.

In the end, though, McMahon won handily. Voters chose her and voters are always right. I mean that. So McMahon deserves the chance to prove herself. It does me no good whatsoever if she turns out to be a dud. I wish her well.

Once again, negative ads by union-backed third-parties took their toll on Tim Hudak’s campaign. According to one source, his campaign was outspent 5 to 1 on ads by a combination of Liberals, NDP and the above mentioned third parties. Unions are not going to spend millions on attacks against Hudak if they don’t think the attack ads work—obviously they do.

The PCs, though, hurt themselves by handing their adversaries targets at which to shoot.

The million jobs plan was a failure because most voters were never convinced the math worked.

As to the 100,000 cuts in the broader public service? A reasonable policy poorly presented and sold to voters. The campaign message should have stressed the benefits of the reduced government size and should have had a ready explanation of how small at 1% the cuts were when 5% left the public service each year through attrition alone. Also, most would have retired with handsome pensions or had jobs with outsourcing services and not ended up on welfare like some Grits claimed. Put the benefits in the foreground and deemphasize or explain away the costs.

But all that’s just so much water under the bridge. We’ve got to move on now and chose another leader so we can try again in 2019.

Just a brief word about leadership before we close.

There is this thing called, “authenticity,” whereby a politician seems to say what he believes and believes what he says. In some cases it’s accompanied by a warmth a politician shows towards others. In other cases you see it when a politician speaks from the heart and not from notes. Or when he speaks as he would in a conversation and not in an overly rehearsed way.

Whatever authenticity is, Hudak did not seem to have it. He was much improved over the 2011 campaign, but still seemed to be trying to be someone he wasn’t.

Hudak clung to his million job message like it was a life-raft in shark-infested waters. The answer to every question does not have to end with a repeat of the same message. Why? Because it doesn’t sound authentic. Watch Question Period in Ottawa to see just how phoney this tactic comes across.

On the night of his defeat Hudak stood on the stage with his wife and they laughed and chatted to each other like they had not a care in the world. How phoney was that? It was perhaps the biggest setback of his life and he was smiling as though he had won a great victory. Why pretend? Why not be authentic at that moment and show some of how he was feeling? Good grief!


  1. I didn't see much difference in the Liberal and NDP platforms. So if you look at those who voted both Liberal and NDP I'd say there's a clear mandate from a clear majority on the direction they want the Ontario headed.

    Sometimes I wonder if the unauthentic smiles we see are, in fact, truly authentic. With that said, Hudak's smile during his concession speech looked TOTALLY unauthentic ... and unlikeable.

  2. Elections Ontario made a "mistake" in Thornhill, and a Conservative won over the announced winner, a Liberal. The count is now 58 for the Liberals with 28 for the Conservatives. Yeah, try and win an election with 21 unions, cops, you name it, campaigning against you.

  3. why don't you correct your article...Liberals are now at 58 seats,,,not 59 and Conservatives are at 28!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Anon 4:13, I don't think the one seat from Thornhill changes the thrust of my opinion article, but thanks for your rather testy comment--so many explanation points to make a simple point. Note, final results won’t be published until June 18 and Thornhill will probably have a judicial recount with only 85 votes as the winning margin.

  4. there are no conservatives left in Canada.

  5. What an election. There ain't no way to spin it: the Tories got shellacked, and almost nobody saw it coming (though "nobody saw it coming" has almost become a cliche in Canadian provincial elections)

    PCs can't blame strategic voting for their loss, because the NDP and Greens both got a higher share of the vote than in 2011. Moreover, the NDP lost support and seats in Toronto, where the PC party is weak, and gained them back in the southwest, a region where the Tories are much stronger. The way that the NDP vote shifted from region to region was the exact opposite of what you would have seen if people were strategically voting.

    (A more likely explanation is that the NDP arguably ran to the right of the Liberals this election, which alienated their Toronto base but sold well in the southwest)

    Conservatives can't blame stubbornly socialist Toronto and the fickle GTA suburbs either, because they lost votes pretty much uniformly across the province; It's just that the GTA was where that across-the-board 4% drop made the difference between keeping and losing seats. My parents live in Lisa MacLeod's riding; MacLeod got a mere 46.6% of the vote this time, in a suburban-rural Ottawa Valley riding where the Tories had until now never dropped below 50% since the riding was created.