Why I Was Wrong About Ontario
I was wrong...there...I admit it on the record. It’s not so much that I was wrong in my assessment as I simply over-estimated the faculties and principles of the people of Ontario.
Okay. That’s unfair, but come on, Ontario!
Now is not the time to wallow in decline. Now is the time to join the rest of Canada and move your province forward and you blew it! More precisely, Hudak and his Republican advised team blew it. In my partial defense, let me state three points that we can learn from this debacle.
#1. Campaigns Matter
I wrote my piece in the middle of May. The time was right for a change in government and my piece detailed all the reasons why. It simply made sense. However, we live in the age of the low information voter and many people only make up their minds in the few weeks leading up to the vote. Hudak’s campaign sucked. He came on too strong and scared the “LIV’s” unintentionally.
Never underestimate the power of a campaign. Most people have no idea what is going on until a campaign starts and then they kind of get the gist from that. It’s hard for political junkies like myself to wrap our heads around, but that’s the reality. Democracy is dependent on the whims of the people in society and whims don’t always make the best sense. The more you fancy yourself an expert, the more likely you are to be out-of-touch with popular sentiment. Arm chair political pundits are kind of like chefs, film critics and economists...always surprised by the choices of the masses.
I will avoid longer range guesswork in the future.
#2. Strident Conservatism Doesn’t Sell
Canadians like their comfort, safety and routine. As the average age of the country keeps creeping up, the usual will do just fine. Change is scary and unwanted. We want inspiration and familiar boredom at the same time.
Tim Hudak running around bragging about 1 million new jobs and slashing 100,000 public sector workers, (teachers & cops!!!) was just chaotic sounding. Hudak thought he was too boring and ‘mushy-middle’ in the election of 2011, so he decided (was told) to be strong and bold this time around. It was way, way too much.
Elwin Hermanson, in 2003, in Saskatchewan made the same mistake and lost what should have been the Saskatchewan Party’s debut into government. Danielle Smith presented ambitious principled conservatism in Alberta in 2012, but handed Alison Redford a massive majority. Stephen Harper came on strong in 2004 against Paul Martin and his corrupt Liberal Party and lost badly.
Solutions? Elwin Hermanson stepped down as leader and was replaced by a charismatic Brad Wall. Gone was the talk of boot camps for young offenders and firesales for crown corporations. Instead they drafted a friendly new platform full of easy to sell ideas with lot’s of inspiring rhetoric on the side.
Danielle Smith totally rearranged the Wildrose policies and basically implemented everything that was recommended to them right here on Poletical. It remains to be seen if this works or not, but they are currently at about 40% in the polls. Almost double that of the governing party.
Stephen Harper? He took off his tie, softened his image and presented an easy to understand platform centred around a GST cut and tax credits for having kids.
Canadians want their conservatives to be friendly and trustworthy. They don’t want to be scared shitless with doom and gloom.
The backlash at the polls was a bit of a déjà vu moment for Chris Cochrane, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto Scarborough. "It's exactly the same message as we saw happen with the Reform Party failure, then the Canadian Alliance failure, which is you don't win with a radical conservative agenda in Canada," Cochrane said, noting that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "great achievement" was his ability to rebrand the federal Conservative party as one committed to "incremental, rather than radical change." - post election CBC article.
#3. There is Much Opportunity in the Fail
Let’s say Hudak did win on June 12th and then spent the next two years implementing an austerity agenda on a province that loves comfort and security. What would the reaction have been as the months went by?
The reaction would have been Hudak-hate on a scale that would make Mike Harris blush. The low information voters would unconsciously associate the tough choices of austerity with evil conservatism. This is exactly what happened with Mike Harris. Ontario had to elect Mike Harris to implement the hard policies needed to clean up Bob Rae’s NDP mess in the 90’s and as the years went by, they associated the cuts and the lay-offs and the pain in general, not with cleaning up Bob Rae’s mess, but with Mike Harris himself.
Now that Wynne is in charge for 4 years, she’s going to have to face austerity anyway, just like every province in the 1990’s. Credit downgrades, absurd leftist policy, and entrenched hubris? We’re looking at a toxic recipe for massive decline. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.
Good luck Ontario!