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           What Does The PC People’s Guarantee Mean 

                      For The 2018 Ontario Election?

 

By Randall White

Late this past summer former Mike Harris cabinet minister John Snobelen advised Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown that he “needs to go blue” in the 2018 provincial election campaign—“as in blue collar.” He went on: “Working people deserve better value from their government.”

The ultimate response to all such advice is apparently the glossy and elegantly assembled Ontario PC policy document called the “People’s Guarantee”—released late in November 2017. 

Some critics have argued (with some justice) that the People’s Guarantee bears a striking resemblance to Justin Trudeau’s 2015 federal Liberal platform. Despite urging a crucial need for change, it also has quite a lot in common with the broad agenda advanced by the Wynne Liberal government in Ontario.

Put another way, with President Trump’s Gallup poll approval rating for the week ending December 3 at 35%, it is reasonable to guess that his ultimate impact may be to shift the national mood leftward, even in the United States. 

Meanwhile, he already seems to be having this impact in Canada (and some parts of Europe).

And all this raises the question of whether “the left” is getting a little too crowded north of the Great Lakes. If everyone is promising more or less the same thing, how can we bemused voters make a rational choice in the 2018 election?

On the other hand, some sides of the Ontario People’s Guarantee do still recall the original of all such right-wing/conservative advocacy in Newt Gingrich’s tax-cutting 10-point Republican congressional platform of 1994, known as the “Contract with America.” 

Patrick Brown’s 2018 People’s Guarantee talks about “Ten Major Initiatives.” And they include a 22% tax cut for the "middle class.” 

The document could be not unfairly described as yet another tax-cutting 10-point conservative plan in the Contract with America tradition.

The reference in the Foreword to the Ontario PC’s promise to “treat you with the respect you deserve, beginning with respect for your hard-earned money” sounds a lot like former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s “respect for taxpayers” mantra as well.   

On yet another hand, we do live in strange times, and rational minds may also wonder: Is anyone really running on the left in Ontario in 2018—including Andrea Horwath’s NDP? 

From this angle, the ultimate ancestor of Patrick Brown’s People’s Guarantee is Colonel George Drew’s original Ontario PC program of 1943 and 1945, the “Twenty-Two Points.”

The old Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in the province—ancestor of today’s New Democrats—came within four seats of forming a government in the 1943 election. 

George Drew’s hastily concocted but very progressive Twenty-Two Points (including a public health care system that would not actually arrive for another quarter of a century) helped the newly christened Ontario Progressive Conservatives win four more seats than the CCF. And this was good enough for a PC minority government. 

(Liberal advertising in the 1943 campaign featured a cartoon of CCF leader Ted Jolliffe in a rowboat, with PC leader George Drew in the water beside him. Drew is asking for the loan of Jolliffe’s boat: “I’ll give it back after the election.”)

The 1943 PC minority was converted to a majority government in the 1945 election. The dynasty Colonel George Drew somewhat ironically established would remain in office for 42 years.

But the former Ontario first minister that Premier Wynne has seemed to admire most is the long-serving Red Tory leader of the old PC dynasty in Ontario, William Grenville Davis, who served as premier from 1971 until 1985.

Part of what some see as the potential strange resilience of the current Wynne Liberal government may even be that its practical governing philosophy has been more progressive conservative than left wing.

It seems fair as well to suggest that Andrea Horwath has in some degree tried to move the Ontario New Democrats closer to the centre. In the end it may be the progressive conservative middle of the road that is getting a little too crowded.

That leaves the question: if everyone is promising the same thing, how can voters make a rational choice in the 2018 election?

One possibility is that the election will become a radically unpredictable personality contest among three or even four charismatically challenged personalities.

Another is that victory will go to the party that manages to most authentically personify whatever key current philosophical mood is most on voters’ minds by the late spring of 2018: left, progressive conservative, or something else again. 

In this scenario too, the most credible outlook at the moment still seems to be that any of the three major contenders could finally win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Randall White

Randall White is a former senior policy advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Finance, and a former economist with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He is the author of Ontario 1610-1985: A Political and Economic History and Ontario Since 1985. He writes frequently about Ontario politics.
Posted date : December 13, 2017

View all of Randall White's columns
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