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THE SALON

The Salon is ONW's weekly gathering place where three of Canada's brightest and most respected political strategists - Rick Anderson, Anne McGrath and Richard Mahoney - come together to analyze national issues affecting Ontario.


Anne McGrath

The new Ontario Premier will have to hit the ground running, realize that she can't please everyone, and decide if she want to keep the legislature going or have an early election. She has some goodwill right now but she won't be able to maintain it and she will fail if she doesn't decide quickly what approach to take with the Opposition parties and how long she wants to wait until an election.

 

Rick Anderson

The new Premier-designate only gets to decide half of that, she can ask the LG to dissolve the Legislature and call an election (violation of the law) or she can see if she can make the Legislature work. I think she needs to try the latter.

 

Richard Mahoney

Kathleen Wynne made it clear that she does not want an election and that she thinks the people of Ontario don't want an election. You are right that she has to hit the ground running, Anne, with a Speech from the Throne, to be followed by a Budget. A new Cabinet, a new direction to the government, and, to be frank, a new way of engaging the Opposition parties (who have already attacked her before she starts!). But she started off well by setting the tone, and has already talked to both Opposition leaders, a promising start, I would say.

 

Anne McGrath

And she will need to decide what her approach to the federal government will be. Ontario's influence has not been what it once was but there are some strong economic opportunities, particularly in resource development and there will be addition federal seats in the next parliament. Ontario will be a key battleground shaping the next parliament and can therefore be quite influential leading up to that.

 

Rick Anderson

I think she has her hands full. Ontario's fiscal situation is woeful; the cuts that need to be made will be tough (see: teachers). Speaking of teachers, their unions have their expectations up, and their blackmail ready. The two opposition parties will be nice, but they don't mean it. And some of Ontario's best economic opportunities require sorting out the same difficult aboriginal issues as in BC.

 

Richard Mahoney

I think we have already seen some signs as to how she will deal with the federal government. One of her top priorities is public transit - the GTA is in gridlock much of the time and people face huge commute times. She will want to convince the feds to financially support her plan to deal with that - that will cost billions over the years, but will cost the economy more if we don't do it. And you are both right, on the natural resources/aboriginal file, Ontario will need much more action and leadership from the feds, and Ontario will have to lead there too.  All while continuing to make progress on debt and deficit. Sounds like a walk in the park, don't you think?

 

Anne McGrath

All this in the face of a caucus that mostly didn't support her and Opposition parties who are doing very well at the moment. That's why she has to decide quickly what her end game is - an early election or some common ground with one of the Opposition parties. I hope she will work with Andrea Horwath to keep the legislature going and get some concrete, practical achievements in the next few months. I think it's possible. 

 

RickAnderson

I think if I was her, I would not count on the Opposition parties, either of them, to achieve "concrete, practical achievements." Basic conflicts of interest. What she probably needs to do is chart her own path - decide what that is, left, right, middle -and do what she thinks is right/will appeal to voters (ahem, not quite identical), and take her chances. Tough on public expenditures or soft on unions? Fixing the energy policy mess or running away from it? I think there's way too much calling upon a non-existent federal tooth fairy to come and sprinkle magic money all over the place... that's not going to happen, and it's not a plan. 

 

RichardMahoney:

First of all, it's nonsense to suggest that the caucus does not support her. That sounds like spin. Kathleen Wynne's two opponents have decisions to make too. Most of their potential supporters don't want another election (Ontario had one last year) and yet their first moves are both to attack. If the new Premier consults, puts reasonable ideas forward on priorities that have broad public support, most folks will think she and her new government should be given a chance to get things done.

 

Anne McGrath

Much is also being made of the fact that we now have another woman Premier and I for one am quite pleased with the rapid increase in women's political leadership in the country. However, I want to see what the impact will be. When Premier Wynne takes her seat around the table at the next Council of the Federation meeting with the other provincial Premiers, will we finally begin to see some genuine commitment to women's equality issues? Even the banks are beginning to talk about the need for childcare, not only as an equality issue but as an economic growth issue. There is a real opportunity now. 


Rick Anderson

I think Richard's right: "If the new Premier consults, puts reasonable ideas forward on priorities that have broad public support, most folks will think she, and her new government should be given a chance to get things done." Yes, so what defines "broad public support" right now? More important, what does Wynne think that means? More public spending, or less? More deficits, or shrinking deficits? Not much of this got discussed during the love-in/leadership campaign. So where is the OLP version 2013? 


Richard Mahoney

I agree on childcare, Anne. What a shame the NDP helped kill the only national childcare program the country has ever had! (You did set yourself up for that one!) On the issue of "magic money," Rick, it is the people of Ontario's money. And our cities, the economic engines of our economy, have not had the investment they need on transit. So we need to make them. That's why the federal government will need to be at the funding table, too. All parties, and governments will have to be courageous and do what organizations like the Toronto Board of Trade, Civic Action and others are talking about: support some kind of dedicated funding source to get this done. I know that is rare, but that is what is needed in the current fiscal environment.

 

Anne McGrath

I could debate Richard forever on the childcare issue - 13 years of back to back majorities followed by a death bed conversion in the dying days of a government with a self-imposed deadline that put an end to their big promises, etc. but what matters now is whether the promise of women's leadership amongst the provinces will translate into something for the women of Canada who are struggling to meet the needs of their families. Kathleen Wynne appears to me to be smart, competent and progressive. She also has the fresh glow of her victory. This is the best moment for her to make her mark. She has to make some key strategic decisions about her dance partners or whether she will fly solo and therefore into an election. I hope she will decide to work with the NDP and get some concrete gains during a period of economic uncertainty.

 

Rick Anderson

Yes, this is the time for Wynne to make some smart, strategic decisions. And deciding to throw her lot in with NDP cooperation would be one such choice. But one that would likely make Tim Hudak happy, and eventually, premier.

 

Richard Mahoney

Anne is right - on Kathleen Wynne's attributes, and on the challenge in front of her. There is some evidence too, that the NDP and their leader may prefer to work on finding some common ground. Let's hope so. However, on issues like transit, the Ring of Fire/resource development/aboriginal issues, there is an opportunity as well for agreement with both opposition parties. It looks to me like Mr. Hudak is not interested in moving issues forward - attack ads before she is sworn in suggest that he is only interested in pursuing his own agenda of an election at all costs, and is likely a political mistake on his part. But, in matters like this, maybe, hopefully,I will be proven wrong! 


You can follow The Salon's strategists on Twitter:

Rick Anderson: @RickAnderson

Anne McGrath: @OttawaAnne

Richard Mahoney: @RicMahoney

About The Salon (Anderson, Mcgrath, Mahoney)

Rick Anderson is former senior advisor to Reform Party Opposition leader Preston Manning; Anne McGrath was Chief of Staff to the late NDP leader Jack Layton; and Richard Mahoney, former Liberal advisor to Rt. Hon. Paul Martin.
Posted date : January 30, 2013

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