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onw COLUMNISTS


   An Insider's View:

      Provincial Election, Anyone?

 

By Hershell Ezrin

Within the space of 72 hours last week, Premier Kathleen Wynne warned of the possibility of a fall 2013 election due to parliamentary gridlock caused by the Opposition.

At the same time, an enhanced Liberal election team including heavyweights of past federal and provincial campaigns was announced.

Then, just hours later, the Premier returned to the bromide that working together was what the people wanted and expected and that no election was imminent. 

So Ontario remains back on target for a likely spring 2014 election that might even stretch later into the year.

In the delicate balancing act of the Ontario minority legislature, anything is possible and mistakes leading to elections can happen.

But why the reintroduction of the dreaded “E-word” by the Premier now? Remember that one of the reasons Ms. Wynne gained support at the leadership convention among many Ontario Liberals that nominated her was her unwillingness to go the polls too quickly. 

From my perspective, there are four reasons to that Premier Wynne took such a stance.

1.  The Premier needs a reset on her agenda and flexed her political rhetoric to make a point. It is much easier to do when you have money in the party coffers, candidates being recruited and a few positive opinion polls behind your sails. Better still an Official Opposition leader who continues to face internal dissent and embarrassing political revelations but persists in logjam politics (yet another set of parliamentary votes on ’getting to the bottom of the gas plant scandal’ while awaiting what will be a much more pithy and relevant review by the provincial auditor) needs to be reminded of the weakness of his fundamental situation.

2. Without passage of a few basic bills long considered acceptable by virtually everyone (cell phone consumer protection, tanning bed legislation and a fiscal accountability office for example), it is harder for the Premier to focus her public legislative work agenda on the economy and work related projects which will be the critical showpiece elements of the next campaign.

3. Ms. Horvath continues to show both electoral and legislative results for cooperating with the Wynne government. She has played her cards shrewdly. But the NDP leader faces continuing pressures within her party to pull the plug faster.  A message from the Premier that reminds all the Opposition that they are not the only ones in charge of the election timing serves, ironically, to create more stability. Even with fixed election dates, governments can force their own defeat.

4. And finally, Ms. Wynne wants her own party to be in peak form. Even the hint of an election call usually creates a dynamic response to finalize the remaining candidate searches, get individual riding recruitment and finances in order, and plan, test and evaluate the massive behind-the-scenes effort needed for a province wide campaign.

There remain dangers to using this card very often.

A party that is repeatedly put on election war footing finds it harder to main volunteer motivation and to marshal and maintain the strength to run an election marathon. Key decisions about the timing of investments in market research, in media buys and in message testing and tours can easily become waylaid in the gamesmanship about elections. And, of course, the media at some point may start to make an election ‘feel’ inevitable, regardless of the government’s intent.

Like all good medicine, the threat of an election can be very effective, as long as it is taken with careful supervision and with real forethought. No rash responses or threats needed thank you.



About Hershell Ezrin

Hershell Ezrin has more than 30 years' experience as a political advisor to elected officials at all three levels of government and senior executive roles in both the public and private sectors. He served as Principal Secretary to former Liberal Premier David Peterson and was a member of the federal-provincial relations team within the Privy Council Office under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. He is now the Managing Director of Ezrin Communications. He blogs regularly at www.hershell-ezrin.com
Posted date : September 17, 2013

View all of Hershell Ezrin's columns
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