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Liberal Majority: Ontarians Vote For Greater Role For Government, Reject Hard Right Vision
By Susanna Kelley
Kathleen Wynne became Ontario's first elected female Premier as her Liberal party cruised to a majority government victory Thursday night in a sweep that caused Tim Hudak to announce he is stepping down as leader of the Progressive Conservatives and left the fate of NDP leader Andrea Horwath uncertain.
The Liberals won 59 of Ontario's 107 ridings, an increase of 11 seats.  The Progressive Conservatives were reduced to 27 and the NDP gained one seat to end the night at 22, unofficial results showed. 
"You voted for jobs, you voted for growth," said Ms. Wynne in her victory speech. "You voted to build Ontario up."
Ms. Wynne vowed to fulfill her campaign promise of re-introducing her May budget again within 20 days of the Legislature being recalled. It was the NDP's refusal to support that budget that forced the election.
The Liberals came on particularly strong in the vote-rich City of Toronto and the surrounding region known as the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA.)
The PCs lost 10 seats as voters rejected their hard right "Million Jobs Plan." 
However, Mr. Hudak said no one should see the results as a vote for the status quo and he is proud of the clear vision of hope he put before the people of Ontario.
Andrea Horwath's New Democrats may have gained one seat, but lost veteran Toronto MPPs Rosario Marchese and Michael Prue, as well as first-term member Jonah Schein.
Some New Democrats believe the three ended up sacrificial lambs to Horwath's singular focus on protecting seats snatched from the Tories in the 2011 election and by elections since.    
It was a hard-fought campaign with not two but three clear choices.
In an unusual alignment of the parties, Ms. Wynne's Liberals ran on the left.  Mr. Hudak took his party hard right this election while Andrea Horwath's New Democrats played to centre-right voters.  
Each of their campaigns was based on very clear and different political philosophies and visions of what kind of a society Ontario should be.
Ms. Wynne's platform was based on the budget she presented in May and which Ms. Horwath refused to support, sparking the election. 
The Liberal leader's offering spoke to a philosophy that she articulated in one of the Liberals' early campaign commercials: that government should be a major player in Ontario society and in her words, "a force for good."
  
It's a vision articulated and developed by the World War II generation, whose members had experienced The Great Depression and then five years of war. Many came back saying they never wanted to go through deprivation again, so developed social programs such as unemployment insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, publicly funded health care as well as a huge expansion of a universally free education system paid for by a progressive income and corporate tax systems.    
Ms. Wynne has inherited and is a standard-bearer of this vision for Ontario. Hence her platform featured a made-in-Ontario pension plan; $129 billion in infrastructure spending to create jobs, build public transit, help businesses move their goods and open up Northern Ontario, including the Ring of Fire.
On the other side of the spectrum was Mr. Hudak's vision for Ontario.  It's a vision articulated in the 1980s by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. 
The shorthand is "smaller government," but it is deeper than that. It is grounded in the idea that people benefit most when given the greatest amount of freedom, and that governments must be small and have limited power or they will rein in those freedoms. It is a neo-liberal or libertarian view that people prosper with fewer regulations and a laissez faire capitalist economy. 
It is also a view that takes pride in self-sufficiency, and hence, advocates that social programs should only be provided in the direst of circumstances.  Indeed, if available too freely they are seen as unhealthy because they promote dependence on government, which in fact, means other citizens. 
This encourages the antithesis of the self-sufficiency that neo-liberals prize highly.
Hence, it made sense for Mr. Hudak to run on a platform to cut spending by $12.5 billion dollars in the next two years, lay off 100,000 public servants, cut corporate income taxes by 30% and income taxes by 10%. These moves, he said, would have the added benefit of leaving money in people's pockets, thus creating more demand for goods and services, and therefore, create jobs as well. 
He called this package his "Million Jobs Plan."
While Ms. Horwath has been accused of not offering any vision at all, in fact she offered a third one.
It was one of government that gets involved in people's lives but only in very pragmatic, practical, everyday ways.  
No deep talk about the role of government from this NDP leader.  Government is there to help make people's lives easier in small, but meaningful, pocketbook ways.  
Ms. Horwath, like Mr. Hudak, also promised to clean up the corruption and cronyism that had set in under Mr. McGuinty and Ms. Wynne. 
If Ms. Horwath sees a bigger role for government, as is the tradition view of the NDP, she did not articulate it in this campaign.
Hence her platform consisted of lowering auto insurance premiums by 15%, modest grants to businesses for each job they create (rather than massive grants to targeted industries and companies), taking the HST off the provincial portion of residential hydro bills and other pocketbook items.
Her campaign was criticized for a signature policy, such as Ms. Wynne's pension plan and Mr. Hudak's "Million Jobs Plan." 
But when Ms. Horwath's anti-corruption talk veered into "cut the waste in government" territory, she was perceived to have moved not only centre but into the right, to some activists on the left - the so-called Gang of 34 - and two well-known New Democrats Gerry Caplan and Michelle Landsberg. They threatened publicly to desert the party this time.
While Mr. Hudak is resigning, Ms. Horwath's future is more uncertain.  
Still, the fact that 80 of the Legislature's 107 seats were won by two left of centre parties shows that Ontario's experiment with Mike Harris' Reagan/Thatcherite political values in 1995 was an aberration for this province.
Long made up of Pierre Trudeau Liberals and red Tories, their rejection for the third time in 10 years of Mr. Harris' Common Sense Revolution (2003, 2011 and 2014), this time dressed up as Mr. Hudak's "Million Jobs Plan," is now complete.
Ontario's PC party, as well as the New Democrats, need to take time for a long period of reflection about where they go from here.  

ANALYSIS: 

 

       Liberal Majority: Ontarians Vote For Greater Role For Government,                                                           Reject Hard Right Vision

 

By Susanna Kelley

Kathleen Wynne became Ontario's first elected female Premier as her Liberal party cruised to a majority government victory Thursday night in a sweep that caused Tim Hudak to announce he is stepping down as leader of the Progressive Conservatives and left the fate of NDP leader Andrea Horwath uncertain.

The Liberals won 59 of Ontario's 107 ridings, an increase of 11 seats.  The Progressive Conservatives were reduced to 27 and the NDP ended the night at 21, unofficial results showed.

"You voted for jobs, you voted for growth," said Ms. Wynne in her victory speech. "You voted to build Ontario up."

Ms. Wynne vowed to fulfill her campaign promise of re-introducing her May budget again within 20 days of the Legislature being recalled. It was the NDP's refusal to support that budget that forced the election.

The Liberals came on particularly strong in the vote-rich City of Toronto and the surrounding region known as the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA.)

The PCs lost 10 seats as voters rejected their hard right "Million Jobs Plan."

However, Mr. Hudak said no one should see the results as a vote for the status quo and he is proud of the clear vision of hope he put before the people of Ontario.

Andrea Horwath's New Democrats lost veteran Toronto MPPs Rosario Marchese and Michael Prue, as well as first-term member Jonah Schein.

Some New Democrats believe the three ended up sacrificial lambs to Horwath's singular focus on protecting seats snatched from the Tories in the 2011 election and by elections since.    

It was a hard-fought campaign with not two but three clear choices.

In an unusual alignment of the parties, Ms. Wynne's Liberals ran on the left.  Mr. Hudak took his party hard right this election while Andrea Horwath's New Democrats played to centre-right voters. 

Each of their campaigns was based on very clear and different political philosophies and visions of what kind of a society Ontario should be.

Ms. Wynne's platform was based on the budget she presented in May and which Ms. Horwath refused to support, sparking the election.

The Liberal leader's offering spoke to a philosophy that she articulated in one of the Liberals' early campaign commercials: that government should be a major player in Ontario society and in her words, "a force for good."

It's a vision articulated and developed by the World War II generation, whose members had experienced The Great Depression and then five years of war. Many came back saying they never wanted to go through deprivation again, so developed social programs such as unemployment insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, publicly funded health care as well as a huge expansion of a universally free education system paid for by a progressive income and corporate tax systems.    

Ms. Wynne has inherited and is a standard-bearer of this vision for Ontario. Hence her platform featured a made-in-Ontario pension plan; $129 billion in infrastructure spending to create jobs, build public transit, help businesses move their goods and open up Northern Ontario, including the Ring of Fire.

On the other side of the spectrum was Mr. Hudak's vision for Ontario.  It's a vision articulated in the 1980s by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The shorthand is "smaller government," but it is deeper than that. It is grounded in the idea that people benefit most when given the greatest amount of freedom, and that governments must be small and have limited power or they will rein in those freedoms. It is a neo-liberal or libertarian view that people prosper with fewer regulations and a laissez faire capitalist economy.

It is also a view that takes pride in self-sufficiency, and hence, advocates that social programs should only be provided in the direst of circumstances.  Indeed, if available too freely they are seen as unhealthy because they promote dependence on government, which in fact, means other citizens.

This encourages the antithesis of the self-sufficiency that neo-liberals prize highly.

Hence, it made sense for Mr. Hudak to run on a platform to cut spending by $12.5 billion dollars in the next two years, lay off 100,000 public servants, cut corporate income taxes by 30% and income taxes by 10%. These moves, he said, would have the added benefit of leaving money in people's pockets, thus creating more demand for goods and services, and therefore, create jobs as well.

He called this package his "Million Jobs Plan."

While Ms. Horwath has been accused of not offering any vision at all, in fact she offered a third one.

It was one of government that gets involved in people's lives but only in very pragmatic, practical, everyday ways. 

No deep talk about the role of government from this NDP leader.  Government is there to help make people's lives easier in small, but meaningful, pocketbook ways. 

Ms. Horwath, like Mr. Hudak, also promised to clean up the corruption and cronyism that had set in under Mr. McGuinty and Ms. Wynne.

If Ms. Horwath sees a bigger role for government, as is the tradition view of the NDP, she did not articulate it in this campaign.

Hence her platform consisted of lowering auto insurance premiums by 15%, modest grants to businesses for each job they create (rather than massive grants to targeted industries and companies), taking the HST off the provincial portion of residential hydro bills and other pocketbook items.

Her campaign was criticized for a signature policy, such as Ms. Wynne's pension plan and Mr. Hudak's "Million Jobs Plan."

But when Ms. Horwath's anti-corruption talk veered into "cut the waste in government" territory, she was perceived to have moved not only centre but into the right, to some activists on the left - the so-called Gang of 34 - and two well-known New Democrats Gerry Caplan and Michelle Landsberg. They threatened publicly to desert the party this time.

While Mr. Hudak is resigning, Ms. Horwath's future is more uncertain. 

Still, the fact that 80 of the Legislature's 107 seats were won by two left of centre parties shows that Ontario's experiment with Mike Harris' Reagan/Thatcherite political agenda in 1995 was an aberration for this province.

Long made up of Pierre Trudeau Liberals and Red Tories, their rejection for the third time in 10 years of Mr. Harris' Common Sense Revolution (2003, 2011 and 2014), this time dressed up as Mr. Hudak's "Million Jobs Plan," is now unequivocal.

Ontario's PC party, as well as the New Democrats, need to take time for a long period of reflection about where they go from here. 

 

 

 

About Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley is Editor-in-Chief and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for Ontario News Watch. A veteran political and investigative reporter, documentary-maker, host and media commentator, Susanna oversees and has final editorial control over all news production at Ontario News Watch. Susanna has reported for the CBC, the Canadian Press and served as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for TVOntario for 13 years. She has also hosted a number of documentaries for CBC’s The Current, CBC Radio News and TVOntario’s Studio 2. Passionately dedicated to excellence in political journalism, and having covered both Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, Susanna believes quality political reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley
Posted date : June 19, 2014

View all of Susanna Kelley's columns
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