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he Wynne Government And The Looming Federal Election
 By Randall White
William G. Davis once wisely observed that the “people of Ontario have never been spoiled by too much perfection in government.”
Kathleen Wynne seems to have learned a few things from the former Progressive Conservative Premier.  
She has good reasons for reminding all who will listen about his iconic local wisdom.
For Premier Wynne’s new majority government has some difficult challenges to confront and somehow deal with effectively. And as the adventure gets seriously underway, perfection is bound to be in short supply. 
The narrower problem for Ms. Wynne - the challenge here at home in Ontario itself - is that keeping faith with both the progressive service state and prudent principles of financial management is not easy, especially with the kind of still-sluggish regional economy we have right now.  
At the broader, national level, the recent annual premier’s meeting in Charlottetown (aka The Council of the Federation) also drew attention to Ontario’s changing role in the Canadian confederation.  
It is easy to agree that Ontario’s role in Confederation ought to be changing somewhat, because the nature of the Confederation itself is changing. 
But there still does not seem to be much agreement on just what that role might be - one that would be more suited to the present and future than that of the past.
At the same time, it is one of Premier Wynne’s attractions that she apparently sees the need for some change on this front. And she is open to fresh thinking, as her willingness to discuss Senate reform a while back suggested.
At the end of Kathleen Wynne’s time in office, whenever that may come — or even just at the end of the four years immediately ahead — we may have a better sense of Ontario’s changing role in Confederation than we do now.
Meanwhile, an important part of Ontario’s current role in Canada at large involves its relationship with the Harper government in Ottawa.
But as the premier explained in an interview with the Toronto Star after the final Council of the Federation meeting, Ms. Wynne has not spoken with Prime Minister Harper since the election of her new majority government on June 12. 
“It is disappointing to me,” she said, “that that has not been a closer relationship. It’s a huge missed opportunity and I don’t think it’s good for the country ..."
"Here’s the thing. No matter who’s the prime minister of Canada or who the premier of Ontario is, there should be a good working relationship. We’re the biggest province in the country.”
It is likely, of course, that the increasing warmth of Premier Wynne’s relationship with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has not helped in developing a better relationship with Stephen Harper's governing party. And with a 2015 Canadian federal election increasingly in the air, this suspicion is likely to grow stronger over the months ahead. 
Similarly, once Ontarians have elected approximately 2800 council members and 700 school trustees across the province on municipal Election Day, October 27, the coming 2015 federal election will become the crucial focus of political life in Canada’s most populous province.  Some still hold to the tradition of putting Canada first in this province.   
This may only make it harder for Ms. Wynne to focus on the difficult challenges on Ontario’s home front (the aforementioned desire to keep faith with both the progressive service state and prudent principles of financial management.) 
But it could also ease the way.
For, If most Ontario mass and other media are concentrating on the 2015 federal election, that may provide political cover for Ms. Wynne's government to risk the kind of trouble (or excessive "lack of perfection") that it will probably have to reckon with, if it’s going to come close to what many Ontarians thought they voted for this past June 12.  
Ontario itself will be an important battleground in the 2015 Canadian federal election. 
The Harper Conservatives won 73 of 106 Ontario seats in their annus mirabilis of 2011 (in which they won 69% of the seats with less than 45% of the popular vote). Ontario MPs account for some 44% of all Conservative seats in the House of Commons. 
Put another way, Stephen Harper 
won a majority government in 2011 because his Conservative Party of Canada finally did well in Ontario.  
Can he do it again, or at least enough of it to matter? 
What kind of role will Premier Wynne play in the federal campaign? Or not? 
And what about the influence of the state of the regional economy? 
All interesting things to ponder, as the autumn leaves start to fall.
 
 

                 
                 The Wynne Government And The Looming 2015 Federal Election

 

    By Randall White


William G. Davis once wisely observed that the “people of Ontario have never been spoiled by too much perfection in government.”

Kathleen Wynne seems to have learned a few things from the former Progressive Conservative Premier.  

She has good reasons for reminding all who will listen about his iconic local wisdom.

For Premier Wynne’s new majority government has some difficult challenges to confront and somehow deal with effectively. And as the adventure gets seriously underway, perfection is bound to be in short supply. 

The narrower problem for Ms. Wynne - the challenge here at home in Ontario itself - is that keeping faith with both the progressive service state and prudent principles of financial management is not easy, especially with the kind of still-sluggish regional economy we have right now.  

At the broader, national level, the recent annual premier’s meeting in Charlottetown (aka The Council of the Federation) also drew attention to Ontario’s changing role in the Canadian confederation.  

It is easy to agree that Ontario’s role in Confederation ought to be changing somewhat, because the nature of the Confederation itself is changing.

But there still does not seem to be much agreement on just what that role might be - one that would be more suited to the present and future than that of the past.

At the same time, it is one of Premier Wynne’s attractions that she apparently already sees the need for some change on this front. And she is open to fresh thinking, as her willingness to discuss Senate reform a while back suggested.

At the end of Kathleen Wynne’s time in office, whenever that may come - or even just at the end of the four years immediately ahead - we may have a better sense of Ontario’s changing role in Confederation than we do now.

Meanwhile, an important part of Ontario’s current role in Canada at large involves its relationship with the Harper government in Ottawa.

But as the premier explained in an interview with the Toronto Star after the final Council of the Federation meeting, Ms. Wynne has not spoken with Prime Minister Harper since the election of her new majority government on June 12.

“It is disappointing to me,” she said, “that that has not been a closer relationship. It’s a huge missed opportunity and I don’t think it’s good for the country ..."

"Here’s the thing. No matter who’s the prime minister of Canada or who the premier of Ontario is, there should be a good working relationship. We’re the biggest province in the country.”

It is likely, of course, that the increasing warmth of Premier Wynne’s relationship with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has not helped in developing a better relationship with Stephen Harper's governing party. And with a 2015 Canadian federal election increasingly in the air, this suspicion is likely to grow stronger over the months ahead. 

Similarly, once Ontarians have elected approximately 2800 council members and 700 school trustees across the province on municipal Election Day, October 27, the coming 2015 federal election will become the crucial focus of political life in Canada’s most populous province.  Some still hold to the tradition of putting Canada first in this province.   

This may only make it harder for Ms. Wynne to focus on the difficult challenges on Ontario’s home front (the aforementioned desire to both keep funding of social services at a healthy level while keeping a rein on spending.)

But it could also ease the way.

For, if most Ontario mass and other media are concentrating on the 2015 federal election, that may provide political cover for Ms. Wynne's government to risk the kind of trouble (or excessive "lack of perfection") that it will probably have to reckon with, if it’s going to come close to what many Ontarians thought they voted for this past June 12.  

Ontario itself will be an important battleground in the 2015 Canadian federal election.

The Harper Conservatives won 73 of 106 Ontario seats in their annus mirabilis of 2011 (in which they won 69% of the seats with less than 45% of the popular vote). Ontario MPs account for some 44% of all Conservative seats in the House of Commons. 

Put another way, Stephen Harper won a majority government in 2011 because his Conservative Party of Canada finally did well in Ontario. 

Can he do it again, or at least enough of it to matter?

What kind of role will Premier Wynne play in the federal campaign? Or not?

And what about the influence of the state of the regional economy?

All interesting things to ponder, as the autumn leaves start to fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 : September 07, 2014

View all of Randall White's columns
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