Ontario Election: The Final Act

A few thoughts from a fascinating Ontario election result. First off, there is a bit of utter revisionist nonsense floating around that the PC lead over the summer “wasn’t real”, even though all signs pointed to a huge Liberal deficit. YES, the sentiment was very real, it revealed a distinct desire for something new- and the polls never suggested otherwise, even throughout the campaign- the PC’s were every bit poised for victory and the Liberal challenge looked immense. That backdrop makes this election result somewhat incredible, because “kick the bums out” was every bit a electoral mentality.

Heading into the campaign, the only Liberal hope as I saw it was “campaigns matter”, as well as a firm contention that Hudak wouldn’t resonate with Ontario voters, blunting the “change” mantra (btw, I now hate that word). There are now some numbers to counter, but in the final analysis, both those critical hopes manifested, the Liberals simply ran a better campaign and Hudak was more a drag on support than anything, he lost the debate and by all accounts found few coverts on a personal level, the DUD was just that. PC’s and apologists can point to the seat totals- and I really hope they do- but to my mind, this election represents a failed opportunity, a better message, better messenger, better campaign, it was really all there for the Progressive Conservatives to capitalize.

For the NDP, there is little question the Layton aftermath put some indirect wind in their sails, as well as other obvious breakthroughs. A good result for Horwath, but again, during the campaign, a fairly flat baseline and she never caught fire, with perhaps the north being an exception. Again, we heard last night how Ontario voted “for change” from Horwath, but several factors suggest they voted with tertiary interest and I still see Premier McGuinty, so the revolution was clearly muted.

Of course a Liberal majority was what the faithful hoped for, but as I said privately to a few friends, given the circumstance, a minority would be a terrific result. If I said to you August 1st, “hey Liberal, you can have a minority, which is effectively a majority, given the Speaker votes with the status quo, would you take it?” YES SIR, YES SIR, sign me up NOW!! Let’s keep it real, first past the post flaws aside. From a partisan perspective, I’m pleased, an agenda I geniunely believe in continues…

However, I would argue everyone is a loser here in one important and sobering sense: voter turnout was abysmal, under 50%, a RECORD low. The Liberal vote was way, way down, the gravity of which only lessened by the relatively sad ability of other parties to truly “get out the vote”. Truth is, this election was a pedestrian affair, it excited no one, people voted out of duty rather than desire and apathy won the day. Turnout is a testament to a failed opposition message, a tired opinion of the government of the day and above all a repudiation of the process, the superficial debate that resonates with no one, the predictable campaign tactics and the barrage of polling which distracts(on that last point, I think we need a serious debate about limiting polls during campaigns, if not an outright ban). The cookie cutter campaign and the coverage, someone needs to digest that Canadians are increasingly tuning it right, it bears no relationship to their lives, the disconnect is FRIGHTENING. The political party that can solve the riddle and challenge the entire status quo process will find a very fertile audience. We desperately need some entity to blow it up, and blow it up real good, this recurring template is an electoral loser, that only gets worse with successive disappointments.

One final point, not a great night for first past the post, the raw vote totals clearly at odds with seat counts, and while it worked to my party’s advantage this time, that’s irrelevant, the optics are somewhat brutal.

All in all, happy to have Premier McGuinty back with a practically strong mandate, I truly believe we are in the midst of a greening revolution in this province and will only become clearer with the superior eyesight that time affords. Now, let’s just hope the PC’s decide to keep Hudak on 😉

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