It has been a couple weeks now since Ontario voters reduced the McGuinty government to a minority. It has been quite some time, over 20 years, since Ontario has had a minority government and the way ahead will surely be fraught with a little bit of political tension. Premier McGuinty will have to listen to his NDP and Conservative counterparts to map his way to a successful parliamentary session. I think it’ll be much more difficult than he is letting on.
I say that because since his election with a minority he has been talking about a minor majority. In other words he is only one seat shy of a majority government and that is very rare. So you might think that with one seat shy, somebody could be coaxed across the floor or somebody could be coaxed to not show up for a vote. Both way, that helps the government survive and it is a tenant of the minor majority. However, at the end of the day, regardless of what you call it, it’s a minority government with an average lifespan of about 18 months.
There have been a few postmortems on the election campaign. Conservative leader Tim Hudak was expected to be the next premier when the election was announced because he was leading by about 11 points in the polls. However, that’s why we vote in the society is to keep score. By the time the election was over Mr. McGuinty almost had his majority back. What was interesting was the complete rural urban divide of the electorate. Mr. Guinty gets no rural seats and is elected in Toronto and the big urban centers. The NDP takes the North, seats in the Hamilton area and Essex County. The Conservatives sweep rural Ontario with the exception of Taras Natyshak, who will be representing Essex County for the NDP.
That is how the cookie crumbles for people in rural Ontario who are chafing at the notion of another mandate for Premier McGuinty who is the architect of the green energy strategy. Opposition to the Green energy act in rural Ontario did mobilize during the campaign and at the end of the day did help cause the Liberals to lose their majority government. There is not a lot of middle ground when it comes to wind turbines. With no local control over where all these new green energy projects are put, it has made for some draconian moves in rural Ontario. Housing subdivisions have been completely taken over by solar panels. There are other more bizarre examples. It shouldn’t be a surprise that rural Ontario voted against the McGuinty government.
Having said that, the Liberals still almost got their majority back. And they got it back partly because of the inept campaign that was run by the Conservatives. Sure, the Conservatives gained a lot more seats and helped hold McGuinty to a minority, but they were expected to do so much better. I couldn’t quite figure out why in the early part of the campaign they started talking about “foreigners”. That was construed wrongly from the 1st time it was said and it cost them many votes. It was insane. All the Conservatives had to do at the start of the election campaign was smile and point at Premier McGuinty and his policies. However, they decided to dig themselves a hole and jump in it. After the faith-based school debacle of 4 years previous with John Tory I couldn’t believe it. NDP leader Andrea Horwath knew all she had to do was smile and she would gain seats. She did that in spades.
So we move ahead. I am thinking that this Liberal minority government lasts about 13 months. I think that the Liberals are going to have a very hard time understanding that they no longer have a majority. In some parts of the province their policies are extremely unpopular. All you have to do is look at your Hydro bill to understand why. Add the budget deficit to the mix and you get a tough way ahead. When you consider the constant demands on Ontario healthcare, the optics gets even worse. The bottom line is the immediate future for our provincial government will be one where tough decisions will need to be made.
Those tough decisions will need to be made by all 3 provincial political parties getting together. Whether that happens or not, I don’t know. I think there will be momentum to defeat the Liberals. Whether that makes sense or not is another question. Sometimes in politics common sense is left at the door. For the people of Ontario they can only look on and hope.