The Throne Speech: In Politics Its All About Winning

It hard to believe we’ve got Dalton McGuinty and his Liberal minions back for four more years.  Democracy is never wrong and this time is no different.  However, Dalton McGuinty can thank his lucky stars for John Tory.  Never in my career have I seen an election handed over on a plate on one issue.

All John Tory had to do was stand up and criticize McGuinty’s record.  That’s all.  Instead he opened up a Pandora’s box of emotions, which could never be put back in.  Howard Hampton exacerbated in a campaign where no issues were being discussed lashed out at the media for not paying attention to the many issues, which affected Ontarians.  He was right to do that.  We’ve got four more years of Dalton McGuinty and he wasn’t held accountable for his record.  However, we know where he stands on faith based schools.

I wish Dalton McGuinty well.  He deserves credit for simply standing aside and letting his main opposition implode.  He’ll now have the challenge of forging Ontario’s future at a time when the high dollar is hurting its manufacturing and agricultural sector.  He’ll need every bit of moxy he can muster.

Meanwhile his political cousins in Ottawa are not only casting an eye at what happened in Ontario, but at their own political discord.  On Tuesday Stephen Harper plans to treat Canadians to their first throne speech given during prime time.  Call it presidential; call it a take off on the State of the Union address.  Stephen Harper does things differently.  When the throne speech comes down I expect the election rhetoric to reach fever pitch.

Stephen Harper unlike Dalton McGuinty has an electoral problem.  There is no way under the present “pizza parliament” where he can win a majority government.  In fact the current parliamentary seat arithmetic would also limit the Liberal party to a minority government.  When you take 40-50 seats out of Quebec for the Bloc Quebecois and mix this with Liberal strength in Ontario and there is hardly a way for Stephen Harper to get the 154 seats he’d need for a majority.  Ditto for Stephane Dion and the Liberals.  It’s a zero game and Prime Minister Harper knows it.

So what is he suppose to do?  He cannot call an election himself because he’s passed legislation fixing the next federal election date for October 2009.  He knows the opposition knows about the “seat arithmetic” just like he does.  So he can either cooperate with them or force them to carry on with his agenda.  Their future is just as uncertain as his based on the latest poll numbers.  So he’s rolling the dice by making every bit and piece of the throne piece a confidence issue.  Clearly, he thinks the opposition will blink.

There are many members of the media who are piling on Stephane Dion.  This happened partly because of Liberal losses in a couple of Quebec by-elections, one being Outremont a bastion of the Liberal party.  The other reason is Stephane Dion is an easy target.  He wasn’t expected to win the Liberal leadership and he’s definitely not cut from the same cloth as past Liberal leaders John Turner, Jean Chretien, and Paul Martin.

Interestingly, I think those who doubt Stephane Dion do it at their peril.  As many of you know I spent a day with Stephane Dion this past summer.  I was impressed with the man.  He oozes a sincerity, which cannot be learned.  He definitely has the smarts for the big job, and he’ll get his shot.  Anybody who doubts the fortunes of the Liberal party are short sighted.  They still hold vast sway in vote rich urban areas and are only a few seats away from forming government.

Take Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver for instance.  Dalton McGuinty last week cleaned up in Toronto, only losing a few seats to the left leaning NDP.  Stephane Dion would surely do well there too.  At the present time there are no Conservative seats there.  Ditto for Montreal (minus Michel Fortier who was parachuted in) and Vancouver downtown.  If Stephen Harper thinks he can go to an election and change that paradigm I think he is sorely mistaken.

Clearly though, when it comes to politics nothing is really “as it seems.”  Somebody inevitably tips over the turnip wagon ala John Tory.  I’ve met almost all our political leaders except for Gillies Duceppe.  In my opinion they could all run the country effectively.  However, in their occupation it’s all about winning.  On Tuesday night expect the posturing and indignation to begin.  An election may not be far behind.