The Ontario Election Results: “Yes!”

It’s Friday morning, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the sky has not fallen. In the face of all the polls suggesting it would not happen, the Liberals pulled off a majority government: 59 seats for the Liberals, 27 for the Tories, and 21 for the NDP. The result was less an endorsement of the Liberals than a personal victory for Premier Kathleen Wynne. And a stunning rebuke to Tim Hudak.

The Liberals may have received only 38.7% of the popular vote but, adding in the NDP vote of 23.7%, a total of 62.4% of the voters of Ontario made it loud and clear that they do not want a hard right alternative going forward. The Conservatives, at 31.2%, were reduced to their base. The great utility of the election campaign was to make the choice very stark. Ontario voters have shown that they are fundamentally centre to progressive, that they want government involvement in the economy, and that tea party-inspired solutions have no appeal north of the border.

What struck me in this election was how practically everyone I know, from all parts of the spectrum, ultimately voted for the Liberals, some for the first time. In my home riding of Trinity-Spadina, newcomer Liberal Han Dong soundly defeated long-term NDP incumbent Rosario Marchese by over 8,400 votes. Next door in Davenport, Liberal Cristina Martins defeated incumbent NDP Jonah Schein. In Lakeshore-Etobicoke, Liberal former city councillor Peter Milczyn defeated incumbent Tory Doug Holyday, also a high-profile former city councillor who had recently won a provincial by-election for the Tories. And in Beaches-East York, in a close race, incumbent NDP Michael Prue fell to Liberal newcomer Arthur Potts. In these ridings, voters opted for the Liberals, among other reasons, because Wynne, alone of all the leaders, understands in her bones the problems facing the city, including transit, and the link between transit, the economy and promoting jobs. Dwelling on past scandals and Liberal “corruption” had less resonance when Wynne agreed that mistakes were made and promised not to repeat them on her watch. She offered her integrity and, whatever voters think about her Liberal predecessor, they took her at her word, if only as the best of a mediocre lot.

I watched the election results with friends from my old all-women’s law firm, Dickson MacGregor Appell. We watched in amazement and delight. Wynne is such an impressive woman: intelligent, articulate, fit, openly lesbian, the parent of three adult children, a modern woman who has had to deal with the personal consequences of diversity in our society. That her lesbianism was not an issue in this campaign is a testament to the fundamental liberalism of the province. The ad showing her running every morning was wonderfully symbolic, an inspiration for those of us who have finally learned that fitness stimulates energy and promotes well-being. If she brings that kind of discipline to her political activities, there is hope. Unlike most of the media, I thought she won the debate. She showed admirable stamina and resilience and, in the face of withering attacks from both sides, became stronger and more articulate as it went along.

Haroon Siddiqui wrote, last week in the Toronto Star, that Kathleen Wynne has the potential to be another Bill Davis. I agree. Davis had great personal skills, led a conservative government that was progressive, and held office for a long time. With a majority government, Wynne has the scope to show us her stuff. I have faith that the voters made an excellent choice yesterday. Wynne can’t achieve all expectations, but I don’t think we will be disappointed. And with Wynne in Ontario and Couillard in Quebec, maybe central Canada will reclaim its former influence in the country. That would be good for the confederation.

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8 comments

  1. Malcolm

    Well…I really hope that you are right… Wynne has done a great job of convincing the people that she is the right person for the job – and Hudak certainly did get a rebuke – but one must ask the basic question… Ontario used to be the engine of the Canadian economy, and is now a “have-not” province. Canada, let alone Ontario, cannot afford to leave this status left unchanged. It is essential that Ontario be made to work again.. I cannot say that I heard a lot more than words from Wynne on that topic.

    Wynne appears to be a great leader – but we need to recognize that she is leading many of the same gang that got Ontario to the shameful status that exists. Scandals were one part – economic performance is quite another.

    Ontario has changed, the auto industry that played a huge role in the past – is in a state of change. What will offset the losses in that area. It won’t be new transit facilities. Ontario needs jobs that make money, and I am not sure that I have seen much of that in any platform in this election.

    What I do like is the majority government, which ensures a decent period of stability. Lets hope that some of the other factors, needed to return economic health can be made to take place. Ontario needs it and Canada needs a prosperous and healthy Ontario…

  2. Fred

    I should have said I agree with Marion’s posting. I wondered if a tea-party light platform was really a sell in Ontario, and it was not. Now we know. And it is in a certain sense, none of my business, as I live in British Columbia; but, if you asked for my opinion my opinion would be: the voters in Ontario got it right.

  3. Ryan

    What a stunning victory. As a young person trying to push innovation, renewable energy and sustainable solutions, I cannot be more thankful that it was Wynne for the win! As Andrew Coyne mentioned the other day, this was more of a rebuke to fiscal conservatism than anything else, and I am glad US style governance will stay south of the boarder … for now.

    • Malcolm

      Ryan – you and I agree that renewable energy is going to have to be taken seriously and implemented to displace fossil fuel as quickly as possible. There is not a lot of time to be wasted, and sadly, the Federal Government seems to lack any direction in doing this…(in fact they seem to be RUNNING in the opposite direction.) But are you aware that Ontario has had to “dump” enormous quantities of steam (as hot water) into Lake Huron from the nuclear plants because the wind capacity is not firm, and reliable? The steps taken by the previous government appear to have lacked a solid plan, and the unintended consequences are significant and costly, both economically and environmentally. High cost electricity has cost jobs. I support the implementation of wind capacity, but it needed to be done in a way that did not produce such problems. That would probably have required a slower implementation that included some form of storage – or even a new connection to Quebec, with an agreement to store and return energy… What happened was sad, wasteful, and is costing both money and jobs for Ontario people. Ontario has traditionally been Canada’s economic engine… We need to recover somehow – and reduce emissions at the same time. I am not suggesting that Hudak was right, clearly he was not.. But I hope that Wynne does what is needed – and that does not include maintaining spending and deficits at current levels. We have real problems – only some of which are in the energy system. The debt has to be paid at some point. You are young – I am old. You will likely have to shoulder the debt that my generation has created… That is unfair… even from my perspective… You should try to get some of it paid, while people like me, that created the problem, are still paying taxes.

      • Sara

        Hi Malcolm, Bruce Power dumps steam to atmosphere as a result of a sweetheart lease deal between the province and the company that leases them. They get paid to do it, too. Spilling water from hydro would be preferrable, but that’s not what market rules dictate. Also, running nuclear units derated prematurely ages the tubes that hold the fuel, thus limiting life before retube is needed. Fortunately we, OPG, don’t have to run that way.

    • Bob

      It wasn’t a rebuke to fiscal conservatism. …Wynne promised to balance the budget almost as quickly as Tim Hudak did and… to freeze program spending starting in 2015. She offered Ontarians fiscal conservatism without any pain, but with a side order of rainbows and unicorns (in the form of increased social programs). No wonder Ontario voters preferred her version of fiscal conservatism to the alternative.

      …an astute observer would note that fiscal conservatism without pain is about as realistic as promises of unicorns. Her proposal to freeze program spending…is conveniently short on details -leaving one to expect that it involves waving her magic wand or clicking her ruby slippers. It is wholly unrealistic given that public sector wages account for the bulk of Ontario’s spending, and that the public sector unions who helped get her elected are in absolutely no mood for real wage freezes let alone the real wage cuts implied by Wynne’s budget proposals. Nothing in her record … has shown that she has any appetite for a fight with…the unions;… she caved to teachers’ wage demands shortly after taking over from Dalton McGuinty and now that those unions have bought and paid for her election as premier, that seems even less likely.

      … in all likelihood she’ll end up having to adopt a lot of Tim Hudak’s proposals, if for no other reason than because the bond rating agencies and the gnomes in Zurich won’t give her any choice. Government’s that can’t manage their own finances end up handing over their sovereignty to their lenders. Having doubled Ontario’s provincial debt over the last decade (with no evidence of slowing down), if Wynne doesn’t start imposing rigorous fiscal discipine soon, the bond market will start doing it for her. This is what happened to Bob Rae in the 1990s. After three years of (unbridled) spending…, Rae was forced to inflict heavy program cuts in 1994 to avoid bankruptcy. …. For his trouble, despite trying to impose fiscal discipine in as pain free a manner as possible, Rae got knifed in the back by his former labour allies and was replaced by Mike Harris. Ms. Wynne might want to take note, history has a habit of repeating itself.

      …while one might suggest that Wynne’s election represents a rebuke of common sense, believing that budgets can be balanced through increased spending, it can hardly be characterized as a rebuke of fiscal conservatism. All we can infer from Wynne’s victory is that, when presented with painful fiscal conservatism versus pain-free (if wholly unrealistic) fiscal conservatism, we shouldn’t be surprised that Ontarians chose the latter. I suspect they won’t get what they bargained for. And by the way, it must be said that Hudak seems to have gone out of his way to suggest that his tenure would be particularly painful. I’m shocked that someone didn’t tell him you never promise to cut jobs – people have jobs – you promise to cut spending.

      • Malcolm

        Sara
        I know that you are right on unloading the reactors, but I do question the discharge of steam to the air. It was the IESO that explained this to me, and they claimed that the amount was about 300 MW of reduced electrical capacity – required to keep the reactors at capacity, and reducing the power output from the generators by discharging steam. (They did this about 300 times in one year – about 3 years ago) You are also correct. The IESO paid for the energy that was discharged as steam (they would also have to pay for the energy if they did no take the wind capacity,) as for the hydro, they do back some down (Niagara can reduce capacity and save some at the PGS plant that they have, but many of the Ontario hydro generating stations have been designated as “must run” in order to meet reservoir and river requirements. In short, my understanding was that paying for the capacity and discharging the steam was their best alternative…a sad and very costly waste.

        I was also told that the Bruce plant was nearing is license limit for the discharge of hot water and that they had looked at installing some facilities to discharge heat (not steam) to the air.

        I know that in an emergency shutdown, most nuclear (and for that matter, almost all steam turbine generators will directly discharge steam, but that is typically used for only short emergency periods..

        If you know something here that I do not, I would appreciate being corrected..
        Thanks

        Malcolm

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