Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pick me, I'm not him! Pick me, I'm not them!

While the unofficial Ontario election has been underway for some time, the official kick-off will come this week when the writ is dropped. However, for a campaign yet to begin we already know a fair bit about the narratives that are being drawn.

- For the governing Liberals, it's about continuity and experience, with a platform built around families.

- For the poll-leading Tories, it's about the need for a change in leadership, with a platform built around families.

- For the NDP, it's about breaking out of the Liberal-Tory axis and embracing a third way, with a platform built around families.

Spot any trends?

We have known for some time that the Hudak Tories will want to make this election a referendum on Dalton McGuinty's leadership. This focus on McGuinty and the question of trust (e.g. the surprise "health tax") will be complemented by policy proposals which could be considered "safe". Having seen how the schools issue hampered John Tory, Mr. Hudak will want to stick closely to the middle.

Mr. McGuinty will also want to make it about leadership, focusing on his experience as Premier and Mr. Hudak's past as part of the Harris government's common sense revolution. He will argue that Ontario needs an experienced leader to continue the province's transition out of the economic crisis, and to strike the right balance between economic demands and social policy challenges.

For her part, Ms. Horwath is hoping to present voters with a "third way". Drawing on the federal NDP's tactics, she will position her opponents as the status quo; as two sides of the same coin offering the same, tired politics.

So we have Mr. Hudak focused on the Liberals and saying "pick me, I'm not him." Mr. McGuinty is focused on the Tories and saying "pick me, I'm not him." Meanwhile, Ms. Horwath is looking at both of them and saying to the voter, "pick me, I'm not them."

So what will be it be Ontario? Is this enough to pull your vote in one direction or the other? I hope not. Over the coming weeks, we should be expecting to hear more from each of the parties looking for our vote. Some examples:

1. What will Ontario's position be when it enters into discussions with the federal government on a new health accord? Will it be purely about the need for cash, or will we get more clarity about how that cash would be spent? What are the priorities?

2. The economic landscape of Ontario has changed, such that we are no longer a "have province." With an eroded manufacturing sector, what are the priorities for re-building and re-focusing the economy? A government does not "create jobs", but it does create the conditions for those who do. What's the plan?

3. The HST. Following events in British Columbia, this could be a bigger issue than we might think. Like it or not, the leaders will need to clearly spell out their positions on the tax.

4. The environment, and in particular how to balance economic recovery with the climate change challenge. Doing nothing has a cost. Doing something has a cost. We need a good debate.

5. The deficit. At $14 billion and counting, we need a conversation about the deficit. If no one is planning on raising taxes, it can only be meaningfully tackled through reductions in expenditures (even accounting for higher tax revenues as the economy grows). What is the plan?

All to say, there is more than enough to discuss. We have province-wide issues, such as the ones above. We also have niche-issues in key areas - transportation in the GTA, being a big one.

Week one will not surprisingly be more focused on message, spin and efforts to define the campaign. This is normal course. Following that, however, we should see more debate. Frankly, we need it. Why?

It has to be more than "Pick me, I'm not him! Pick me, I'm not them!"

1 comment:

  1. Good overview of things and some great questions posed! You actually got to a point that's been irking me lately - that all the platforms are built around families. I wonder, though, who does this leave out?


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