12.13.2013 09:23 AM

Ontario politics: should I kill myself, or have an election?

Political courage, someone once said, is not political suicide.

Noble sentiment, I guess, but it’s also worth knowing that the author of the statement was Arnold Schwarzenegger (not Camus, who provided the inspiration for this post’s title).  Arnold, of course, would subsequently go on to commit political suicide.

I thought of The Arnold’s little maxim, this morning, as I read Adrian Morrow’s bit in the Globe:

Kathleen Wynne will fight the next election over a promise to raise taxes to build transit, staking her premiership on the belief voters will accept short-term pain to finally break the gridlock crippling Southern Ontario.

The move, which the Premier acknowledged is a risky one, would allow her to solve one of the province’s largest and most persistent problems, as well as form the basis for a strong legacy.

Telling Ontarians “vote for me so I can raise your taxes” doesn’t seem, on the surface, to be a sure-fire winning strategy.  The last guy to do similarly was Stephane Dion.  Here’s what I wrote about his Green Shift before, during and after the 2008 election:

Stephane Dion was a decent, good man, but he possessed one critical flaw: For anglophones, he was too hard to understand. When proposing a “green shift” that would see gas prices go up — during a summer when voters were already paying nearly $1.50 a litre — that failure to communicate would prove fatal.

Meanwhile, his attempt to forge a coalition government with Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe looked like a gaggle of losers trying to overturn the election result of 2008. The damage to the Liberal brand would be significant.

Wynne is a great communicator, and she isn’t (yet) proposing a coalition with anyone.  But, per Stein, a tax is a tax is a tax.  It’s not a “revenue tool” – it’s a tax.

If that is indeed the Ontario Liberal ballot question, they will get a few editorials praising them for their courage (like Dion did).  But they will still lose (like Dion did).

Tim Hudak is against every and any taxes, because he is against government.  Voters haven’t taken him seriously, to date, and I don’t expect them to in the future.  I’ve met him once or twice, and find him to be a nice fellow.  But, on TV, he turns into the GOP talking points bot.  He won’t win.

Andrea Horwath, meanwhile, has been campaigning for a while, and her focus is pocketbook stuff.  She’s a New Democrat in the Roy Romanow tradition: balanced budgets where feasible, centrist policy, and no new taxes.  That’s what she’ll say in the election, too: we think you pay enough.  Transit is a problem, but a party that wastes billions at Ornge and OPG shouldn’t come to taxpayers, hand out, demanding billions more.

It’s good to be principled and honest and forthright.  But your principles don’t mean much when you are the third party in the legislature.

If today’s Globe story is true, that – I fear – is where the politically-courageous Ontario Liberals are heading.



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    Matt says:

    In my opinion, the ace in the hole for Wynne is voter apathy. I don’t know what it is abount Ontario voters, but all the examples of Liberal waste of tax dollars are met with an “Oh well” .

    Take this transit funding report.

    I watched several news reports from various news outlets interviewing citizens at gas stations as they filled up their vehicles.

    The reaction of the overwhelming majority of the people?

    “Oh well. what can you do”

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      ottawacon says:

      I am pretty sure those were not Eastern Ontario gas stations they were interviewing. Raising a province-wide tax to fund benefits for a region already perceived as capturing a disproportionate share of spending is not going to play well outside the GTA.

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    Sean says:

    Totally agree… Plus it easily feeds into the gas plant mess. Why do we have to raise taxes after you wasted all our taxes?

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      Matt says:

      Which is exactly what Hudak said in the legislature and media comments yesterday.

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    bluegreenblogger says:

    Lol, Great minds think alike. I just commented on your prior post that if Harper killed hisself with Canada Post service cuts, Wynn just comitted seppuku (with some help from the Globe) by promising to raise taxes. Talk about leading with your chin! Why was the headline not: ‘Wynn to campaign on Transit Investment’? I am betting it is because she gave an intelligent interview that actually looked at both sides of the equation. Fine for me or you, but for the Globe, and the average voter, she is raising taxes to overpay Hydro One executives.

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    steve says:

    We live in a society consumed by nihilism. So for Wynee to offer a hope of better angles will make this election spectacular. Government is stupid and dumb, full of people filling their own pockets at the citizens expense. But what alternative do you offer, if we had not payed taxes would we have a man on the moon, a MRI or a DNA blue print to create a more fortunate son. The idea that the private sector is better is full of discredit, like Enron, Nortel or a basket of failed wonder suns. Plowing through, spending money stupidly financing chum deals is what has made our Sci Fi future real. I care about the future and do not care about the cost, moving the ball down the field in the goal, and no matter what the expense, what the waste, who got rich, or how many ingrates. it did not matter, we all want our children to have the best ever pitter patter.
    Landslide Liberal

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      Ottawa Civil Servant says:

      What drivel. I work in government and it is neither stupid nor dumb: It is afraid. It fears mistakes and embarrassments, to the point of paralysis. But it is not dumb.
      And as for the theft, graft and nepotism, that is the human condition and takes place as soon as an opportunity arises. When I was management in the private sector, the rule of thumb was 70% would steal if they were sure they could get away with it. The clergy has its thieves, money managers have stolen, cops have been on the take, the corrupt lawyer is a stereotype. Whom do you trust, as a group? Teacher, doctor, mechanic, union boss?
      None of these people are special, better or worse: They are products of our society and contain the same subsets of thieves, incompetents, pedophiles and liars as every other (identifiable) group.

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        steve says:

        yup thats my platform, we are green scum not yellow

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        david ray says:

        Sad state of affairs Ottawa but I have to agree. I can’t be the only one who is astounded every time a bust is made of say online child sexual abuse to see who gets rounded up. Who they catch usually represents every strata of our culture.

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    doconnor says:

    Of course, avoiding wasting one or two billion over ten years won’t pay for a transit program that costs two billion per year.

    NDP platforms usually have much more detailed and realistic costing then the other party’s to try to overcome their unjustified reputation for being tax and spend. I hope Horwath has a good plan at the ready. A modest corporate tax increase isn’t going to pay for all her promises.

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      Matt says:

      When you add up eHealth, Ornge, Green Energy Act, huge increases for teachers and other public sector workers, money lost having to pay other jurisdictions to take excess power we have no way of storing, gas plants ect, it is much more than a billion or two.

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    Brad Young says:

    Its a blunder because there isn’t enough money in the world to build a complete transit system for the GTA. Its too big an area and people live and commute in all sorts of directions. No matter what they build, the 400 series highways in the GTA will continue to get more clogged everyday.

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      steve says:

      tell it to the Japanese, Hong Kong, Korea, German, Switzerland, Netherlands and the list goes on and on

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    Pipes says:

    People who commute to work and/or shop into Toronto from their bedroom communities-Whitby, Barrie, Milton, and so on, use our infrastructure ( sewers, water, roads, TTC etc.) while they pay their taxes to the communities from which they came. The more I think about this, the more I wonder about tolls. Is a dollar a day too much to expect?

    A gas tax seems to be more punishment on those who drive and don’t use the TTC and in fact some of the roads and bridges are so bad, they will never get repaired the way things are going. If you paid more gas tax, isn’t it logical that the tax be used for road repair?

    Anyway here come da NDP…………………

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      Ottawa Civil Servant says:

      Confused: Are you actually saying that it is UNFAIR that Toronto is forced to accept these suburbanites arriving with wads of cash to spend on goods, services and nightlife, thereby employing Torononians and subsidizing its standard of living? You are upset because they use a car or bus to access your community’s businesses, working and spending in the core? Or is it just that they pay property tax in Barrie, and you think Toronto deserves some of that, which pays for Barrie’s infrastrucure?

      Yet another perfect example of why the rest of the province is SICK of hearing about Toronto’s mishandled traffic problems (on top of a gas tax that would never be considered, except that Toronto wants it.)

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        Pipes says:

        Typical reaction. Very predictable. Thanks for coming out.

        Oh and these business’s your talking about will not only be paying gas tax on their deliveries, but on their receivables. So a gas tax is more than a gas tax.

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          Brian says:

          Very predictable, but true. ‘Ottawa Civil Servant’ only points out that the economic activity brought into the city by outsiders contributes to TO’s economic well being. If the outsiders can’t come in, TO would suffer greatly and TO’s standard of living would drop.

          Conversely, it’s easy to see why the outsiders complain of an additional tax for a transit system they’ll likely never use.

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    steve says:

    Maybe there is an ACE in the hole.
    Price of Gas Us Gal in C$ Liter in ON Tax base price
    3.85 1.28 0.247 1.033
    Per liter with exchange 1.02 1.28 0.19 0.83
    This table did not travel well. But the bottom line is tax removed converted into liters and Canadian dollars we are charged twenty cents a liter more than our American cousins. rally round the flag boys.

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    Robert says:

    We have included your post in our ‘Around the Blogs’ section at Looniepolitics.com.

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    james Smith says:

    Great post.
    So I guess we should bury our heads in the sand for another generation?
    The Ontario and GTA basically abandoned building & funding transportation infrastructure and operations since about the time Bill Davis resigned.
    I take your Dion analogy but the difference is Dion was a poor communicator, and was not the PM, plus climate change has not, even yet, become tangible to the average person. EVERYONE including Mr Ford thinks gridlock is a problem.
    Both the Tories & DIppers are being dishonest about the issue and have no plan to deal with what the Ontario Chamber of Commerce says is a $6Billion a year problem.
    The issue is, as you allude to, how does one solve the problem of finances and get the majority of Ontarians to back it. I don’t know if that can be done. What I do know is the issue should be put clearly as: A Plan to solve Gridlock, vs NO PLAN.

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      david ray says:

      In twenty or thirty years we’ll have Ipads in buckboards. Time to invest in horse futures cause that’s what we’re going back to. Giddyup.

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    Ottawa Civil Servant says:

    So Wynne has a plan and the other haven’t specified their plans. So what?
    Anyone remember the National Daycare Strategy – AKA Red Book version 1? That promise got repackaged more than Christmas fruit cake.
    Well, welcome to Toronto’s equivalent.
    Here’s a June 2007 “Breaking News” that Dalton McG had plan to fix Toronto and he would break ground…in 2008!

    This is why people are turned off by politics. If you voted for this specific policy, for financial, quality of life or green reasons, this guy failed you. Again.

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    kre8tv says:

    Good luck selling this strategy outside of southern ontario.

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    doris says:

    A matter of fairness read the report, only 60% is going to Toronto the other 40% is going to the rest of Ontario for infrastructure. Can’r imagine any boony Mayor turning that down

    Besides since when don’t transit riders pay taxes for roads, just another wedge issue a la photo radar

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