05.19.2014 09:57 PM

In Tuesday’s Sun: how a loser is winning Ontario’s election

Allan Gregg tells a great anecdote, one that explains why the least popular guy is presently ahead in the Ontario provincial election campaign.

It’s all about authenticity, the talented former Progressive Conservative strategist says: “For most of my adult life, I have worked with political and business leaders and have never ceased to be amazed at how different they can be in private compared to their public personae.

“Time and time again, I have witnessed otherwise funny, thoughtful, caring men and women walk from the wings of the auditorium to the podium, only to be transformed into nothing less than a big, blustering bullshitter – in effect, offering up a ‘performance’ and a caricature they think they should be playing.”

These political performers favour exaggerated claims about their opponents, Gregg says. They feign outrage. They take too much credit. And – this is the kicker – they carefully avoid “any direct and honest engagement of difficult subject matter that has the potential to cause media controversy.”

Which brings us to Tim Hudak, leader of the PCs in Ontario. Some polls say he is doing not badly. But some say he is winning, and winning big. This, despite the fact that selfsame polls previously showed him to be the least popular choice for premier.

Hudak is the embodiment of Gregg’s aphorism. In person, the PC leader is a highly likeable, friendly person. But when a microphone is placed before him, he becomes robotic. And it’s why so many Ontarians haven’t warmed up to Hudak – he was seen as inauthentic. He was reciting talking points written by someone else.

Well, the first two weeks of the Ontario campaign fully contradicts Allan Gregg’s wisdom. Hudak is still too stiff and too awkward on the hustings. But, if the polling firm Ipsos is to be believed, he is way, way ahead.

According to the last couple of Ipsos polls, Hudak’s support is growing – while that of his Liberal and New Democrat rivals is shrinking, in some places dramatically. The latest Ipsos offering pegs Hudak’s party at 39%, with the governing Liberals almost a full 10 points back – and the New Democrats even further behind, at 24%. If Tim Hudak is still stiff, awkward and therefore inauthentic, why is that happening?

Because of the other part of Gregg’s observation, that’s why. The part about “direct and honest engagement of difficult subject matter that has the potential to cause media controversy.” And that is precisely what Hudak has done, with his announced plan to cut 100,000 positions in the broader Ontario public service.

Given the fact that many of those who will be losing their jobs are teachers – and given that lots of public services will disappear, too – Hudak’s plan has attracted no small amount of criticism. Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne, who is advised by the same inept gang who cooked up Paul Martin’s “soldiers in our streets” ads in the 2006 federal campaign, has been most critical. She has declared that Hudak’s plan will cause a “recession”– and, while in Walkerton, warned of the consequences of deep job cuts.

Hudak, meanwhile, remains unfazed and well ahead. He may never be seen as the most “authentic” politician, true. But he’s the one presently engaged in “direct and honest engagement of difficult subject matter that has the potential to cause media controversy.”

And he’s winning because of it.



  1. Chris says:

    I am a teacher and it is getting old to be blamed for the economic woes of Ontario.

  2. Matt says:

    Is Hudak still stiff and robotic in front of the camera’s? Yeah.

    But much less so than in 2011.

  3. Matt says:

    Wynne linking the Walkerton tragedy to the proposed Hudak public sector job cuts was both distasteful and dumb.


    Because Justice O’Connor’s Judicial Inquiry’s finding laid the overwhelming majority of the blame at the feet of Walkerton Public Utilities Commission and the two idiot brothers who were among other things falsifying test results, but also because a July 2013 Coroners report concluded that 8 deaths in Ontario were tied to the Liberals bunggling of ORNGE air ambulance.

    • Steve T says:

      Bingo. The public is tired of being told that only the civil service can save society, and only if the civil service continues to grow and grow. It is an insult to everyone working in the private sector, who are forced to deal with the regular ups and downs (translation: layoffs), and seeking-out of efficiency.

    • doconnor says:

      The system should be set up so that even if idiot brothers are put in change of a water system people don’t die, because sooner on later idiot brothers are going to be put in charge of a water system.

      It just like that the system should be set up so that if greedy idiots are put in change of major banks, they can’t cause a major world wide recession.

      Market based systems can’t really deal with this type of problem.

  4. Rick says:

    He MAY be winning because of it, but he at least has the right strategy, unlike 2011. great column – agree 100% (and I can’t say that too often!)

  5. Matt says:

    Do you think the story the Sun ran a couple days ago regarding Horwaths expense will hurt her, or is it just noise?

    For those who missed it, Horwath, who has been very critical of executives with eHealth, ORNGE, the Pan-Am Games ect who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars expensing a cup of coffee or a muffin has been doing the same thing while she makes $158,158 a year.

    She even expensed $0.25 for parking. Interestingly, the Sun Media exclusive came from FOI requests filed by the Ontario Liberals.

    • Paul Brennan says:

      noise , she was doomed when she turned down NDP budget…shes on a roll the wrong way

      • Steve says:

        That worked for the first two weeks. There is still a stretch to go. Moreover, this “out-progressing” the “progressive” theme is working no where else but Toronto, and eliminating a the downtown core of actual “left-wing” NDPrs like Marchese, Schein, DiNovo, Prue and Tabuns, is not going to win Wynne governance. Try something new. Time is running out.

  6. bazie says:

    Is concocting a nonsensically exaggerated “plan” based around a couple shock value numbers like “million jobs gained” or “hundred thousand jobs cut” really the new standard of “direct and honest engagement of a difficult subject matter”? Everything about his platform is exactly the “exaggerated claims” that “take too much credit” and not a bit of honesty. You seem to have this entirely backwards.

    He is winning because people really want change, the Liberals are beyond tarnished, and the level of political engagement is such that having a plan centred around a big fancy number matters an order of magnitude more than the fact that the plan is – as any direct and honest reading can tell – is utter nonsense.

  7. Spencer says:

    There isn’t a an indication Hudak is decisively winning the election just yet Warren. There has been a constant back and forth in the the polls with virtually an equal number of polls showing the Liberals leading as the PCs winning. Media coverage has been pretty mixed overall for both the Liberals and PCs so far. The PCs did get a decent bit of attention with being blunt about cuts and how they’d supposedly help encourage jobs, however I don’t think there is anything to show voters are completely sold on that narrative. The more general appeal for the cut spending, taxes, regulations etc narrative is probably limited to the existing PC support base.

    Wynne and the Liberals have still been able to get the message out and haven’t had any major stumbles just yet (I don’t count the candidate with a somewhat embarrassing facebook post). The only one really lagging is Horwath and the NDP because people cannot figure out what they stand for or how they would plan to govern at this point.

    I can’t really think of any other way to gauge how good/bad each party is doing

  8. Max du Buenoff says:

    “direct and honest engagement of difficult subject matter that has the potential to cause media controversy”

    While we’re on the subject, isn’t it about darn time we admit:

    a) the sheen has come off the Trudeau juggernaut after repeated SNAFUs, momentum has well slowed. The anointed ego promised by the oracles is fracturing the “progressive” vote.

    b) Mr. Angry hasn’t delivered the Conservative crushing juggernaut (e.g. the NDP movement got sort of slimed with its dubious connection to the Sovereigntists with their ill-thought out charter.) They are fracturing the vote.

    c) the aforementioned Sovereigntists are fracturing the vote.

    d) those far-out Greens are further splitting the vote.

    Any of these four alone just can’t go the distance against the Harperites. If all you assholes don’t start knocking your heads together I’m going to think you’re all a little slow on the draw.

    • Kaspar Juul says:

      Uh have you been reading the commentary on this site for the past bit? Or did you just want to post that and feel like you’re the smartest person in the room?

      It kinda failed

      • Max says:

        We have been reading the commentary on this site for the “past bit” and the general consensus is that your sexy man-child is something thrilling and magical akin to Circ de Soleil (“friends, Romans, bread, pot and circus for all!”) while Harper and Mulcair are sticks in the mud e.g. posting dated “May 12th, 2014 … Changes” – only very momentarily and occasionally does doubt a/k/a reality intrude into the fevered minds of the Trudeau Believers. Boring tactical, practical, prosaic, organizational matters are rarely heard.

        We readily admit our entire literary output has utterly failed to puncture the truly Mao-esque mass delusions out there. If Canada was a healthy nation, Justin Trudeau would have been driven out of Dodge for his “basic dictatorship” commentary; likewise, Jason Kenney would have been symbolically flogged until he resigned for liquidating Canadians workers via the importation of glorified slaves. This suggests a population so servile and brainwashed we are approaching a kind of mass Jonestown situation.

  9. Paul Brennan says:

    maybe hudak will beat harper!!!

  10. James curran says:

    You know, some said Charlie Sheen was also “Winning”.

    • Just askin' says:

      Seeing as Anger Management is doing alright, and 2-1/2 Men has been cancelled, I’d say Charlie Sheen is winning,

  11. AC says:

    Interesting. Not one mention of the most recent EKOS poll, taken after the Ipsos one, showing the Liberals @ 37% and PCs @ 30%.

    • Warren says:

      It’s IVR. Why don’t you quote Forum too?

      • PP says:

        WK: Interesting that you place so much faith in an online panel, which is how this Ipsos poll was carried out. I do not know if IVR is more accurate or not, but surely a pre-selected panel is not the same as randomized polling even if the pollster somehow claim that it “selected randomly” from the pre-selected panel (actually, an oxymoron). Yes, Forum has a pretty dismal record historically but its first Ontario poll also had Hudak leading substantially and that would seem to agree with the Ipsos poll that was quoted.

      • AC says:

        Yes. Also has Hudak losing.

        • PP says:

          Correct, but my point was that if one had no faith in Forum, then one should be worried that Forum also had the same result as the pollster the favoured pollster (Ipsos) for polling done during the same period. Forum, as you pointed out, in the second poll had the Liberals substantially ahead but that was for a later period than the one the Ipsos poll above had covered.

          • Matt says:

            Umm, the Forum poll that had the Libs up 38% to the PC’s 35% (conducted May 12th) was released the same day as the Ipsos (conducted May 12th to 14) that had the PC’s up 39% to 30% over the Libs.

            So technically, Ipsos had the freshest data.

    • Warren says:

      It’s IVR. Just like Forum.

      • Al in Cranbrook says:

        I hadn’t thought about what “IVR” meant until just now.

        I’ve gotten several of those recorded calls from Ekos over the last couple months. I find recorded calls insulting, and immediately hang up every time.

        Such polling results maybe should start out with…

        “Of the paltry 8% who didn’t quickly hang up on our prerecorded calls, stated voting intentions were as follows…”

  12. doconnor says:

    That’s why Rob Ford is/was so popular. He is very authentic. He a “big, blustering bullshitter” both at the podium and in real life.

    If being thoughtful worked, then every politician would be thoughtful.

  13. Joe says:

    I don’t live in Ontario and so I don’t follow Ontario politics all that closely but from the bits and pieces I have gleaned I get the impression that Wynne is running for opposition while Hudak is running for government. As one political wag said, “If you run for opposition you will likely win (opposition)”.

  14. Al in Cranbrook says:

    From what I’ve seen so far, I’m increasingly convinced that somewhere in the PC backroom there’s a couple of campaign managers who worked for Christy Clark out here in BC.

    By election day, compared to Clark, Dix looked like the Gloomy Gus from hell.

  15. sezme says:

    Hudak is ahead because his message is so easy to understand:

    1) Fire the teachers
    2) Balance the budget
    3) ???
    4) Profit!

  16. Matt says:

    Wynne had another bizzare announcement yesterday.

    She is now saying a Liberal government would not allow condos to be built as part of the Ontario Place rejuvination plan, despite accepting the plan recommending condo development that was put forward by a Liberal appointed committee (headed by John Tory) just 2 years ago.

    Then they put out a tweet quoting a year old story about Doug Ford possibly, maybe, sorta running for the PC’s. Last I checked Doug Ford isn’t a candidate for the PC’s. But the Liberals do have three male shovanist sexist pigs running for them.

    Things must really be desperate over at Liberal election HQ.

  17. Matt says:

    Wonder what affect the late debate date will have.

    It’s not going to be until June 3rd.

    The advanced polls will have already been up and running for a week to 10 days.

  18. TangoJuliette says:

    No reason to miss out on voting. Every Riding has a Local Returning Office, where one can cast a ballot any day of the 34 – 35 days prior to Election Day. Most post secondary students could more than likely cast their vote, in their own home riding when they bring laundry home for mother to do, over a long week-end. I’d guess that studying at an institution more than 250 miles from home could make getting “home” difficult.

    ” . . .Vote in person at the local returning office or satellite office, from Thursday May 15 up to the day before election day, Wednesday June 11, 2014 at 6:00PM ET or 5:00 PM CT. . . ” ONTARIO ELECTIONS

    In addition to the Advanced Polls established in Provincial Elections, these same extended voting opportunities cited above are also available through Federal General Elections.

  19. Andrew says:

    I personally think all the parties suck in one way or another. Cutting 100,000 government jobs in a short period of time when we’ve had a very tepid economic recovery from the recession of 2008 will probably cause another recession, since those 100,000 people will have to cut back on spending while searching for new jobs, and their cut-backs in spending will mean that the businesses they’d normally be buying from would make less money, and will need to lay off more staff to minimise losses, and those people will need to cut their spending as they’re searching for new jobs, etc. Perhaps the full title for the “Million Jobs Plan” is the “Million Jobs Plan: How to Lose Them All in One Year”. While I agree with the PCs on the LCBO, I think voting for the PCs might be economic suicide.

    As for the Liberals, they’re about as crooked as you can get. The gas plants debacles, the ORNGE scandal, the Windsor Parkway…their sincerity and integrity is questionable, even by politician standards.

    That leaves the NDP. From what I’ve heard from them, recently, their focus is on raising corporate tax rates and reducing hydro bills. Those are problems that I’m not actually concerned about right now–much bigger problems are un- and under-employment and the dishonesty of elected officials and their appointees. The Conservatives, I think, would make the employment issue worse, and the Liberals would continue to be dishonest. The NDP, with power, I think would probably turn out to be like the Liberals. The other, smaller parties would be either pleasantly crazy or maliciously crazy. I truly feel there are no good choices–only bad or worse ones.

  20. Martin Wright says:

    So… What say you about Allan Gregg’s words of wisdom now, Mr. Kinsella? My own words of wisdom to you would be to trust Mr. Gregg’s experience and intelligence, before bashing up your arguments with Darrell Bricker’s polling!

    • Martin Wright says:

      Oops…darn corrector… I meant “backing up” and not “bashing up,” although it is an interesting correction made by my very smart phone!

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