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.
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.