Urban Ontario meets Rural Ontario

[I’m outside Toronto, in a small convenience store. A man in a uniform, holding a clipboard, is sternly addressing a young man about propane gas storage.]

Officious official: And what is your emergency response procedure, please?

Young man: Hey, Mom _ what do we do when something goes wrong?

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Ipsos’ numbers + H&K’s ridiculous seat projection widget =

This.

I don’t believe it, myself, but H&K’s thing fun to play with I guess (but just remember, kids, Hill and Knowlton are the Satanic overlords who brought us the Persian Gulf War).

My take, in easy-to-digest bullets:

  • No one is paying attention at all.
  • The people who are paying attention find the choices uninspiring.
  • None of the parties have much money to spend.
  • All of the parties are exhausted by the length of this campaign.
  • There is no single galvanizing issue…
  • Turnout will therefore be very low.
  • Low turnout, low engagement always favours the conservative option (which is why they like vote suppression so much).

So Hudak had an unhappy get-together with the Globe and Mail editorial board, according to Canada’s most-boring newspaper columnist?

Big deal.  Harper has won successive victories by flipping the bird to those of us who make up the news media. For Conservatives and conservatives, being hated by ink-stained wretches and wretchesses is a good thing.

So, again: I don’t see a majority for Hudak.  But if he has a good debate (and if Horwath does, too, and she likely will) – and if his GOTV is superior (and it likely will be) – a PC minority appears to be in the cards.

Less than two weeks to go. That debate is going to be pretty important – if anybody bothers to watch it, that is.

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In Friday’s Sun: coalition volition

It was Kathleen Wynne’s campaign event, but it was also a testament to Stephen Harper’s political skills.

Let us explain. There the Ontario Liberal leader was, on Wednesday: in a Toronto–area classroom, a gaggle of smiling kindergarten kids gathered behind her. She was there to announce something or the other, but it doesn’t really matter what it was. What matters is the following exchange between Wynne and the assembled news media, when she was asked about the governing Liberals’ relationship with the New Democrats.

Said Wynne: “I’m not going to pre-empt the decision of people on June 12. I’m just not going to do that.”

A reporter, sounding amazed, interjected: “You’re NOT ruling out a coalition?”

Wynne responded right away, cheerfully stepping into the yawning chasm that Stephen Harper has carved out of our political culture.

“I’m not ruling out anything,” she said, and you could almost hear the air go out of that classroom. Wynne had twice refused to rule out THAT. She hadn’t said THAT, true, but her meaning was clear. She was ready to consider THAT.

And, THAT, of course, is the word that Stephen Harper, through a lot of hard work and no small amount of dishonesty, has rendered completely radioactive: COALITION. In other places, in other countries, “coalition” is a perfectly sensible way of governing oneself. In Israel, a nation many of us rather admire, they do it all the time. So too in other democracies.

But in Canada, no. Here, Harper has transformed “coalition” into something that is fundamentally anti-democratic. Here, coalitions are akin to revolution; they are anathema. To save his skin, Harper has successfully persuaded many people that coalitions are illegitimate – despite having agitated for one in 2004, when he was in Opposition. Once in power, it became lots of dark warnings about “a coalition of Liberals, separatists and socialists.” That sort of thing. It worked.

Kathleen Wynne was right to refuse to rule out a coalition with the NDP, following Ontario’s election June 12 conclusion. But, in politics, right is rarely the same thing as smart. In other words, she made a big mistake, one Ontarians are likely to be hearing quite a bit about in the coming days. Three reasons.

One, Wynne has been bombarding the airwaves with anti-NDP attack ads for weeks. She has even (rashly) gone to the trouble of narrating the attacks ads herself. How can she expect voters to now understand her sudden desire to leap into bed with Andrea Horwath? To many, it makes no sense. Either the NDP is a threat to democracy, or they are a partner in governing. They cannot be both.

Two, Wynne has effectively given Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak an excellent way to change the channel on his current dilemma. At the campaign’s outset, you see, Hudak announced his “million jobs plan,” and who can be against creating a million jobs? But then, immediately thereafter, the PC leader also declared his intention to fire 100,000 public servants.

To voters, that didn’t make much sense. How can you say you are going to create a lot of jobs, and then simultaneously flush a lot of jobs?

Wynne’s surprise announcement gives a relieved Hudak a stick with which he will beat the Liberals, and change the aforementioned channel on his own problems.

Thirdly, and finally, Wynne’s timing was terrible. One should never, ever indulge in coalition-talk around elections (ask Stephane Dion). For one thing, it suggests to everyone that you think you are going to lose. For another, it looks like you are trying to circumvent the people’s will with a dirty backroom deal.

Kathleen Wynne was, as noted, quite entitled to talk up coalitions. But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t just handed an undeserved victory to her opponent.

Ask Stephen Harper. He knows.


Your Thursday Ipsos

Ontario Popular Vote Tightens as Liberals Rally (34%) to Within Two Points of Tories (36%), NDP Soften (23%)
But Likely Turnout Shows Motivated PC Voters (41%) Delivering Big at the Ballot Box over Anemic Liberal Voters (29%) and Growing NDP (25%)

Verdict: nobody engaged, still, except always-motivated conservatives.

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Me and Sun News

The Warren Haters had a momentary adrenalin rush, there, thinking that my years-long relationship with Sun News was coming to an end, didn’t they? (Go suck an egg, Glen MacGregor.)

They still keep me around, however, and they haven’t censored me yet.  They’re mostly conservatives, and therefore mostly wrong about most things, but they’re uniformly nice to Yours Truly.

No, the news is only this: my column will continue twice-weekly – on Tuesdays, few shure, but it has been moved from Sundays to Fridays.  I hope y’all still find it a way to pass a bit of time, if nothing else.

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In Tuesday’s Sun: judge her by her enemies

Franklin D. Roosevelt had the very best line of all. “Judge me,” said the 32nd U.S. President, “by the enemies I have made.”

It’s true, too. Politics is sort of the opposite of real life: in the political game, you are measured not so much by the quantity of friends you have, but by the quality of your enemies. If you want to be adored, and see your name chiseled onto the side of a schoolhouse some day, become an astronaut. Politics is a vocation for losing besties, not gaining them.

A corollary of FDR’s bromide, therefore, is this: people who go into politics wanting to be much loved by many people (Paul Martin, John Tory, come on down!) end up leaving it with neither – neither the love, nor the people. You end up as an unloved loser, mostly.

Which brings us, this fine Spring morning, to Gerald Caplan, Judy Rebick, Michelle Landsberg and several other old people you have never heard of, and hopefully never will. On Friday, it was revealed Caplan’s cabal had written a missive to Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, saying that they were “deeply distressed” by the provincial NDP campaign. (The letter “was obtained by CBC News,” and everyone knows who helped them “obtain” it.)

“From what we can see you are running to the right of the Liberals in an attempt to win Conservative votes,” shriek Caplan, Rebick et al. “It seems in your rush to the centre you are abandoning those values and constituencies that the party has always championed.”

By the “constituencies that the party has always championed,” Caplan’s cabal meant them – that is, some surly, solipsistic socialist septuagenarians who wouldn’t know how to win a general election if their lives depended on it. They are nobodies, signifying nothing. They are – as the former Chief of Staff to Ontario’s only NDP Premier, Robin Sears, hilariously put it yesterday morn on CBC – “the grumpy caucus.”

Said Sears: they come out only at elections, claiming to be NDPers, to sabotage NDP campaigns.

The CBC, having exclusively “obtained” the screed from the hard-left losers, aggressively marketed it all weekend. But other media, including those who cover Queen’s Park daily, were unimpressed. “[A] quaint baby boomer drama,” tweeted Toronto Star bureau chief Robert Benzie. “Andrea Horwath probably wasn’t counting on much support from the CCF crowd.”

Exactly: the Ontario NDP leader was acquiring the right enemies. Horwath, knowing most of the votes are found in the political centre, has been aiming the NDP ship in that direction for many months, talking up balanced budgets and the need to make life less expensive for the average Ontarian. She’s been rewarded with a four-point boost in an Ipsos poll in the past week, while her opponents have either dropped or stalled.

But that’s not enough for Caplan et al., apparently. As Sears put it, they’re Presbyterian about their politics: they think salvation only lies in pain. They don’t wish to see their principles ever, you know, sullied by actual power.

All of this calls to mind a story this writer once heard about Stephen Harper. As he was labouring to bring together the Reform and Progressive Conservative parties, circa 2004, several emissaries were dispatched to warn him about his quest for power.

“You will never get Myron Thompson and Joe Clark to sit together!” said one. “You’ll lose them both!”

“Exactly,” said Harper.

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Your Toronto politics morning update in helpful quotes: Tory “absurd and careless,” Chow “very, very favourably impressive”

  • National Post: “I’m not sure what distinguishes Tory as a front-running candidate for mayor. He has business experience, certainly, but so do many people, and it actually doesn’t apply to running a government as much as some suggest. The bulk of his campaign’s policies thus far have been shallow at best, reinforcing the notion that he has a talk-radio level of understanding of how the city operates. As pointed out by the Chow campaign, Tory just yesterday put out a statement referring to “shovels” that will “start digging in 2015″ for the Bloor-Danforth subway extension in Scarborough. That timeline, also mentioned in his “One Toronto” economic development plan, was so wildly unrealistic that the campaign had to acknowledge it was a mistake when contacted about it by the media. (Construction of the so-called Scarborough subway is still several years off, if it happens at all.) It wasn’t an unforgivable error on Tory’s part, but it was an absurd and careless one that makes me wonder whether he has anyone working for him with a basic grasp of City policy.”
  • Globe and Mail: “…with her new, moderate message, she has been winning over at least some Bay Streeters. “I thought she came across as less of an ideologue than I would have thought,” said Dave Samuel, a partner in the investment firm Birch Hill who set up a lunchtime session with her last month and now counts himself as a Chow backer. Another participant, a senior Bay Street lawyer, said he was “very, very favourably impressed with her, and I am a dyed -in-the-wool conservative.” She told the group that she is the only one of the leading three candidates for mayor to oppose the Scarborough subway project. She favours a cheaper light-rail line instead. “That is completely against the stereotype,” she says. “I am the one who has the guts to say, Don’t do it. Don’t borrow money you don’t have if you don’t have to.”
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