June 12, 2014 4:55 pm

Ontario Election: Hudak’s job may be in jeopardy

ABOVE: Mood turns gloomy at PC headquarters

TORONTO – As leaders of Ontario’s political parties gun for the Premier’s seat their own jobs could be in jeopardy if the party doesn’t perform well.

Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak could be in trouble if that win doesn’t pan out.

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“Hudak is clearly either going to be Premier or out of a job tomorrow,” said Jonathan Malloy, the chairman of Carleton University’s political science department.

“If Mr. Hudak doesn’t win a plurality of seats, than he’s had two tries and that’s all you get as the leader of a major party,” Malloy said. “And frankly he’s lucky he’s had that.”

In fact, Hudak faced a minor insurrection when some members sought a leadership review at the PCs’ convention in London last fall, from which he emerged mostly unscathed.

Recent polls suggested Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals and Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives are in a virtual tie heading into election day, with Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats trailing close behind.

But an hour after polls closed, it seemed clear the Liberals would win at least the plurality of seats – if not an outright majority.

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It won’t be enough for Hudak to simply increase his party’s seats in the legislature, Malloy said: He’ll actually have to defeat the Liberals.

Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats may be a bit more forgiving – few had her pegged as Premier. But there’s been discontent within party ranks about her election campaign – specifically, the populist focus and abandonment, some argued, of more progressive principles.

“NDP leaders often fight two or three elections. This is just Horwath’s second, and today’s vote won’t necessarily impact her leadership,” Malloy predicted.

“There are some grumblings within the party about how she handled this election, and the fact the party triggered the election in the first place is an issue.”

Earlier in the election an open letter surfaced from dozens of high-profile Ontario NDP supporters who said they’re “deeply distressed” by the direction the NDP has taken, saying they’d seriously consider not voting for the party.

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Barry Kay, politics professor at Wilfred Laurier University, said that even if Hudak wins a minority government he still might not last long as leader.

“I think Hudak is the one that’s really in trouble,” Kay said. “Even if he wins a plurality of seats I don’t think that’s enough. He will be invited to form a government, but unless he wins a majority it’s very unlikely he’ll be able to last very long in the new legislature.”

Kay says in order for Hudak to win a majority he needs a breakthrough in the Toronto-area ridings, which looks unlikely according to polls.

Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne may have the most stable job of the three, says University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman.

“The party sees Wynne as being quite popular, and they don’t think they would have done better under anyone, plus they recognize they are carrying all this baggage,” Wiseman said, referring to the scandals – including a gas plant investigation, ORNGE charges and the MaRS buyout – that have plagued the Liberals during the election.

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Wiseman says Horwath’s position will remain relatively safe as there’s no immediate successor, but there could be some grumblings if the NDP loses seats.

The leader with the most to lose today is Hudak, Wiseman said.

“Hudak has hung his whole career on this election, and we know there was a bit of rebellion against him after he lost the byelection in London,” he said. “Although it seemed to be in just a few people, it got a fair bit of media. The Liberals and the Conservatives are parties that expect to win elections, and measure leaders on their ability to win.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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