Ontarians are trying to find their way out a political morass to a fresh start. We may not make it.
The collapse of the Kathleen Wynne‘s Liberals is the central fact of this election. Every poll shows the governing Liberals in third. And they’re third in every region, including Toronto 416, according to the Tuesday’s Global-Ipsos poll.
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The Global News seat tracker projects the Liberals will win only six seats. Each wasted Liberal vote is a lost opportunity to defeat Doug Ford.
The Liberal collapse is painful for traditional Liberal supporters. But it offers to put an end to an unhealthy political polarization. Increasingly, Ontarians were backing the PCs or Liberals only because they disliked the leader of the other party even more.
Andrea Horwath’s offer of something completely different is an important opportunity. Ontarians have been settling between bad and worse — and it keeps getting worse. Something needs to change. And now it can.
A Horwath win would open the door to a new government — one without the cynical political style and misuse of public money that brought intense discredit to the Liberal Party.
A Horwath-led government would focus on repairing public services and protecting the affordability of everyday life, which Wynne seemed unperturbed about. The cost of childcare, electricity, tuition, car insurance, prescriptions — they all got more and more expensive, hurting people with the least. And our public services — from health care to road clearing — got worse under the weight of multiple corporate tax cuts.
And importantly, Horwath offers a new hope of a scandal-free government that lives up to its promises. Wouldn’t that be a welcome change?
Recent polls show Horwath on the upswing. By breaking the old political polarization, she’s winning support from both former Progressive Conservative and Liberal voters who are frustrated — and sometimes angry — about where we’ve ended up in Ontario, and how that’s hurt them.
But momentum doesn’t mean Andrea Horwath will win. So far, it only shows there is a hope she can stop Ford. Let’s remember how important it is that this hope grows.
Ford says he’s for the people — but his plan is for the rich. He’s promised to cut billions in revenues to municipalities for road maintenance and bus service. His tax cut would give over $1,100 to every person with an income over $109,000 and just $18 to an average person earning $39,000 to $49,000.
Ford means more cuts to health care. He won’t fix our schools, won’t get kids to the dentist, won’t help with the price of prescriptions, won’t help our seniors. He offers nothing to young graduates trapped under tuition debt, and little for young parents paying for child care.
A Ford government means average middle- or working-class Ontarians will see their health care and public services get worse and the cost of living go up. And it means replacing Liberal scandal with Conservative scandal — already Ford’s been caught in backroom deals and his PCs are under police investigation.
Thankfully, Tuesday’s Global-Ipsos poll put Ford’s PCs at 36 per cent and Horwath’s NDP at 37 per cent. For those who want to stop Ford and send the Liberals to the repair shop, it’s great news.
But not enough. Only a Horwath majority is sure to stop Ford. Even at just 36 per cent, Global News’ seat projection shows the PCs clinging to a single-seat majority. Seat projection models are always wonky things, but this may reflect that rural ridings, where PCs do well, often have smaller populations than urban seats, where the NDP is winning. The Ford PCs may have a built-in advantage, thanks to the electoral map.
And even if Horwath brings Ford down to a minority, there’s still no guarantee he won’t become premier. Yes, poll after poll has shown traditional Liberal voters overwhelmingly prefer Horwath to Ford. But Liberal party insiders may decide that’s not what’s best for them. And if that group has proven anything, it’s that they consistently put themselves first, regardless of the cost to Ontarians.
To keep power, they misspent billions shutting down power plants to win seats in Mississauga and Oakville. They made a costly backroom deal to back the Scarborough subway of former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. They ignored their own Long-Term Energy Plan and extended the life of the Pickering Power Plant by four years. They lied throughout the 2014 election about Hydro One privatization. They tried to outflank the NDP on the left. Now they’re swinging to the right, attacking the “union bosses” they used to call friends. The political culture of this Ontario Liberal Party is so bad it has convinced many Ontarians Ford is a better choice.
And remember, Kathleen Wynne will not be the Liberal Party Leader after June 7. No one knows who will be Liberal Leader and what backroom deal they might cook up with Ford. It could be public appointments, corporate jobs, money for the Liberal caucus, or a promise to not call inquiries. Ford has many pressure points and the Liberals are weak. There is no guarantee this Liberal Party won’t prop up a Ford minority to hang on to a last shred of power.
To be sure to stop Ford, Andrea Horwath needs a majority. Traditional Liberal voters can lend her this support, stop Ford and reset Ontario’s political culture. They can put the Liberal party away from power, where it can purify itself.
Or traditional Liberals can roll the dice — betting that a group that has consistently let them down and embarrassed them will, at their most desperate and weak moment, do the morally right thing.
And if that bet doesn’t pay off, the price is Premier Ford.
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Against that fear is the hope offered by a new government and a clean start. It’s a hope that it’s not too late to shake off the cynicism that breeds instability and right-wing populism. And that we can do it with a simple Canadian antidote: addressing the cost of everyday life, fixing our health care and public services, and ending the scandals. It’s a return to good government, one which aims to make Ontario a beacon of progress and social stability in a world of turmoil.
Horwath is something completely different and her win would be a full system reset. The Liberals go to the repair shop. And a defeated Ford will step down, forcing conservatives across Canada to rethink his populist approach. These are extremely positive outcomes.
Andrea Horwath’s momentum shows Premier Doug Ford is not inevitable. But to make his defeat a sure thing, she needs voters to give her a workable majority government.
Tom Parkin is a former NDP advisor and a political commentator with a social democratic point of view.
Tom Parkin joins Deb Hutton and Omar Khan on Global News’ regular political panel, appearing on Global Toronto and AM 640 Corus radio throughout the campaign and as part of our election night coverage.