If there is a God, He has a wonderful sense of humour:
Dalton McGuinty’s Plan A has failed.
His aggressive plan to restore his majority government by offering a plum appointment to former Tory MPP Elizabeth Witmer, thus opening up a byelection in Kitchener-Waterloo the Liberals desperately hoped to win, backfired badly.
They limped in a poor third in K-W.
Our cut-rate Machiavelli has failed. The usual combination of technically legal bribery - as you'll recall Liz Witmer is now the Chair of the WSIB - and crude pandering - attacking his old Friends in the government unions - has ended in humiliation. In some parallel universe where the Liberal caucus was not manned by mediocrities clinging onto their seats until they are vested, the knives would be out for the Dalt. Ambition is not a word associated with the Ontario Liberal Party. For decades they were the also-rans of provincial politics. If you were really any good, you ran federally. Now even that option looks unpromising.
So let's say you're a bright young Grit thing, fresh out of law school. You aspire to power, a modicum of fame and whatever fortune "public service" might give you. Are you really going to sign up for Premier Dad's station wagon of electoral doom? Sooner or later the electorate will grow tired of their Norman Bates look-a-like ruler. Better to grind it out as an associate or junior partner on Bay Street until the dust settles from the next election. There are bills to be paid and riding associations to be schmoozed in the meantime.
This brings us to the once Natural Governing Party of Ontario, the Progressive Conservative Party. It has been noted, many times, that during its forty-two year reign over Queen's Party it drifted steadily to the Left, from George Drew spying on the CCF to Bill Davis getting into bed with Stephen Lewis' NDP. This was the Golden Age of the Red Tories. It ended in 1985 when the electorate decided that the Liberals and NDP could shovel the freebies at an even greater speed. They did not disapppoint.
The rest of the historical arc is wearily familiar. Rae Days, Harris cutting and McGuinty soothing. A swing of the pendulum one way and then another. Ontario is now broke. Not Quebec broke, which would require a good three decades of Daltness to accomplish, but broke enough. Deep within the soul of the Ontarian is the small-town businessman wondering what the hell happened. After nine-years of expensive drift the polls did not blink when the Education Premier declared war on the teachers unions.
Now you would think that we are approaching a conservative moment. From time to time the electorate realizes that adults need to be brought in to clean up the mess. Petulant whines about the "Brutal Harris Years" fall increasingly on deaf years. The more voters begin to realize just what a teacher or police officer, with a few years experience, makes and whatever sympathy remains vanishes into the cooling autumn air. Cut deep, cut hard and cut now is the refrain.
There is one tiny problem. Ontario has no conservative party. It has a Conservative Progressive Party lead by a one-time lieutenant of our last conservative Premier. He has underwhelmed us. Yearning for conservative solutions to liberal generated problems we were presented instead last election wih crude bits of pandering. Making provincial convicts, most guilty of petty offenses, clean roadways. It was an idea with little practical sense. Even if you believe that prisoners should work, then it would be cheaper and safer to have them work indoors where they could be easily monitored. But that, of course, wouldn't sound tough enough.
Instead of sounding tough, the Tory leader Timmy Hudak sounded like the 90lb weakling standing up to the beach bully, just before the bully pummelled him right back into the sand. Getting tough on criminals is nice, except passing criminal law is a federal jurisdiction. Serious criminals are guests of the federal government. Timmy was taking a stand on something he can do little about. What about things he can do something about? Like health and education? Zip. Nada. Nothing. Nil. Mumble something about reducing the rate of government spending sometime in the future.
But don't worry. He's just NOW declared war on the union bosses:
“We are the only party with the guts to say ‘no’ to the union bosses,” Mr. Hudak said at a news conference on Friday, a day after the New Democratic Party’s historic victory in Kitchener-Waterloo, a riding that had been a Tory stronghold for more than two decades.
Note the key word in that paragraph: "after." The unions have been gunning for Tory leaders since at least their takedown of Ernie Eves. That was ten years ago. But now the Tory HQ has finally noticed: "Hey, those fat cat union bosses don't like us. Maybe we should, you know, do something about that." Instead they hoped that Dalton McGuinty's multitude of sins would destroy him. Yet the Premier's sins are also his virtues to a large swath of the electorate: He gives them free stuff. That means that those people will NEVER vote for anyone but the Liberals or the NDP.
Any party that seeks to close the open bar of Ontario politics needs to appeal to other segments of the electorate. Those segments are net contributors to the provincial treasury. It needs to be explained that government employees are not poor victims of Right-wing excess, a narrative still being flogged by the MSM, they are the fat cats. The financial burden imposed by tens of thousands of bureaucrats far exceeds the relative chump-change of a few CEO's salaries.
Tim Hudak is the Ken Doll of Ontario politics. Just as Dalton McGuinty was denied his majority, so the Tory leader was denied a by-election victory to prove to the grassroots he has what it takes to win the big show. Provincial Tories, however, are a docile lot. It's likely they'll tolerate Timmy until the next election, and then dump his political body in the nearest ravine.
The politics of plastic fantastic don't work anymore.