rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Tim Hudak pulls a Mike Harris, probably to Kathleen Wynne's benefit

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $1 per month!

Time Hudak, Ontario Conservative leader

Political parties, like sports teams, have a perverse knack of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We won’t dwell today on the painful collapses of the Toronto Raptors and Maple Leafs. Let’s concentrate on Ontario politics instead.

In 2007, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives seemed poised to depose Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals -- then the PC leader of the day, John Tory, declared that if he became premier, he would extend public funding to religious or faith-based schools. That was the old ball game right there.

The PCs lost the election. Tory lost in his own riding, to a virtually unknown Liberal named Kathleen Wynne. (Tory went on to retread himself as a radio host and now he’s running for mayor of Toronto, his principal asset being that he is not Rob Ford.)

Fast forward to 2014. The aforementioned Kathleen Wynne, now premier, calls a provincial election that common sense would suggest she cannot win. The Liberals have been in power too long (11 years). They need a spell in opposition to give the fumigators time to rid the party of the stench of the scandals of the McGuinty eras. Most of the opinion polls put the Tim Hudak’s Conservatives a few points ahead of the Liberals.

Yet Wynne calls an election anyway – which is either really dumb or, just maybe, really smart. She has used the provincial budget to torque her party to the left of the NDP, and she has made some progress in shifting attention away from the Liberals’ scandals by adopting a tried and true provincial tactic: attack Ottawa and tie those villains to her own opponents.

So “Smirking” Stephen Harper becomes the enemy of the Ontario state, with Tim Hudak as his faithful local agent. But savaging the feds, fun though it may be, only works to a point. A real issue is required.  And when a political leader is lucky, her opponent hands her that issue, as Tory did for McGuinty back in 2007.

I  think Hudak did that for Wynne last week when he pulled a Mike Harris. He promised to eliminate a whopping 100,000 jobs in the Ontario public sector. Yet he was already promising to add 1 million new jobs across the province.  How one can subtract and add simultaneously is a question best put to the ideologues of the right.

But Hudak was not done. To his promise to get rid of 100,000 public-sector employees – exempting only nurses, doctors and police officers, but pointedly not teachers (for whom the Conservatives seem to have a special hatred) – he added another gift for Kathleen Wynne.

He announced that if elected he would make Ontario’s business taxes the lowest in North America by reducing the corporate taxes rate by 30 per cent. He says this would create 120,000 jobs; his critics contend it would turn Ontario into a poor-man’s Mexico.

 It will be fascinating to see how the election plays out in the broad swath of Southwestern Ontario from Guelph through Waterloo to London. Communities in this belt are hurting. Tens of thousands of traditional manufacturing jobs have disappeared and the downsizing at BlackBerry is evidence the tech sector is not immune.

How will voters in these communities respond to Hudak economics? As in the Harris era, public services will be cut almost across the board. Roads will be neglected. The poor will get less support. Fewer teachers means larger classes, fewer extra-curricular programs and diminished opportunities for special-needs students.

To see if Hudak economics has any resonance, I’ll be watching Kitchener-Waterloo a former Conservative seat that New Democrat Catherine Fife took in a 2012 by-election, and Kitchener Centre, held by Liberal John Milloy, who is retiring. The Tories ran second in both the last time around.  

If Hudak’s approach turns off moderate voters, they will have to decide strategically which party offers the better opportunity to stop him, the Liberals or the New Democrats. I’d think Wynne’s Liberals, but I’ve been wrong before.

Cambridge resident Geoffrey Stevens, an author and former Ottawa columnist and managing editor of the Globe and Mail, teaches political science at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Guelph. His column appears weekly in Waterloo Region Record and  Guelph Mercury. He welcomes comments at [email protected]

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.