Nearly everything is in place for an expected spring election in Ontario:

  • candidates are being nominated in 103 ridings across the province
  • all three parties are running pre-election television ads
  • both the NDP and the Liberals have released their policy platforms, and,
  • the Ontario PCs, while they’ve been curiously shy about releasing a detailed platform, are using public money to run additional “non-partisan” ads and to drop funding cheques all over the province.

In my estimation, the Tories have already conceded defeat in this election. They are now concentrating on avoiding what is know in political circles as “a Mulroney-style meltdown.” Their lack of a platform is reminiscent of what Bob Rae tried to do in 1995. The NDP argued in that election that voters weren’t interested in elaborate party platforms or detailed promises — what they wanted was good government, or “more of the same.” What Rae discovered, and what Ernie Eves will soon discover, is that voter perceptions of what is good government are often vastly different from the perceptions of politicians.

Mike Harris and Ernie Eves have simply botched too many policies for the Tories to be rewarded with a third consecutive term. Hydro bills have gone through the roof. The temporary freeze on rates for the consumer merely transfers the burden of hydro deregulation to taxpayers. The mishandling of the double cohort will exclude thousands of qualified high school students from post-secondary institutions — with the rejection notices arriving just as Ontarians go to the polls. The market for affordable rental housing continues to be dangerously tight. Tory policies abolished rent control, encouraged the demolition of existing rental housing and ended support for non-profit housing programs. The list goes on — the Tories’ time in government will not.

Meanwhile, just as they did going into campaigns in 1990, 1995 and 1999, the Liberals are leading in the polls. They’ve learned a few lessons from their disastrous collapses in each of those campaigns. For example, their commercials were the first to be aired. This is an attempt to prevent what happened in 1999. Then, early ads aired by the Tories successfully defined Dalton McGuinty as weak and indecisive in the public’s eyes. This time, the Liberals are emphasizing McGuinty’s alleged leadership qualities, but they’ve chosen a strange way of doing so. McGuinty tells us in the commercials that he’s “not jaded or cynical or tired.” If you have to buy thirty seconds of airtime to tell people that you’re not jaded or cynical or tired, then you have an image problem that no American PR consultant will be able to help you with.

The Liberals appear to be putting forward two core slogans for the upcoming campaign. The first is “There is a choice” — a fairly obvious statement — and one that speaks to the very reason why we have election campaigns in this country. The other, “Leadership that works for you & for a change,” is a direct rip-off of the Tories’ slogan from 1995 (“Common sense. For a change”).

The Liberals have also changed their colour from red to burgundy. In 1995, the Tories had a good reason for switching from blue to what they jokingly called “revolutionary purple.” They had just watched their federal cousins reduced to two seats. The Liberals, on the other hand, are identified with a federal party that hovers between forty-seven and fifty-two per cent in the polls. Unless the Ontario Liberals have access to polling data that tell them that being associated with Jean Chr


Scott Piatkowski

Scott Piatkowski is a former columnist for He wrote a weekly column for 13 years that appeared in the Waterloo Chronicle, the Woolwich Observer and ECHO Weekly. He has also written for Straight...