Perfect political storm vaults Wynne into a majority government
By: James Di Fiore
If political pundits, strategists and pollsters were smart, they’d wake up this morning and call their bosses, hat in hand, and beg for occupational mercy. This provincial election was a great case study in political folly, and while a majority government sounds great for Liberal supporters, there were various moving parts that made it possible, most of which have little to do with the public’s gushing admiration for the Ontario Liberal Party.
So, here are the top 5 reasons Ontarians woke up this morning to a Liberal majority government.
1. Union Support – Like almost everything else on this list, the support by many Ontario unions has a backstory and a slew of footnotes, most notably being the fear of Tim Hudak by public sector employees and unionized workers alike. Traditionally, unions are mostly associated with the NDP, but Horwath’s decision to force an election angered union bosses who were on record praising the Liberal budget as a victory for working class people. Horwath’s decision to pass on the budget secured union support for Wynne and left the NDP searching for an identity.
2. Tim Hudak’s Ineffective Leadership – Hudak has said several times that people often tell him he looks like actor Michael Keaton. Unfortunately for Hudak, voters saw a man who only slightly resembled the actor…and only if Keaton was hit in the face several times with a hard covered copy of The Fountainhead. The embattled conservative leader is a rare combination of scorched earth policies and utter incompetence in connecting with voters who don’t share a Tea Party outlook on life and politics. His resignation as party leader immediately following the election was a smart move… for 2011. In 2014 he’s a man who ran his party into the ground. With no obvious heir apparent, the PCs will be hard pressed to find a compelling replacement.
3. Strategic Voting – This is another Hudak-related phenomenon that compelled the left-leaning electorate to hold their nose and vote Liberal. Social media, mass emails and word of mouth helped secure votes in ridings where the race was too close to call, a strange component of democracy where voters are convinced their support for a candidate they don’t like is more important than support for the candidate they do like. This, combined with a low voter turnout, seemed to favour the Liberals and conservatives who were separated by only 6% in the popular vote.
4. Andrea Horwath’s Ineffective Leadership – She was the first domino in this election after refusing to get behind the Liberal budget, forcing an election almost nobody wanted. She also attempted to drift towards the centre, also known as the far right to most NDP supporters, and in doing so seemed to alienate the party’s base who felt abandoned during the campaign. Truly, if you are too timid to speak directly towards issues that you’ve been championing for years, you’ve probably already lost the election.
5. The Liberals Ran a Textbook Campaign – While many believed anything short of throwing Daulton McGuinty under the bus would not be a strong enough rebuke of the Liberal government scandals, Wynne managed to balance an almost subliminal dressing down of the former premier with a message that resonated with voters. That message – finishing the job and not being tempted by austerity – succeeded in mobilizing the base, as well as the disgruntled supporters of the NDP. Her ads showed a leader who, while aesthetically stiff on camera, managed to come off as authentic, a stark contrast to Hudak and Horwath who both make the act of watching paint dry seem like Mardi Gras.
So when the aforementioned pundits, strategists and pollsters begin hedging their previous predictions or expressing how surprising the election was, they should be at least cognizant of the lack of confidence the public has in each of them. This is especially true for pollsters, who once again prove there is a vacuum in their industry after butchering yet another election that was supposed to be an easy call.