Monday, June 16, 2014

Assorted thoughts from the ground from a Liberal majority

Well, having had a few days to think about it, I had some scattered thoughts about the Ontario political scene in the aftermath of a Wynne majority government. I am so happy to have played a small part in it in York South-Weston. In no particular order, here are some things that have I've been thinking about since the election, with one point largely about each party.

  • People judge governments economic credentials and reliability based on job creation, not being deficit hawks for the sake of deficit hawking

"Jobs Not Cuts" was a simple but effective slogan the Liberal campaign was quick to start using to hammer Hudak once he announced he would be cutting 100,000 public service jobs as part of his platform. Balancing the deficit and bringing down the debt is important, as Kathleen Wynne and Charles Sousa have stated many times, but Ontario can't afford to put people out of work and slash public services just to bring the budget to balance a year earlier, as Hudak promised. Liberals were able to tell a good message: vote Liberal, and you'll have a government that protects health care and education as well as protecting good paying jobs that help the economy. This will benefit you and your family. Vote Hudak, and you'll have a government that slashes services that impact your family, with no immediate benefit in your everyday life. Hudak's math errors in the "Million Jobs Plan" didn't help his economic credibility, neither did his attacks on "corporate welfare" while praising companies that had in fact partnered with governments (including Harper's Conservatives) to create jobs. And speaking of Harper...

  • Hudak ran on a hard-right platform that was designed to fire up his ended up firing up moderate voters to vote against him en masse

Paul Wells, while explaining why he supported the PC's in this election explores some of the difference between Hudak's conservative pitch this election which failed pretty spectacularly, and Stephen Harper's conservative pitch, which won him a majority largely based on the kind of seats Hudak either failed to win from the Liberals or actually lost to the Liberals:

"Hudak, on the other hand, had to keep impressing the Ayn Rand League, thanks largely to his ever-shaky command of the party’s leadership. That’s why he put a big number on his public sector job-cut target, because he decided his target audience was people who think eliminating public sector jobs is always excellent. Compare and contrast: During the 2011 federal election, I worked hard to get a succession of federal Conservatives — Jim Flaherty, John Baird — to give me any indication of the scale of public sector job cuts the Harper government had in mind...

Nobody seriously doubts Stephen Harper is a conservative, so he can tell conservatives they have to wait. That’s why I saw Alison Redford’s Alberta Conservative victory over Danielle Smith’s Wildrose party as a vindication of the Harper style, even though a lot of Harper Conservatives supported Wildrose: because politics isn’t about scratching your swollen id. Harper’s conservatism is a broad and not always internally coherent coalition, and it spends a lot of time wondering when something exciting will happen. "

Stuff like this is also at the core of Wells' The Longer I'm Prime Minister, basically arguing that Harper can afford politically to not govern as a Reform Party conservative because as long as it keeps delivering electoral results, the base will more or less be happy. Harper's relative moderation and embrace of economic interventionism allowed him to campaign to a majority in 2011 with a message to Ontario voters that he could be trusted on the economy because he wasn't radical, had created jobs, etc. Hudak instead campaigned on an unabashed vision of shrinking government that Harper has largely abandoned in the successful pursuit of electoral gain. Quite simply, the coalition of voters that would support Hudak's hard-right, fiscal hawkishness simply isn't big enough to form government, and Hudak's assumptions that his own base would turn out were swamped by moderates who were turned off enough by his platform to get out to vote against him.

  • Horwath tried to expand her voter coalition a step too far, and while she made gains in some parts of the province, lost others
Looking at how much NDP results in Toronto fell, the letter that some NDP stalwarts send to Horwath mid-campaign can't be judged as something trivial - plenty of traditional NDP supporters in Toronto 

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