By the time many of you read this, the answer to the question of whether Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne threw in the towel too early will already have been answered.
As of this writing, the most recent polls showed Doug Ford’s PC party headed for a win, probably a majority, in the June 7 provincial election. That poll, interestingly, was conducted just before, but released right after, News broke that the widow and children of former Toronto mayor Rob Ford have filed a $16.5-million lawsuit against his brother Doug, alleging the PC leader deprived them of millions of dollars, including shares in the family business and a life insurance policy. Doug Ford has denied the allegations, which have not been tested in court and there was not time between their revelation and voting day for the process to play out. Still, they are part of a troubling list of scandals, from allegations of improperly procuring party memberships to charges stolen corporate data was used by party candidates to help secure nominations, which Ford and the PC party have litigated publicly since former leader Patrick Brown stepped down under a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations in January.
Read that last sentence and consider that these guys are headed for a majority. Wow.
Clearly this says something about the quality of the opposition. Wynne has made some serious missteps and is unpopular to the point she took the unprecedented step of publicly conceding the premiership last week, urging voters to somehow strategically find a way to elect some Liberals to prevent a majority by either Ford’s PCs or the Andrea Howarth-led NDP. Still, beyond the hydro file (and I include in that the long-ago gas plant debacle, which was really on former premier Dalton McGuinty’s watch), one struggles to find anything as odious in her record as what the Tories have put on display just since the new year, without even having to labour under the magnifying glass of governing. So we’re left to wonder if her party might have received more of a rebound bump from the last-minute Ford family feud had she waited until after the election to give her concession speech.
The NDP, while generally offering a progressive platform, fully-costed despite an admitted major math error, continue to frighten some. To be fair, a platform plank like pledging to eschew back-to-work legislation as a tool to end public sector strikes does sound like tossing your bullets on the ground before a gunfight. Still, the dusty Facebook-based dirt the PCs have been digging up on a few NDP candidates should do little to convince an informed voter they are the dangerous pack of “radicals” the Ford team would have you believe.
Many voters will no doubt try to look past leadership and party embarrassments by convincing themselves they are voting for their local candidate, decent sorts all and sundry.
However it should not be forgotten that in Ontario’s parliamentary system, where votes are whipped and dissent is rare, local MPPs of any stripe, without cabinet seats, are often reduced to little more than ribbon cutters, spending much of their time engaged in activity that amounts to constant campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime.
Elections, in the end, are about leadership and policy and in those terms, this could be the most impactful call we’ve made in some time.