THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank GunnIt’s hard to imagine a party in more desperate need of a long, restorative spell in the wilderness.
Tomorrow, June 12, is election day in Ontario. The polls are, to say the least, unclear. No one has any idea what is going to happen. As one person, who does “stakeholder relations” work for clients in Ontario, recently told me, the smart money is planning on six possible outcomes: A Tory minority or majority, a Liberal minority or majority, or an NDP minority or majority. It really could be any of those.
It is difficult to overstate just how richly the Ontario Liberals deserve to be removed from office. It is difficult even to know where to begin.
As managers of public services they are, in the most charitable interpretation, famously inept. Witness the scandal at ORNGE, the non-profit set up to run the province’s air ambulance service, which soon devolved into a byzantine scheme to redirect public money into various private wallets. Witness the scandal at eHealth, which the auditor general found to have spent $1-billion comprehensively bungling efforts to create an electronic health records system. Witness former premier Dalton McGuinty’s signature green-energy initiative, which has seen electricity rates skyrocket even as the province exports electricity at a huge loss.
The campaign has not been a particularly edifying one. Don’t be surprised if turnout is low — perhaps historically so. But such an outcome, while perhaps understandable, would also be unfortunate. This may not be an exciting election, or one that has seen much thoughtful debate and entertaining oratory, but it’s an important one. Ontario is currently governed by a party that has behaved, time and again, in a fashion that is nothing short of appalling. If the Liberals are re-elected come Thursday, Ontarians will have chosen exactly the government that they deserve.
I’d need a dozen columns to even begin to scratch the surface of just how deserving of a crushing defeat the Ontario Liberals are. Even a brief overview would run into the thousands of words. So, just for those who need a little reminder, recall that this is the government that promised, before being first elected 11 years ago, to not raise taxes, and then immediately raised taxes. Rather than say that the province’s unexpectedly poor fiscal status required such action, the former premier, Dalton McGuinty, tried to convince Ontarians that he hadn’t raised taxes, but merely imposed a premium to fund health care — and then, when it turned out public sector union contracts left the government on the hook for premiums, McGuinty had to publicly stress taxpayers were on the hook for them. Because it was, you know … a tax.
This is the government that established a green energy sector that Ontarians will spend decades paying above market rates for, to provide power beyond what the province currently requires, and that we must export at a loss for lack of any other option. It now subsidizes monthly hydro bills for all but the most voracious consumers of power rather than let the true costs show up in our mailboxes each month — but they don’t call it a subsidy, of course. It’s the “Ontario Green Energy Benefit.”
The Liberals have run a government that lied, repeatedly and for years, about what the economic cost of harmonizing the provincial sales tax with the federal GST would be — an entirely defensible policy that the Liberals, for some reason, pretended would not end up costing Ontario families more … which they later admitted it would. It’s a government that suddenly imposed an eco-tax on consumers — surprise! — and only backed off after the public noticed and became outraged. It’s a government that has committed to billions in ongoing spending by allowing the unionized broader public service to expand far faster than inflation and population growth would warrant, all in the name of buying “labour peace.” That labour peace, it should be noted, ended the instant the Liberals mused about slowing the volleys of cash being hurled the unions’ way. I guess it was more like renting labour peace.
While they were fighting all these battles, Ontario blew a billion bucks in a futile effort to create electronic health records
It’s a government that never saw a minor social irritant it didn’t want to legislate away. Under the Liberals, we’ve seen restrictions on junk food and trans fats in schools, bans on harmless garden-variety (literally) pesticides, and repeated crackdowns on tobacco sales and smoking in cars containing children, even though the children themselves can light up in the car without the police saying boo. It’s a government that considered enforcing a little-known, always-ignored provincial regulation requiring that sushi only be made with previously frozen seafood, but had to settle for banning pitbulls and teens in tanning beds, instead. While they were fighting all these battles, Ontario blew a billion bucks in a futile effort to create electronic health records and became a have-not province, but oh well. Don’t those dandelions on your lawn look fantastic?
The Liberals are a government that ran an air ambulance service that was better at streaming public dollars toward Liberal-friendly executives than it was at rescuing people using helicopters that were unsuited to the role, but sure looked pretty. It’s a government that spent perhaps as much as $1-billion public dollars cancelling two gas-fired power plants that it had previously vocally championed, once polls showed they might lose a couple of seats due to local opposition. Oh, and it’s a government that wrote off the entire town of Caledonia to lawlessness because it didn’t like the optics of sending in mostly white provincial police officers to deal with a small number of native thugs who were assaulting people and destroying property — crimes — during a land ownership dispute. McGuinty called it “peacekeeping.” When I asked him why police were tasked with peacekeeping, which is the military’s job, instead of enforcing the laws equally for all citizens, he shrugged and had no answer.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren CalabreseOntario Premier Kathleen Wynne, left, and Glen Murray, Minister of Infrastructure, ride the subway while en route to Wynne’s speech at the Toronto Region Board of Trade in Toronto Monday, April 14, 2014.
The Ontario Liberals have a new leader now — Kathleen Wynne. She acknowledges that a lot of bad things happened under her predecessor’s watch, and even that she was involved with some of them. She had no choice, she insists, since she was “part of a government.”
It’s not quite “I was only following orders,” but it’s damn near close enough.
In a perfect world, Ontarians would have plenty of terrific options to choose from when searching for a replacement. But they don’t. Both the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives leave a lot to be desired. It’s entirely reasonable for Ontarians to be underwhelmed at what awaits them in their polling stations.
But a vote for either the Tories or the NDP is still better than a vote for the party that brought us everything recapped above, and so much more. It’s hard to imagine a party in more desperate need of a long, restorative spell in the wilderness of opposition than the Ontario Liberals. A vote for them is an endorsement of their record of mismanagement, waste and meddling. If Ontario returns another Liberal government, that record will continue, and that will be exactly what Canada’s most populous province deserves.