2011 Ontario Election

The Fall and Rise of Dalton McGuinty

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Ontario Election, Featured Posts, Ontario Politics | Leave a comment


If I told you a few months ago there would be a picture of Dalton McGuinty waving on newspaper front pages October 7th, you’d have assumed it would be on the Sun, directly below a “GOODBYE! GOOD RIDDANCE!” headline .

After all, when the unofficial campaign kicked off this spring, McGuinty was 10 or 15 points down. You couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing a PC “Taxman” commercial. Over a dozen MPPs saw the way the wind was blowing and decided against running for re-election. Opportunists viewed a Tory nomination as the easiest way to power.

Yet Dalton McGuinty earned a rare third term last night. How the hell did this happen?

The first, and perhaps most important, decision of his campaign team was to highlight the Liberal record. Rather than going neg in response to the taxman ads, the Liberals ran a series of crisp and clean commercials featuring nothing but Dalton McGuinty talking about his record. The ad started with McGuinty sheepishly admitting he wasn’t the most popular guy in Canada, before making the case for re-election. The supporting arguments were easy to understand and were backed up with facts and figures.

The Liberals carried this largely positive tone into the fall. Important, considering the grumpy nature of the electorate and the dynamics of a three-party race – simply hitting Hudak over the head day in and out would have left Andrea Horwath free to pick up the pieces. By selling McGuinty, the Liberals were better able to capitalize on Hudak’s missteps.

And misstep he did. I’m not talking about the “foreign workers” slip, the homophobic pamphlet, or Cheryl Miller’s unfortunate case of honesty. Hudak’s biggest mistake was his campaign message, which could be summed up in four words – “taxes bad, McGuinty bad“. Yes, no one likes taxes. Yes, many agree McGuinty is the taxman. But Hudak wasn’t promising to remove the HST and McGuinty wasn’t promising to increase it. Sure, Hudak’s platform contained a few tax cuts in it, but he didn’t talk much about them and never really explained how he’d balance the books. Hudak’s campaign was curiously silent on all other issues – except for the all-important issue of BBQ abilities.

The Liberal campaign was equally focused and on message, but was cooking with more ingredients. They played to the Liberal strengths of Health Care and education, while promising new jobs. Their platform was more modest than their opponents’, so when the markets began to teeter, they were able to quickly pivot to the same “experienced leadership in uncertain times” pitch Stephen Harper rode to victory this spring. Let’s all say it together now – we need a strong, stable, Conservative Liberal government!

Now, I don’t want to oversell this – after all, the Liberal vote fell 5 percentage points, and they lost 17 seats. They barely got more votes than the Conservatives. It was a humbling result.

But McGuinty still won. He won by talking about issues that mattered to voters, and made a convincing case for why he deserved re-election. Tim Hudak talked a lot about about McGuinty’s shortcomings and talked a lot about “change” – but never articulated what it was he would change.

So while the end result may be a bit of a surprise, it shouldn’t be. The Liberals made a better case for why they should be in power than the PCs, and won. It’s as simple as that.

Majority-ish

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Ontario Election | Leave a comment

With nearly all the votes counted, here’s how it looks:

Lib 53
PC 37
NDP 17

Which, as you will hear about fifty billion times this weekend, leaves the Liberals one seat shy of a majority government. However not all minorities are created equal, and failing to win that last seat isn’t the complete failure many will paint it as.

For starters, it shouldn’t be too hard to find an opposition MPP willing to take on the job of speaker…and the raise and perks that come with it. That would leave the Liberals and opposition tied at 53 seats and, as we all learned during the Chuck Cadman confidence mayhem, the speaker would be required to vote with the government on non-confidence motions to preserve the status quo.

There’s also bound to be some fluidity in the seat count. MPPs will resign, and there will be by elections. Perhaps we may even get a floor crossing – though, sadly, the most poachable candidate for this went down in a blaze of glory in Eglinton Lawrence tonight.

Beyond the math, there’s also the politics. Ontarians have gone to the polls three times in the past year, and given the abysmal turnout rate tonight, the appetite is definitely not there for another election anytime soon. Don’t expect anyone to force an unnecessary election and bear the wrath of the electorate – at least not until campaign debts have been paid off.

So while McGuinty won’t be able to write his name in the record books with three straight majority governments, he got the strong mandate he was asking for. That should be enough to keep Ontarians away from the polls for at least 2 or 3 years.

Ontario Votes

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Ontario Election | Leave a comment

I won’t be providing many updates tonight, but will offer some thoughts before heading off to bed, with the mandatory post-mortems coming tomorrow.

By all means, share your thoughts in the comments section as the results roll in.

Ontario Votes

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Ontario Election, Ontario Politics | Leave a comment

Ontarians head to the polls today, with the two parties deadlocked a Liberal majority looming a PC victory likely the outcome still up in the air.

I’ll be voting for Dalton McGuinty. No surprise there. But I still want to take a moment to explain why, because I truly believe this is a government deserving of re-election.

When I first moved to Ontario in 2008, I had rather lukewarm feelings towards the Premier. He’d spoken well at an Alberta Liberal convention a few years earlier, but it’s not like he had the crowd chanting “yes we can!”. My sense was he’d been a competent Premier but had largely wasted his first term, preferring to govern towards re-election than towards some grander vision.

But during my time in Ontario, I’ve grown more and more impressed with McGuinty, both in terms of his political abilities and, more importantly, by what he’s managed to accomplish.

Throughout his second term, McGuinty hasn’t shied away from thinking big. His push on green energy has had mixed results – smog days are down and Hydro bills are up…but the important thing is that Ontario has begun shifting from the industries of yesterday towards the industries of tomorrow. McGuinty introduced the HST knowing full well it would be popular with experts and economists, but not with the public.

In less controversial moves, he has continued to make improvements to Ontario’s Health Care and education systems. Ontario wait times have gone from the longest in Canada to the shortest. I was at a party a few weeks ago, and people were remarking about how easy it is to find a family doctor these days. Full day kindergarten has come to Ontario. Ontario schools are now ranked number 1 in the English speaking world. If I sound like a Liberal commercial, it’s because I am. And that’s another reason I’m proud to be voting Liberal.

Back this spring, McGuinty was getting the snot punched out of him by everyone. PC ads calling him “the Taxman” were airing on every channel. The temptation must have been uncontrollable to punch back. Instead, the Liberals began airing minute-long commercials with nothing but McGuinty talking about his record. He used facts. He cited third party validators. He made the case for re-election.

Of course he has taken some jabs at his opponents this campaign. That’s the name of the game. But the Liberals have been the only party treating voters like grown-ups. It showed in the debate, when McGuinty spent the night boring the audience with facts, Hudak spent the night finding new ways to say “taxes bad, McGuinty bad“, and Andrea Horwath spent the night producing a string of platitudes and charming stories.

The grownup tone of the Liberal campaign was also matched with a grownup platform. The Liberal platform is more modest than the Tories’, who pretend they’ll be able to cut taxes without cutting services. The NDP platform is even more troubling – in addition to promises that would cripple the economy, Horwath has abandoned the NDP’s traditional role of looking out for the little guy, in favour of gimmicky promises. The environment? She likes the idea of it, but wants to cut taxes on gas guzzlers and home heating. Taxes, I would add, which are paid disproportionately by the richest Ontarians.

Those are some of the reasons I’ll be voting Liberal today. I’m sure a lot of Ontarians – the majority in fact – disagree with me. If you do disagree, then make sure you too get out and vote today, so that your voice is heard.

“The Tories are not going to win. This campaign is all but finished"

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Ontario Election, Polls | Leave a comment

Those are the words of Ipsos’ John Wright.

If Tim Hudak is worried about a Liberal-NDP coalition, there’s only one way to prevent it at this point – and it’s not by voting PC.

Ipsos (Sep 30 to Oct 3; n = 1200 phone)
Lib 41%
PC 31%
NDP 25%
Green 3%

Nanos (Oct 1 to 3; n = 826 phone)
Lib 38%
PC 33%
NDP 26%
Green 2%

Ekos (Oct 2 to 3; n = 1065 robo dial)
Lib 39%
PC 29%
NDP 25%
Green 6%

Quick! Someone get Dean Del Mastro to run a poll to prove these numbers wrong!

UPDATE: No need for Del Mastro. Angus Reid shows the PCs leading by 3.

The Sun Won’t Come Out For Hudak

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Ontario Election, Ontario Politics | Leave a comment

The Toronto Star’s endorsement of Dalton McGuinty shouldn’t surprise anyone. Yes, they were briefly the “Orange Star” this spring, but anyone who has read their Ontario election coverage saw this one coming a mile away.

Today’s Globe endorsement is likely a bit more meaningful – at least, if you think newspaper endorsements mean much of anything (they don’t). After all, the paper has endorsed Stephen Harper the last three federal elections. And although their endorsement of McGuinty is measured, it’s far less measured than the most Globe endorsements which are usually typed with one hand while the other one firmly holds the editorial board’s nose.

So this leaves Tim Hudak with nothing but the Sun endorse…what? Yikes.

Yes, even the Sun has decided against endorsing the Tories this campaign. They admit they “wanted” to like Tim, but just couldn’t. Guess he doesn’t look as good in the flesh as his eHarmony profile.

Of course, Hudak could still win the election. But these (non) endorsements speak to the type of campaign he has run – at times juvenile, always negative, with no more than a minute or two of substance sprinkled on the “taxes bad” talking points. As the federal Liberals have learned of late, if you don’t give people a good reason to vote for you, they usually don’t. The same goes for newspaper endorsements.

UPDATE: Hudak lands the Post.

The Morning After

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Ontario Election, Leaders Debates, Ontario Politics | Leave a comment


Last night was the lone televised debate of the Ontario election campaign. With the vote too close to call, a lot was riding on it, and after last night…

not a heck of a lot changed. I have a hard time seeing how anyone would actually change their mind as a result of last night’s debate, and the Ipsos flash poll largely confirms that.

After all, if you’re like me and you like Dalton McGuinty, you liked what you saw. While the opposition focused on buzzwords and empty anecdotes (“Gary the accountant tells me he lost his job because of the HST“), McGuinty made his case his facts and figures. He responded to attacks, defended his record, and talked about his plans. He looked and sounded like was a grown up – some might even say a Premier.

That’s not to say it was a masterful performance we will all rave about years from now. He fought much of the debate on weaker ground – there was a lot more talk about taxes and energy prices than about Health Care and education. He took some hits. But that’s the life of an incumbent – the important thing is, he held his ground.

Hudak was the leader who most exceeded my expectations, but that likely says more about my expectations than about his performance. I liked his “big screen TV” and “lemonade stand” metaphors, and he showed real emotion when talking about his daughter’s experience in the Health Care system. If you were scoring the debate on points, Hudak landed the most blows. His “nobody believes you anymore” soundbite will probably lead off most clip packages.

However, the one knock on Hudak’s performance is a biggie. Quite simply, he looked and sounded like an opposition leader, not a Premier. He mentioned “Changebook” and his “5 point jobs plan” a few times, but there were only scattered descriptions of specific platform promises. He went after McGuinty at every opportunity – even when asked directly about what bold ideas he had for Ontario. It was a good performance, but not one that screamed “Premier-in-waiting”.

And then there’s Andrea Horwath. Horwath had the most to gain from this debate, and she likely helped herself out a bit. She was likable, and played those tried and true NDP hits – “hike up corporate taxes“, “results for people“, “putting people first“.

Personally, I wasn’t moved. She talked about the difficulty of balancing a family budget as a mom…on her lowly six-figure MPP salary. She talked about the awful treatment her son received at a Hamilton hospital…and later admitted the story was more “illustration” than fact. She told a story about a woman who gave her a big hug because she loved the NDP platform so much.

Personally, I found it all manipulative and lacking substance. But it will play to Horwath’s base, and may even rope in a few undecided votes.

Add it all up, and after 90 minutes of debating, we’re no closer to figuring out who will win on October 6th.

Ontario Debates

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Ontario Election, Leaders Debates, Ontario Politics | Leave a comment

No one knows who will win the Ontario election, two of the three leaders remain virtual unknowns, and the campaign still lacks a ballot question. Yet somehow, without warning, Ontario finds itself just 9 sleeps away from Voting Day.

So tonight’s debate will be important.

I’ll be live-blogging the festivities starting at 6:30, and will offer my thoughts on why Dalton McGuinty won afterwards.

For those just tuning in tonight, here’s a look at the players:

Dalton McGuinty: McGuinty has taken his lumps over the past eight years, and was written off by most pundits just a few months ago. Voters wanted change, Ontario’s economy was sputtering, and the HST was about to claim its second victim. Yet here we are, closing in on E-Day, and “The Taxman” is tied with Tim Hudak.

McGuinty has looked cool and been on message since day 1. He has played up his “experienced leadership” through tough economic times, and cautioned voters against risking Ontario’s stable economic recovery on unproven leaders. The man is one blue sweater vest away from being mistaken for Stephen Harper. I know Liberals will squirm at those words, but I mean it in the nicest way possible.

Tim Hudak: The PC campaign has focused almost exclusively on two isses – taxes, and Hudak’s BBQ skills. While most voters concerned about these two issues will no doubt vote PC on October 6th, Hudak’s set list hasn’t moved much beyond this (with the exception of his controversial “foreign workers” jab). Given McGuinty hasn’t actually promised to raise taxes, and is likely a fine BBQer himself, Hudak will need to show he’s more than a tax cut sound machine tonight, if he wants to win.

Hudak always struck me as a bit of a Stockwell Day type, so he’s the odds-on favourite to use a prop during tonight’s debate.

Andrea Horwath: Most Ontarians can’t pronounce her name and wouldn’t recognize her on the street, yet they’ll still tell you they like Andrea Horwath.

Being liked and unknown means Horwath has the most riding on tonight. A strong performance, and it’s not impossible for her to pull off an “accidental” win on election night à la Bob Rae. If she Iggies the debate, all the positive Jack Layton feelings in the world won’t be enough to keep her in the mid-20s.

Horwath will be standing centre stage tonight, which is appropriate, since all eyes will be on her.

On Top

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Ontario Election, Polls | Leave a comment

Yes, we all had a good snicker at last week’s Decima poll which showed the Liberals 11 points up in Ontario. But lo and behold, a double dose of polls last night, both showing Dalton McGuinty back on top:

Nanos (Sep 10-11, n = 507 phone)

Lib 38%
PC 35%
NDP 24%
Green 3%

Ipsos (Sep 7-11, n = 800 phone)

Lib 38%
PC 37%
NDP 24%
Green 1%

Sure, we’re only in the third inning, but this is encouraging for the Liberals for reasons beyond the obvious. It will energize the ground troops and, most importantly, will shift the media narrative in McGuinty’s favour. No doubt, had the polls shown Liberals losing ground, we’d have seen stories about a Liberal campaign in turmoil over its controversial immigrant tax credit proposal. Instead, it’s Hudak who will likely be on the hot seat.

We shouldn‘t let polls dictate the narrative, but it’s foolish to think they don’t. For a party down 10 points earlier this year, this buys McGuinty a few days of positive coverage.

Ontario Votes 2011

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Ontario Election | Leave a comment

The writ drops tomorrow in Ontario for an October 6th vote, but for all intents and purposes, the campaign is already well under way. So for those tuning in after a summer away from politics, here’s where the parties sit.

THE PLAYERS

Gone for the PCs is the lovable loser John Tory, replaced with Tim Hudak, the man with the golden smirk. Hudak was first elected in 1995…wait, is that right? How old was he then – 13?

Despite his 16 years of elected experience, Hudak remains undefined for most and difficult to pin down. The best way to describe him would be to simply say he is the very image of a modern politician – he smiles a lot, can deliver a decent soundbyte, and promises lower taxes. He’s not charismatic, but he’s not uncharismatic either. If I were ever tasked with preparing a PowerPoint presentation on different human professions for visiting aliens, Hudak would likely be my case study of “politician”.

Even less well known than Hudak is the NDP’s Andrea Horwath. While she won’t be mistaken for Jack Layton on the campaign trail, Horwath seems likable enough (unless you’re an environmentalist that is).

Horwath fits into the NDP mould, talking about “positive campaigns” and “results for people”…all the while tossing out a few silly ideas like baning cars from moving within 1 metre of bikes on the roads. 2011 is a good time to look like you’re cut from the NDP mould, so Horwath should do well, and could wind up a big player if Ontario wakes up with a minority government October 7th.

Then there’s Dalton McGuinty who, for better or worse, everybody knows. After a fairly low-key first term, McGuinty has spent the last four years doing the things voters say they want – investments in renewable energy, creating efficiencies in the tax system, helping businesses compete internationally, modernizing the economy…you know, big picture stuff. Of course, while voters may think 900 new wind turbines sounds good, most would probably rather get a tax rebate on their subway pass when all is said and done.

So McGuinty enters the campaign a few points behind Tim Hudak. But either man could win. Or woman, for that matter.

THE PLATFORMS

Yesterday, the Liberals released their platform , following up summer announcements from the PCs and NDP. The Liberal platform focuses heavily on their record, and features a host of third party validators – everyone from Bill Davis, to David Suzuki, to the Toronto Sun.

As for new policies, the platform is rather modest – outside of some cash for education, there aren’t a lot of big ticket items.

Which makes sense when you’re being called “the tax man” by your opponent.

THE COMMERCIALS

Above – Hudak on McGuinty’s record, McGuinty on McGuinty’s record, and Horwath talks about helping the little guy, while sitting in what appears to be a million-dollar house.

THE POLLS

Nanos (Aug 25-28, n = 1002 online)
PC 35%
Lib 32%
NDP 23%
Green 4%

Angus Reid (Aug 25-28, n = 1002 online)
PC 38%
Lib 31%
NDP 24%
Green 6%

Ipsos Reid (July 29-Aug 4, n = 899 online)
PC 38%
Lib 36%
NDP 23%
Green 3%

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