The winds of change are blowing strong through the provincial halls of power and telephones have already been ringing off the hook with robocalls that are fast followed by scripted pitches by partisan human beings, all seeking to mine volunteers and campaign contributions from their committed base. The modern political campaign is fast upon us.
But truth be told, this provincial campaign has long been underway, with the battlelines drawn on social media where people tend to congregate these days. It has been impossible to miss the steady, and apparently somewhat successful, barrage of negative imagery that has tossed a steady supply of fuel into the fires of public opinion and sought to cast Premier Kathleen Wynne in a dark and ominous light.
It has often been said that if you toss enough mud at your opponent, some of it will start to stick, and Premier Wynne has certainly seen a veritable tsunami of dirt over the past several months—with the popularity numbers to show for it.
It doesn’t help Ms. Wynne’s cause that most of what has been thrown at her took place under a previous administration, the ammunition is there and in partisan politics the source of the mud doesn’t much matter—it’s all about the target.
There is little question that the Liberals had their own truckloads of muck provided by the escapades of the previous Tory leader, Patrick Brown, ready for the catapults but already taking their toll on his brand in the polling numbers—only to be derailed at the eleventh hour and replaced with the non-heir apparent (that was either Christine Elliott or Carolyn Mulroney) Toronto populist Doug Ford.
Still, Mr. Ford provides plenty of his own ammunition to the Liberals’ electoral guns and doubtless there will be plenty flying through the air as the election proceeds.
As for NDP leader Andrea Horwath, the Liberal and Progressive Conservative tactic has generally been a less-than-benign policy of simply ignoring her option. Generally, that has proven a very successful course of action so why change now.
All this focus on negativity, twisted truths and hyperbole is tremendously unfortunate. Instead of a debate on the best policy course on which to plot the province’s future political discourse in the 21st Century seems to have descended into name calling and character assassinations that are more suited to the realm of playground rivalries than the halls of power.
The current situation for the governing Liberals is somewhat bizarre on the face of it. The economy is chugging along with a head of steam that has not been seen in generations. Unemployment is at its lowest level since, well, who now living call recall when the unemployment rate was lower? With the books essentially balanced last budget, the province has finally taken substantive steps to alleviate poverty and begin rebuilding some of the social infrastructure strained by the fiscal challenges of the past half-decade and the cuts that made balancing the books possible. Yet still the polls show the Liberals no love. The desire for change is a powerful electoral opiate.
The Tories claim that the Liberals have indulged in an orgy of wasteful spending and that government waste can be mined for a treasure trove of savings that will fuel even greater largesse for the taxpayer, the NDP has asserted that the Liberals have been the very embodiment of a Nightmare on Elm Street, with a Freddy-Wynne slashing every conceivable government service and tearing apart each and every strand of the social safety net in this province well past the breaking point.
The truth might be found somewhere in these veritable tornados of spin—but finding it will actually take some effort, buried as it is in the current hail of muck. Certainly the Liberals have steered the ship of state onto some shoals during their time at the helm. The question isn’t so much as to whether it is time to change the hands on the tiller as it is whether there are currently better hands to be found on deck and is the course they wish to chart headed toward a port we wish to visit.
As we head into this round of gladiatorial politics The Expositor will, as has always been our wont, implore the electorate to closely examine why they intend to cast their ballot the way they plan. Look beyond the deluge of Facebook memes that focus on negative messages and examine both what has actually taken place in this province since the last election, as well as what lies behind what is being offered.
In an effort to assist in this effort, the paper will once again be hosting an all candidates’ night at Manitoulin Secondary School, so mark the date, Tuesday, May 15 and the time, 7 pm.
And, in the spirit of this season of political promises, we will have free coffee and donuts on hand.