PHOTOS: Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario NDP. Below: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, sometime Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader Patrick Brown, the late Jim Prentice when he was PC premier of Alberta, and former Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak. (All photos except those of Mr. Prentice and Ms. Notley are from the Wikimedia Commons. Those two are mine.)
Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats are going to win the Ontario provincial election on June 7.
I know this because I’m from Alberta and we’ve been through this perfect storm already.
In the early spring of 2015, Alberta’s provincial election was looming. Polling suggested Alberta voters were growing tired of the Progressive Conservative Dynasty – by then led by banker and former Conservative MP Jim Prentice.
But since we’d all learned from our mamas that Alberta was “the most conservative province in Canada,” and since the PCs had been in power for close to 44 years, change was hard to imagine.
In mid-March, Mr. Prentice, his caucus expanded by 10 Wildrose MLAs who had recently defected to his side, was projected to win a 64-seat majority.
Pundits, praying for a horserace, started to predict the even-further-to-the-right Wildrose Party holdouts might make a breakthrough, and, for a spell, Alberta voters seemed to go along with that notion.
Twenty-six days before the election, polling analyst Eric Grenier’s usually reliable poll aggregation site cautiously predicted a Wildrose victory with as many as 48 seats. “That makes them the only party in the projection with a likely range surpassing the 44-seat mark needed for a majority government,” he wrote.
The New Democrats might form the Opposition, Mr. Grenier suggested, with the PCs coming third.
Mr. Prentice seemed unfazed, though, serenely campaigning under the slogan “Choose Alberta’s Future.”
Well, we all know what happened on May 5. Alberta’s New Democrats, led by the charismatic and obviously capable Rachel Notley, were picked by voters to lead Alberta into a future no one quite expected.
Voters apparently concluded they’d not only had enough of the Progressive Conservatives, they’d had enough of conservatives altogether.
Why did this happen? Well, nobody really knows, but it seems likely the Alberta electorate, more sophisticated than they were ever given credit for by all the usual suspects, were righteously sick of the Tories but uninterested in an even more extreme version of the same thing.
Ms. Notley was a familiar face in a new role, obviously capable, and genuinely progressive – as were a great many Albertans, it turned out, just like voters in Ontario.
Some voters may have soon experienced buyer’s regret, but they gave Ms. Notley a 54-seat majority and history was made, especially since the NDP Caucus had only four members on the day Mr. Prentice dropped the writ.
Now it is the spring of 2018 and Ontario is about 10 weeks away from its next provincial election. The situation is not exactly the same as it was in Alberta in the spring of 2015, but the similarities are striking.
The government of Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne has grown long in the tooth, touched by scandal and voter fatigue. She has been in power since 2013. The Ontario Liberal Party has run the province without a break since 2003.
The prevailing narrative of pundits leading into the previous Ontario election, in 2014, was that voters were sick of the Liberals and would pick the PCs.
But Tim Hudak, who had become leader of the PC Opposition in 2009, came out as an anti-union obsessive, determined to turn the province into a Republican right-to-work state. This and other things apparently caused sufficient disquiet among Ontario voters for Ms. Wynne to hang on for another term in 2014.
Mr. Hudak then quit. After a spell under an interim leader, party members elected Patrick Brown, a federal conservative MP from Barrie, in May 2015.
In the past few weeks, things have gotten very interesting under Mr. Brown’s leadership.
For those of you in Western Canada who haven’t been paying attention to Ontario political developments with your jaw hanging open, in just the past few days, Mr. Brown has been accused by two women of sexually inappropriate behaviour, forced to resign his position as leader after rebellions by his staff and caucus, sued CTV for defamation over their coverage of the accusations, declared himself to have been cleared of the accusations, been permitted to run to replace himself as leader, is being investigated by the provincial Integrity Commissioner for not declaring all sources of income, is being investigated by the police for alleged forgery and fraud, and announced he intends to drop out of the race he just dropped into.
It is, in other words, an absolute gong show, hard to keep up with, and, probably, everything will change again today!
The province’s voters are doubtless still sick of Ms. Wynne’s Liberals, but the PC Opposition is leaderless, in a state of open rebellion, and quite obviously incapable of safely operating a hot dog stand, let alone Canada’s most populous province.
Oh, and Caroline Mulroney, the daughter of old Basso Profundo himself, is running for the party’s leadership.
For the moment, it not clear what Ontario voters are going to do.
Political commentator Warren Kinsella, a Liberal, gloomily reported on his blog yesterday that the Ontario PCs are still competitive. Mind you, that conclusion was based on polls taken before the latest parade of clown cars headed up Toronto’s University Avenue toward the Ontario Legislature, honking their horns as men in fright wigs on tiny motorcycles buzzed around them.
Mr. Kinsella certainly knows the Ontario political scene better that I do. He lives there, after all, and I haven’t for 30 years.
I have lived in Alberta, though, so here’s what I think is going to happen:
Ms. Horwath, the MPP (as Ontario pretentiously calls its MLAs) for Hamilton Centre who has run the NDP caucus at Queens Park (as Ontario pretentiously calls its Legislature) for nearly a decade without messing up dramatically enough for it to be noticed out here on the Prairies, will canter into power, just as Ms. Notley did.
She’s a single mom, a responsible job if ever there was one. She’s a former Hamilton City Councillor. She’s been an MPP since 2004. She’s run literacy programs for unions. She’s made a cause of social housing and injured workers’ rights. She was honoured with the Woman of the Year in Public Affairs in 1999 the Hamilton Status of Women Committee. She knows how to act like a grownup.
You get the picture.
Ms. Horwath is going to look to a lot of voters like she’s got what it takes to be premier. She’s by definition not a right-wing loon who’s going to act like an ideological bull and smash all the china. (Ontario’s been there under Conservative golfer and premier Mike Harris. Nobody wants the T-shirt.)
She’s untainted by the scandals associated with the Wynne government. But she ticks most of the other boxes for stuff Ontarians liked about Ms. Wynne.
Like Ms. Notley, she’s a familiar face seeking a new role, obviously capable, and genuinely progressive.
So why not vote for her?
Of course, people closer to the scene are going to have a thousand and one reasons why I’m wrong.
The polls Mr. Kinsella noted, for example, show the Liberals and the NDP in a statistical tie, each with lower support than the PCs. But that will change as election day nears and progressive votes shift toward the party most likely to keep dangerous clowns out of power.
We Albertans have already seen this movie and, no matter what the Opposition claims, the ending’s still pretty good.
So Andrea Horwath is going to win on June 7, just like Rachel Notley did on May 5, 2015. Remember where you heard it first, Alberta!