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Queen’s Park Watch: Why Nobody Wants an Election But We Could Get One Anyway

It's still a long shot, but the odds of a provincial election are ticking up slightly as nobody wants to back down on budget talks.

Just as it became possible to answer the door without being greeted by some grinning baby-kisser bearing a sheaf of ironically-named political “literature,” the odds of another election in the province are getting shorter. With less than two weeks left for the NDP and Liberals to come to a deal on passing the government’s budget and avoiding a vote, the parties remain distant and the rhetoric is getting snippy.

This week, NDP leader Andrea Horwath released the full set of NDP proposals/requests/demands for changes to Dwight Duncan’s budget. Among other things, the Orange want a surtax on people earning over $500,000 a year, the removal of HST from home heating bills, a new jobs tax credit, and a scrapping of the Liberal plan to privatize the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.

Dalton McGuinty responded by saying that the proposals would cost $1 billion in new spending, a circumstance unlikely to sit well with bond buyers, rating agencies, and other international austerity enforcers.

The NDP in turn countered that the Liberal costing (details of which have not been released) is a crock, and that the whole thing would be a wash, with new spending funded by the Thurston Howell III tax, leaving probably $30 million or so left over to spend on deficit reduction or a souvenir TTC token for every resident of the province (our idea, not theirs).

The first question: is there still a middle ground to meet in? Both parties have been playing a friendly game thus far, with the Liberals not including anything outright horrifying to the NDP in their budget, and the New Democrats responding with a set of ideas that they legitimately believe the Grits can live with.

Of course, without the new tax, the most meaningful of the NDP demands become unaffordable. And having promised “no new taxes,” a flip-flop means the premier would lose more face than a clown passed out in a puddle of Vaseline. That in turn could kill the Liberals in the next election, whenever it happens, especially if the sun doesn’t shine on their deficit reduction projections.

The second question: who would gain most from an election—or more importantly, who thinks they would gain most? The Grits would be hard-pressed to find anything they’ve done that’s going to pick them up seats, having already got farmers, northern residents, public servants, and Ford nation in a state of high dudgeon. Penny-pinching (er, nickel-pinching?) is never popular, and an election based on this budget would be neutral for the Liberals at best.

The NDP don’t want an election either—they are even less financially prepared than the Grits—but feel they could run a strong campaign on their budget ideas. A recent poll by the Broadbent Institute indicated that a majority of Canadians are comfortable with taxing the rich to prevent cuts in social programs, and tax credits for job creation are likely to find favour in a province where employment has barely recovered since the depths of the Great Recession.

The Conservatives have already defaulted to forcing an election if the Liberals and NDP don’t reach an agreement. If they won the contest, Tim Hudak would redeem himself from the defeat he pulled from the jaws of victory last fall, and if they lose, the Tories probably get to look for a leader who has a better shot at running the province. Either way, somebody’s problem gets solved.

Against the bromide that voters will “punish” the party which forces an expensive, annoying election—well, who are the electorate going to beat on anyway? All the politicos will be pointing figures at the guy or gal across the aisle, and they’ll all be right.

So what are the odds we’ll be re-opening the polling stations this year? If Team McGuinty can give Horwath and Co. some real wins without raising taxes—say, keeping Ontario Northland, funding a jobs tax credit out of the Jobs and Prosperity Fund, hard-capping public sector executive compensation, and maybe a couple of others—we can still have a pleasant spring. If not, get ready for a rumble.


  • Anonymous

    If there is an election, voters will blame the NDP and Liberals. PC will come up the middle and win a minority or possibly a majority. Hudak must have his fingers crossed.

    • John

      Since when the hell was an election an inconvenience in a democratic society? And why should any party get blamed for it?

      • Anonymous

        Since we expected our elected representatives to govern, rather than posture?

        • Anonymous

          “We” don’t understand partisanship, I guess.

        • Anonymous

          Given no party has a majority, the problem is teh NDP and the LIberals are both trying to govern, just as you want. if the NDP were lazier, we wouldn’t have a problem.

          • Anonymous

            To be clear, I don’t have a problem with what’s happening right now. I’m just saying that if we get another election, it’s perfectly fair to blame the parties for screwing around.

    • Anonymous

      But surely Hudak can win an election on the force of his winning personality and ideas. Oh, wait.

      • Cyril Sneer

        You’re giving the voting public too much credit – scream loud enough about MORE JOBS!! and TAX CUTS!!! and they’ll get the votes.

      • Anonymous

        “fingers crossed” about covers it.

  • James Murdock

    ONTARIO HOME ENERGY RETROFITS (Local green jobs, lower energy bills, generate net-positive tax revenues) NDP ELECTION PROMISE 2011

    McGuinty and Harper budgets devastate Ontario energy savings industry. Hundreds of Ontario energy savings companies will be forced to downsize, lay off staff, or shut down altogether. Ontario is currently the only province in Canada without home energy retrofit incentives.
    Renewal of Ontario Home Energy Savings Program (OHESP) will save thousands of Ontario jobs which are to be lost in the energy retrofit industry.

    OHESP creates and protects jobs in Ontario: the retrofit industry employs Ontarians and is not reliant on foreign or migrant labour. Furthermore most products used in energy retrofits are manufactured in Ontario (lumber, insulation and windows, to name but a few), and installed by skilled local labour.

    OHESP is a revenue positive program for governments. The provincial government receives approximately $2.40 income from various tax sources for every $1.00 spent on retrofit incentives.

    OHESP helps reduce the carbon footprint of our existing housing stock and reduces our reliance on energy from all sources (conservation before generation).

    92 per cent of Ontario homeowners think government should create more incentives for homeowners to make environmentally friendly and energy efficient renovations to their homes (according to recent Ipsos Reid poll undertaken for the Ontario Real Estate Association).

    NDP Election Promise 2011
    Ontario’s New Democrats have promised nearly $1 billion over four years in retrofit programs to reduce electricity use and move the province away from its reliance on nuclear power. (Canadian Press – Aug 3 2011)