Levy Referendum
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Levy Referendum

Photo by Ayngelina Brogan/Torontoist.

Neither Levy the person nor levy the sales tax was able to overturn the Liberal stronghold of St. Paul’s yesterday, as voters selected Eric Hoskins (Liberal) to be their new MPP by a roomy 19% margin. (Full election results here.) Though the Progressive (?) Conservatives (with an assist from the NDP) tried their hardest to turn the by-election into a protest vote on the Harmonized Sales Tax, citizens in one of the wealthiest ridings in the province refused to become outraged at the prospect of paying more for a subset of their purchases ten months from now. (Expect the Liberals to trumpet this fact far and wide in July 2010, when the tax takes effect and they can say, in the face of their opponents’ outrage, that voters are clearly sanguine about the whole thing.)
Levy, a first-time candidate but long-time political presence—she has been the Sun‘s City Hall columnist for the past eleven years—badly misread the mood of the electorate, beating the drum of HST anger relentlessly, though she turned out to be by far the angriest person in the room. For people familiar with her writing, this was not entirely surprising, inordinate expressions of outrage being something of a staple for her. Levy’s one-note campaign failed to inspire and failed to offer a nuanced vision of both her electoral district and her province, preferring to only to tear down rather than suggest where she might build up.
Hoskins was notable for being absent in a variety of unfortunate ways (he skipped one of the two all-candidates meetings and failed to offer a detailed policy statement of his own), and he went into the campaign with the always dangerous albatross of parachute candidate hanging around. But with an impressive resume (among other things, he helped found War Child Canada) and a populace apparently disinclined to be goaded into ire for no particularly good reason, Hoskins was never an especially vulnerable target. Early word is that he may soon be in cabinet, and life in St. Paul’s will now return to its ordinary, anger-free fall.