What do these results mean? And how much do we care?
So, that happened.
Really, what else are we supposed to say about the provincial election? For all the furor over the possibility of a minority government, we already know what’s going to happen. Dalton McGuinty will be in charge. Tim Hudak will do nothing to bring down the government until he thinks he can win; Andrea Horwath will do nothing to bring down the government until she thinks Tim Hudak can’t win and the NDP can do better than they already have. The next two years will be filled with meaningless political drama involving backroom deals, and then maybe Hudak and Horwath will both want to pull the trigger, and voters will eventually vote for whichever party promises not to have an election for the longest amount of time. (It’ll probably be the Tories, because Tories are naturally already inclined not to offer people freedom of choice anyway.)
As we write this, just past midnight, some TV reporters are blathering about an NDP/Tory coalition government, which is quite possibly the stupidest thing ever. Can you think of a worse alliance than that, between two parties whose political beliefs are more diametrically opposed to one another, and whose bases are more antagonistic to one another? Oh, wait. We can, because they just tried this in Britain and it didn’t work at all. Sometimes it seems like TV reporters just really, really liked The Odd Couple and want to apply it to all situations in life, regardless of context.
But are there any narratives, sitcom-based or not, that apply to this election? Voters didn’t decisively reject Tim Hudak’s bigoted crap: he pulled about 35 per cent of the popular vote, only two per cent less than the Liberals. Voters didn’t come out in huge numbers for the NDP: yes, Andrea Horwath pulled 23 per cent and did very respectably, but 17 seats is still only 17 seats. That the Liberals didn’t collapse like they did in the federal election is sort of a story, we guess, but when our standards for a narrative drop to “well, they could have died, but didn’t die after all,” we know we’re bored. The final voter turnout numbers aren’t out yet, but early reports indicate that they’re low—so it isn’t just us who feel underwhelmed.
It’s been an election full of unrealistic promises that absolutely everybody knew were unrealistic. No party put together a political platform that had anything to do with the realities facing a province that has based its economy on manufacturing for most of a century and now suddenly finds its manufacturing sector beginning to dwindle in the face of an international economic upheaval. The Liberals said, “Let’s build green technology instead,” the Tories said, “Tax cuts!” and the NDP said, “Small-business tax credits!” and none of these were answers, and absolutely everybody knew this. The differences between all three economic platforms were relatively minor, forcing partisans to feud over wonkish details that only wonks care about. (That’s not to say they weren’t important.)
In his sort-of-a-victory speech, Dalton McGuinty said that Ontario likes to work together, that Ontarians come together. This election was not about coming together. This election was about working the tiny dividing lines between us to wring every last possible advantage out of an electorate that has grown used to politicians not saying much of anything of real import. Now, in order to get anything done, the parties will have to work together, at least to an extent. How well do you think that will go, after they’ve spent so much energy maximizing their differences?