By Chris Vander Doelen, The Windsor Star
People living on the shores of Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair probably whooped for joy a few days ago when Premier Dalton McGuinty slapped a moratorium on industrial wind farms in the Great Lakes.
But a reminder to those who might become delirious with celebration: In a bid to quell public outrage over another unpopular policy last October, the premier put a similar moratorium on Ontario’s eco fees. Some of them never went away.
A furious Windsor Star reader called me recently after the $58 television she bought at Walmart end ed up costing her more than $86 after the HST and eco fees were added. “I thought they got rid of that,” she said of the fee, an environmental tax by any other name. The reader said she’d called other stores to check prices, and they all cited the eco tax. So much for a McGuinty moratorium.
You might want more than a sweaty politician’s pledge of “more scientific study” to convince us that the terrible turbine idea is dead.
Before turbine opponents can relax, the province’s plan to plop 715 of those towering bird-choppers in our public lake beds needs to be deader than a dodo -as in, extinct.
Probably along with the premier’s career.
If McGuinty is re-elected this fall, Great Lakes wind farms could be back on the drawing boards quicker than you can say “four more years.” They could be resurrected even if McGuinty is ousted as Liberal leader, because the party says it remains committed to the concept.
Still, McGuinty’s furtive moratorium -he buried the announcement late on a day when a dictator’s fall in Egypt was dominating the news -is another sign the Liberals are increasingly nervous about his chances of re-election.
The latest Nanos poll released Monday shows why. It puts them behind Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives again, although not by enough to matter. The premier himself, however, now dangerously trails Hudak’s personal popularity in the leadership category.
The Tories are polling 43 per cent support versus 39 per cent for the Liberals. A gap that small could be a statistical belch. But even if it’s real, the Liberals could make it up in a weekend if they had to.
The numbers that have to worry the Liberals and scare McGuinty are in the leadership category. Of the 506 Ontario residents polled by telephone last week, 32.3 per cent thought Hudak would make the best premier, up from only 16.6 per cent one year ago.
Only 23.4 per cent of those polled thought McGuinty would make the best premier, down from 32.1 per cent one year ago.
More than 20 per cent said they were unsure, 11.5 per cent picked “none of them,” and 9.2 per cent of those polled preferred NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. The leader of the Ontario Green Party got 3.4 per cent.
At this point, McGuinty has to be feeling some sympathy for president Hosni Mubarek in Egypt. Like Mubarek, it’s not just the electorate he has to worry about but the wellpractised long knives of his own party members.
As I suggested in a column last year, the minute MPPs and the legions of Liberal troughers in the bureaucracy decide the premier’s personal unpopularity threatens their livelihoods, they’ll start plotting an Egyptian-style coup to rid themselves of the albatross.
The latest poll reflects something else I wrote last year: McGuinty has got so many voters mad at him on so many fronts, he has to start making peace with some or he’ll be deader than a Norwegian blue parrot.
Hence the moratorium, and the cheesy Hydro rebate. Other climbdowns and blandishments are sure to follow.
Internally, the party is probably in for a rough ride in coming weeks because of the Nanos poll. The ambitious factions behind leadership hopefuls will smell blood, and start jockeying for position.
The bad polling numbers also shed further light on why McGuinty brought that puzzling PowerPoint presentation to Windsor two weeks ago, the one that took a painful 40 minutes to list his accomplishments over the past seven years and explain why they cost so much.
McGuinty has since delivered the same slide show in Ottawa, London and Toronto. Media reports invariably describe cheering crowds, although some of the coverage has been rather cool.
But after the poll numbers, my guess is the road show isn’t intended to convince voters to give him another term.
McGuinty’s talking over our heads, trying to convince his own party to let him stay.