by Christina Blizzard, Toronto Sun
TORONTO – Poles apart. That’s the message Ontario politicians can take from Monday’s vote. Voters split down left/right lines — and the Liberal Party disappeared down the middle.
Jack Layton and his New Democrats made historic gains. Stephen Harper got his coveted majority. And the Liberal party “brand” took a big hit.
How to explain the unexpected and unprecedented rise in NDP fortunes is the big question.
Is this a reflection of New Democratic policies?
While Harper finally got his breakthrough in Toronto, so too, Layton made great inroads in urban Ontario.
Did they respond to his platform of beefing up pensions and providing a home heating tax credit?
Or was this simply an extension on the “pox on all their houses” wave that swept the province municipally last October?
With no fresh faces, was Layton the “none-of-the-above” box for voters to tick?
Are people simply saying they’re tired of the status quo and are willing to take the enormous risk of placing their province in the hands of a party that’s untried and untested, rather than playing it safe with the Liberals — who think they have the divine right to govern as the natural party of power.
Is he the federal equivalent of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford? Harper’s majority is bad news for provincial PC Leader Tim Hudak. Voters rarely elect the same party federally and provincially.
Hudak would be wise to turn the campaign into a left/right contest between him and the NDP. And he should be encouraged that Harper finally broke through in Toronto.
Clearly, voters are in no mood for waffling.
This changes the dynamics within the Liberal Party.
One thing’s for sure. Michael Ignatieff will head back to academia — and the Liberals will be plunged into a frenzy of rebuilding. And they’ll be looking for a new leader.
Who from the provincial party will be looking to Ottawa for the future?
Not that many, one suspects.
After all, there’ll be a Liberal leadership provincially within the next 18 months to two years.
No matter what happens Oct. 6 — win, lose or minority — Premier Dalton McGuinty will step down to allow new blood to take over.
Successors will be weighing their chances to see which party provides the better future.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, for example, is the Prince Charles of Ontario politics. Often seen as the heir apparent to McGuinty, he must feel as though he’s waited a lifetime for the top job.
Will he wait it out provincially — or take the federal leap?
This is a massive blow to the federal Liberal ego. It will take massive rebuilding to get the party back into an election-ready mode.
Are voters ready to hand the same kind of whupping to McGuinty and his Liberals?
It often seems as if we’ve forgotten about the eco fee shambles, the HST tax grab and soaring energy costs. Have we really?
Have we already made up our minds to send McGuinty off with a flea in his ear the way Ignatieff was dispatched?
Voters are angry — and volatile. The Battle of Ontario could well be between Hudak and Horwath.
If the votes polarize left and right, they’ll be the big winners.
And provincial Libs will be lost in space with Iggy.