By Michael Den Tandt, Sudbury Star
It’s Tim Hudak’s to lose. Indications are he doesn’t intend to. He’ll run a cautious, scripted campaign. And on Oct. 6, thanks in large part to the abject failures of Dalton McGuinty but also because of historical forces bigger than either man, the grumpy Ontario electorate will make it a hat trick — and Hudak will be premier.
The message, to all and sundry: Time for the state, with its overweening notions of what is best for us, to take a humble step back.
Ordinary people, with the powers of speech that modern technology brings, and the bloodymindedness that the knowledge of injustice and waste brings, are coming into their own.
The first signal was Rob Ford’s victory in Toronto last fall. None of the experts thought he had a chance. Standing next to George Smitherman he looked like a different rung on the evolutionary scale. No offence intended.
Ford cared more about coaching football than courting the CBC; he had simplistic solutions to complex problems. He spoke in bumper-sticker slogans. This wasn’t the kind of guy who could become mayor of a huge, sophisticated, multi-racial, cosmopolitan city like Toronto.
Yet he won — by a lot. It was a massive repudiation of David Miller’s vision of Toronto, which was fundamentally a centre-left, statist vision.
Then came the federal election.
Ford’s win, some surmised, would help Michael Ignatieff in Toronto. By the time May 2 rolled around, Ford would have imploded, of course — bull in a China shop. The anti-Conservative backlash would propel Ignatieff to, if not victory, perhaps seat gains in Ontario.
That didn’t happen, either. Ignatieff didn’t simply lose. He was overwhelmed, owned and poned as the kids like to say. Harper had for years made a science of wooing main street, the Tim Hortons crowd. He and his braintrust figured there were many more of these folks across Canada, including in the big cities, than the mainly retired sophisticates who’d lean towards urbane Iggy.
They were right.
Which leads us to poor Dalton. After eight years, October was going to be a long shot at the best of times.
Two majority terms is enough for any leader. But Dalton has made things worse for himself — much worse — by staying on wrong side of the shift.
He’s a big-government guy who knows what’s best for us all — Premier Dad — at a time when Ontarians seriously want to be left alone. This is why McGuinty faces, not just a loss on Oct. 6, but a historic wipeout.
Recent polls confirm it.
Hudak, whether because of his own instincts or those of his people, senses the drift. There are no bold promises to roll back signature McGuinty polices such as all-day kindergarten.
Instead Hudak offers to do for McGuinty Ontario what Japan did for the automobile — make it work better.
It’ll be fundamentally the same set of policies, but less irritating. There will be no more attempts by Queen’s Park to tell us what we should do in our cars, or what type of foods we should eat.
And industrial wind turbines will not be forced down the throats of rural Ontarians.
What’s emerging, at all three levels of government, is a kind of neo-liberal, centrist Conservatism — with a suddenly centre-leaning New Democratic Party quite happy to play understudy.
Ontario Liberals, sensing this historic tide, may well take the summer off.
There’s not a lot they can do now to change it.