February was a busy month in Toronto, as MPPs returned, mid-month, to their desks in the Ontario Legislature after about four months of a work stoppage – courtesy of former Premier Dalton McGuinty’s decision to prorogue the legislature and give his government time to re-brand itself with an aim to continuing the legacy he began in 2003.
NEW PREMIER VERBOSE ON PROMISES
Lt.-Gov. David Onley ceremonially read Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Speech from the Throne on February 19 – the new government’s plan for this session of parliament. It’s mostly a ceremonial day, and I’ve watched many of these over the past 30 years. In general, these speeches are long-winded exposés that prattle on and on and on about ideas the government would like to enact, all the while being thin on how the government will actually achieve them.
This particular speech did not disappoint in the prattling department. It was one of the most ridiculous speeches in terms of flowery language describing how wonderful life is in Ontario, and how this particular government is over-the-top engaged in making things better. My favourite throne speech ‘extreme statements’ were: ‘your government believes all things are possible…(and) your government will not be hemmed in by expectations.’ Needless to say, I think it’s the wrong thing for a new Premier to say all things are possible…it’s genuinely misleading. Not all things are possible, practically – and to suggest so is a big error in judgment and does nothing to improve the reputation of politicians overall. As for insisting it won’t be hemmed in by expectations – I’d like to remind the government that voters actually have expectations, and they likely want the government of the day to be hemmed in by them. One of them is, indeed, offering a fair society, and another is spending within one’s means. The speech mentioned both…but again, thin on execution.
I guess it goes with the territory that such speeches continue to this day – pithy ‘out-loud’ dreams the government has for us, and for their role in our lives. I suppose there really isn’t a better way to start a session of parliament than to have to sit through one of these. That they are long on promise and thin on deliverance likely explains why the press and the opposition alike rip right into the document before the echoes of its reading are barely silenced.
HUDAK IS (STILL) THE MESSIAH – JUST ASK HIM
As if the Premier’s hot-air speech was not enough to make things exciting at Queen’s Park on its own, our official opposition leader Tim Hudak managed to pick up where he left off in the 2012 pre-budget process and summarily reminded all who would listen of his narcissistic neo-messianic tendencies.
‘We need to change the team that’s leading this Province,’ Hudak said repeatedly as the press challenged him to lay out his plan to work with the new Premier. He referred to Wynne’s plans as ones that would continue to lead Ontario down a ‘path of joblessness and debt.’
While it is easy to argue that Ontario overspends, Hudak is repetitively simplistic and unsophisticated in his approach to building trust with Ontarians suggesting only he is fit to govern, not others. As he did last winter, Hudak boxed himself into voting against the government’s pending budget without even seeing it – without even allowing the government to finish consultations on it. Hudak comes off as one who has a one-track mind, and as a leader who is not prepared of offer hope that people are looking for, outside of his broken-record statement ‘Ontario can lead again.’ Does he believe all paths of proper judgment are economic? His ‘my way or the highway’ tactics belie weakness of character or judgment, not strength. To say the least, we are surprised at this, and disappointed. And while he chomps at the bit to face the electorate again, recent polls suggest people in Ontario are more inclined to give the government time to re-cast themselves.
HORWATH OFFERS FEISTIER TACTICS IN 2013
NDP leader Andrea Horwath played her cards in February with more finesse than usual, and in a tough role. Her response to the throne speech was both cooperatively supportive, and strongly critical. On behalf of her party she continued her approach of appearing to want to work with the Liberals, all the while heightening the rhetoric about pressing the Liberals to reduce car insurance prices, and reduce wait times for those needing home care in the province.
Forum Research did a poll following the throne speech, and Horwath did well in it – garnering the highest approval rating for an Ontario leader at 49 percent compared to 36 for the Premier and 27 for Hudak.
Where Horwath is getting tougher is on the issue of wanting to see action.
“It’s time for a little less conversation, and a little more action,” she said, noting that the throne speech was extremely vague, and that she plans to hold the Premier to account for action on the priorities her party is advocating (such as reducing car insurance premiums, acting quickly on youth unemployment, and closing corporate tax loopholes).
It is hard to measure the intent of her words as it might translate to the possibility of a spring election. Horwath is on a tightrope between being cooperative with the Liberals, and showing the strength necessary to be seen as a Premier in waiting, and yet not showing so much confidence as to cross the line to arrogance. Conversations with NDP caucus members indicate that even they don’t think they are a government in waiting yet…and this is probably a sign that Ontarians continue to be of three minds when it comes to who they’d like to see running the province.
Hopefully in our next issue we’ll be able to analyze the pre-budget consultations going on through March with an eye to predicting the rise or fall of this new Wynne Liberal government on the merits of its first budget in April.