If there was ever a time to have an election it is right now, before the proposed provincial budget for 2012 passes the legislature. Ontario's last election was light on policy and heavy on platitudes from all sides. The Liberals engineered a platform designed to preserve enough seats to cling to power for another term, while the PCs struggled to portray Tim Hudak as a Premier, not opposition leader, in waiting.
The NDP made impressive gains, but Andrea Horwath is really only now beginning to demonstrate strong leadership and an ability to make what appear to be principled decisions.
During the last campaign, each party leader promised Ontario's best days lay ahead, while only the PCs offered any cuts as part of a plan to address the deficit and get Ontario's economic house back in order. The NDP didn't run on tax increases, but now seem prepared to publicly take a position that is in keeping with their party's worldview. Good on Horwath for doing that.
Each is a valid option to reining in a deficit. Dalton McGuinty certainly didn't run on savaging collective bargaining rights, fighting with teachers, doctors and anyone else who earns their living in the public service. Nor did the Premier run on building casinos in Liberal bastions like downtown Toronto or downtown Ottawa. Each of these is a big departure from the limited, tentative mandate Ontarians offered the Premier and are worthy of public debate and ultimately allowing Ontarians to decide what is best.
McGuinty's election platform called for expanding, publicly subsidized transportation (Go Transit), not selling off or closing vital public transportation to communities that need it (Ontario Northland).
The Liberal's position that Ontario doesn't need an election right now, arguing the province just had one, doesn't consider what we know now that we didn't know then.
At the time of the last election, the Auditor's damning report on the Liberal's mismanagement of billions of dollars was still under wraps. The involvement of key party members in the ORGNE scandal had not broken and Don Drummond's slash and burn approach to balancing the books was not complete.
Now that the public has access to all of these things, and both the Liberals and NDP have joined the PCs in offering distinct variations of how they would handle Ontario's finances for the coming year and into the future -- we've got a real reason to go to the polls. Hudak's PCs have been largely absent from the public budget debate, in large part due to their early decision to vote against the budget, but in doing so, are responsible for putting the NDP in a place where they had to develop some tangible economic positions of their own and Ontario is better for it.
Let's have an election this spring and let Ontarians decide not simply who they trust to govern, but also whose plan for Ontario's finances they believe will serve our future best.
Fixed elections seem like a good idea, until they become tools to allow a governing party to avoid disclosing their true plans until it's too late for voters to say or do anything about it. This isn't the first time McGuinty has run on spending and turned to cuts within months of claiming power -- but this is the first time the NDP and PCs are in a position to do something about it.
For the sake of our province, let's hope the opposition gives all Ontarians an opportunity to vote on how best to handle Ontario's economic recovery, now that all the facts are available.
Regardless of whose plan you think is best, is there any reason to deny Ontarians, in whose name the government spends and in whose great-grandchildren's names this Premier assigns debt, the opportunity to chart the course they want our government to take?