Why Wynne Weighing in on Election May Be a Win for Liberals After All

09/13/2015 08:09 EDT | Updated 09/13/2016 05:12 EDT
Lucas Oleniuk via Getty Images
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 17: Premier Kathleen Wynne joined Liberal Party of Canada leader Justin Trudeau for an election rally in Toronto Centre Monday night. (Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

There has been some controversy about Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne warring with Stephen Harper in the battle for federal votes in Ontario.

The other parties' partisans have argued that it is unseemly for a premier to partake this way in a federal election. It is a Canadian tradition, they argue, that premiers stick to their provincial knitting and position themselves to work with whichever leader should win the bedroom at 24 Sussex Dr. in Ottawa.

Of course, these same naysayers also tend to argue that Wynne's popularity has waned since she won her majority government and, therefore, she could be hurting Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau by her actions. They doth protest too much, methinks (with apologies to Shakespeare's Hamlet). If they truly believe that Wynne hurts Trudeau, it seems to me that they should just let the damage be done.

On the other hand, the Conservatives and even some NDP don't seem shy about running their federal campaigns on provincial issues. Ontario's newly revised physical education and health curriculum (a.k.a. the sex-ed curriculum) seems particularly attractive to those seeking the social conservative vote.

This is an interesting gamble. Yes, there will be voters who do not distinguish between federal and provincial issues, but more intriguing is the gamble that the anti-sex-ed voter will be of bigger benefit than more mainstream electors. The polling I have seen shows that most Ontarians support modernizing the curriculum -- including the bits about sex.

While it is no doubt true that Wynne has lost some popularity since she won just over a year ago, she still has significant sway -- particularly in areas where the battle for Ontario will be won or lost. I am speaking of urban and suburban Ontario, which has been good for Liberals. Northern and rural Ontario ridings are likely to mimic the pattern of the provincial election, i.e. not good for Liberals.

The polls (hold your skepticism for a second) show that Ontario is increasingly a growth location for Trudeau and his team. While it is fair not to solely credit Wynne for this, it is also fair to admit that she may be helping.

It's no coincidence that two of Trudeau's biggest announcements have been on infrastructure and not buying into the so-called austerity agenda. Sound familiar?

This differentiates him from the pack. The Conservatives and the NDP are talking just like their provincial counterparts did during the June 2014 election. Not surprising from the Harper team, but surely Thomas Mulcair should have learned from the Andrea Horwath campaign that austerity fans don't tend to vote NDP -- at least not in Ontario.

Finally, consider that many on the Trudeau team are also on the Wynne team. They are seasoned, know the province, have the data and have honed their messages. I don't recall a time where federal and provincial Liberals have had so much family love and cooperation.

I am betting that Wynne will not be playing Lady Macbeth after the election, sleepwalking and ranting "Out, damn'd spot" in guilt for having figuratively killed Justin Trudeau.


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