In an Ontario that almost (always) produces a healthy majority for a given political party, Premier Dalton McGuinty's Liberal minority government is an exception. The last time we had a minority government in Ontario was at the end of the Tory dynasty of Bill Davis and the beginning of a short lived Frank Miller's minority government in 1985.
That minority government lasted weeks when the then NDP leader, Bob Rae, introduced a motion of No confidence which brought down the government. The Liberals, who had four seats less than the Progressive Conservatives, were asked to form government. In an accord signed between the Liberals and NDP, David Peterson was asked to form a Liberal government in 42 years supported by the NDP.
The 1985 accord produced a slew of jewel achievements for the Ontario Liberal government supported by the NDP. These included employment equity reforms, rapid growth in co-op and government housing, labour law legislation, strong enforceable environmental legislation, workers compensation as well as child care funding among many others. One might disagree with all these but they were a great government legacy.
As Premier Dalton McGuinty and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath came together in support of a budget vote, one cannot help but reflect on what this would mean for future Ontario governments. According to the Premier, they (the NDP) wanted a "tax-the-rich" scheme in exchange for support while he wanted to pay down the deficit faster." The current Ontario government is desperate for much needed resources even as far as expanding their monopoly on casinos and lotteries. The cooperation of the two parties would benefit the longevity and relevance of their presence in Ontario politics for years to come. A real competition between parties for the running of our provinces as well as country benefits us all in the long term.
For the Liberals, they can politically blame the NDP for pushing them to implement the tax raising idea while bringing in much needed resources to fund a list of Liberal promises. For the NDP, for a party that looked irrelevant mere years ago, this will show their relevance in Ontario.
The agreement calls on the government to impose two per cent surtax on 23,000 high income earners with the hope of raising close to $500 million. All proceeds will be directed to paying down a $15.2 billion deficit. For the NDP, it also means a one per cent increase to Ontario Works benefits and Ontario Disability Support Plan. This was a win-win situation for both parties and their supporters.
The last time this kind of cooperation happened between these parties in Ontario, the conservatives were doing extremely well. They had been in government for generations while the federal scene, their federal counterpart had produced the biggest Conservative majority under Brian Mulroney and the future of the other parties looked bleak.
That rare cooperation between these parties and it gave them real inspiration. They each would go on and form future majority governments in Ontario. Premier Dalton McGuinty can do that for his party as well, in Ontario and across Canada. By anyone's stretch, the Liberal party is not doing well across Canada.
In the federal scene, it is in its lowest standing in its history. In the just concluded Alberta election for example, the Alberta Liberals lost Official Opposition status. After three successive Liberal governments, according to popular polls, there is a chance the Liberal would be voted out of office in an eminent provincial election.
For the NDP, its contribution would help shake the nightmare of the first half decade of the 90s when they controlled Ontario. This would help solidify the notion that they may be trusted to form a future government or at least be part of a coalition. Political parties work best when they compromise and look beyond their political borders and are always complemented with future electoral successes.
In Ontario as well as across Canada, we do not need a political dynasty but options and chances for every party to contribute in government. Our party membership and political persuasion might tell us otherwise but it is not in our Canadian idealism to believe anything less.