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Werner Patels

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Let's Give Wynne a Fighting Chance

Posted: 01/28/2013 5:00 pm

Ontario has a new premier, and the hyperpartisans are out in full force (it was a full moon, after all). Less than 24 hours after Kathleen Wynne won the Liberal leadership, Twitter exploded with rants and taunts calling on the PCs and NDP to force an election immediately.

One such Twitter user, a self-described independent journalist, betrayed her ignorance of how things work when she suggested that the (considerable) amount of money that would have to be spent on an election wouldn't matter much to the Liberals in light of the billions they had already spent/wasted. She obviously didn't realize that the money was the taxpayers' money, and not the Liberals'.

Even John Tory, former leader of the PCs, wrote on Twitter that Wynne should be allowed sufficient time to prove herself first before throwing the cold water of an election over the entire province -- "RIGHT thing to do," he wrote.

No matter what Wynne's predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, did, it is simply ridiculous to assume that she would automatically continue on as a McGuinty clone or robot. Parties are parties, but they change depending on the people leading them.

The Conservative Party would be drastically different if someone other than Stephen Harper were its leader. The PC party in Alberta is definitely not the party it once was. Since the arrival of Alison Redford, it hasn't even been a conservative party any more.

That Wynne leans to the left is well-known, but she might still surprise Ontarians. For all anyone knows, she could turn out to be a fiscal hawk and actually clean up the mess left behind by McGuinty. The point is that we won't know until we've tried, or given her enough time to at least try.

Besides, even if she turns to the left, we may not necessarily have to become worried and book the moving van to leave the province in a hurry: there have been left-wing governments both in Canada and abroad that managed to balance the books.

At the same time, our very own Conservative government in Ottawa took a surplus in 2006 and turned into a major deficit -- not because of "emergency or stimulus spending" in the wake of the global recession, but because public spending in Harper's first term had gone up by at least 14 to 16 per cent -- a feat only to be admired by drunken-sailor, tax-and-spend Liberals (to stick with a time-honoured cliché).

Elections are costly affairs, and given today's constellation in Ontario, there's no guarantee that the winner of a spring election would win a majority. That is to say, the likeliest outcome is a minority government that would teeter on the brink of being censured, thus saddling Ontario's taxpayers with the costs of yet another election in short order.

Surely, this cannot be the will of voters already disgruntled by profligate spending.

A much better approach, therefore, is to let Wynne govern for a while. If, say, by fall, she has failed to address the most pressing issues facing Ontario and/or it's become blatantly clear that she is, indeed, nothing but a McGuinty clone, then, and only then, should the opposition parties gang up on her and the Liberals and bring the government down.

PC supporters, in particular, should be grateful for any extra time. As the last two elections demonstrated, the PCs found themselves in the middle of an election campaign, but weren't prepared for it. They should also consider this: the last election wasn't won by McGuinty; it was lost by the PCs.

PC leader Tim Hudak is still somewhat green behind the ears. He's not short on ideas, but he needs more time to think things through more thoroughly before subjecting himself to a Canadian Idol-type competition.

Some, particularly the few Canadians who watch Sun News Network, have retweeted and shared a comparison of the track records of McGuinty and the former premier Mike Harris.

Fair enough, Harris left office with a surplus to his name (around $400 million -- in Ontario, that's pocket change), but he also left Ontario, and Toronto in particular, in shambles. Public transit, for example, was a mess, and the public wasn't really served well in virtually every aspect of public life.

Ten years later, and with a lot more people in Toronto, public transit has improved considerably. It is tight sometimes, but if Ontario had continued under Harris or his philosophy, Toronto would be trapped in permanent gridlock now, with nothing and no one moving.

The positive changes over the last 10 years may not be apparent to people who have been here all this time, but for someone like me, who's spent the last decade away from Ontario, they poke me right in the eye wherever I go.

Ontario had a large deficit and backlog of things to do and build. As such, the current deficit was, perhaps, a necessary evil that couldn't be avoided. After decades of neglect by our public officials, it was only a matter of time before the province had to go and splurge in a big way.

When I lived in Toronto before, people who visited from time to time (say, once a year or so) would always be shocked and say, "Nothing has changed around here. In fact, it's getting worse each time I visit."

They had a point, and eventually this was part of the reason I decided to try something new (Calgary).

McGuinty could have done a lot of things differently and better. If he had, the deficit would be only half of what it is now, or the budget might even be balanced. All the mismanagement and bad decisions notwithstanding, seeing the place through a fresh set of eyes, I can't really say that everything the man did was wrong.

Ontario had no choice but to roll up its sleeves and get to work. You need to break some eggs to make an omelette, and that's what McGuinty has done.

When I left for Alberta all those years ago, Ontario was a basket case, a "third world country," and I'm not exaggerating. The difference between Ontario 2013 and Ontario 2003 is like day and night. Again, this is in plain view for me, but admittedly not for those who've never been away for longer periods of time.

I'm therefore more than willing and prepared to give Wynne a chance to right past wrongs before joining the chorus calling for an election. Knee-jerk reactions are for impatient people not willing to spend five minutes thinking about things first.

Just hang tight, and you might be (pleasantly) surprised.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, right, congratulates incoming premier Kathleen Wynne at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Kathleen Wynne reacts after becoming the new leader of the Ontario Liberal party at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013. The 59-year-old Toronto politician will be the province's first female and openly gay premier.

  • Sandra Pupatello, right, congratulates Kathleen Wynne after Wynne becomes the new leader of the Ontario Liberal party at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Kathleen Wynne, left, and her spouse Jane Rounthwaite stand together on stage at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne celebrates with fellow candidates Eric Hoskins (left), Gerard Kennedy (right) and Charles Sousa after they gave her their support at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne reacts to the results of the second ballot at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Sandra Pupatello, right, talks on her phone next to Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, left, at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Before and After

    What the street outside the convention usually looks like and what it looked like during a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/26/ontario-liberal-convention-protest_n_2556296.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics">protest held by Ontario teachers and unions</a> on Saturday afternoon.

  • An Ontario Liberal Party delegate is heckled as protesters gather outside Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens on Saturday, January 26, 2013 while the party gathers to vote for a new provincial Leader and in turn a new premier of Ontario.

  • Supporters of Sandra Pupatello look on as Kathleen Wynne gains momentum at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • A look at the size of the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/26/ontario-liberal-convention-protest_n_2556296.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics">protest outside the Ontario Liberal Convention</a> in Toronto on Jan. 26, 2013.

  • Sandra Pupatello, left, gets endorsed by Harinder Takhar, right, at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Sandra Putatello celebrates with former prime minister John Turner at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne speaks at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne waves with fellow candidate Eric Hoskins (right) and his wife Samantha Nutt (front left) after he arrived to give her his support after the first ballot at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Sandra Putatello celebrates with fellow candidate Harinder Takhar after he gave her his support at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Sandra Putatello speaks at the convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Kathleen Wynne dances on stage at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership convention delegates are greeted by hundreds of protesters as they arrive at convention in Toronto on Saturday January 26, 2013.

  • Gerard Kennedy waves on stage at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Harinder Takhar waves on stage at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Charles Sousa waves to supporters while on stage at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Eric Hoskins waves to supporters on stage at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

  • Outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty waves from the stage with his family after speaking at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty speaks at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty speaks at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Premier Dalton McGuinty and his wife Terri McGuinty take their seats at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Interim federal Liberal Leader Bob Rae greets Premier Dalton McGuinty at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Sandra Pupatello departs after voting at the convention in Toronto on Friday January 25, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne talks with a delegate as she registers to vote at the leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy talks on his phone at the leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • A cameraman is silhouetted against a projection screen at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Charles Sousa and his wife Zenaida arrive to vote at the leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013.

  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate supporters hang banners at the site of the convention in Toronto on Thursday January 24, 2013.



 

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