POLITICS
10/07/2011 08:02 EDT | Updated 12/07/2011 05:12 EST

Ontario Election: McGuinty And Harper Could Face Tough Talks Ahead After Ontario Voters Reject Tory Trifecta

CP

In what is becoming a familiar story, Ontario voters chose Thursday to yet again elect a government of a different political stripe than its federal counterpart.

Consciously, or perhaps unconsciously, Ontario voters seem to prefer backing a premier who is more likely to pick a fight with the federal government than one that wants to play nice.

That's not a surprise says Ned Franks, an emeritus professor in the department of political studies at Queen’s University, because a "good fight" is sometimes necessary.

"The main opposition much of the time to the federal government is the provinces not the parties in Parliament," he told HuffPost.

Franks sees federal-provincial relations as a looming issue over the next five to 10 years with Quebec and Ontario leading the charge.

"The potential for Quebec objecting to the federal government is pretty strong when pretty well all the Quebec representation (in Ottawa) is on the opposition side not on the government side and … I can see one of McGuinty's main strategies over the next few years (will be) to attack or demand more from the federal government."

There are important files to negotiate, most notably the health care funding accord that must be renewed before 2014.

With an aging population, provincial budgets squeezed by increasing medical costs and pressure to balance the books, the provinces will be pushing the federal government for more cash to prop up the public health care system. The feds, in turn, want to balance their own books and limit public-sector spending.

Jonathan Malloy, a political science professor at Carleton University, suggests that during the campaign McGuinty has been careful "not to do any fed-bashing which other premiers tend to do."

Despite Conservative ministers, MPs, senators, staffers and even the prime minister weighing-in on the race and loudly declaring their support for Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and local Tory candidates, Malloy believes on the whole the federal government stayed out of the race.

Harper declared in August, at a barbecue with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, that he was hoping to complete the 'hat trick' with Ontario painted Tory blue on Oct. 6.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, whose spouse Christine Elliott is an MPP and top player in the Ontario PC caucus, told the Canadian Club during the last week of the campaign that Ontario "can’t afford four more years of the same Dalton McGuinty government."

Still, Malloy believes it would have been bizarre if the federal Tories stayed completely out of the race and didn't voice their support for the Ontario PCs. He doesn't think it will affect the federal Conservatives' working relationship with the provincial Liberals.

"I think you'll see a pretty good working relationship after the election, even though they are from different parties," Malloy predicted.

"There is always a danger when the federal government steps in, from both sides, over whether or not it actually helps the party," suggests Wilfred Laurier University political science professor Jason Roy.

Especially in the context of health care negotiations, voters may need "somebody who would stand up for the rights of people in Ontario," he said.

WINNERS AND LOSERS IN KEY RIDINGS: