11/29/2011 08:18 EST

Ontario And Alberta: Two Provinces With Surprising Political Similarities


Ontario and Alberta are two important provinces in a period of political flux.

The governing Alberta Tories have a new leader at the helm in Alison Redford, who hails from the more progressive side of the Progressive Conservative Party. She has a feisty challenger in Danielle Smith, leader of the right-wing Wildrose Party.

In Ontario, the Liberals were re-elected but with only a minority government, and the province could be heading to the polls at any time. Premier Dalton McGuinty’s main opponent at Queen’s Park, Tim Hudak, comes from the more conservative wing of the Ontario’s PCs.

Two provinces with premiers from different parties, and yet they have a lot in common.

In a column for Le Devoir, the inimitable Chantal Hébert wrote last week that McGuinty, the most successful Liberal premier in the country, and Redford, leader of the longest-serving government in Canada, seemingly come from very different worlds.

However, she wrote that if McGuinty and Redford switched places, neither Ontario nor Alberta would be governed very differently and that, elsewhere in the world, both of these leaders would belong to the same progressive party.

A few days earlier, Redford met with the Ontario Premier, with whom officials said she has a “nice rapport," to discuss the potential for cross-country co-operation to better use Canada’s energy resources.

But while there are some similarities in the offices of the Alberta and Ontario premiers, there are also some striking similarities on the opposition benches of these two provinces.

On the same day that Hébert’s column appeared in Le Devoir, both Hudak and Smith appeared separately on CTV Newsnet’s Power Play with Don Martin. The two leaders appeared one after the other, and viewers might have been feeling a little déja vu.

The Progressive Conservative leader railed against Premier McGuinty’s handling of the province’s finances, saying Ontario is in the midst of a “spending crisis” and that the Liberals are on a “spending binge.” He argued the parties in the minority legislature need to control the cost of government and balance the books.

The polished, but still scripted opposition leader, said that his Tories would not force another election on Ontarians, but would be ready to fight another campaign if the votes in the Legislative Assembly do not go McGuinty’s way.

The more natural leader of the Wildrose Party, Smith, then appeared and told Martin that “everything that [Mr. Hudak] said about the reckless spending of the McGuinty Liberals could be applied to the reckless spending of the Redford Tories.” To Smith, Albertans “essentially now have a Liberal government” in power.

Smith spoke of how the Progressive Conservatives “spend their way out of problems” and also addressed the need for Alberta to “balance the books.” Like Hudak, she emphasized that her party would be ready for the next election, scheduled to take place in the spring.

The two leaders were hitting the same notes of fiscal conservativism and austerity. Though hailing from different parties and provinces, the opposition Ontario PCs and the Alberta Wildrose are working from the same playbook.

All the more reason, then, for McGuinty and Redford to find more common ground moving forward.

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls, and electoral projections.