The first week of Ontario's election campaign has come and gone, and it's clear where at least one of the parties stand and where they intend to go.
Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives came out of the gate with their Million Jobs Plan, a plan to create one-million jobs in Ontario over eight years. By releasing his platform so early, Hudak is framing the debate that will ensue around the desperate issues that matter to Ontarians: jobs, taxes, and the economy, all of which are hurting Ontarians at every turn. Gas prices are up 40 per cent, electricity costs just went up, and Wynne's Liberal budget that triggered this election actually proposed to increase taxes and spend more, yet still balance the books -- eventually.
Hudak's platform is bold and necessary. There is no question that Ontario will have to face the issues that have been repeatedly raised by experts, economists, teachers, and politicians from across the province, country, and world. Hudak's Million Jobs Plan is an homage to Mike Harris, who created 1.2-million jobs during his eight years in office while reducing income taxes and fixing Ontario's government.
The potential downfall for Hudak's early release is that his best ideas can be cherry picked like the Liberals and NDP did in 2011, promising to do the same as Hudak had promised several months before the writ for that election dropped.
But while Hudak has already released his platform, and thus has the next month to campaign on its merits, both the NDP and Liberals have been distracted fighting each other for the left. Apparently, Kathleen Wynne is "what leadership is" while Andrea Horwath offers "leadership that delivers." To Wynne, leadership is being able to "stand up" to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while Horwath's leadership-on-delivery stems from her propping up of the minority Liberal government since 2011.
Wynne wants to create an Ontario Pension Plan, because apparently the Liberals want yet another OPP acronym attached to their record for life.
Horwath, meanwhile, has struggled to define her campaign after being pre-empted by a Liberal budget to the left of the NDP. Now, both have to battle for the left and centre-left. Horwath would hire a government minister to find savings and introduce a 10 per cent tax credit for businesses hiring new employees.
The Liberals promised to maybe, kind of, sort of, eventually implement some of the Drummond Report, which among other things said Ontario would need a drastic 17 per cent reduction in government spending in order to sustain the Liberals' wants and demands. The math was straight forward: either cut services, raise taxes, or a combination of both. Only one week in, Wynne's campaign took a desperate turn as it stopped at a Walkerton water facility and claimed electing a Conservative government would cause another Walkerton tragedy.
Clearly, Hudak is counting on Ontarians' understanding of the desperate need for change in the way the province is governed -- everything, from the economy to the size of the public service to the benefits Ontarians receive, must be on the table if Ontario is to get back on track.
Ontario has seen such leadership before, as Mike Harris' government was elected with not one but two majority governments to clean up Ontario after a decade of Liberal and NDP governments. Harris left an incredibly positive legacy which many Ontarians remember, and which many see as the necessary returning point in order to get the province back on track.
The polls have been supportive of Hudak's plan and clarity. As of May 15, the Conservatives had a 40 per cent lead to the Liberals 33.1 per cent and the NDP's 22.1 per cent.
Ontario is one week into the campaign, and only one party has revealed its plan to get Ontario back on track.
Dickin's book on the legacy of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne's Liberals, Liars: The McGuinty-Wynne Record, is available in paper copy through Freedom Press Canada and in paper copy and e-book format through Amazon.
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