THE BLOG
10/11/2011 03:16 EDT | Updated 12/11/2011 05:12 EST

Hudak Needed a Campaign of Silence

When Dalton McGuinty was down in the polls, Hudak seemed prepared to let the Liberals self-destruct without comment from him. Maybe if Hudak had run a campaign on silence, instead of uttering banalities and refusing to answer certain pointed questions, he'd have done better in Toronto and urban centres.

Depending on how one interprets it, last week's so-called "razor thin" election win by Dalton McGuinty needn't change one whit the way Liberal govern the province.

Yes, the results were a huge slap in the face to Liberals -- losing some 17 seats compared to the 2007 vote -- but it won't affect the way they govern if they don't want to change.

Tim Hudak's Conservatives gained a dozen seats, and Andrea Horwath's NDP gained five, but since the Liberals need only one cross-over vote, it's unlikely another election will be called for at least a couple of years.

And even then, it implies that the NDP are going to feel sufficiently strong to be a contender.

The story of this election is twofold: In the lowest voter turnout on record (49.2 per cent compared to the second lowest turnout in 2007 at 52.8 per cent), only 2.2 per cent separated Liberals and Tories in the popular vote -- 37.6 per cent to 35.4 per cent.

The big difference was Toronto. Without Metro Toronto, the Liberals would have been toast, as all the GTA's 22 seats went to Liberal or the NDP. Central and Southern Ontario is essentially blue, except for the big cities.

Given that Ontario's north is solid NDP, it makes one wonder why the Tories fumble in Toronto these days, and why Tim Hudak failed to persuade Torontonians that he was a dynamo for change.

In multicultural Toronto, he erred when he savaged McGuiny's declared plan to give $10,000 to firms that hired relatively recently-arrived immigrants. The error was not in slamming the proposal, but in declaring these immigrants (and citizens) as "foreigners."

It seemed to reveal a mind-set -- foolish, perhaps, because anyone named "Hudak" has roots far away from North America.

McGuinty is getting accolades because even his party's win represents an uphill achievement from where he and his party were in polls a few weeks ago. McGuinty is praised for his campaign of recovery.

A closer look reveals something a bit different (if one wants to see it).

When McGuinty and the Liberals were down in the polls and sinking, little was heard from Hudak. He seemed prepared to let the Liberals self-destruct without comment from him.

Maybe if Hudak had run a campaign on silence, instead of uttering banalities and refusing to answer certain pointed questions, he'd have done better in Toronto and urban centres. As it was, he did fine in rural areas.

None of this means that Hudak is destined for his party's ash heap.

But he could practce a bit of what Mike Harris preached when he came from nowhere to win two successive elections. And he might learn from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford who had all the elites against him, but stood up for the "people."

Uncertainty shrouds Hudak, which is his job to dispense if he's ever going to be premier.

As for the NDP's Andrea Horwath, she is entitled to feel chuffed up -- a newly-minted leader who improved her party's popularity in the polls and in Legislature seats.

Optimists tend to say that the election results put McGuinty "on a much shorter leash." It's hard to see that if he has legislation he wants to impose. He's not in a situation as Joe Clark was in when he beat Trudeau in 1980, and tried to govern as if he had a big majority. Joe couldn't count -- McGuinty can, and he's in little danger of being ousted by the opposition ganging up on him.