Friday, October 7, 2011

Three Consequences of the Ontario Election

Last night we saw what we thought was previously impossible - Dalton McGuinty won a third term, just one seat short of a majority government.

There are, however, consequences to last night's results that will probably drive the narrative for the next few years in this province, and of course in this country. They're important, so make note now.

Consequence #1: Continued Liberal Decline

Yes, the Liberal Party is still in decline. While McGuinty went against the odds and won government, utilizing a popular brand alongside sharp organization and communication skills, he still lost 19 seats - the majority of them rural seats.

And therein lies the cavaet for this election, alongside the horrible voter turnout - the Ontario Liberals, much like the federal Liberals, have had their rural vote drift away from them, even as they start solidifying their urban vote. That right there is a warning sign that unless the Ontario Liberals start to refocus their initiatives on rural areas, they will continue to see that vote shift increasingly between the Conservatives and New Democrats. Rural Ontario's and rural Canada's polarization is the first sign of the decay of a Liberal Party, whether or not we end up winning the battle (think to Paul Martin in 2004).

Liberals tend to forget that we often built our majorities in the past on winning swaths of rural Ontario, often by playing up initiatives to attract them. However, the focus in recent years has been on defending Fortress Toronto and Montreal, and trying to ensure that our last bastions of support don't fall. And while yes, this might end up saving our asses during an election - as it did during 2008 or now, here in Ontario 2011 - it is not the long-term trend we want.

Consequence #2: The Orange Crush Is Not Unstoppable

Andrea Horwath's New Democrats did well tonight. They managed to get nearly 23% support (not too far below the 25.6% they got during the federal election), and picked up seven seats. That's excellent - but a far cry from the "Orange Crush" experienced during the federal election, and ended up being more of an "Orange Bump."

This should prove beyond a doubt that the New Democratic Party, while on an upswing in this country, is not going to blanket the entire thing in orange. They are entirely vulnerable, and last night they were proven to be - it may just surprise you but by all accounts, the NDP faced a slight decline in their urban vote in this election, relative to their entire increase province wide.

What that means is the NDP may have increased their support, but it increased more outside of the GTA than it did inside of it. This can be shown in their inability to gain such low-hanging fruit like York South-West or Ottawa Centre, fighting for their lives in Trinity-Spadina, and unable to avoid a trench battle in Davenport - all ridings they swept during May 2011 by mid-to-high margins.

This all tells you that the NDP are able to be beaten back if we have the right ideas and the right candidates. Liberals are far from doomed in this country, we're just facing a bad spell; the NDP take advantage of it, but we can deflate their tires if we get our heads back in the game.

Consequence #3: Liberals Can Win A Majority - Cons and Dips Be Damned

One of the main things to take away from last night is how close McGuinty was to getting a majority - I'm sure under 5,000 votes, placed in the right ridings, would have given him at least 55 ridings (what he needs for an effective majority).

It goes to show that the Liberals are able to win majorities without merging with the New Democrats. Federally, our issue is the loss of our base in Quebec, our shut-out in Western Canada, and our marginalization to urban areas in Ontario; if we're able to reverse two of those three, we can win a majority government, or at least a minority, without merging our organization with the New Democratic Party.

This is why I always found the reason some coalition supporters use - that the Conservatives can't be stopped without a merger - to be silly. Of course they can be stopped, it just requires we get our heads of the sand and start marginalization the other two parties as they've marginalized us.

How easy is it to say that the Harper government only cares about Western farmers, and the NDP are beholden to separatist interests? Why can't the Liberals go after urban voters in the West, rural Ontario, and federalists in Quebec, to build our majority? Those are the areas we were kicked out of.

McGuinty has shown that, if we're on the ball about what we're doing, we can win what we need to. Again, he missed the mark on rural voters, and that cost him his majority; but why can't we avoid the same mistake?

All I'm saying is that if the Ontario Liberals can manage to come that close to a majority by hitting the right notes, there's no reason that the Liberal Party of Canada can't do the same if we put effort back into this party.

3 comments:

  1. A view from someone on the outside looking in.

    I think that the folks who stayed home this time around were Conservatives. They pretty much follow the editors of their favourite paper these days and when they didn't endorse their man, simply due to the fact he just wasn't insane enough, basically, well...nowhere to go. But even before the non-endorsement, I had an idea from con commentators at Globe boards and the some Blogging Tories that they were going to sit this one out.

    As for McGuinty, he, himself, is probably one of the biggest liabilities of his own party. Fact is, after the ex-BC premier, Gordon Campbell and our ol' Johnny-boy Charest, McGuinty is probably amongst the top hated premiers in recent years. Folks are basically tired of him. Like most politicians, he didn't/doesn't know the meaning of quit while you're ahead, or in his case, behind. Perhaps he should've taken a cue from Danny Williams. If he were even likeable still, he'd have a majority and more would've turned out to vote for his candidates, perhaps, even.

    As for Andrea Horwath, she and her party really didn't do as well as many had projected. Weren't the ONDP projected to have about ten more seats than they actually won? Fact is, she ain't no Jack Layton. She never will be. The party may make some gains, she's just wrong leader for it.

    Now the games begin. Given the minority, I wonder how long it'll take before you all go back to the polls? Sounds like Timmy Hudak is ready to go back tomorrow, after reading the Toronto Star today. "We're going to keep him on a very short leash..." He made it sound like he was the only opposition party. Leads me to wonder, Has Horwath already decided to play with team Hudak? Or is this Timmy forgetting the NDP is also in opposition?

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  2. CK,

    I'm unsure whether or not McGuinty has to worry about being brought down by the two stooges there - with 53 seats, all he has to do is get an Opposition member as a Speaker and he ties the entire thing up 53-53, with one Speaker. And since the Speaker has to vote to save the government in all confidence matters...

    In other words, McGuinty basically has a majority government through the Speaker. He also has a majority government given that it seems unlikely the Hudak PCPO will try and force another election, given how this one drained their resources for little gain, and the low level of turnout.

    Teddy,

    I didn't think about that before but, you know, this election I've seen why it is that the OLP likes McGuinty. The man has scruples, "liar" or not. He's got the chops of an excellent leader and despite people's general dislike of him, he can win. Who does that last part remind you of?

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