The Ontario Liberals Did Not Win: The Other Parties Lost

EARLIER THIS WEEK, on CTV news, I predicted that two political parties would be looking for new leaders if the Ontario Liberals prevailed. Election day had yet to expire when Tim Hudak announced he would be stepping down, fulfilling a half of my proposition.

What I didn’t say, but had meant to, was that defeating the party of Dalton McGuinty should be effortless, and that any leader unable to pull the thing off must be regarded as unfit. Never in my recollection has Ontario suffered a regime so deserving of a rude dismissal, and yet here we are, and here they are too, nothing having been altered by an election that may as well never have happened.

The election hasn’t been entirely a cipher, however. I’ve been enjoying the consternation of conservative observers whose conclusions are that Ontario voters are lazy and stupid, and that corruption and cynicism will always prevail over a message that is truthful but unpleasant to hear. You’ve doubtless noticed that this is a variation on what the political left, in earlier days, called “false consciousness” — the idea, at bottom a piece of self-flattery, that the masses embrace their masters and reject their liberation because they are unwilling, as well as unable, to comprehend the nature of either.

There’s no mystery at all to the PC and NDP defeats. (I think it’s too generous, and also misleading, to say the Liberals won.) Tim Hudak should have promised either pain or pleasure — only the former I would say, the admixture on which he settled being unbelievable. As if it weren’t bad enough of him to claim he could grow the economy by cutting, he produced just the numbers you’d expect of someone who is straining after effect: A hundred thousand cuts! A million jobs!

I can only conclude that the slice of Ontario pining over a Hudak majority, or even any kind of majority, was Weight Watchers thin. This was an election in which the newspapers presented articles on how to vote for “none of the above” without spoiling one’s ballot. If such a thing were possible, Ontario might well have come out of this with no government at all.

On the left there was resentment over Horwath’s unnecessary and risky defeat of a bespoke budget tailored to the NDP, and while the NDP increased its seats (from 17 to 21), its share of the popular vote rose only 1 percent. One can never know just how any NDP voters cast for Wynne, but that many did seems, to me at least, credible. As a result, Horwath enjoyed better gains in 2011 than in 2014. Not that it matters: it’s long been the nature of NDPers to declare outright victory when encountering the half-empty glass, the silver lining, and the not-utterly-dismal third place finish.

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