In the aftermath of the provincial budget, I picked up a Metro newspaper on Wednesday to discover the Ontario Liberals had bought out the cover – again. This time, their messaging was the classic fuzzy-wuzzy rhetoric with one difference: “We’ll make difficult decisions and tough choices…We will do whatever it takes to protect the gains we’ve made in our schools and our health care. We’ll do whatever we need to do to preserve what is so very special about this place”. The Ontario Liberals are already pre-campaigning.
Why now? The budget proposed a two year pay freeze for the Ontario public and health care sector and underused schools will be closed. Cuts to student transportation and school board grants will also be on the menu, including a freeze on welfare rates. Essentially, Dalton McGuinty will be facing major backlash from the public sector unions, teachers’ unions, health care unions, and CUPE in a few years for job loss under these austerity measures. Calling an election now will help him pick up at least the one seat he needs to win a majority government, while the majority of Ontarians are still under his spell.
Premier Dad will be running a platform where he will assert that cuts are necessary, but they will say that these cuts will not be as tough or drastic as the crazy ones the Ontario PCers are proposing. It really was masterfully Machiavellian for the Liberals to run previously on the mood for public (over)spending, to lull Ontarians into a narrative that their economy was actually doing fine in spite of colossal public debt, and to abandon it for centre-right messaging this time around. Bravo on the flipflop, McGuinty, but your opiate for the masses is running out.
Conservatives living in Ontario not only need stronger messaging, but they should not be afraid to stand by their common sense principles. When John Tory brought up the funding of faith-based schools, the Liberals attacked us for unravelling “social cohesion” and we backed down. When Tim Hudak called out the tax credits on foreign workers as special treatment, the Liberals called him racist and demanded an apology while we dodged further questions. Why are we afraid to defend what we believe? Why do we allow Liberal opinion to dictate the validity of our policies and principles?
The Prince of Darkness commented recently that Tim Hudak rejected the Liberal budget before he even read it and that Ontario PC trained seals would all rail against its centre-right measures. Let’s be clear: wage freezes, welfare freezes, cutting subsidies and corporate welfare are necessary parts to eliminating our deficit. However, Dwight Duncan refuses to follow the Drummond Report recommendations (which the Liberals asked for) and their budget is only a half-hearted attempt at meeting those recommendations that would save the provincial finances. Not to mention the dirty politically-driven targeting of predominantly conservative rural ridings by cutting hospital projects, closing schools, and continuing to set up wind turbines on farmers’ properties.
Even Tim Hudak’s own riding had its West Lincoln Memorial Hospital project cancelled, whatever clueless Deb Matthews says to the contrary. Political manoeuvring aside, the main point is that we should not have had to make such cuts and freezes if the Liberal government had been responsible in the first place, instead of catering to the tyranny of the masses (or unions).
There will be strong action for Ontario, but it will be from the angry trade unions who catapulted Dalton to power for a good 12 years. Will we be able to count on the Ontario PC Party for strong action as the last rallying cry for common sense in our province? That remains to be seen.