Election 2011 – Three leaders and more freaking promises – But? No Vision!

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Dalton like all the provincial leaders is offering platitudes and tax cuts and not a succinct and indelible platform. Photo by Johnny Bower.

Dalton like all the provincial leaders is offering platitudes and tax cuts and not a succinct and indelible platform. Photo by Johnny Bower.

By Terrance Gavan – Election 2011 Editor

The provincial election is coming like a federally inspired doppelganger threatening to lopside lob and upend this province into the new paradigm.

One sees winds of hurly burly change.

Why? because one does not see leadership at the helm of the Liberal Party.

Actually one does not see leadership anywhere in this juked up, bleak and apocalyptic landscape that bills itself as a race.

I hear promises. I hear pronouncements. I hear inflammatory bovine excrement emiited from the great gaping maws of  Tim Hudak (frontrunner), Andrea Horvath (Jack Layton wannabe – watch from whence thou gets your shoulders rubbed Andy!) and the lamentably lackluster Dalton McGuinty – a depressed flicker of his former self and a transient bystander who may actually give Michael Ignatieff a run for his money in the “HI. I’m John Freaking Kerry” sweepstakes.

Right now McGuinty – a nice Catholic kid from Ottawa –  seems as bedeviled as Iggy to define the small L liberal ideal. More’s the pity. Because I remember a time – long ago – when liberal stood for something. It meant something. It defined ideals, goals, social democratic principles. The rights of the poor. Goddamit, it used to be the party of Mike Lester B Pearson.

Remember that guy? Well that guy was a liberal first and a Liberal, errr, somewhere down the line.

Ah yes, I’m perfectly aware that I’m straying far afield. But the same damn thing is happening provincially.

The provincial liberals have lost their center. In more ways than one. And Tim Hudak looks like a reprocessed Mike Harris. And if you liked Mike Harris – a garrulous and jumped up tinpot pipsqueek that governed from Bay Street  – well by all means go and vote for Tim Hudak.

I thinks he’s a pretty nice guy. I’d let him buy me a non-alcoholic beer. I’d schmooze. And what’s better? He’s a newer shinier Dalton McGuinty.

Same goes for Andrea – I’m not Jack – Horvath. She’s got about as much chance of sliding seats from this tender economy as a 10 point buck in a Haliburton meadow – in or out of hunting season.

The electorate is afeard. Mighty afeard. McGuinty and the feds have just chucked a pallet of money over to Toyota to gear up plants in Ontario.

Toyota’s two Ontario plants are getting a $545-million expansion and overhaul, backed by almost $71 million from each of the governments of Canada and Ontario.

Gary Goodyear, the federal minister of state for science and technology, and John Milloy, the Ontario minister of training, colleges and universities, announced Project Green Light at the Toyota plant in Cambridge on Tuesday morning.

Ontario will provide a $70.8-million grant and the federal government will match that amount in the form of a repayable loan to Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. for plant upgrades in Cambridge and Woodstock.

So what separates McGuinty from Hudak you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. Candidates. The Liberal MPPs are deserting that sinking ship like bubonic rats from the tilting deck of the Titanic.

Hudak has better access to the feds for the next four years than McGuinty could ever dream of.

And there’s no doubt in my mind that the Conservatives here in Ontario are about to put the boots to Dalton’s dignitaries. And how do I know?

Well take a look at Dalton’s dwindling slate of candidates. Yesterday, the Ad Libs lost another.

From CBC NEWS — Liberal backbencher Tony Ruprecht is the latest member of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s team to announce he will not seek re-election this fall.

After 33 years in office, Ruprecht said, he decided it was time to use his experience “in a different capacity.”

But the decision was also influenced by last month’s sudden death of his caucus seatmate, Bruce Crozier, which “shocked him to reconsider another run.”

“I have always placed constituents’ priorities before my personal needs,” Ruprecht said.

“It is now time to re-evaluate that commitment.”

Ruprecht’s departure confirms one thing. Dalton will be looking for a lot of never-before members to replace incumbents. The Libs, and we’re not done yet, have lost one-sixth of their members to death or resignation.

Federally this is known as “Liberal strategy 101 – SNAFU – which is military speak for Situation Normal all-f*&^ed up.

We’ve seen this before with Paul Martin and Jean Chretien. And we don’t have to go very far back to recall Dalton Camp’s day of the long knives. Liberals don’t like normal leadership ascendency paradigms.

But we digress. As we move forward into August and September Ontarians will be hearing a lot more about tax breaks and less about the intrinsic problems surrounding the Ontario Economy. Let’s face it. Bay Street is past pluperfect. The economies of Saskatchewan, NDP entrenched Manitoba, Alberta and BC are laying to rest that old dodgy tenet that the fiscal power in Canada rests on the bedrock of Bay Street.

Ontario was churned to a have-not province not too long ago.

Those are the points that our leaders – cough cough cough – should be addressing in this election.

And really. None of our problems came or will leave with the flatulent stutters regarding the HST or tax credits.

They lie in a fundamental reckoning of the Ontario economy which lost its bastion.

Follow the money knuckleheads. They are making cheaper cars all over the world now. Quit mourning that myopic dream for chrissakes. If we actually had a leadership paradigm in any of the parties? Well, they might have pursued another course of action.

We became rich because of our proximity to Detroit peeps! That’s it and that’s all. The dominoes fell from there. And no I do not have to back that up. It is self-evident by a quick perusal of Ontario’s economic history.

Whither Detroit? Whither Mike Moore’s hometown? And yes, whither Ontario. We morphed into one of the world’s burgeoning communication’s centers. Financed by all that Ford Mustang influx. That gone too with Nortel’s fall from grace. Going, going, going too is Rim. Hey Dalton? Hey Mike Harris? Hey Tim Hudak. Hey Andrea Hoevath – oops never mind.

Wake up. You know who needs your respect? Ontario Start-Ups. RIM. Small businesses. So quit piling your bucks into the back of a Toyota Four-runner.

That ship has sailed and the 1200 jobs? When scaled to the dramatic loss of car jobs in the past decade?

A pittance. An election ploy. A paean to an electorate who sits beholden to those kiss off grants that allowed Ontario to lean heavily on the rubber crutch of an automotive industry that for at least 40 years has been stumbling toward cheap labor markets.

I’m tired.

Inertia is the problem. And the blame game and utter stinking redolence of this slimey mess of status quo.

In tough times we need thinkers. We need doers. And we need a f*&%ing platform that a common man living in the poorest riding in Ontario can grasp with confidence and hope.

Anyway with that I present a more sedate and lively dangle with Chantal Hebert! My favorite At Issue panelist.

This yesterday from the Tor Star. Lovely Chantal lovely!

The trick question of the end-of-season CBC At Issue political panel usually involves putting a name to the face of a mystery newsmaker.

Year in and year out, it is a test that some of us fail miserably and last week’s edition was no exception.

But giving the right answer to a flash-card question is ultimately only half as tricky as coming up with choices for the categories of most underrated and most overrated politician.

That is a guaranteed recipe for making temporary friends and lifelong enemies for it is a rare slight that does not have a longer shelf life than a word of praise.

One panellist’s underachiever is sometimes the other’s over-performer and there have been years when the same person has ended up in both categories.

Rather than nail or elevate a politician, the fundamental purpose of the exercise really is to put faces to some larger issues.

This year, Canada’s 308 MPs earned a collective spot in the underrated category.

Former House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken inspired that answer.

No one has held the position of referee in the Commons for as long as he did and over his tenure, the reputations of MPs lost a lot of their shine.

A decade-long Liberal civil war and a schism between the two main factions of the Canadian right did not help. Nor did seven years of fractious and often dysfunctional minority rule punctuated by a major federal scandal.

The hope is that this Parliament and the fresh page it offers both the Prime Minister and the official opposition will go some way to restore the Commons as a place where competing visions are put to the test rather than a venue where MPs come to smear each other in relative impunity.

No such hopes attend the other house. For the majority of Canadians who would like to see it abolished, the Senate belongs on the overrated side of the ledger.

At last count, at least half of the premiers are now of the same view.

Over the past few years, the willingness of so many of its appointees to act as yes men and women for the government — except, it seems, when the job security of some of them is concerned — has become yet another argument for the abolition of the upper house.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was placed in the underrated category — mostly as a pretext to talk about how his election last fall might have heralded the advent of a rare Conservative trifecta in Ontario.

A Tory victory in the upcoming provincial election could leave only Alberta and Saskatchewan sporting a deeper shade of blue than Ontario.

Polls regularly show that Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall is one of the few popular premiers on the scene but it is his original contribution to the national debate that has earned him a place in the underrated category.

His successful battle against the Potash Corp. takeover has opened a new front in the economic nationalism versus globalization debate.

It is also hard to think of a non-Quebec premier who has articulated a case for provincial autonomy quite as forcefully as Wall has been doing.

The federal minister who was on the other side of the Potash Corp. discussion did not do so well. Among senior federal ministers, Tony Clement was singled out as overrated.

Some of the key clients of his former industry portfolio have another take on the minister. The auto industry in particular was appreciative of his work over the recession and that undoubtedly contributed to the Conservative election success in Ontario.

But Clement’s roles in the controversies involving the census and the G8 summit spending have earned him a reputation for defending the indefensible.

That reputation will not serve him well as Treasury Board president.

In that pivotal capacity, he will be in charge of tightening the belt of the federal government and doing so under the wary surveillance of a suspicious chattering class.

Well said Chantal. And thanks to Tor Star.