Some Final Reflections on the Ontario Election.
Under any system of Proportional Representation, used by most of the democratic world, the results are as in the above table. These are not minor distortions, in fact we have the wrong government in office. Under PR the Liberals would have to make a tough decision. 80% of Ontario Liberals list the NDP as their second choice which would have put significant pressure on the Liberals to put Andrea Horwath and the NDP in power. Of course they would have extracted major concessions in the process, party status, policy considerations, even cabinet positions if preferred.
For more on this issue see this CBC piece.
Even if the Liberals put Ford and the Tories in power by abstaining on confidence motions, it would be a far less radical agenda in front of Ontarians if they owed their survival to the Liberals. Conclusion? Our sick electoral system does not reflect our true voting intentions and as a result, policy distortions will be 180 degrees different from what Ontarians want.
Wither the Liberals?
We suspect that the Liberals lost this election years ago by overstaying their welcome. If there was a turning point, it was not during the election period but took place when hydro rates spiked and the Liberals privatize Hydro One, the transmission system for Ontario electricity, notwithstanding Ontarians obvious disapproval in poll after poll. The Liberal case is that they needed the money to expand public transportation in the GTHA. The Liberals fatal flaw, when posing as a progressive party, is believing that money for one public resource must come from privatizing and/or underfunding other public resources. To underwrite public transportation, the Wynne government sold H1, froze hospital budgets, underfunded education so that K-12 schools are falling apart and Ontario post secondary is the worst funded in Canada in such a rich province. Wrong priorities.
The Liberals cannot bring themselves to do what is right, tax the 1% and corporations because they are a cross-class coalition. They simply do not have the nerve to tax the rich. If you don’t have the nerve to tax the 1%, you have no business calling yourself a progressive party.
They are now a leaderless caucus of 7 MPPs, with an interim leader who seems to have PTSD, and without party status. Their are calls to “move to the center or center-right”. This may not work. The Liberal attacks on organized labour in the dying weeks of the campaign have certainly burned their bridges with labour. It is our position that there are not enough votes in the center any more to sustain an allegedly “centrist” party that hopes to govern. Economic polarization has piled up voters into two distinct groups- the conservative group and the progressive group. With the NDP at 40 seats, they have become the natural home of the progressive vote. It will take more than dynamite to dislodge them.
Never count the Liberals out they are amazingly resilient. Both Jack Layton and Ed Broadbent seemingly, had the Liberals on the ropes and they managed to make it to the bell and live again. Nevertheless, there is a thesis that as democracies mature, they tend to put up one strong party, clearly on the social democratic left and one on the right. The Liberals may become relegated to a permanent third spot and limp along like the British Liberals or they may find a charismatic leader like Trudeau and a cause that gives them the breath of life.
Green Party Arrives
The Greens finally won an Ontario seat. On balance, this is a good thing if it pushes the other major parties to a more progressive environmental position. The Greens however, draw their support almost equally, from the other parties. As a result, they are reluctant to take strong positions on class based issues. The leader of the Greens in BC, for example, cannot support card-check certification for new unions. Too many of the Green supporters are small biz Mountain Equipment Coop and bicycle shop types. Nice people but compromised on minimum wage, unionization type issues. We congratulate Mike Schreiner and wish him well in helping to move Ontario from grey to green.
What about the NDP?
The NDP had a great election notwithstanding the fact that a few polls predicted an outright victory. The counterattack from both the Liberals and the Tories in the final two weeks took a toll. The NDP probably needs to win by 4-5% to win the most seats under FPTP. Their vote turned out to be, what the pollsters and political scientists call ‘inefficient’ in that incumbents and traditionally strong areas like Parkdale-High Park, Danforth, Hamilton and Davenport were achieving 65-70% of the vote while they left 14 seats on the table, losing by 2-3%. The NDP now knows exactly where these seats are. Small blue collar cities in southwestern Ontario, 2-3 in northern Ontario, 2 more around Ottawa, 2 more in Durham region, Sarnia, northern Mississauga and Brampton are the key to 2022.
Of the remaining 7 Liberal seats, the NDP are strong in 2-3. A priority ought to be finishing off the Liberals. When a leader like Andrea Horwath has popularity that leads the party and doubles the seat count, her leadership ought to be secure. No, she does not have the eloquence of a Stephen Lewis but she has the image of an educated, working class woman with a certain authenticity that springs from that. She connects with many NDP voters.
What does the Election Mean for Education
Doug Ford has promised to remove $6 billion from the public sector. Seventy percent of the provincial budget is healthcare and education from childcare to post secondary. Most of the rest is social services and transportation. History does not repeat itself but it rhymes. If the Mike Harris/ Eves government is a model for Ford, then as the Rozanski Report noted, Harris removed $1billion from education through “efficiencies” like cutting teacher prep time in half, closing schools and many smaller cuts in a ‘funding formula’ that forced cuts on school boards. This may a good guide as to where Ford wants to go. He has already, post election mind you, indicated his “efficiencies” include privatization which is where he has already gone with childcare. His voucher does not create a single new childcare space but he, apparently, couldn’t care less.
Are we ready for a return to Days of Action, strikes, lockouts, even more back-to-work orders? A more sophisticated political strategy would target vulnerable Tory seats with anti Tory messages in leaflet drops and similar social media strategies, to scare the poop out of those Tories in the seats they won by less than 5%. Any way you look at it, this is a bull-in-a-China-shop regime that is bound to organize its own opposition as the dialectic teaches us. Our job is to conduct an effective resistance to win an NDP government in 2022. People must come to understand that votes and support for the Liberals only sustain Ford in power. Progressives must return to the perspective that a Liberal is just a Tory with a red tie or scarf.
Right wing pundits, like Jamie Watt from Navigator, are filling the airwaves and print media explaining to us that the people of Ontario voted for conservative change, to rein in program spending, for tax cuts over services. This is 100% dead wrong. In fact, 60% of us voted for various degrees of continued progressive change. Only 40% of us voted for the Ford Tory agenda of tax cuts, a frozen minimum wage, potential deep cuts to healthcare and education, no price on carbon, contracting out of services, a totally inadequate voucher system for childcare, no improvement of student debt, and so on, such are the perversions of our First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system that we get Ford.