Last week, Ontario voted to re-elect Dalton McGuinty to a third term as Premier of Canada’s largest province. Ontario is big on the Canadian stage and is unrivaled in sheer population numbers at 13.2 million, unrivaled in its debt numbers at $237 Billion, unrivaled in unemployment outside of Atlantic Canada and it set a new record for voter turnout: a low at 49% — unseen since 1867.
Given the numbers, it would be foolish to dismiss Ontario’s hunger for change and the Hudak team knew this. They did everything to label their candidate as the province’s agent of change — they even named their platform “Changebook”. Yet a label will only take you so far. What Hudak’s team failed to offer was change itself.
Barack Obama won a campaign on hope and change. Though in truth he was a superficial agent of change at best. Suffering wars, recession and bailouts, a chance to elect America’s first black President proved to be the change America had been waiting for, but not the change they needed. Three years later, America is still at war, deeper into recession and Obama is still trying to bail out America with more spending. Hope and change indeed. But America was interested in what Obama represented, not who he was.
To say the least, the Hudak plan to offer superficial change did not elect him to high office. No, on October 6th, Tim P. Hudak was not giving a chance to Ontario to turn a chapter in Canada’s troubled anti-Slovak history and elect the first descendant of Slovak grandparents to sit as provincial leader of the free Confederation. The greatest strength offered by Tim Hudak to the Ontario electorate was that his name wasn’t Dalton McGuinty. Needless to say, it wasn’t enough.
If you took a passive view of the PC campaign over the past two months, you might have been vaguely aware of what Changebook’s greatest promoted promise was: a cut in the HST! (ahem, off of home heating costs). Or maybe you heard about chain gangs for prisoners! Or that foreign workers something something bad something something! Or that Premier Tim was going to reverse Premier Dad’s move to educate our kids about “the gays”.
Tim Hudak ran as the “change” candidate, yet he offered none. Why? A few polls early in the low signal to noise phase of the campaign early this year told his team that he was up 20 points! Time to shift the “change” plan into the superficial gear and run a front-runner no drama campaign, it was likely decreed. Yet, those polls didn’t really represent anything substantive and as the campaign began, Hudak could only count himself to be a meager few points ahead.
A true message of change was one that would have resonated with the people of Ontario. Every new green job that Dalton McGuinty was creating was costing 5 jobs in the real economy due to the higher cost of doing business. Ontario’s credit rating will come under greater pressure in the coming years making it cost much more to pay off the interest on Ontario’s $237 billion debt — now nearly double from when McGuinty took office. Ontario is a have not province meaning it is the laggard of Confederation, drawing on the wealth generative capacity of the likes of Newfoundland and Saskatchewan. You want a message of change? Ontario stands to our own Greece as $7 of new government spending is supported by $1 of economic growth. What to change?
1) End government involvement in creating economically unsustainable industries.
2) Cut the HST from 13 to 12 to 11 percent
3) Cut the Ontario corporate tax rate to encourage new investment
4) Cut government spending 5%, then 10-15%
5) New union and lobbyist transparency rules
5 priorities? Stop the Gravy Train? Sounds familiar? A clear and consistent message track. Put change in the window. Tim Hudak can be Ontario’s next Premier, but only if he lets Ontario know he has a plan to change.