Monday, May 16, 2022

On historical echoes

Ontario's ongoing provincial election is presenting some interesting echoes from previous campaigns - particularly the 2015 federal election which similarly involved a seemingly vulnerable Conservative majority, an NDP official opposition and a Lib attempt to jump back into default-government status. 

At the outset, I'll reiterate my longtime view that contrary to conventional wisdom, the 2015 NDP strategy - which involved focusing largely on making the case to defeat the Harper Cons, and positioning Thomas Mulcair as a broadly acceptable option in the event voters reached the judgment Justin Trudeau wasn't ready for the job of prime minister - was neither entirely unreasonable nor unsuccessful. 

The first necessary step to achieve anything was to make the case for a change in government, and Mulcair's work prosecuting Harper and his record played a huge role in achieving that. And while Trudeau's performance was beyond the NDP's control, there was a plausible path to government if he'd failed to live up to expectations. (Of course, it ultimately helped Trudeau that dismissive messaging about him lowered the bar considerably.) 

To the extent that calculation failed to achieve all of the desired outcome, it's one that Andrea Horwath's Ontario NDP seems determined not to repeat: it's rightly keeping a focus on the continuity between PC and Lib policies as representing a series of failures that need fixing. But there are also a couple of other distinguishing factors which offer the prospect of a better outcome in Ontario. 

The first is the one which was entirely outside of the federal NDP's control: following Jack Layton's death, the leader whose popularity helped boost the party into Official Opposition status was no longer around to help it take the next step into government.

It's bizarre in that context to see commentary (mostly from Lib spinners, but somewhat from others as well) suggesting that Ontario's NDP should have jettisoned its leader voluntarily after achieving its best result in a generation. But for now, the party enjoys the advantage of Andrea Horwath's relatively strong approval ratings and consistent ability to boost the NDP's standing, while the Libs have a comparatively unknown leader who remains ripe for a campaign collapse.  

Of course, that leaves the major avoidable failing of Mulcair's federal campaign, being the lack of a strong pushback against the Libs' messages about the relative progressive positioning of the two parties. That allowed Trudeau to win over far too many voters with a claim to progressivity which was entirely unwarranted based on the parties' actual platforms. 

But while the Ontario Libs are trying to similarly claim to be challenging the NDP from the left, Horwath's team has done plenty to ensure that type of attack is neither plausible nor successful.

Indeed, if there's anything that's gone glaringly unmentioned in most coverage of the Ontario election, it's the deep policy work already done (and yes, promoted) by the NDP in areas where the Libs have spent the campaign hastily cribbing a platform for themselves. 

Want to see Canada's most populous province actually be a leader in implementing a Green New Democratic Deal? The NDP has worked out how to get there (PDF). 

Think a party's commitment to increasing housing supply should be backed by a meaningful analysis of how to get there, as well as specific plans to ensure homes are available for vulnerable groups? The NDP has it covered (PDF). 

A detailed plan to bring long-term care under public control and protect residents from the neglect set up by decades of Lib and PC privatization? That's been developed (PDF) as well.

Want to see a promise to provide universal mental health care which is actually supported by a road map to get there? That's been done too (PDF). 

In each case, the NDP's detailed plans - supported by significant research and analysis - have been copied in part by the Libs in two- to four-page platform entries. But there's little room for dispute both as to which party has the more progressive policies, and which has put meaningful thought and analysis into how to implement them. 

Unfortunately, those plans won't amount to much if the broader electorate isn't convinced to vote the PCs out and the NDP in. But that's where it's essential to let people know that there is a viable alternative - and that it's ready to fix the most important issues facing Ontario if given the chance.  


  1. Anonymous2:41 p.m.

    Can you sum up, in a couple of clear sentences, what exactly you just said in the above polemic? Thanks...

  2. Anonymous5:24 p.m.

    Well, you can always hope. Horvath reminds me of a dusty old museum that few visit. After four attempts at getting nowhere, time to put her out on the old folks home beat listening to valid complaints. Do all the reporters hop right to it to attend Horvath's press conferences? No, they've heard it all before and she's so crashingly boring nobody cares. She's about 180 degress away from the old zesty Alexa Mcdonough type, with zero energy and charisma. Having policies is not politics or the shiny head of whatsisname Erin the Foole would be lecturing us as PM. He had a REALLY big book of nonsense he kept brandishing -- I attempted to read it.

    The NDP is nowhere except in BC and the Alberta NDP is pro tarsands under Notley. Federally, Singh doesn't.

    Seems to me the leader of a political party has to have some kind of zip, some vision to project at the masses.

    The first comment kind of shows what happens in response when earnest people get bogged down in minutiae.