My Ontario Teachers By-Election Watch coverage continues @ this link!
[Ed: Latest Forum results show many ridings are too close to call as the by-elections end and voters head to the polls. Hey! I wish somebody had told me! ;-) @ Forum Poll Results ]
OK, so what's the prognosis come election day Thursday August 1st? Let's be clear. I have two basic interests in the 5 by-elections. I want the best political scenario for the teacher contract talks next year. Also, and it's directly related, even overlaps; to keep the neo conservative PC's at bay.
What the politicians know and the voters don't!
Ideologically speaking the OLP have shown their true Neo-liberal colours. They have swallowed the austerity argument hook, line + sinker since 2011. We saw what happened to us as teachers last year. Premier Wynne might provide a shift more towards the Liberal centre left, in time, but aside from pasting a smiling talkative face to our teachers issues, have we seen any concrete shifts in the status quo? No. The OSSTF + ETFO MOU's have been watered down but they retain the same basic MOU OECTA terms signed by OECTA Provincial last July 5th.
It is absolutely necessary to keep holding the Liberals feet to the fire. Teachers have endorsed the party for many years. We provided votes, substantial cash donations and essentially free "education friendly" advertising, along with an army of knowledgeable, skilled campaign workers from the 2003 through 2011 provincial elections. We can't be taken for granted. IMHO, all OLP deals remain off. No provincial help should be forthcoming, as would seem to be the case.
Third Party Leader Andrea Horwath has basically shifted the NDP to the centre left within the Ontario political spectrum. The key operative here is that the party is now "within" the political centre, where most of the votes are. How much so on both accounts remains to be seen. Wynne would like to create the perception that she is moving the OLP into the centre left too by co-opting their issues and stealing the NDP's thunder.
Regardless of Wynnes fortunes it remains unclear how loud the NDP thunder really is from a union perspective. In time we might become disappointed with the Horwath NDP if we consider her as a social democrat, let alone a socialist leader. Horwath continues to lean further towards the political centre. She is the least progressive "progressive" NDP leader we have seen with her emphasis, for example, on balancing the budget and on cheaper car insurance for the middle class. She hopes to pull as many average voters as she can into the NDP tent. Indeed we have unfortunately seen that her union support has been nowhere near as unequivocally stated nor provided as in years past.
One can argue that Horwath's NDP made steady progress in getting other concessions for working people in the OLP spring budget. At the very least we do not see her actively waging war on the poor when she claims to be joining in the austerity march alongside the PC's and the OLP. She has come across as a credible contender in the public eye. Most usefully, she seems willing to make minority government work. I like minority government, because it has checks and balances. Party wise, I therefore hope the NDP are rewarded with a few seats in the by-elections to maintain that sense of balance for now. As such I am endorsing the NDP party for whatever that is worth.
What about the issues? Gas plants? Transit? The public service? Wynne is trying to breath new life in to the tired, old, scandal ridden OLP government. However the Liberals may well have reached the end of the line regardless of what she does next. As a teacher unionist, I'd still need to see some concrete gains in the contract talks next year before I would think the affiliates should provide any OLP life support at all.
As far as these supposed "issues" go, they are mostly just a political theatre of the mind in the ongoing political games. In politics, it's not so much what is true, but what the public can be convinced is true that matters. PC Leader Tim Hudak has been working tirelessly to convince Ontarians that the OLP has to go. He has had the political playing field pretty much to himself since the writ was dropped, at least as far as Wynnes visible party leadership goes. She has, through her virtual absence and arms length campaign approach woefully let Hudak define the issues and the races. She has not provided a clear vision yet of what the new Liberals are like, or can do. Granted it is still early for her to have spelled that all out but that is her Achilles heal exposed in deciding to call the by-elections this summer. Her new approach to government is still very abstract, largely unsubstantial and based upon vague Liberal promises.
While Wynne was at the cottage, or off to the Premiers conference, Hudak and Horwath continued back and forth between the by-election races non stop, summer holidays notwithstanding, beating votes out of the bushes through actively and prolifically supporting their candidates constantly at the local grassroots level. Today, despite earlier plans to the contrary, Wynne managed amongst much Liberal fanfare to appear waving on a street corner near home in the Toronto riding of Scarborough Guildwood, perhaps still the only safe OLP seat come Thursday. Is it a case of too little too late? In a political game where appearances mean everything, it does not look good nor bode well for the Liberals.
Ontario's historical political roots are Tory Orange. They continue to flourish in our provincial mindset through to today. We might well end up with a deep plunge back into a redux Tim Hudak style Mike Harris government come the next provincial election. We could see a return of a nasty PC divide and conquer "common sense" approach to governing including an unprecedented austerity binge once they win office. Unfortunately, it remains quite uncertain whether the NDP could currently take away sufficient Liberal support to form the next government. Should Wynnes misguided by-election strategy result in a lack of public confidence if the party gets beaten badly in Thursdays vote, we could see the forbidding black Tory storm clouds ominously settling in overhead when the legislature resumes this fall. Our options will be very limited and not at all good.
We would be better off if worse comes to worse, with a more red Tory PC government like during the Bill Davis years. Davis ruled a right leaning party that governed to the centre and sometimes even towards the centre left of the Ontario political spectrum in a pinch. He recognized that the combined numbers of NDP and OLP voters with their small "c" conservative social democratic mindset needed to be co-opted to stay in power. Unless Hudak takes a beating in the by-elections that won't happen again anytime soon. A good political bruising might've been enough to further foster doubts about his continued leadership direction within the PC party. That seems unlikely to happen now. It's a most unfortunate lost opportunity for the OLP. Without a strong and viable NDP we might suffer too.
Ontario voters in general are a middling group. They can only be gradually and incrementally moved away from the persistent Tory mindset towards a more progressive and compassionate one. It will take time. I would ideally prefer a party that's distinctly to the left. Not only is the NDP decidedly moving away from that direction but they still aren't currently within reach of forming a government when we translate their increased polling gains into legislative seats at Queens Park. However, some wins in the Thursday by-elections could help consolidate their support in the public eye. When we look at the other two neo liberal and neo con parties, that could be our best outcome as teacher unionists. It becomes an uneasy compromise with a long term goal of getting us realistically to where we truly want to be.
It's true the by-election results won't decisively alter the balance of power when it comes to the number of seats that the OLP minority government needs to stay in power for perhaps another year. BTAIM, the OLP have risked the perception of having lost their spring momentum under Premier Wynne. However, the NDP might stand to reinforce the gains they should be getting for the concessions they won in the spring budget.
The Tories have managed to strongly reinforce their perception of a corrupt Liberal government fumbling the political football as they penetrate the OLP tight zone. Is it realistic or true portrayal? Sadly, that doesn't matter. We have seen the same antics with all three Ontario parties when they were in power. That is unlikely to change for very long. What will change will only be who is in the hot seat as the accusations continue to fly. Any outrage is pure political fodder. It's like the proverbial story of the fire calling the tea kettle black. Or as Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney once ironically said, of the pigs lining up at the trough. Which pigs? Does it matter?
And so: what do I think will happen?
The NDP should win Windsor Techumseh. Percy Hatfield has a commanding lead in the polls. Watch where Wynne and Hudak go on election day. All the leaders will want to be in a winning riding when the results are announced. Word on the ground is that the OLP are pulling out campaign workers from here to concentrate them where the party stands a better chance. However, the NDP would be best not to get too confident in siphoning off their workers here too. The by-election has been a summer snooze fest in Windsor Tecumseh, as it has been across the province. It does not matter what folks say when polled, it's who gets their votes out that will count. The NDP will still need an army of campaign workers to close the deal and win. Slackness and indifference are their biggest risks.
The NDP has a chance to take London South as well. The local word is that the OLP's Ken Coran is dead in the water of lost union support and the local football scandal over his resume.The NDP's Peggy Sattler could still give the leading PC candidate a run for his money. Again, the decisive factor will be sufficient support in getting out the NDP votes on election day. Watch for Horwath to be on the run between here and Windsor Tecumseh. Come that evening she'll end up in Windsor or possibly London, if it's looking good. Wynne? The OLP campaign troops are all ready being pulled out of here to go where the party has a fighting chance. Say good bye Ken!
The PC's also have the lead in Ottawa South. A McGuinty backlash has taken it's toll on the OLP and the PC's have raised the Gas Plant Scandal here to a fever pitch. Watch Wynne keep her distance. The NDP will not waste it's resources on a lost battle in this riding. Hudak will be running back and forth but not end up here if Holyday looks about to make his day in the critical Toronto toe hold battlefield of Etobicoke Lakeshore. Otherwise Ottawa will be a safe place for him to be for a victory speech. The optics will still look very good as the PC's crack this OLP stronghold. Expect to see the PC campaign troops gathered in both ridings on August 1st. Watch where Tim ends up when the polls close to know if Etobicoke Lakeshore will be a likely PC win. He will need to be very fleet footed all day. Wynne likely won't be back here but still needs to keep her running shoes on too.
Etobicoke Lakeshore will be a real nail bitter for both the OLP and the PC's. Expect both to concentrate an army of campaign workers in the riding to get out their vote. Once again, that will be the deciding factor. For the OLP the teachers will definitely be MIA unlike in years past. Watch for a great number of the OLP's other campaign workers to be stationed here for the big fight to the finish. Watch Rob and Doug spend the day directing the Ford Nation troops in a full frontal attack as the brothers regain good favour within the Hudak camp. Wynne will have the dubious fortune of spending the day in home field Toronto. She will still need her running shoes. She will be racing back and forth between here and Scarborough-Guildwood. If the OLP are poised for an Etobicoke Lakeshore win expect her here right up to the last moment. If not watch her retreat quickly to her last be-election fortress before the results are announced for a dubious victory speech.
Scarborough-Guildwood is the OLP's best chance for a safe seat. Indeed as noted earlier, Wynne managed to drop by today to wave. Gambrione might be well known in Toronto as a whole but in Scarborough he had no traction. Regretfully Horwath probably wasn't much help as both flubbed the political foot ball, a long shot at best. The PC's have been noisy about the transit issue but didn't get much traction here either. What to say? OLP candidate Mitzie Hunter is nice, likable and a real keener, who's lined up for a cabinet seat this fall. It might well be a case of form over content, but I'd bet this was what Kathleen Wynne was expecting would win the day unnoticed in the OLP's low key summer by-election strategy across the province. Still, it would be foolish not to decamp sufficient OLP troops to get Mitzies voters out on election day and quite possibly to celebrate a Liberal victory with Kathleen on election night in the riding.
OLP in Scarborough-Guildwood and maybe Etobicoke Lakeshore.
PC's in Ottawa South, quite possibly Etobicoke lakeshore too.
NDP in Windsor Tecumseh and maybe London West which will be another nail biter this time between them and the PC's.
Best bet if I was a gambling man?
One seat each for the OLP, NDP and PC's. Possibly one more for the NDP, and one or two more for the PC's.
Scroll down the page for my "Ontario Teachers By-election Watch" blog!
More news-links at Odds + Sods: July Teacher News Links 2 @ THIS LINK
How about you? What do you think? Political punditry is an arm and lawn chair sport! Kindly share your projections with us in the space below @