There is a strange dissonance in provincial politics in Ontario these days, and it stems from the fact that none of the three major parties appears to be in alignment with the thinking of the majority of Ontarians. As in every other democratic jurisdiction, to win at the polls in Ontario a political party must capture the centre— that broad swath of opinion that encompasses the majority of voters. In Ontario at present we have two left-of centre parties with increasingly imperceptible differences between them, and a Conservative party that sometimes resembles the Tea Party.
That leaves moderates with no obvious choice in the next election –whenever that may come. It’s reflected in recent polling that suggests a three-way split that would give the opposition parties more seats than they currently have. Add to that another concern that applies to the present government—the question of competence. The energy file is in shambles thanks to a poorly thought-out green energy program that has alienated rural Ontario over turbines, and enraged urban residents opposed to the gas plants needed to back up the wind energy that can’t be used. We have gone from a cheap power jurisdiction to one of the most expensive in North America.
Not a good thing with an economy that continues to rely heavily on manufacturing. Intelligent policy development in many cases has been replaced by top-down ideological nonsense. After years in development, the Big Move transportation policy is in limbo, because both opposition parties oppose new taxes. The horse racing industry was attacked without an end game in sight and now the government is trying to put it back together. The one thing the government could do to help municipalities would be to overhaul the public sector arbitration system that has resulted in skyrocketing police and fire costs, but so far nothing has been done. Small wonder then that we see municipalities banding together to press for change.
Hamilton, Niagara, Waterloo and Peel have formed such a group in an effort to come up with a regional transportation and economic development plan in the wake of the cancellation of the Niagara to GTA corridor project. We predict we will see more examples of municipalities taking matters into their own hands. While it seems obvious that one of the three major parties could modify its policies enough to appeal to the centre, they all to a degree are trapped in their ideological rhetoric. The old Bill Davis and John Robarts Progressive Conservatives (not in any way to be confused with the Hudak Tories), stayed in office for three generations by finding that sweet spot in public sentiment and never straying too far from it. And they did something else that seems in short supply—they gave us stable, competent, largely non-ideological government that people at least trusted, whether they voted for the party in power or not.