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October 24, 2011

McGuinty’s Liberals win third term... will there be a 4th?

CANADA - Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals were re-elected over a week ago and already people are thinking they might win a 4th term.

But the third term will have a short leash. McGuinty’s Liberals were re-elected with a minority government, propped up by the NDP. The rare “three-peat” win on Thursday October 6th saw the Liberals win 53 seats out of 107, just 1 short of a majority government. The NDP won 17 seats and will be propping the Liberal government up in exchange for compromises.

History Repeats Itself

In 1985 David Peterson's Liberals were elected with 48 seats, propped up by 25 NDP seats under then NDP leader Bob Rae. This historic cooperation between the Liberals and NDP ended 42 years of Conservative control.

The cooperation between the Liberals and NDP led to many great changes which helped the economy, health care and environmental policies in Ontario. In 1987 the Liberals were re-elected with a majority, but people later realized it was the NDP component which had been so helpful. To make matters worse the recession hit Ontario hard during 1989.

Thus in 1990 the NDP was elected with a majority government under Bob Rae, and due to a tight budget Bob Rae brought in "Rae Days" (days when government employees were asked to work for free in order to cut back on government spending). This measure wasn't popular and led to the Conservatives later winning a majority in 1995.

So the question is, if history is to repeat itself, will a Liberal-NDP cooperation now lead to the Liberals being re-elected for a 4th term? Its entirely possible.

For now the Liberals will be supported on a “case-by-case” basis by the New Democrats and, on occasion, the Progressive Conservatives.

“Dalton was clear — no deals — and with these numbers there is no need. When you’re at a threshold, it’s a mandate,” said one senior Liberal insider on the election night.

The lifespan of a minority administration is usually only “18 months to two years”, depending on the economic woes of the time. If the economy is good it can last longer, but the ruling party sometimes forces a fresh election if their popularity is soaring.

McGuinty, 56, is the first premier to win three straight elections since Davis in 1977.

Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, 43, meanwhile looks to be at the end of his career. Public opinion polls suggest that he isn't leadership material. He needs to stop and reflect, do some inventory management of his staff, compare that to what people in Ontario actually want and see if the Conservative Party needs to change its platform. If he still thinks he is the right person to lead the Conservatives then he might stay on... of course he might stay on as leader purely out of ego, and not due to any logical reasoning.

Meanwhile we must conclude that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is a competent leader to have managed to win 3 consecutive governments and to keep Ontario's economy humming. No lack of production planning ability there.

It was thought that Dalton McGuinty might get the boot because of the amalgamation of the 5% GST and 8% PST into the 13% HST, an act that made Dalton McGuinty unpopular amongst rich people who now have to pay more when buying a new car, cigarettes or luxury goods. Most people still pay 13% tax regardless.

There was also anger about rising hydro bills, gasoline prices, etc, but most people blame those things on the American Recession & Recovery of 2007-2010.

But both the Conservatives and NDP released relatively centrist electoral programs months before the vote that only promised to tinker with the HST and most other Liberal initiatives, in other words no daring changes just blue and orange versions of the Liberal platform.

The Conservatives did propose forcing prisoners to work on chain gangs and equip sex offenders with GPS bracelets so they could be tracked, but no other changes. (Chain gangs and GPS bracelets may be coming anyway due to Stephen Harper's federal government.) The Conservatives promised to keep running deficits until 2017.

Meanwhile McGuinty is now talking about creating 50,000 green energy jobs thanks to Ontario subsidies for wind and solar power, and plans to cut college and university tuition by 30% for low- and middle-income students.

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