Ontario pols should note Europe's shift 0
With so many parties fracturing the federal political scene, Canadians have become experts in the delicate art of balancing minority governments.
Now that we have a minority government in Ontario, we're finding out just how much of an unpredictable roller-coaster it can be.
Britain is a cautionary tale for politicians managing minorities. The U.K.'s last national vote in 2010 left Tory Leader David Cameron leading what the Brits call a "hung" parliament.
How Cameron and his Liberal-Democrat co-conspirator, Nick Clegg, have managed that minority - with a formal coalition - is a lesson
for all parties in Ontario's legislature. Cameron and Clegg struck a deal that gave the Lib-Dems
prominent cabinet positions.
Clegg is Cameron's deputy prime minister - a heady title to be sure. It means he's held as much to blame for unpopular austerity cutbacks
as Cameron. This month, both Cameron and Clegg suffered massive losses in local elections. Their formal coalition has meant any right-of-centre policy Cameron wants to bring in has been watered down by Clegg. Similarly, any Lib-left policy Clegg has tried to push through has been diluted by the Tories. The result has been stagnation and a rapid drop in the polls for both parties. In what's been dubbed "Armacleggon" by one pundit, the Lib-Dems took a drubbing in local elections while Cameron's Tories also took a direct hit, as many councils moved into the Labour Party fold.
The only Tory big winner was London Mayor Boris Johnson, who managed to squeak back into power on his personal popularity, despite a strong challenge from his predecessor, Labour's "Red" Ken Livingstone. For bucking the leftwing tide, Johnson has been hailed as the right's hero, viewed by some as the natural successor to the beleaguered Cameron.
(A caution here to those of you who would draw comparisons with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, his brother Doug and their rumoured provincial political ambitions. Boris Johnson - BoJo as he's called - is a classical Oxford scholar and old Etonian. He has a rapier wit and, before he became mayor, often appeared on the satirical British TV show Have I Got News For You. The Fords aren't quite in that league.)
In Canada, we tend to manage minority parliaments on a vote-by-vote basis.
Yes, there was an attempt by the federal opposition Liberals, NDP and Bloc parties in Ottawa after the 2008 election to bring down Stephen Harper's then-minority Conservative government with a coalition agreement. It had an air of desperation about it. Many voters saw
it as a deal crafted by a group of politicians prepared to put political ambition ahead of principles.
In Ontario, the swing left in the U.K. and France could augur well for NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. At the same time, she must be wary not to be seen as too cozy with Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals, for fear she'll get wedged the same way Clegg has been in the U.K. The last thing Horwath wants is to be blamed for all the bad government measures while McGuinty takes credit for the rest.
Tory Leader Tim Hudak has problems of his own. He's been noticeably absent from the
legislature of late, leaving the field open for Newmarket-Aurora MPP Frank Klees to position himself as the heir apparent.
Make no mistake. If the Tories lose the byelection to replace former Tory MPP Elizabeth Witmer, Hudak's career is over.
That will give McGuinty a majority government and the only person to blame will be Hudak for not holding his caucus together. He'll
have to resign and the Tories will be plunged into another leadership campaign.
The line of applicants forms to the right.