If you don't lose

Posted By: John Moore · 6/15/2014 11:35:00 AM

If you don't lose

It's hard to exaggerate how Ontario's Progressive Conservatives got their clocks cleaned on Thursday. Against a tired old scandal-ridden Liberal government they managed to place worse than they did the last time they ran against a tired old scandal-ridden Liberal government. 

The party and its supporters were astonished (which is part of the problem but more on that later). They shouldn't have been.  The writing was on the wall for most of the campaign: Ontarians weren't buying what PC leader Tim Hudak was selling. It's not because the voters are stupid or because unions run the table. It's because certain notions that have become common currency in some quarters of the right are actually much more like Canadian Tire money in the mainstream.

It's a shame the Conservatives tacked right when they could have won handily by standing still.  Tim Hudak tried to serve Ontarians a vegan tasting menu when all we really wanted was the fish.

Here are just a few lessons we can take away from Hudak's shellacking:

Firstly, the PCs put an unnecessary scare into voters by trying to retail a form of Tea Party inspired economics that has little appeal in Canada.  They doubled down by soliciting the endorsement of one of those rent-a-gun U.S. economists who never seems to remember that Reaganomics lead to a historic deficit. 

The right has to dial down this monomaniacal notion that everything in an economy hinges on taxation. If business activity and jobs varied inversely with the level of taxation the world's epicenter of commerce would be the Bahamas. When Tim Hudak promised to lower business taxes all voters in this program rich province saw was lower government revenues.  

Both the PCs and the NDP also made an error in abandoning all proportion.  Not every government foul up or misstep is an epic and shame-worthy calamity on a par with The Sponsorship Scandal and Watergate. To be sure the Liberals had a badly stained record but simply repeating the word "corruption" over and over doesn't mean voters will see these money burning gaffs as anything more than the kind of cost overruns that they now expect of government. 

Along similar lines, hyperbole is the enemy of reasonable discourse. Everyone knows Ontario faces some major fiscal challenges but to suggest it is Greece or Portugal is a frothy fiction.  And since Ottawa runs deficits of choice it's clear enough to everyone that deficits are not in fact toxic by definition. 

Another lesson worthy of note -and here we come to the aspect of surprise amongst conservatives to Thursday's verdict- don't drink your own bath water.  Ontario's right was so convinced of the self evident superiority of its product the Conservatives actually thought they were winning. Never assume everyone hates your opponent as much as you do.

One last suggestion: try a little positivity.  There is a fatigue factor to relentless anger and disapproval.  A dour Tim Hudak was always tut-tutting his opponents while some of his supporters in the media (particularly talk radio) seethed with indignation. They mashed the three major Liberal scandals into a single Gollum-worthy phrase "E-healthorngegasplants" and repeated it over and over like a conjuring spell as if through sheer will they could lift the Conservatives to power. Voters decided they liked the smiley grandmother over the Nixonian marm and part if the reason is people generally prefer positivity over pique.  

These are the lessons from which both Ontario's provincial Conservatives and their federal cousins could learn.  Canada is not in fact lurching to the right so it's up to the nation's conservatives to change course if they want to woo rather than war against the electorate.  

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  1. Angry Bill posted on 06/16/2014 09:58 AM
    I hope you're right, John, regarding the future of this province not going the way of other economies that were irresponsible. I suspect you're wrong, but I hope to God you're right, because I have to live in this province.

    I agree as well that you might as well show some positivity. I don't see a hell of a lot here to be overly positive about, but I guess the band that was playing on the deck of the Titanic as it was going down was a positive element. So I agree, find positivity where you can get it.

    I have always maintained Hudak was the wrong person to be spearheading that party. He always was. I suspected he'd be the one responsible for once again snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and that did turn out to be the case. I'm still shaking my head, though, that so many people in Ontario just don't care that the liberals have been proven to be as corrupt as they are, and people will still vote for them. I have to admit that's something I just don't get. I must be the only voter in Ontario who doesn't believe in rewarding a dishonest, unworthy political party with another term. Sucks to have scruples.

    As of right now, I've joined the camp of people who no longer vote.. because like they say, what is the point? We just wound up with more of the same, except worse, because now they have a majority. We'll see how I feel 4 years from now, but as of right now, I'm joining the ranks of people who don't even bother to show up.

    Like I said, sucks to have scruples.
    1. AC posted on 06/17/2014 12:45 PM
      @Angry Bill people can twist/spin/analyze this until they're blue in the face, but if it's not clear now to conservatives that this is a Liberal province with Liberal ideology then i can't help you. no one can.
      the spin that Toronto is to blame was soundly bitch slapped around. this was a massive crushing defeat to conservatism from all of southern Ontario from Windsor to Ottawa
      This is also a big signal to the feds in power right now. your days are numbered. As Ontario goes so does the country
  2. GregH_5652 posted on 06/16/2014 11:31 AM
    Most of the problems with the PC campaign you mentioned are actually an indictment of the voting public. A lot of people I talked to who were voting Liberal were doing so because they "Just didn't like Hudak". Well, you're not voting for Hudak, you're voting for the candidate in your riding.
    I agree that bringing up all the scandals over and over again leads to people tuning it out but, at the same time, you can't let the voters forget it either.
    The Liberals ran a very tough attack-style campaign against Hudak and he didn't respond well - or at all. He was, however, the only candidate willing to tell it like it is and the public stuck their fingers in their ears and voted against him.
    I look at like this; One parent spoils and indulges the kids all weekend with promises of more to come even thought the bank account is in the red. The other parent tells the kids not only do the treats have to stop but we may have to sell the Xbox. Who do you think the kids will side with?
    1. StephenS_5505 posted on 06/16/2014 02:44 PM
      @GregH_5652 The voters are never, repeat never wrong. The minute you go there you start down the road to some people just shouldn't have the vote or be allowed to vote. Next thing you know their wearing little gold stars on their chests to ID them as people who can't vote.

      A free vote is just that, free and your reasons are your reasons for voting and to impune your reasoning onto other people is just plain foolish and wrong. The voting public had two looks at Hudak and didn't like him both times.

      I've seen High School Student Council campaigns handled better than what the PC's did in both elections under Hudak.
    2. GregH_5652 posted on 06/16/2014 08:20 PM
      @GregH_5652 @Stephen S_5505 Liberal Tool.
      Whoa, whoa, whoa. Take it easy. The fact is the majority of voters are ill informed and will believe whatever lies are broadcasted the loudest and most often. Hudak may be unappealing physically or whatever people are paying attention to, but his message is spot on. This Is Not Sustainable and something has to change. Too many voters look at this as some kind of sporting event where they just want their side to win. It's more goddamned important than that. If Wynne had come out with a sound budget with an eye towards cutting waste and raising some taxes to slay the deficit I just might have voted for her. Her budget is ridiculous and her plans for balancing the budget are pure fiction. This province is going to be in deep trouble 4 years from now. I just hope the PCs have a candidate with enough appeal to allow the fence-sitters to vote for fiscal sanity.
  3. BJA posted on 06/16/2014 11:53 AM
    Having been forced from my home due to wind turbine emissions that harmed my family and my pets health so that we could no longer live there, I have been very active with the provincial government. I can tell you that Ontarians in the urban centers have not been made aware of this ongoing scandal. The harm coming to their neighbours in rural Ontario by wind turbines should have been disclosed to the urban listeners/viewers/readers. This scandal is monumental including the fact that Liberals are making money tons of money off the subsidies as we endure skyrocketing hydro Rates. The difference in media reports between rural centers and large urban centers is striking.
    Clearly there are 2 channels of messaging depending where you live and the majority (urban dwellers) of the voters are being kept in the dark.
    Don’t blame the PCs for a population that has been fed Wynne is good Hudak is bad.
    This province is a mess and now we will have another 4 years to pay.
    1. StephenS_5505 posted on 06/16/2014 02:38 PM
      @BJA There is not one scientific study done by any credible organisation or person that has found any like between wind turbines and health. Not one. That canard is simply a lie.
  4. G Man posted on 06/16/2014 11:59 AM
    John, I guess you see what you want to see when looking back at the election campaign. Where you saw only the Conservatives being negative, I think most of the rest of us saw all three parties being negative.

    The Liberals continually suggested that Hudak was a Mike Harris clone, who would cut spending on healthcare and education (in fact, Harris increased provincial spending on healthcare; it was the federal Liberal government who cut spending on healthcare by 50%). They were negative on both the Tories "Million Jobs Plan" and their plan to reduce public sector employment through attrition by 100,000 jobs over 4 years. That's fair enough, but they misrepresented the latter, saying employees would be "fired", which of course doesn't happen with attrition. All of these were followed by the voice of the premier saying "I'm Kathleen Wynne, and I approved this message!"

    The Tories were negative about the Liberals mismanagement on the three scandals you mentioned, but again this is fair game since it IS the government's record. The NDP was even more negative about the scandals, using the word "corruption" time and time again. I bet it was the only message they put out that actually was heard by the electorate.
  5. Manfred Spence posted on 06/17/2014 08:12 AM
    Your Right Tim Hudak was the wrong Man. I have voted P.C. in Ontario and Reform/Conservative Federally for the last 25 years. However, I could not vote for Hudak.
    But the People that voted Liberal are Stupid.

    It was irresponsible to reward Liberal corruption with your sacred vote.
    1. arthur posted on 06/17/2014 12:35 PM
      @Manfred Spence I've never voted conservative either provincially or federally.
      It's pretty clear in Ontario liberal ideology is what the people of the province want.
      if conservatives haven't learnt that then no one can help them. i hope they double down in their anti labour anti pension reform anti social responsible stance nothing would make Liberals happier if they do
  6. lee posted on 06/19/2014 08:50 AM
    Funny, though. If these insights were so obvious, why didn't anyone mention them before the vote in which 20% of the electorate voted liberal and 15% voted Conservative, while 50% stayed home.

    Hindsight truly is 20/20.
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