Less than 48 hours from when the last ballot was tallied was all that it took for our new "progressive" Premier to start back tracking. Suddenly, the pre-election talk about building Ontario moved to the back seat while fiscal prudence took over the wheel.
Who suspected this might happen?
We did. And so did Andrea Horwath. When the legislature meets on July 2 and the Liberals present the exact same budget that caused this election, the people of Ontario will get a good look at the devil in the details.
By then, the media fog that helped Wynne trick many progressive people and labour leaders will have cleared. The fog was created by the fear of Tim Hudak. It was a fog that took hold by journalists who failed to study the budget in detail and instead relied on the commentary of others who promoted it. It was reinforced by words from a weak and exaggeration-prone OFL president.
OPSEU did not contribute to the haze. OPSEU leadership unanimously recognized the dangers in both Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives and the corrupt and entitled Ontario Liberals. As set out in our privatization “tornado” print ads, these two parties agreed on a lot.
OPSEU also recognized the danger of strategic voting and the potential impact it could have on MPPs like Michael Prue, Rosario Marchese and Jonah Schein. The decision to turn down the budget resulted, within the NDP, from long discussions within caucus. Once made, OPSEU supported the party decision. The NDP felt the margin of votes by which these great MPPs won in 2011 would protect them from any change in voting patterns in 2014.
Even so they lost; in the case of Prue by just a few votes to the Liberals. This should not take away from the fact that a similar number of seats – three — were added to the NDP caucus in other ridings elsewhere in the province.
As the campaign progressed in Toronto, things got particularly tough for the NDP. The NDP does not have the Toronto media in their pockets. No editorial or columnist sang their praises. In fact, just the opposite. The Toronto Star and the Globe flailed away at Horwath and the NDP platform.
That platform made practical sense in difficult times yet it was held by the Star and the Globe to be contrary to long- held NDP principles. How would they know?
The Star even published a column from Wynne just before the election where she again raised the spectre of a Hudak government and vote splitting — this in a city where PCs don’t even exist in most ridings.
On another front, the media’s use of the Open Letter to Horwath, signed by 34 disenchanted elder NDP activists cannot be ignored. It was truly unfortunate that these individuals chose to publish their letter in the middle of a campaign to make their play. Their letter became perfect fodder for a media attack on Horwath who was, at that moment, trying to expand her base beyond the group of 34 to a broader segment of voters through a campaign platform that was socially progressive and fiscally responsible. Her approach was neither urban or rural. It was designed to make sense to everyone.
At the same time many disenchanted PCs and even Liberals held their fire until after the election. The media did nothing to seek out and publicize their views.
This election was a missed opportunity. The proof is in the results. Working people hurt by corporate greed and government cutbacks voted in strength for the NDP. This happened in Windsor, London, Niagara, Hamilton, Oshawa, Sudbury and other parts of Northern Ontario. Clearly, the NDP message resounded there. The media fog did not have as much impact there. We should applaud those who realized that Andrea Horwath was a working class hero and stood by their principles.
Many unions bought into Liberal scare tactics and overestimated the threat that Tim Hudak represented. Once the budget gets passed in July, they will also have sealed in the Liberal agenda for all Ontario. That means, at best, three years of zero wage increases, cuts and privatization for the public sector and many provincially-funded agencies.
It may also mean, contrary to Wynne’s promises, that there will be more waste due to Liberal mismanagement. We will also watch for the next scandal. My guess is, after 11 years in power, that the Liberal culture of entitlement is systemic.
OPSEU will be monitoring and documenting all of it. We will also be fighting back. After all, the current situation is no reason to panic. We took on Mike Harris and won. Tim Hudak is no longer a threat.
Even with a majority Liberal government, OPSEU has the research and access to information needed to be an ombudsman, advocate and whistleblower when bad things happen. Even with a Liberal majority government, truth eventually wins out.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President / Treasurer