Ontario is sleepwalking through another election campaign. The battle lines have now been more-or-less demarcated and, while the outcome is nowhere near certain, there are some obvious themes in play:
The premier, her “safe” – extremely “spendy” – hands extended, has decided to fight this election against…..Stephen Harper (!). The equally (or more) spendy Andrea Horwath is taking on the corporations as both the evil and the answer to our social and economic ills. It’s unclear why, but after propping it up for what feels like a millenium, she’s ‘lost faith” in Wynn’s government.
Tim Hudak is mired in his personal quagmire of campaigning ineptitude, dodging fire as the second coming of Mike Harris and seemingly incapable of utilizing his strongest campaign card, the spectacular record of the government for waste, mismanagement and outright fraud.
Which ever party forms the next government, here are a couple of predictions:
The elephant in the room no one is currently talking much about will roar. Policy will quickly take a back seat to the dictates of economics, making the deficit and the debt the paramount consideration in program delivery. (For the economic neophyte, unrestrained deficit spending is not ‘policy’ and the laws of economics cannot be repealed by the legislature.)
Past big spending governments have been saved from their profligacy by steady growth of the province’s economy. It’s allowed them to claim economic stewardship credentials they didn’t actually earn. This time, it’s different. Ontario is sliding not so slowly into an economic netherworld (think: Detroit). When growth stops, debt servicing swallows everything (think: Greece).
So, somnambulant Ontario voter, as you assess the baubles on offer, take this to the bank: It doesn’t matter which party forms the next government, the overall direction of government will be the same; to cope with the consequences of failing to manage debt prudently. As the Fram mechanic is fond of saying: “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later….”