Stephen Harper is smiling….

The Ontario PC’s, for all intents and purposes, got routed in the election. Tim Hudak, without further adieu, has resigned. In theory, this should be, at best, neutral news for the Prime Minister, but I think it comes close to a windfall for our famously grumpy C.E.O., er, P.M. and I think he knows it. Here’s why:

The Liberal “brand” is now written all over an economically-faltering province. For better (unlikely) or worse (almost inevitable), more than a decade of business unfriendliness has decimated Ontario’s industrial base. This will be the legacy of Liberal rule in Ontario when the next federal election rolls around, particularly now that it’s a majority govenment.

There is a blizzard of bad economic news about to rain down on Ontario’s voters: ruinous public debt, a spiralling deficit, likely credit downgrades, increased taxes, possible labour unrest and the like. The latest financial mismanagement episode (MaRS) is just starting to rear it’s (ugly) head. By the time the next federal election rolls around, “It’s about the economy, stupid” will be the only viable campaign theme for Ontario (and Quebec) voters.

Premier Wynne will soldier on gamely, picking fights with the feds at every opportunity in an effort to shift the blame on Ottawa. All Harper has to do is keep his powder dry just like he did with the Quebec Values Charter episode, and not make Wynne some sort of heroic champion in the process. In this regard, he will cluck solicitously, perhaps throwing an economic bone in this direction.

Harper, for all his authoritarian grimness, has an obvious wild card advantage for economic stewardship which will be a sharp contrast to Liberal profligacy. He’ll also likely have two other advantages: 1) Quite possibly a ‘sympathetic’ female Ontario PC leader; and 2) The “no single party in Ottawa and Queen’s Park” voter tendency.

Kathleen Wynne might wince when she realizes that, in winning an unlikely Liberal majority government for Ontario, she may have won Harper’s next majority, too.



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