Sunday, May 4, 2014

A guide to winning the Ontario election

TORONTO -- Plop, plop. Fizz, fizz.

Parliament is dissolved.

Oh, what a relief it is.

Just like that, like tossing a couple of Alka Seltzer in a glass and watching the bubbles start, so Premier Kathleen Wynne pulled the plug on Ontario's 40th Parliament Friday, plunging the province into an election.

Wynne's had none of the good luck of her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty.

Where his team was able to slickly stickhandle their way through budgets and elections, Wynne's team stumbled and bumbled.

You get the sense the May 1 budget was intended to set up a June 5 election.

It was a bizarre document that made no fiscal sense. It hiked taxes, spent more, promised more -- and made not the briefest nod to balancing the budget.

It was all about politics.

Liberals didn't want to spend any more time in the legislature having their figures picked apart.

Incumbent governments prefer short elections -- and 28 days is as short as it gets.

Then Elections Ontario threw a wrench into that plan, pointing out that June 5 is a Jewish holiday and therefore off the table as far as a vote's concerned.

When Wynne went to Lt.-Gov. David Onley Friday to ask him to dissolve Parliament, the election writ could not technically start for five days -- writs must be dropped on Wednesdays -- so the legislature is in a weird state of suspended animation until May 7.

There are no MPPs, but the executive council -- cabinet and the premier -- stay on in a caretaker role until the end of the June 12 election.

The province's volatile political landscape means this vote could go any way.

Any party can win. Any leader can come last.

If you look at party fortunes in byelections since 2011, the NDP would appear to be the big winners.

So if anyone can win, how do they do so?

No one's actually asked for my advice.

That's never held me back in the past.

Here's my handy-dandy guide for the three leaders on how to win this one:

Kathleen Wynne:

Purchase a round-the-world 365-day cruise for former premier McGuinty. Rumour has it he's at Harvard.

School gets out soon. Make sure he isn't seen anywhere near this province for the next 40 days and 40 nights.

Mongolia. The Cayman Islands. Antartica. Cape Horn. The Bermuda Triangle.

Ask him to stay anywhere but here, lest he remind voters of (a) eHealth (b) gas plants (c) Ornge (d) deleted emails and (e) Collegate.

The Liberals have taken to using feel-good buzzwords lately. Words like "visionary," "aspirational," "safe hands," trip off their tongues.

The only problem is theirs is an asinine, recklessly unsafe budget that lacks fiscal vision.

We're not buying it anymore. Their buzzwords just make us giggle.

Tim Hudak:

It's do or die time for the Tory leader. Polls show he's pulling ahead of the pack, but he can't get overly confident or cocky.

This is a long election writ. Anything can happen.

He has to take the high road and sell himself as a statesman -- someone voters would feel comfortable putting in the premier's chair. His million-jobs plan and focus on the economy are starting to resonate.

He should also talk about integrity in government and convince voters he'd bring honesty and trust back to politics.

Liberals and their nodding dogs, the Working Families, are going to try to trap him into looking on the extreme right fringes.

It's tough to counter when Working Families engage in brutal attack ads and have endlessly deep union pockets.

Andrea Horwath:

Her down-home lunchbox wishin' and hopin' schtick works well with voters.

She's in an odd situation. Wynne clipped her socialist grass in the budget. We now have a New Demcratic Party that's to the right of the Liberals.

How can Horwath promise irresponsible tax hikes and reckless spending when the Liberals have already done so?

Can Horwath woo back her traditional core left-wing support?

She, too, should focus on accountability and honesty.

The hunt for your vote is on. Keep the Alka Selter handy.

Some of these sickening promises may make you queasy.

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