CFN – Ever since she was sworn in as Ontario premier in February, pundits have been predicting when Kathleen Wynne will seek a mandate from the electorate.
Most are now pointing to a spring election.
The truth is all three party leaders need an election sooner rather than later — but for different reasons.
Riding a crest of high personal approval ratings, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath needs to consolidate her political support, for fear that if her momentum wanes, she’ll miss the opportunity to gain seats in Toronto and southwestern Ontario.
Conservative Leader Tim Hudak’s needs an election victory to permanently put to rest doubts about his leadershp within the party, arising from his low approval ratings with the public.
But it’s Wynne — who became premier because of a vote by Liberal partisans who were choosing a new leader — who has the most urgent need to face voters in the spring.
Her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, led the Liberals to a minority government victory in 2011 — despite the fact few gave him any chance of winning at the start of the campaign. McGuinty capitalized on Hudak’s mistakes and convinced voters to hold their noses and keep the Liberals in power.
McGuinty needed a miracle to win and got it. Wynne will need one as well.
The caucus she inherited from McGuinty is tired and past its expiry date. Most of the marquis players that McGuinty had in his cabinet have left — six in 2013 alone — including Dwight Duncan, Laurel Broten, Harinder Takhar, Margarett Best, Chris Bentley and McGuinty himself.
The remaining talent in the Liberal caucus isn’t deep enough to recover from those defections. That means there are lots of rookie cabinet ministers who need Wynne to be front-and-centre at all times, whereas McGuinty could rely on his veterans to help shoulder the load.
The public’s concerns about Wynne’s bench strength have been amplified by recent admissions that Health Minister Deb Matthews, a senior cabinet member, failed to read an audit arising from the Ornge air ambulance scandal.
Wynne herself signed a cabinet document authorizing what opposition MPPs have described as “blank cheque” negotiations with the developers of the Oakville natural gas plant to compensate them after the Liberals cancelled the project.
This despite the fact Wynne testified at the legislative inquiry into the plant cancellations that she wasn’t even consulted about that decision, or about canceling a second gas plant in Mississauga.
Meanwhile, Wynne works under the label of being an “unelected” premier — meaning she has yet to lead her party to victory in a general election — which will haunt her until the writ is dropped.
The PC and NDP campaigns will attempt to convince voters that Wynne had a far greater hand in the gas plant cancellations than her public statements suggest.
In one interview with Steve Paikin on TVO’s Agenda, Wynne apologized 11 times for the gas plant scandal, the sheer volume of them making her sound less and less sincere each time she said it.
Wynne’s advisors may well view an election as an opportunity to change the channel from past Liberal boondoggles while closing the books on McGuinty’s scandal-plagued government. Otherwise Wynne and her government could suffer a death by a thousand cuts, the longer she holds off going to the polls.
Most of McGuinty’s inner circle has already been relegated to the sidelines as Wynne is anxious to forge her own way in the upcoming campaign.
She’s already demonstrated she is a formidable campaigner, who can hold her own in Question Period against the opposition leaders, while charming and engaging the public. But Wynne can’t go on much longer without facing the electorate for a mandate.
The bigger concern is how much more of Wynne and the Liberals Ontario can take as our economy continues to sputter.
But if Hudak and the Conservatives want to capitalize on that, they’re going to have to up their game.
Maddie Di Muccio originally printed this piece in the Toronto Sun. She has graciously allowed us to reprint it here on CFN.
She is a municipal town councillor in Newmarket, and has been outspoken regarding transparent and accountable government, appearing on the Michael Coren Show, Newstalk 1010, AM 640, and various print media. Di Muccio has hosted local lectures on a series of “Empowering” groups of individuals and featuring prominent personalities, and was invited to speak on empowering females in politics at the Manning Network Convention for 2013. She writes a bi-weekly column on GTA municipal issues in the Toronto Sun. As vice-president for Society for Quality Education, her priorities focus on children and youth issues and concerns. Di Muccio is the parent of three school-age boys.