The Real Meat in Ontario Politics

THUNDER BAY – “Your actions are speaking so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying”. That gem of wisdom from my grandmother certainly holds true for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. The Ontario Liberals have had a scandal filled year, with the opposition Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats hot on their tail over each problem the government has faced.

The results? The latest Ipsos-Reid Poll shows that the Ontario PCs have taken a one point lead over the governing Liberals. That however isn’t the big news in this poll.

The real meat in the latest Ipsos-Reid poll is not the Ontario Progressive Conservatives taking the lead away from the Liberals. The real story is in the growing numbers of people in Ontario looking for change, and not seeing it from the McGuinty Liberals.

The other key component of this poll, one that likely has top Liberals worried is that a large number of people, almost 70% are saying that it is time for change in Ontario.

One in three (32%) Ontarians believe that the province is on the ‘right track’, while the vast majority (68%) believes the province is heading in the ‘wrong direction’ – that represents a 28% drop since the election just under three years ago.

That change more perhaps than any other marks that the 2011 election will be one of the hardest fought in Ontario’s recent history.

Some of McGuinty’s ‘gun-slinger’ stances on issues like the HST, where the Premier has said in effect if voters don’t like what he is doing, they can vote him out, are likely to come back to haunt the Liberal leader over the next year.

Also telling are the figures which demonstrate the level of trust that people have in the party leaders. A majority, 56% believe that Dalton McGuinty has a hidden agenda. The figure for Tim Hudak is 24% and a mere 12% for NDP leader Andrea Horwath.

While Dalton McGuinty stated that the recent cabinet shuffle was to focus efforts on the economy and healthcare, the Premier’s trust numbers with the public are well down on those specific areas.

When asked “who is best to manage the economy” Hudak at 43% takes a commanding lead over McGuinty who is now the choice of only three out of ten Ontarians.

When Ontarians are asked “who is best to manage taxpayers dollars” – only one in four believe it is Dalton McGuinty.

The worst numbers for McGuinty come in the area of managing Ontario’s healthcare system. Again only one in four Ontarians say it is the Premier. Tim Hudak received 37% and Andrea Horwath received the endorsement of 26%.

For the Liberals, the poll which suggests that 64% of Ontarians believe it is time for a new political party to take power, must come as a hard dose of cold water.

The poll numbers could provide the impetus for many Liberals MPPs to start reflecting on their political futures, or considering whether or not they will run again in 2011.

For McGuinty, the real issue seems to be that the Premier’s aversion to conflict and failures to take responsibility when things go wrong are, likely the real problems. It is also very likely that the Premier isn’t capable of changing. That means unless the Liberals HST, and other tax schemes start paying major dividends in the next eight to ten months, Ontario voters will be electing a new government.

James Murray