- August 13, 2003: Why the Eves Government Was Reelected
- August 14, 2003: Why the Eves Government Was Defeated
- Other posts on the campaign
In the end, it all came down to attitude.
Eves, frustrated by a hard year in government and the sense among voters that the province was no better off now than in 1995, came to the end of the rope in terms of his campaign tricks. With targetted tax cuts getting little traction among the majority of the province, he turned the bulk of his campaign into an attack on McGuinty's character, and on other scapegoats within the provincial political scene (teachers, unions, Torontonians, public servants, etc).
McGuinty realized that, after eight years, Ontarians were tired of polarizing politics. Allowing his attack dogs handle the negativity for him, he himself stepped above the mudslinging fray, and spoke to what Ontarians could accomplish as a whole. In a province sick of negativity, McGuinty's approach was a breath of fresh air, a breath that became all the fresher when Eves' frustration with his campaign translated into a series of embarrassing gaffes.
McGuinty campaigned far better than expectations, and this is not just the results of his image coaching in the United States (though that helped). Sure he promised little in the way of specifics, and his policies in a number of areas remain vague, but he had a strong central message and he stuck to it. The Ontario he wants is something that he hopes all Ontarians can build. It's a province that sets aside its divisions and its fears and looks to the future with hope. This is not an image thing; he spoke to this very vision as far back as 1999 -- he just didn't communicate it very well until now.
The next four years won't be a snooze alarm. They will be very interesting indeed. And I am allowing myself just a little room to hope.
In the end, I voted Green.
As I said, there was no way in hell I was going to vote for Eves Conservatives after all that they'd done to Ontario in general, and my home town of Toronto in particular. I was sickened by the divisive nature of their government and the foolishness of their latest round of vote-buying policies. But who was I to turn to? The Liberals campaigned well, but their policies were not well defined other than generalities. My own favourite election issue, public transportation, didn't really materialize in this campaign, and the Liberals did not answer my requests to clarify where they stood on the funding issue. My sympathies tend to slip towards the NDP, but in this area of the province a vote for the NDP is a vote thrown away. If I am to become a protest voter, is the NDP really the best party to park my protest vote behind?
With no clear winner for my vote on the provincial scene, my attention turned to the candidates running in my riding (Kitchener-Waterloo). My strong dislike for the Eves Conservatives does not extend to their candidate, Elizabeth Witmer, who has been an effective MPP and a strong force on the left of the Conservative party. I would not have been upset if she had been reelected, but I could not bring myself to vote for her party.
Sean Strickland, the Liberal candidate and her major competitor, seems like a nice guy and has a reputation for being an effective municipal politician, but I didn't really know him or what he stood for. None of his campaign workers came out my way and encouraged me to vote. I had little reason to turn my back on Witmer and vote for him.
Dan Lajoie (NDP) spoke well, but again, in this riding a vote for him is a vote thrown away, and if I am to protest by throwing my vote away, I should look to see if there are other parties worther of throwing my vote to. So I turned to the Green Party.
The Green Party intrigued me with the strength of their campaign and the fact that their policies are bold and new. This is the first time they've been able to mount a full slate of candidates, and by the number of Pauline Richards' lawn signs in Kitchener-Waterloo, this local candidate seemed to be working hard in what was a very Quixotic quest. I felt that, though there was no hope of the Green Party being elected to government (good thing, too, as some of their policies show their inexperience and need a little work), a strong showing would shake the mainstream parties out of their complacency. If the Greens could take 4-6% of the vote, the pollsters and the public would come to realize that there are more options out there.
So, at 10 a.m. Eastern time, I stepped out of my home, walked down to my voting booth, and marked an X beside the name of Pauline Richards. I have no regrets.
She got over 1,600 votes -- enough to get back her deposit, I hope.
In the end, my predictions came surprisingly close. At the time of this writing, the seat count appears to be 72 Liberals, 24 PCs and 7 NDP, two more Liberals and two less NDPers than I thought. I was also right to predict that Elizabeth Witmer would buck the trend and be reelected in the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo.
The region did not go wholly Liberal as the K-W Record predicted, and I expected that (John Milloy was the only Liberal elected to Waterloo Region, dealing an overdue defeat to the current Kitchener Centre Conservative MPP Wayne Wettlaufer; Witmer was safe in her seat and I also thought that Ted Arnott of Waterloo-Wellington would be pretty hard to beat). I was shocked by Gerry Martiniuk's margin of victory in Cambridge, however.
I was very pleased by Wayne Wettlaufer's defeat because he represented the breed of arrogant pro-business blue Tories that had stolen my party away from me, and he hadn't done much for the riding of Kitchener Centre. I saw Gerry Martiniuk as being in much the same boat, with the only difference between the two being that the NDP were stronger competitors in Gerry's riding. Perhaps that was what saved Martiniuk and toppled Wettlaufer.
Disappointingly, it looks as though voter turnout was low, again. This time only 55% of decided voters bothered to turn out, down one percentage point from 1999. Shame.
Finally, if anybody wonders what happened to that wooden Dalton McGuinty of the 1999 campaign, I may have your answer: the Liberals distilled all of McGuinty's geekier features, his uncertainty and his wooden manner of speaking, and shoved those elements into the body of John Milloy, the new MPP for Kitchener Centre, giving him glasses to boot.
It's facetious, I know, but I still have to say that Mr. Milloy's similarities to the old Mr. McGuinty is so startling, I have to wonder if McGuinty was somehow cloned...
Well, we have four years to find out.