Dalton McGuinty and Liberals Hang On In Ontario


Two years ago we called Dalton McGuinty the best of green regional politician in North America for his green agenda. He backslid a bit in the runup to yesterday's election in Ontario, Canada, but last night he squeaked out a victory over the Conservatives and the New Democrats in an election that has some real lessons for those south of the Canadian border.The conservatives ran their campaign from the far right, promising to cancel environmental programs and reduce taxes, and tying themselves to the agenda that propelled Rob Ford into the Mayor's chair in Toronto. But there appears to have been a huge reaction against the Ford agenda, and the conservatives didn't win a single seat in the Toronto area, which has a huge number of seats in at the Provincial Parliament.

McGuinty had the support of important environmentalists like David Suzuki, who one might imagine would support the Greens or the New Democratic Party, the traditional home of the left. But the NDP alienated a lot of environmentalists with their promise to reduce taxes on gasoline.


Andrea Horvath, Dalton McGuinty, Tim Hudak

Back in the end of June when I last wrote How To Get Elected In Ontario: Promise Cheap Energy, No Matter What The Cost, the polls were predicting a Conservative landslide. But the more urban voters looked at Conservative policies, and then looked at what was happening in Ottawa where the new Conservative Majority Government is spending its time on prisons and promoting ethical oil, or at the City of Toronto where they are ripping up bike lanes, the more they voted liberal.

Outside of the city it is a different story; the province is now pretty much divided between urban liberal ridings and rural conservative, with the NDP carrying the North. The government lost a lot of seats and is one short of a majority, but shouldn't have a problem governing with support from the NDP.

The environment played a big role in this election; in the rural ridings there is a lot of anger about wind turbines and land use controls such as the green belt around Toronto. Farmers uses a lot of fuel and people drive a lot more in the country and liked the idea of reduced fuel taxes. They went solidly conservative, but more people live in the city than in the country.

The traditional party of the left and of environmentalists, the New Democratic Party, did well, significantly increasing its number of seats and percentage of the vote. The Green Party was just crushed, getting only 2.9% of the vote, squeezed out by the fear of the anti-environmental policies of the Conservatives.

But the over-arching message is that of rejection of tea party style politics, that you can still be a moderate progressive and win.

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