In today's Toronto Star, Tom Walkom writes that the winner of the Ontario election will be the party which best calms the fears of the middle class: "The battleground in this Ontario election," he writes, "is a middle class unnerved by the recession."
Thus, the party which allowed tuitions to rise an average of five percent a year now wants to give university students a yearly grant, except if they come from high income families.
The Conservatives. also playing to the middle class, have attacked the Liberal plan to subsidize the wages of new Canadians as "affirmative action for foreign workers" -- even though Tim Hudak has already proposed similar legislation.
So we now know the basic dynamic of this election. It will be a contest between hope and fear. In that sense, the issues are classically middle class:
When times are tough, the middle classes fight fiercely for their kids. They want to ensure they have a shot at higher education — which McGuinty, belatedly, has come to understand. Yet they also want them to have a fair shot at jobs.
The Conservatives may be monstrously hypocritical. With their attacks on foreigners, they may be dabbling in xenophobia. But they get it.
It might be comforting to think that hope will trump fear. But Michael Ignatieff ran on that proposition the last time around; and, in Ontario, it didn't sell. It will be interesting to see what happens this time around.