Dalton McGuinty won a third mandate yesterday. Six months ago he was a dead man walking. He will need support from the NDP to keep him upright. But the truth is that the uncharismatic McGuinty will join Oliver Mowat in the history books as only the second Liberal Premier of Ontario to win three elections. And he did it by using what used to be a Progressive Conservative template: Ontario premiers are bland.
Tom Walkom writes in The Toronto Star that the real progressive conservative has one a third term:
Sometimes the governing party refers to itself as Progressive Conservative. Sometimes it uses the name Liberal. But no matter what it calls itself, the ruling party usually — usually — follows a standard pattern.
It intervenes in the economy to encourage business. It pays some attention to social needs (although it’s rarely accused of over-generosity). It doesn’t rock the boat. And, without being doctrinaire, it prides itself on being a competent manager of the province’s finances.
Very, very occasionally an outrider wins power at Queen’s Park: the United Farmers of Ontario in 1919, Bob Rae’s New Democrats in 1990, Mike Harris’s Common Sense Revolutionaries in 1995.
But even in the rare case where this occurs, the new maverick government comes under intense pressure to fall into line with Ontario’s robustly bland traditions.
When McGuinty took on the Harris conservatives for the first time, they tried to paint him as Norman Bates. The strategy didn't work. Even though McGuinty bore some resemblance to Anthony Perkins, he simply was not scary.
Then they tried to paint him as incompetent. He may have reversed himself more than once on taxes. And there was the E health scandal. But Ontarians knew that, despite his mistakes, he was looking forward. And, most importantly, he wasn't Mike Harris. For the truth is that Mike Harris' ghost still haunts this province, as he now haunts Ottawa. Tim Hudak sounded too much like Mike Harris. Voters did not want to go back there .
Andrea Horvath will push McGuinty to the left. There will be some rejigging of the tax system. But the Green Energy Act will stay in place. And -- because Dalton McGuinty does not use his elbows the way Mike Harris did and Stephen Harper does -- the Liberals have achieved an historic third mandate.