It's not just Andrea Horwath's Dippers who are acting out of character. Tom Walkom writes that, in this election, all of Ontario's political parties are not to be found at their usual addresses. The economy has changed everything:
Ontario has been hit hard by the slump. Weak U.S. demand and, until recently, an unusually high Canadian dollar have crushed manufacturing.
Multinationals are realigning their North American operations at the expense of Ontario branch plants.
The damage isn’t always visible in Toronto. But a trip to London, Windsor, Leamington, Wingham or Smiths Falls can be an eye-opener.
The official jobless rate in the province is 7.4 per cent. When discouraged workers are counted, it rises to about 10 per cent.
That reality has changed the pitch of all of the parties:
Initially, the Liberals hoped that putting a new face on the same content would solve their problems.
While charming, Wynne held fast to the key elements of McGuinty’s economic plan, including fiscal restraint.
The hope was that she could woo voters just by appearing to be nicer.
That didn’t work. So the Liberals veered left, raising the minimum wage, promising pension reform and crafting a stimulus budget that they thought could win them a majority government.
It was a budget that put them to the left of the NDP.
If the budget put the Liberals to the left of the NDP, the Dippers are now trying to occupy the real estate once claimed by the Liberals:
Yet, under Andrea Horwath, the New Democrats were already shifting rightward. In part, they were following the trend of social democratic parties worldwide, from Britain’s Labour under Tony Blair to France’s Socialists under François Hollande.
In part, they were mimicking the realpolitik of the federal New Democrats led by Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair.
But they were also responding to their own history. The Ontario NDP had formed government under centrist leader Bob Rae but done poorly when his successor, Howard Hampton, took them back to the left. Maybe they’d fare better by again deking right.
And Tim Hudak really deked right. His strategy is to present a stark alternative to the Liberals who, he believes, are stale and tired. So he offers the Common Sense Revolution 2. But he seems to have forgotten that old saw about common sense: It's like deodorant. Those who need it most don't use it.
In the end, it will be up to Ontarians to decide which party smells best.