Not long ago, Stephen Harper mused about scoring a hat trick in Ontario -- a Tory at Toronto City Hall, a Tory at Queen's Park and himself -- the Big Cheese -- in Ottawa. This morning, Rob Ford is in rehab; Tim Hudak has resigned; and Stephen Harper -- who knows?
The Conservative defeat last night -- and that's what it was -- was a case of a flawed message and a flawed messenger. Voters clearly understood that Tim Hudak's much vaunted one million jobs plan couldn't pass a grade four math class. And Mr. Hudak was a lousy salesman.
Because Ontario's provincial ridings mirror its federal ridings, there are a few lessons Harper should take from last night's results. Tasha Kheiriddin writes:
Fear of cuts trumps fear of corruption. NDP leader Andrea Horwath learned this the hard way. She kicked off the election to kick out a scandal-plagued government, but people were more concerned the Tories would cut services. And they voted Liberal to prevent that from happening.
Ontarians don’t feel overtaxed. No, really. The Tories promised to cut taxes. The Liberals promised to raise them. The NDP promised to do both. And the Liberals got a majority government. Sigh.
Likeability matters. In the corridors, when no one was watching, even stalwart Tories would shake their heads and lament that voters just didn’t like Hudak. Ontarians didn’t love Wynne or Horvath, but they liked them better. Which could explain why …
Harper joked at Jim Flaherty's funeral that even his friends don't like him. And his government has served up both corruption and tax cuts.
There will be two federal by-elections in Ontario at the end of the month. The results should be interesting. It's beginning to look like the province which gave Mr. Harper his majority could well show him the back of its hand in the next federal election. As they say in the American South, "The boy's cheese is slipping off his cracker."