Monday, June 16, 2014

There Is Much At Stake

Kathleen Wynne's victory, Murray Dobbins writes, offers hope -- not just to Ontario, but to the rest of Canada:

While the right's hardliners may be lighting their hair on fire, citizens on the other hand may actually get to see what governments used to be like. There is, of course, still a possibility that Wynne will renege on these pledges as Liberals have done historically. But just imagine if she does deliver with the most progressive budget in Canada in 20 years. It could have huge implications for politics at all levels.

For forty years the Right has pumped the message that government is essentially evil and incapable of doing good. But Wynne could change that mantra:

If Wynne wants to have a really extraordinary legacy she has a golden opportunity -- and a powerful personal mandate. Progressive politicians can pitch good policies until the cows come home but the impact of actually seeing them work could be enormous: an executed plan is worth a thousand pledges. Wynn's $15-billion mass transit plan is huge in terms of reducing Ontario's climate footprint. Providing retirees with greater income security is something almost every government knows is critically necessary. Her pledge to raise the pay of the lowest paid health- and child-care workers directly addresses the issue of inequality. The rest of the platform was pretty interesting, too.

It all comes down to whether or not she can deliver on her promises. If she does deliver, Dobbins writes, there are three potential long term consequences:

Most important is demonstrating to voters across the country that governments can do things that make their lives better -- voting can make a difference. When the punditry puzzle over how the Liberals could have won despite a litany of corruption charges and large deficits, consider this possibility: the tired mantra about deficits and debt (and the scary bond-raters) suddenly takes its rightful place in the political firmament when it has to compete with real public goods and higher taxes on the undeserving rich.

Secondly, if this does start a trend towards more rational and less ideological politics (like actually addressing the $160-billion infrastructure deficit across Canada) the NDP might once again find the courage to run campaigns and engage the public on social democratic principles. After all, if they are going to mimic the Liberals to get to the centre, better they mimic Wynne (who is moving the centre to the left). NDPers everywhere would thank her (notwithstanding the irony that it took a Liberal to push the fiscal boundary -- sort of like Nixon recognizing China).

Lastly, though there may not be time for this to play out, a government representing over a third of the country's population actually pursuing an activist agenda could make things very difficult for Stephen Harper's continued assault on democratic governance. The 905 area surrounding Toronto went solidly Liberal in this election and it is these voters that Harper must have to win even a minority in 2015. If they are happy with Wynne's performance, Harper could be in serious trouble.

Wynne represents the possibility of better government and a better country. There is a lot riding on her success or failure.


opit said...

Interesting. Mass transit is something one almost despairs of seeing promoted. Economy and pollution reduction hand in hand. Mind, I don't consider the trace gas CO2 a pollutant or man the determinant of climate - despite decades of whinging by the UN trying to promote a tax levy on the use of fire.

Owen Gray said...

It would be money well spent, opit -- an efficient use of resources, as well as a reduction in automotive exhaust. Things can get pretty bad in Toronto on a hot summer day.

Toby said...

opit said... "I don't consider the trace gas CO2 a pollutant or man the determinant of climate . . . "

CO2 is not a trace gas, opit, there is a lot of it and we are making more.

A pollutant is anything in the wrong place. Spit in a glass and you pollute the water. We are polluting our air, our water, our land and even our food. Ultimately, none of this is acceptable.

Whether humans caused our present climate change is irrelevant, we are certainly making it worse. The science is overwhelming, beyond dispute. It is simply cavalier to dismiss it.

Owen Gray said...

As the father of a son who had severe asthma as a child -- and who, for awhile, lived in Toronto -- I can testify that Toronto's air was occasionally a real problem, Toby.

Come to think of it, I understand the prime minister had severe asthma and lived in Toronto. Apparently, that experience did not leave an impression on him.

Scotian said...

Owen Gray:

Thanks to your link to Dobbin's piece at Rabble I ended up spending most of the day reading a few Babble threads, notably the one equating Trudeau as Harper with a smile, and a couple of the Ontario election threads dealing with Horwath's leadership. At times I thought I was in the mirror universe reading Free Dominion, some of the attitudes and viciousness was eerily mirror image, differing only in terms of targeting (well, except for Trudeau of course, there many from both extremes sounded like they were reading from the same script, and with the same irrational level of personal hatred for the man). It just reminds me that ideologues and partisans/zealots tend to share far more with their polar opposites than they do with anyone in the middle between them, which almost perfectly captures the current reality between the NDP, the Libs, and the PCPC/CPC in Ontario and federally.

As to your post itself, Wynne may be in a position to try and move her party and Province back leftwards a bit from where it has been for a while, which in my books is only trying to return to the old center that used to be the norm in this nation and so many of us would like to see return again. Whether she is able to or not I don't know and do not have too much opinion on because I am not sufficiently familiar with the nuts and bolts of Ontario Provincial politics and issues on the day to day level, and I try not to opine where I lack enough information to make an informed opinion, I know how quaint of me.

I do think Dobbin makes a good case for his position though. I think there is a clear possibility that Wynne could be a transformative Premier the likes of which we have not seen in a while, and given the fact that Ontario has almost a third of the entire Canadian population that reach is not minor for the federal side of the equation as well as for the Provincial level. I have always thought that this decade was going to be the darkest in many ways but also the one where the true PTB would be forced to be more and more out in the open to hold onto their powerbase, and that this exposure would in the end cost them that power.

to be concluded...

Scotian said...


In this regard I am very much influenced by Alvin and Heidi Toffler. I read Future Shock in the late 70s, The Third Wave in the mid 80s and PowerShift when it published in 1990, and I found their ability to read in broad terms future trends remarkable, and consistent with what I kept seeing too. I find the trilogy to be one of the better tools I've run into for helping to make sense out of the massive transformations happening throughout our societies at the local, national, and global levels, and they pointed to this decade as being one of the pivotal ones where the old powers from the industrial age would finally start truly losing to the new ones emerging from the information age/service social/economic powers being created by the fundamental shifts in western societies in particular from manufacturing to service economies just as happened with agriculture to industrial manufacturing along with the decentralizing tool of the home computer.

In any event why I mention this is they date the beginning of this shift as starting in the mid 1950s in America by noting that is when service sector jobs started to have a higher percentage of the workforce, and they projected that the bulk of the PowerShift would run around 70 years. Essentially they theorized that what took the industrial revolution to take 300 years to do in terms of transforming the very fundamental nature of power would happen in a human lifetime with this Third Wave PowerShift. Given their general accuracies on so many things (not saying they get everything right, but they do get general shapes a lot more than most I'd found) I'm willing to go along with them regarding what this decade would be, and I see Harper as being one expression of it, and Wynne may be able to start that pendulum swinging into the new direction. Time will tell.

Owen Gray said...

The Right has worked very hard to portray Wynne as a wide eyed radical, Scotian. Her platform in the last election used to be the conventional wisdom in this country. So, yes, the political centre has shifted.

Like you, I read both the Toflers' books when they came out. Their prescience was remarkable. We may, indeed, be in the last gasp of the fossil fueled Industrial Revolution.