Weakened budget passes on NDP abstention
By Bruce A Stewart
Earlier this week it looked as though Ontarians would be going to the polls. Yesterday, however, Dalton McGuinty’s budget was passed as the NDP abstained to honour their agreement to let it through.
It passed, however, with a number of amendments made by the NDP.
Dwight Duncan, the Finance Minister, might think of this as destroying his carefully crafted plan, although why amendments requiring proper public oversight of outsourced government function does this isn’t necessarily clear. I guess it gets in the way of having your way.
Compared to what Don Drummond and his report filed back in the winter, this budget doesn’t go anywhere near far enough to buttress sorry Ontario finances — or public services.
All three leaders, in turn, came off looking worse as a result.
Dalton McGuinty, the Premier and Liberal leader, comes across looking like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. A nice enough fellow, but clearly lacking brains.
How else do you describe putting your government at risk in a minority situation? Who are you, Joe Clark?
He may be dreaming that the by-election required in the Kitchener-Waterloo seat will give him his missing vote for a bare majority, but current polls there indicate the seat is strongly PC, and more so since this latest wrangle started.
Here’s reality for Dalton: it’s a minority. You have to either make a clear deal with one of the other parties to stand with you for a period of time — formal coalition or accord, it doesn’t matter — or you need to negotiate every committee meeting, every amendment, every stage of every bill looking for a vote or two to add to your own.
You can be sure that over the summer those who would like to go to the voters with a new face — McGuinty’s been leader since 1996 — will be sharpening their knives.
Tim Hudak, the PC leader, came off with bonus marks for consistency, but ended up playing the role of the Tin Man, instead.
When the budget came down, he had just flatly said “we’re against it”. That was it. His PCs offered no amendments, no critique, other than that flat “no”. They voted for the NDP amendments mostly to rub in that “no.”
Meanwhile Hudak’s been out and about, pressing the flesh and giving speeches.
The odd thing is, no one knows where his party stands. They’re neither for nor against Drummond. They’re just against McGuinty.
Apparently the strategy is “let the other guy defeat himself.” The PCs might be well ahead in the polls at the moment, but they’re actually going to have to come out and take a stand at some point.
Andrea Horwath, the NDP leader, fulfilled her role as the Cowardly Lion with aplomb, sacrificing a chunk of her rise in leadership affection by the province in doing so.
It’s clear Ontario’s got Drummond’s message: the budget must be closed. Having positioned her NDP as in the same league as the sort you see in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and now Nova Scotia — the ones who have an inkling what living within your means looks like — hopes were raised that she’d stand her ground, fix that budget and dare the Premier to go to the people.
It didn’t happen, of course. So while the NDP is holding their solid second place, she’s got repair work to do.
It’s too bad. Canada needs Ontario to get its house in order to deal with the economic turmoil the world’s got in store for us.
Instead, the province will limp along for another year.