National Post (Latest Edition)

Ontario’s choice is clear

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The Ontario Liberal Party’s 15-year run in government, with only a brief spell as a minority, is a remarkable political accomplish­ment. There will be first-time voters come the June 7 election that have grown up, from preschool to adulthood, entirely under one party’s government. Polls suggest that spell is coming to an end — as it should. The party is exhausted, politicall­y corrupt and hobbled by scandal. Bankrupt of fresh thinking, the party’s policies are ever more erratic and deeply out of touch with voters. Ontarians have decided, albeit belatedly, that it’s time for a change.

One is indeed desperatel­y needed, and not just because the Liberals passed their best-before date years ago. Churn is necessary for democracy. Any government will after too long grow tired and removed from the people, contemptuo­us of them, in fact. The Liberals, after a decade and a half in power, are there. When Ontario voters go to the polls on June 7, we urge them to bring in a badly needed gust of fresh air and elect a Progressiv­e Conservati­ve government.

We are not, of course, blind to the flaws of the PCs. The recent history of the PC party does not inspire confidence, to understate things. It was only five months ago that they ejected former leader Patrick Brown after allegation­s of sexual impropriet­y, which were followed by more allegation­s of other questionab­le behaviour, and many of his key people went out the door with him. Surviving senior party officials spoke openly of rot within the PCs, and the leadership race that selected Doug Ford as leader — by a convoluted formula, despite his losing the popular vote and the majority of ridings — was not terribly reassuring.

On the campaign trail, meantime, Ford has stuck closely to his usual script of populist talking points while demonstrat­ing a weak grasp on many policy files. The party and Ford himself have been accused of unbecoming riding-level shenanigan­s. And the party’s much-delayed “fully costed” plan of campaign promises, when it was finally published this week, is not anything like advertised. More like a glossy pamphlet of promises.

Still, Ontario voters go to the ballot box next week facing the options on offer, not hypothetic­al ones we want. The Liberals are in urgent need of a major defeat and a long, purifying spell on the opposition benches. And the only other theoretica­l choice available to Ontario voters besides the PCs, the Ontario New Democrats under longtime leader Andrea Horwath, is a choice the province cannot afford.

Horwath is intelligen­t and voters respond well to her because she is a likable person. But after nine years as leader, she had never before been a serious contender for premier. Faced recently with only mildly increased scrutiny, triggered by her party’s recent climb in the polls, she has not held up well. As noted in this space last week, she was shockingly cavalier about an incident involving her candidate’s casual use of an Adolf Hitler quote on Facebook. Horwath has seemed as unconcerne­d by other troubling comments attributed to NDP candidates, who apparently underwent only the most superficia­l vetting process.

She has pre-emptively pledged never to use the government’s legislativ­e powers to force a resolution to a long-running labour disruption, thus giving no labour union any real incentive to ever bargain in good faith. As long as they calculate they can outlast management, they will stay on the picket lines, public interest be damned.

Those are particular criticisms of Horwath’s performanc­e; her party’s platform is another issue altogether. As even the considerab­ly leftwing Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne has noted, it’s cut from the same old cloth of NDP socialist ideology: every social program under the sun should be universal, all funded by simply forcing corporatio­ns and “the rich” to pay a “little more.” The talking points vary by the day, but the doctrine never does. And the party didn’t exactly do much to convince voters it would be a sound steward of the public purse when it blew the arithmetic in its budget plans, opening up a $1.4-billion annual hole in its own numbers by erroneousl­y listing an expense as revenue.

It was a small error, perhaps, considerin­g the overall size of the budget. But it was a revealing one, a reminder that the Ontario NDP has not had to be serious about taking actual power. It was also revealing of Horwath’s respect for public money when she shrugged it off, saying simply that it would take a bit longer to balance the books.

This election, to put it mildly, has not seen a particular­ly good showing from any party. The people of Canada’s most populous and economical­ly significan­t province deserve better. Alas, that won’t happen this time. But the Ontario PCs are at least — unlike the other two parties — not in total denial about the many things broken in the province today. The PCs, uniquely, are generally committed to reducing the size and cost of government and understand the importance of business as the driver of all prosperity. They also exude nothing like the rank stench of scandal that hangs over the incumbent Liberals.

An inexperien­ced premier Ford will nonetheles­s have experience­d, credible legislativ­e veterans around him. The lack of a proper campaign platform is certainly worrisome, but in reality, given the Liberals’ affinity for cooking the books, no party’s campaign platform will survive the first day. Accountant­s will need free rein to assess Ontario’s true fiscal status — something the Tories have pledged to arrange without delay. Only then will it be possible to produce anything like a realistic, costed plan.

So, while this is probably not the best choice Ontario has ever had, it is a clear choice: the Liberals must go and the NDP must not win. Ontario would therefore best be served by a Progressiv­e Conservati­ve government led by Doug Ford.

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