Monday, September 10, 2007

Ontario 2007: Day One

The election campaign officially got underway in Ontario today; and while I will be keeping an eye on the national and world scenes, a fair chunk of my entries the next few weeks will be focused on both the hustings as well as the referendum on MMP.

Here's what to watch for from where I stand:

Dalton McGuinty (Liberal): The incumbent has run a fairly competent government over the last four years, but a lot of people haven't forgiven him for breaking his promise not to raise taxes -- there is that health tax we pay on our income tax returns at the end of the year. There are two big issues I see from his campaign in order for him to win. First is where he's going to go on the issue of long-term care; a very big issue because the first stream of the baby boom will start collecting Old Age Security in 2011, the fourth year of the next mandate. The enhanced kids' benefit will go a long way to give kids a head start, but the older generation is the real time-bomb. The second is the issue of who does what and pays for it. There are some pretty ambitious transit projects coming on stream, but a lot of cities are struggling just to keep up the buses and trains right now. Not to mention welfare costs -- pooling has ended in the GTA which means Toronto could get really hammered unless the province takes it back.

John Tory (PC): The guy who became infamous for authoring the "Funny Face" ads that ridiculed Jean Chrétien and later ran the CFL is in a fight for his reputation. His stumbles so far on the education issue haven't helped. But another big problem is that he's tried to move the party back to the centre, somewhere near where Bill Davis was during the 70s and early 80s. That's sure to alienate the right-wingers who still think Mike Harris is the greatest invention since sliced bread. Tory should have no trouble in rural Ontario, but the key is the suburbs. Unless he can take at least a dozen from Dalton and early, he's going to have a long night on October 10.

Howard Hampton (NDP): Four years ago, he ran a brilliant campaign around the theme of "Public Power" but he got stonewalled by the battle between McGuinty and Ernie Eves. This is Hampton's third go as his party's nominee for Premier. Realistically, this could be his last election, too. He has some good ideas, like public dental care ... but unless he's able to hold the balance of power, the NDP will be looking for a new leader. He needs a hook and he needs to put it out front and early.

My early prediction, based on the signs right now:
Liberals 55
Conservatives 38
NDP 14

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