Liberal support base erodes, Tories gain momentum

 

Over the summer and as the new school year starts, developments took place that altered the political climate and roadmap of the province.

Due to the path that the Ontario Liberals have continued down, they meet critical challenges for the next general election in 2018. Their counterpart, the Progressive Conservatives, continue to gradually ascend in the polls and take their grip on the political agenda, something that the Liberals have lost their handle on.

The most recent polls from Forum Research Inc. dating from September suggest that the premier, Kathleen Wynne, has an approval rating of merely 16 percent of Ontarians, and approval ratings of the overall Liberal party have fallen to 27.1 percent, as conducted by the polling site, ThreeHundredEight. The PCs however, have steadily increased their ratings and are sitting at 45%, according to a poll conducted in September by Forum Research Inc. Meanwhile, the Ontario NDP have remained consistent—rather, stagnated, at the low 20s, trailing behind the Liberals, but nonetheless closing the gap.

The three recent by-elections were all won by Patrick Brown’s PCs, all with resounding majorities of the vote, the most recent by-election in Scarborough Rouge River. A previous Liberal seat in which the PCs suddenly took power, with a win over 2,400 votes past the Liberal candidate, the Liberals and NDP trailed badly.

The GTA seat has been held by the Liberals ever since its creation in 1999, the year in which Mike Harris won his second PC government; in other words, this isn’t a seat that the Liberals should be struggling to win and actually losing.

On another note, the Northern Ontario Party has resurrected itself and is now a registered party. Their goal is to field candidates in all 11 ridings that they represent and separate from the province. Their main reason is the poor management of energy and the huge lag in the manufacturing industry that used to be the engine of Ontario. Effectively, Ontario, thought to be the most balanced province between Quebecois Separatism and the Western Alienation phenomena, now has its own group of regional discontents. The question is, why are the Liberals performing so poorly within their majority government from 2014?

The answer is found in several factors that each contributed to the current political climate. The largest one, and a forefront issue in the most recent by-election, is the Hydro/energy crisis in Ontario. Hydro costs stem from the mismanaged and poorly-handled climate change plan and the Smart Meter fiasco, which sent Hydro rates soaring—being especially expensive in the rural parts of Ontario, with Hydro bills being many hundreds per month, or even running over a thousand, which is also found within urban centers like the GTA. However, the situation is nonsensical, since energy production is fairly inexpensive, and the government actually outsources extra energy for free to neighbouring states in the U.S or to Quebec. The added up amount of energy given away is $3 billion over three years, according to the PC party.

Contrast this with the damaging statistic that the auditor general discovered: Ontario taxpayers were overcharged $37 billion dollars in energy bills alone from 2006-2014. This is contributed from energy rates increasing over 70 percent during this period, stemming from the justifications that were mentioned above—poorly executed government policy. Wynne acknowledged the hydro crisis upon the recent by-election result, and has decided to scale back on Hydro costs, offering Ontarians an 8 percent rebate on energy bills. However, according to the PC party, hydro rates are scheduled to increase again on November 1, rendering the quick fix impotent.

Additionally, back in June, the Liberals faced massive backlash and criticism for an age limit that was implemented on intensive therapy for people with autism, meaning children over five were cut from all funds. It was only after constant pressure from the PC party leader in question period in the Legislature and outrage from Ontario families did the Ontario Liberal government scale back and restore funding.

Lastly, the corruption issues within the government has led to many becoming disenchanted with it. Over four OPP investigations are being conducted currently, and unethical donation policies in which Ministries have fundraising targets to meet, corporate and union donations are forming the government agenda, instead of the party itself. The sole statistic of 99.4 percent of wind power contracts going to Liberal party donors, instead of potentially more qualified candidates, displays wind energy being used as a tool of corruption, political cronyism and favouritism.

These factors and heavy missteps taken together suggests that the Ontario Liberals face a tough journey ahead if they are to win another mandate in the next election. All that’s left to say is that the Liberals will have difficulty draining the swamp when they are up to their hips in alligators.

Joseph Corazza
Third-year, political science