What do Jean Charest and Dalton McGuinty have in common? Well, for starters, neither is the leader of the Liberal Party anymore. Charest at least did the (semi-)honourable thing, setting up a commission into the corruption, erm, construction industry, then calling an election whereby he lost his seat in the National Assembly while his party was narrowly forced out of power. The fact that a handful of his cabinet ministers also chose to resign or not to contest this past election, well, anyone who’s been following the Charbonneau commission closely can start to see why…
But on the other hand, there was no indication that McGuinty would be stepping down when Ontarians went to the polls a little over a year ago. Sure, many were hoping that he’d lose his grip on power and be forced to resign, but without any credible opposition (even some Toronto Sun readers wouldn’t vote for “Two-Faced Timmy” Hudak), he was only reduced to a minority government–and by one seat at that. Thus, rather than an honourable discharge, this looks more like Premier Dad took his newly-banned hard ball and went home. Say what you want about Stephen Harper (I don’t particularly like the guy, either), but he reigned over several successive minorities before finally obtaining his “strong, stable, national Conservative majority government.” *vomit* McGuinty was swept into power with consecutive majority governments, and when he was finally faced with a situation where he actually had to compromise and work with the opposition, he called it quits after a year.
“And you play only when you control it…” goes the old Edwin song. The next line? “And you lie!” Dalton might not have been the first dishonest politician in the province’s history, but he’s certainly gone a long way in contributing the cynicism and contempt I harbour towards provincial politics. It never seemed to matter whether his campaign platform was even feasible; you kinda got the feeling that he wouldn’t deliver on half his policies anyways. Or at least a bitter, jaded, never-voted-Liberal elector like me did. If McGuinty was to put out an edgy alt-rock album, he could call it Liberal Promises. What with the CanCon regs, he’d be bound to get at least a little airplay…
Sometime around the last election, I tried to sit down and think of Liberal policies that I could actually, truly thank McGuinty for. The only one I could come up with? Making Family Day an official provincial holiday in February. Nevermind that we always took that day off in Alberta long before I came out here–heck, with the PD Days the teachers would take around that time, it usually turned into a five-day weekend! Alas, most of Premier Dad’s notable achievements, it seems, were centred on children and education.
Now, I don’t have kids, and I didn’t go to school here–except for my post-secondary education, where I benefited *snicker* from some of the highest tuition fees in the country. I ended up with a degree that hasn’t gotten me nearly as far in my career as overall intelligence, competence, and simply having the skills to pay the bills (being bilingual helps). And long before the carrés rouges were marching in the streets of Montreal, a large number of Ontario students descended upon Queen’s Park to protest our much-higher tuition fees. Whole lotta good that did–they’ve reportedly increased by a couple grand a year since I’ve graduated. Thanks (for nothing), (Premier) Dad!
Of course, McGuinty’s early exit has led to a fair bit of speculation that he’s in the running for the federal Liberal leadership. After all, the Grits need a credible candidate to prop up Justin Trudeau and his Legion of Zombies. But if they think they’ll win back Ontario with Dalton on deck, well, they’re sadly mistaken. He might be a shoe-in for Minister of Broken Promises, but such an ignominious exit from provincial politics makes for one faulty springboard to the PMO. (Remember the viral video of that gymnast slamming face-first into a pommel horse? Yeah, that’s kinda how I see it…) It’s not every day that I agree with the National Post, but their Michael Den Tandt said it best in a piece entitled Nothing could kill the federal Liberals faster than picking McGuinty as leader: “Dalton McGuinty? Really? They may as well drive bamboo shoots under their fingernails and poke sharpened sticks in their eyes. McGuinty as leader would take the federal party off life support — and flatline it.”
After all, you don’t see Jean Charest running for the federal Liberal leadership, do you?