Heading into these last few days of the campaign, we've been offered some of the dirtiest tricks yet played in this relatively squeaky clean election.
A lot of the talk the last few days has been the M-word. As in "minority." Of course, the possibility has existed since the writ was dropped; with such a close race it was in the back of everyone's head, and we discussed the possibility on "Beyond the Ballot Box" the Monday before the election began. But in the last couple of days, PC leader Tim Hudak has tried to use it in the presumption that it will give his party the same edge his Federal colleagues got in the spring. However, Hudak misunderstands one thing when it comes to playing the M-card, Harper's Conservatives had the inside track to former the government either way, minority or majority.
Which raises another question: In the Federal election, Harper and his candidates made the case that in a fragile economic environment, voting for another minority Conservative government, or, heaven forfend, a coalition government of some kind, was dangerously disruptive. So why didn't Dalton McGuinty make this case? While his policies may not have sat well with all, as do many of Harper's policy, isn't there not still a skittish economy out there? Isn't the greater gamble on an inexperienced government in the midst of an economic recovery?
It would have played well into McGuinty's theme that despite the bumps, his government has done a great deal of good for the Province of Ontario. Given the fact that people seem pretty evenly divided on who to vote for, it might have even given McGuinty an extra edge in the campaign. After all, stability had more to do with the Conservative victory than an overwhelming endorsement by Canadians of the Harper platform.
As for McGuinty's opponent, the one issue that's not going to help Hudak in these final hours is the matter of the homophobic flyer that was passed around in a Brampton riding this past week, and the fact that he can't be moved off his support of it. Furthermore, the fact that PC staff physically intervened to stop reporters from asking about while in Brampton Monday conjures the very worst image of modern conservative politics. And where as social conservatism suits the Federal party well, it's only because the Western wing of the party supports that tact. In Ontario, Conservatives here struggle with those ideals, wanting to support their national party, but being themselves frightened by some of the core ideals so far as social policy is concerned.
Basically, in these final days, Hudak has done himself no favours by reaching into the past, finding something that was patently untrue to begin with and eventually abandoned by the Liberals in any case, and tried to turn it into the closing argument for why he, not McGuinty, should be Premier of Ontario. In St. George's Square today, while waiting for Andrea Horwath, people were unsure whether to hate Hudak for trying to capitalize on homophobia, or pity him for his desperation.
As it stands, it's probably still too close to call. Or at least it's too close to call as to whether we get a Liberal minority, a slight Liberal majority, a PC minority, or maybe even a slight PC majority. It will either be quite apparent by bed time or it's going to be a long night. I guess we'll find out at 9 tomorrow.
Happy Election Day!