Tim Hudak is the Premier in waiting, but only because he's the opposition leader in a campaign against a tired and scandal plagued government. Frankly, Hudak should be kicking Kathleen Wynne's butt so hard that the grandchildren of the Premier's grandchildren should be feeling it. But he isn't. Despite gas plants, eHealth, Ornge, debt, and more than a decade in power, Hudak still can't, as they say, seal the deal with the electorate, running in what's basically a dead heat with the Liberals. And more to the point, he seems incapable of swinging voters his way because he seemingly can't campaign in a competent manner.
The latest snafu was an ill-fated, and apparently ill-advised, subway trip yesterday when the Hudak campaign bordered a subway train at Wellesley Station to be conveyed to a transit announcement. When tranist cops halted the train because the Tory leader hadn't secured the proper permissions for a media event, Hudak and Co. left after delaying the subway for 10 minutes. Keeping in mind, this is a busy downtown stop, on Mother's Day, and Hudak brought several of his confederates, his campaign staff, and the election media along for the ride.
It's another failed attempt to connect by a man absolutely desperate to be the next premier. That's not to say he's anxious to have power, although I'm sure he is, but Hudak has to at least win a minority government to keep his job this time out. Members of his party have already smelled blood in the water, pushing for a leadership review after the PCs were only able to gain two new seats after five by-elections last summer. Some say it's because Hudak is too right-wing for a centrist province like Ontario, and a Toronto Star editorial said that Hudak has to outrace the ghost of his old boss Mike Harris in this election to win. But the policies the PC leader has offered so far suggest that he's actually running to him.
Hudak's been trying to sell Ontarians on his Million Jobs Plan, a good solid number that says he means business when it comes to putting people to work. Except that once everyone who's presently unemployed has work, Hudak will still have over 400,000 jobs to give away. Hudak then said that he wants to slash corporate taxes to make Ontario more competitive. Hey, who doesn't like lower taxes? Except Ontario's corporate tax rate is lower than neighbouring U.S. states, who persue many of the same businesses and industries by the way. In fact, noted socialist Mitt Romney approved of Ontario's low taxes for businesses during his presidential run in 2012.
Then there's Hudak's pledge to cut 100,000 public service jobs. Let's put it this way, in 1976, about 830,00 people were employed by the province of Ontario according to Statistics Canada, and by 2012, Ontario was giving paycheques to 1,330,700, and increase of 60.2 per cent. By sheer coincidence, Ontario's population grew from 8,413,779 to 13,505,900 in those 36 years, an increase of 60.5 per cent. In other words, the growth of the public sector in Ontario has kept pace with the general growth in population. It should be further noted that Hudak said that nurses and police would be exempt from the cuts, which would dump the cuts on other key sectors like education. Did you all the job action in schools back in 1997? Apparently, Hudak loved it.
If cutting taxes, cutting 100,000 public sector jobs, and fostering one million more in the private sector is Hudak's platform to convince Onatrio voters, fair enough, but he hasn't been doing a great job of selling it, and that was before the TTC incident. Last week when talking about loosening the regulations on apprenticeships, saying that the resulting 200,000 new aprentices would count as one-fifth of the jobs plan even though apprentices don't get paid. That was midweek though, at Hudak's first campaign stop of the week at Metalworks, he praised the audio production studio while chastising corporate welfare even though Metalworks operates with a grant from the Ontario government that Hudak voted against.
It's hard to say what the Hudak strategy is, he seems to not understand his own policy initiatives or remember his own voting history, and really the only thing going for him is that the Liberals look so much worse with the dirt from their scandals. So what is an opposition leader to do? Clearly the fact that he's not the Liberal leader is not convincing enough reason for people who aren't the PC base to vote for Hudak. What maybe holding him back is the looming shadow of Mike Harris that Martin Cohn discussed in that Star editorial, let's call it the spectre of the Common Sense Revolution.
As much as people want fiscal responsibility, they don't want to feel like someone is going to cut indiscriminately, which is what the 100,000 public service workers number feels like. Where's the empirical evidence that says we should lose those 100,000 people? And why, if having these jobs is so inefficient to the way Ontario does business, are certain sectors sacrosanct? And where are the million jobs going to come from? If the low corporate tax rate hasn't been an incentive for job growth thus far, why are further tax cuts going to be more incentivizing? How will Hudak convince those companies, many of whom are already sitting on billions of "dead capital" to spend, baby, spend?
Mike Harris deserves credit for seeing his policies through and for being able to sell them to the general public, but despite governing through one of the most economically-flush periods in the last century, his government still left office with a $6 billion deficit in 2003. That's a far cry from our current projected $12.5 billion deficit, but in the last six years the province has been hit by an economic depression and the loss of its major industry. We all want better days ahead, but the math of Hudak's strategy of magic and wonder still doesn't add up.