Wynne’s Win: Ontario’s Great Divide

No one should be happy about the Liberal majority. Well, maybe Kathleen Wynne—she owned up to the gas plant scandals and she ran a terrific campaign. This is, more than anyone else’s, Wynne’s win.

Elections have a way of showing us what we don’t see (or don’t want to see) before the vote. When Ms Wynne comes down from cloud 9, she will realize that she is Premier of a Province severely divided. The rural-urban split is real and sharper than ever, with the PCs taking the farm belt across the middle of the Province and the Liberals the cities and the 905.

There’s an essay in why that happened, but this isn’t it.

First Nations remain outside the mainstream political discourse, at least in central Ontario. In this riding (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound) their vote was the inverse of the Provincial: first NDP, then Liberal, then Tory—same as many other FNs in Ontario in 2011. The turn-out at Saugeen and Nawash was, as usual, well below the Provincial average. There’s another essay in why this happens election after election.

But another, more clear and present divide has opened up in Ontario—the divide between those of us who have more than enough and those of us who don’t. We know now that income inequality is a huge problem for families, communities and for society.

I bet everyone knows someone who is struggling to get to the end of the month before their pay cheque runs out. If it weren’t for family ties, food banks, affordable housing, and universal health care, precarious work would be putting whole families on the streets.

“The Gap” is what they call it in England. They’re not referring to the store, although The Gap is certainly symptomatic of the problem. The inequality gap is getting worse as good, middle-class wage jobs remain AWOL in Ontario. It is widening and threatening to become feudal – a class of people permanently underemployed serving another class permanently overpaid.

None of the major parties articulated a vision or promoted a platform that addressed this divide. The NDP might have, but Ms Horwath moved them to the right where they bumped into the Liberals who, with their clever budget, took votes away from them.

The Progressive Conservatives clung to their mantra: cut taxes, cut jobs. A decade of cutting corporate taxes and middle class jobs in the public sector hasn’t worked to create good jobs in the private sector, so you’d think they’d be looking for another ideology.

But they aren’t. I know this from talking to some of them, including candidates, after the vote was in and they saw how badly Mr Hudak’s articulation of that ideology was received.

There is nothing much in the Liberal budget that will successfully address the Gap. It is a political budget, a mishmash of policies and promises designed to win an election—hardly the framework on which to rebuild a prosperous society.

If there is no political vision from above, it means we have to discover it ourselves. It’s time for us to start thinking outside the little boxes of our favourite ideologies and, together, find our own solutions to what divides us.

© David McLaren, 13 June 2014

Seat Count after the 2014 Ontario Election
Liberals (majority government) 59
Progressive Conservatives (PCs) 27
New Democratic Party (NDP) 21

Results 13Jun14 Map global

Results 13Jun14 MapS global

Source of maps: Global TV
(riding by riding results).

More maps: Toronto might be Liberal but it is still divided against itself


About David McLaren

David McLaren is an award-winning writer. He has worked in government and the private sector, with NGOs and First Nations in Ontario. He is currently writing from Neyaashiinigamiing on the shore of Georgian Bay and can be reached at david.mclaren@utoronto.ca. In February 2015, he won the nomination for the NDP to represent the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound in the 2015 federal election. See that page for writings during the campaign.
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3 Responses to Wynne’s Win: Ontario’s Great Divide

  1. Bill Dare says:

    I think Samuel Getachew in his blog article http://theagenda.tvo.org/blog/agenda-blogs/what-went-wrong-ontarios-ndp further expands on your article. One point he makes that Jack, opened up the initial conservative win federally and weights on the minds of lefty inclined voters while possibly not in depth enough perspective by us, rings true in the gut.

    I think of Marx’s beautiful sociological statement ” The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

    “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately in the guise of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793-95. In like manner, the beginner who has learned a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he assimilates the spirit of the new language and expresses himself freely in it only when he moves in it without recalling the old and when he forgets his native tongue.’

    Will the Ontario Liberals simply do what the federal one’s did after… Mulroney got the boot? Or will the workers who rejected Rae Day’s social contract and what union leaders presented the fiddling with Collective Agreements as, sacred text, that even the Pope cannot play with simply repeat the destruction of a progressive movement?

    Where do we the voters go with the upcoming federal election? Our gut fears of what could be perpetuated if we do not match our values with some kind of reasonable hope that a progressive vision will come to government somehow cause me to believe that the more fundamental directions you call for need to be matched and potentially believed to potentially occour by voting Liberal. Does the quote I put in, simply expose me as a fool?

    • Marx is correct: we do not invent so much as re-invent. Our frame of reference is always defined (and narrowed) by our culture – and that includes our political culture, which itself is narrowed even further by parties jostling for the centre and, when one of them wins, applying failed panaceas. Two decades of corporate tax cuts and public service job cuts by Liberals and Conservatives have failed.

      The Conservatives were right – jobs were the real issue in this campaign, but voters shied away from Tim Hudak’s doughnut economy, especially when he threatened to cut 100,000 good jobs.

      As Getachew points out, the NDP does best when it puts principle ahead of popularity, which it has done when it holds the balance of power in minority governments. It does not do well when it sinks a minority government in pursuit of power and campaigns from the gelatinous centre.

      Thank you for your comment.

  2. Bill Dare says:

    i like your point about principles being used. I believe they could be potentially deployed in a way that “the culture” can bite on, which certainly has been done before by the NDP. It did seem the NDP felt threat too from the Liberals, rather than actually believing they would gain power, but that is just an impression, would be interesting to hear from strategists in the party about this part, talking without “key messages”, but I guess that is really dreaming of this thing called transparency and ideas that rattle around about grass roots movement and policy meeting…. real politic.

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