A lot of governments, opposition parties and politicians will be carefully analyzing the result of the Ontario provincial election last week for a number of reasons.
For starters, as the most populous province in the country, how Ontario fares often has a bearing on the others. But also, some of the main issues in the recent campaign, which turned into a comfortable majority for the Liberals, will be coming up in other provinces and on the federal level.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, who had inherited the position when she won the leadership of the party early in 2013, came out on top with 59 seats, compared to 27 for the Conservatives and 21 for the NDP. This result came after polls suggested it was too close to call – a funny blip we’ve seen often in elections of late: an unpredictable electorate.
What will worry many with an eye on the economy is the province’s staggering debt, now around $270 billion. Her Progressive Conservative opponent, Tim Hudak, had been campaigning on fiscal austerity, including the aim to cut 100,000 public sector jobs.
Starting to sound familiar? A lot of provinces and the federal government are weighing similar plans in a bid to get public spending under control and keep it that way. It’s a course of action that needs to happen there and in other provinces, it’s inevitable, yet people get nervous when they hear it.
Wynne plans to put an extra $3 billion into program spending this year, pushing the deficit to $12.5 billion, then try to achieve balance by 2017-18. Imagine the size of that debt by then.
It’ interesting many voters couldn’t stomach the thought of those cuts and chose Wynne’s vision over Hudak’s.
The campaign also invoked fears over what can happen to public utilities, such as water quality, after heavy cuts.
It will be interesting to see how the federal Conservatives handle their campaign next year after they debrief themselves on this, and also the kind of territory the Liberals and NDP carve out for themselves.