Saturday, October 08, 2011

McGuinty Should Step Aside

Given the makeup of the Ontario legislature, I assume this Liberal government has at least two years- possibly even a full term- before any threat of an election looms. With that realistic backdrop in mind, I think the provincial Liberals would be wise to consider a transition plan, set a course that incumbents rarely appreciate, if the ultimate goal is continued implementation of philosophy, rather than ego driven pursuits.

I'm as happy as the next person about the election result, and seriously have nothing but praise for the Liberal campaign and the Premier in general. McGuinty was unflappable, he conveyed quiet confidence, it was those traits that served him well in this campaign. It really was an incredible reversal of fortunes, considered dead and buried, McGuinty defied all expectations and won a very historic victory, that cements his legacy. However, the winning side of every campaign has a tendency post-election to gloss over any fundamental problems, even the mere mention of concerns unwanted negativity.

RARELY, does a politician step aside at the right moment, too often it is the voters who ultimately force a retirement rather than graceful exit. Here's hoping that Dalton McGuinty, and the Liberal team can see beyond this victory and appreciate an erosion which is likely to continue in the future. Liberals received 600000 less votes this election, and if you look at the electoral map, you see a narrowing area of appeal, dangerously analogous to the federal cousin decline. Despite the victory, I would argue this Liberal regime has reached it's apex and the future is very uncertain. The Liberals won no new ridings, the same gang will rule Ontario and there is every reason to believe Ontarians will eventually desire a new direction.

In this election, Liberals benefited from a clumsily opponent who essentially "threw it away". This realization doesn't discount from the terrific campaign we ran, nor does it undercut McGuinty's personal triumph, but rather than get out the thundersticks, I think it important to look at the horizon with a sober and detached perspective.

Dalton McGuinty mused awhile ago that he was contemplating retirement, only to pull back when any admission equated to lame duck or lack of desire, something opponents could use against them. In my mind, the shrewd strategy is for the Ontario Liberals to quietly cultivate some sort of transition logic, do the impossible and reinvent the brand while still in office, which can be achieved when a new leader comes forth(British Columbia a terrific example here). The ideal situation would be for Mr. McGuinty to continue to put his stamp on the province, then a couple years in, announce a retirement and allow the Liberals to pump in fresh air. This scenario offers the best circumstance to win another mandate in the future. I see this election as more "dodged a bullet" than a terrific endorsement of the Liberals, the numbers support this view, as does a detached perspective.

Craziness, I know.


Omar said...

Are there ever whispers of federal politics for Mr McGuinty? He seems to me a credible individual for national Liberal leader. He is certainly not as grating as his brother and apparently doesn't command the same Ontario populace loathing as Bob Rae. I think he would appeal down this way and perhaps even in Quebec? I dunno, the fact he is a winner is something federal Liberals might want to look at given their last two kicks at the can.

Skinny Dipper said...

Bob Rae could run for the provincial Liberal leadership position.

buckets said...

I think that the blog post makes a good point. I would merely add the observation that a successful transition means getting a plan in place to replace McGuinty a year or two down the road. In fact there should also be efforts made to bring new blood into the party leadership, the caucus and the cabinet.

Jerry Prager said...

Omar McGuinty has always defined himself as a provincialist, and in fact, that's exactly what his thinking is, provincial.
Steve, I agree he should think about transition.

The fact is, his 'we have a major minority' comment, shows that nothing has been learned.

Liberals need to embrace greater democracy, or the NDP will simply become the alternative to the Conservatives, and it is also becoming apparent that this right wing form of conservative, the tea party movement, the corporatist agenda is about walk into a wall of its own making.

Genuine progressivism is going to return, and if Liberals aren't ahead of that curve, they are done forever.

Kyle H. said...

I'm not disagreeing, but I think it's entirely too soon to put that out there. The guy just won us a third term we didn't expect and now we're just asking him to step aside?

Yeah, too soon.

Steve V said...

I'm not saying he leaves tomorrow, so not sure I get the too soon sentiment. You should always think ahead.

JimmE said...

I'm not there yet, I think he could win an election he chooses to have the government fall on in the 24-36 month time line. - But hey, I thought Iggy should have run a campaign based on the reason they defeated the present PM - so what do I know?

rww said...

I would have thought that into his third term, even if with a "major majority" he would be thinking of a successor for the next election.

A Eliz. said...

I come from the riding of the Environment Minister in Ontario, who was really liked until the Wind Turbines hit the fan" I live in a small city but there is a lot of country in my riding the same thing happened to the Liberal MPP..

Edwin Current said...

I think McGuinty should stay there for at least the first 3 years. We elected him to lead the party and I think the Liberals are the only party fit to be in control of our government for the next 4 years. As early election would be irresponsible. We are facing some rough times and change. The opposing governments should stop playing politics and provide the civil services we pay them for and get things done.

rockfish said...

i agree this talk is too soon. more apt to dwell on hudak's future, considering. mcginty just reversed a major trend while also giving grits across the country something good to feel about, while giving the finger to harper. although in the scope of things, its likely the best-case scenario, let him enjoy the moment before we start rolling out the red carpet for gerard... (who'd make a fabulous premier)..

Dave Brodbeck said...

Indeed Steve I think this post is spot on. The star aligned perfectly, almost perfectly, for the Liberals. Had Layton not died I think we would be in majority territory and comfortably.

It seems to me it is time for the Premier to, quietly, start planning for his exit. I honestly have no idea who could replace him currently, He is, however, exactly what the Premier of Ontario should be, level headed, smart and bilingual. We would need someone with those qualities

Bill said...

Edwin C. wrote: "We elected him to lead the party...."

And thereby hangs a tale! In most parliamentary democracies, the party leader is an MP who garners the support of fellow MPs. In Canada, the leader is someone who receives the votes of fellow party members.

Both the arrogance of party leaders and the impotence of party backbenchers stem in part from this unhappy situation.

Would that MPs in the Liberal caucus were able to dump McGuinty now, choosing instead as their leader someone who could seize the moment by proposing to work with opposition parties for the common good.

Tim said...

I'll make a couple of observations. First the Liberals almost took Trinity-Spadina(Olivia's riding federally) albeit with a star candidate(I think though the nature of Toronto is the these seats will always be contested by star candidates)from a long time NDP veteran.

Second is that you have reaportionment coming up in a few years and the possibility of additional new seats being added for Ontario in Ottawa indirectly affecting the seat count in Queens Park(as long as it assumed that both levels of government want to have the same number of MPs/MPPs). All of this means that a riding such as TS might go from one NDP seat to three Liberal seats by the time of next election.

Third I think the NDP victory in Brampton was the most interesting of the night as I think we may be seeing an early glimpse of the future of Ontario politics with the PC's as the party of rural Ontario, the Liberals as the party upscale urban Ontario and the NDP as the party of less well off suburban and exurban Ontario.