Hudak’s discredited doctrine a lucky break for Wynne
TheStar.com – Opinion/Commentary – Ontario Tory Leader Tim Hudak’s austerity ideology is so ingrained that he sees no need to explain how destroying jobs will create jobs.
May 26 2014. By: John Barber
The night the Ontario Progressive Conservatives selected Tim Hudak to replace John Tory as their leader, a colleague pronounced then-premier Dalton McGuinty to be “the luckiest man alive.” Now it’s Kathleen Wynne’s turn to enjoy the same mojo.
There she was diligently and predictably jabbing away at Stephen Harper in Ottawa when Hudak brazenly intervened, glass jaw out-thrust, and offered her a match the tottering contender wouldn’t have dared to hope for even in her most self-indulgent fantasies. With scandals still bubbling, subpoenas flying and quicksand thickening around Wynne’s ankles, Hudak has presented her a chance once again to make righteous war on Mike Harris’s amply discredited Common Sense Revolution. No Liberal could have conceived a strategy better calculated to make the woman premier for real next month.
This is a break they didn’t deserve, but the Liberals are making the most of it. How could they not? The same strategy has worked so many times before. So it’s forget about pensions (and gas plants and ORNGE and eHealth) and it’s off we go to Walkerton, following the well-beaten path that has led successive Liberal governments to power this century.
There are two possible explanations for Hudak’s bold declaration in favour of deliberately pain-inducing austerity politics. One is that he and his brain trust are executing an incredibly risky and creative strategy, using the latest tools to slice and dice the electorate in such a manner that the party manages to win a majority of seats with the help of a highly mobilized minority of voters — a retooled version of the formula that worked so well for Harris 20 years ago.
If that’s the case, the plan is clearly not working. Hudak led the polls less than a month ago, and now he is trailing so badly that Lorne Bozinoff of Forum Research has already predicted a Liberal majority.
In that light, the alternative explanation — that Hudak and his brain trust are simply mad — gains credence. This is not unlikely, indeed it is a bit of a trend among conservatives worldwide, and the evidence is striking.
How else to account for Hudak’s campaign-defining promise to immolate the livelihoods of 100,000 Ontarians for the sole purpose of achieving a magic zero in the public accounts a year or two before the other parties? The boldness of the policy is the product of assumptions so ingrained the zealots see no need to explain them. Fixated by their own mechanistic ideology, they blandly expect voters to understand intuitively — or religiously, as they seem to do — that destroying jobs will create jobs and that cutting taxes will increase revenue. It’s all so clear to them. Don’t you see, Ontario?
Obviously, Ontario does — Ontario was a guinea pig in the politics of reckless austerity and a pioneer in its rejection. That much is simple history. But to the zealots, that hard-earned voter skepticism is merely an aberration — evidence not of what Ontarians actually want from their governments but evidence only that their own ideal concepts were somehow poorly implemented in the first go-round, and that to succeed they need only to be hardened and purified.
So for their first act, they stage a ritualistic auto da fé — promising to slash 100,000 jobs — simply in order to propitiate the gnomes of Zurich. Who aren’t the least bit upset with Ontario anyway, and in fact would much prefer we kept their money. Just last week (May 13), they snapped up a EUR 1.75-billion Ontario bond issue yielding an astonishingly low 1.97 per cent interest over 10 years.
Economist Paul Krugman recently devoted a column in the New York Times to just this phenomenon — “how support for a false dogma can become politically mandatory, and how overwhelming contrary evidence only makes such dogmas stronger and more extreme.” Krugman’s focus was those supposed experts who have now spent years warning that fiscal stimulus will create runaway inflation, and who invent ever more creative excuses to explain why their predictions never come true. But the magical thinking double-down is even more striking with respect to attitudes about global warming, according to Krugman.
“A decade ago,” he wrote, “only the G.O.P.’s extremist fringe asserted that global warming was a hoax concocted by a vast global conspiracy of scientists . . . Today, such conspiracy theorizing is mainstream within the party, and rapidly becoming mandatory.”
That’s bad news for the planet, but the same cannot be said for lucky Kathleen Wynne and the battered Ontario Liberals, who are currently enjoying a magic carpet ride back into power thanks to their main opponent’s irrational devotion to a discredited doctrine.
John Barber is a freelance journalist and columnist for the Torontoist.
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