Today is one of those days I can’t recommend reading Andrew Coyne highly enough:
There isn’t any point in sugar-coating it. This election was very much a referendum on fiscal conservatism, and the fiscal conservatives lost.
He rightly dispenses with the notion that Hudak was “extreme”:
in fact, his platform wasn’t especially radical, if you looked at it. Essentially he ran on the Drummond report: a broad-ranging set of recommendations from a panel chaired by the economist Don Drummond, commissioned by the Liberals under Mr. McGuinty. The $4-billion the Conservatives would have cut, out of a budget of $120-billion, would simply have put spending back on the track Mr. Drummond recommended — tough medicine, but hardly far-right.
There exists no Conservative so mild that he would not be attacked by the left as “extreme”, “vicious”, “nasty”, and all the rest. No detailed case is ever made that the program on offer is particularly draconian; the shrill epithets are simply applied, angrily and relentlessly with all the logic of a child throwing a tantrum because mommy won’t buy him the thing he demands. “Tea party” they shriek, and “Republican”, as though it were self-evident that fiscal rectitude (despite being almost entirely absent from the latter) were a damnable offence.
This is frequently accompanied by pious appeals to the moderate, decent Tories of yesteryear whom they could have supported. Men like Bill Davis. Of course when Bill Davis left office, Ontario spent just over $5,000/person (adjusted for inflation). Today that number is close to $8,000. I’d be fine with a 35% rollback in public expenditures to Bill Davis levels. Those who stupidly intone they would have supported him, on the other hand, have gone and blown all their adjectives of hate on the 3.5% trim proposed by Hudak.
I’ve seen someone claim, apparently sincerely, that Hudak wanted to “burn Ontario to the ground.” This is manifestly insane. But at a deeper level they probably knew they were lying, to them-self most of all. But they needed to lie, they needed to believe in some underlying malevolence behind the Tories, because they knew, at a level they wouldn’t admit, even to themselves, that by voting Liberal they were colluding in the moral corruption and fiscal ruin of the state for their own selfish ends. That for their cynicism they deserve to be ruled by dishonest and cynical leaders, and they resent anyone who would tell them the truth, no matter how tepidly. It’s not as though they had no choice. If they wanted the fiscal and social program of the Liberals, they could have voted for the NDP. Andrew Coyne again:
And the NDP? It ran on the Liberal budget as well. Ms Horwath offered little in the way of meaningful policy departures, presenting herself as a Liberal, minus the corruption. What option did she have? The Liberals ran so far to the left she had no room to outflank them.
So what now? Coyne is undoubtedly right when he says: “That’s the larger problem facing fiscal conservatives. They do not have the public on their side.” It does no good to pretend otherwise. And he’s even more right when he says: “But just because a policy is unpopular doesn’t make it wrong.” Indeed. The people of Ontario are wrong. Eighteen percent of them (factoring in voter turnout), maliciously, repugnantly so.
As for the Liberals, they should proceed with the feckless, big-spending policies they were elected on. Yes, they’re ruinous, but that’s democracy. They were given a mandate to avoid hard choices, and it’s sour grapes to pretend otherwise. To go back on that now, as others are advising them, to repeat the same old flim-flam so many governments have pulled in the past — campaigning against austerity, only to impose it once safely in power — would be a betrayal of the people who elected them. This is what Ontarians voted for, and this is what they should get.
And someday, Hudak, who seems like a decent person, but barely able to persuade even those who might be predisposed to agree with him, will be able to say (as Robert Conquest supposedly wanted to title the reprint of his book about Stalin and the indulgence accorded him by Western ‘intellectuals’), “I told you so, you f*****g fools.” No good could come of saying it aloud, but he would be justified.