I decided against blogging last week about the new Ontario cabinet in part because it wasn’t very exciting news – no defectors à la Belinda to give the Libs a majority, no new names in cabinet – and also because three (posts), as they say, is the magic number.
Had I written the aforementioned would-be post, I would have included a second viable option: encouraging a member of the opposition to run for Speaker, sort of like, well, this news item on Frank Klees (Progressive Conservative, Newmarket-Aurora), a member of the opposition who’s decided to run for Speaker.
I would have preferred a defection because that would have been much more fun. My favourite candidate (everyone else’s too, I’d guess) was Elizabeth Witmer, because I think she’s the last Red Tory left in Ontario and she must cringe every time she thinks, “I serve in caucus with Randy Hillier,” but alas, no, Witmer stays in as Tory health critic.
What irks me is that some news outlets are reporting that, should Klees become Speaker, the OLP would have a majority. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s not accurate. Should Klees win, there would be a 53-53 tie in the Ontario legislature; however, as we saw when federal Speaker Peter Milliken voted in favour of the Paul Martin minority government, it is an established principle that the Speaker always votes for continuance of the legislature.
So, as I see it, Klees as Speaker would be obliged to vote in favour of the government on a tie vote on matters of confidence and supply, but would be free to oppose other government legislation, the defeat of which would not cause the government to fall. In other words, it’s still a minority of one, only one Tory sits on his hands for money bills like the budget, confidence motions, etc.
It’s partly true that I like this idea because of its inherent Machiavellian appeal – Klees refused the shadow cabinet jobs he was offered, which seems to signal internal PC dissent – but our previous era of CPC minority rule federally suggests defensible reasons for the Ontario Liberal MPPs to stand aside in favour of Klees.
First, Ontario has voted three times in a year (municipal, federal, provincial in that order). Enough already. Give us a few years of stability. The electorate is annoyed. Turnout is down. Party workers are exhausted and some of us are trying to rehabilitate our reputations, thank you very much.
Second, during its half-decade as a minority government, the federal Tories rarely sought consensus. Instead Harper and crew practised political brinkmanship by gambling that one or another of the opposition parties, usually the Liberals, would so not want an election as to give them a free pass. That’s not leadership – it’s playing games.
Speaking of, both Hudak and Horwath demonstrated ably why they lost the provincial election by their antics after E-Day. It didn’t matter what approaches McGuinty made to the two other party leaders; it would never be enough for a meaningful agreement. Contrast to Peterson and Rae after the 1985 vote. Whether or not he actually wants to work with the opposition leaders, McGuinty seemed to do what’s right in opening up a discussion that Hudak and Horwath dismissed out of hand.
Look, I opposed the McGuinty government openly on a few issues in its second term, but really, the PC and NDP campaigns were crappy. Somehow the NDP managed to lose a quarter of Jack’s Ontario supporters between May and October while Hudak pulled a John Tory and, instead of letting McGuinty’s OLP defeat itself, the PCPO came out of the gate offending many with all that “foreign workers” gabble.
The PC campaign was truly an example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and I’m slightly amazed that Hudak still has a job. My point is, neither opposition party has a mandate for bringing down the government right now.
Oh yes, I know that the Liberals won a very narrow plurality of the popular vote, but the federal Tories have drummed into us for years their mantra that if you come first, you’ve won, no matter what the numbers, so the PCPO can’t really fall back on the minority argument and it’s not like they could feasibly form a coalition with the New Democrats. (Anyway, remember what Harper taught us: coalitions are evil.)
But I’m not giving the government a free pass either: my fear is that McGuinty will use those Harper-ish brinkmanship tactics in seeking to prevent his government’s fall, rather than a more positive goal of seeking consensus in a minority parliament. The PCs are intransigent as always but I still want to believe that Grits and Dippers can get along if they try.
Anyway, if I were Premier McGuinty I’d three-line-whip my members into not standing for Speaker. The previous (and rather good) Speaker, Steve Peters, retired at the last election, so it’s not as if this would kick a standing Speaker out of his chair. Besides, renegade Tories sometimes make excellent Speakers and, uh, future Liberals (Gary Carr, I’m looking at you).
In all the excitement (it isn’t really that exciting) surrounding the race for important post of President of the Republic of Ireland (it isn’t really that important), I totally forgot about the by-election in Dublin West to be held on the same day, October 27.
The by-election was caused by the sudden death of former minister and deputy leader of Fianna Fáil, Brian Lenihan, Jnr. Lenihan was last elected back in February on the fifth count without reaching the quota and until his death was Fianna Fáil’s last surviving Dublin TD.
Nominally the seat should be Labour’s to lose, according to the general election results, as Joan Burton was elected on the first count with her running mate Patrick Nulty – Labour’s candidate in the by-election – losing to Lenihan on the last count.
Back in the day, Dublin West reliably voted in two Fianna Fáil TDs but of course this is a by-election, so Ireland’s single transferable vote system operates like an Australian alternative vote instead, and anyway, all those old rules and assumptions were thrown out the window with FF’s decimation, right? (But if that’s the case, why does Seán Gallagher look dead certain to win the bloody presidency?)
Dublin West’s other TDs are the Socialist Party leader, Joe Higgins, and Fine Gael minister Leo Varadkar. It would be a blow to the coalition government if anyone other than Ethne Loftus (FG) or Nulty should end up winning the by-election.
I suppose it’s possible that sympathy for Lenihan might boost Fianna Fáil’s vote, but I doubt it, and it’s not like when Lenihan himself ran to succeed his deceased father – the Lenihan family was approached but declined to run one of their own to replace Brian Jnr.
If there is a substantial increase in the FF vote, I’m blaming it on Gallagher’s Trojan Horse run, but my money’s still on Labour to win despite a few bad poll results, with an outside change that Socialist Ruth Coppinger takes it based on recent polls showing smaller parties (including the United Left Alliance, of which the SP is key part) on a whopping 22%.