After reading Adam Radwanski's Friday column, I think I have finally figured out what Tim Hudak's biggest problem is. It isn't that Hudak has been too restrained in going after McGuinty. It isn't that he hasn't tried to distinguish himself from McGuinty. It's that he isn't agreeing with Dalton enough.
Yes, you read that right. According to Radwanski, when Dalton does something that makes people angry, Hudak should resist the temptation to do something about it:
Mr. Hudak needs to show that he himself is willing to make difficult decisions. In opposition, that means forsaking the temptation to score political points when the government does potentially unpopular things that fit with the principles he himself has set out.
I'll spare you the rest, but basically, Radwanski is saying that when Dalton wanted to make sure this week that 100% of every dollar going through slot machines at race tracks ends up in government coffers instead of 80%, while horse breeders and trainers get 0%, it was actually a test of how good an opposition leader Hudak was, and Hudak supposedly didn't do a very good job.
By cutting out the horse farming industry, Dalton did something that will, in theory, reduce the deficit, which is something Tim Hudak wants too, so Tim Hudak should stop talking out of both sides of his mouth and get the hell out of the government's way. Which is, coincidentally, what the Liberals want you to think.
Here, let me use the same argument in a different context. *ahem* "The federal Liberals and NDP shouldn't be using this robocall scandal to score political points. It is, after all, a side issue. They should be focusing on articulating their own solutions. And because they'd trying to take advantage of a situation like this, well, that proves they're not ready for prime time."
Yeeeah. See, now that I said that people on the left should offer their own solutions instead of taking advantage of the scandal du jour, all of a sudden I don't care about the integrity of democracy, or Nixonian dirty tricks, or whatev. Isn't it funny how that works?
I don't begrudge the federal Liberals their attempt to make hay with the robocall issue, and the media should do the same for Hudak. But how likely is that?
Now, I agree that Hudak shouldn't have just defaulted to talking points when asked a question about the issue, but here's the problem: Instead of doing something about outrageous wastes of money like the ORNGE scandal and the long list of similar issues that have arisen during his tenure, Dalton is focusing on taking money away from an industry that is/was already barely getting by. Meanwhile, we have him backing away from Don Drummond's top money-saving recommendations while Hudak is pushing him to adopt them. So who's the hypocrite here?
It is entirely possible for Dalton to do lots more to fix the deficit through other means, like not flushing cash down the toilet at every opportunity. Instead, he calls pulling the rug out from under a struggling industry a major victory for fiscal conservatism. That's a little frustrating.
Criticizing Hudak for not pointing the above out is fair, but criticizing him for trying to get in McGuinty's face on this issue at all is really, really dumb. Because, y'know, when Dalton McGuinty's (not really) rational, pragmatic, middle of the road approach got us into the mess we're in now, the obvious thing for Hudak to do is not to get angry, not to oppose what McGuinty's doing, but instead, continue right on doing the rational, pragmatic, middle of the road thing.
And that's what the media, and the Liberals, really want. Another John Tory who will agree with whatever Dalton says and does, do everything possible to keep angry people in his caucus quiet, and then crumble when the Liberals attack him anyway.