Two days after the election and Ontarians are doing what they do best; engaging in magical thinking.
Outgoing PC Leader Tim Hudak said that June 12 was not an endorsement of the status quo. Yes it was. Not only was it an endorsement of the status quo, it was a rejection of anything other than the status quo. Andrea Horwath went nowhere for 5 weeks because she said, "You know what? I really shouldn't be propping up this government anymore." She triggered an election because she thought it was time for a change. Voters disagreed. They didn't want a change. They didn't want Wynne's budget with all of its goodies to be rejected. I've seen comments that say that Wynne was the change people were looking for, which is effectively saying that people were tired of the other parties having some kind of influence in the way Ontario was governed.
Conservative commentators think that when the credit agencies start turning the screws, Wynne will be forced to start implementing austerity. No she won't. She won't because that's how Dalton McGuinty lost his job in the first place. He took on the teacher's unions with Bill 79 and lost big time, and the OLP spent most of 2013 losing ground to the NDP. The OLP is not going through that again. But even if Wynne wanted to, she couldn't, because she's only a figurehead. The unions are to Ontario what the oil companies are to Alberta. And unions are governed by people who aren't clear on why we have concepts like "debt" and "money" and "the economy" and "the private sector" in the first place. As we saw Thursday, these concepts have less and less relevance to the voting public.
Conservative grassroots are looking for the next leader. Someone with really deep PC Party roots! Or maybe a fresh face! Someone from the private sector might step up, you never know! Who will go negative, not positive! But who will also differentiate the PC Party of Ontario from the big spending Liberals. Probably a woman, too, because everyone knows women leaders make women more likely to vote. And whoever it is, they need to give the PC Party an enema!
The truth is that whoever we elect leader is going to have the stuffing kicked out of them by 21 different unions no matter what they do or don't do, if they survive being knifed repeatedly by the PC Party base and caucus when they inevitably fail to live up to expectations. So bring on your Lisa Raitts, your Tony Clements, your Monte McNaughtons, your Doug Fords, your Lisa McLeods and your Christine Elliotts, because all of these contenders share the same basic flaw: none of them are Bill Davis, and the real-life Bill Davis isn't interested in the job.
At this point in time, I'd settle for a party that doesn't make basic errors in strategy and then pretend that they don't matter, while basically marking time until the debt bomb explodes and people are carting around wheelbarrows of useless money and the jobless rate is approximately 80%. Then, believe you me, the voters will come scrambling back to the PC Party of Ontario and we can pretend that whoever had the good luck to be running the show at the time were geniuses and saviours.
But until that point, we are the Toronto Maple Leafs of political parties. We have a great history that we may never live up to again and a new crop of players with potential each go around, who, for one reason or another lose their way, and every time things look like they may be on the upswing we freak out and assume we're going to win the Stanley Cup, and every time things are on the downswing we fire a coach or a GM while still keeping the same front office in charge. But, lots of people get to project their emotions onto the team, so it makes lots of money while not delivering, which is kind of the reason for its continued existence in the first place.
If you are a conservative who thinks he or she has a big idea that will fix the party, you're doing it wrong. If you think yelling louder about scandals will shift public perceptions, stop. It isn't up to you, and it isn't up to the conservative movement anymore. There's us, the ~30% of the voting public, and then there's everybody else who isn't prepared to let us even get started. The word "conservative" leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Ontarians, and the words "progressive conservative" just confuse people.
Why, there's even a movement afoot of people who are asking why, when the voices of underrepresented minorities have been underrepresented for so long, do we even allow conservatives and other privileged subgroups the right to comment at all? If people choose not to get onside with the right side of an issue, why should we give them equal time? Why do we need conservative parties at all, when all they can ever do is oppress people? We don't have buggy whips or Betamax VCRs, and isn't conservatism a similar relic of a more troubled time? As Thursday shows, what most voting members of society would like us to do is just go away.
But you see, we can't go away. The voting public can demonize conservatives all they want, but we always win in the end. The trouble is, we don't get to choose when the end comes. It just does. It might come when the progressive movement gets a little farther down the very dark road it is on, and begins disenfranchising entire segments of society instead of just telling them they don't matter. Or, their union backers could decide that ruling from outside the halls of government isn't enough anymore. Or maybe all of this stuff will come to pass and the voters will just shrug, and we'll be in for a long dark age. Nobody knows, because it's not about us.