Premier Kathleen Wynne gave the keynote speech to Ontario Liberal delegates this past weekend in Toronto. The weekend was an opportunity to prepare Liberals for the next provincial election which could occur as early as this spring if the government’s budget is defeated.
Embedded in the Premier’s speech was her government’s campaign strategy:
1) Create the image of a progressive, activist government to syphon votes from the NDP.
2) Attack the Federal and Provincial Conservatives.
3) Identify the need for a strong, stable majority government (Part 2).
Premier Wynne conveyed to delegates during the speech that she is impatient … using the word ten times. The Premier has been pushing her party to the left over the past year stating that, “As a government we must demand impatience of ourselves. We must be impatient to see opportunity expanded today.” Wynne described the necessity for the continuation of an activist government with a progressive agenda.
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The area where Premier Wynne seemed the most impatient was with pension reform. Wynne stated that, “It is somewhere between offensive and inexplicable to ask that people who have worked all their lives to be rewarded with a retirement that takes them out of the middle class.” To great applause from delegates, Wynne stated that the Canada Pension Plan needs to be strengthened and that if Harper “won’t lead the way, then get out of the way.”
While Premier Wynne said during her speech that “politics is not a game,” her attack on Stephen Harper before mentioning her provincial opponents illustrated her government’s election tactic which has been utilized several times during our confederation by provincial leaders especially in Quebec… create a political fight with the federal government. A federal government slipping in the polls is an easy target.
Premier Wynne then focused her assault on Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak stating that his ideas are from “a slasher movie from the 1990s starring a guy named Mike Harris and the last thing Ontario needs is a sequel.” In fact Wynne used the word “cut” nine times in describing Hudak’s plan… “cut investments, cut pensions, cut jobs, cut growth.”
What was interesting in the speech was the lack of attention given to NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. Refusing to mention Horwath by name. Instead Premier Wynne painted the NDP as “suspicious of business, untested in governing and who openly refuse to articulate their plan for our province.”
And with that the third plank of the election strategy. The same play from the Federal Conservatives in 2011 after five years of minority governments. Premier Wynne stated, “If there’s an election held this year… it will be a choice between my safe hands and their (Hudak and Horwath) reckless schemes.” Wynne will be trying to frame the election as “steady balance and solid progress” versus the “opposition’s plan for risky, reckless detours.”
The campaign workshops are now complete. The Premier’s speech is in the books. The Liberal strategy is clear. All that is missing now is the budget to outline their election platform… and an indication as to whether Horwath is impatient for an election or will continue the sequel of passing the minority Liberal government’s budgets.