Will gas plants force Premier Wynne to call an election?

Queen's Park

Next week the Ontario Progressive Conservatives will introduce a non-binding non-confidence motion to put pressure on Premier Wynne to call an election.  PC Leader Tim Hudak stated, “This latest gas plant scandal tells me the Liberals can no longer be trusted to run the province of Ontario . . . enough is enough. It’s time to draw a line and to say we can do a lot better than this. They can’t be trusted.”

Under the existing Standing Orders at the Ontario Legislature, the government controls the non-confidence motions (see earlier blog) so the motion next week would not force Premier Wynne to ask the Lieutenant Governor to call an election.  The Liberal government has stated that it is not anxious to go to the polls and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has called the PC motion as nothing more than a gimmick. Horwath said, “It seems like Mr. Hudak simply can’t pass up an opportunity to throw another gimmick out there and show how ineffective he is. It is clear nothing has changed since the last time he threw out one of these salvos . . . but the bottom line is these gimmicks, these games do not a change make.”

Hudak has stated that the fact the NDP will not support his party’s motion is further evidence that Horwath and her party will continue to prop up the Liberal government.  In Question Period on Wednesday Hudak indicated that Premier Wynne had sold out the taxpayers of Ontario when she signed the document to cancel the gas plants and that Horwath had sold her soul when she decided to support the Wynne government.  The Tories have indicated that the only Ontarian left in the province who has confidence in the scandal-plagued Liberal government is the NDP and Andrea Horwath.

“We are using again every tool we can to bring the government to account and to have the legislature speak on behalf of the people of Ontario,” Tory House Leader MPP Jim Wilson stated.  “We firmly believe that the House has lost the confidence of the Liberal government, that it doesn’t have the confidence of the representatives of the House or the people of Ontario.  We very much hope that the NDP will join us this time and then we will be put moral pressure on the government to call an election.”

The question facing Andrea Horwath is when does she declare that the NDP can no longer support the Liberal government?  Earlier this year the NDP supported the Liberal budget after Premier Wynne incorporated a few of the NDP demands into the budget in exchange for the party’s support.  It is almost a certainty that Premier Wynne will do the same for the next provincial budget in the spring.  The optics of the NDP voting against the PC motion next week or deciding to sit on their hands and not vote will be difficult to sell to Ontarians who are upset with the government.  It will be difficult to explain the nuances of a non-binding non-confidence motion to the general public.  Overall, it is an interesting strategy being played by Tim Hudak.

The question for Premier Wynne is what to do if the non-binding non-confidence motion passes?  The Premier will have lost the confidence of the house (unofficially) and the government will continue to have difficulty moving its legislative agenda forward.  This is coupled with the latest opinion polls that indicate Ontarians would like an election over the $1.1 billion gas plant cancellations.  Wynne certainly does not want the next election’s ballot box question to be on the gas plants.

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